Mike the Knife – Musical Utility Infielder

My name is Mike Lambe and I am a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist in Portland, Oregon. This page will keep you up to date on my ongoing musical projects and performances. I currently play in four bands and frequently pop up at jams around town. I’ve been honored to sit in with many great talents in Portland including, Naomi Tatsuoka, Billy Hagen, the Family Funktion and Argyle.


Ninja Hippie

Formed in 2011 as a tribute to the criminally underappreciated Little Feat, Ninja Hippie has developed an expansive repertoire of improvisational favorites. A Ninja Hippie show is like an all-day music festival packed into two powerful sets, with diverse sounds ranging from New Orleans groove, modern psychedelia and deep classic album cuts. We cover a wide range of favorites from Phish, Little Feat, Traffic, The Dead, The Band, Velvet Underground, The Rolling Stones and many more.

I get to play with all of my toys in this band, with a full percussion rig including congas, timbales and lots of things to shake and whack, plus trombone, harmonica, melodica, plenty of harmonies and a few lead vocals. The band features Chris Layton and Dave Fink on guitars/vocals, Dave Gonnella on bass/vocals, George Fornes on keyboards and Stu Margolis on drums.

Upcoming Performances
Sat March 3 The Garages with Zen Hunter
Sat April 14 Slim’s
Sat May 5 Springfest, Shelton WA with Jerry Rig, Melenkil, The Hinges, Twice Baked and Psychedelic Shadow Show


Cousin It

Cousin It has a 20 -year history in the Portland-Salem corridor . I came on board as their drummer at the end of 2013 as the band ended a brief hiatus and resumed rocking the socks off of big city and small town crowds alike. We had the honor of sharing the stage with Grand Funk Railroad at the 2014 Linn County Fair.

Founding members include Nick Ignelzi on guitar/keyboards/vocals, Kirk VanDerVeer on guitar/vocals, and Dave Gonnella on bass/vocals.

Upcoming Performances
Sat February 10 Mac’s Place, Silverton 8pm


The Slope

My ongoing musical partnership with Scott Hewitt is at the core of The Slope, an acoustic-electric hybrid of original folk rock and imaginative reinterpretations of jazz standards, the Beatles, and Paul Simon, with a tip of the cap to Jerry Garcia’s favorite Motown tunes. Vocal harmony is a proud focus.

My percussion setup for the Slope is a constantly changing hybrid in its own way. I use congas, djembe and bongos, while emulating a drum set sound with cajon, snare and cymbals. Scott plays the acoustic guitar and sings, with Rick Kahn on guitar/vocals and Brian Levene on bass/vocals. All four members contribute original songs to the band.

Upcoming Performances

Sun April 22 Vancouver Farmers Market
Sun May 13 Vancouver Farmers Market


Jerry Rig

A band in transition. Dave Fink, Brent Jensen and Tony Guzman formed the core of Jerry Rig in the late 90s. Molded in the spirit of the Grateful Dead, the band recorded 3 albums of original rock and roll that infused jam rock with an alternative edge. I joined the band in 2011 as drummer and am featured on the third album, “Half the Battle.”

Brent and Tony have since moved on to new chapters of their lives. Dave and I keep the Jerry Rig material alive, while finding new inspiration in the music of the Grateful Dead, Queen and Bob Marley. Brain Levene on rhythm guitar and Scott Hewitt on bass have switched their Slope roles and are contributing new material to the mix. As this next chapter is written, we are feverishly brainstorming a new name!

Upcoming Performances

Fri April 20 O’Neill Pub with Rainbow Electric
Sat May 5 Springfest, Shelton WA with Melenkil, The Hinges, Ninja Hippie, Twice Baked and Psychedelic Shadow Show

Other Projects


I am pleased to share that the members of Mystic Canyon continue to meet occasionally and fill the air with the sweet sounds that we brought to Portland, Vancouver and Shelton stages for more than a decade. Surely a shameless cashgrab reunion tour cannot be far off.

I look forward to meeting up with former Jerry Rig drummer and friend Dan Fitzgerald to explore a new percussion project that we hope to feature at Squidstock this year. Stay tuned!

Some of you may know me from my occasional appearances at jam nights around town. I like to show up wherever my good friend Jimi Hardin is playing, most recently the Rumpus Room and Area 52. Jimi have played in several bands together and shared the stage at the 2015 Waterfront Blues Festival. He has introduced me to some outstanding jammers along the way, including Billy Hagen, Gary Fountaine, Josh Makosky and Kerry Stickler.

