Category Archives: Live Show Review

Cannanes, Knife Pleats and The World Record at Bunk Bar 8/27/15

Tonight’s show was a mostly international indiepop treat, supplied by Australia’s long-running Cannanes, Vancouver B.C.’s Knife Pleats and Los Angeles’ The World Record

The World Record has hooky songs somewhat reminiscent of Michael Penn‘s electric stuff and is more straight-ahead pop-tinged rock than indiepop. A little bit of a less edgy Replacements feel at times, but each song offers catchy pop hook after hook, unlike some of the Replacements more forgettable efforts (I’m looking at you, “Lay It Down Clown” ). Live, The World Record has a charismatic bar-band feel, loose but not sloppy. Fourth or fifth song in, they take an unexpected turn, as the song opens with a tiki-vibe drum sample but when the band kicks in it heads to a different direction. Angular with 80’s style vocoder breaks. Next songs starts up like a 70s rock song minus the gross false machismo.

The World Record
I’m a bit in awe of that Rickenbacker bass the two front people have been trading off on. Maybe it’s the last holdover from my metal pre-adolescence where Cliff Burton was the bassist by which all others were judged by and he played Rics exclusively? At least that’s the embarrassing lens through which I view those beautiful and expensive things.

Next song has a slower darker 90’s vibe like if Toad the Wet Sprocket bothered to write a song you actually liked, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I like this, even though it falls well outside of my favored genre ranges.

Good harmonies between the guitarist and the bassist, though those terms are interchangeable due to their onstage switches, which is always something I enjoy seeing in a band.

After the switch they open into a bluesy and otherwise banal 50’s tinged rock song were it not for the understated charisma of the musicians who seem as unpretentious as possible, which is quite a feat for anyone from LA.

Knife Pleats

So the opener was pleasant and of course the The Cannanes are amazing and a foundation of the DIY pop scene from the 80’s but it’s really Rose Melberg’s Knife Pleats that I’m here to see. For starters, what an ideal indiepop name, coupling that punk edge with the sweetness of DIY pop that band names like Strawberry Switchblade, Bunnygrunt, Burnt Palms, Cassolette, Daylight Robbery, The Cudgels, The Gentle Isolation, Panda Riot, Happydeadmen, Joanna Gruesome, Papercuts, Bleeding Rainbow, and  Honeyblood all conjure; that oh-so-perfectly encapsulate the punk roots of indiepop, by contrasting the rough or abrasive with the innocent, much like Mike Schulman’s edgy guitar pairs with the crystalline sweetness of Pam Berry’s voice in Black Tambourine. Of course a “knife pleat” refers to a particular type of stitched fold popular in skirt design, but can you hear that name and not conceptualize the kinetic violence of a knife? This to me is exactly what the best DIY pop does: it channels the rough-hewn sharpness of noise and fuzz and melds it with the sweetest, most dulcet of pop sensibilities. And honestly, what in the universe is sweeter than Rose Melberg’s voice?

This show really is a who’s who of the DIY Pop crowd in the Pac NW.: I see ex-Softies bandmate Jen Sbrangia in the crowd and witness a happy reunion between her and Rose before her band goes on. Lost Sound Tapes head Jon Manning is here in the crowd as well. The highly-esteemed Gail O’Hara of Chickfactor notoriety is hanging out behind the merch table as well as longtime Olympia poplister, writer and and community fixture Courtney Klossner. Erica from the very excellent “Expressway to Yr Skull” blog is here, too.

It looks like Rose is playing a red Gretch-type hollow body guitar and Kaity McWhinney (the other guitarist, who, along with bassist Tracey Vath, are both also of ace band Love Cuts who put out this excellent split with Burnt Palms) has a what looks to be a Les Paul in a beautiful green finish that I’ve not seen before on those kinds of guitars. I’m expecting something of a “big” sound based on the instrumentation alone. I’ve not yet heard the band so I’m walking in with fresh ears, eagerly, since Rose has never disappointed in any of her many musical endeavors.

The first song, “Monocularly Blind” opens with an infectious descending riff and the chorus which takes a cool, Tiger Trap-like turn, features great harmonies with bassist Tracey Vath. It’s a high energy opener.

Next up was, “Learn to Swim”, which has a real driving feel to it.

The third song, “Chiming of Bells”, begins with a tom-heavy beat and a minor arpeggio on the Paul. Really great syncopated beats throughout. Drummer Gregor Phillips has a snare stick that he uses on some songs that has tambourine chines on it which add a cool drum texture.

The next song had the misleading title of “Terrible” but was anything but, featuring a minor, two-chord verse that sets up a sense of urgency which is then resolved by the hooky chorus in a very satisfying way.

“One Step Too Far” continues the bubble gum pop with a sharp edge.

The most infectious song of the night might be the snaky-riffed “Distant Ships”, which goes in some unexpected but natural-feeling directions the way the best songs do, that sound like nothing familiar the first time you hear them, but by the end they sound as if it is something you have always known. The true mark of artistic greatness to me is when a work is its own reference point, in the way that something like Primal Scream‘s “Velocity Girl”1 is.

The following song, “Things I Hold” has a nice minor tinge that runs through the course of the song, in a way that recalls raga-like melody lines. I think this song may be my favorite of the night.

“The Mouse” starts with a riff that could almost be rockabilly until it changes right away unexpectedly and goes in a very different direction. The chorus pulls the rug under you by altering the tempo to a suddenly dream-like quality, before the chorus kicks in again and brings things to a frantic-yet-calm space.

The aptly-named “Wonderful” has a feel of a 70’s soft rock gem funneled through a noise-pop filter that puts an easy smile on your face; the way that Ben Folds Five‘s “Battle of Who Could Care Less” does to me, against my better angels. I feel no guilty pleasure listening to “Wonderful”, however– it’s all just pleasure.

Next up is “Borders”, the unapologetically poppiest song in the set, and the closer.

The new album is due out on Sept 29 which is Rose’s birthday. This band seems to be the “rockingest” for lack of a better descriptive of any of Rose’s bands, on a level with the sweet bite of Tiger Trap, and I hold this band in similar esteem.

Next up are Australia’s venerated Cannanes. I’m curious as to what the stage is going to look like since there are so many members and the Bunk stage is a decidedly small one. Not surprisingly, at times some members of the band wind up playing from the side of the stage.

It looks like they are using one of the bar chairs as a keyboard chair. This is nothing short of charming, and captures the makeshift nature of being on the road with a small budget thousands of miles from home.

The first song is preceded by a joking intro about slagging an Aussie band and how they’re not mentioning the name; it’s the only song I don’t recognize and according to the setlist is called “Magic Bell”. It begins with just the guitarist and singer on stage, who takes a long, hose-like object with an open mouth and swings it above her head to catch the air and make a curious sound which really imbues the song with a unique, off-the-cuff feel that will pervade the rest of the set.

Cannanes opener

After the opening song, the full band take the stage and ease into “Countryside” from 2013’s “Howling at all Hours” album.

Next up is “Hit the Wall”, the most recently-released song of the set, from the October 2013 7″ of the same name on Stu Anderson’s and Jen Turrell’s excellent Emotional Response label.

This leads in to the pleasantly melancholic “Strange Memories” on 1994’s “Short Poppy Syndrome”. This song comfortably features two types of trumpets, which blend somewhat seamlessly into the music, which is no small feat for a band playing music in any kind of rock paradigm.

Their song, “America” (from the excellent and long out-of-print tape “Your Cassette Pet” — no relation to the Bow Wow Wow ep of the same name — on Stu Boyracer’s excellent 555 Recordings label) had a big sweeping build reminiscent of the vast plains of the flyover parts of the country that the song is named for.

The introduction to the next song  was wonderfully self-effacing. “This next one is about playing in a band. It’s called “It’s Hopeless”. The song is from the semi ominously-titled “Trouble Seemed So Far Away” they did with Explosion Robinson in 2002. A flute and an electronic keyboard element meld together to somehow create a result that somehow sounds more Brit Pop-meets-Stereolab than New Agey; the latter being a rational fear any person should have when faced with the possibility of those instruments being used in a song together. So a song that could be a wreck winds up instead being one of the highlights of this excellent set.

