One of the beauties of living in Portland is that our access to new music and up-and-coming artists is almost limitless. On any given day in the Rose City, you can hear live music at a number of different venues – and I’m not talking about Open Mic Night at the local sports bar, either – there’s some good shit out there, kids.
As your faithful commentator on All Things Hipster and Pop Culture on the PDX Scene, I try to occasionally go out there and check out new music. Last week, I managed to do so, and with a vengeance – between Wednesday and the following Tuesday, I managed to see eight bands (five local bands and three nationally-known acts) at five different shows. It was amazing! It was great! It was also exhausting! I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten what my apartment even looks like – but it’s all for a good cause. Since most of you are still sane enough to value things like sleeping, eating, or spending time with your loved ones, I’ve slapped together a little Week In Review for you, so you can benefit from my excesses.
Our friends over at Wait And Scene use the slogan/signature hashtag “ALLOFTHESHOWS“, and while I can’t lay claim to an appellation like that (especially since I don’t want them sending me a Cease-and-Desist letter), you can file this one under MOSTOFTHESHOWS and read on:
1. THE MOWGLI’S (Crystal Ballroom)
Our week started off with the first “I Saw Them When” concert of 2013, sponsored by 94.7 FM – KNRK. Propelled by the rising popularity of their song “San Francisco” and low ticket prices (94 cents a pop), The Mowgli’s sold out their gig at The Crystal Ballroom in relatively short order. For those of you haven’t heard it, “San Francisco” is a pretty solid jam.
The show itself was alright, although people who spend 94 cents on a show tend to have a pretty short attention span, so a lot of the crowded milled about and talked through the entire show. Stylistically, The Mowgli’s bill themselves as “Rock n’ Roll with Southern California Soul“, but in practice, with something like eight people on stage (and I’m pretty sure I saw a tambourine at one point), they end up sounding more like a 90’s hippy jam band. Which isn’t a bad thing, necessarily.
They had a couple of misteps, though – the song “Time” is needlessly whiny and has some pretty laughable lyrics (after complaining about overdraft fees, of all things, the lead singer opines that “B of A can kiss my ass”) – but overall, they have a good sound and (judging from their Twitter feed) an impressively loyal fan following. Check out their website here, and if you’re a fan of their particular brand of California Soul, they be back at The Wonder Ballroom on April 21.
2. THE NEIGHBOURHOOD (Crystal Ballroom)
Ahh, The Neighbourhood. What can I say about these guys that I haven’t said already? From my vantage point here in Stumptown, the NBHD is fast-becoming one of the biggest new bands of 2013. In addition to getting mad love from the blogosphere (Wait and Scene has been raving about them from Day One, and we included them on both our December and Valentine’s Day playlists), NBHD has become a ubiquitous presence on stations like 94.7, and with good reason. Not only is “Sweater Weather” an amazing track, but the rest of their songs (“Let It Go”, “Female Robbery”, and “A Little Death” in particular) are great, as well. It was no surprise, then, that their “I Saw Them When” gig at Crystal sold out almost instantaneously.
So did The Neighbourhood live up to the hype? Absolutely. Although their set was really short (and lacked an encore, sadly), they killed it on every number, and their mash-up of Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name” and Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River” was brilliant. If you want to see the bootleg, check it out here:
If you’ve been heeding none of my advice these past few months and you still haven’t familiarized yourself with The NBHD, then immediately check out their YouTube/VEVO Channel and get yourself right, child! Go on – we’ll wait.
After a pretty grueling weekend (in addition to seeing MOSTOFTHESHOWS, I still had my usual socialite schedule to contend with), I had given serious consideration to staying home and, you know, getting some sleep. However, when I saw the lineup for that week’s Sunday Sessions at Rontoms, I ignored my fatigue and headed downtown – and I was really glad I did. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Rontoms, every Sunday night they put on a free show featuring (mostly) local bands.
