Sunday, February 26, 2012

Welcome to CLUBLAND!

Hi, and welcome to Clubland, a bi-monthly (or so) post covering some of the amazing live music happening around town. Portland has one of the most vibrant local club scenes in the country, which means two things for the purposes of this blog: 1) there will never be a shortage of exciting, curious, passionate and at times just outright crazy shows to report on, and 2) What I'm able to cover here will be but a small sampling. If this blog accomplishes nothing else, I hope it inspires KZME listeners to get out there and support live music, support the musicians and venues that bring it to you, and, perhaps most important, experience as much music live as you can. Music is a lifeblood to me, as I'm sure it is to anyone reading this, and though I love little more than hearing that new album I've been reading about, heard a sampling from etc, there's nothing to compare to the experience of seeing/hearing it live. The odd irony to live shows is that they're as common as dirt yet wholly singular, no two are alike, the setlists differ, the energy in the room varies night to night, you never know what you're going to get. I promise to do my best to capture at least a bit of that lightning in a bottle but the best thing by far, of course, is to be there. So, to paraphrase that age-old saying, on with the blog!

San Francisco, in the past 10 years or so, has (re)attained a reputation for various stripes of psych, from the likes of Devendra Banhart at the more fried-folk end of the spectrum to Wooden Shjips and Comets On Fire pushing the heavier, more garagey textures of the form. But, ever the restless city, the two SF bands that bookended my week proved that change waits for no genre.

First up on Monday, Feb. 20th at the Doug Fir, the Fresh & Onlys. Besides displaying some astonishing growth in their sound - less of the somewhat thinner indie sound I'd heard on 2009's Grey-Eyed Girls, more dynamic immensity that's ready to take over the world - the band carved a sonic path out of any stylistic cul-de-sacs their regional cohorts may ever find themselves stuck in. If you've ever asked yourself: is it possible to bring a post-punk electricity to a sunny pop-sike sensibility, the Fresh & Onlys are here to emphatically say, 'No problem.'

Love & Kindness, from their 2010 self-titled release was a case in point, lead singer/rhythm guitarist Tim Cohen - who bears no small resemblance to a young Lowell George, by the way - asking "Why are we here/Why are we there/Why the world isn't always there" over both the background responses of 'love me dear' and a rather stomping Mekons-like beat and you can't get much more post-punk/pop-sike than that.

Fresh & Onlys are one of those bands that are sufficiently good live to become your favorite band on the spot. From opener "D.Y." to encore "Peacock And Wing" there was highlight after highlight, not least the bass-thrummed wonder of "Invisible Forces," somehow ominous and joyous at the same time, though, judging by their reaction, I'd have to say the crowd came down on the joyous side of that equation.

As for that crowd, it should be noted that I was at first a bit worried for opening band Disappears. I arrived at the Doug Fir at 8:40, with the show scheduled to begin at 9:00, and I was only the sixth person there. Chalk it up to a rainy Monday night, I suppose, as it was scarcely better come showtime and the band wisely waited until 9:45 or so to start. Still, those that came in late missed quite a spellbinding set. Disappears is a Chicago band that was joined in 2011 by Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley, who was clearly enjoying himself, which makes sense since Disappears themselves aren't shy about toying with guitar wig-outs but instead of extending out into jagged, near-free jazz improvs a la SY, these jams seldom crossed the 5-minute mark while maintaining a wicked tight rhythmic structure, allowing Shelley to wail away with a disciplined glee. Great band, with flavors of Can, Nuggets-era garage (The Sonics, let's say) and not a small dollop of shoegaze. If that sounds like a mesmerizing, high-octane trance, you're right.

And speaking of shoegaze, Friday found me in the company of Young Prisms, another promising (and yes, young) San Francisco band playing the middle set between new (and yes, also very promising) Portland band Stay Calm - I expect I'll be covering them in an upcoming blog if Friday's show was any indication - and legendary local darlings Quasi at Mississippi Studios. The presence of that last guaranteed that there wouldn't be any issues about attendance that evening. Place was pretty well packed from the moment that Stay Calm took the, umm, carpet (in front of the stage), and by the time it was Young Prisms' turn (up on the actual stage) I'd guess the place was at capacity. Which is good, as the foursome deserve a wide hearing.