They follow this up with “Population of Two” on 2000’s “Living the Dream”. This might be the most interesting Cannanes song, since it seems to cover so much ground in such little time. The song fluctuates from moody and accusatory to gently triumphant; hopeful and mournful all at the same time, without resorting to drama or exaggeration to make conflicted emotional points. It’s a mature sound, without being either boring or maudlin.

From the same album, “Fuzzy at the Tip” is what they launch into next, picking up the pace a bit. This song also brings the flute back for a brief-but-welcome appearance.

Next up was “You Name It” from that “Trouble Seemed So Far Away” with Explosion Robinson album. This track kicks off with an almost hip-hop beat that is joined by a brooding synth line. It’s a toss up as to which Cannanes song is is my favorite: this one or the one that followed: the set closer “Melting Moments” from “Howling At All Hours”. This is just really good, punchy pop, with a slightly dark edge that heightens the contrast of the sweet vocals and harmonies.

Their onstage dialog is glib and fun, poking like fun at the crowd at times (i.e., pointing to one side of the room and saying, “this is the hipster side” and waving to them).

Cannanes

It was a great night for indiepop at Bunk Bar; an all-too-rare occurrence cherished in good company.

-Feck

 

1: The exemplar track on the C-86 cassette that gave the genre its title, the song begins with a fluttering chord strike that feels akin to Piccasso’s Rimbaud where the sharpening on paper of the pencil in order to get the correct point for the drawing is worked into the work itself. This solitary thin and trembling chord is a fitting overture, parallel in its brevity to the fleeting nature of the song itself, thrust into the world with a tender yet urgent, slightly askew jangle, building to a crescendo of a chorus that soars so high it can not be brought back to earth by a second verse, but must expend itself in the process of coming into being — it is a mayfly, a firecracker, a Rimbaud, a Lautréamont, a Thomas Chatterton, Anne Sexton, Plath; a fragile and short-lived articulation in a genre united in its dedication to celebrating the ephemeral, (as evinced by Sarah Records’ “A Day For Destroying Things” advert) and emblematic of the genre, it is a song that is essentially its own reference point, even if the constituent parts all have a historical antecedent.

Fine Pets, Landlines and Memory Boys at Valentines AND The Rotties, Boy Funk and Havania Whaal at Tube, July 24, 2013

A warm night out in Portland, the day1 after the full moon, and with the heat upon us, the nightlife has been LIVELY, even on otherwise dullish early-in-the-week weekdays.  Among other things, the Rigsketball 2nd round/ 8 band show was happening at Holocene this evening.  While I like the bands playing (especially Wooden Indian Burial Ground, who you’ve perhaps heard1 me talk1 about elsewhere in these pages) there was just too much going on this night for me to make it there to see those larger bands.

I began the night at Habesha2, where a promising line-up of four bands I never heard of before awaited me. There was a large crowd– as big of one as I’ve seen at Habesha– amassed outside on the spacious rooftop patio that one must walk by to enter.  A can of Ribbon later & it was close to 10 and the first band was still just setting up.  I was curious and wanted to stick around, but after missing Haste the previous night3, I wasn’t willing to take any chances, and headed over to Valentine’s, my favorite venue in Portland, planing to bounce between there and the good ol’ Tube, since there were some bands playing that I was legitimately excited about.

First up at Velentine’s was Memory Boys, a 3 piece, with a guy on an SG, another on the trap kit & and a gal alternating between keys/fiddle in addition to some vocals. Her synth is a tiny Casio propped up on a stand that seems artificially grandiose in comparison to the wee keyboard.
Memory Boys
Songs are low key but build up to janky crescendos, reminiscent of Pavement’s more shambling moments (& I mean that complimentary; I think Pavement’s finest moments are their most shambolic– hell, my favorite genre of music is often called “Shambling”). Perhaps it’s the looseness of the guitar or the trashcan-y-ness of the cymbal, but this group evokes a lo-fi charisma that I find appealing, even if one or two of the songs do go on a bit longer than necessary.

Next, across the street to Tube to catch Havania Whaal, a 3 piece playing poppy post-punk. The drummer is also the lead singer of a dark-tinged new wave band called Smoke Rings, that flirts with some of the best parts of Goth while avoiding all of the worst. Very energetic live show. Actually, I could be speaking about either Smoke Rings or Havania Whaal with that last description. Havania Whaal is more noisey and more poppy without being explicitly NoisePop.
Havania Whaal
Good, solid songwriting executed well, with great use of effects without devolving into hiding behind them. Really, this band is everything I want in a garage power pop band– though I’m curious as if my state of mind plays any part in thinking that, as I seem to have gotten a contact high from walking all of two blocks, past all the street kids smoking weed & the acrid smell of bacon cooking as VooDoo Donuts cook up some of their signature offerings (Yo, seriously, Blue Star Donuts like WHOA. VD is greasy kid stuff. Bourbon Basil Blueberry? Sign me up NOW.) No, it’s not the contact high; Havania Whaal are just that good.

Back to Valentine’s and next up is Landlines, a traditional 3 piece with a Tele, bass & drum kit, set up like a 1950s jazz kit. There’s no jazz here, but a lot of high energy old-style garage.
Landlines
Not too big on effects, just straight ahead proto-garage power pop & I’m loving it. Second-to-last song had a cool kind of Neil Young guitar counter rhythm thing that I really enjoyed. Last song opened with a big bass line that stole the song in a pretty rad way. One could tell that they are all strong musicians with various little playing flourishes, yet they displayed that rarest of musical qualities: restraint, since all of the flair was in service of the song, rather than a vehicle for showmanship. A very solid set.

The next act at the Tube was Boy Funk, a queer hip-hop artist, that was putting all of hir heart into some rhymes about getting high. Even though I frankly wasn’t in the mood for hip-hop (and it’s rare that I am, lately) I could still appreciate what Boy Funk was doing. The artist was very unique, all the way from beats to flow down to the wonderfully outlandish get-up, standing well over 6 & a half feet tall, w/ some Frankenstein platform boots & a Speedo. It’s always exciting to see someone stand genre tropes on their head, especially in as socially constrictive of a genre as hip-hop– although the manifold sung praises to weed did share some space with mainstream rap. It was a good and supportive crowd, too, which was really nice to see, especially in a part of downtown that has a reputation for being a destination for a rather closed-minded suburban set. But the Tube is often a breath of fresh air from the downtown bronados. You might say with Dixie & Dirty and The Barrel Room all a stone’s throw, Tube is the artsy eye of the Broicane.

Back to Valentine’s for the last band there: Fine Pets, a 4 piece with a guy on a hollow body Gretch-type, another gent on an SG & a gal on bass & a hard hitting drummer to round it all out.
Fine Pets
Raw and super noisey, great effects with a layer of jangle underneath, I heard a bit of Sonic Youth & Sebadoh meets Boyracer, with noise, heaviness and pop sensability all at once with occasional forrays into drone. Best band of the night, (though Havania Whaal is a close second) and completely reinvigorated me. The third-to-last song was really THE HIGHLIGHT of a really great set; a song called “Come Amphibious”. It had a bit of a Cure feel to it meets the very best and scary part of Exit, with strong basslines that built to an explosive crescendo. Really, this was a very exciting band to hear & I’m quite glad I caught them.

Last band at Tube is a four piece, The Rotties, who offer a dark power-pop meets punk with a bit of 1970s Stoner Metal thrown in as well.
The Rotties
Solid playing from the guitarist/backing vocalist, whose Telecaster playing both created the fullness of the songs and added nuance; rhythm and lead all at once.  The bassist had some frantic, intricate yet grooving lines & the drummer was a whirl of energy, but it was really all about the lead singer, whose forceful voice reminiscent of Cherie Currie coupled with a wildy charismatic stage presence, brought a bit of a stadium feel to the small room.  With tambourine playing so forceful, it almost felt like a weapon instead of an instrument.

A heavier-than-expected capstone to a long evening of good local music.

-Michael Feck

 

 

1: “Day” when meaning night, “heard” when trying to communicate “read”, “talk” when being on about “write”; I swear, this weather has just broken me. Never had a bad winter, never had a good summer. I really do need to feck off to Ireland or the UK. One day I bloody well will.

