When Kelly Blair Bauman invited his friend Willy Vlautin to play a set of music for Bauman’s weekly “Unhappy Hour” at the Landmark Saloon, Vlautin had never been to Portland’s “Best Little Honky Tonk.” In fact, since moving with his girlfriend to the outskirts of town, Vlautin has been mostly staying out of bars and concentrating on his burgeoning fiction-writing career, which has taken off like a rocket since the publication of his first novel, “The Motel Life,” in 2007.
So without much fanfare, Vlautin came to the tiny Landmark on Sunday, Aug. 4 of last year for a late-afternoon performance of songs new and old, many familiar to folks who been following his band, Richmond Fontaine, during its 15-year run as Portland preeminent alt-country band. This was before the release of “The Motel Life” movie — which hit theaters last fall — and before the release this year of his fourth novel, “The Free,” which has been making headlines around the globe.
Vlautin played three short sets that summer day in Southeast Portland, swapping stage time with Bauman as both played to a nearly empty room. A few of Vlautin’s friends were on hand, a few other regulars, and a couple of tables worth of chatty patrons who clearly had no interest in the music nor any clue as to what they were hearing or who was playing.
Undaunted, the easy-going Vlautin played through the clanking glassware and jibber-jabber, letting his well-worn voice and left-handed Martin acoustic tell his true-to-life tales of society’s down and out. During the first set — which Vlautin asked us not to share due to the unfinished nature of the songs — Vlautin sat with a notebook of fresh ideas at his feet and could barely get a reaction from the small crowd while strumming and singing a batch of brand-new songs.
The small crowd proved a bit more responsive during the second and third sets, which we share here. Afterwards, podcast host Phil Favorite caught up with Vlautin outside the Landmark for an interview that was featured in Episode #2. As longtime fans of both Vlautin’s fiction and the great music of Richmond Fontaine, we’re thrilled to be able to share these couple of sets in all their ragged glory. Big thanks to both Willy and Kelly for helping us make it happen.
Listen to Willy Vlautin Live at Landmark Pt. 1 Willy Vlautin at Landmark Pt. 1
$87 And A Guilt Conscience That Gets Worst The Longer I Go
Lost In The Trees
Listen to Willy Vlautin Live at Landmark Pt. 2 Willy Vlautin at Landmark Pt. 2
Moving Back Home #1
Moving Back Home #2
“Tapped Out In Tulsa (?)”
Willy Vlautin will be promoting “The Free” with readings in the Los Angeles area on March 26 and 27, and at St. Johns Booksellers in Portland on April 10. He will also be performing at Wesley Stace’s Cabinet of Wonders at the Aladdin Theater in Portland on April 4. Learn more about Willy Vlautin’s fiction writing and music career at willyvlautin.com.