On a Saturday evening two weeks ago I made my way through rainshowers and crowds of youth in their prom finest to one of Portland’s newest venues Revolution Hall, to be a part of Live Wire Radio’s audience. Revolution Hall is also Portland’s old Washington High School, and is still intact. Wandering the expanse of locker-lined hallways past old classrooms seemed nostalgic and familiar, with the show happening in the schools large auditorium.
The variety show is recorded in two parts. During the first segment, “Going Gonzo”, Luke Burbank gave gonzo journalist Jon Ronson a psychopath test, and talked PTSD with author/journalist Mac MacClelland. We heard from Seattle’s quintet Ivan and Alyosha, who have fun and know their instruments to play classically styled indie pop-rock. The show also checked in with the couple that took the “36 Questions To Make Someone Fall In Love With You” challenge for the Valentine’s episode. It had me wondering what would happen if we made eye contact and asked sincere questions with EVERYONE.
Perhaps it was finally drying off from outside, or grabbing a craft beer in what I imagined as converted labs or libraries turned pizza pubs, but the audience seemed relaxed and giddy for the second half of the show, “Drawn Together”. Oregon’s own Bill Plympton talked his history with hand-drawn art and animation, saying no to Disney, and the adult themes and hilarity of his work, particularly his latest film Cheatin’. Andy Richter and Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings tried to out-phrase each other using only questions. I had heard the musical performance, Kyle Morton, front-man of Portland’s rock troupe Typhoon, had been added last minute.
Typhoon has been a busy group, recording and touring locally and abroad, and that’s a lot of equipment to haul and schedules to coordinate for a twelve piece outfit. Their music is melodic and deep. Kyle’s voice and songwriting reflect struggle and hope and celebration. Fighting and dealing with an illness that seeks to slow you down and yet somehow inspire you can do that. In this case, Kyle and the music have been dealing with complications of Lyme Disease. They have had periods where they have had to put plans on hold or cancel festivals and tour dates. But they keep going, writing, recording, making videos and a special piano version of “Prothetic Love” for a special Record Store Day release.
On this night, with all of us crammed into an old high-school assembly, and thousands of kids in tuxes and gowns merging into their adult lives outside, Kyle took the stage with only an acoustic guitar, completely casual, and a bit sheepish. The spotlight solely on him, he told us this was the first time he had been on stage in a while, and that this song had been completed in about 15 minutes, and had not yet been named. His intimate vocal style was familiar from Typhoon, but this time a silence surrounded him as we listened intently to his sweet, sad ballad of “I see the fashions changing with the seasons, and love is not immune”, building to a strong cadenza with “no hard feelings” concerning near-death encounters.
I got to catch up with Kyle after the show, to talk about the new song and what he has been up to.
Listen to Live Wire “Drawn Together” here: http://www.livewireradio.org/Episode280
ELEVEN PDX: What is the name of the song? Where can we listen again?
Kyle Morton: I haven’t landed on an official title yet, but for the moment I’m calling it “No Soft Feelings,” which is what I jotted down on the Live Wire release form. The only record of the song’s existence is what you saw April 25th. I’m sure they’ll have a podcast of the broadcast available. As for the song itself, I was delighted to write it one morning while waiting for my phone to charge. It truly only took about 10-15 minutes to write which, for me, is a very rare occurrence.
11: How is your songwriting changing/growing on your own and with Typhoon?
KM: I can’t say how exactly but it is changing. Since our last record I haven’t been entirely sure what could be added to the Typhoon song cycle, while in the interim the songs I’m writing are much sparser and simpler compositionally. With Typhoon, I’ve always had a sort of novelistic songwriting agenda so I suppose now I’m trying out some short stories.
11: You said it was the first time you had been on stage in 6 months. How did it feel?
KM: Both exciting and scary! What was strangest was how unfamiliar it felt to be up there, though I’m sure a large part of that was due to the fact that I was without my eleven person camouflage.
11: What are some future plans and goals?
KM: Just writing until the outline of an album becomes discernible. Fingers crossed for 2016.
Live Wire will be part of this year’s Bridgetown Comedy Festival on 5/9/2015 at 7:30pm.