Friday, November 30, 2012


 This Seattle musician has put out a CD that required a minimum of two listens when it was put into my hands. The music takes me to the place that reminds me why I live in the grand Pacific NW conjuring up memories of big trees, strong coffee and great music. I went somewhere in my past when I heard I heard Above the Water and the journey, albeit via my imagination, put a smile on my face.

I caught up with Rocky via the internet and asked him those questions I love to ask - meet Rocky Votolato!

--  Dennise M. Kowalczyk, host of Trixie Pop

How long have you lived in the Portland area?

I live in the Seattle area - does that still count?  I love hanging in Portland though!

Give us a brief history of your band/project:

My name is Rocky Votolato and I've been writing songs and putting out records since 1999.  I have 7 full length albums that fall mostly into the "singer-songwriter" category.  I signed with the Seattle based indie-label Barsuk Records in 2005 and have 3 releases on the label, but I self-released my latest album "Television of Saints" with the help of my fans and Kickstarter.

What’s the first song you ever learned to play?

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Have you ever seen the rain?

What’s your favorite local venue to play? To see other bands?

My favorite place to play and see bands in Portland is Mississippi Studios.

Speaking of other bands, who do you like on the Portland music scene?

M. Ward
The Thermals
Laura Gibson
The Shins

Tell us about a recent “Only in Portland” moment you might have had.

I had the some of the best Donuts of my entire life at Voodoo Doughnuts.  My son loves the Maple Bacon Bars.

Finish this sentence: “I cannot live without__air___”.

Connect with Rocky Votolato:

Sunday, November 18, 2012


LA SERA / EMA / JD SAMSON & MEN (Mississippi Studios, Nov. 8, 2012)

Ahh, this is nice, back at Mississippi Studios, what I like to think of as Portland's other (and much more intimate) living room. The rugs on the floor, the sconce lighting, the red dragonfly-patterned skirt hugging the lower half of the stairs, this is home, a place for KZME to kick its feet up and drink in a show or, more likely, jump all around crazy-like on those cozy Middle Eastern rugs.

That's later, though. For now Katy Goodman of La Sera, of Vivian Girls (not 'ex-of,' I later confirm) wanders our happy little premises like she's playing hostess. Frankly, given her profile, I'm a bit surprised to find her opening tonight, the first night of Portland's Siren Nation Festival (a 4-day, yearly event featuring women in art, from music to film, from studio art to crafts and workshops; it's very cool and growing and, given this year's offerings, expertly curated). I would have thought...but thinking's not always done me all that much good. At any rate, La Sera on stage is Katy on sprightly bass, friends Tod on guitar, Danny on rhythm and Mike behind the drums and rather immediately they are sparkly garage pop good. Third song "Devils Hearts" has that devil's heartache wrestling with vintage AM radio gold but whatever sorrow might have lingered gets driven to ground the instant "Behind Your Eyes" starts, a Nuggets-era charger - and charmer - played at triple time, Tod just plain going off. Early as it is in the evening, it rocks the house, marking La Sera as an inspired choice to open Siren Nation, for the sense of lure is unmistakeable, in Katy's lilting but commanding alto to the band's muscular but deft back-up. Perfectly versatile they are as well. On "Love That's Gone" they tear it up like they eat bar bands for breakfast. Next song ("Please Be My Third Eye") is all boardwalk lope end-of-summer and "Drive On," straight after that, sees them providing dark pop accompaniment to Ms Goodman's angelic vox. Final (and new) song "Control" promptly promises to lose just that but of course, this is La Sera so it's as tight as it is simultaneously crazy. Great set, great night to get to the club early.

EMA, Mississippi Studios and I have a special relationship. On the strength of her debut, Past Life Martyred Saints, I came to see her open up here for Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr a year and a half ago. Lamenting the lack of audience mere moments before her set, I mumbled my dismay to the empty space in front of me. As it turned out, however, behind was one Carl Singmaster, then-music director for KZME, which at that point I'd never heard of. After a fevered conversation about music and, of course, all things cool, well, here I am, with my own show (plug time! "Songs From Under The Floorboards," Monday nights 8-10) and I kind of owe it all to Erika M Anderson.

All that said, I know few more intense performers than EMA. The intro by our compere quotes her as saying she likes to overcome her Cat Power by letting her Iggy Pop out, and truer words have never been spoken (and in fact, if that description at all intrigues you and you're unfamiliar with EMA's work, do yourself a huge favor and remedy that. Oh, and see her live first chance you get). Just her, a drummer (Billy) and a guy (Leif) on keys, laptop and an electric violin the size of a ukelele. That keyboard, though, on second song "Perfection" (off of 2010's Little Sketches On Tape, which I don't have and am now reminded to remedy that), is both bass and a chorale of background singers, making for powerful stuff. Drumming, too, is enhanced by effects and, I have to say (sorry), very effectively.