First off, let me say that Matt Allen has the hardest working bassline in shoegaze. While the band overall turned in a bruisingly lovely set, with melodic squall chasing melodic squall, it was Allen's bass that kept its feet on the floor. Not that those feet would in any way be standing still. Not funk, exactly, not New Order, exactly, but close enough to steady the sheets of noise around it. The other calming influence is the almost serene voice of main singer Ashley (can't locate her last name on Kanine Records website), floating and circling above and throwing Pale Saint shapes over the proceedings. At a couple of points guitarist Stef Hodapp joined in with a flat near-baritone harmony and the effect was a little startling but ultimately necessary, helping anchor Ashley's eerie angelic lilt. I copied down their setlist before the show - Sharpied on a towel, I might add, which I found charming - but it ended up not doing me a lot of good, most of the songs consisting of multiple parts and/or blending seamlessly into each other but it hardly matters, as it wasn't long I just gave up trying to figure all that out and let their sound wash over me, surely their intention. This is a band that named themselves wisely, as that sound, wah-wah washing over you like that, does so with multiple refractions and the sonic equivalent of shards of light. Young Prisms know their influences well, and the Slowdive/MBV comparisons are inevitable, but it was clear that it won't be long before they outgrow those lengthy, ricocheting shadows of their forebears - impressive as they are - and emerge as a major force in their own right. I can hardly wait, and I wanna be there to see it happen.

As for Quasi, well, Quasi were Quasi, always on the verge of falling apart which is exactly the place their utter charm originates. They had a warm, accepting crowd and they could do no wrong, and that, as well, is exactly as it should be. Their set, in fact, often sounded more like a party than a show folks had paid to get in to, so glib and jokey were the exchanges with the audience. Everyone knows their story - Sam Coomes, once in Heatmiser with Elliott Smith, with his ex-wife Janet Weiss, who really requires no bio - everyone knows their music, and everyone knows that what you get live is not the same as what you get on record. Their sound Friday night was no different, it had an impromptu nature to it to go with the convivial atmosphere. It felt as if we were being given an intimate sneak peak at a rehearsal, with Sam making musical mayhem at the piano like a skinny blond Lurch, playing his stock barrelhouse/nickolodean melody lines while Janet banged away at the drums with the same authority that'll help bring down the Crystal with Wild Flag come May. When Sam switches to guitar for Never Coming Back Again and others, things get a little more focused musically but the pull-out-the-stops antics, if anything, get crazier, as he stands half on the wobbly electric piano and just generally caroms about the stage like a man being electrocuted and liking it. For me the highlight was Bye Bye Blackbird off of last year's American Gong, it had a prodigal taste to it, noise merchants come home to roost on an irresistible hook, which is Quasi in a nutshell. This is Portland, this is our band and we love them.

So OK, that's it for me from Clubland for this week. Hope you enjoyed your stay and tune in next week as I report back from the Doug Fir and Toronto band Elliott BROOD's show (with Vancouver BC's Pack AD back in town, what a show, GO!). Elliott BROOD fall under many headings -, death country (a favorite) whatever - but I just see them as being among the premier tunesmiths around, absolute kings of aching melody. See you there!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

three7: DJ Klyph presents: DJ O.G. One Interview pt1 (Audio)

Earlier this month, I had the great opportunity to interview a staple in the Portland music scene DJ O.G. One. Besides having opened for hip hop greats Run-DMC, Naughty by Nature, being the official DJ for the Portland Trailblazers, O.G. One has been an activist in the Portland community mentoring youth and building as a positive influence and being recognized for these acts just recently by the Trailblazers.

Check out part one of the interview here and be on the look for parts 2-4 as well. Also see the fan page DJ O.G. One on Facebook and follow him on twitter @djogone



Thursday, February 16, 2012

Common - Sweet (Official Parody Video)

Put A Blog On It: The Introductory Post

Walking Shoes: BROKEN IN
Sunglasses: MISPLACED (of course...)

It is official, I'm headed to SxSW 2012! It's a trip two years in the making, when my friend Michael and I first conspired to visit this musical Mecca.

I've heard and read about it for years and years, but have never experienced it for myself...until now! I've been telling friends and family that it sounds to me like "the Disneyworld of all conference/festivals."
I'm looking forward to taking it all in, but
I'm also looking forward to telling you
all about it!

I'll be blogging here on the KZME site, I'll be tweeting
from my Hello Cruel World twitter account, and I'll even be
phoning into the "Lunchbox" show (weekdays 12noon - 1pm) for some live updates.

Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading,