Tuesday, April 15, 2014

PREVIEW: Caravan Palace w/ Bombino - 4/16 @ Roseland Theatre

Caravan Palace
with Bombino
Roseland Theater - 8 NW 6th Ave
Wed, April 16, 2014 - 8pm / 21+
$20 Door

Posted by Matt 
Host of "Subterranea"
Tue 10-11pm / Thu 11pm-Midnight
facebook/SubterraneaPDX  |  @subterranea 


“Electro Swing” is characterized by the heavy reliance on classic samples from people like Ella Fitzgerald, the Mills Brothers, Duke Ellington, and the whole range of music released mostly on 78s from the 1920s, 30s, 40s.  Add to that an electronic beat, and often, live instruments and the result is the hyper-addictive hybrid known as “Electro Swing."  It has exploded the past dozen years, emerging from the contemporary dance clubs of London and Paris, spreading worldwide through the internet. 

The broadest definition of Electro Swing is the combination of classic sounds with whatever modern style, sonic tricks and emerging technology of the present moment.  It’s a search for greater elegance and perhaps a steadying connection to the past.  And it compliments highly the versatility and limitless energy of those original swing, pop and jump blues shellac records.

In taking a loose, evolutionary look at Electro Swing, one might point to the 1980s as the prehistoric birth of the genre, beginning with the 7-minute long super-medley, “Hooked on Swing,” which in 1982 made it to #31 on the Billboard Pop chart.  It was followed up in 1983 with the mega-hit remake of Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz” by German artist Taco who blended the gracefulness of the original song with a hugely catchy early post-disco beat.  Taco’s full-length album, “After Eight,” expanded on his retro-modern sound and some tracks even include scratchy samples much like the current Electro Swing trend.  

Taco - "Puttin' on the Ritz"

While the 1990s were filled with a number of neo-swing and retro bands like the Cherry Poppin' Daddies (from Eugene, OR), the Squirrel Nut Zippers and the Ditty Bops, these groups stayed essentially true to the original sound, without crossing into the hybridization of Electro Swing.  There were occasional one-offs, like Lucas With The Lid Off” (1994) by UK artist Lucas Secon, an interesting blend of classic samples and rap.

But it was 2003’s breakthrough of the UK's Real Tuesday Weld that saw the aesthetics of Electro Swing coalescing into an actual genre.  The Real Tuesday Weld (aka the Clerkenwell Kid, aka Stephen Coates) started to make his distinctive music after being visited in a dream by Al Bowlly, the 1930s British dance band star.  His work essentially founded the structure for what is now broadly known as Electro Swing with its repetitive vintage loops and driving beat.   

The Real Tuesday Weld - "Bathtime in Clerkenwell"

In 2005 Austrian DJ Parov Stelar, released the first of a series of Electro Swing records on his own Etage Noir label.  YouTube is populated with dozens of videos with people dancing frantically and infectiously to his high-energy mixes.  

And then in 2008 came the French group Caravan Palace, whose self-titled album exploded on the charts in Switzerland, Belgium and France and online, their sound igniting worldwide interest in Electro Swing.  (They have a total of three albums - 2008’s “Caravan Palace,” 2011’s “Clash” and 2012’s “Panic”).  The three key members of Caravan Palace actually met in 2005 when they were hired to perform swing music for vintage silent pornographic films (which could have potential as a hybrid genre itself).  They’ve managed to move Electro Swing from the domain of solitary DJs with a computer into a live band experience, replete with vintage samples of course.  

Caravan Palace - "Rock it for Me"

Bringing it back to the “Music Where You Live”… the Electro Swing scene has been expanding here in Portland.  The key group being Sepiatonic, founded by Eric Stern (Vagabond Opera) and belly dancer Karolina Lux.  Also roving around the Northwest is Seattle’s Good Company ("Good Co."), an amazing 6-piece group of young jazzheads who have become big in the Steampunk scene.  They appear regularly at Portland’s biggest Steampunk event, GEAR Con, which takes place every year over the July 4th weekend.  And which, due to the recent demise of Seattle’s venerated Steam Con, makes it the biggest Steampunk event in the entire Northwest. 

