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Tony DeMicoli
The Mountainís Music Man posted on 06/30/2017

Tony DeMicoli’s foray into the music industry started by picking up a hitchhiker, but the seed for his career and how he went about his business was planted much earlier.

DeMicoli grew up in Brooklyn and spent many years as a young man kicking around New York, including having a friend who lived above Dangerfield’s, Rodney Dangerfield’s club. DeMicoli would pop in and noticed that Dangerfield, who had not found his fame yet, always remembered people and greeted them.

“I thought, ‘Wow, this was a way to run a club,’” DeMicoli said, adding that in those days he got to see Jefferson Airplane and other 60s bands at the Fillmore East. “I like the club scene. I like seeing people enjoying life.”

DeMicoli ended up in Jewel, where he made stained glass, and on one trip to Cannon Beach he picked up a hitchhiker, Richard Vidan, who had an idea for a club in Portland. That chance encounter landed DeMicoli the job of manager at the Long Goodbye in 1978; the start of two decades in helping foster the musical scene in Portland including his clubs Luis La Bamba and Club Key Largo.

This month, DeMicoli will be honored at a one-night celebration, called “Rockin’ for Tony,” featuring three of the bands he helped bring to the music scene, Quarterflash, Nu Shooz and Jon Koonce & The Lost Cause, on Sunday, July 16, at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland.

Marc Baker, one of the event’s organizers, met DeMicoli at the Long Goodbye and started to make a connection while he was running the college radio station at Oregon State University and getting invited to Luis La Bamba’s to see the bands DeMicoli booked there, including The Ramones, Echo and the Bunnymen, Bow Wow Wow and more.

“That was the place, that was Mecca back in the day,” Baker said. “He was kind of the top of the pyramid. There were other places, but there was only one La Bamba Club and that’s where all the cool bands were playing.”

Baker later managed the band The Crazy Eights, which frequently played at Club Key Largo, and he noted that DeMicoli was known for being an upstanding club manager.

“What Tony offered was the space and the freedom,” Baker said. “When you worked with Tony, a handshake was good and his word was good. He always supported artists and you knew you weren’t going to get worked. The list of people running clubs that you could say that about was a pretty short list.”

Baker added that the music scene in Portland in the 80s was much different than today, with hangouts such as record stores and music clubs that were prevalent then, now are almost gone. Back then, original local bands found a foothold in clubs like DeMicoli’s, along with bringing other established musicians to the area, including Cheryl Crow’s first Portland gig and John Lee Hooker.

“I just feel so lucky as a native Portlander to have been a part of that, on the outside and then on the inside,” Baker said.

Baker and Terry Currier, owner and operator of Portland’s Music Millennium record store, figured it was time to honor some of the people who made contributions to the music scene and landed on a tribute concert for DeMicoli, bringing back three of the bands from his time at Club Key Largo.

“Those are really three great examples of people Tony supported,” Baker said. “Three 80s acts that scored major record contracts that played on Tony’s stage.”

Currier, who started in record retail in 1972, met DeMicoli during his time at the Luis La Bamba Club. He noted that DeMicoli brought in a wide range of musical acts to perform, from older blues legends like Buddy Guy to the American soul band The Neville Brothers, while also offering regular gigs, such as a weekend every month.

“It was a different time and space,” Currier said. “Back then, club owners welcomed back artists to play on a regular basis on the local side. Today, there’s not very many clubs that have recurring acts playing in the same month.”

And when it came time to figure out the bands that would play at the tribute, it wasn’t a challenge.

“They just said, ‘Let’s do it,’” Currier said. “Tony had been very instrumental in giving them a platform for getting their music out to the public in this town when they most needed it.”

DeMicoli, who moved to the mountain for 17 years after he sold Club Key Largo, noted he’s grateful for the event, as too often these types of things occur after losing an influential person.

“So many great people have passed on and then they do a tribute for them,” DeMicoli said. “It’s kind of nice to feel that when you’re still alive and when you can really enjoy it.”

And DeMicoli continues to be involved in the music industry today with Blues Cruises at the Portland Blues Festival, the McMenamin’s Edgefield concert series, the Bite of Oregon, the Rose Festival and now booking bands at The Resort at The Mountain’s Mallards Restaurant on Saturday nights, proving that his passion for music has not faded.

“I loved seeing and promoting new bands,” DeMicoli said.

Baker warned, however, that for those who want to experience the music of DeMicoli’s clubs better mark Sunday, July 16 on their calendar.

““It’s just going to be a big love fest of great memories and good times and amazing stories,” Baker said. “Chop chop lollipop, you snooze you lose.”

Doors open at 6 p.m., with a 7 p.m. show, for “Rockin’ for Tony” on Sunday, July 16, at the Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W. Burnside Street in Portland. The event is for ages 21 and older and tickets are available for $20.

For more information or tickets, visit www.crystalballroompdx.com.

By Garth Guibord/MT

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