2: A pretty surprising place for a venue, since it’s an Ethiopian restaurant that makes near no mention of the fact that it hosts shows, and in a layout that’s far from naturally suited to such a thing. Some of the best small shows take place at this venue, as well as the Langano Lounge underneath Jarra’s Ethiopian restaurant. Seriously, what is it with Ethiopian restaurants and awesome music events in this city? Not sure, but I love it!

3: I thought they were headlining and shows usually do get started at Valentines later than most shows in Portland– yet another thing endearing that venue to me. T’was a very quick night that night. 3 acts, all done by 11:30. Very glad I got to catch Nora something-or-other. Never got her last name, but enjoyed her set rather immensely. A singer/songwriting writing solo noise-fuzz songs on her Gibson, with a lovely voice containing all of the best parts of Joanna Newsome’s voice without any of the worst. Her airy voice really served as a nice foil for the rougher fuzz textures & made for a wonderfully raw yet sedate moment amid the backdrop of the bustling downtown alleyway.

Youth Lagoon and Swahili at Wonder Ballroom 5/22/13

A dark and rainy Wednesday, full of the frustrated expectations of many a Portlander who had thought that Nature had relented precociously and yielded to the bluster of summer, hot on the heels of several 80 degree+ days in early May,  No, to the great dismay of most (and to the secret joy of your humble narrator, who prefers to listen to his Dufflecoat Records in Dufflecoat Weather), it was the constant downpour– large enough to be audible on my roof while in my bed at night– that provided the backdrop to this eventful day when Youth Lagoon also played the Wonder Ballroom.

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The show began with Swahili1. A very cool and poised opener, with a big sound. This five piece explores a churning psychedelia with a decided pop refinement that belies the reverby rawness found in their recordings, which alternate from sedate psychey musings to hyper-rhythmic drum-lead whirlpools of sonic tumult, suggesting ego-death and subsumption into some sort of collective expression of movement.

In short, the perfect soundtrack for a first year Anthro student to read Durkheim to.  A good opener for Youth Lagoon as well, setting the stage for the experience of the polished-yet-unfamiliar.

The lights of the stage turn a dreamy shade of indigo, affecting the feel of the moon at midnight viewed from behind the shimmering prism of a waterfall.  Trevor leads his group onstage to the cheers of a crowd whose enthusiasm is triple the size of their number, which is not actually a bad one, considering the wonderfully dreary weather outside and the fact that the show is on a Wednesday. The intensity of the lighting, the excitement in the room and the otherworldly feel of the music all conspire to create that feeling like a drug coming on.  I suspect that for many in the room, my analogy is no mere rhetorical exercise.

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It must be mentioned that Trevor affects the energy of a Jim Henson creation. He kinda has a puppet-y voice as well, which just lends itself naturally to the kind of ethereal space the music inhabits (I typoed “inHobbits”). It’s as if these songs are meant to be heard outdoors, surrounded by tall trees next to a sparkling body of water, like say a river…or stream. A brook? (Ok, fine. I’ll stop.) Don’t ya just love it, though when a band is just perfectly named? I mean some bands tell you nothing about what they are like in the name. (“The Smiths”, anyone?) And then others will just out-and-out lie to you, which is why I was dreadfully afraid to give a band called Acid House Kings a chance, until something awoke the slumbering summer in me and I discovered that they’re only about the BEST THING EVER IN THE HISTORY OF EVER, and have *nothing* at all to do with “Acid House” (which is also a genre I’ve warmed to).

Then there are other bands, like “Black Sabbath” or “Slayer”; I mean even if you just got evicted from underneath that rock you’d been receiving your mail at (SHIT I TOLD THAT FECKIN’ BANK TO ONLY SEND ME E-MAIL STATEMENTS. Srsly, planet’s not gonna save itself.) you’d still know exactly what these bands sounded like. Pearl Jam, though? You’d think it’s by hippies for hippies. And a band named Pavement should sound like the Jesus Lizard, or at least be on Touch & Go records. But Save Ferris? Sounds kinda like you imagine a 90s ska band named after a John Hughes movie should. Tricky?  Yes, well he is, isn’t he? Five For Fighting? NO! With a name like that, he should bloody well sound like Gang Green, not Jack bleedin’ Johnson.  (and *no one* should ever sound like Jack Johnson, even– & especially– Jack Johnson) But Beach Fossils? Yup: surf pop with some kind of sonic relic. Tennis? Yes. Sunny Day Real Estate? Yeah, but only because of irony. Tool?  Too perfectly named. Shit, that’s a fun exercise for another post: breaking down bands by what you expect them to sound like & what they actually do.  Any suggestions? Get at me in the comments.

Back to the show, Youth Lagoon drift pretty comfortably from quietly dripping crystalline reflections, to upbeat and nearly Polka-y jaunts across Eastern Europe on Molly. Ably backed by the drums, bass & a guy on a strat, the energy is all with Trevor, as he alternates between a forward facing synth, and two synths stacked on top of each other facing stage right, the lowest of which he occasionally kneels to reach and coax more feel from. Some of these songs veer into more indie rock directions, but are coaxed back from the more angular edges by dreampop smoothness.  Many of the later songs dip into quieter territory, nearly abutting the synth ballad, but always with a fantastical edge to it, as if this were music drawn by a hypothetical non-creepy Boris Vallejo were he to be more interested with fantasy natural scenes with flora and fauna instead of Heavy Metal-esque nudes and Conan the Barbarian stuff.

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What’s really exciting about Youth Lagoon is the way that these plinky and trembling slow dream sounds build up a head of steam like a tiny pebble that is rolled down a snowy hill in a Bugs Bunny cartoon that then becomes a giant snow boulder.  Both the song that they closed the set with and the encore (which I think was “Dropla”) really transformed from humble beginnings into booming crescendos, fit for a benediction, as if to say “now, run out joyfully into the world with this delicate and beautiful knowledge, hold it firmly enough not to lose yet loose enough to grow.  Let your growth be strange, and the strange will surprise you as it transforms in front of your very eyes into beauty.”

Ok, maybe I got a contact high.  Whatever it was, something beautiful happens when you let yourself go at a Youth Lagoon show and just give over to the curious suggestions of the music, and allow yourself to feel as if you’re a 5-year-old kid exploring a cave of fluorescent and incandescent multi-colored crystals.  The rain that came that night was unrelenting, but the dreams were beyond description.

-Michael Feck

 

 

1:  I won’t lie, the name (as you can probably imagine) is a little worrisome to me, seeing as it reeks of misappropriation and fetishisation.  That Swahilil is a go-to language that people employ when trying to explain impermeable otherness doesn’t make that any less problematic; in fact it is precisely these tropes that are so cliched they stand-in as shortcuts for actual thought that we must examine the closest, since they are seemingly the most invisible.

Bleached, Ex-Cops, Big Eyes and Guantanamo Baywatch at The Star Theater, 5/3/13

Ever have one of those nights that just starts out good and just keeps getting better till somewhere along the line something makes you take a step back?  You catch yourself looking around the room, taking in where you are and suddenly realize that you’re grinning wildly;  something makes you realize that somehow the night went from “good” to “great” and all without fanfare; without a single particular incident crystallizing it, but just everything conspiring together to make something awesome; to make the night into that thing that makes it memorable. It seems like you never quite know why, but you’ve got some good ideas.

Or maybe you do know why.  Like tonight.  Seriously, “Bleached” is all I need to say to know that I’m in for something truly amazing. Four bands total, and it started off *feckin’ awesome* and only got better from there.  But there’s something beyond the music, something ineffable that elevated this night into that rare space. Maybe the “why” will reveal itself in the details…

First show I’ve been to at the Star in a very long time1.  It actually started off a bit oddly, since I thought that the lads in beloved group Week of Wonders2 were playing tonight. Apparently, I had mistaken this eve with a previous one in Seattle, so I wasn’t on the list.  Fine.  Bleached are so damn awesome, I’ve got no problem at all shelling out some green to see ’em.  Just means the night started out a little unexpected.  There is always an element of the unexpected to those great nights…but that’s not what it is that made this one great.

I feel like a bit of a rubbish Portlander, since this is actually the first time I’ve seen the seemingly omnipresent Guantanamo Baywatch live. I’ve got tapes of theirs, (well, one tape) but not till now have I seen ’em. A standard three piece, playing surf-pop-punk-party music fit for dreaming about a beachside “Toxic Avenger” screening/kegger while stuck in class. Makes me wanna thumb my nose at my math teacher after drawing a sloppy comic panel on my half-finished HW & go ditch 3rd period to go smoke while calling things “boss” or “kookie”. Their stage presence is verbally reserved, but they explode into frantic movement with their set. The couple of times they do speak up (just the singer/guitarist, actually) it’s quite hilarious.

