Portlandia the Tour Does Durham
Before you read any further, if you’re intending to see any of the last two showings of Portlandia: The Tour, STOP READING THIS POST IMMEDIATELY!!
Quit reading, or you’ll regret it. That’s not a threat. It’s a promise.
Ok, hopefully that worked. If you’re still reading, know you’ve been warned.
Let’s get back to the task at hand… Portlandia: The Tour came to Durham, NC last night. The moment the tickets for this show went on sale, I bought myself one. I didn’t know if I’d go with anyone, I didn’t know what else I was doing that night, I just knew that I’d be there, and I’d be laughing.
If you’re not aware, Portlandia (click here for some clips on Hulu, they’re worth a minute or two if you enjoy laughter and joy… do you?) is a fantastic television show on IFC which acts as a satirical look at the ridiculous residents of Portland. You know the ones, every town has them. Those too-hip-for-thou hipsters that shop at thrift stores, whose main mode of transportation is bicycling, and whose main food groups are cigarettes and coffee. At least, that’s how they’re portrayed in Portlandia.
I love this show, and I feel like I’ve seen these “Portlandians” in many of my travels (most of the time in Carrboro, the hip artsy next-door neighbor of Chapel Hill). The best thing about Portlandia, though, is that they don’t mock these folks in a mean-spirited way. And Fred and Carrie both mentioned during the show last night that their inspiration for the characters comes a lot from pieces of their own personality.
My fatal mistake before seeing this show, however, was that I’m just too curious for my own good. Unsure of what kind of format the show would be in, how long it would be, or what I could expect, I started searching online for reviews.
I basically robbed myself of any and all elements of surprise, and kind of set myself up for the worst. When you read the words of another (for instance, the under-enthused Dan Zak at the Washington Post), you can’t help but have your own expectations tainted with their thoughts. And so a seed of doubt was planted…
I had a great seat, right in the center of the orchestra seating in the Carolina Theatre. The venue was fantastic, in my opinion, offering reasonably comfortable seats AND bottles of (affordable!!) craft beer at the concession stand. I nabbed a Ruthless Rye IPA (Sierra Nevada) and scampered back to my seat before the show started.
The show started off with a little dialogue between Fred and Carrie relaying texts that the other had sent to each of them to the audience. Hands down, the funniest line was from Fred to Carrie: “Your birth was not a birth at all, it was the death of all others.”
Cue raucous laughter.
They, along with their bandmates, played the show’s infamous “The Dream of the ’90s”, and even included a quick jab at Chapel Hill to rile up the crowd (which, ironically, included a TON of UNC students…) Highlights of the rest of the show?
- Durham recon discussion with John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats (a Durham local) and the audience, who piped in about their favorite biscuits, food trucks, coffee shops, restaurants, and record label. There was a great Bojangles vs. Biscuitville vs. Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen debate, which Sunrise dominated, and it relayed a lot of authentic Durham love.
- A reading of the poetry penned by a 7-year old Freddy Armisen “Dracula sucks blood, and so do I.” You can’t make this stuff up.
- Fred’s father (also named Fred), a Durham resident, coming out on stage to recreate a photo from when the Armisen family ventured to London in Fred’s youth.
“Cacao to that.” (Check out the Cacao clip for a better understanding.)
There was an off-key singalong at the end featuring more audience participation (whoda thunk that it’d be so tough to musically add the words “Durham North Carolina” to a tune?) and a few songs by the Zooey Deschanel lookalike in a Canadian tuxedo (denim on denim) who I later learned was Eleanor Friedberger of…. Eleanor Friedberger. Definitely not hip enough to catch on that she was more than a musician I should’ve heard of by now. Oh well.
I laughed at times. At other times, I was thankful that my phone was smart enough to allow me to read Twitter. Overall, I’m stoked I went, for about $40 (with taxes and Ticketmaster fees included in that price) it was a combination of a stand-up comedian, a mini-film festival, and a concert. I’ll take it. Carrie Brownstein is a fantastic example of a female musician/performer that has her shit together, and can hang with anyone. I think her style of humor throughout the whole show was what I connected to the most. Fred sometimes took it a little too far in any direction, and sometimes felt hokey, but together… that’s where they really shine.
All that being said, I’ll NEVER make the mistake of researching a live variety-show-esque performance like this pre-attendance. I need more life-spoiler alerts.
Have you ever seen Portlandia?
What area near you is most like Portlandia (read: full of hipsters, hippies, scene kids, granola type folks… you know the ones)?