Portugal. The Man is the man, oh man!
Portugal. The Man was not what I expected at the JAS Aspen Labor Day festival. Aside from the two hits that I knew, their other music is as heavy as a revelatory thought on a bus ride to a dentist appointment. I liked it.
Once, I had the idea that I wanted to be an arts and entertainment critic. After a few tries, it was hinted at that I was getting distracted in the details of my reviews and missing the points, so I figured I might be better suited to writing about local politics and local saga.
As I have mostly exhausted these broad categories of ho-hum, as evidenced by how many readers now agree with me, I thought I would try another concert critique.
I have been to Wasilla, Alaska, the hometown of Portugal. The Man, so I feel a special connection with the group. I will never forget the euphoria I felt when I got to Wasilla. Watching the band from there perform here, I could almost relate that particular transcendence to their music. It might have been the mosquito spray talking.
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We were returning from a climbing trip in the Wrangell-St. Elias mountains in southeast Alaska. I don’t remember which one we climbed, or tried climbing. It’s not important, even though it seemed like it back then.
We borrowed a Ford F-350 truck from the bush pilot who had flown us in and out of the glacier. The plan was to drive the 300 miles back to Anchorage and leave the vehicle at the airport where the owner would pick it up whenever he happened to get around to thinking about it or needed to resupply his life in the boonies, whichever came first.
About 50 miles into our journey across a large percentage of the earth’s tundra supply, out of nowhere a 1968 Camaro pulled out of the woods in front of us. There was no way to avoid a collision so we braced ourselves for the impact and destroyed the classic Chevy. To us, it felt like a small bump in the road.
The Camaro was reduced to something that would become another piece of junk in a backwoods field, unrecognizable except for maybe a familiar nameplate hanging off of it somewhere if one looked closely enough.
Fortunately, nobody was killed. All six passengers walked away, ironically, we presumed because the debilitating drunkenness that caused the driver to enter the deserted highway without looking also relaxed the passengers to the point where the huge impact had no effect. It was this or pure dumb luck.
Then a very strange thing happened. In this unpopulated part of the world best described as “north of nowhere and next to nothing,” people began appearing out of the woods, the men shabbily bearded and the women burly. They had guns strapped over their shoulders or holstered at their sides. They whispered amongst themselves but nobody said a word to us. It was like we weren’t there.
After about an hour of suspended fear, what we guessed was a local law enforcement officer showed up in an old van that looked to be salvaged from a Ferris wheel repairman. He told us he had notified the state highway patrol of the accident and the real cop would be there in about five hours.
So, there we stood on the side of the road watching the hairy locals not watching us. The only interaction we had was with the intoxicated driver of the ex-Camaro. About every 20 minutes he would come up nauseatingly close to one of us and spit the same words into our faces: “This world ain’t big enough to hide in. I will track you down and slit your f—ing throat!”
The highway patrol arrived, issued the Camaro driver his eighth DUI citation and sent us on our way. We discovered the truck was fine except it was stuck in first gear. We drove to Glennallen a hundred miles away at 10 mph with the engine redlining, ditched the truck there and hitchhiked a ride on a school bus headed to Anchorage for repairs. I was the last one on and had to sit in front. As the others slept, I endured the chatty bus driver for five hours nonstop until he had to stop in Wasilla for a bathroom break. When he returned, I faked sleep and felt truly at peace for the next half hour to the airport.
If this doesn’t nail the feelings elicited from Portugal. The Man’s music, I don’t know what does. It was a weird journey. I highly recommend them.
Roger Marolt is disappointed he didn’t go to Portugal when he visited Spain last fall. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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