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“Hey, we’re just the 1st band, what does it matter? Were not even that drunk yet.” Perfect band for a zombie prom, they write tight yet technically-proficient upbeat ditties that never stick around too long to wear out their welcome. There’s something vaguely 1950s comic book about them, or maybe even 1980’s re-imagining of what a 1950s comic book would be like, a trait they share with all-around PDX fun time band Mean Jeans.

Next band up is another three-piece, Big Eyes, from Seattle & they put the power in power pop.  The singer/guitarist is in possession of such a strong voice that it seemed to anchor the music just as much as the drums.  Instantly catchy and memorable upon first listen.

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Big Eyes with big hooks, making music that’s dirty, raw and catchy. A bad recipe for sushi, but a brilliant one for rock.

Next up are Ex Cops from Brooklyn, although the keyboard player, Amalie Bruun (formerly of Captured Tracks band, “Minks“) is from Denmark. I didn’t find this last bit of information out until a few songs in & it was both surprising & not-at-all surprising. Surprising, because she spoke without any super-discernible accent; not-surprising in that Ex Cops have a very decidedly Scandinavian indiepop sound for a NY band (unlike the Real Estate or Beach House kind of sound that pops into my head when you say “East Coast indiepop”).

Led by the songwriting of Bruun and Brian Harding (of Hymns), they really showcase that characteristically Nordic sweet & super-polished dreampop in performance, yet without being glitzy or premeditated, in a way that’s brilliantly demonstrated by Acid House Kings or Burning Hearts or The Garlands or the band that is my pick for the blockbuster indiepop band of summer 2013: Alpaca Sports. I mean, the Scandinavian sound is just so earnestly sweet & yet so effortlessly together, the songs sound as if they have existed forever, and were mined like diamonds from the recesses of the earth, instead of written by humans.  Really, Swedish indiepop could run a marathon without breaking a sweat or ever looking like they were trying too hard & still win.  For their amazingly polished-but-present sound, Ex Cops should get honorary lifetime membership to the Swedish indiepop club.

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It was sorta strange how the room just cleared out entirely in between each band’s set, but makes sense, I guess with the first grips of the really warm season being precociously upon us here in Portland, and how those wild summer nights spent outdoors with a cold drink and warm company are the shining moments to remember and the reward for enduring the sweat-soaked vicissitudes of the day and its many demands.  That crisp breeze from out of nowhere, cutting the still, summer air; the crackle of the log on the firepit; the bright, cold taste lingering on your tongue from the bubbly IPA and laughter as effortless as the smoke rising from your friends’ fingertips: these are the moments to be kept and carried from those easy summer nights, where everything seems blissfully transitory, and for a moment, no interaction has any weight.

After two rowdy, fun-time party bands, the room didn’t initially know what to make of this more reserved and deliberate bedroom pop fivepiece and their clean, refined sound.  As the band went on, people continued to wander back in as Ex Cops launched into their set. There was a bit of head nodding, but this wasn’t music to spazz-out to with wild abandon, like the first two bands were.  For a few moments, there was actually a bit of head-scratching.  And this may have been the unexpected highlight of the night for me: to have watched a band work to win over a crowd, and to watch a crowd learn and respond in grand fashion.  They had me about 6 seconds in to the first song, but you all know how I wear my indiepop heart on my sleeve.  This crowd was a lot punkier (as testified by everyone in the crowd enthusiastically singing along to Bleached’s cover of The Misfits’ “Hatebreeders” later in the set), but by two songs in, a few were moving pretty visibly & at five in, the entire room was dancing in earnest.  It’s been a little bit since I’ve seen a band just out-and-out win over a crowd that clearly hadn’t heard them before.

They dedicated a song that talks about birthdays to Shannon, who is Bleached’s tour manager. There was also a pretty funny bit when Brian looked at a drink on the floor of the venerable and beaten-up stage, “Hey, someone get a coaster for this super swank wood.” A few minutes later, someone in the crowd walked up to the stage with a rather histrionically sheepish look and grabbed the drink, shoulder shrugged an apology and returned to the back.  It was such a charmingly comic reaction that I was left wondering if she was playing it up “in character” for laughs or if she actually felt a bit embarrassed.

As moody and sedate as some of their songs were, you could see them power through the two harder ones…especially the closer, which had a real lift and drive to it. They picked a good one to end on, and really showed a diversity of sound that has me very curious to see what comes next from this very talented group.

I’d seen Bleached a mere year ago at the Doug Fir, at a relatively sparsely attended show, opening for Veronica Falls.  What a difference a year makes! Veronica Falls, played the same room to a capacity crowd this March, and now Bleached is here filling out the rather spacious Star Theater, with a real buzz all their own, instead of some of the residual ash of high regard from their near-legendary previous incarnation as noise punk group Mika Miko

Before Bleached went on, after all the gear was set up & soundchecked, you could hear everyone singing happy birthday to Shannon, in the outside backstage patio area before the show. The band took the stage, all comfortable smiles and energy.  The drummer had broken his foot earlier on the tour (Vegas, I think he mentioned?) and was only a few days out of his cast, but you’d never know it from how the drums sounded.  Jennifer was pretty conversational as they opened with “Waiting By The Telephone” off of the “Ride Your Heart” album they’re touring on, prefacing things with a palpable expression of joy.  “Hey, so we all just got the best surprise: our very best friend from LA is here.  Black Chris!  I can’t tell you how glad we are to see him.” The crowd caught the infectious enthusiasm from the Clavins et al and started up a chant of “Black Chris, Black Chris”3 to Chris and the band’s visible pleasure.

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Things really kicked into an extra gear when “Searching Through The Past” showed up 4 songs into the set, followed up by a frenetic “Think of You” from their Carter 7″.  Jennifer invited the crowd to join her at Sassy’s after the gig, after telling us she got kicked out of Magic Gardens last time she was in town, but demurred on recounting the events that led to it. Then they brought out Chris to help them sing a cover of the Misfits “Hatebreeders”, which made me realize that I like the Misfits better when Bleached are playing them and I *love* the Misfits.

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The energy the band brought was palpable. “Thanks so much for dancing!  You all are dancing!” Jennifer offered incredulously.  Pretty big because crowds just don’t dance at shows in Portland, unless they are specifically dance shows and sometimes even then…no.  But everyone in the room was swept up in that bouncy feeling of joy you get when that last bell in June rings, and you run out the door, throwing the dull textbook in the trash on your way out to the parking lot, where all your friends are smoking and the car doors are all slung wide open; right there where the strains of Bleached are pouring out of those car speakers, right there where life is happening too fast to pay attention to fully, and you’re having too much fun to care, right there in that place; the intersection of Where You Want To Be and Where You Are Now, and you don’t stop to notice because you don’t care, you just want the wind in your hair and whatever it is that comes next.

Somewhere in the night “good” became “great”. Bleached really are the kind of band that will do that to you. Their pop hooks are cut with such power, with lyrics full of freedom and longing all at the same time, delivered in a way that is somehow both badass and vulnerable, like the way film geeks talk about Brando in “The Wild One”. Bleached are that gin and tonic you take your first sip of and all your friends take note of your peculiar grin, point and laugh, saying “you’re drunk!” even though it’s your first sip. I’ll gladly have another.

-Michael Feck

 

 

 

1: Caught Hazel & Moon Duo there & just missed PoBPaH (though caught them earlier in the day at a surprise show at the Doug.  Got to catch up with Kip, too, which was great because I hadn’t really seen him since a critical theory class we had together freshman year. I feel like I’ve lived a thousand lives since that time. I’ll bet he’s lived even more.)

2: Keep your eyes peeled to these pages for a long forthcoming review of this dearly beloved group of incredibly talented musicians. I think so highly of these lads and that insanely-catchy type of manic poly-rhythmic beach pop that sounds like Dr. Who showed up at Orca Team’s house with a bag of Molly & then threw everyone into the Tardis to take them to Cancun circa 1962, that I get a bit tongue tied when trying to translate these feelings into words. Soon enough, though; either a much need break in work responsibilities or a late night with a whiskey window ought to give me some time to get caught up there.

