Review: The New Mastersounds at The Wonder Ballroom, 10/8
Oct30

Review: The New Mastersounds at The Wonder Ballroom, 10/8

Review by Kara Wilbeck For a band with such a specific, dialed-in sound, The New Mastersounds sure do draw quite the diverse crowd. Last night at the Wonder Ballroom in Portland, seasoned Baby Boomer jazz heads in collared shirts boogied next to dreadlocked twenty-somethings in faded Phish tees. It’s safe to say that if you’re at a New Mastersounds show, you’re probably a pretty big music nerd- and you know what’s good.  The New Mastersounds bring a polished British sensibility to funk, and at times can lean more heavily into the genre of jazz. Drawing the obvious sound comparison to the Meters, their funk is tight and measured- which is not to say that it doesn’t, at times, let totally loose and straight up rage.  For this show, the band brought out their horns, which is a serious treat and gives their sound some extra body. The band’s ability to maneuver between masterful, clean funk and a dirty, dirty get down is exemplary of their talent. The New Mastersounds are the type of band that makes a musician want to go straight home and pick up their instrument. They appeal to the nerdiest of music lovers and party people alike. Their hype spreads mainly via word of mouth- and those who have seen them tend to talk about them a lot. Trust your friends who can’t stop raving about The New Mastersounds, and get yourself to a show.    ...

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A Gorgeous View of (More Than) 4 Peaks
Jul01

A Gorgeous View of (More Than) 4 Peaks

Story by Kara Wilbeck Photos by Alexander Maso Well, it’s official, and I’m not afraid to say it: I absolutely love, love, LOVE 4 Peaks Music Festival! The first time I went to the festival in 2012, it was a drizzly weekend, but the beauty of the place was not lost on any of us. This time around, though, the combination of the gorgeous weather and unbeatable view was overwhelmingly beautiful. It’s really impossible to get tired of the view at the Rockin’ A Ranch, with its rolling grassy hills surrounded by the high desert of Bend, which looks out upon the sprawling peaks of the Cascade mountain range. 4 Peaks was significantly larger this year, thanks to a mass gathering permit issued by Deschutes County. Even with the expansion, 4 Peaks still qualifies as a teensy-weensy festival, and instead of crowding more people in to the existing space, additional campgrounds were opened up for the bigger crowd. I love that the festival promoters know that part of the draw is the easygoing, hassle-free environment, and that they make sure that experience is preserved, even as the festival grows. This year’s music was top notch as usual, featuring mostly string bands with a peppering of funk. On Friday, some afternoon highlights included Polecat and Hot Buttered Rum (who played a handful of seriously awesome covers), and a super-long tent set from The Congress. Poor Man’s Whiskey (who have played at 4 Peaks every single year!) opened up the evening with a rippin’ set of Allman Brothers tunes, before Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk closed out the main stage with a dirty, funky dance party. After the main stage closed at 10, everyone piled into the side stage tent for a late-night set from Whitewater Ramble an accurately self-described “High-Octane Rocky Mountain DanceGrass” outfit who kept the party going until it was time to unplug (at which point they continued their set acoustically, to keep the neighbors happy). Even after the end of the scheduled music, the campgrounds at 4 Peaks don’t go to bed! Despite the chilly air, campsite jam sessions went on late into the early morning. Saturday began relaxed and fun, with campground neighbors trading stories and getting together for lawn games. The music up at the stages started early in the day, with highlights such as the Brothers Comatose, Tracorum, and Moonalice. One of my favorite sets of the weekend was from Brooklyn funk band The Pimps of Joytime, who played right before the headlining set on Saturday evening. These guys have been making a huge splash on the West Coast in the past couple of years, and it’s easy to see why-...

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Galactic’s New Direction: A Review
Apr22

