Review: The Wood Brothers’ “The Muse”
Feb05

Review: The Wood Brothers’ “The Muse”

Review by Rich Messmer Images courtesy of The Wood Brothers Folk music is back, haven’t ya heard? Of course you have. After a decades-long stint in the margins of popular music, the genres of folk-rock and Americana has cycled their way back into the mainstream at a level perhaps greater than that of Bob Dylan’s sixties. For those who never left the program- this tidal wave of a resurgence has swept in plenty of “Uh oh” along with the “Ohhh yeah.” For a moment, top radio hits from the likes of the Lumineers and Mumford and Sons were some of the most surprising sounds that FM radio has had to offer since Nirvana flipped the script in the early nineties. However, along with this renewed wave of popularity has come an incessant and incestuous parade of watered down, commercially-driven releases. It’s an unfortunate, yet inescapable, result of the growing popularity of the genre.  That being said, when you hear that three chord, clap driven, candy-pop harmonized “folk” song for the fifth time in as many hours today, instead of grabbing your ear-plugs grab a copy of The Wood Brothers‘ latest album, “The Muse,” and remind yourself that the “real deal” is still out there, probably right where you left it, working its magic a little left of center stage. If I had to write a synopsis of “The Muse” (or any of the Wood Brothers previous albums for that matter) in 140 characters or less it would be something like, “Great folk-rock band makes another great folk-rock record,” because in its simplest form, that’s really what it is. From top to bottom the songs are catchy and delivered with excellent musicianship. The lead vocals are intoxicating, the harmonies are smartly placed and the lyrics paint vivid stories wrought with soul. However, there is so much more beyond the obvious that makes “The Muse” a great record and The Wood Brothers a great band. From the beginning, The Wood Brothers have had a distinct sound of their own. They are a group formed by two brothers that come from very different musical backgrounds- and it shows. They write traditional music, but rarely without a few borrowed components from a swath of different genres. As a result, much of their work can sound both instantly familiar yet enticingly foreign at the same time, a brilliant contradiction that leaves the listener both content and insatiably intrigued at the end of each listen. However the genius in their unique sound doesn’t just rely on their ability to bring various influences to the table, but more importantly on the graceful subtlety in which they...

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Throwback: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, 6/23
Jan10

Throwback: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, 6/23

Review by Rich Messmer Photos by Marshall Snyder Editor’s Note: This is the first installment in our series of Throwback stories. This series features shows that happened over 6 months ago and have been on queue for publishing since before our site redesign. Enjoy!  On an otherwise quiet Sunday evening in Portland, a very lucky audience at the Crystal Ballroom attended a grand gritty performance that echoed and boomed down Burnside Street — and quite possibly straight into the 1970s. The performance was given by Grace Potter and her band the Nocturnals, and together they put on a show that would make any jaded old-timer believe in rock ‘n’ roll again.   Other than a handful of tunes and some high praise from friends throughout the years, I didn’t know very much about Grace Potter before her gig at the Crystal. The noticeably diverse audience that I encountered was very reflective of her sound and style. The crowd was equal parts male and female, young and old, hippie-dippies and rock ‘n’ rollers. I realized that no matter who you are, it’s gotta be hard to find something not to love about a Grace Potter show. Her sound ranges from ’70s guitar rock to sweet modern country melodies, with many pit-stops in between. As a performer, she’s the total package. She’s as talented as she is beautiful — as charismatic as she is humble, and blessed with a voice that could make a 16-year-old boy with broken internet forget about the dress she was wearing at the Crystal.   Grace started off the show like a shot out of a cannon with one of her best known tunes, “Paris (Oo La La),” a true guitar rocker with a bubblegum hook that would probably have both Lenny Kravitz and Christina Aguilera thinking, “I wish I could write a song like that.” She strutted onstage blaring power chords on her flying-V guitar as her flowing veil-thin dress and golden blonde hair fluttered in the on-stage breeze. This was followed by a thumping barn-burner titled “Medicine”— a southern blues-rock tune with a driving beat. The third tune was the fun and danceable “Goodbye Kiss,” which can best be described as a country-reggae love tune. The fourth song of the night, as well as the fourth consecutive song from the band’s 2010 self -titled album, “Low Road,” showed off a smoky, sultry side to the group and ended with Grace’s vocals soaring at stratospheric heights amid a roaring applause from the crowd.   By the end of the first stretch of tunes, the crowd and band were feeding off of each other so well...

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The Motet, Wonder Ballroom, 7/13/13: “This is a Dance Party, A Celebration of Life!
Jul30

The Motet, Wonder Ballroom, 7/13/13: “This is a Dance Party, A Celebration of Life!

