Great writers seem to begin with that solitary line that so elegantly sums up the experience in some transcendent turn of phrase that makes you say, “Wow” and “Of course” all at the same time. There’s a danger in waiting around for that one shining revelatory moment to illuminate the night; that waiting can prevent you from ever telling the story. It’s best just to break in to the action, without perspective but with an eye to detail, from there the details will provide all the perspective you need.
This is what I tell myself, at least. Before I am changed by the night. Lately, I’m changed by every night. Of course, some more so than others. I’d like to say this night has opened my eyes but I’m not happy and I’m not sad. It’s just another breakneck night of seeing many shows in one night. The hashtag mantra of my life lately would be that “I live every night like it’s Musicfest NW”…except, you know: in hashtag form. I have seen some really great things, despite personal turmoil that seems to haunt me at every step. It makes the highs higher, the lows lower and the fasts turn faster. It makes the music necessary.
Began the night at the Holocene. Seeing Federale score an episode of Star Trek, having to do with the Wild West, belief, simulacra & all that heady philosophical stuff presented in the most vulgar1 presentation and expression that should make me really love it. However, I missed the Trek boat as a kid, and I suspect that the window has closed for me. I don’t dislike it; I just have no inclination to pursue it any further, unless the good folk responsible for Trek In The Park are doing something with it.
That said, that’s *exactly* who are responsible for providing the actors’ voices. I don’t know what the actual soundtrack to the episode was (cf. “Michael Feck: Not A Trekie”) was but I’m thinking that it’s kind of revolutionary if that’s what Federale were playing, since those spaghetti westerns were so new. Whatever it was, the Morricone sounds of Federale were stunning, to my otherwise twang-o-phobic ears, so consider that as ringing of an endorsement as I’m capable of giving. The voice acting was executed admirably, with the occasional breaking of the 4th wall, that accentuated instead of detracted from the experience. (“Wait, hold on. Kirk never said ‘Let’s get the fuck out of here’!” “Yeah, well he should have.” Can’t argue that.)
I was surprised how packed the place was. Portland luuuuurves them some nerditry.
Next, it was off to Recess Gallery for Hausu. I’ve gone on about those lads before on these pages, how awesome that particular blend of emotional post-punk is that they offer. Tonight was no exception, as they played to a pretty full room at this super low-key venue/art space. The current exhibit was “resumes” which was a room full of real resumes from actual people looking for work in this city, a testament to labor, expendability, desire & the ways in which we measure people’s worth.
White Fang played from a projector in the room, that the band seemed nearly unaware of. I wondered about the significance of this. The way in which TV is on in the background, a visual white noise in our lives, providing distraction, nestling us into secure submission, but alienating ourselves from our actual experiences in the process. I wondered what also this said about time, in that White Fang was shot in the early 90s, where some facets of Hausu’s musical roots lie.
The countdowns were funny. “We’ve got 3 songs.” Then another musical bombardment of Fugazi-meets-the-Creation-catalog in a dark alley & they switchblade fight to the death, but musical-like, as in the Beat It video. Destroyed the room. Then: “We’ve got 2 songs left.”
With the closing notes of the last song, I was out the door, headed to the Doug Fir for Ski Lodge and Chad Valley. I had heard a song of Chad’s before and quite fancied it. I knew nothing of Ski Lodge.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that Ski Lodge had a real light-touch East Coast dream pop feel to them, but with an extra edge. Four piece w/ two guitars (the now standard issue mustang that has long supplanted the Strat as the guitar of choice) & the guitarist not on vox was a true lefty. Makes it impossible not to think of Kurt. However, other than the fact that he2 was one of us, that’s where the similarities between the two end.
Ski Lodge were dancey and lightly moody, with an errant breeze that chills and tempers what could otherwise be the velvet sounds of Real Estate or some of Beach House’s lesser work. That said, Ski Lodge were evocative of anything *but* winter, as the songs simmered with the shimmery incandescence of summer, even if the lyrics did suggest some darker notes. Like the rest of those East Coast dream pop bands3, they have sounds that sound like Wes Anderson films look.
Like Wes Anderson films, the people that love ’em love ’em & those that don’t…can’t feckin’ stand them. As you can probably predict, I’m a sap for both the films and the sound, though I must admit that there are dream pop styles I’m even a bit more smitten with. Ski Lodge was the surprise of the night, in every way.
So, if Ski Lodge were the exciting discovery, and Hausu were the stalwarts that rose to the high expectations I had for them, I must say that Chad Valley was a bit of a disappointment. Not really due to anything that he did or didn’t do (though there was a bit of a glitch with the keys/beat machine during one song that brought the room to a screeching halt, but that wasn’t a big deal), but more to the kind of expectation I had. I was expecting something a bit more dancey and less croony-pensive. That said, he truly has a great voice that is somehow reminiscent of early George Michael and some other golden-voiced 80’s artists who I couldn’t quite place.
He was backed by his touring partner, and together they executed a low-key form of New Jack Swing balladering that called to mind “Careless Whisper” at times. Perfect for late night on a moody Sunday, but didn’t quite seem in line with the giving-over-to-wild-abandon that a Saturday night seems to call for and that two songs of his actually hit. The rest was darkly dreamy, occasionally dancey PBR&B, & Chad was immensely likable, even if I was in the mood for something slightly different.
There was an encore, I’m certain of it, but the night had stirred something in me & the solitude in the crowds that I had sought seemed to suddenly call for the tempering flame of friendship. I relented to a party, with a new soundtrack in my head & the whirring of memories that were and those that could be, about me; scattered all about me.
1: In the literal sense, meaning “base, popular and simplistic” not “obscene”
3: I know that Youth Lagoon is from Idaho, but they are as much “East Coast dream pop” as any other in sound.