Galactic’s New Direction: A Review

Review by Kara Wilbeck Photos by Alexander Maso There are not many bands that can consistently reinvent themselves every few years while remaining beneath a single genre umbrella. Fortunately for all of us, Galactic is one of these bands. Since its formation in 1994, the funk outfit has spent the last 20 years representing every aspect of the fluctuating New Orleans musical culture.  The original Galactic sound was far on the jazzier end of the funk limits- there was a sophistication and maturity to the sound. Over the next decade, the group evolved into a looser, edgier form of itself, and started to enjoy mass appeal from a huge range of ages and demographics. Finally, in the late 2000s, Galactic dived deep into further exploring their hip hop side with From the Corner to the Block, which was rounded out by the “melting pot” album Ya-Ka-May, whose songs ranged from relentlessly funky to anthemic to, well, totally gangsta.  Galactic’s most recent album celebrates yet another essential aspect of NOLA culture: Mardi Gras. Carnivale Electricos added festive and bacchanalian sounds to Galactic’s palette, furthering the band’s incredible diversity. The most recent tours have focused mainly on these last few albums, and featured vocalists (and New Orleans music royalty) such as Cyril Neville and Corey Glover. And just when we were expecting another tour with this formula…BAM! Galactic goes and changes it up on us again.  The show at Portland’s Crystal Ballroom on March 14 was a jump forward from what was becoming Galactic’s norm. Since the band plays in Portland at least once a year, the crowd gets extra excited when something new is in store for them. The band’s arrival was preceded by rumors of a new singer, an absolute wild woman that, well, no one had ever heard of before.  For a singer with such little experience touring with a well-known band, Maggie Koerner sure knows how to work a crowd. From this small, young woman emanates a huge, commanding stage presence. The addition of Koerner to the band allows Galactic to choose from a far larger and more diverse pool of songs, including several older tunes from their repertoire, a handful of soulful covers, some brand new Galactic material, and even one of Koerner’s own songs. In fact, with the exception of “Hey Na Na” (which Koerner sings in the album version), Galactic left their newest release, Carnivale Electricos entirely untouched.  The show opened with “Cineramascope,” one of the powerhouse instrumental hits from Ya Ka May. Usually placed as a mid-to-end of set main course, “Cineramascope” as an opener was a serious indication that we were in for a treat. Koerner made her first...

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New Ammo: Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe at the Crystal Ballroom, 2/15
Mar20

New Ammo: Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe at the Crystal Ballroom, 2/15

Review by Kara Wilbeck Photos by Alexander Maso With a musician as versatile as Karl Denson, there have been times when I’ve wondered which side of him would show its face at a concert. Would it be the fly, funky Karl or the smooth jazz Karl? The hard rock Karl or the psychedelic Karl? Denson’s shapeshifting abilities seem to have spread to his jazz/funk/rock outfit Tiny Universe. Playing a late-night festival set at Horning’s Hideout, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe amped up the psychedelia, leaving the audience somewhere between “What just happened?” and “That was awesome!” At a fall show at Portland’s Aladdin Theater, Tiny Universe tapped Zach Deputy‘s vocals for an all-stops-pulled Ray Charles dance party.    At the Crystal Ballroom on Feb. 15, Denson and company opted for the harder, fuller, rockier sound, which unsurprisingly reflected the audacious attitude of their recent release, New Ammo. Much of the show’s set time was devoted to showcasing the new album, which- trust me- nobody was upset about. Forgoing the groove and soul of previous Denson projects, New Ammo is aggressive and bold- and bold is most definitely the way to go when you’re playing at the Crystal Ballroom.   Borrowing bassist and vocalist Tony Hall from Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk for the show, Denson’s show that night was fired up. The matching suit-clad band played with nonstop energy, barely giving us rest between songs. Statuesque guitarist DJ Williams blew the crowd away (as usual) with the shockingly good sounds emanating from his instrument. The night culminated in an intense cover of the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” a standout track on New Ammo. (This author is also a huge fan of the title track, “New Ammo.”) The show ended with the Crystal Ballroom’s spring-loaded floor still bouncing and a crowd wanting even more of Denson’s heavy artillery.   Correction: This article previously referenced former guitarist Brian Jordan. The current guitarist for Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe is DJ Williams. We apologize for the error. Gallery: Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR, 2/15/2014 Click on photo to view full...

