Portland!

The annual 5-day deluge of non-stop over-lapping live-shows will be invading Portland again this year from September 4th-9th. Our feature article by Cory X on Pete Krebs was even lifted for the MFNW site. With no credit. And no link. Smells like plagiarism. Here’s some information from their site:

MusicfestNW is once again returning to the historic Pioneer Courthouse Square—Portland’s civic living room—for three picturesque outdoor headlining performances at Levi’s Pioneer Stage headlined by shoegazing alternative rockers Silversun Pickups (Sunday, Sept. 9), mashup superstar Girl Talk (Saturday, Sept. 8), and the world music-tinged indie folk of Beirut (Friday, Sept. 7).

Beyond the Square, MusicfestNW will once again take over the city of Portland for five days, with 150 bands playing at 16 clubs all over the city. On Wednesday, Sept. 5, electropop upstarts Passion Pit headline the Crystal Ballroom (the band also plays the next night) and reunited post-hardcore titans Hot Snakes play the Roseland Theater. The alt-country act Old 97’s playing their seminal record Too Far to Care front-to-back, the beautiful folk tunes of The Tallest Man on Earth, local atmospheric rockersThe Helio Sequence, local heroes Hazel reuniting for Cavity Search Records 20th anniversary show, rising hip-hop phenomsYelawolf and Danny BrownA-Trak DJing on the Nike Sportswear stage, and the debut of the Red Bull Common Thread series featuring guitar heroes Dinosaur Jr. with sets from the bands’ two offshoots, Sebadoh and J. Mascis. The festival also features Critics’ darlings Ceremony, Julia Holter, Lightning Bolt, The Men, Fucked Up, Trust, and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart will all be performing special sets of over the September weekend.

 

The editors at Smells Like Pop recently experienced the rare opportunity where we were all together at the same show. In this case, it was for Brian Jonestown Massacre at the Wonder Ballroom in Portland. And, instead of relying on one of us to do a write-up, we thought we’d all add a short review. Including our friend, Pete Champ!

Cory’s Review

The BJM show got almost no local press, which was surprising because of a) the band’s famed and filmed love-hate relationship with locals The Dandy Warhols, and b) they put on a kick-ass show. Anton Newcombe orchestrated from the side of the stage, his distinct vocals and guitar standing out somehow over the wall of sound emanating from four to five other guitars on stage at any one time. The result was loud, of course, but almost restrained, counter to the band’s reputation for chaos. Newcombe even thanked audience members individually (rather than kicking them in the head, for instance). The night was given to dispelling all such demons, graciously inviting Zia McCabe herself onto stage, for a distinctly Dandy-ish song. BJM put on a remarkable show, the guitar-work layered and even disciplined, avoiding the pitfall of the many-guitared jam band. Indeed, they didn’t let loose until the final song, a Beatles cover that seemed to have no end. Afterward, I wished it hadn’t.

Gene’s Review

It’s beyond cliché to reference the documented struggles of Anton Newcombe and his band, The Brian Jonestown Massacre. But it does seem to be fair to acknowledge when he – and they – get it right. Highlighting tracks from the band’s latest, Aufheben – which is arguably their most solid album from beginning to end, the BJM transcended that album’s strengths with an even stronger live performance.

BJM ranged through its material, playing some old favorites, as well as showcasing the strength of newer tunes like the catchy “I want to hold your other hand”, and the warm-fuzzy inspiring homage, “Blue Order/New Monday”. Zia McCabe (of Portland’s Dandy Warhols) even hopped on stage to contribute some booty shaking and tambourine support – a nod to the past, while perhaps sensing the forward momentum created by the strength of BJM’s  new material and focused performance.

Pete’s Review

Anton Newcombe is still chief engineer on the BJM express and everyone else is along for the ride. With each song you can pick a small piece from many bands. Now that the drama seems to be over you can focus on the music and relax. Being so prolific with their songs they almost blend together until they unleash a manic tamborine tune that reminds people why they like them.

David’s Review

The audience waiting for the show to start at the Wonder Ballroom skewed older and artier. The seeen-it-all-before crowd was cautiously waiting for something new to happen – again. When the Brian Jonestown Massacre took to the stage with little fanfare, I was secretly glad to see lead tamborurine player, Joel Gion at the center of a stage that also included five guitar players (including bass), a drummer and keyboardist – all looking like they were about to play a show at the ’60s-era Factory as opposed to Portland in 2012. The band sounded great – even better than on record. Songs that have seemed shambling and mishapen in the past, became beautifully orchestrated walls of blissful-noise pop. Songwriter/founder/cult leader Anton Newcombe has found a nice collaborator in Spacemen 3 bassist, Will Carruthers who seems to be keeping the band more centered – there were no interpersonal flare-ups this night. The band played many songs from their great new album, Aufheben as well as a cross-country tour of their previous twenty-plus back catalog of psychedelic inspired pop. If you have a chance to see BJM live, do it. Dig?