3. DE LA WARR (Rontoms)
When I sat down to nurse my beer at Rontoms, I still wasn’t completely sold on the idea of a seeing a show on a Sunday night – but De La Warr immediately allayed those fears. Their website claims that the band “boasts an indie sound that incorporates R&B vocals and folk sentiment into a pop context,” and while I’m not entirely sure what that means, their vocals are haunting and their music has an ethereal quality that reminded me of what Fleetwood Mac might’ve sounded like without Stevie Nicks. (Yes, I’m aware that Fleetwood Mac did, in fact, spend many years without Stevie, but the difference here is that a less Nicks-ian sound actually works for these guys. Fleetwood Mac… not so much.)
Check out their first music video for “Like a Drum“:
De La Warr will be playing at The Doug Fir Lounge later this week on Thursday, March 7 – if you’re looking for a way to spend your Thirsty Thursday, they’re worth checking out.
4. MINDEN (Rontoms)
Minden’s performance at Rontoms was as much memorable for their music as it was for their stage presence. While this local pop band (with Kansas City ties, apparently) boasts on their Facebook page that none of their band members have tattoos, they’re probably more noticeable for their lead singer’s propensity for dancing barefoot in skintight leggings. That said, if you can look past his, uh, “Minden” flopping around in front of you, their particular brand of of 70’s-tinged pop music is catchy and extremely danceable. Just leave the Spandex at home, ok?
Watch these guys Get Weird:
5. REVA DEVITO (Rontoms)
The headliner of this particular Sunday Session was Vancouver, Washington native Reva DeVito, who was playing her farewell gig before moving to Los Angeles. Fans of the R&B/Neo-Soul singer came out in force to bid her farewell, and she rewarded them with an amazing set. I had never heard Ms. DeVito sing before, but the minute she took to the mike, I was reminded of the late Amy Winehouse. Reva’s voice is a little sweeter than Amy’s booze-and-cigarettes drawl, but she sings with the same fervor and intensity, and her fans responded in kind. When the crowded insisted on an encore after a lengthy set, Ms. DeVito, despite having run through her normal repertoire, made up an encore song on the spot. The lyrics may not have been Dylan, but the music was solid gold. Portland’s loss will definitely be L.A.’s gain.
6. GOLD FIELDS (Crystal Ballroom)
After my brief local music break, we headed back to the Crystal for the last “I Saw Them When” show of the month with Australia natives Gold Fields. These kids (and I use that word intentionally – they looked like they were about fifteen) gave a high-energy electro show complete with artsy lighting, pounding beats, and one of the most enthusiastic crowds I saw all week. Check our their website here, or watch their video for “Dark Again” below. (“Treehouse“ is a great song, too.)
If you missed them, Gold Fields will be back in Portland for a May 29 gig at the Hawthorne Theater.
By the end of my week-long music bender, my music-fatigue was starting to overwhelm me, but because two of my friends are going to SXSW next week, I agreed to go with one of them to a benefit in support of The Portland Party at Bunk Bar (The Portland Party puts on an unofficial showcase of Portland bands at SXSW).
7. 1776 (Bunk Bar)
The patriotically named 1776 is an old-school rock n’ roll group in true 60’s fashion – with a sound reminiscent of The Doors or The Kinks. Their set at Bunk Bar proved that rock n’ roll is alive and well in the City of Roses… and hopefully Austin, too! Check out their Facebook here.
8. RAGS AND RIBBONS (Bunk Bar)
Rags and Ribbons bills themselves as “melodic rock”, and it’s a pretty apropos description – with unusually sweet vocals for an alternative band, their brand of piano-driven rock is pretty catchy. Interested in hearing what they sound like? Head over to their website to score a free download of their album.
So, there you have it. Eight bands – hopefully at least a couple of which will suit your fancy. This article was originally going to be called “This Week in Music”, but while I was in the process of writing it, my friends surprised me with tickets to the sold out Alabama Shakes concert. That’s right: I got interrupted writing about all these shows… to go to ANOTHER SHOW. What a life!
McMenamin’s Crystal Ballroom (www.mcmenamins.com/425-crystal-ballroom-homy e)
Schedule & Ticket Prices Vary.
1332 West Burnside Street, Portland, Oregon
Rontoms Sunday Sessions (rontoms.tumblr.com)
Every Sunday Night. Free.
600 East Burnside Street, Portland, Oregon
Bunk Bar (bunkbar.com)
Schedule and Ticket Prices Vary.
1028 SE Water Avenue, Portland, Oregon