10 April, 30,000ft in the air above Northern California, USA, 11:10am

As I write this, I'm also looking out the window at the snow covered mountains of Northern California (or possibly Souther Oregon) from my seat on the morning Horizon Airlines flight to San Francisco, looking forward to discovering what I've been told is the best and most interesting city in California. 
keep Portland weird

But back 4 days ago, on a Wednesday evening I was heading off to the west of Portland, to the Mississippi pizza pub. It's pretty much the ideal place, they have a proper New York pizza slice restaurant in the front, then a bar selling some fantastic locally brewed beers and then a stage where I meet up with Joey, a drummer who I met a day earlier in Trade-Up music. He's playing with a guy called Ryan Stively. Before him a new group called Blue Tic, perform some classic American sounding bluesy country music. A late bus back to the hostel with some good pizza in beer in me. The following morning, it's back on tourist duties and after a breakfast of a short stack of blue-corn pancakes in Byways, it's off to OMSI, the Oregon science museum where I take a tour of a 1950's Diesel-electric submarine where kids ask about how many torpedos are fired every day, look at a rather terrible Egyptian exhibit with only one mummy and a bunch of old pots, an amazing exhibit featuring real fetuses in ever stage of development from a week to 9 months after conception, all preserved in plastic and glass and an IMAX film on Alaska which is in an amazing curved dome theatre but is really not illuminated properly so I end up snoozing through parts of it.

One of Portlands many bridges

After I've had my fill of scientific nerdiness, I take a bus out to meet Sallie Ford, who fronts her band, 'The Sound Outside' with her 1930's style voice. We head down to their basement and whilst they rehearse some songs, I take a few photos. Shame I didn't find these guys earlier as they are the kind of music I love and all really friendly people. So hopefully I'll run into them on my travels in the near future. They have a meeting with a video director and they invite me to come along for a pint, so after meeting Matt the director and they go through all the plans for their upcoming shoot, Matt tells me about his plans to film the gig of a local band called Typhoon in the Doug Fir and I offer my filming services which he gratefully accepts as they are a 12 piece band, so they need as many cameras as possible rolling. So with the next nights activities planned out, I then head off to meet Richie from the band Loch Lomond in his venue The Woods. I'm spending Saturday evening shooting some documentary pictures with Loch Lomond so I'm just going there to meet him and work out what they are doing. But The Woods is a venue well worth visiting in it's own right. It's a former funeral home, converted to a stylish bar and venue, with couches lining the sides. Some great bands play and the night is finished with a beared guy called Dustin with his band, Run on Sentence, who have a very loyal following of fans and who puts on a fantastic show

Washington Park, on the road to the zoo, Portland

Put a bird on it

Friday morning sees me head back to Byways for some fantastically unhealthy French Toast before taking a long walk up through the hilly, wooded Washington Park in the warm sun. It is nice to have some nice sunny weather once again. In this giant park is Portland Zoo so I have a look at some bobcats, cougars, a baby elephant and some rather sad looking polar bears. Friday night is spent in the Doug Fir just on the west side of the city on Burnside. Myself, Matt the director (part time café waiter) and Aaron (full time lawyer, part time filmaker) have a drink before meeting the bands and then spending an hour or so filing the sold out Typhoon show. I'm told and can well believe it that this band are about to hit the big time. I look forward to seeing Kyle and his 11 bandmates get much more famous real soon. At the gig I meet Jared, who runs Typhoons record label and who I then discover is the guy putting on the Loch Lomond show the following night where Typhoon are also playing. As well as a band called Brainstorm who I met only a couple of weeks previous in a Cafe show down in Austin at SXSW. It's a small musical world.
My final full day in Portland starts once again with a great American breakfast. Byways is packed full of people on a Saturday morning so I get a seat at the counter, drink some Stumptown coffee and eat some great American breakfast hash, potatoes, peppers, ham, onions, topped with a fried egg. I head down to Tender Loving Empire's store in downtown Portland and see a independent shop is still able to sell CD's and records, as well as a collection of locally made arty things like cards, robots and picture frames.

Kyle from Typhoon, watching And And And, at the Doug Fir

For the past 4 years or so, I've pretty much only worn one brand of shoes, Keens, which are amazingly comfortable shoes. I've had their standard city walking shoes, their sneakers, I wore their hiking boots in Peru and now after visiting their only shop, located under their HQ, I now own a pair of their walking sandals. All I need is some warm weather and some places to hike. Saturday afternoon, I'm picked up by Scott and Richie from Loch Lomond for the hour or so drive to Salem, the state capital of Oregon. We get to the venue, the IKE Box, a coffee shop with a decent stage and PA system and a local punky rock band are performing incredibly loudly, so we go to a local bar for some food. As usual, I don't bring my passport, as I'm still not used to being asked for ID so we can't sit in the bar area, don't know if I'll ever understand the American obsession with needing to see ID and not simply being allowed to use common sense. A plate of popcorn shrimp later we head back to the venue and watch Jared Mees & The Grown Children, followed by Loch Lomond doing their indie folk magic followed by Y La Bamba, also featuring Scott on drums, and finally a great set once again by Typhoon. After finishing up selling from the merch table, Scott gives me and (from the band The Monarchs) a ride back to Portland where I get about 4 1/2 hours sleep before waking for a shower and then a Max ride to Portland Airport. It's a two hour flight to San Francisco, so off to California I go.

The view over Northern California

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