Mike and Scott with Jimi Hardin, backstage at the Cathedral Park Jazz Festival

Recent Setlists

Cadigan’s Corner Bar, May 2, 2015

Cousin It (1 set)677
MaryJane’s Last Dance
Steppin’ Stone
Gimme Three Steps
Black Magic Woman
Astronomy (Blue Oyster Cult)
Run Like Hell
Immigrant Song
Dreams (Molly Hatchet version)
Running Down a Dream

Ninja HippieNinja050215
Set 1
Funky Bitch
Don’t Do It
Sailin’ Shoes
Rocket in my Pocket
Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley*
Angry Eyes
Rocks Off
40,000 Headmen>
Hits From the Bong
Mellow Mood

Set 2
Spanish Moon>
Skin It Back
Greatest Story Ever Told
Come Together>
Climb to Safety
Yes We Can
Have a Cigar>
All That You Dream

Monkey Man

Where’s the Outrage?

A friend of mine raised an interesting question on Facebook yesterday in response to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ admission that they had mimed their Super Bowl performance.

So Milli Vanilli and Ashlee Simpson are run out of the music industry, but the Red Hot Chili Peppers get a pass? Where’s the outrage? Where is the endless moralizing and pontificating about the virtue of live music? Bueller? Bueller?

In case you were watching Puppy Bowl and don’t know what all this is about, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, at the invitation of Super Bowl halftime headliner Bruno Mars, “performed” their song “Give It Away” as part of the Pepsi-sponsored, NFL-sanctioned festivities. We can ponder the overall appropriateness of this another time; for now, I will just assume they promised to sing the Krusty-approved lyrics. What is important to this discussion is that the vocals of the performance were live while the instrumental performances were pre-recorded. This might have gone unnoticed if not for the fact that Chili Peppers bassist Flea and guitarist Josh Klinghoffer didn’t bother to plug their guitars into their amps.

Flea offers a perfectly acceptable explanation, not only for the pre-recorded instrumental tracks but also for the band’s decision to expose the fraudulence of their performance. “We thought it better to not pretend. It seemed like the realest thing to do in the circumstance.” All of this makes sense to me, and it would seem that the initial uproar over the issue has settled into an internet-wide shrug of acceptance. Hence, my friend’s observation on Facebook above. So why the double-standard? Is it because previous scandals involved lip-synching, while this was more like karaoke? What makes one more acceptable than the other?

Actually, I think it goes a little deeper than that. My conclusion is rife with generalizations and assumptions,  but I think it gets close to the heart of the matter. To better understand why Flea and the boys skate while Rob and Fab get the shaft, I think it is essential to consider the kinds of music we are talking about and the fans of each genre of music.

In general, fans of pop music tend to be less critical of this sort of thing. They don’t care how music is made, they just know what they like and mostly disregard the rest. Rock fans, on the other hand, are quite passionate about their music and the process of its creation, often obsessing over production details, gear, and differences between live and studio performances of their favorite songs. As such, they develop a higher standard for music that pleases them, and tend to be more critical of artists and music that does not meet their lofty criteria.

It stands to reason that the outrage over the phoniness of Ashlee Simpson’s SNL performance, Milli Vanilli’s entire career, or even Beyoncé’s lip-synching of the National Anthem at President Obama’s second inauguration comes not from their own fans, but from rock fans eager to expose the inferiority of music that tries to appeal to a less refined taste. Pop stars, in the eyes of this particular torch-bearing mob, are lesser musicians at best, poseurs who are trying to fool the poor, unenlightened masses who blindly consume their product. They must be cast out and made an example of, for the betterment of all human artistic endeavor. The record labels are all too happy to oblige, knowing that the offender’s only crime was getting caught and the public will warmly embrace the next charlatan. They might also give an extra push to an acoustic artist or two to maintain the appearance that they are responding to the groundswell.

So why don’t the Red Hot Chili Peppers suffer the same slings and arrows? For one thing, their ability to perform their own music has never been in question. So the same people who were calling for Ashlee’s head are likely to be appeased by Flea’s explanation. It’s not that they were trying to fool anyone, it’s that their hands were tied by the NFL’s policy regarding halftime performances. Also, as I mentioned before, the majority of pop music fans don’t really care whether the sounds they hear are being created on the spot or not. It all sounds the same to them, and if they don’t like it, they’ll just check out a few more minutes of Puppy Bowl before the second half kickoff.

It’s not as if the RHCPs are getting off scot-free. There are still plenty of commenters taking them to task for accepting the gig in the first place, knowing it would mean compromising their integrity. Again, Flea acknowledges this in his letter and explains the band’s decision to my satisfaction. I imagine the folks that still have a problem with this are some combination of Pepper haters and live performance purists. Their numbers are far smaller than the angry mobs of rock fans who had heard “Blame It On the Rain” one too many times in the summer of 1989 and were lucky enough to be given a perfect excuse to demand their exile from the musical landscape. So, it would seem, the Red Hot Chili Peppers live to give it away another day.

