Touring the U.S. in the chill of December is always problematic, unless you’ve decided to play only in Florida and California and have access to dad’s Learjet to get from the land of orange juice to the Golden State. You’d think MAGNET’s Jud Cost, a grizzled veteran of the music wars, would have figured that out before he volunteered to accompany his old friends in the Green Pajamas and boatclub on a short Portland-to-Seattle jaunt and write about what went down. But with visions of Tom Wolfe and Ken Kesey shepherding the Grateful Dead in 1965 flashing in his head, the lure may have been irresistible. Formed in 1982 by Jeff Kelly and Joe Ross when they discovered a mutual love of the Beatles’ “Rain,” the Green Pajamas have been on the scene longer than any current Seattle band. Their admirable endurance can be credited both to a steady stream of fine albums created mainly by Kelly and the fact they play out only a handful of times each year. Oakland’s boatclub features both guitarists from ’80s Paisley Underground stalwarts Rain Parade, Matt Piucci and John Thoman. They also boast an excellent third stringbender, Mark Hanley, who formerly accompanied onetime Quicksilver Messenger Service vocalist Dino Valenti, as well as drummer Stephan Junca, who (like Piucci) occasionally plays with Crazy Horse bassist Billy Talbot. Read Cost’s recent Green Pajamas Q&A.
The Green Pajamas’ “All The Lost Kisses” (download):
Friday, December 4
We mosey down to the Portland venue tonight, a tiny joint booked by Portland scenester/record mogul Jim Huie, called Kelly’s Olympian, decked out like a vintage biker bar with collectible Indian motorcycles hanging from the rafters. We take band pix in front of ancient gasoline pumps and under a huge purple octopus dangling from a shop across the street. It’s hard to believe I haven’t seen the Pajamas play live since we all flew together from Seattle to London in 1999 to play Terrastock III. Since then, Joe Ross is still on bass, but drummer Karl Wilhelm has been replaced by Scott Vanderpool, husband of Laura Weller, now Kelly’s able-bodied vocal (and guitar) foil. Eric Lichter still plays keyboards and contributes originals to each new LP (their most recent is the excellent Poison In The Russian Room on Hidden Agenda). Kelly and Ross, who founded the GPJs in 1982, are pretty pumped about finally getting to play with Piucci, whose Rain Parade was a template for their own band. “I always wanted to sound like Rain Parade,” Kelly told me years ago in a MAGNET feature. The Pajamas pay tribute to Piucci’s Crazy Horse roots by opening with their most Rust Never Sleeps-style number. A pair of shopworn, neo-psych gems are dragged out of the steamer trunk tonight by both bands. The Pajamas play “Kim The Waitress,” their college radio hit from the ’80s, and boatclub dusts off Rain Parade’s first single, 1982’s “What She’s Done To Your Mind.” Kelly’s mild protests about having to play “Kim” one more time are brushed aside by Piucci later at the bar. “Hey, it’s not as if you’re Brian Wilson and have to play ‘Surfer Girl’ for the 10-thousandth time,” he reminds Kelly in his booming baritone. Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, Minus 5, R.E.M.), now living in Portland, shows up just in time to catch the live sounds. We yak about mutual pal Jimmy Silva (who died in 1994 after complications from chicken pox) and the Silva tribute album I’ve been working on for about two years, a set that will feature the Fellows, Minus 5, Jon Auer, Chris Eckman (Walkabouts), Dennis Diken (Smithereens), Roy Loney (Flamin’ Groovies) and Sal Valentino (Beau Brummels). Back in Steve and Melissa’s kitchen late that night, Thoman finally shows up with a couple dozen extra-large specialty items from Voodoo Doughnut. “They were about to close so they gave us some extras,” he says as he doles out chocolate-covered, glazed voodoo dolls with pretzels inserted in the chest in place of hatpins, as well as mammoth jelly donuts covered with Cap’n Crunch cereal. Blood-sugar testing is optional.