“Sidecar 11” Bar for a nightcap
I have made my decision. I am finally ready to come out of the closet. After decades of a seeming dedication to only rock and roll, I am ready to confess that I have always had a guilty pleasure for the Man in Black. Even as my adolescent eyes stared for hours at a time, lusting over Bruce Springsteen’s Levi clothed toosh on his “Born in the USA” album cover, I was secretly harboring an equally unhealthy intrigue for the “Man in Black.” Johnny Cash was cool. His style and music are timeless. He sang his life story and while he was singing, we lived it with him. With those sad black eyes and that deep voice with the occasional quiver, we all knew that Johnny understood.
I remember as a child, while my parents watched HEE HAW, I feigned disinterest as Johnny Cash was the musical guest. That is until I heard that recurrent chugga-chugga train beat of the “Folsom Prison Blues” and then Johnny had me at his mercy. How can anyone ignore the hypnotic rhythm of that song? I secretly continued to follow Cash’s music over the years, but it wasn’t until his biographical film, “Walk the Line,” that I think I got the affirmation that Johnny Cash was not only a great singer; he had crossed the line to an American musical legend and icon.
I often wondered how many other Johnny Cash closet fans my age are out there? Judging by the audience at tonight’s tribute band, “Cash’d Out,” a lot! I finally discovered a venue where we’re not the only aged 50 plus people in the crowd. Douglas Benson humbly takes the lead vocals and does not disappoint. As he takes the audience along the musical journey of Johnny Cash, the only difference that I can discern from the musical legend is perhaps a slightly smoother voiced Johnny Cash sound because Douglas Benson hasn’t suffered like Johnny Cash. No one has. Benson was absolutely terrific. The whole band was great. But, other than Benson, my other favorite in this band was the bass violin player. I never thought of the bass violin as as physically demanding instrument to play, until tonite. There was something really beautiful about watching musician, Stephen Rey, as he athletically spun the bass in circles between notes and majestically strum those strings with so much enthusiasm and fun. He didn’t just play the bass violin, he danced with it. It was truly artistry in motion.
This was an amazing performance. Johnny Cash was in a league of his own. To finally be of an age when I feel I can unabashedly enjoy his music makes makes getting old worth it.
Next door to Mississippi Studios is a hip little spot known as, “Sidecar 11.” While a perfect place for a nightcap, I had already had a drink that night, so I focused in on the food. I had the delicious pear apple and quinoa salad that was fresh and light and lovely. Soon after receiving our food the proprietor, John, was checking to make certain everything was to our satisfaction. If I was to chose the perfect proprietor for a intimate whiskey bar from a police lineup, it would be John. He enjoys his customers and presents an easygoing manner, making one feel as if one has just entered his party and you are his favorite guest. He immediately offered us a taste of one of his 15 year old whiskeys. But like a good host, he made certain that he attended to his other patrons as well. John does not overstay his welcome, leaving his guests wanting to come back for more and we will be back.
I hate finding parking in this part of town. It is likely you will have to park several blocks away from the main drag and the off streets are not particularly well lit, with uneven sidewalks and curbs. This is a popular part of the city and traffic stinks.
I am not, as a rule, a country fan. But who doesn’t like Johnny Cash, perhaps the first rapper or the last beat poet. The man could not sing, but he could sure perform and write.
As you may have gathered, we are fans of tribute bands, which are always fun. Kerry noted that there was aJohnny Cash tribute band, Cash’d Out, at the Mississippi Studios. A year ago we listened to nonstop Johnny Cash on a trip to Ashland, so why not.
The Mississippi Studios is my new favorite venue. Good bar, good sound, lovely environment. And one of the most courageous establishments I know with Oriental area rugs on the floor.
Courageous because the crowd at the concert was the drunkest I have ever seen, especially given how old they were. Given the amount of spilled beer at the end of the show they must have a ridiculous cleaning bill. Maybe it is a country crowd or maybe it is Cash fans. I thought one old man was coming on to be, but he kept holding on to me because he was so drunk he would have fallen on his face. But unlike a young drunk crowd, no one was belligerent or obnoxious. They were just having fun.
The opening act was J. Wong, who did a solo performance. Very nice original work, but judging from his banter he as some self-esteem issues.
Cash’d Out calls themselves the next best thing to Johnny Cash. I never saw a Johnny Cash concert live, but this band is fantastic. The lead does a great job of singing like Cash, but not doing an imitation. Not enough tobacco and alcohol to roughen his voice. Their back up band is tight, especially the upright base player who played his instrument like he was Pete Townsend. Amazing to watch. They did all the classics and had some excellent duets with Nina Anderson and an Elvis impersonator.
They played for two hours, including a long encore, and it was high energy with a crowd that never even approached sober. Cash’d Out comes to Portland twice a year, spring and fall, and we will be at all their future appearances.
Sidecar 11 Bar
Like so much of Portland since I was a kid, it amazes me how much parts of the city has changed. N Mississippi Ave is now a street of shops, bars and restaurants and after the show we decided on the Sidecar 11, a whiskey bar, for a late dinner. We were reading the menu outside the door when the owner came out and suggest we give it a try. Sure, why not?
I really like whiskey, but there is a problem with it. If I want to try, say, 30 different beers, I can go to Belmont Station and get 5 six packs and over the course of a month, try 30 beers with no significant harm to my back account or liver. Not so with whiskey. I can’t afford 30 different bottles of whiskey and sample them all without a liver transplant. One bottle will easily last a year or more. So it is nice to be able to go to a whiskey bar and sample a few, especially since I was one of the few sober ones at Cash’d Out and Kerry was driving.
Sidecar is a comfortable bar, lots of wood and long rows of whiskey bottles. Just the place for an after show snack to talk about the music of Mr. Cash.
For food I had the butternut squash & goat cheese flatbread: sweet and savory butternut squash, basil pesto, goat cheese, roasted garlic, green onions. The ingredients says it all. What is not to like?
The drinks were equally good. That night my son was in a bar in Boston and asked the bartender to make his best drink. Jeff said the bartender worked on the drink for ten minutes and produced one of the best cocktails he had ever had. I tried the same gambit and was rewarded with a Manhattan followed by an Old Fashioned, both delicious. Two drinks is my limit, although the proprietor did give us a sample of an ancient Port after we mentioned that my father had given my children a bottle of port when they were born to be opened on their 21st birthday. It was thick as maple syrup and delicious.