Watching her perform, words come to mind: primal, visceral, beautiful, serrated, heartful, inspiring, fearless, innate, immutable, passionate, punk rock (especially on song #3, provisionally titled 'Superpower' and one of the number of new songs aired tonight, boding well), committed, riveting, emotional, draining, exhilarating, amazing, intuitive. "California," off PLMS, is, of course, a tour de force, powerful in a way that makes your heart bruise and exult and recoil and soar. "Marked" is, well, remarkable ("I wish that every time he touched me left a mark"), haunting beyond measure. This is the third time I've seen her and I've never seen her so possessed, her presence is exquisite, there is no turning away. To say that she's this generation's Patti Smith is no exaggeration and, if anything, diminishes a bit. EMA treads an edge that Ms Smith, as deserved as her legendary status is, would, I believe, shy away from.

With appropriate synchronicity I run into Carl after the set and we share and compare each others stunned, ecstatic reaction. The word 'transportive' comes up, not surprisingly, and both of us are counting the days until we get to see her perform again.

JD Samson & MEN is the product of ex-Le Tigre member Jocelyn Samson, dubbed an 'icon of nerdy cool' by the New York Times, a sobriquet that both fits and, I imagine, she gladly embraces. She emerges tonight sporting a hat with crazy braided fringe hanging over her face like some pop tribal shaman and, as it develops, that's not far off. Opening track, new song "You Are Invincible" (or so I have written down; seems it might be called something else) leaves no doubt as to what kind of territory we're in. This is electro-pop and we're not a long ways from Arthur Russell as interpreted by some nervy (nerdy?) irreverent street punks into, well, new wave post-punk dance-a-rama madness and fun. Second song "Boom Boom Boom" dispels any doubts about that initial impression and the floor of bopping heads in front of me confirms it all that much more. By the third song, another new one, I'm sorry but I just gotta get out and join them on that floor. This is, after all, dance music. Somehow they manage to draw us out without a drummer, just a drum program but hoo boy is it programmed to a wicked perfection, it's got our hearts' number, our entire nervous system has been dialed in. After EMA it's like dessert frosting with a wobbly gelatin beat. Like Ms Samson sings in "Life's Half Price," it's better than therapy.

Would be a mistake, though, to think that JD Samson & MEN is naught but happy beats and escapist dance. Quite the opposite, in fact. "Off Our Backs" is a jouncy, pure dance number, sure, but, as its title implies, it's not exactly lacking in sly, sexual-political content. More pointedly, a new song released on youtube two weeks prior, "Let Them Out Or Let Me In," was written for and is dedicated to Pussy Riot, but it's also another barnstorming floor filler (though the floor's already full) that by sheer funk delight alone should free the members of Pussy Riot from whatever stalag pretends to hold them. Buoyed by a classic 808 synth groove, it also boasts a relentless guitar scythe a la Gang Of Four.

Suppose it bears mentioning how every member is decked out in black and white with two large red dots planted somewhere on their ensemble, making them as much a delight visually as aurally. But mostly what they are is stupendous and liberating, not least on set closer "Who Am I To Feel So Free?" By this point no one's immune to the boundless irresistibility of beat and joy and crack musicianship we're being treated to, the message is in the movement and next thing I know Erika is dancing jumping and just generally losing it right in front of me. What a way to end it all. Phew!

Monday, November 5, 2012

DJ Klyph presents: The Movement

DJ Klyph presents: Sounds of the DJ

I remember when I was a kid staying up late on Saturday nights listening to WBLS out New York, Mr. Magic's Rap Attack with DJ Marly Marl. DJ Red Alert was also on the air on Kiss-FM and between the two I got my weekly fix, setting my tape deck to record so I could listen back to the mixes they brought to the masses.

Fast forward to today. Mixtapes available for download, a market that makes rap music so much more accessible... but there is something about getting that FM signal, hearing the DJ blend live. It's that element of hip hop that is most readily available to those who frequent local venues, but not as well represented on terrestrial radio. I decided to change that, if only for a minute. The month of October on Welcome to the Neighborhood I presented mixes for some of my friends, some of the best DJ's in the northwest. Hopefully you were able to here them presented live on KZME but if not, no worries. Check the links below:

October 2 2012 - Liquid Beat Records' Matt Nelkin - Premier R&B

Matt Nelkin has been spinning in and around Portland for a number of years, doing a regular monthly event Rock Box Dance Party with DJ Kez and Dundiggy. They'll be celebrating their 6th year bring the party to the people and you can hear more about the event when Matt makes an appearance on WTTN later this month on November 11th with members of The Love loungers. Be sure to heck out the website and listen to the mix via the link below.

