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/