The Classic - Cycle Oregon

What I learned at the David Byrne show last night

Posted by on June 24th, 2009 at 10:40 am

David Byrne show-1

Outside the ‘Schnitz last night.
(Photos © J. Maus)

I am now a David Byrne fan.

I must confess, prior to last night’s show, the extent of my experience with David Byrne’s music were the handful of top hits the Talking Heads had back in the ’80s (or was it the ’90s, I don’t even remember). But after his amazing show in downtown Portland last night, there is simply no way not to be impressed with this guy.

The dancers, the music, the big and sexy surprise at the end (don’t want to spoil it for others who might see the show in the future) — it was a visual and aural feast unlike anything I’ve experienced.

Besides all that, I also learned a few things.

1) The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall needs a lot more bike parking. When we (Tony Pereira and I) showed up, there were bikes all over the place. We were running late so we locked to something that wasn’t very secure. Which local venue will be the first one to request and install an on-street bike parking corral?!

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2) (Related to #1) David Byrne has a lot of bikey fans. I couldn’t believe all the bike scenesters I ran into. I ended up sitting next to author and The Oregonian reporter Jeff Mapes and bike planner/expert Mia Birk. Also in the crowd were bike lawyer Ray Thomas, Bike Gallery owner Jay Graves, the Community Cycling Center’s communications director Alison Graves (yes, they’re married), Shift elder Ken Southerland, BTA staffer and consummate bike community volunteer Carl Larson, former Trimet bike planner (and organizer of the Multnomah County Bike Fair) Kiran Limaye, and others.

David Byrne show-3

L to R: Author/reporter Jeff Mapes, David Byrne,
bike builder Tony Pereira, bike planning
consultant Mia Birk (Mapes’ son James
is in the background).

3) David Byrne is cool. For someone in their mid-upper 50s, this guy looks, moves, and sounds great. He is the perfect testament to what a life of daily bike riding can do for your mind, body, and spirit.

4) The Ross Island Bridge hurts our bike PR. Turns out that Mr. Byrne took a ride with some friends prior to the show. It went great, until he tried to bike over the Ross Island Bridge (Note: next time he’s in town, make sure he rides with people who keep him away from such un-bike-friendly atrocities like that).

5) I should have stayed backstage longer. It was great to meet Mr. Byrne and chat with him for a few minutes, but since he had tons of other people to chat with, we let him move along. Later that night, I realized I could have probably talked with him a bit more. I still would love to know the how and why he became such a biking believer.

Thankfully, I’ll get another chance to interview him when he returns to Portland in September (details TBA).

Any other BikePortland readers at the show last night? What did you think?

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • adventure! June 24, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Oh Jonathan, the Ross Island Bridge is a GREAT bridge to bike over, as long as you do it at night with 100 other people! 😉

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  • Tony P June 24, 2009 at 10:58 am

    Jonathan, Thanks for the last minute invite. Been a huge fan of DB since the early 80s and it was quite a thrill to get to meet him. You’re right–we should have stayed longer!
    What a great show.

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  • brettoo June 24, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Nice to see Jonathan, Mia, Jeff, Tony et al sitting a couple rows away from me. As I posted this morning in the original DB thread:
    amazing concert — even BEFORE [remainder excised so as not to spoil the surprise, though it’s no surprise to anyone who’s followed Byrne’s work, as they sprang the same thing in previous concerts].
    And did you see all those bikes locked to the handrails outside the Schnitz? Maybe this will convince the city to install more bike racks around the PCPA — seems like there should be a lot more considering how much traffic those venues draw.
    BTW Byrne will be back in September to promote his book. It’d be great to have a BP ride along while he’s here. Let’s be sure to avoid the Sellwood bridge, too.

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  • Carl June 24, 2009 at 11:26 am

    The Fahrner family, of Clever Cycles, was there in full force! I’d love to hear young Carl’s review this morning!

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  • aljee June 24, 2009 at 11:36 am

    the show was fantastic. i saw him a few years ago in Ft. Worth and the show was very different (he had a string section) but very great as well. my only complaints: i second the lack of bike parking and the sound in the Schnitz is awfully boomy and muddy where i was sitting (center lower balc). i bet the sound is much better for strings or the like.
    i’ve been a Byrne fan for a pretty long time. it was very exciting to recently learn about his enthusiasm for bikes.
    shame on whoever took him on the Ross. seriously, that makes me cringe to think about him experiencing biking in Portland on that beast!

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  • Ali and Evan June 24, 2009 at 11:42 am

    We had a chance to see David Byrne at a zoo concert a couple of years back and it was life changing. We’ve never danced so much (and that’s saying something!)
    In regards to how and why he became such a biking believer, isn’t he a member of Mensa? 😉

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  • chrisgunn June 24, 2009 at 11:49 am

    definitely need more bike parking at the schnitzer. i had to lock up to aljee’s bike (which was only locked to a cable), but at least the guards said they would keep an eye on our bikes for us.

    the show was fantastically amazing.

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  • carl [6 years old] June 24, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    “It was GOOD! I’m a fan of David Byrne’s. There was a bunch of people. My favorite part was when I saw the man cheerleaders. [ed: the Extra Action Marching Band]. My papa held me standing on the back of the chairs to see and dance. He didn’t sing Stay Up Late.”