Good Co. – “Chinatown Strut”

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Punk Rock Monday with Manx and Coma Serfs 3/31

Last night was another installment of Punk Rock Mondays featuring Manx and Coma Serfs. The show took place in Mcmenamins Lola’s Room which is a rad, tucked away space known as “the oasis below the crystal”. The wood floors still have the iconic crystal ballroom bounce when you stomp your feet; and my feet weren’t stopping.

Manx opened the show and killed it at usual. Currently signed with Barry Goldstein Records, Manx is a garage, pop rock trio and is hands down one of my favorite Portland bands. Fronted by bass player John Barnaby, the trio performs songs consisting of danceable, catchy riffs and sings about getting weird. During last night’s show, Barnaby explored the space on stage while whipping the neck of his Peavey bass around and wearing his Canadian tux proudly.
On the last song Barnaby jumped off stage and rocked out amongst the crowd. He then turned his back to me and said, “Okay, you ready?” I wasn’t fully prepared but agreed while he threw the bass over his head which landed directly into my arms, thus ending the song. The big, curly-haired, denim diamond known as John Barnaby turned around and said back to me, “you passed the test.” 

Coma Serfs were up next. I was hesitant at first because I thought their music was too psychedelic for a punk show but as the show progressed and as I was grabbed and thrown towards the front of the stage, I felt the punk course through my veins. Their sound consists of a groovy combination of wah, heavy distortion and reverb and their style has a large emphasis on surf. Their bass player Wolfgang was the star last night. This tall skinny lad with huge mutton chops held it down with the heavy bass lines; especially towards the end of their set when the songs started to get rowdy.  

Overall the show was probably the best way to start my week. I am so grateful to whoever started this new Mcmenamins tradition. Punk Rock Mondays are free and all ages and feature two Portland punk rock bands every Monday night. 

Manx http://manxportland.bandcamp.com/
Coma Serfs http://comaserfs.bandcamp.com/
Barry Goldstein Records http://barrygoldsteinrecords.bandcamp.com/

Saturday, March 29, 2014

PREVIEW: Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings 4/1 @ Crystal Ballroom

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
The Crystal Ballroom - 1332 W. Burnside
Tue, April 1, 2014 - Doors 7pm / Show 8pm / All Ages
$25 Adv / $30 Door

Posted by Matt 
Host of "Subterranea"
Tue 10-11pm / Thu 11pm-Midnight
facebook/SubterraneaPDX  |  @subterranea 


Sharon Jones doesn’t hold back. 

Not onstage, not in interviews.  Her life and music are as exposed, raw and real as it gets.  

As of 2010, after four critically-acclaimed albums, she was still living with her mother in the projects of Far Rockaway, Queens.  Although leaving at times to sing on the David Letterman Show, or to open for Prince in Paris or tour nationwide playing with people like Lou Reed, David Byrne and Rufus Wainwright.  

And before that, she was a guard on Riker’s Island, where she sang so sweetly that the prisoners wouldn’t go into their cells until she did sing to them.  And after that they did whatever she wanted.  Her voice brought order.  One might poetically say that she brought soul to a soulless place.  In fact it was the prisoners who encouraged her to get out of there and sing her way to a better place.  “You’re too nice to be in here,” they told her.

(Although Riker’s Island is officially a “jail” not a “prison” - more penalty box than penitentiary.  It’s guys doing one year or less, who can at least keep looking forward to getting out, going home.  And it also holds guys awaiting trial who couldn’t raise the cash to make bail.  Those guys might going to a worse place, depending on their future jury.)  

Sharon Jones - "This Land is Your Land"

Sharon Jones’ stage-1 pancreatic cancer recently went into remission.  She took 2013 off for aggressive surgery – removal of a tumor from her bile duct, removal of her gallbladder and 12” of small intestine - and intense chemotherapy, complete with a valve installed in her neck for easy access so the poisons could save her. 

Earlier this year in support of her new album, “Give the People What They Want,” she boldly and defiantly shot a music video for the song “Stranger to my Happiness.”  In the video, still bald from the chemo, she sings out soul at what appears to be a welcome back party - and happiness clearly ain’t no stranger to the room. 

