In a pandemic, the vacant foyer of a newly refurbished retail space in Multnomah Village seemed like a better performance venue than their backyards.
So late Saturday afternoon on May 9, Phil Lavine and Greg McCarty got the band Gypsy Jazz West back together and performed acoustic swing music from the 1930s for the occasional passers-by.
As far as it's known, it was the first live music to be performed along Capitol Highway since the COVID-19 shutdown.
Lavine said they chose the space in the vestibule at 7856 and 7858 S.W. Capitol Highway, two spaces available for lease, because the acoustics are good and it's suitable for social distancing.
The retail space has been dubbed El Capitan by its owners, the North Rim Development Group. A major renovation was completed just before the pandemic. Here's how the literature describes the former site of Jules of Morocco: "Newly remodeled windowed storefront, with hardwood floors and additional space in the finished basement. Private restroom and signage opportunity." The retail space on the left, 7858, is 1,627 square feeet, on the right, 7856 is slightly larger at 1864 square feet.
Lavine and McCarty, each playing acoustic guitars, performed half a dozen tunes that Saturday and said they'd probably be back. Asked if they were busking and donations were accepted, both just shrugged.
Street performing was first called busking in England but has a long history. Lavine was born in Leeds, England. West Portland resident and City Commissioner Amanda Fritz also is from Leeds. They attended the same high school but only met in Portland. "She's lost her accent," noted Lavine, who hasn't.
The two troubadours live close enough to walk to Multnomah Village and have been a musical presence at street fairs, farmers markets and Multnomah Days for years. They also played occasionally at the Vault at O'Connor's and the Prosperity Pie Shoppe. Both businesses are now shuttered.
Gypsy Jazz West can be found on Facebook.
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