For those unfamiliar with one of Portland’s more prominent bands, it may be surprising that Talkdemonic has gone so far while forgoing the presumed necessity of employing a lead singer. Rather than relying on vocals as a counter-point to their musical meanderings, the band (Kevin O’Connor and a host of instruments) placed a spirited viola player (Lisa Molinaro) at center-stage, relying on the lyricism of the instrument to bring balance and warmth to the cool leanings of the band’s electronic heart. From the start, they captivated audiences, earning Willamette Week’s number one band designation in 2005 (with more than double the votes of the next contender, the none-too-shabby Viva Voce). Now, after a tour with Modest Mouse and most recently with the passionate Handsome Furs, the band is set to release its fourth full-length album next week with Ruins, confirming that the band’s novelty is also the source of its durability.

Within the first minutes of immersion into the newest album, one is struck with the sense that the band is aiming to forge a new path for themselves. Their approach has been dubbed “folktronic” in the past, a label highlighting the genre-bending tension in their work, and which more or less effectively depicts a sound encountered in the band’s last two albums. With Ruins, however, the band dumps the first half of the label–perhaps a wise move given that you can’t throw a stick in their home city right now without hitting someone in a folk-something band. This new effort is more fully in the realm of electronica, albeit a rootsy one, as in hearkening back to the roots of the form in Kraftwerk and Neu!.

The first song of the album, “Slumber Verses,” launches with foreboding in stark and spare synth sounds before ushering in the familiar somberness of the viola, and then grinds it all down in a shower of sparks and distortion. The dark effect continues through the title track, then changes course in “Revival,” showcasing a lighter tone, the viola lilting in a float from left speaker to right and back again. Where the album lingers in simplicity, with percussion from a basic drum kit, most often electronic undertones suggest something more complex and concerning. “Cascading” is aptly named, evoking a waterfall soundscape, while “Midnight Pass” is dark and brooding, electric guitar (or amped up viola?) adding a touch of menace. At the end, “Palace Walk” brings out the sum of the elements, weaving it all together for a lovely jaunt.

With all the depth of the album, I am once again struck by the sense that Talkdemonic has had to work harder than most to create their sound. Where many bands distract the listener from simpler instrumentation with their vocal tracks, Talkdemonic adds layer upon layer of synthesized and acoustic sounds to create richness. I can imagine that some might fault the album”s Autobahn-esque style; one could also point out that “City Sleep,” for instance, starts out more than a little like a fellow Portland band’s “Godless.” But unlike many of their peers, derivative is a most unlikely descriptor of Talkdemonic’s work. Their originality is fully evident in the interplay of their instrumentation. In their live show as well on the album, Molinaro’s expressive viola performance artfully plays off the MacBook-enhanced effects, adding a large dose of humanized tension and release. If there is one caution for the prospective buyer of this album, it is merely that the range of its textures are less likely to be apparent if one is relying on tinny computer speakers, as I did the first time through. This is an album to be played at a healthy volume through the stereo, or better yet on headphones. It will not disappoint.

 

There’s a lot of new music preview streaming out there on the interwebs right now, and many of them are sounding quite nice. There’s going to be some great releases this month! But, before we get into the list o’ links, here’s a cool new video from Portland’s Nurses, filmed and edited by the band:

I’ve said this before, but the NPR Music site (National Public Radio–the one the Republican’s want to destroy) is awesome. There’s so much great new music streaming that it could easily be your primary source for music news. And new stuff is constantly being added. What’s there right now?

The new Wilco album, The Whole Love. I’ve only listened once, but the Wilco gang are getting experimental again and it sounded great.

Next up? Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is finally back with fourth album, Hysterical and it’s a nice return to form capturing the energy and spirit of their acclaimed first album with a more nuanced sense of control and song craft. Check it out!

There’s so much more to listen to at the NPR site (like Harold Budd, Neon Indian, the Tiny Desk Concert Series, and the streaming radio show from Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton) but let’s finish here with the new LP from St. Vincent – Strange Mercy. It’s everything you’d expect from Annie Clark – edgy and intense music, beautiful vocals, and haunting imagery all blended together to make great songs, and a great new album.

Want to stream entire new albums by Wild Flag, Eleanor Friedberger, The Music Tapes, or The Ladybug Transistor? Well, lucky for you they are all on super-cool label, Merge Records founded by members of super-cool band Superchunk.

