Portlandia: The Tour - Echoplex - 1/17/12
Sean J. O'Connell
Portlandia: The Tour
Portlandia, the Pacific Northwest-skewering IFC comedy show now in its second season, has run less than ten episodes. But SNL'er Fred Armisen and Sleater-Kinney rocker Carrie Brownstein have clearly captured a devoted following. Last night, for an hour and a half, Portlandia: the Tour -- featuring Armisen, Brownstein and a handful of special guests -- presented their second sold-out night at the Echoplex, to an audience of hardcore fans.
The evening turned out to be neither rock concert nor comedy show, but more of an interactive convention for devotees of dumpster diving and homemade crafts. After a brief video introduction from the show's fictional mayor, Kyle MacLachlan, Armisen and Brownstein emerged for a 21st century Burns & Allen routine, sharing Armisen's increasingly clingy text messages, like "Your birth was not a birth but the death of all others."
The duo then strapped on some instruments (Armisen - bass/vocals, Brownstein - guitar/vocals) and were joined for several songs by Telekinesis mastermind Michael Lerner on drums and Brownstein's Wild Flag bandmate, keyboardist Rebecca Cole. "The Dream of the 90s," which appeared in the first episode, succinctly summed up the demographic of the audience ("In Portland, you can put a bird on something and call it art.") and drew supportive swaying.
The in-jokes continued. Between clips of the new season, Aubrey Plaza appeared in a skit that had her helping the show's feminist bookstore owners find a Los Angeles outpost. Comedian Kumail Nanjiani appeared as a car rental clerk.
The audience shouted comments at the stage, often receiving replies from the performers. At one point a moderator-free microphone was passed through the crowd for a question and answer session. Considering how awful those kind of things can be, this one was mercifully concise. But pity for anyone who had not seen the show at this point because the real nerd questions were handed out in droves (Tom Hulce is their dream guest. Beloved extra Ellen Bloodworth has some good Jerry Orbach stories.)
The evening closed with two songs aided by ageless Bangle Susanna Hoffs. The band opened with a loose but poppy version of the Velvet Underground's "Sunday Morning" and closed with a Velvet-y version of "Manic Monday," complete with feedback and thrashing windmills from Brownstein that resulted in a broken string.
And then, much like a Portlandia sketch, it was abruptly over. Brownstein, licking the frosting off a cupcake, said a clipped thanks and the piped-in reggae music that had started the evening returned.
Personal Bias: I miss Flight of the Conchords.
The Crowd: SNL fans, Sleater-Kinney fans and cat lovers.
Random Notebook Dump: Someone could have made a lot of money selling food (or pitchforks and torches) to the hundreds of ticket holders waiting in line a half hour after the supposed showtime.
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