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings - "Stranger to My Happiness"

“Give the People What They Want” is the fifth album for Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings.  Previous albums include “Dap Dippin'” (2002), “Naturally” (2005), “100 Days, 100 Nights” (2007) and “I Learned the Hard Way” (2010).  

A strong theme emerges looking through past press on Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings.  It’s their sense of mission.  To spread the word, to let people know soul music is still alive and growing, evolving.  They’re a ten-piece touring band proving it every time they board the bus to the next gig.  Full horn section, backup singers.  Real-deal Motown stuff.  

Jones recently told Matt Singer at the Willamette Week, “I have a goal to pursue. Since they left me here, and I’m able to do my music, my goal is to make the music industry realize there is soul music around today. If you look at the award shows, there’s no award for soul music. They say soul music left in the ’60s and ’70s. Soul music needs to be recognized by the music industry - even if they don’t want to give me an award.”

Gabriel Roth (aka Bosco Mann), bass player for the Dap-Kings and co-founder of Dap Records (along with tenor sax player Neal Sugarman) penned this creed in the liner notes for their 2005 album, “Naturally” – “Somewhere between banging on logs and the invention of M.I.D.I. technology we have made a terrible wrong turn. We must have ridden right past our stop. We should have stepped down off the train at that moment when rhythm and harmony and technology all culminated to a single Otis Redding whine. That moment of the truest, most genuine expression of what it means to be human.”

It’s been a two-pronged approach for the band, raising that awareness.  The Dap-Kings as an entity have recorded legendary soul icon Al Green on his Grammy-winning Blue Note release, “Lay It Down,” with Public Enemy beatmaster/producer Hank Shocklee on the soundtrack of the feature film, “American Gangster,” and of course, they sent Amy Winehouse into superstardom laying down the neo-soul on her 2006 Grammy-winning album “Back to Black.”  

And bringing it back to the Music Where You Live… be aware that the soul revolution has blossomed here in Portland as well, with our own Brownish Black, guaranteed to knock your socks off.  

Brownish Black - "Footsteps"

Sunday, March 23, 2014

DJ Klyph presents...The Movement

Hot16 1983 EP Release event at 360 Vinyl

The spot was packed with family, friends and legends – all out to support one of Portland’s finest producer’s EP release titled 1983.

Hot16 was spinning a mix of hip hop, soul and funk as people browsed through stacks of records at Portland’s 360 Vinyl. Shop owner DJ Kez was busy restocking shelves with copies of the EP as well as taking care of customers buying vinyl and CDs. Conversations were being had, smiles shared and number’s exchanged. It was a family affair!

Producer and MC DaiN hosted the event, gathering everyone’s attention for MC Epp  of TxE who kicked things off with performances from his project Chrome Plated Chronicles, verses from TxE projects and his contribution to the 1983 EP “Forever”.

Then Portland legendary MC Vursatyl, 1/3 of the crew Lifesavas performed tracks from his upcoming EP “Crooked Straights” before going into “Turned Away”, the track he rhymes on for the Hot16 project. Check out the visuals below:

So cool to have so many artists showing support here from Portland and Seattle showing the NW hip hop community is alive.

Be sure to pick up your copy of the EP from 360 Vinyl or online from Liquid Beat Records.

Check out some pics below of the event:

Note: Re-blogged with permission from DJ Klyph Wordpress.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Guantanamo Baywatch and Boom! Tour Kickoff

Guantanamo Baywatch and Boom! kicked off their tour Wednesday 3/5 at The Know. These bands are on their way to SXSW. I was exhausted all day but I managed to drag myself to the show because I knew these bands liked to party.

If you don’t know, The Know is a hole-in-the-wall punk/metal bar and venue on NE Alberta. It’s cozy and split into the two sections: bar and stage. It was crowded with punk rockers which reminded me of the days when the Satriycon was my home.

Boom! opened the show with straight to the point, upbeat, garage rock jams. The power trio shares a drummer with Guantanamo Baywatch and played short sweet catchy tunes.

I’ve been listening to Guantanamo Baywatch for a few years now ever since my buddy said he went to a house show and saw them play. I love when a band’s name can tell you a lot about their music. Guantanamo Baywatch was everything I’d hope for: a tough combination of surf, garage, and punk. I was right up in front dancing myself sober. This hot drunk girl next to me kept stepping on my toes with her 6 inch heels but I just 
kept moving.

