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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: October 7, 2014

Mike Watt and Il Sogno Del Marinao play Port City Music Hall on Saturday

Written by: Ray Routhier
Mike Watt, Stefano Pilia, Andrea Belfi of Il Sogno Del Marinaio are coming to Portland on Saturday to play at Port City Music Hall. Courtesy photo

Mike Watt, Stefano Pilia, Andrea Belfi of Il Sogno Del Marinaio are coming to Portland on Saturday to play at Port City Music Hall. Courtesy photo

Mike Watt’s name fits him, since the guy virtually burns with energy.

From his days with ’80s punk legends Minutemen to his latest band featuring two Italian natives, Il Sogno Del Marinaio, Watt is constantly moving, constantly racing into the next phase of his life.

Since the death of Minutemen singer D. Boon in a 1985 auto wreck, Watt has played with or been a member of more than a dozen bands, including Firehose and the Stooges.

In fact, his penchant for movement is so great that he gave an interview for this story while driving his own tour van between Spokane, Washington, and Boise, Idaho. “Don’t worry, I’m using a Bluetooth headset, I’m being safe,” he said.

And one of the first things Watt talked about was his van,

“It’s a 2005 Ford E-Series, I’ve always had these,” said Watt, 56. “But the last one just rolled off the line. They don’t make ’em anymore. My heart is sad.”

Still, as he has been throughout his 35-year musical career, Watt is ready to roll with the changes. He says when his current van no longer runs, he’ll likely buy a Transit, Ford’s successor to the E-Series.

But for now, Watt will keep driving his E-Series all over the country, including to Portland. He and Il Sogno Del Marinaio will play the Port City Music Hall on Saturday night.

This year the band released its second album, “Canto Secondo,” and began touring in September to promote it. Featuring guitarist Stefano Pilia and drummer Andrea Belfi, the trio’s music is a mix of instrumentals and songs with poetry or spoken word.

As one might expect, the songs are heavy on the bass lines and can sound at times like a mixture of jazz and surf music. Though Watt’s mind moves too fast to acknowledge any categorization.

“It’s the voice, a trio has to find a common voice, whether it’s a power a trio or whatever, right? Don’t worry about genre,” he said.

The common voice, the spirit of collaboration is why Watt said he asked his Italian band mates if it was all right to name the band something Italian. The name means “the sailor’s dream” in Italian.

“I’ve done a lot of things on my own, but his really is a collaboration,” said Watt.

The group was formed after Watt went to Italy to tour and record, at the invitation of Pilia.

Watt grew up in San Pedro, a neighborhood on water that’s part of Los Angeles. He still lives there and paddles his kayak out to sea three times a week, about two hours a day.

He formed Minutemen in 1980 in San Pedro, with Boon. The band toured constantly and quickly became legendary for its energy. Though classified as punk by some, Minutemen helped inspire musicians who a few years later would be playing what critics called alternative rock.

After Boon’s death, Watt thought about quitting music. But an invitation to play with Sonic Youth convinced him to continue. After many years of forming bands and playing solo, Watt backed Iggy Pop for a show in 2002 and then became a member of the reunited Stooges, the band Pop had become famous with in the 1970s. The band is considered a pioneer in rock’s punk movement.

No matter where he’s playing, in what band, Watt says he has the same mindset as he did in his Minutemen days.

“It’s a state of mind, you know, a very personal expression, making music,” said Watt. “It’s a dynamic thing, music, with a lot of stuff going on. It’s too bad everyone wants to shove it into a genre.”

Il Sogno Del Marinaio (with Mike Watt)

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $15 to $25

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