When Julie asked me to join her on a trip to Portland to see the new band she was in, I jumped at the chance. I love Portland, have some friends there and besides my great company, I thought she could use my help dragging her drums back and forth.

On our way south, I noticed we were listening to an awful lot of Joan Jett CDs. I knew Julie was a big fan and figured she was going through one of her Joan phases.
“What’s your new band like?” I asked as we passed Olympia.
“It’s a Joan Jett cover band”, she enthusiastically answered as she air-drummed on her steering wheel. “I’m so psyched to play in Portland”, she nodded along to “Love Is Pain”.
“Oh”, I said, slightly bewildered for a few seconds. It made sense, of course, that Julie, the world’s biggest Joan fan, would be in a Blackhearts’ cover band if one existed…but the concept baffled me. “Who goes to see cover bands?” I silently pondered. “Are we driving to Portland to see them play in an obsessed fans’ basement for 3 Joan look-a-likes?” I silently pondered. I pictured one with the black shag from the “I Love Rock and Roll” days, one from the early 90s when Joan had an uncharacteristic bob, and one hardcore lesbian fan, bald, looking like the Mexican grasshopper that Joan could sometimes look like. I hoped Julie wasn’t setting herself up for disappointment.

We reached Portland, picked up our friends, Don and Angela, and headed to the show. Julie gave us directions and told us the name of the place, which I thought was a good sign. It didn’t sound like some crazy fan’s basement.

We arrived at the bar and started loading in the drums. I was happily surprised and immensely relieved that it actually was a real music venue. The stage manager directed us in, the lighting tech was fiddling with colored gels and other bands were moving in their equipment. I noticed a line of people waiting to get in and they all seemed to be paying the $8 cover charge without a fuss. They must be opening for a pretty big Portland band, I thought to myself. After I moved some percussive hardware into a corner, I struck up a conversation with one of the bands, “What’s your band called?”.
“OU812”, said the woman I was talking to, “We’re a Van Halen tribute band”
“Oh”, I said, thinking the opener must be Everclear or something. “Who else is playing?”
“Stairway To Hell, a Led Zep cover band”
“All cover bands?” I asked.
“Fuck, yeah!!!!” The OU812s aggressively chimed in, waving hard rock hand gestures my way.
“Rock on!!” I said and tried to give them authentic Devil Horns in return, but wound up telling each of them I loved them in sign language.

I watched, throughout the night, entertained, as the female David Lee Roth impersonator Jazzercized her way through Panama, Janie’s Cryin’, Running With the Devil and Hot for Teacher. I stared in wonderment as the Eddie Van Halen, twisted up in his own legs, fell head first off the stage without missing a lick. I marveled at Julie’s Blackhearted beats and the fervor with which the aging male Joan belted out the hits. And for a short moment my tongue hung out, like I was a 16-year old girl in 1975, as the 21-year old Robert Plant pranced and posed in front of the frat boy cast that played Zeppelin perfectly. “Wow”, I thought at some point during the 28-minute rendition of “Dazed and Confused”, “now let’s go have some REAL fun!”

After the show, I helped Julie load up and figured we’d go back to Don and Angela’s to drop some acid or start a few fires before heading back to Seattle the next day. “You guys have fun.” Julie waved at us as she walked off, “I’m gonna go hang out with these guys for a while.” She said, pointing at her new band mates. “O.K.” I answered for the group, thinking: “That’s weird”, but trying not to cause a scene at the bar, “See you later, then”. Don, Angela and I retreated, thinking that if Julie was going to some after-hours party, she should’ve invited us.

We sat outside the bar, displaced and wondering what to do next when we saw a black van pull up next to the stage door. We didn’t think much of it until we saw the other band, followed by Julie’s band, and finally, Julie, all dressed in orange, file past and enter the van. Not being overly concerned by most of this, except that I’d never seen Julie in orange, we decided to follow them and see what was up.

We covertly shadowed the van for 2 hours, ending up in a remote part of Oregon, where we found their destination to be a large, stone building that looked like a church of some sort. The van entered into the church, and the three of us snuck around and watched through a cracked, stained glass window. To our surprise, there was an altar set up like a rock stage and hundreds in the congregation. Around the walls, like a demented Stations of the Cross, were posters for Beatlemania, Hells Belles, No. 13 Baby, The One Way or Anothers, The Bitchin’ Camaros and The Boys with the Thorn in their Sides.

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