Flea Unplugged - You Mad, Bro?
Flea Unplugged – You Mad, Bro?

Back to School

It’s only mid-August. The weather is still intense at times, and our annual Labor Day Weekend in Pacific City is still a few weeks away. But for a variety of reasons, it’s starting to feel to me like the beginning of a new school year. It’s a feeling I haven’t experienced in over 20 years, when my final semester of business classes, trombone lessons, orchestra concerts and jazz band rehearsals filled my schedule. The coming week has me feeling some of the same feelings I felt then – the familiar buzz of making music with old friends after a break, the excitement of a new ensemble making its debut performance, the sense of wonder that comes with an approaching lesson and the slight dread that I will not be well enough prepared for it.

On Thursday August 22nd, GoBiggs Productions presents a rockin’ double bill at the Tonic Lounge. $5 gets you in the door to see two long sets of jams starting at 9pm with Jerry Rig. We’ll be playing a generous helping of tunes from our forthcoming 3rd album, as well as your old Jerry Rig favorites. Ninja Hippie follows with a long set of under-the-radar covers, classic and new, held together with tight arrangements and mind-melting improvisation. Best bang for your booty-shaking buck in town.

GoBiggs Productions presents Jerry Rig and Ninja Hippie, this Thursday at the Tonic Lounge
GoBiggs Productions presents Jerry Rig and Ninja Hippie, this Thursday at the Tonic Lounge

The next night, Friday August 23rd, the Latte Da Coffeehouse and Wine Bar in Vancouver hosts a unique evening of music, as we raise the curtain on a new project while bidding adieu to a bright young star on his way out of town. The show starts early at 7pm as Miles Hewitt performs one of his final solo acoustic sets of original material before beginning his own college adventure at Harvard. He will likely be featuring songs from his incendiary new release, Empire, which will surely be affordably priced at the show. Get it now before it blows up!

Shortly thereafter, proud papa Scott Hewitt and I will debut our new project, the Slope, along with our newest musical co-conspirators, guitarist Rick Kahn and bassist Keith Picone. The Slope is a blend of acoustic and electric sounds in an intimate setting. Scott and Rick bring some insightful and soulful original material to the group, as well as some imaginative arrangements of familiar favorites by Paul Simon, Elvis Costello and Stephen Stills, to name a few. This gig is particularly exciting for me as I will be debuting a new and innovative hybrid percussion kit, integrating elements of my usual hand percussion setup into a small, acoustic-friendly drum set.

Scott and I have been playing together for many years, a fact that will be driven home on Saturday September 7th when we re-join Mike Smith and Matt Kuerbis for Mystic Canyon’s 10th Appearance at the Vancouver Peace & Justice Fair. We’ll be taking the Esther Short Park Bandshell stage at 2pm for our yearly tradition, but please come early to explore informative displays, worthwhile causes and a wide variety of performers the whole family will enjoy.

But before all of this, my back-to-school vibe reaches its peak when I have the privilege of taking a private trombone lesson with the sensational Natalie Cressman. As a reward for contributing to the Kickstarter for her brilliant new album Turn the Sea, Natalie agreed to meet with me for a lesson prior to her performance at the Camellia Lounge. I have been playing more drums than anything else this summer, so I’m playing a little catch-up this week, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve “crammed” for a lesson. I am confident that I can learn a lot from this extraordinarily talented young lady, and I look forward to writing about it here.

Here’s Natalie, aka “Chainsaw” Cressman, with the Trey Anastasio Band, tearing up his original tune “Mozambique”:

Gotta go practice now!

All the Way to China

Donna and I have just returned from an exhilerating trip to China, a two-week whirlwind that spun us through Shanghai, Beijing, Harbin and Suzhou. So many experiences to remember: ancient palaces, modern skylines, a wide variety of delicious meals, a world-class jazz performance, and a one-of-a-kind Winter Festival. We shared these good times with old friends Matt and Amy, and new friends Richard and Angela, and just about everyone we encountered was happy to see us.

That may be what I remember most about the trip. Despite what we hear about environmental and labor conditions in China, the people seemed generally happy. Perhaps it’s just effective propaganda, but I found the music, the advertising, the art and the overall attitude to be very positive. Well, except maybe the taxi drivers in Harbin.

I’ll post a more comprehensive photo album on Facebook, but here are some highlights for my anti-social-media friends and family. Click on each thumbnail for a larger version of the picture.

