Garrett Andrews

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August 9, 2014
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Portland's Pink Martini to cap Half Shell season

Pink Martini’s Thomas Lauderdale is going to give his band’s hardcore fans what they crave next week.

“More of the same,” he said with a self-conscious laugh.

Tuesday night, Portland’s whimsical, little orchestra Pink Martini closes the 2014 Music on the Half Shell season with a free concert at the Nichols Bandshell at Roseburg’s Stewart Park.

“I love Roseburg,” Lauderdale said. “I love the fact that people come early with blankets and set up. ... It’s this free, amazing event where people gather. I love the sense of community and the diversity of people that come — people of all ages. There’s so few events like that.”

It will be the fifth time the band plays the nonprofit concert series, now in its 22nd year. That’s three times more than any other act.

Lauderdale spoke by phone from his home in Portland’s Skidmore District, one day after returning from several historic dates in Turkey. He lives in the three-story, 9,600-square foot Harker Building, which he bought and had thoroughly remodeled to reflect a singular, ageless aesthetic sensibility.

While discussing the future of the band and what he’s learned traveling the world, the workaholic Lauderdale was rearranging furniture, his attention divided by a photo shoot for a food and wine magazine.

“It’s important to stay calm at most times, and if one remains still when there’s trouble, things will settle down,” he said.

Lauderdale, 44, grew up in Indiana, one of four adopted children of a Church of Brethren pastor and his wife. He began classical instruction on the piano at 6, moved to Portland at 12, and won his first classical music competition the next year.

Lauderdale formed Pink Martini in 1994 with his Harvard University classmate, singer China Forbes. The story goes Lauderdale needed a band to play the political benefits he was organizing.

He went into debt producing Pink Martini’s debut album, “Sympathique,” but was more than made whole when songs from the album started blowing up in France. The song “Je Ne Pas du Travailler” (“I don’t want to work”) became an anthem for striking French workers.

Reflecting a sunny, cosmopolitan nostalgia, the 12-piece band has recorded seven studio albums, performed with more than two dozen orchestras and toured the world as American ambassadors for good taste.

These days, Pink Martini tours 150 days of the year. It’ll hit Roseburg before dates at Portland’s Oregon Zoo and Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, and jetting to New York to play the Kennedy Center.

“Lately we’ve been playing private parties for Russian fancy people in Sardinia and Marbella, Spain. A lot of KGB agents running around. It was a little spooky.”

It’s also lately played dates with four singing great-grandchildren of Austria’s Captain and Maria Von Trap, famously depicted in the musical “The Sound of Music,” which Lauderdale called the “last, great American film.”

“They’re sort of amazing. They were home-schooled in Montana. They never watched TV growing up. They’re like other-worldly. They’re sort of old souls. That’s probably because they never watched TV.”

The Von Traps and singer Storm Large now share time with China Forbes fronting Pink Martini. Sometimes a crowd gets both China and Storm, but when the band plays here, it will just be Storm.

“One of the things about this band is that there’s this an old-fashioned-ness to it, but Storm definitely yanked it into the 21st century. ... She really lives the lyrics, and brings an intensity and excitement to a concert.

He said he prefers the shows with both Storm and China.

“I’ve seen China get a little more edgy, and Storm get a little less edgy.

“It’s kind of crazy having two singers. Singers are a different breed, partly because their instruments comes from inside them. It’s an intense thing, and I have no idea what that’s like.”

A noted raconteur, Lauderdale is something of a expert at social hosting. He’s posted whimsical home movies about entertaining on Pink Martini’s Facebook page. His alma mater’s student paper, The Crimson, even published a long article about Lauderdale’s days on campus.

So what’s key to throwing a good party?

“The key is inviting a crazy cross-section of people. People who are fun, people who know how to engage, and who know how to ask questions.”

• You can reach reporter Garrett Andrews at 541-957-4218 or by email at

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The News-Review Updated Aug 9, 2014 02:14AM Published Aug 12, 2014 09:19AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.