Their drummer kept the danceable up-beat tempo while bass player Chevelle, a cute punk rock Portlander, held down the rhythm and bass licks. Their intoxicated lead singer/guitar player sang his scratchy vocals and shredded the surf riffs while riding the whammy bar on his guitar. He kept on turning his amp up filling the tiny space with reverb. My ears rang up until work the next morning. The show made me want to shred the gnar and break stuff.

Good luck Guantanamo Baywatch and Boom!  Drink a sixer of PBR and get weird for the northwest. Make us proud.  Follow these dudes on Twitter. You won’t be disappointed. 

Guantanamo Baywatch


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Mother Falcon Rocks Mississippi Studios

Some things you just need to see. The northern lights, for example. Or a New Orleans Mardi Gras. Mexico’s Copper Canyon. And a Mother Falcon live show.
If you’re not familiar with the Austin based band, their Tiny Desk Concert is as good a place to start as any. This symphonic rock outfit has been blowing the minds of concert goers for years now. With a revolving door of multi-instrumentalists, usually numbering between twelve and seventeen, they are a kind of traveling musical circus. But more Cirque du Soleil than Barnum and Bailey. Simply put, they are symphonic rock bad asses. Case in point: the Valentine’s Day show they put on at North Portland's Mississippi Studios. The place is probably my favorite small venue anywhere. Mother Falcon member Claire Puckett was so enamored of it when they played here back in August 2013 that she was walking around taking pictures and posting them to the band’s Facebook page.
Portland audiences, however, are notoriously talkative. And the Valentine’s show had its share of loud mouths. But a really interesting thing happened throughout Mother Falcon’s set. Song by song, more of those people stopped yapping about whatever and took notice of what was happening in front of them. By encore time, the entire audience was eating out of the multitude of hands on stage. Any band that can tame an unruly Portland audience has got chops indeed. Moral of the story: next time they're in townget yourself to a Mother Falcon concert.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. @ Doug Fir Lounge March 3rd 2014

Detroit, Michigan has had a tough run of it lately.  Most recent news articles about the city portray what looks to be a dystopian, industrial wasteland, featuring pictures of abandoned train stations, homes and office buildings.  It's not the type of place you'd chose to spend your summer vacation.  The fact that Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr's Daniel Zott and Joshua Epstein call Detroit home and make the kind of music that they do is a pleasant anomaly.  What "kind" of music is that?

Take their cover of Gil Scott-Heron's "We Almost Lost Detroit" for example.  The song was originally written in response to a partial nuclear reactor meltdown that happened near Detroit during the 1960s. The original song drips with soulful sadness in the best possible way.  DEJJ's version retains the soulful mourning, but invites you to focus on the fact that we only almost lost something valuable, so lets just celebrate that.

Therein lies the band's charm.  Rarely have I heard such weighty lyrics paired with such truly celebratory music.  It's an alarmingly deceptive tactic that results in fans smiling and dancing to songs about things like watching the love of your life die before you at an early age.  They could play at your best friend's funeral and it would be strangely and perfectly appropriate.

Some of their subject matter may be heavy, but that didn't stop these boys from having a truly good time on the Doug Fir's stage.  I'm always impressed when a band can get on stage, especially on a Monday night, and play the same set of songs that they've been playing for months and still have fun. Their layering of live vocals, percussion and instrumentation on top of prerecorded beats and loops sounded true to their albums.  With the exception of a vocal sample that played for a little bit too long, DEJJ put on a very tight show.  They're definitely worth seeing live.  The visual effects, which included an animated videogame-esque face singing in time on a spherical screen, were the icing on the cake, or maybe the extra Jr. on the Jr.

Speaking of that extra "Jr," these guys deserve to win something for that band name.  It fits their style perfectly because nobody knows what to expect when they listen to them for the first time, but everybody's intrigued.  The hook might be a little gimmicky, but once DEJJ has you on the line you're not going to want to let go.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. are currently on a headlining North American tour behind their acclaimed sophomore album, The Speed of Things.  Check out my video footage of this show below.