Thursday, May 23, 2013
Been a long while. Last time I was at Kelly's Olympian was New Year's Eve 1992 to see the Fastbacks and...oh, y'know what? Let's just not talk about that night. Less said the better, really, ahem. But that aside, it is indeed a happy circumstance that brings me back to this vintage downtown mainstay as I've been generously invited to enjoy some promising Australian psych, namely The Laurels. One of the things I love about the Portland club scene, you never know who's going to pop up on the gig radar and where. The opportunity to see a band the reputed caliber of The Laurels, at a relatively intimate venue like Kelly's, well that wasn't something I could live with missing.
First, though, there's the (not so) small matter of Miracle Falls. Not knowing the name previous to their appearing on the bill, I did a bit of digging to prepare for the show and whattaya know, this is the new project of now-Portland resident Paul Dillon, ex-member of Sparklehorse, Mercury Rev and Longwave (all outfits well represented in my stacks at home), sporting, according to their Twitter page, members of the Dandy Warhols, the Rev, Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Warlocks. Quite the parentage, and again I'm in thrall to what's possible on a lovely Thursday night in May in a small downtown Portland drinking establishment. Proves it's good to do some research prior to arriving, too, so you don't miss what you might regret missing. And you would have regretted missing Miracle Falls.
Immediately effecting, their lineage jumps out at us off the stage, the first song chock-a-block with the aching Americana emotions of, yes, Sparklehorse if Mark Linkous had a more resilient garage soul. Next song arrives with a bit more blast, a sound infectious enough to draw a dozen more punters in the door, harmonic, rich and plaintive. There's a level of quality (with a charmingly rough edge) that is unheard of this time of night on a somewhat modest bill like this. I'm not surprised, of course, due that spot of homework I've done, but I can only imagine the surprise for the unsuspecting. I almost envy them, as it's one of those dreams we all carry around, happening unbeknownst upon a band like this, in this case one that could be The Replacements playing shoegaze Byrds, with all the mesmerizingness that implies. The young woman guitarist (she's not a listed member of the recording band, so far as I can find out) keeps stringing out these melodic solos, Dillon's hollow-body takes up the rhythmic chime and churn while the rhythm section sits in a pocket deep enough to park your car in. (on record that would be bass player Collin Hegna of BJM and MercRev's drummer Grasshopper. Don't know that that's the case tonight)
Third song begins like a wigged-out raga before evolving into a mid-tempo bar rocker with an insistent, itinerant rhythm that nearly spins into one of those abandoned grooves Rocket From The Crypt were so well known for, before getting ahold of its own collar and settling to a close. The band's impressive but loosely-jointed pedigree shines throughout their set. It comes as no shock when Dillon steps out for a Blasters-worthy solo nor when the fifth song in the let launches off a looped guitar sample. The four of them have a wide range of experience behind them and use every tool they've accumulated. Hell, at one point I'm even reminded of Aztec Camera rocking a Memphis stage, which is a damned fine hybrid indeed.
So, I talk to Laurels guitarist Piers before the show (who wouldn't have looked out of place in the Undertones, btw), ask him how the hell they can afford a tour like this. Well, he tells me, they gigged furiously in Oz, saved up, and here they are, a treat for any and all psych-heads here in PDX. Plus? Once they return home they'll apply for a (wait for it..) government grant that supports Australian touring bands. 'Wow!,' you're saying, 'Wow! What an enlightened policy.' How right you are. Sigh.
Assuming you've recovered from that, we can move on to the performance itself. First off, there are two motherboards of pedals and buttons set up stage right and left, looking like Skylab dropped a couple panels before crashing into the Pacific. Second off, this is one of the most unassuming bands I've seen in a while, by which I mean to say there appear to be no rock star trappings, no egos, just a genuine drive to drive us mental with an unpretentious psych pop bliss.
Set up: Fender Jazzmaster, Fender bass, Rickenbacker, basic drums then BOOM! I instantly think 'Remember that time you did acid in the garage?' Well, not really, but if I had, this would have been the soundtrack. There's a heavy mash, they're loud and fuzzy in all the right ways, at just the right volume (loud; did I already say that?) and they flange with indomitable panache. Bass player, who looks a mix of Graham Nash and Levon Helm, plays with a kind of Jack Bruce-slash-punk authority.
Inevitably The Laurels come with a a well-worn intensity. It's easy to tell that they've been gigging heavily before passing through customs into the US. The third song (hey, I wasn't able to score setlists like I normally try to do) goes beyond pure heavy psych and lapses into Swervedriver territory, all linear trance and blended volume before Piers lets howl a feral vocal yowl - something about fire - and we're back on lysergic tribal land. Straight out of that it's into the Seedsian Nuggets patch, pushing just enough too hard to make the paint begin to peel, the floorboards warp. Somewhere in the stratosphere Sky Saxon is smiling big time while Roky Erickson is reminiscing 'I remember when I could do that.'
The whole set I'm thinking about how every year I'm envious of friends down Texas way that get to attend the Austin Psych Fest and how, for tonight anyway, they get to be jealous of me. The Laurels at Kelly's Olympian! HA! Beat that!! Especially during the last song played tonight, wherein a serious amount of thrash, abandon and histrionics makes for a classic - and memorable - outro. I walk out shimmering, thanking The Laurels, thanking the Australian government, and thanking whatever it is that's in the water down there.
(note: The Dandeylions were third up tonight but your humble scribe was unable to stay due to a conflicting commitment)
Posted by Dave Cantrell at 9:24 PM
Saturday, May 4, 2013
Recently my man Serge Severe passed through with producer 5th Sequence to talk about the release of his latest project Boom Bap and Bars Vol. 1
While Serge was visiting KZME, he dropped this verse, one of the dopest live performances on Welcome to the Neighborhood to date:
I also had a chance to host local MC Madgesdiq after seeing him perform during the Soul'd Out Music Fest. Had a great conversation during the show and he even hung out at the station to chop it up after the broadcast. He gave me a chance to play a number of tracks from his upcoming mix tape project "Introducin' Antoine Terrell", and we played tracks from his latest full length project Rastamerica. Be sure to stay up to date with him via the website www.madgesdiq.com
Festival time is kicking off with the nicer weather, and I'll have some announcements regarding upcoming events related to KZME and the local hip hop community, so stay tuned! Remember there are a number of ways to do that besides the blog including:
Until next time,