Something sinister is afoot in Portland, and it involves tubular meat products. It all started at Pickathon last summer, when a man decided to pelt a raw, bun-less hot dog at Alex Cameron during his Galaxy Barn set. When the Mercury asked the Australian musician about the incident ahead of last night's Doug Fir show, he said, "there's something about what we do that kind of inspires the oddball in people," and pointed out that "it's often men who feel the need to yell out. It's a bizarre thing, it's consistently men—it's consistently white guys, actually—and everyone else is just having a nice time."
Well, it's happened again: Last night, a man—perhaps the same culprit from Pickathon—approached the stage between songs and placed two hot dogs near Cameron, who was visibly repulsed. During the band's final song, the same individual pelted the singer with one of the hot dogs, which resulted in a mic drop and eliminated any potential for an encore.
It was an uncomfortable scene, especially given the nature of Cameron's satirical new album Forced Witness, which he described to the crowd as "an investigation into the straight white male condition." That's what's so ironic about the hot dog—does the meat-thrower understand that he was basically LARPing along to Cameron's music? It's probably best not to give any further attention to aberrant behavior, but I am confused and curious about why this keeps happening. Is this phenomenon unique to Portland? Is the hot dog symbolic? Does the hot dog man dislike Cameron? Does this happen to other musicians and I just haven't heard about it?
Despite the unwelcome hot dogs and sound issues, the rest of the show was fantastic: Molly Burch opened with retro-pop love songs from her 2017 debut, Please Be Mine, which at times recalls a breathier Angel Olsen or Patsy Cline. Cameron later took the stage with his five-piece band, including his business partner/saxophonist Roy Molloy, who sat on a stool staring into space whenever he wasn't playing. (The stone-faced Molloy rarely spoke, but during technical difficulties, he actually spent a few minutes critiquing the Doug Fir's stool—I have provided a full transcript at the end of this review.)
Cameron delivered his signature gyrating, hip-swiveling dance moves when he wasn't behind the guitar, playing Springsteen-indebted songs from Forced Witness and solemner synth-pop numbers from his 2016 debut, Jumping the Shark. Highlights included the anthemic "Runnin' Outta Luck" and the band's self-described mission statement, "Politics of Love."
My one critique of Cameron's set involves "Marlon Brando," which is admittedly my favorite song on Forced Witness. It's sung from the perspective of a belligerent drunk who's looking for trouble at the bar, and at one point he calls another man a homophobic slur. When I asked Cameron about whether or not he—a white, straight man—should necessarily sing that word, he gave a thoughtful response that touched on his desire to paint an honest, realistic portrait of this type of person. While I can appreciate his motivation, it was... odd to be surrounded by audience members singing along to every lyric, including a slur.
Without further ado, here is Molloy's unabridged review of the Doug Fir's stool, which he gave three-and-a-half out of a possible five stars: "I've been all around, ladies and gentlemen. I've actually seen a few stools that are similar to this; this is the Chinese-made, circular format, four-legged stool. You're talking about an aluminium-stainless steel composite—you'll know that the Chinese are specialists in composite metals. It's got a chrome coating, that's for looks and rust-resistance, which I respect. The foot rail is for somewhere to rest your foot, and also it's for structural integrity. The seat is circular. Not a huge amount of cushioning, but you know, we're all adults, we can make do. It looks like leather, but that's actually black pleather, which is stylish and affordable."
There you have it—the Doug Fir is in possession of a slightly above-average stool. Please stop throwing hot dogs at Alex Cameron. This is not the reputation we want to cultivate, Portland.