3: I’ll not lie, it made me very uncomfortable to hear a crowd of mostly white Portlanders chanting “Black Chris”. People do get to decide whatever it is they want to be calledA and I’m sure there are a lot of people named Chris; that said, there’s something that doesn’t sit well with me about using race as a means of differentiation, as if to imply that blackness is somehow aberrant from the “default” status or is odd in some way (e.g., “Chris” vs. “Black Chris”).B

A: Even though sometimes these things get decided by other people; for example, people often call me by my real last name and I detest it greatly, but it’s just too much effort to get people to stop & I don’t want to ruin the tone of an evening by going out of my way to correct someone every time they refer to me by my last name, and that’s with something that’s not even weighed down by concerns that are made more complex because of race. You might say that I am responsible for what people call me, and that’s true, but to pretend that there is not a social order that one risks upsetting for results that may occasionally be murky seems hard to ignore.

B: I just put a footnote inside of a footnote…how bloody pretentious is that?

Federale scores the Star Trek episode “Spectre of the Gun” at Holocene, Hausu at Recess Gallery and Ski Lodge & Chad Valley at the Doug Fir

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.)

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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.
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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.

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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.
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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.

-Feck

 

1: In the literal sense, meaning “base, popular and simplistic” not “obscene”

2: This

3: I know that Youth Lagoon is from Idaho, but they are as much “East Coast dream pop” as any other in sound.

Two Shows, Two Nights, One Review: Fuzz and Wooden Indian Burial Ground at Bunk Bar 3/30/13 & Genders and Wooden Indian Burial Ground at Rontoms 3/31/13

Two shows into one review, you know how we do.

So, since I got there predictably late, (NO IT’S NOT A RUNNING FECKIN’ THING; YOU’RE A FECKIN’ RUNNING FECKIN’ THING!…Ok, fine, it *is* a running feckin’ thing) having not realized that I was even gonna go to this show until around 10:30 & rolling up around 10:45. Forgot my plugs & ran out to get some backups & still made the show. Cool story, right?  “Nerd Goes To Concert. Forgets Pocket Protector”.  Why is the Onion still not returning any of my calls?  Oh yeah, because who in the hell calls anymore?  What is it, 2001?  Are people paying attention to The Strokes again or something?

So, I missed (SHUT IT!) the well-raved about Wooden Indian Burial Ground, but since I was gonna catch them the very next day at the Rontoms free show with the much-ballyhooed-by-yours-truly– & everyone else for that matter, Genders…now you know how two become one. (And we’ve filled our daily quota for Spice Girls songs. Win!)

I’m heading back through the doors just as Fuzz kicks into their first song. Ty’s on drums tonight, in this incarnation of one of his 15 bands (SRSLY, dude is like the son from the ‘Hey Mon’ skit off of ‘In Living Color’:
“Lazy son. You only have 1 job!”
“Yeah, but I & I be playin’ in 10 bands, mon!”…or something like that.1

I can only imagine what my life would look like now had I been half as busy doing *anything* at 24…drinking too much & being arrogant about it doesn’t count.

As expected, it’s great and dark garage.  The crowd builds a frantic pit and one person even crowdsurfs & is actually up for most of the song.  The 2010’s remembering the 60s in a decidedly 90s way.

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We’re rabid for more, but these guys play everything they know.  They close with a cover & despite the crowd’s desperate pleading, they’ve just plain run-out of songs that they all know.

The show’s over and some guy walking by with dreads shout-says “anyone else’s shit all fucked up? Shit’s all got fucked up!” to no one in particular, holding on to a Fuzz 7″. Garage. Shit’s real.

So, Genders put together about as big a crowd as I’ve seen indoors at a Sunday Rontoms show, telling me that either the OPB free show tour kick-off at Mississippi Studios made a lot of new, true believers, or else the word is just out and now everyone is hip to the fact that Genders is the Portland band of 2013.

Maybe this is gonna seem silly, but somehow Genders seemed comparatively sedate from their tour, a bit…world weary, even. Can you really say that about a band that hasn’t even been together for a whole year?  They still sounded amazing, but there was a mature polish this show that seemed a bit at odds with the wild-eyed enthusiasm I’m used to seeing from them.

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(Gratuitous “artsy” if-this-looks-in-focus-you’ve-had-the-right-amount-to-drink pick.)

And then, Wooden Indian Burial Ground are on.  And I mean that in every way.

It’s noisy, dark & garage experimental with some keyboard skronk produced from a box of effects dating back to the very era the music is hoping to evoke, like sci-fi soundtrack zonk zam wow (Batman Sound Effects is go!), like surfing high on acid in cartoon hell with the wind of the dark side of the 1950s, like a nuclear flash melting the pomade right on out of your slicked hair, be you Bettie Page or dark-side Fonzi. Roll that pack of Marlboro reds up on the sleeve of your white T & let the thick reverb wall of wah-ed out guitar, driving drumbeat & rolling bass take you to the atmospheric place suggested by the heavily effects-ladden vocals.

It’s DARK in here. Truly “freak out” rock. I can see someone calling this psychedelia, but I think that would be a misleading tag for this trio. Like a Ludacris song or a bad car movie, this band is just 2 Fast, 2 Furious.2

-Michael Feck

1:  I didn’t even bother watching the link myself, because I’m really BUSY and IMPORTANT, he said, rearranging his record collection for the thousandth time instead of doing anything real.  C’mon, *don’t* pretend you haven’t been there, too.  And yes, itunes library management counts, too if you’re more nomadically inclined.  To tell the truth, I’m also a little afraid that the skit that I grew up watching may also be racially insensitive, and that’s not mitigated by the fact that it’s a group of African-Americans poking fun at some Jamaican-American stereotypes, which, while being so-called positive stereotypes, which is a big problem in-and-of itself. In addition, I don’t actually think it’s a “positive”, since the message of “just work hard like a Horatio Alger story and you’ll get everything you want” is poisonous capitalist apology of the highest order. People are *not* poor because they are not working hard enough; we have an economic structure in place where accumulation of wealth is *not* a direct function of labor, and very often those who have the least are those who are working the hardest, (not to diminish the experience of anyone else). This is why I haven’t just excised the clip altogether; because I think there’s a valuable message about work and exploitation and the clip displays this antagonism, since it begs the question, “If everyone in the family has 10 jobs, why are you still living in squalor?”, which leads to the opening answer, “because of an intersection of race, class and gender, limiting opportunities in a way that’s invisible to people who occupy positions of privilege”.  I do think it does that, even though I’m still a bit uncomfortable about the way in which it is articulated.

I know, I’m getting tedious.  Am I reading too much into a sketch?  I don’t think it’s possible; I think we all in general (myself included) tend to not read *enough* into these seemingly ephemeral artifacts of culture… But you’re here for music, right? All I want to do is be Clare Wadd and Matt Haynes all in one; is that so wrong?

2: That gag’s for you, Collision, if you’re watching…

San Cisco, Chaos Chaos at The Doug Fir, April 1 (For reals, though)

The weather has turned here in Portland; this past Saturday was the first real day of spring.   A palpable thaw seems to have wound its way through the city; through alleys, past  parks and backyards of old craftsman-style houses, past the sounds of goats bleating, chickens clucking, and the would-be prey of stalking cats, be they bird or rodent loudly forcing their way through new and tall brush amid the backdrop of deciduous trees still barren, save for the oft-instagramed cherry blossoms erupting their way throughout the city; these streets no longer stung with the briskness of the evening chill that still flirted coyly with ice, and yet would disappear at the end of the night– all of this fickle caprice finding its way into the steps, into the hearts of us all, and it seems somewhere, in some way, be it overt display or even an unused corridor in the minds of the dour, there is a beach somewhere in all of us. San Cisco is this beach. Or is the music for this beach. Or maybe I had it right the first time, it is this beach. Light, colorful and young, with a breeze implying the slightest hint of gravitas, instead of the flighty and light-hearted image the term “breezy” conjures.

But enough feeble attempts at poetry, there’s a show to talk about. I show up at 10 till & BS outside with Matty & John for a bit before heading inside, eager for a promising Monday night show.