From the Liquid Beat Records website: "As a tribute to what I consider to be this underappreciated aspect of his catalogue, I wanted to create a mix of some of my favorite DJ Premier produced R&B Songs. Included are original tracks, remixes, and a few blends of acapellas over a variety of Premier instrumentals. Hope you enjoy!"

October 9 2012 - From The Mind Of Vol. 1 feat. StarChile and DJ Juggernaut

StarChile made a visit to KZME with DJ Juggernaut in early October. Aside from stories of hosting radio shows in the past, the monthly event, Live & Direct PDX which is celebrating it's 3 year anniversary this Friday Nov. 9th the fellas gave some behind the scenes of the latest project from the mind of. On the 9th I was able to play a portion of the mix on the show. Check out the full 60 minutes at the link below: **NOTE: Contains Adult Language**

October 16th 2012 - DJ Roane mix on Welcome to the Neighborhood

Roane made his first visit to discuss the Cloudshine the project he did with vocalist Reva Devito. Truth is, Roane is one of the first DJs I talked to about doing a project like this. He's an artist who truly flys under the radar with a distinct sound that adds so much to the NW scene, it was really a pleasure to have his as a part of this series. Be on the lookout for more from Roane as their are a few projects coming from him over the next several months including a remix he did for The Love Loungers latest release Last Night Changed It All Check out the special mix Roane did for the Sounds of the DJ series:

October 23rd 2012 - DJ Klyph mix for Sounds of the DJ

It's such an honor and blessing to have this platform to provide an outlet for these artist that I respect, who have become my friends. Here is my contribution to the art:

October 30th 2012 - Ohmega Watts special mix for Welcome to the Neighborhood

One of the first artists I met when I moved to Portland is Ohmega Watts. An original member of The Fix which was one of the greatest experiences musically of my life. A member of the group Lightheaded who are scheduled to release their next project in 2013 and a solo artist setting up for his third album also due next year. There is a prelude mix coming before the end of the year entitled Ohmega Watts Presents: Pieces of a Dream and you'll be able to catch him live in Portland spinning with DJ Rev Shines and DJ Cooky Parker at Holocene on Friday November 23rd. It's a privilege to present this special all vinyl, live exclusive mix via the link below:

Be sure to catch Welcome to the Neighborhood with DJ Klyph every Tuesday from 7-9pm pacific on 107.1FM KZME and streaming live at

Until next time, be blessed


Saturday, November 3, 2012


HEAVY HAWAII, CROCODILES, THE SOFT PACK - Doug Fir Lounge, Oct. 17, 2012

First off, happy to be back inside the woodsy confines of the Doug Fir Lounge. So comfy here for the likes of folks like us (Portlanders, that is), rather similar, I should think, to going to a show at your father's Elks Lodge while lost in a sort of Lynchian daydream. Makes me want to carve my name in one of the trademark logs with a day-glo knife. In short, feels like home. Thanks, Doug.

The term 'post-punk' is getting bandied about a bit again these days (as host of Songs From Under The Floorboards my ear is pretty attuned) and the ad copy for this show applied it to both Crocodiles and The Soft Pack, and in a sense - beyond just enjoying the hell out of myself - I'm here to verify. More on that later. For now, let's sit up and listen to Heavy Hawaii...

...and I'm rather immediately impressed, swinging straight into an emotionally tuneful plaint, led off by (yup) a near-tropical-sounding organ figure that's soon swamped in melody and a kind of yearning guitar pop I can never get enough of. Kind of American Music Club if they'd had more garage in 'em. Overall I'd ask for a stronger, more articulate vocal but in terms of hook and structure, I'm, umm, hooked. There's also an agreeable Velvety drone to them - even tossing around some teasing discord now and then - with a bit of Jesus & Mary Chain crunch added to the mix (doesn't hurt that the singer sports a Reid brother mein) that, despite the wobbly soundboard mix, makes for a surprisingly memorable set from an opening band most of us had yet heard of. Vocals, though, I dunno, seems an insult to the microphone somehow. Speak up, lads.

Crocodiles emerged to these ears in 2009 with their pithily-titled debut Summer Of Hate, an album of amiably cynical, intelligent post-garage garage that caught a lot of well-deserved attention, mashing up glam with (again) some driving echoey JAMC riffery. It was brash and unapologetic and one of my top 20 albums of that year. Recently Endless Flowers was released on French Kiss (I somehow missed 2010's Sleep Forever; my bad) and has also snapped not a few heads Crocodiles' way. At the moment, singer Brandon Welchez is walking onstage with a Miller in each hand, setting them strategically down and working at getting the mike right, while guitarist Charles Rowell stands slouchingly at the ready. Welchez's tweaking complete, we're off.

