The Shivas, Cool Ghouls (SF), Big Black Cloud and A Pig To Die at The Know, Jan. 20

Another night at The Know.  Holy puppies-using-the-firepole, Batman: do I *lurve* The Know! Stranger still, I actually got to a show on time…I know, right? Keep that up & someone might mistake me for an adult. Sort it out, mate.  I mean, the only time I’m early to the party is when I show up so late to the night before that I’m actually early for tomorrow. (Shut up! It does *too* make sense.)

I was pretty excited about seeing The Shivas who play some great 60’s garagey indiepop & are hooked up with K Records, Burger & uber-cool local label Gnar Tapes. A very promising pedigree. I’d only heard two of their songs but was wildly excited by them.

I actually get to the room so early that I’m the first person in there. As a result, I get to have a chat  with the sound guy, who turns out to be Robert, from the awesome local band Nucular Aminals I had seen just a few days before. They run a tight ship o’er at The Know & before I ::know:: it, the 1st band is up: a two piece called “A Pig To Die”. Described as a “trufflecore” band (whatever the hell that means…I’m guessing something about sniffing out fungus, but damned if I know) they touch a lot of the metal bases. Their songs tend to start out sludgy, with a little bit of mathy stop/start & before shifting into hardcore/thrashy middle sections, then veering off into doom at the end, and that’s just+ the 1st song. I kinda wish I had a metal genre bingo card.

They ended every song with a quick little “the song is over” riff, which was a slight bastardization of “Shave & A Haircut, Two Bits”. It was kinda fun and kinda sloppy, though it was clear that the musicianship was there, just doused in such mass quantities it became hard; hard to find…oh, well. Whatever. Nevermind.  In between songs, the band promised to never play music again after this.  I was pretty surprised to look around the room & see that it didn’t seem that others were finding these guys as funny as I was, even though the genre of music wasn’t really up my alley.(1)

The last song had a breakdown where all the instrumentation stopped for the the singer to scream, with all the poor taste of a 12-year-old-white-male-privileged boy (lest you think I’m throwing stones, 12-year-old-me was guilty of far more crass sentiments), the ill-advised phrase, “you can abort a fetus but you can’t abort a mother”, which was so absurd it coaxed a reluctant/surprise laugh from me. Then broke into more thrash, before breaking into a drippingly-comic-yet-somehow-sincere(ish) version of Jewel’s “You Were Meant For Me”. I was biting my tongue trying to keep from laughing out loud. 12-year-old me would have *loved* this band because 12-year-old me was in this band. We had fun. I’ll leave it at that.

Next up is the 3-piece Big Black Cloud. They begin with a buzzsaw noise that sounds like a nest of angry bees off in the distance growing ominously closer. Great, hard staccato rhythms from the drummer, who really steals the show with his hyper technical hard-hitting on a set that he’s almost comically oversized for. It’s a normal-sized set, he’s just a big and imposing guy, albeit it a very friendly one as well. Both the indiepopishly dressed bassist in her black & white 60’s-style collar & the black low-key-punkishly dressed guitarist belied the music, which was a big and noisey explosion, with frantic screams, both in unison and alternating from the bassist & the guitarist. It sounded like what I imagine the apocalypse sounds like, but in a sincere and therefore *actually* kind of scary way, instead of the bombast the people that wear the face paint go for, which to my (admittedly pretentious) mindset, instead of inspiring darkness and fear, serves as a de facto form of Brechtian alienation from those macabre experiences and just makes me laugh…sorta like people who say things like “de facto form of Brechtian alienation”.  That makes me wanna Weill on myself for that one. Stop groaning! It could have been worse.  All’s Weill that ends whale, the bard will have you know.

Oh yeah: music.  Big Black Cloud were complex and interesting in a way that seemed to blend post-rock with pure sonic heaviness.  I could almost see the wall of noise that built up before me.  It’s not really what I go to see shows for, but there was no denying the musicianship & creativity of those involved.

