Living Jazz History at the Crystal Hotel & Ballroom

By Jonanna Widner | April 30, 2011 |

This is pretty magical.

photoBack in the day (as in, 50 years ago), three talented men anchored the hoppin’ downtown jazz scene, whose epicenter happened to be clubs that stood where the Crystal Hotel is today: Charlie Gabriel, Mel Brown and Carl Smith.

Each man eventually left Portland to make his way in the music world. All three went on to great success in the New Orleans and Motown scenes; all three left an enduring mark on Stumptown’s musical history.

And now, each man is returning to their old stomping grounds -what is now the Crystal Hotel & Ballroom.

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Okkervil River’s New Album: Sneak Peek April 27!

By Jonanna Widner | April 28, 2011 |

Okkervil RiverOkkervil River’s hotly anticipated new album I Am Very Far isn’t due out ’til May 10, but tonight the band will be streaming a live performance of the album in its entirety! Wish we could take credit for this one, but the Pitchfork website has the scoop on where you can catch the live webcast tonight at 4 p.m. PST.

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One Love for Chi

By Jonanna Widner | April 14, 2011 |

Old TonesAs Deftones fans most likely -and sadly-already know, the band’s longtime bassist Chi Cheng suffered serious brain damage as the result of a 2008 car accident.

Cheng has never recovered; he remains in a semi-conscious state.

As of May, 2010, Cheng began to show signs of significant improvement. He can track people with his eyes and slightly move his hands. But, obviously, he has a long way to go.

This is where the Deftone’s second show at the Crystal Ballroom, slated for Saturday, April 16, comes in…

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Great NW Music Tour: Avett Fave Paleface

By Jonanna Widner | April 12, 2011 |

PaleFaceAnti-folk, neo-folk modern folk…whatever you call it, Paleface’s upbeat, addictive songs sure ain’t your grandpappy’s music (although, it certainly owes plenty to Grampa Guthrie). Let’s face it, any group that garners the praise of the Avett Brothers and Beck – who cites Paleface as an early influence – has more going for him than just a ratty old acoustic guitar and a harmonica. What sets Paleface apart is his ability to stretch folk to its ultimate boundaries, with a beautiful voice that suddenly dips into a punkish snarl and a drummer who doesn’t seem to know that this band is supposed to be folk, dang it (in a good way)!

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Portland Jazz Legend Charlie Gabriel Returns April 7

By Tim Hills | April 7, 2011 |

photoDuring the 1960s, Charlie Gabriel made a name for himself at the helm of the house band at the Desert Room, a nightclub on the very site of what is now the Crystal Hotel.

Now, forty years later, Gabriel is returning to his old stomping grounds, as a member of New Orleans’ famous Preservation Hall Jazz Band, who take the stage at the Crystal Ballroom on Thursday, April 7.

Gabriel will return again for the grand three-day celebration of the opening of the Crystal Hotel. The jazzman will join the Mel Brown Band on May 3-5 in Al’s Den, another historic venue located in the Hotel.

Gabriel’s return isn’t just a reunion; it’s the bookend of a long and fascinating tale, a snapshot of history. Here’s the story, courtesy of McMenamins historian Tim Hills:

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April 6-9: The Sultry, Swingy Christabel & the Jons

By Jonanna Widner | April 7, 2011 |


photoThe stars of our current McMenamins Small Batch Tour, Christabel & the Jons may play an old-timey style, but the group is not anachronism. Rather, the quartet manages to coax jazzy genres from the past out of the mothballs and into the future. The result is simply gorgeous: A mélange of countrified folky jazz swing and, lately, a sultry bossa nova groove, above which floats the voice of Christa DeCicco. DeCicco’s voice is tailor-made for jazz; her lyrics -sharp and clever-and melodies are more catchy than any pop song. Despite the bands penchant for thrift-store finds and acoustic instruments, it all feels very much grounded in the now, thanks to smart musical twists and turns, seemingly effortless blending of genres, and a sparkling energy.



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McMenamins Crystal Hotel: A Chat With Our Artists

By Jonanna Widner | April 6, 2011 |

photoOne of the great things about our new Crystal Hotel is how the entire space blurs the lines between art and music. As you probably know, all of our properties feature intriguing, mind-bending art; in the hands of our artists, wall panels, doors, even pipes transform from the mundane to the visually fascinating. Throw rock ‘n’ roll in the mix, and you’ve got an opportunity to do something really special. For instance, every room (all 51 of ’em) here is named after a song that actually has been played on the Crystal Ballroom stage. 

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’80s Video Dance Attack Sixth Anniversary Party! Friday, March 25.

By Jonanna Widner | March 25, 2011 |


photoTo celebrate ’80s Video Dance Attack’s sixth anniversary party, I had planned on writing several glowing paragraphs about how much un this weekly event is. After all, every single Friday, hundreds and hundreds of people -many clad in glowing plastic bangles, pegged jeans and Pretty In Pink-esque prom dresses-crowd the Crystal’s dance floor and straight up get into the groove. This isn’t one of those parties where patrons stand around watching a couple people dance; this is a fun, sweaty, fully interactive blowout that pulls in an age range between those just old enough to drink legally and those who purchased Madonna’s first album…on vinyl. The day it came out.



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Venture Out to Hear the Ventures

By Jonanna Widner | March 23, 2011 |

LogoShould a band that’s been playing since 1958 have a MySpace page? In a musical world full of pop stars whose blip of fame barely registers long enough to produce a ring tone, The Ventures may be the only 53-year-old band to be able to pull it off.

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Happy Birthday, Ruby Ale

By Jonanna Widner | March 19, 2011 |


Put your birthday party hats on, because it’s time to paint the town red -Ruby red, in honor of Ruby Ale’s 25th Birthday.

photoThat’s right, the popular ol’ gal was first brewed on March 21, 1986, at the Hillsdale Brewery, and with its light taste buoyed by, of all things, raspberry puree. The original recipe (seen below) was more bitter than today’s incarnation of the beer. McMenamins brewer John Richen explains, “This version was very heavily hopped among other things: six pounds of hops for a 110-gallon batch versus [today’s] half-pound of hops for a 210 gallon batch.”

Of course, Ruby’s signature is the light streak of raspberry flavor that infuses the beer with a beautiful red glow. Ruby gets her fruity zing from 42 pounds of raspberry puree added to every 210-gallon batch. No wonder she blushes so much!



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