Review by Rob Gardner Photos by Alexander Maso Living in Boulder in the early 2000s, I had the chance to see the Motet grace the stage of The Fox and Boulder Theaters on a regular basis. I would usually see a cadre of devoted female fans along the rail, donning their famous “Dance Your Ass Off” t-shirts and grooving to the funk-laden beats of Dave Watts and the rest of the Motet crew. Fast forward ten or so years, and the Motet are still laying down some of the most rhythmically complex and infectiously thick funk grooves in the scene today. After a few previous “Funk is Dead” performances featuring funk interpretations of classic Grateful Dead tunes, the band returned to Portland and their polyrhythmic roots to showcase the sonic diversity that defines the Motet. When they took the stage this past Friday at Portland’s Wonder Ballroom, ringleader and percussionist Jans Ingber greeted the eager crowd and announced, “This is a dance party! I want to see you dance!” And dance, dance, dance we did. From their first notes, the Motet delivered a relentless rhythmic assault that kept the crowd moving and grooving well into the wee hours of the night. While the band and their sound has evolved over time, the show demonstrated their deep roots inspired by a lush infusion of African, Cuban and Latin polyrhythms, improvisational jams, and turn-on-a-dime transitions. As usual, Dave Watts laid down a thick foundation of syncopated beats, Joey Porter delivered his high-energy keyboard funk, Garrett Sayers held up the house with his infectious bass grooves, and Ingber brought it down with his rock solid percussion and inspired vocal soul. Topped with a garnish of some tasty jazz inspired love from the horn section, the Motet was in prime form. Demonstrating their diverse influences, the Motet ventured into rhythm and blues, soul, electronica, afrobeat, and even a few notable covers, including thick funk renditions of David Bowie’s “Changes” and P-Funk’s “One Nation Under a Groove.” Drawing from a new album-in-the-works, the Motet also introduced a variety of new tracks including Porter’s contribution, the silky smooth “A Closed Mouth Don’t Get Fed.” The funk fest also featured a variety of musical guests, including Steve Watkins (Porter’s bandmate from side project Juno What ?!) who stepped in on keys, and Portland’s own Tyrone Hendrix, who took over for Watts and laid down some Jazz-inspired beats on the drums. (Ed. note: Hendrix is also the brand new drummer for Juno What ?! and yes, he is related to Jimi.) Rounding out the guests, Zappa Plays Zappa’s Ben Thomas accompanied Ingber with some incredible vocal acrobatics as...

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Cascadia Music Festival: One Night of Pure Bliss
Jul12

Cascadia Music Festival: One Night of Pure Bliss

Review by Kara Wilbeck Photos by Alexander Maso   It was a pretty stressful day. From waking up late and rushing to get to work on time, to making sure my boyfriend remembered to pack everything in the car, to convincing my boss to let me leave early, everything that happened that day was frazzling. But as soon as we got on the grounds of Emerald Meadows in Eugene, all the stress disappeared. We drove up the tree-lined road to the inaugural Cascadia Music Festival, and were greeted by cheerful parking attendants. There was no line, no wait, no body cavity search… it was all really easy-going. Having heard that Cascadia wasn’t car camping, we were expecting to lug all our gear to our campsite, sweating and panting by the end of it all. Imagine our delight, then, to find that camping was right next to the parking lot in a wooded grove! No one told us where to go, and we were easily able to set up with all our friends. No hassles, no problems — lots of shade.  Cascadia being a one-night festival, we made sure to get in the venue as quickly as we could. After the Shook Twins opened up the day with their beautiful harmonies and really fun show, funk band Jelly Bread took over and turned the place into a party. Playing mostly crowd-pleasing covers, Jelly Bread gets the job done right. Some highlights of their set included a funked-up version of Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman,” the Motown hit “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” and Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground.” I love small festivals. It’s so easy to meet everyone around you, and it always feels like everyone there is your friend. The intimacy between the crowd and the musicians is unbeatable, and the venue always feels like home. Another great advantage is the close proximity of the campsites to the stage area! Between every set, we were able to make the short trek back to home base, and cook, enjoy a beverage and goof off until the music started up again. After a bit of a time out, everyone made their way back over to the stage for banjo master Tony Furtado. Man, we are so lucky that we have this guy living in our backyards! He started up his set on guitar, but soon switched to his main instrument, playing some raucous bluegrass jams that left almost no one still sitting. The hula hoops started spinning, and the crowd started to boogie out in the sunshine. Some highlights were a beautiful cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Peggy-O” and a great...