Pudong skyline, Shanghai
Pudong skyline, Shanghai
China's oldest teahouse
Shanghai’s oldest teahouse
Donna and Mike at the Great Wall
Donna and Mike at the Great Wall
Locals love to get picture taken with Col. Sanders
Locals love to get picture taken with Col. Sanders
Mike pushing his luck with the guards at the Forbidden City
Mike pushing his luck with the guards at the Forbidden City
Snow and Ice Festival, Harbin
Snow and Ice Festival, Harbin
St Sophia Church, Harbin
St Sophia Church, Harbin
Angela and Mike acting on a dare at the Shangri-la Ice Bar, Harbin
Angela and Mike acting on a dare at the Shangri-la Ice Bar, Harbin

Jersey Rising West


Relocated East Coasters spearhead Sandy relief effort at Mt. Tabor Dec. 28


WHAT: “JERSEY RISING WEST – A Benefit Concert for Sandy Survivors”

WHERE: Mt. Tabor Theater, 4811 SE Hawthorne St., Portland.

WHEN: 8:30 p.m. Friday Dec. 28.  Doors open at 8 p.m.


  • Mystic Canyon – acoustic newgrass, innovative Americana
  • Jimi Hardin and Friends – blues-rock trio with special guests
  • Ninja Hippie – classic rock in a modern jamband style

PRICE: $10 donation benefits a disaster relief center in Eatontown NJ (cvrus.org)

The weather outside is frightful, but it can’t compare to the destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy just a few weeks ago. Residents of the areas that felt the hardest impact of the unprecedented winds are picking up the pieces and rebuilding. In the spirit of this season of giving, some local musicians with East Coast roots are getting together for a benefit show that will give some help to those affected most by the storm.

 “JERSEY RISING WEST – A Benefit Concert for Sandy Survivors” is the second concert presented by Jersey Rising, (http://www.jerseyrising.org) an all-volunteer, non-profit organization created in the days following the devastating storm to raise funds for those in need.  The Portland show follows on the heels of a successful effort on December 8 in Belmar, NJ. Proceeds from both events will benefit the Center for Vocational Rehabilitation’s Disaster Relief and Distribution Center in Eatontown, NJ (cvrus.org.)

The event is being organized locally by Jersey-born Mike Lambe, a singer and multi-instrumentalist who moved to Portland 12 years ago. “I’ve met and jammed with so many musicians who come from the East Coast, so when the storm hit, I knew this was something we could do to help out.” Lambe has assembled a triple bill of bands that have connections to New Jersey and New England.

Mystic Canyon will open the show with their acoustic blend of familiar Americana and thoughtful original songs. Connecticut-native Jimi Hardin follows with a blues-rock power-trio that will feature some special guests. The show will close with Ninja Hippie, a relatively new band on the Portland live scene that plays an uncommon mix of classic and modern rock with a heavy dose of improvisation.

Tickets are available for a $10 donation at the Mt. Tabor website (http://www.thetabor.com) or the Jersey Rising online merchandise store (http://jersey-rising.myshopify.com) where you can purchase a t-shirt or make a donation even if you can’t make the show. The event will also feature a raffle of valuable prizes donated by local businesses and supporters.


That Extra Something

You’re almost finished with a new song, but you feel like it’s missing a finishing touch. Or maybe you want to add some extra punch to make your next gig stand out. Or that Happy Hour acoustic jam could use a little rhythm and harmony. I have been playing percussion in Portland for nearly 12 years in acoustic and electric bands, and can customize my setup to best fit your needs. I play a wide variety of styles and covers, love to develop new material and absolutely live for improvisation and spontaneous creation.

If you are looking to add that extra something to your next recording or performance, please contact me for a very reasonable quote. You’ll be getting a percussionist who is first and foremost a musician with 32 years of experience. In addition to my playing, I can contribute as much (vocal harmonies, arrangement ideas) or as little (just play the part, dude) as you would like. I play with several bands but can always find time for the right professional opportunity.

Mike Lambe

My card

Hip Deep

I got a call around Christmas from my good buddy Jimi Hardin. Jimi was Mystic Canyon’s drummer when we started gigging regularly back in 2005. He brought an energy to the stage that took everyone’s game to the next level, and we developed an instant and undeniable chemistry. More recently, Jimi and I have connected when he co-hosts a jam night at Mama Maria’s, Queen of Hearts or Knuckleheads.

I had heard that Jimi’s band, Hip Deep, as well as the jam night at Mama Maria’s, had fallen apart. So when he called me on that winter afternoon, he filled me in on what had happened, but was already looking forward to the next project and wanted me to be a part of it.

