LIVE: La Femme, The Echoplex, Los Angeles, CA

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La Femme // Photo Credit: Henry Smith

By Henry Smith

The “up-and-coming” status of Echo Park has The Echo and The Echoplex to thank.  Between the two busy venues and their next door neighbor, Origami Vinyl, Echo Park has a fresh hub for music.  The larger Echoplex is located directly beneath The Echo and is only accessible through an alley off of Glendale Boulevard.  I had had a few beers and was unaware of this Hogwarts entrance.  Amblingaround the block again and again, I finally saw a man wearing an Echoplex polo.
“Hey, excuse me,” I asked him, “Where is The Echoplex?”
“It’s right here,” he laughed, “You’re here for La Femme?”  I nodded quickly and hustled in.  As soon as I made it through the entrance, I realized what all the hype was about.  The space was decked out to entertain with a sizable stage, a deep floor with two bars, and plenty of standing tables scattered about.  This was the perfect place to present the mysterious, synth-surf Frenchies, La Femme.

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LIVE: Rural Alberta Advantage, The Crocodile, Seattle, WA

By Gabriel Mathews

There are two types of Canadian bands. The first and more prevalent is incredibly, ceaselessly earnest. See: Arcade Fire, The New Pornographers, Tegan And Sara, Constantines.

The second is much less frequently spotted: the band or artist that rejects the Canada-earnest mode in favor of jacked-up sleaze which is often so over the top that it comes back around to just feeling straight up sincere in it’s sleaziness. See: Death From Above 1979, Peaches, and, apparently, July Talk.

Twenty seconds into July Talk’s first song, I learned what I was getting myself into at the Crocodile. Peter Dreimanis had just sung the first verse, and it was time for co-leader Leah Fay to take the mic. As she began to sing, Dreimanis put one hand over her eyes and the knuckles of the other in his teeth, looking knowingly into the eyes of the crowd. This hyped-up sexuality was characteristic of the band’s entire set, as Dreimanis and Fay fondled each other pretty much ceaselessly. Fay poured water on Dreimanis’ head, Dreimanis ruffled Fay’s hair, they kissed each other’s necks, they fed each other booze, going all night for some sort of heated Doe/Cervenka, or Mosshart/Hince, or Boeckner/Perry (to use a Canadian example) chemistry. It’s hard to deny the magnetism of this performance— I’ve never seen such over-the-top sexualization out of a rock band. They were expert showmen, and any concern I’d initially had about the sort of disgusting objectification of Fay during the first song dissipated as I saw what a mutually objectifying stage relationship they seemed to have. Their showmanship was overall quite good, lot’s of “How’re you doing Seattle?!” “We’re so excited to be in the States!” “It’s Friday night, are you guys ready to have some fucking fun?!” Dreimanis likes to slap himself and bark, Fay likes to pour Jameson into the mouths of the front row.

It’s too bad the music didn’t really hold up. Dreimanis does an unforgivably Waitsian growl over the top of some weirdly modern rock-ized country/Americana. Guitarist Ian Docherty is good, and Fay is a decent enough singer, but nothing about these songs really stood out, which maybe explains the emphasis on performed sexuality. The only thing I could really think about the entire time was how intensely said sexuality was coming across and how this band made no sense at all opening for the Rural Alberta Advantage.

The Rural Alberta Advantage are so decidedly planted in that first group of Canadian bands that it actually might pose a threat to their continued relevance. They’ve just released their third album, Mended With Gold, which, while quite good, doesn’t deviate at all from the formula they laid out back in 2008 on the excellent Hometowns, and codified further on 2011’s lukewarm Departing. Said formula consists of Nils Edenloff playing basic, hooky folk-pop songs on an acoustic guitar while singing nasally about love, death, fear, veins, and Alberta, Amy Cole playing minimal keyboards and harmonizing occasionally, and Paul Banwatt absolutely kicking the shit out of a tiny drum kit. The band and anyone who’s ever heard them is fully aware that Banwatt is the primary reason to stick around: without his surgically batshit pummeling, these songs would get pretty tired pretty fast.

Which is not to say they’re not very, very good. In fact, I was impressed that the RAA were able to fill a rather long set with pretty much all great songs. Opening salvo “Stamp,” “Muscle Relaxants,” and “Don’t Haunt This Place” set the bar very high, but the band managed to maintain a level of enthusiasm and professionalism for the entirety of their set that kept even the lesser Departing material pretty exciting. The songs from the new album sounded great, particularly “The Build,” “Terrified,” “On The Rocks,” and “45/33.” Watching Banwatt’s face contort as he stormed through these songs was a perpetual thrill, which made me sad they didn’t hit his Mended showcase “All We’ve Ever Known.” But it was okay because they played nearly all of Hometowns, which has become one of my favorite standby records of the past decade. “Rush Apart,” “The Dethbridge in Lethbridge,” “Luciana,” “Frank, AB,” “Four Night Rider,” “Edmonton”— these songs are all fucking excellent and it was great to see the band hit them all with such enthusiasm.

After a tiny break, the RAA came back on after main-set closer “Dethbridge” for a three song-encore, finishing with “Drain The Blood.” Walking away from the mic, Edenloff led the audience in singing the song’s “ooh-ooh” refrain and clapping to the beat, as Banwatt grabbed a floor tom and Cole grabbed a tambourine. The band then walked out into the audience, climbing eventually up onto a bench in the side of the room to close out the evening with a beautifully un-amplified rendition of “Good Night.” This was a clearly calculated move that I’m sure they’ve done a hundred times, but it worked really well, and the song, which I’ve always found pretty silly, came across as meaningful in this setting. The audience shut up completely for the first time, and I realized that it wasn’t such a marvel that The Rural Alberta Advantage had sold out the Crocodile that night.