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The Giraffe Dodgers: Portland’s Soon-to-be Best Band
Jul09

The Giraffe Dodgers: Portland’s Soon-to-be Best Band

Review by Kara Wilbeck Photos by Alexander Maso You heard it here first! The Giraffe Dodgers will be the best band in Portland. While most bands tend to peak and fizzle out, the Giraffe Dodgers seem to only be getting better and better. They are one of the only rock bands that can play bluegrass with the best of them, and one of the only bluegrass bands that can rock as hard as any. They also have one of the best band names of all time.  The Portland band has enjoyed a lot of increased popularity and visibility lately, which can somewhat be credited to the attention paid to the band by fiddle master Allie Kral, who recently moved to Portland and left her wildly successful band, Cornmeal. For much of 2013, the Giraffe Dodgers shows have been supplemented by some insane fiddling from Kral. Before you get thinking that Kral’s help is what is making the boys in the Giraffe Dodgers sound so good, let us assure you that there’s much more to it. At a recent show at the Alhambra Theater (formerly the Mt. Tabor Theater), the band played un-fiddled (except for a brief appearance from Left Coast Country’s Zack Lovas) and rocked harder than most other shows I’ve seen lately. Accustomed to headlining mainly at bars such as East Burn or the Laurelthirst, the Giraffe Dodgers haven’t had many opportunities to headline at a venue like the Alhambra. It’s about time they did, though. The venue, while not totally sold out, was certainly filled to the brim with some really excited people. (Ed. Note: It’s worth noting that this show was the first time ever that all Portland Metronome contributors were in the same room together!)  How does one describe the Giraffe Dodgers’ sound? The best we can do is say it’s something like what Bela Fleck might sound like if he played in a jam band. Ben Larsen’s mandolin and Austin Moore’s guitar hold a light and airy acoustic sound, while Rowan Cobb’s electric bass and Forest Carter’s drums round out the sound, providing a heavy and rhythmic backbone. Larsen, at times, works double or triple duty, carrying the lead vocals and whipping out an electric octave mandolin when a solo is desperately needed.  His singing voice seems to have an old soul of its own, and sounds a little wiser with each show. The music is full, loud and danceable, yet retains an element of traditional beauty. If you haven’t yet heard the Giraffe Dodgers, chances are you will soon. Their next local stop will be at the Northwest String Summit at Horning’s Hideout...

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Bonobo at the Crystal Ballroom, May 2
Jul08

Bonobo at the Crystal Ballroom, May 2

Review by Kara Wilbeck Photos by Alexander Maso This website is not known for its coverage of the electronic music scene. This writer likewise is not known for her love and knowledge of the genre. But Bonobo is different. Bonobo has always been different. The British producer, known to his parents and (I’m assuming) friends as Simon Green, is what we might call (at the risk of sounding aloof) on the more legitimate end of the electronic spectrum (Skrillex being the archetype of what lies at the direct opposite end). Bonobo’s downtempo sound is smooth and sexy, deliberate and mature. Rather than sole reliance on the capabilities of a computer for sounds, Bonobo takes many samples from actual instruments. Many of the artist’s tracks even include lyrics, a rarity for the genre (outside of spotty sampling).  Having recently released his latest album, The North Borders, Bonobo’s tour took him to the Crystal Ballroom in Portland on May 2. The overcrowded dance floor was an indication of the immense popularity garnered by the artist from his more recent releases. Drunken, squealing college girls were juxtaposed with quiet, fedora-ed, introspective types. This show was a live band show, which is nothing new for Bonobo, but a treat nonetheless. Instead of a DJ set, consisting simply of Green himself, the live band show features a whole arsenal of instrumentalists playing the music samples on stage. In these circumstances, it becomes rather impressive that the tracks end up sounding “just like on the album.” The Bonobo live band’s stage setup was filled with instruments. On the far ends of the stage were a drummer and a keyboardist, with Green lurking in the back with his equipment and bass. They were also joined by a multi-instrumentalist, who traded off on a saxophone, flute and computer. The real star of the show, however, was vocalist Szjerdene, whose incredible voice seemed to waft above the crowd, strong-bodied and provocative. The band brought an extra dimension to Bonobo’s recorded work, the musical equivalent to watching a 3D movie instead of television. The show’s setlist was comprised mainly of tracks from The North Borders and its predecessor Black Sands, widely considered the opus of Bonobo’s work. While the band definitely did the newer album justice, the roar of the crowd during the Black Sands tunes clearly indicated which album was the fan favorite. Very rarely were older tunes touched upon, with the show keeping its focus on the crowdpleasers. And pleased they were! Bonobo left the overpacked Crystal Ballroom a sweaty mess, full of mentally and physically stimulated happy people....

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