How did we wind up moving to Portland? There was a lot of small talk about moving during 1996, but eventually we sat down at a restaurant with Dave’s trucker atlas and started pointing at places. Chapel Hill? No, let’s leave North Carolina. Chicago? Too big. New York or Pennsylvania? Too cold. West Coast? Sounds good. L.A.? Too many bands. San Francisco? Too expensive. Seattle? Still fresh off of grunge. Portland? Hmmm. All I knew about Portland was that you could get to the ocean in an hour one way or be on top of a mountain an hour the other way. I flew out here to check it out, took some pictures, grabbed some local zines and reported back. Dave and Bryan were in. Sadly, Paul was not. We packed up and in the late months of 1996 and moved to Portland.
Moving was easy. Dealing with the fact that we were suddenly going to be a three piece is what caused me stress. I had only been playing guitar for two years. I could barely tune by ear and could not (and still can’t) play a lead to save my life. I could play loud though so I eventually bought a second Marshall cabinet. We always joke with people “if you can’t play good, play loud.” There was some truth in that. After securing a variety of jobs we eventually found a place that rented storage units off of Cornell and 26 and started to practice. We played three times a week with Sundays being “the long practice” of several hours. Hot, cold, rain, snow. Sometimes two of us would go out and play an extra day. Often we would write in our apartments. If not writing, we were working on merch ideas. For me, almost all down time was spent working on the web page. It was 800 Octane 24-7.
We quickly found ourselves with a whole new set of songs that catered to the reduced lineup pretty. That summer we started playing shows wherever we could. I feel like we played a lot, but in retrospect it was only a few shows a month at best. We started paying our dues at the local clubs, primarily EJ’s, the Satyricon, the Paris Theater and the Ash Street. Most shows were on weekday nights, playing only to the sound guy and bartenders, because even the other bands had bailed. We didn’t care. We were stoked to play. Early on we did something a lot of other bands in the area did not do, which was play any small, off the radar town that we got invited to. Coming from a tiny place like Boone, places like Longview, Bend and Tri-Cities seemed well worth our effort. A lot of bands only played Portland and Seattle. We said we would play every place in between that would take us. Want to play in my living room in Springfield? Yes. Want to play in my garage in Kelso? Yes. Want to play outside in a park near Tacoma? Yes.
During this time we also moved into a house Dave purchased off of 51st and Hawthorne. It was a total bachelor pad with a pool, hot tub and foosball. Songwriting came easily once we all lived together. We made a lot of friends with other local bands during this time including Bomf!, The Leeches, Elmer, Tenpin, The Secludes and dozens more that I am forgetting to mention. A lot of these connections helped define us musically and personally. It was a blur of late nights, driving back and forth across the Northwest and going to shows. In other words, it was perfect.