Happy Streaming! – SLP


The daytime MusicFest NW shows broadcast live on KEXP have been great so far, and since I had my kids with me and the shows are all ages, I decided to bring ’em along. My son’s opening soccer game took precedence in the afternoon, so unfortunately we missed the Antlers noon-time set. Avi Buffalo was playing next, so after some cajoling, arm twisting and watching a couple of videos of the band, we hit the Doug Fir. I have to admit it was kind of fun showing the kids around the venue that I normally only visit late at night. We got some ice waters and settled into the lounge in back for the 30 minute set.

Avi Buffalo as a band are young, and really just kids themselves, but the songs written by Avi Zahner-Isenberg (many recorded in his home studio) have  traces and seedlings of many older artists carried within – musicians like Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and even the Pixies (Avi was wearing a Pixies t-shirt). The “pop” songs were all very pleasant and sometimes more complex as both time and chord changes borrowed from jazz crept into the mix, especially on their final song.

All in all, the kids liked the show – my son even a little more than my daughter. I think she saw through my clumsy attempts at getting her to start music lessons again by pointing out the cool drummer and bassist, both girls. Not the kids first concert (that was X/Knitters when they were just wee-nippers) but a fun afternoon of music. Afterwards we walked across the driveway to the MFNW Poster Show where poster artists from all over were selling limited edition concert posters – groovy stuff, though some might have been rated PG-13.

Avi Buffalo’s debut, self-titled  album is out now on SubPop.

Actually, there was nothing horrible about the 30 minute mid-morning set by UK goth-synth-shoegaze-pop phenom, The Horrors. Except that it could have been a little longer and the drums could have been a little softer. The Horrors wear their myriad influences proudly on their stylish sleeves, often times sounding (add looking) like the more up-beat cousins of the Brian Jonestown Massacre. They combine vintage synths, throbbing bass and fuzzed-out wall-of-guitar in a style all their own, while still feeling like the latest band in an evolutionary progression of british rock. See them tonight at Midnight at Dante’s. Really. Go see them–they’re great live.

Smells Like Pop hit the sweltering hot (literally) scene at Branx on Thursday Night for the Suuns, Talkdemonic and Handsome Furs shows, and then raced over to the practically empty midnight performance by EMA at Holocene. Suuns played a loud and revved-up set that was all over the place (good thing) sounding at times like Clinic, Can, Stereolab and more (good thing, too). We’re looking forward to hearing how their sound may get distilled into something immediately identifiable as Suuns. But, just as happy if they keep going as they are now.

Talkdemonic played a nice set of experimental noise pop, but suffered from the laptop disease that many bands today are infected with–I kept thinking how much better they’d sound with a couple more musicians on stage instead of having everything pre-recorded on a computer. But, hooray for the Macbook–it played a great set! Handsome Furs came on last like the Tasmanian Devil couple from Looney Tunes. To say they were wound-up is an understatement. In other words, “I want what they’re having.” The crazy energy of husband and wife, Dan Boeckner (Vocals & Guitar) and Alexei Perry (Synths & Beats) was almost unbelievable at the start, but their attitude and live sound quickly grew on me–it was a fun, danceable show! Go see them if you can…

I think we were expecting a lot from EMA–there’s been a lot of hype swirling around Erika M. Anderson for her recent solo record. Elements of the show were great, some good and some (like the sound and tuning of the drums) were a little flat. Her backing band looked like they felt a bit awkward which clashed with Anderson’s seeming comfort on stage. Late shows can be great or tough-going–let’s call this one somewhere in the middle.

More in-dept write-ups should be coming soon. In the meantime, here are a few pictures from the night.

We’ve had a look at the just announced line-up for Portland’s own mega-music festival, MusicFestNW and I have to say that I’m a bit more excited this year than last. Not excited so much by the headliners who will be performing in Portland’s Pioneer Square, but by some of the smaller and more esoteric acts. Hopefully the shows by Little Dragon, Olivia Tremor Control, The Horrors, Yacht and Bobby Bare, Jr. won’t be overlapping! The Portland-area and surrounding parts are well represented in this year’s line-up with lots of local acts, including the always dependable Thermals, Y La Bamba, Typhoon, Weinland and many, many more. And, I haven’t seen the Butthole Surfers in ages–maybe it’s time! Some of my favorite shows in festivals-past have been the FREE showcases – Le Savvy Fav (listening to right now), Deerhunter, Battles, and Grizzly Bear all put on great afternoon shows. Can’t wait to see what’s in store for this year.  Hope to see you there!

Here’s the official blurb:

The eleventh annual MusicfestNW is coming back to Portland, Oregon September 7th – September 11th. This year Portland’s largest and most successful music festivalis at it bigger than ever featuring three nights of concerts at Pioneer Courthouse Square in addition to shows at 18 of the city’s most venerable music venues. Produced by Willamette Week, MFNW teams up with music professionals from the local, regional and national music scene to curate this multi-venue festival featuring bands from indiehip hop and punk backgrounds.