Now for Chaos Chaos…or not. Seriously? I get here at 10:00 & miss the opener? I’m proposing Fecklight Savings Time which means all shows start 1 hour later than they’re listed. Wait, what? NO, WHY DON’T YOU JUST TRY SHOWING UP ON TIME!?!. Oh, wait, you do? Ok, my bad. Still…

So, San Cisco take the stage, all at once, instilling just the faintest air of rock & roll drama. Despite the approachability of the band, there’s just a slight touch of theatricality to them, but not in an obnoxious, pretentious or off-putting way.

Their sound is a light jangle, with two sets of keys, (in addition to the standard two guitars, a bass & drums) each helmed by the bassist & the guitarist.

Really great harmonies. Especially from drummer Scarlett Stevens who provides a driving edge as a foil and counterpoint to the more fey sunny tunes put forth by the stringed instruments and keys.

“Bleach” opens with an indie take on a stadium-styled beat, further echoing that sense of slight theatricality, yet intermingled with an earnestness that showcases the vast expanse between Western Australia and West Los Angeles, where even the most earnest have industry bloodthirst, and anyone with any kind of sense of integrity has long since fled. These are songs that are really meant to be heard over a beach radio in the blaring sun against the backdrop of the surf. If you didn’t know they were Australian, you might suspect it…that or Californian…but there’s the trick, no one from a place can write such yearning music of a place, unless there’s a time anachrony.

(I mean, a band can write a song about San Francisco, but San Francisco won’t come *through* the song unless the song gets picked up as a quasi anthem by the people of San Francisco or some group of people somewhere thinking *about* San Francisco and thus altering the meaning.

Or a group can write a song about San Francisco from San Francisco & have it really be of that, but …this may all be bullshit. Yeah, it is. Really. Just utter tossing nonsense. I’m leaving this in here so you all know that I at least occasionally have the good sense to quit when I’m doing the writing equivalent of talking just to hear the sound of my own voice…Also just realized that this band is probably named for having a laugh at a kid trying to say “San Francisco” and not having it go quite according to plan.)

“Reckless” (“about not being reckless w/ people’s hearts” whoa, what a DAMN GOOD idea) begins with a dream-poppy guitar line than turns a fast corner as the drums kick in and a synth line drives like an undertow through and past the bounding surface feel of the song.

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Almost feels like a steel drum could go comfortably into these songs & make the implicit tropical feel explicit. Yet there’s a sincerity to it all that other groups fetishizing the tropical seem to miss when their work gets diverted into camp. Perhaps this is what I was really trying to get at with my earlier bullshit paragraph: that it really is hard to sincerely just be *of* a thing without in some way *performing* that thing, and that the performance somehow alters the initial thing. The best articulations can only hope to acknowledge their swerve, and by doing so, allow their essence to separate from the camp. Or some quasi-academic bullshit like that.

Everyone leaves the stage save for the lead singer, Jordi, who remains to sing a song called “John’s Song”. It’s a moving paean to friendship with just the slightest hint of Springsteen. Takes real guts to pull this off in a town that’s as chatty as this one is during quiet songs, especially after such danciness preceding. Also, as the band returns, it occurs to me that this was one of the danciest shows I’ve been to in Portland where people WERE ACTUALLY DANCING and it not being explicitly *dance* music. What’s up, Monday night? Nice to see you, too!

The set closer is a song called “Awkward” which may be the sweetest-sounding song ever written about a stalker. In the middle of the song, two young women, dressed in awesomely outlandish indie glam come out and sang & danced with the band with wild exuberance. I’m gonna go out on a limb & guess these were two members of Chaos Chaos & if that’s the case then I *definitely* need to see these guys because that kind of enthusiasm is exactly what I’m drawn to in music. Go ahead and stand at the back of the room and look cool; I wanna hear from the people wearing their hearts on their sleeves and feeling their feelings in a way that’s un-fecking-afraid of what the hell anyone else has to say. It’s not your stoicism or sneering that makes you cool, it’s your enthusiasm. Anyone telling you otherwise is just trying to steal your lollipop & throw it in the sandbox for kicks. Feck ’em.

San Cisco. A late night beach party with new Australian friends, curious, at-ease and approachable. Summer music at the mere harbinger of spring.

Two Shows, One Review: Kim Baxter & Genders/Saucy Yoda & Kitty (Née: Kitty Pryde) Wednesday, March 20. Mississippi Studios & Backspace

So, one of the hardest parts of living in Portland is frequently having there be TOO MANY GOOD SHOWS on the same night.  (I know, you have it so rough, don’t you?)

Tonight was one of these nights. And And And, Minden, The We Shared Milk and the Ecstatics were having a pre-tour send-off  over at the Holocene & on any other night, I would have been there in a heartbeat.

Also, Japanther, French Horn Rebellion, The Cry!, Destroy Nate Allen, Brakemouth and Dumpster Burger were all playing at the (newly-reclaimed from the patchouli, reggae & jam band crowd) Mt. Tabor theater, which, despite my mistrust of the venue (I have NO PROOF that Bob Marley won’t come out of the PA speakers in between bands) on any other night, I would have been there in a heartbeat.

The Silent Numbers, Shadow House and a band called Sex Church from Vancouver B.C. were playing a house show.  Despite the worry about seeing a band I know nothing about that call themselves Sex Church, on any other night I would have been there in a heartbeat, for the first two *for sure* & keeping an open mind about the headliner, because what’s in a name?
“Words.”
“It was a rhetorical question.”
“You’re a rhetorical question.”
“Do you even know what a rhetorical question is?”
“Do I know what a rhetorical question is?”

Was it Teddy Roosevelt or Groucho Marx who said, “Speak softly and carry a big shtick?

Anyhow, as things would have it, Kim Baxter, Still Caves and Genders were having a show at Mississippi Studios and Sistafist, Saucy Yoda & Kitty (née Kitty Pryde) were at the Backspace (far & away the best all-ages venue in the city & just a fun place to be, show or not.  Fer feck’s sake, there’s a treehouse in the middle of the venue!) I began the night at the free show, sponsored by OPB at Mississippi Studios.

I was super excited to hear Kim Baxter, having heard a while back about “The Tale of Me and You” being released, but not getting a chance to hear it till now. Familiar with All Girl Summer Fun Band, I was a bit surprised by the new direction her music has taken, which is more mature and less breezy that the stuff I’m used to hearing from her, yet still possessing the humanizing lightness of her twee roots, even when dealing with heavier matters of the heart.  Strong, psyche-era keyboards drive much of the music forward, as do fuzzy guitar lines, calling to mind a marriage of 90’s Olympia-style twee, 60’s revivalism (without the indulgent jazz-solo wankery) and early 80’s Britpopgaze, before everybody knew what a Damon Albarn was or found Mancunian brothers to be charming whilst fighting about which one got to be John  & who Paul, but after Creation Records had scarred our ears with the most beautiful sonic tattoos ever seen/heard. (Mixing metaphors like it was pancake dough).

Songs ranged in dynamism from full-band rockers to a delicate one with just Kim and the keys, and we were all spellbound for the duration. I picked up the album from tiny and adorable label “Expect Candy”, if whose hand-scrawled donkey drawing doesn’t make you stop and go “awwwr” at the unbridled cuteness, you must be made of stone. The songs on the album have a bit of that element too, but there’s much more going on here, as the live show attested to. As much as I wanted to stick around for Still Caves, who I quite like, opportunities to see the rarest of rare: well-deserved internet meme fame this up close and personal don’t come around too frequently.

Much has been made of Kitty.  She’s been castigated as a pretender and either shit-talked or laughed off by the hip-hop cognoscenti, but the fact of the matter remains: she’s quite good.  (Though not everyone is hating Actually, I don’t have the audacity to think I’m going to top this very well-written article; I only hope to add a few minor observations).   She’s incredibly self-aware and loves the genre like only true believers do.  She’s good, she’s hungry and she’s self-aware.  She is Kurt in Olympia in 1986, or Sean Carter in Marcy Projects in 1989.  If you find this funny, think about why?

Is it youth?  She may be just old enough to drink; at the very least she’s older than 16-year-old Alex Chilton circa “The Letter”, whose rock bona fides was never called into question.  (There’s a reason I didn’t choose Silverchair.  Not because of merit, of course, merely because of critical acclaim…or it’s polar opposite, which I hope we all can agree is not a science and is ultimately of no consequence, and I type this AS A MUSIC CRITIC.)