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Photos: The Kills, Baby In Vain – Wonder Ballroom, 10/28/14

Anglo-American Blues-Punk duo The Kills dropped by the Wonder Ballroom last night – their first time back to Portland since 2011, when they played similarly attended sold-out or near sold-out shows in both May and September (also at the Wonder and then at the Crystal Ballroom for Musicfest NW, respectively.) Suffice it to say, the group brought a world-class energy  and fruitful tension to a crowd fastened for more and more; this band can play any size stage and fill it to the brim with bass-heavy, sexual voodoo and a fair dose of rock star panache. Our very own Yousef Hatlani was front and center. Find his pics over on our Facebook, or click on the photo below.

The Kills // Photo by Yousef Hatlani

The Kills // Photo by Yousef Hatlani

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Episode 104: Everyday I Write the Book

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BIG thanks to Josh Kennedy (aka Thunder Comb) for joining us this week, and contributing music to the episode! You can listen above, and download the episode right here.

Topic:

  • Music biographies (and other books about music)
  • What pushes us to want to read about the bands and musicians we love?
  • Are books about bands better when written by the musician, or by an outside source?
  • How much detail is too much? Do we need to know absolutely everything about the musicians?
  • Which ones are our favorites? Which ones are our least favorites?

Songs:

  • Cream – “White Room”
  • Father John Misty – “I’m Writing a Novel”
  • The Undertones – “Teenage Kicks”
  • Exuma – “Obeah Obeah”

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On Britpop, by Sam Murray

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Editor’s note: This article was written as a response to Episode 103: Britpop. He is a former guest of the podcast (see: Episode 92: When in Portland), and is a resident of Leeds.

By Sam Murray

Britpop is often centred on the indie guitar music of the nineties and to whom it applied we don’t ever know because it was everyone and anyone. Britpop is not so much a genre as an assessment of a political and social changed in the nineteen nineties. We do have clear musical sign posts to this in the music of Oasis, Blue, Pulp, Suede and even to a lesser extent The Spice Girls. Britpop was a reactionary music like those genres that had gone before and seized the opportunity to claim new ground and new notions of British Identity in a way stifled under the dark reign of Margaret Thatcher.

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Episode 103: Britpop

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Thanks to Michael Mannheimer and Jeremy Petersen for joining us this week! You can listen to this one above, or download it right here.

Topic:

  • Britpop!
  • What does Britpop look like? What separates a typical British rock band from a britpop band?
  • Is “Britpop” as a genre an actual genre, or just a buzzword?
  • What killed Britpop?

Songs:

  • Noel Gallagher’s High-Flying Birds – “In the Heat of the Moment”
  • Blur – “Parklife”
  • Bob Dylan – “Beyond Here Lies Nothin'”
  • The Mars Volta – “This Apparatus Must Be Unearthed”

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Photos: Melvins, Le Butcherettes – Roseland Theater, 10/19/14

Alt/Doom/Sludge/Drone/Heavy institution Melvins dropped by Portland’s Roseland Theater last night as part of their Hold It In tour, promoting the album of the same name made in collaboration with Butthole Surfers bassist Jeff Pinkus. True to the band’s nature, their set was completely unique from the trio’s last few outings in recent years (frontman Buzz Osbourne also played a solo show at the Hawthorne Theater on June 18th of this year – which, despite being an acoustic affair, still managed to bring the band’s lumbering energy in full force.)

Opening the show was Guadalajara’s own Le Butcherettes, led by Teri Gender Bender – who may also be familiar to American audiences for fronting the group Bosnian Rainbows, the brainchild of one Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (the band has played Portland  twice in the last two years, first at the Star Theater on Oct. 20th, 2012 and again at Dante’s on Sept. 18th, 2013.)

Find Yousef Hatlani’s photos on our Facebook page now!

Melvins // Photo by Yousef Hatlani

Melvins // Photo by Yousef Hatlani

LIVE: The Drums, Star Theater, Portland, OR

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By Jordan Portlock // Photos by Jordan Portlock

What? There is still a line for this show forty minutes past doors? What gives? Are The Drums silently taking over the world and nobody told me?

No, it turns out my initial impressions were misguided. The line turned out to be a clever form of crowd management to draw a spectacle on the street, the doors opened a bit late, and The Drums are not going to take over the world anytime soon. They do, however, put on a great show.

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LIVE: Old Crow Medicine Show, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland, OR

By Jacob Heiteen

After walking out of their performance at the Schnitz, all I could think was how much I wished more bands were like the Old Crow Medicine Show. For those who don’t know, OCMS started life a group of buskers playing high energy takes on old-time folk songs, when bluegrass legend, Doc Watson, heard them playing outside a pharmacy. He then invited them to play is annual MerleFest, introducing them to a very wide audience and jumpstarting their career.

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Episode 102: I’m Alive

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Thanks to Nick Winterfeld for joining us this week! You can listen above, and download the episode here.

Topic:

  • Jackson Browne!
  • We discuss his influence on popular music, the artists he’s worked with over the years, and the ways you may already be a fan of his music without knowing it.

Songs:

  • AC/DC – “Play Ball”
  • Jackson Browne – “These Days”
  • Portland Cello Project – “White Winter Hymnal”
  • of Montreal – “Sirens of Your Toxic Spirit”

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