May 16th 2014
Wandering contentedly, feeling like the proverbial kid in a candy store in downtown Portland on a gorgeous spring afternoon, I strolled straight into the enticing entrance of 2nd Avenue Records. Overflowing from floor to ceiling with goodies of every genre from rock to reggae and everything in between, I knew I was in the right place when I found the substantial metal section at the back. Happy enough at that, continuing to explore and seeing the mountain of cardboard boxes containing used metal cd’s numbered carefully in tall stacks behind the counter, I was just about in heaven. The kind staff invited – “would you like to see some of the metal cds?” – oh, would I ever! It was difficult to restrict my haul to only a few selections out of the myriad treasures in those boxes. I settled on the following:
The Devil’s Blood – Come Reap
Dor de Duh – Dar de Duh
Khors – Wisdom of Centuries
As I made my selections, clearly an overexcited tourist, store owner Cathy inquired about what had brought me to town for a visit. “Oh, a band I like from here is releasing an album, it’s Agall…” I could barely finish before she chimed in with a smile lighting up her face, “Oh yes, we know John”. Well, isn’t that a coincidence… as Cathy wrote up my receipt by hand, I asked if I could return the next day to take some photos of the shop and pick the brain of some of the staff. The next day, fresh with energy inspired by Portland’s beautiful landscape and full of nerdy fan excitement for the album release show that night, I returned and spoke with Matt, one of the resident metalheads in the shop.
“John comes in and drops their stuff off himself”, Matt started off, “a few years ago, he brought this in… once in a while I go online and check the prices…” – he reached back into the fathomless depths of the back counter and returned with a collector’s set which I carefully unboxed. Inside was the Marrow of the Spirit digipack and 7” picture disc.
I asked Matt to share some of his favourite up-and-coming acts in Portland. Immediately his face lit up as he mentioned Lord Dying, Witch Mountain, and Red Fang.
“The store has been here since 1982. I used to come shopping here when I was a kid, it just made sense that I ended up working here. Everyone who’s worked here is either dead or still working here” Matt went on, earnest and grinning. As if detecting my curiousity about the handwritten receipt from my purchase the day before, he went on to confirm that the store has only just recently started to computerize any of their operations. “It makes employees remember the bands and labels a lot better”, he went on, pointing out the ultra old school cash register which is still in use behind the counter.
As we chatted about the city’s standout venues and bands that have come and gone, talk of Relapse Records, whose owner relocated to Portland recently, brought us to Sizzle Pie. “Yep, they come in and grab stuff from us and play it in the restaurant on the jukebox. It’s not far from here…” – well, of course I had to go check it out.
Portland is known for a lot of things these days, but on the way there I didn’t expect a metal-themed pizza parlour to be one of them. Lo and behold though, there was Sizzle Pie openly declaring DEATH TO FALSE PIZZA! Oh, is that sentiment ever needed in Toronto, where it often feels like the crappy-pizza-franchise capital of the world. Of course, Sizzle Pie have a respectable selection of local craft beers on tap.