Is it because she’s seemingly of suburban middle-class roots? Thankfully, I think most of us have moved beyond primitive notions of requiring a certain type of performative class authenticity (so easily feigned) to believe that an artist’s words have validity; on the offhand chance we have not, can we just say that the meaning exists external to biography.  Does Juliana Hatfield’s song “My Sister” mean suddenly less because she doesn’t actually have a sister?  Do you have to have a sister to enjoy it? If it touches a nerve about sibling ambivalence and mentor-ship  who cares?

Granted, hip-hop is a bit more initially murky, since it is so much of it has about relating the authenticity of personal experience, but with a bit of perspective. But since when has that *not* been the case?  The Lyrical I, and the attendant concerns about authenticity, is a concept dating back to Sapphic-era poetry.  All that has essentially changed has been our fascination with seeing artists perform this, or fail to, or refuse to. In short, Kitty doesn’t need to have shot anyone, or have been shot or have slung rock to be real.  The days when hip-hop necessarily had to be about a very narrow-defined set of things made by a select group of people trying to perform “toughness” in the guise of hyper-masculine thuggery is over.  The tide has long ago turned.

What she has to be is good.  And clever.  And fun to listen to.  She’s all of these things.  Now anyone can make hip-hop.  We’ve known this.  Now anyone can be good at it.  Known that, too.  What’s new, however, is that now we can recognize and celebrate people who are doing it their own way.  You can book your own musical life, thanks to the wonders of the internet, and ad hoc genre creations such as Tumblrwave (or the far more fitting appellation I just not-so-humbly coined: “Ponycore”….hoping/pretending for a moment that this isn’t an existing thing.  After a second thought, I’m actually a bit afraid to google it, and find out) will not just embrace it, but add it to the ever expanding musical library of Babel that the internet is.  (Sorry, am I Borges-ing you?  I don’t mean to Borges you…I hope you heard Bono in your head with that one.  And if you didn’t go back & listen to “Rattle & Hum” and hate me for it…until you get to “Heartland” and “All I Want Is You”.  LOOK, THEY’RE GOOD SONGS, EVEN IF THE LAD *IS* A BLOODY FECKIN’ WANKER).

The deluge of possible information to sort through is overwhelming, but rewarding to anyone with the patience to look, or the cleverness to seek out the right sorting device. Kitty’s website is so deliciously web 1.0, with its Myspacey flourishes that seem culled off of some Geocities web designers’ foray into eating mushrooms while drawing Lisa Frank designs and watching My Little Pony episodes.  Or just a 13-year old girl reveling in her 13-year-old girliness circa 2001.  Kitty takes all of this and plays with what expectations are associated with this type of experience and cleverly expands on it, while never denying that it is her experience, too.  She’s clearly fighting with how to view herself with confidence vs. a real and hard look at where she fails her own expectations, i.e. like anyone growing up ever.

Lines like, “So shawty yr a 10 I wait for your drunk dials at 3:30 AM I love them so call me sober when your ready, not going steady but babe I planned our wedding already” seem to showcase this, expressing admiration for a would-be beau, laughter at his clumsy attempt to meaninglessly hook up, a demarcation of basic respect (“call me when yr sober, not going steady”) and yet, behind it all, the dreamer that refuses to hide, planned wedding & all.  It’s not clear if she’s making fun of this person or is/identifies with this person or both, and that antagonism is compelling. Laugh at my grandiose accusations, but it’s the deliberations of a Hamlet on romance, instead of more dire matters, and yet coming to a far more sane conclusion.  “I want you, but I won’t let you walk all over me, so do right by me and this might happen and my hopes are dreamily high,” might be a more artless way of expressing the same sentiment. It might not be the most unique feeling, but it’s one that most, if not all people I know struggle with, and one that countless songs, (both great and less-so) have addressed.

In short, if you’re laughing at Kitty, then it’s who she is that’s getting you down.  That she’s a young woman with the attendant thoughts and experiences her intersectional location in the world has provided her.  If you find something inherently dismissable about that, then my reply is: you’re a dinosaur.  Time is passing you by.  Soon people that write-off other people’s legitimacy based on an eyeball-test will be things that we see on museum walls, or on tumblr pics made to look like them.

So I’m all about seeing the self-described Rap Game’s Taylor Swift with an open mind. Saucy Yoda is up first & is already on when I roll in through the front door, late from Mississippi.  She’s got the crowd in a bouncing fury; our own local Kitty, but with a more heightened appreciation of randomness and a little less relationship-y angst.  She’s got two hype women on stage dancing with her & the entire crowd is moving.  Kitty (aka Katherine Beckwith) sits at the back of the room, quietly talking to her DJ/brother, unaccosted by people who will soon be taking her photo, screaming for her and dancing.

Does no one recognize her?  I don’t believe that. Is it just that no one has anything clever to say?  I’ve lived here long enough to know that can’t be it.  Are we all hyper conscious of respecting artists’ personal space? I love and support that notion, but find it the hardest one to believe. Or is it just that there exists a divide between online experience, which is inherently more personalized and directly interactive in a way that print media just could not be, and regular life?  That how we consume media has institutionalized how we interact with the producers, even when they are right there in front of us?  Is it akin to a difference in social language?  This is nothing new, I see performers by themselves all the time, and wonder the same thing to varying lengths.  I guess what surprises me is that Kitty is so directly solicitous of social interaction in such a personal way online, and here she is sitting essentially alone.  Odd. Kitty steps on stage and shyly-yet-enthusiastically exhorts the crowd to get into it. Camera-phones pop out & flashes go off.  Kitty seems a bit uncomfortable with this, despite very clearly wanting this sort of attention. She parses out the distinction after the first song and says, “Listen, shawty, you can take my picture if you like, but only if you’re dancing.  I want to see you having fun! So, no photos if you’re just standing there.”

And that’s what it is.  She’s hyper-aware that she’s been (and is being) fetishized for her youthful good looks, and doesn’t want creepy people taking photos of her for any kind of weird reasons.  I wonder for a second if I was being addressed as part of that group, since I took some crappy phone pics for this site (I’ll put ’em up when I get around to it, but they’re wicked bad. Any savvy photogs wanna come see some shows with me?), but I realized that I had been doing my awkward indiepop shuffle (not exactly the coolest hip-hop move ever, but feck it, I’m having fun & it’s what happens when I hear music I like) and was dancing with a wide grin, unlike several guys with baseball hats on, standing motionlessly and stoic, as if paid and bored paparazzi.

You get the feeling watching her perform, that you’re a sibling who is standing at the open door to her room, looking to borrow a shirt or something only to discover her singing along and dancing unbridled to her favorite album, in a way that she might be sheepishly embarrassed about should she see you standing there.

The show ended & without bothering to catch my breath, I’m off running, with an newly made friend, back over to Mississippi Studios to catch the last act of the night.

So, not to get all academic up in this (too late, mate), but if gender is a construction as Judith Butler correctly tells us, then Genders is also a construction; a perfect Portland balance of disparate parts, melded together in a pot of post-rock, jangle, enthusiasm, and the slightest hit of Americana, so faint, it’s as if it’s the third note in a coffee-tasting description: you’re not sure if it’s actually there, or if it’s just implanted itself into your mind by the powers of suggestion.

Formerly 3/4s of Youth, where the Americana influence was more on their sleeve than merely an occasional slight timbre in lead-singer Maggie Morris’s voice, the group has moved on from that sound into something more dynamic and complex & I’m just gonna go ahead and say it: more exciting.  There’s an exuberant energy that effuses through these four, playing songs that are involved without being indulgent and are layered without being wanky.  As compelling as the singing is, the band is really driven forward by the energetic drumming, that provides a giddy rawness and counterpoint to the well-wrought songs.

You know that feeling when someone wildly charismatic has entered the room, and you haven’t even turned to see them yet, but you can feel the entire mood lift, expectantly?  That’s the sound that Genders have.

I know I’ve raved about this band for a while now, but srsly: Genders like whoa.  Don’t say you weren’t warned.  Free show at Rontoms this Sunday.  Thinking about staying home instead?

Listen to K tell you what he thinks of that.