Often a band will, without perhaps even realizing it, exhibit a particular visual hook that catches one's eye right off. Strummer's stamping foot, Keith Moon's intuitive theatricality, something physical that's related to the music, sure, but also isolated from it. With Crocodiles it's Rowell's wonderful tic of throwing the guitar off his fretting hand after a chord or a fill, catching it, playing on, repeating, and even though it's strapped on, of course, it nonetheless conveys a kind of exciting, trickstery, daredevil passion for the loud, just-this-side-of-distortion pop noise the band is trading in. I'd go so far as to say he's a bit reckless but precisely so, if that makes any sense, ripping the fretboard to ringing pieces and giving each song its excoriating identity, the pinion of Crocodiles' sound.

So far as that ad copy goes, it's Marco Gonzalez's nimble, chest-deep bass makes people say 'post-punk,' I would guess, that and Welchez's blurred, darkly luring vocals. But in truth, the band, at least live, is as much shoegaze as post-punk, layering on rough sheets of sound on top of rough sheets of sound with a blasting sonic authority, like Ride in a high school gymnasium. When the singer straps on a Rickenbacker early in the set the assault begins in earnest, which I say in only the best way. The mysterious figure in all this is keyboard player Robin Eisenberg, Nico with black hair minus the icy vocals. Often, however, she too becomes lost in the mix, voice and keys both. Only way I could tell she was playing mostly rhythm runs was by the movement of her hands, a shame, surely. At least Welchez was clearly audible throughout their set and he's a singer with presence, his yelp often echoing through the Fir as if it's going to slice one of those logs clean in half, and in fact the band en totale just might have all that polished timber shivering a bit as Crocodiles produce a righteous, driving racket that could conceivably set the city woods afire.

First thing I notice about The Soft Pack is another Rickenbacker. Second thing I notice is a singer (Matt Lamkin) that's visually indebted to a young Jim Morrison. Musically, the initial impression is that I wouldn't exactly place them in the post-punk realm either, even as I have to admit that there is an Echo & The Bunnymen lean to them and by third song "Pull Out" off their self-titled second LP I might be persuaded to change my vote. Dave Lantzman's bass just grooves right into it, soon enough Lamkin is all tied up in Morrissey knots, Matty McLoughlin on that Rickenbacker is tripping away and I'm convinced that I'll soon be playing them on my show (which as of this writing I already have). "Chinatown," off new LP Strapped, does little to dispel this conviction which again comes down to, as much as anything, Lantzman's bass, its prominence anchors their sound along with, of course, Brian Hill staccato-ing away on drums like some genius mechanic of the beat. The mix in the club, by the way, is finally exactly right.

The Soft Pack began life as The Muslims, a name whose changing, no surprise, was predestined. But they did manage to issue two singles under that moniker and "Extinction," the first one (in fact the first song they ever wrote, according to Lamkin) gets aired tonight and it's a corker, a pop nugget of considerable charm and I wish I'd bought that single. The singer's playing rhythm, McLoughlin rips off a clean, 60s-worthy solo and the whole thing comes barreling to a close in strapping fashion.

There is, in rather secret-weapon fashion, a fifth member to this band, sax player Tony Belivacqua (though 'multi-instrumentalist' would be more accurate; bit later he'll take lead duties on "Everything I Know"), who disappeared back at "Pull Out" but reappears for "Tallboy" and adds essential grit to a set highlight, not surprising considering the flavors of The Go-Betweens and The Smiths that resonate in the song and Lamkin's spelled-out "T-A-L-L-B-O-Y" hook that will stay with me for days. That sax features even more prominently on "Bobby Brown" (yes, that Bobby Brown), a bar band/pub rock kind of rollicker that makes the trading of bass and lead just before it seem a brilliant stratagem. At this point I think that perhaps Belivacqua is the heart of the band but then realize that every member of The Soft Pack is the heart of the band, as well it should be (but isn't always, as we all know).

And so the night goes. "Parasites" is their most Echo redux and all the more a treat for it, Lamkin again making me think of a baggage-less Jim Morrison and it becomes clear that in that sense I gotta give it to 'em: on the Doors-driven side of post-punk The Soft Pack most certainly have a place at the table, even as "Mexico," a sad lost - or losing - love song speaks more to their LA ballad roots as any other inspiration, proving that terroir can't help but play its hand.

I can always tell I've had a good night out when I've written 'highlight of the night?' more than once in my notebook. Happened with "Tallboy," with "Extinction" and finally, with the penultimate "Answer To Yourself," which, simply put, is but a pure rock song through and through, drenched in hooks from the lively bassline to the Paisley Underground vocal (there's that regional DNA again) to the Husker Du-ish build of chords and solos, excellent excellent excellent.

In the end, yeah, The Soft Pack made it on to my show, and will doubtless show up on another playlist soon (just added that self-titled second album to the library to go with the vinyl copy of Strapped I bought after their set), and don't be too surprised if Crocodiles pop up now and again as well. So there's that part of the assignment sussed, then. And the 'enjoy the hell out of myself' part? I'll let you figure that out on your own. See you next time.