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Portlander dreams of free, mobile rock shows by bike

Posted by on June 30th, 2011 at 10:56 am

East Portland Sunday Parkways-46

Jacobo Salazar on vocals during
East Portland Sunday Parkways
in July 2010.
(Photos © J. Maus)

“A bunch of bike punks want to play outside instead of indoors” — That’s the simple plea from East Portland resident Brian Smith. He’s launched a Kickstarter campaign, hoping to raise $1,200 to help fund his “Tall Tour” live music project.

In a nutshell, the Tall Tour is a bike-based rock show that rolls the streets of Portland on tall bikes pulling amps, mics, cords and instruments in trailers and plays gigs at parties, rides, festivals — or whenever the mood strikes.

Smith, a regular at fun local bike events who’s known for his audio acumen, created the Tall Tour concept with some friends back in 2009. Whether it’s rolling around with a booming sound system, setting up a pirate radio station during rides, or doing a full-blown tour with several bands, Smith wants to combine his acoustical ambitions with his love of bikes, music and free fun.

Brian Smith

Smith and his friend Jacobo Salazar are both musicians and members of local freak bike clubs (Dropout Bike Club and North Freak respectively). They started a band in 2009 specifically to do a rock show by bike that would feature themselves and friends’ bands. Smith’s vision was to tour Sunday Parkways with the bands under the moniker, Mosters of Rock by Bike.

Smith and Salazar launched the concept at Sunday Parkways 2010. “It was part marathon, part show,” Smith recalls, “because getting a bunch of musicians up at 10:00 am to play Sunday Parkways was, let’s just say, a little difficult.”

Ben Sauce Applebaum plays keyboard during a Tall Tour concert at the North Park Blocks during Sunday Parkways in September 2010.

“We broke a lot of gear, learned what works and doesn’t. Most importantly we had fun and planned on doing it better in 2011 — with the goal of making the whole set-up lighter, louder, and more durable.”
— Brian Smith

Lugging around heavy acoustic equipment and instruments across the city wasn’t easy either, but Smith says it was a great learning experience. And an inspiration.

“We broke a lot of gear, learned what works and doesn’t. Most importantly we had fun and planned on doing it better in 2011 — with the goal of making the whole set-up lighter, louder, and more durable.”

That’s where the Kickstarter campaign comes in. Smith wants to raise $1,200 by July 8th (they’re already raised nearly $800) to buy some equipment and go beyond the bungee cords and old, battered PA system they’ve been pulling around on their bikes for years.

“We hope this equipment will be around for a long time and enjoyed by the bike fun community.”

Sound systems powered by duct tape, DIY ingenuity and pennies from the pockets of Smith, Salazar and others have supplied fun music for countless Portland bike rides and events; now it’s time to throw a few bucks their way to help them turn it up a notch.

— Check out the Tall Tour music project on Kickstarter and keep up with the project on the Tall Tour blog.

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  • Ryno Dan June 30, 2011 at 11:13 am

    So awesome !

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  • Mark Allyn June 30, 2011 at 11:29 am

    I remember once upon a time back in arounc 2002 or 2003, going to some bike event where they had pedal powered movies.

    They had this multi seat rig constructed of old bicycle frames. Each set of pedals powered a DC generator. All of the DC generators were hooked up to a bank of batteries.

    The batteries were connected to an inverter, which was in-turn connected to an old 16 millimeter projecter; yes; an old 16 millimeter projector; not a modern DLP video projector which would take far less current.

    I wonder what happened to that old bicycle generator setup. If it is not being used, perhaps these folks can use it????

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    • BURR June 30, 2011 at 12:10 pm

      that thing was humongously heavy, required multiple people to pedal and was prone to breakdown, I doubt these guys want to have anything to do with it, their current battery powered amps are already way better than that thing

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      • BURR June 30, 2011 at 3:44 pm

        not rideable either, as I recall it had to be hauled by truck…

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    • Mansberg Shorty June 30, 2011 at 5:05 pm

      I heard rumor that the equipment and bikes that were used to generate the power for those bike movies are in a warehouse that Shift has somewhere, or knows about it. It needs some work, though (I was told)

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  • deborah June 30, 2011 at 11:42 am

    I hung out at their 2010 concert and loved it!
    Have you guys talked to the band Blind Pilot? Their band was on a West Coast tour by bike (with all their equipment) when I heard about them coming through Portland. Not sure how it turned out, but they might have some interesting tips/techniques on how to lug all the sound equipment and stuff. I’m off to Kickstarter to help support your effort!

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  • Brian Sysfail June 30, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    Power generators…YES! We are currently working on bike trailer that would double as a 2 person pedal powered generator. We are working on source for two DC motors with specs of 2000-3000 RPM and 3+ Amps. Probably making a trip to the bins to buy 2 treadmills for $10-30 and tear out the motors. New motors cost about $160+, trying to stay away from that cost. We hope to have this finished mid-july.

    I do remember that old 5-6 person pedal powered generator and was actually pedaling it at times during that movie 3-4 years ago. Way to big for us to haul around.

    We are totally open to other bands joining us and have put out the word, feel free to email me about it.

    Also want to give shoutout to
    Tim at Portland Custom Shop and Tom Hudson, they where both a great help in designing the new system and nerd-ed out with me on it.

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  • peejay June 30, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Way to go Sysfail! Next step is to figure out how the band can play while the bikes are riding.

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  • Antload June 30, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    Rock the Bike, Berkeley, Ca, has developed lots o’ great technology for totally off-grid mobile performances: colaborate with the Pleasant Revolution (.net) to bring bike-based rock and roll to a high level of refinement, including super efficient, loud, modified JBL speakers, really reliable efficient pedal generation equipment, and large LED power generation displays.

    Very generous with tips. They also sell stuff.

    Go Brian and Jacobo!

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  • Dan Kaufman June 30, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    STOP – GO TO THE KICKSTARTER LINK ABOVE PLEDGE $5 or more! This is a Bike Fun asset that will provide countless hours of enjoyment and/or irritation.

    Brian, if you do create human powered generators be sure to research flywheel technology and think about building the generator from scratch. It will improve the efficiency. Check out this great article:

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  • captainkarma June 30, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    Free treadmill on craigslist right now:

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  • Justa July 1, 2011 at 12:40 am


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  • Mark Allyn July 1, 2011 at 10:46 am

    May I please suggest that you get in touch with a Portland group of electronics hackers called Dorkbot.

    They meet at a place in Downtown called the Backspace Cafe. It’s on Fifth (I think) and about Couch.

    They meet every other Monday evening from about 7 PM to about 9:30 to 10 PM.

    The next meeting is on July 4th (yes, they plan to meet that day). Otherwise, just count two weeks after that, which would be on the 18th (Whatever the Monday is).

    There might be people there who can help with the generator/battery stuff.

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  • Dan Kaufman July 7, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Just got the news that the Tall Tour Kickstarter promotion reached it’s goal! WTG!

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