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  • Michael M. June 24, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Actually, it was the ’70s … sheesh, kids these days. 🙂

    I saw the Talking Heads way back in ’81, after Remain in Light, which IMO was their next-to-last great album. Not that Byrne hasn’t done some interesting stuff since — but really, the Heads’ heyday was the trio of brilliant, enormously influential albums they released between ’77 & ’80.

    I confess, though, I really don’t get the bike thing. I mean, good for him, he likes bicycles. But I don’t get why I should care, or why anyone who rides bikes should care (unless, I guess, you’re going to try to sell him or build him a bike). Of course, I don’t get most of our culture’s celebrity obsession, and I couldn’t identify 50% of the people on the covers of magazines in the supermarket checkout line if my life depended on it.

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  • Jessy June 24, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Yeah. Late 70s, through 80s. But the hits are ubiquitous… They are STILL frequently on the radio, even today, more than 30 years after it all started. So it’s no wonder people have a hard time “placing” the time period of it.

    I guess people care because of the influence famous people could have with something like this. What if lots of other well-known people started commuting by bike? Lead by example…

    Personally, I care because Talking Heads are my favorite band AND I love riding my bike (for commute or fun or whatever). I am still in awe that these two great loves of mine have somehow managed to merge together in this way. It makes me giddy.

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  • Michael M. June 24, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Jessy #10: What if lots of other well-known people started commuting by bike?

    Well, that’s kind of my point … what if? Why would people care? I like David Byrne’s music well enough, I like cycling; the fact that he is a cycling enthusiast doesn’t make me like his music more, and if I didn’t like cycling, the fact that he does wouldn’t make me want to cycle, even though I like his music.

    I think I lack a gene for transference the interests of my favorite performers interests to my interests. 🙂 Everyone else seems to have this gene.

    It’s like the song says,

    And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
    And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful
    And you may ask yourself-well…how did I get here?

    I swear I feel like that when people start talking about how so-and-so actor/writer/musician is so cool because he or she likes bunnies or bicycling or the same bagels I like, or something else that is irrelevant to the actual work they do. Or when I’m staring at all the magazine covers with tales of unrecognisable celebrities’ love lives, legal troubles, weight gain/loss. I just wonder, “Well…how did I get here?”

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  • Anonymous June 24, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    Well, as much as I like Byrne (not just the Heads stuff but also some of his solo work) and biking, I think it’s more than just celebrity chic. Byrne not only likes bikes, he’s been a serious advocate for pro-bike policy in NYC and blogs about biking when he tours. It’s sort of like how he made dancing safe for nerdy white guys, he’s also, by virtue of his intelligent coolness, helping make biking respectable for people who maybe wouldn’t have thought that someone as rich as Byrne chooses to get around NYC by bike. I wouldn’t much care if say, Brad Pitt got around by bike, but Byrne… somehow that’s different. Not to me, maybe , but to plenty of others, I bet.

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  • Carissa June 24, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    I had the most amazing time at that show! All day I tried to hustle a ticket, and finally gave up and posted a Craigslist ad asking someone to call me and sell me one. A really nice, quiet guy called back and said his friend had bailed and I could have his extra…in the front row center! I danced my heart out, and took a bazillion photos (feel free to use some on bikeportland, uploading more tomorrow). Holy cow, what a great show.

    We saw his tour bus leave later while biking home, and rang our bells in goodbye. Kind of wish I’d brought my bike bell into the show, to ring and cheer, but that would be too annoying…I think.

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  • Kirsty June 25, 2009 at 12:19 am

    David Byrne also has a really cool, interesting and absorbing online blog, where he posts his thoughts/accompanying photographs regarding his adventures bicycling around in all the cities he tours through. Perhaaaps there will be a blog post from him about Portland soon…

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  • Jessy June 25, 2009 at 9:33 am


    Why would people care? Because, like I said, “lead by example.”

    It works in small ways, too. At my work, I carry my helmet from the bike cage to my desk. Because people see me with it, and realize that I bike in. And I’m just a girl who was never athletic or good at sports or anything! I like to hope that it makes people think, “Wow, if she could do it, maybe I could, too…” Or maybe they’ll ask me how I handle something, like my dressy clothes for work, and I can give them an answer and maybe they’ll realize that it’s not an obstacle for them, either.

    So, take that same principle, but expand it because of the exposure someone famous (like David Byrne) has. And as #12 pointed out, it’s not like he can’t afford to drive around if he wants. So the fact that he CHOOSES to bike really says something important, I think.

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  • zak June 25, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Great show!It would be a real plus for Portland to have a few DB designed bike racks for the Schnitz/Art Museum area.

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  • Scott June 25, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    How long did the show last? I am seeing him tomorrow at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, I want to take public transit, but it stops running after midnight.

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  • Dan H June 25, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    In David Byrnes words, the show lasts two hours and no leaving early in the last ten minutes, which is pretty much how I remembered it turning out. Its a great show, Have fun!

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  • KWW June 25, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    His music was great, and what he did for Brazilian musical awareness (and world music) in this country is even greater.

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  • Kris June 25, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    What KWW said… plus the definitive concert movie (Stop Making Sense).

    I don’t have much of a fascination either for celebrities and their interests – mundane or bizarre – but I think it’s always pretty cool when influential people happen to be bike advocates.

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