This next band, the touring act from CA, The Cool Ghouls is garage/surfy which is way more up my alley.

2 guitars, a bass, drums & 3 mics. One guit is a gretch-type thing run through a super reverby Roland amp. I’m already into it from just the soundcheck.  Everyone is outside smoking.  The bassist steps up and implores the crowd to “C’mon!  Get on in here!”, not getting the unspoken Portland code of just start doing your thing, and if people are into it, they’ll come.  Anything else just reeks a bit of “Hey You Guys”

They have wide, harmonious choruses, and strong bass-forward breaks, with garage rawness that’s pretty contagious.  I heard someone describe them as “SF freakout rock” and think that’s a pretty fitting appellation.  The band committed a minor faux pas when they said some unpleasant things about Portland in between songs.  Of course, we’re all so happy here, that no one cared or said anything back.  I understand being homesick, it happens.  There’s no reason to take that out on the city that you’re in.  Luckily, we’re so damn happy here that if you think poorly of it, great!  Please, continue to live in California or wherever else you like.  We’re not offended.  We’ve got no shortage of people moving here. Do you want to as well?  Awesome! Bring your positivity and your art and lets all hang out! If not, hey, that’s cool too.  I’m just saying this because you might not want to take this approach in say, Amarillo, where perhaps they are not quite as secure about their awesomeness.  They may also ask you about the things that you are seeing, and not in a manner that is intended to test your eyesight or inquire about the nuances of your personal experience.  We’re good and friendly here in Portland, though & the music was so dang enjoyable, you all can come back by and say unpleasant things about our fair city.  Seriously, we don’t mind.  And at the risk of redundancy, the music *was* really good!

Next up, The Shivas, K Records band. 4 piece, two guits, a bass & a gal on drums and as cool & ghouly as the Cool Ghouls were, the Shivas were just another level of awesome, playing really bright and energetic rock with an infectious danciness about it.  The enthusiasm that came pouring through the music was so. damn. contagious. that I think everyone in the crowd got moving & for whatever reason, crowds just don’t really dance in Portland.

After the show, I inquired after any available recordings, but they had nothing with them.  I grabbed a tape at a later show, a t one of the coolest spots in Portland: the Crayon Coffin.  (Got a review of a show I caught there a while back in the cue, along w/ many others.  Stay tuned!)

So the night was still young, as they tend to be after shows at The Know, so I went to go see Hausu over at the Tonic. Luckily, I hadn’t missed them. It was a free show in the front bar and I got there just as the act before Hausu were going on. It was the incredibly entertaining new-wavey dance sounds of a lady I’m pretty convinced is the lead singer of Ghost Mom, (but I’m not sure; you know–or do now– how utter rubbish at recognizing people I am. It’s not an infrequent occurrence for me to find myself yelling loudly at the bloke in the bathroom,. “What the hell are you doing here? And why do you have my toothbrush in your mouth? My lord, you do look familiar…and why are you saying what I am saying as I….Oh. Ugh. That’s me, innit?”), who invited the crowd to play Scrabble in the middle of the floor as she sang and danced her way though her set, and really wasn’t kidding! And people did take her up on it.

Hausu went on next. I’d seen ’em before playing a small and unannounced thing over at the old alma mater– incredibly exciting band making some really great music; incredibly well-versed as well, after talking to the lads. I wish that someday I become of enough note to be able to introduce them to a crowd, MC-style. You ::know:: I’d say, “Ladies and gentlemen: Hausu is now!”. They tore the place apart with intricate-enough-to-be-excitingly-unique-without-being-prog jamz reminiscent of Fugazi, but without Ian & Guy’s pretension and a bit more heart. I know, what bold and Dischordant sentiments (& this is coming from someone who genuinely *loves* Fugazi, you know, sorta like EVERYONE EVERYWHERE). I mean it, though. Keep yr ears peeled, I see really great things ahead from this lot!

Good night for music in a great city for it. So humbled and glad to be here.

-Michael Feck

1:   Apparently you *do* just grow out of metal, Aragorn.

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