Benjamin Lederer
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Folks rushed to find the best seats in Portland’s iconic Aladdin Theater once they threw open their doors on Friday, Jan. 6 for the Victory Academy benefit concert.

Edna Vázquez opened the event (after announcing that she’d been playing shows in the Portland area for over 20 years – wow!) A terrific guitar player, Vazquez dazzled the crowd with complex walking base lines and fingerpicking patterns. She mixed traditional Latin American sounds with contemporary societal issues through predominately Spanish lyrics, which she explained to the audience before each tune. If you are searching for local, talented guitar players, be sure Vazquez is on your list!

When Portland’s own Colin Meloy stepped on stage, he was neatly dressed and carrying a wine bottle and a glass. He greeted the crowd, poured a glass, and said “This is going to be a very casual show.” And it was. Meloy played the song “January Hymn,” – a fitting tune for this winter.

“How I lived a childhood in the snow/And all my teens in tow/Stuffed strata of clothes.”

He then strummed The Decemberists’ song, “Engine Driver,” in which the lyrics claim,

“I am a writer, writer of fictions/I am the heart that you call home.”

And this declaration is particularly true of Meloy. Many of his songs place the listener into another time period, rustic and filled with rifles, marching, and confused love.

As he drank from his glass of wine, Meloy gave his shout out to Victory Academy – Oregon’s only dedicated, year-round private school for children affected with autism. The cause holds a significant meaning for Meloy as he has been outspoken about the struggles his eldest child faces, having been diagnosed with autism.

Meloy then explained how he hadn’t played as much lately as he has been writing a novel. He had, however, written a new song, and attendees got a first listen to a ballad titled “Midlist Author.” The song was satirical saying,

“You’ll never be first, but you’ll never be the worst.”

Every good show has one cover, and Meloy nailed it playing a calming rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye.” He dedicated the song to all who had passed in 2016, commenting that he’d tried some David Bowie songs only to realize that they were far too difficult.img_3888

Meloy announced his last song and sang “O Valencia!”

“With your blood still warm on the ground, Valencia/And I swear to the stars, I’ll burn this whole city down.”

The crowd sang along to the famed tune. He hesitated before the second verse trying to remember the lyrics, and the audience roared in laughter. A loyal fan in the front row helped him remember, and he finished the song passionately. When he left the stage, the crowd cheered endlessly knowing the encore was nigh.

The final few songs were soft like lullabies. Meloy finished with an extended version of “The Crane Wife 3” and his thumbing between two guitar strings through the ballad was soothing. When he finished, he reminded everyone why they were there: To help the Victory Academy and their cause. Finally, Meloy thanked the audience for their contributions and disappeared behind the curtain soon after.

If you’re interested in the Victory Academy or donating, feel free to learn more here!

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