He was putting together a funky backing band for a singer he had worked with over the summer. In fact, I had met Nayibe Rojas when we both sat in with Hip Deep in July. She was looking to put together a 60s, 70s and 80s revue of funky soul and dance music, and Jimi thought my percussion would be perfect for some of the songs she had in mind. “Don’t worry about the horn, right now we just want percussion and maybe some backing vocals.” I was happy to accept the challenge.

And what a challenge it has been! In just about three months, we have put together 3 sets totalling nearly 40 songs that cover a wide spectrum of dance music from classic 60s soul to 80s new-wave synth-rock. The percussion parts are juicy, and the background vocals are pretty lush. And sure enough, once the band got to know my skill-set, I found myself adding trombone, drums and even keyboards to the mix.

Now we’re ready to raise the curtain on this new incarnation of Jimi Hardin’s Hip Deep featuring Nayibe Rojas. Filling out the lineup will be musical director Julian Stefoni on keyboards, guitar and vocals, Tevis Hodge on guitar and Naiya Cominos on bass and vocals. Our good friend Maynard will be adding his saxes to the horn section as well. Check out the Hip Deep blog for all the details on our debut this Saturday at Portland Saturday Market, as well as our club premiere at the Spare Room on April 20.

Summer Update

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve checked in here. For a guy who is still looking for a job, I seem to be pretty busy. Here’s what’s going on in my world lately:

The Ginja Ninja tears it up with Russell Batiste

Unfortunately, it was just too good to last. Family Funktion at the Tabor wrapped up in April, after a solid 3-month run of groovin’ and helping out the community. Before it was all over we had one hell of a Mardi Gras throwdown with New Orleans’ hardest working drummer Russell Batiste! Since then, C-Money split town and is now tearing it up back east with his new band Yeah Bud. Back here in Portland,  I know there are some of us who would love to get the Funktion started again in the Fall. Let’s make it happen, Family!

Speaking of family, Donna and I took a trip to upstate New York to visit her brother’s vacation home. We lounged for a week on Great Sacandaga Lake and Lake George while playing with our awesome nephew and adorable niece.

If you’ve read my Phish review from a few years ago, you may be wondering why I haven’t posted anything about this summer’s Gorge shows. Frankly, I was just too blown away by the experience to write about it. There are fine reviews at Online Phish Tour and Mr. Miner’s blog if you need a recap of what went down. The band is really on fire right now, and the 2 Gorge shows that opened the second leg of their Summer tour were among the best they have played all year, perhaps even since their 2009 reunion.

For me the shows were just the delicious creamy filling in the middle of a weeklong Twinkie of Phishiness. Coalition Brewing hosted a Gorge pre-party, where Portland’s Phishiest met in the beer garden for some tasty brews and vintage Gorge jams on the sound system. Scott Hewitt and I had a fun drive to and from the shows, improvising a Stephen King-esque short story about the rapidly spreading windfarms along the way. And while the counterculture bazaar in the parking lot never slept, it never got rowdy or ugly either. We met some really nice neighbors in the campsite and soaked in the one-of-a-kind atmosphere. I was riding such a high after these shows that I went out to watch the webcast of both nights at Lake Tahoe at a great local tap room called Hop Haven, meeting even more kindred spirits who just couldn’t get enough Phish.

Further Bus at the Gorge

While the highlights of my summer have been pretty exhilerating, the everyday stuff has been fun too. I get to babysit some pretty cool kids. I’ve got a great set-up in the guest room where I can practice trombone with some jazz play-along CDs, all through my headphones so I don’t bother the neighbors. And I’ve been playing drumset more than ever. In fact, music has kept me the busiest this summer, as I have jammed with no less than 6 bands in preparation for a full slate of gigs in the near future. Among the places you can see me sing, play percussion, drums or trombone  in the next few weeks:

Tonight with Mystic Canyon on NE 30th Ave, just north of Alberta Street’s Last Thursday Street Fair

Noon-2:00pm  Saturday 9/10/11 with Mystic Canyon at Vancouver Peace & Justice Fair, Esther Short Park, Vancouver WA

2:00pm Sunday 9/11/11 with the Featles at Squidstock (contact me in the comments for details)

8:00pm Saturday 10/1/11 with the Harmless Eccentrics and the Magenta Theater Band at the Magenta Theater, Main St, Vancouver, WA

Thanks for reading and I hope to see you soon. Keep an eye out for Umphrey’s McGee’s new album Death By Stereo, available 9/13/11 everywhere. I’m working on hosting a listening party here in Portland before the album drops, so stay tuned….

Uncle Bubba sits for a spell