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Review: Umphrey’s McGee at the Crystal Ballroom, 3/7/14
Mar18

Review: Umphrey’s McGee at the Crystal Ballroom, 3/7/14

Review by Regan Crisp Photos by Jordan Inglee, www.visualsuplex.com Umphrey’s McGee’s current tour schedule is an epic, sprawling thing, with stops in Chattanooga, TN, London, and Rochester, N.Y., and part of this year’s tour bills Umphrey’s with the bluesy California Honeydrops. On Friday, March 7, the Honeydrops’ soulful, rootsy stylings, usually steal-the-stage memorable, were an appetizer (and a short one at that) for Umphrey’s lauded stage show, with its usual cast of virtuosic musicians, dreamy lights, and genre-bending jams. Last weekend’s Portland performance was the band’s first Crystal Ballroom gig in three years, and more than just a chance to dust off last summer’s rage stick and pass the vape under the chandeliers, it was an example of the band in highest form- despite the intervening years (Umphrey’s turns 17 this year).  Heavier than the Grateful Dead and without the goofiness of Phish, Umphrey’s might invite similar crowds to its forebears but in truth, their sound is unique. The band guarantees two eventualities on their website: “You never know what you are going to get,” and “Umphrey’s always delivers.” But while they draw comparisons to bands using similar techniques- improvisation, complex compositions, setlists sprinkled with creative covers- Umphrey’s have carefully carved a category all their own, characterized by ample percussion (two kits) and Jake Cinninger’s shredding guitar. Umphrey’s take the jam band genre into a broader, louder spectrum, one drawing heavily on classic 70s rock, and particularly the prog genre. In a day and age (and town) where classic prog usually takes a back seat to more accessible rock, and jam bands offering lighter listening, Umphrey’s offers a breath of fresh air. At the Crystal Ballroom the music spilled effortlessly through a captivating light show by Umphrey’s L.D.-in-residence Jefferson Waful. It’s easy to get lost in the Umphrey’s show of light and sound, no matter who you are. Deadheads, Tool fans, musicians and those simply looking for a good party unite under the Umphrey’s banner, and it’s clear why. Their music straddles a fine line between dancey and dark, memorable and hypnotizing. Umphrey’s opened the night with “Le Blitz,” a tune only recently integrated into their live shows, but quickly moved into fan favorites like “Much Obliged,” “Dump City,” and “The Linear.” The first set worked the crowd, warming the room up to a fever pitch, but it was the second set that set the band’s energy loose.  After a brief break, the band moved into “Plunger,” beautifully into “Hajimemashite,” and back into “Plunger.” While Waful’s designs left a rainbow hue on the band during the first set, in the second set Umphrey’s met a heavenly white bath, that,...

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Janxta Funkytown: The Pimps of Joytime
Mar02

Janxta Funkytown: The Pimps of Joytime

Review by Jason Gershuny Photos by Marshall Snyder Brooklyn’s natives The Pimps of Joytime brought their Janxta funky music to Portland’s Mississippi Studios on Friday, Feburary 21. Their power-packed performance gave the raucous audience a chance to shake it hard to their soulful grooves. The venue  may have been packed wall-to-wall with hot and sweaty bodies, but that didn’t dampen spirits on this night. For those who haven’t seen the Pimps before, imagine a sound that combines a balanced blend of old school soul, thick dirty funk, shredding guitar licks, polyrhythmic percussive grooves, vocal harmonies, and just a dash of keyboard samples. That combination of musical flavors creates the perfect recipe for a dance party. The Pimps headlined the night and created an inspired set of music that did a masterful job of mixing their classic show stopping tunes like “Janksta Funk,” “Freedom Dancer,” “My Gold,” “Keep that Music Playin’,” and “San Francisco Bound” with some samples of newer material. This evening’s performance demonstrated the ever-growing evolution of their sound, and confirmed the notion that they are still a band on the creative rise. Over the course of an amazing night of music, two aspects stood out regarding of the growth and direction of the Pimps of Joytime. The first aspect is this band’s commitment to the Northwest. I have struggled to think of any another east coast band that gives the Pacific Northwest love more often than the Pimps. They come our way two to three times a year without fail, and they have built their Northwest fan base the old fashioned way: by throwing funk parties that create legitimate grassroots momentum.  It is hard to not have a deep appreciation for bands that are willing to repeatedly travel thousands of miles, even in the winter months, to make it to our neck of the woods.  The second aspect of the show that stood out is the solidified and connected lineup the Pimps have developed over the course of the last two years. Brian Jay has been the soulful visionary behind the band, mixing and matching musicians like a mad scientist, always looking to create a musical potion that gets the groove just right. Mayteana Morales joined the band nearly 6 years ago and has made her vocal and percussive prowess an essential layer at the heart of the Pimps music. But other than the two of them, the rest of the band’s members had been in an unsteady rotation for a few years. Over the last two years, however, the lineup has really solidified, and the payoff is evident. Cole Williams adds so much power and emotion...

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