Boat, Aqueduct and Shelly Short at Mississippi Studios, March 16

Shows! Caught Shelly Short, Aqueduct and Boat at Mississippi Studios. Opener Shelly Short was humbly spellbinding in a calico dress, evoking a kind of matter-of-fact down homey quality that carried through the set.  With her effortless sense of humor and graceful, unhurried stage presence that only someone truly comfortable in their own skin can possess, she held us transfixed, both by herself, and when accompanied by a friend on the banjo. The cheerful ease and major-keyed chord progressions belied the sad and wistful lyrical content of the songs, which she was constantly apologizing for, in a self-effacing manner that somehow didn’t suggest a lack of self-confidence, merely a charming brand of modesty that allowed the songs to speak for themselves. The best proof of this was that she had enraptured a rowdy Saturday night crowd into captivated silence, in a town renown for people talking through shows as if it were a mere backdrop to a party instead of the ostensible reason we’re all there. I don’t think a person in the room wasn’t in love w/ her by the end of her set.

Aqueduct were up next: musically they started out promising, with the first three songs standing out as good, high energy flirtations with indie-pop (which is a genre they self-apply, but my impressions from this set alone, I think they are more of an indie-label band making pop music than the grandchildren of C-86) but later in the set, the songs devolved into more Phishy-w/out-the-jams sounding, (big 70’s riffs, smoothed out a bit with some synth plus some unconventional chords placed in a rock paradigm) which, while deeply talented, I somehow fail to find deeply touching. All I can do is talk about my emotional reaction to the music, because ultimately that’s all that really matters to me. Technical musicality is something I’ll leave to others who will write about music for music’s sake. I’m more into music for life’s sake: make it the soundtrack to my life, that adds a bit of meaning or provides a quick time-out, rather than the dense tome I need to study. Perhaps it speaks to my simplicity, but The Ramones will probably always mean more to me than Vivaldi, though I can see the appeal of both. Life is complicated enough; I want music that grabs me by the throat and holds me suspended over a bridge, I want music that ties butterfly wings to my back and allows me to soar past spires, lightening rods & wind-strewn rocky aretes, I want music that laughs with the unfettered joy of a surprise or music that holds the box of tissues and carries the pieces of my heart over to the desk to be super-glued, duct-taped and safety-pinned back together. I don’t want music that forces me to squint into the sun without getting something for it, or drones on at the pulpit or lecture podium. Most of all, I want music that isn’t picking on or bullying anyone, but asks you, either directly or indirectly to be a better person.

Forgive me, I’m getting a bit carried away. This isn’t meant as a simple polemic. Aqueduct are a good band. They are deceptively complex. A song like “Growing Up With GnR” displays this pretty nicely, since at first listen, it’s full of platitudes and tropes which I find uncomfortable “Oh baby, you were looking foxy tonight” (puke) and “there’s something about the way you act, you will be crushing my soul and you won’t be paying me back.” Without any sense of irony, these are both vapid and misogynist, but there’s more going on here. It’s a sentiment of heartbreak, riddled with objectifying and accusatory language, but one done ostensibly in the manner of Axl Rose, who is alluded to in the song title as well as lines “I’ve been walking the streets tonight, just trying to get it right” (far and away the best part of what is otherwise a tedious and interminable song: “Patience”, which is exactly what it requires to make it all the way to this section…did I just dis Guns & Roses? 12-year-old me is gonna be waiting for me outside with a chain & a lead pipe & some Tanya Harding plans). The song then shifts to feel-good cliched nostalgia and talks about being 12 & “damning all to hell, I was feeling fine, hearing Axl Rose, on the radio, singing ‘Sweet Child Of Mine’. Whenever, whenever, whenever you fall apart; forget her, forget her, forget her she broke your heart.” It’s as if to say, “I’m not actually seeing the world through these eyes, I’m seeing things as I did then, when I was a 12 -year-old so influenced by the heartbreak, self-aggrandizement and misogyny of Axl. So even though I’m feeling this way, it’s not actually me that’s saying it.” But still, I walk away from this, feeling uncomfortable.

Why? In short, couching misogynist sentiments in allusive bookends does not make either the source material or the allusion any less problematic.  It’s merely deceptive artifice for sentiments that should be called-out on, instead of celebrated.

There were several lyrics in other songs, which made me equally uncomfortable, but none which left as indelible an impression on me as the song I just discussed.

I know, I must be a ton of fun at parties, with all of my self-righteous Feminist & Socialist opinions about things that are “just supposed to be fun”. I refuse to feel bad about this. This is what we are here for, to experience, think about and discuss what the experience of being in the world is.

I should also add (and it’s impossible for me to erase this from my mind, so in the interest of full disclosure, I’ll share it with you, dear reader), there were two tall “bros” at the front of the stage who were dancing around like awkward suburban white kids at an underground hip-hop show. One was a bearded gent in Dockers, looking like it was business casual Friday & he just closed the Higgins account so it’s time to “bro down, dawg!” and the other gent who had a hat on backwards and was wearing sunglasses like he was Nelly at a Florida nightclub. Unless you’re vision-impaired, sunglasses on indoors is, of course, **never** a good look. But I refused to believe this was sincere. We’re in Portland; who dresses like this? This has to be performance art, of the highest order. A stunning indictment of mainstream “bro” culture, executed with the flawless sincerity of an Andy Kaufman. That has to be it, right? This pair knew the words to every song, and danced along with such devil-may-care joviality, hi-fiving with such frequency that they somehow managed to find a way to interrupt a HI-FIVE TO GIVE ANOTHER HI-FIVE, that even if it wasn’t a put-on, there was still something so incredibly charming that they brought a sincere smile to my face, even if, should we all be placed in a room together under different circumstances, I fancy we should have precious little to talk about. I must admit, it did take me a moment to warm up to this. “Are we at the Barracuda? The Barrel-Room? Some other nightmare downtown establishment where the bridge-and-tunnel denizens come out to inflict regressive patriarchal norms upon each other under the guise of ‘having a good time’?” The last part of that sentence being the real reason as to why I take such umbrage to people displaying all the trappings of that environment. Yet, as silly as this lot came across, they still managed to be respectable, and this allowed their enthusiasm to be entertaining instead of off-putting. As long as it doesn’t cause anyone else harm, people experiencing joy is a thing to be celebrated and encouraged. Oh, and where did this podium come from? Allow me to step down and get to some music; that *is* why we are here, isn’t it?

Next up were Boat, on uber-cool local Portland label Magic Marker Records. They’ve got some amazing bands on that label, not the least of which is noise-pop group The Faintest Ideas, who I think are beautiful. Well, I have no idea what they look like1, actually, was just willing to go anywhere for that pun, but if their appearance is commensurate with their music, they must indeed be Adonises. Also on the label is “All Girl Summer Fun Band” which is the most perfectly named band ever, (although “All Fun Summer Girl Band” would be equally accurate, because they are in fact **all** fun!).  And while we are label-worshiping; you *do not* want to get me started on how much I adore Tullycraft!  Seriously: don’t do it.

Boat have a very 90’s type of indie-jangle that Steven Malkmus is ground zero for. Boat reminded me of the best parts of Pavement without any of the fetishistic excesses that could sometimes devolve into indie-jamband-ism when Pavement started feeling particularly indulgent live…oh, who am I kidding, it happened at times on wax, too. Their lyrics, from what I could make out, seemed decidedly more straight-forward than Malkmusy musings as per Slanted & Enchanted. They brought Shelly Short back on to sing a few songs with them, and then pulled Martyn Leaper of The Minders out of the crowd & on stage for a pair of songs, one with Shelly and one without. I got the feeling that the 2nd song was a bit of a surprise for Martyn & he rolled with it in good humor, albeit with a slightly quizzical expression on his face that seemed to betray his surprise. Fans in the crowd threw confetti at regular intervals, creating an oddly circus-like atmosphere. Apparently, it is a frequent occurrence at Boat shows. The singer made note of this, saying, “I hope you brought your brooms as well! Not sure the good people here at Mississippi Studios were ready for us. Oh, and there’s carpet there. That’s gonna be rough to get out.” The sound was great, as is to be expected at Mississippi Studios, which, along with the Doug Fir, consistently produce the best-sounding rooms in town. Despite a few minor misgivings, a really good night out.

-Feck

1: until I just now found & linked that video.

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.