Top musical talent, all in a driveway near you
When the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing last summer, Norm Eder and neighbor Jeff Wolfstone decided to take things into their own hands in an effort to listen to the bands they would normally hear in the local clubs, which were then shuddered.
To that end, the pair formed their own production company, Becker Canyon Productions, and kicked off a concert series in a most unlikely place.
"Well, it's not a canyon. It's just a suburban street and it's my driveway," Eder said during a recent interview. "And we've been producing these things with some of the best, I mean, literally the best talent in town."
For the uninitiated, Eder and Wolfstone's production company is a tongue-in-cheek homage to the famed Laurel Canyon of the Hollywood Hills, where creative musical talents such as Joni Mitchell, Jim Morrison and members of the Eagles once resided in the 1960s and '70s.
Eder, who is semi-retired and spent numerous years in public relations, said the concert series he's been sponsoring in his driveway has helped put money into the pockets of many well-known Portland-area musicians during the pandemic.
"These are all professionals. These are not garage bands," said Eder, who can often be seen around town photographing various blues events and Happy Valley's annual Pickathon festival. "We have a tip jar and the bands keep all the money. … The tips have been really good, and so bands are happy to do it."
He said while others have hosted similar events, they charge admission and he does not
Just for kicks, Eder and Wofstone registered Becker Canyon Productions with the state as an LLC, paying the $100 fee for what they knew would be an unprofitable company.
"We've never earned a penny and don't intend to," said Eder, who lives in Raleigh Hills.
His tongue-in-cheek banter continues when he talks about his production company and "our amphitheater," "our crew" and "our security department" — all of which are exaggerations.
"We just have us, and we set up a tent in our in my driveway, and we provide the band with (electrical) power," said Eder.
The next driveway concert is set for Saturday, Aug. 13, and will be the pinnacle of the season, featuring a tribute to the music of Tom Waits entitled "Terrible Tales Told in Beautiful Melodies."
James Latham, a well-known local bass player who is a neighbor of Eder's, is producing the concert, which features two well-known local female voices Donna Jones and Shelly Rudolph.
While Latham, who describes his voice as gravelly, will join them, for the most part he will leave the vocals to Jones and Rudolph, because they are "exceptional."
"The idea is to not duplicate those songs like you'd get on the record or CD but rather to interpret them using our artistic and performing talents," said Latham. "This is the premiere and preview performance but we also are playing and scheduled at the Alberta Rose Theatre."
The Alberta Rose Theatre concert is set for 7 p.m. on Nov. 6 and will include a variety of talent including singer Bre Gregg. Both the driveway premiere and theater show will feature Mary-Sue Tobin, who Latham described as "an incredible saxophone player."
"I've been doing the production planning, pre-production planning, since 2019, and then it was scheduled at the Alberta Rose in 2020 and 2021. So this, this is a longtime effort that's coming to fruition, finally," Latham said.
When not playing bass, Latham manages Donna Jones and the Delegation along with Mookie and the Jazz Cats.
Eder said the concerts have been great fun with neighbors and friends all attending. Having done it for the better part of two seasons, Eder said they've only had one tentative complaint from a neighbor, and he wants to keep it that way by keeping the driveway concerts to a reasonable noise range.
"We control our sound — we try and keep it below 80 decibels," he said, adding that a lawnmower is about 85 to 90 decibels.
Coming up at future concerts will be April Brown, lead singer of Sister Mercy. Also on tap is Julana Torres set for Aug. 27, and Lloyd Jones will finish on Sept. 17.
(This story reflects the correct spelling of musician Julana Torres.)
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