LIVE: The Mountain Goats, Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR

The Mountain Goats // Photo: Hollister Dixon

By Hollister Dixon

A few songs into Sunday’s Mountain Goats show at the Crystal Ballroom, frontman John Darnielle told a story about going back to his old apartment, and finding a mark he’d left on the door when he lived in it decades earlier. In the hands of a lesser artist, this might seem like an innocuous thing to sing about – but Darnielle turned the experience of turning his return to his 13th and Taylor apartment into a song – “We Shall All Be Healed”, a song which was sadly left off the album of the same name – about the simple joys of making it out of a horrible situation alive: “Stared down demons, came back breathing.”

It’s easy to forget, but Darnielle’s Portland roots go deep – We Shall All Be Healed was a semi-fictional account of his time in the city, and he talked a lot throughout the show about people he’d known in our town, going as far as to dedicate Transcendental Youth‘s “Spent Gladiator 2” to those that were lost to the same foul drugs he sung about on Healed. This was my second Mountain Goats performance, and while the first one felt like a great show, this one felt like I was getting to watch a performer, at long last, come home. Darnielle is a typically happy performer – which has always worked perfectly against his typically depressing fare (he made an album called Get Lonely, for god’s sake) – but his energy felt electric on that stage.

The newest album, Goths, isn’t an amazing record. It is packed with exactly the kind of great, witty, aware songwriting that you’ve come to expect from a Mountain Goats album. It’s the very first album that features absolutely no guitar (bass is acceptable – this an album about goths, after all), but most every song from the album they played was given a guitar-based live treatment – a move which truly elevated the songs past where they were. Despite this being an album promotion tour, and thus being heavy on Goths songs, each new song played felt like an old friend that was being trotted out for the excited fanbase. Call it having the right energy, call it having the right crowd, call it being a statesman of lyrically-rich indie folk rock – somehow each of the songs just worked

“I’d never want to be a Mountain Goats completist,” Spectrum Culture’s Dave Harris said to me a day after the show. I’m with him on this one; there’s just one thing on my Discogs wish list, and it’s the tour-only Come, Come to the Sunset Tree, which rarely dips below $200. Mountain Goats fans are a rabid, obsessive, almost religiously fervorous lot, and the sold-out crowd for that show illustrated all of the best parts of that. When Darnielle needed the crowd to shout, we shouted, and when he needed it to be silent enough that you could hear a pin drop, we sat with baited breath. Even during “Spent Gladiator 2”, when he dropped his mic to allow only his shout carry his words across the ballroom, the faithful helped carry the message to everyone. There’s a lot of magic in that.

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Guided By Voices Announce Spring Tour

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By Hollister Dixon

Guided By Voices are an amazing band, but their catalogue is an extremely dense collection to get into. Where do you start? Is it Bee Thousand? Is it Alien Lanes? How do the post-breakup albums stack up next to the rest? And what of Robert Pollard’s other projects, like Boston Spaceships (featuring Eyelids members/Faces on the Radio veterans Chris Slusarenko and John Moen) or Circus Devils (who released their final album, Laughs Last, on February 24th)? What about all of Pollard’s solo material, or the three (!) Ricked Wicky albums that came out in 2015? And what about the Suitcases?

One of the best ways to take in everything, though, is to just see Guided By Voices play live. I went into my first GBV show as a mild fan, and walked away a rabid obsessive, and part of this is Pollard’s willingness to play as many songs as can be fit into their time onstage. You want to watch a band play 40 songs with the gusto of a band a third their age? You got it.

On April 7th, Guided By Voices will release the double (!!) album August By Cake, the band’s 23rd album to date. That seems like a lot, sure! But it’s even more notable that this is the one hundredth (!!!) album with Uncle Bob’s name on it. That’s a hell of a lot to process! The band’s last, Please Be Honest, was mostly recorded by Pollard on his own, but this album finds him reunited with former member Doug Gillard, and backed by new members Bobby Bare Jr. and Mark Shue. This spring, the band will support the album with a lovely tour which includes a few nice and small rooms, including the ridiculously small Doug Fir Lounge here in Portland and Seattle’s Neumos – with a neat little stopover in Indio, CA for Coachella.. They’ll have a hell of a lot of great support on the tour, everyone from Rogue Wave to DTCV (fronted by James Greer, former GBV member and the man who literally wrote the book on the band).

After the jump, check out the band’s dates and support, as well as new tracks “Dr. Feelgood Falls Off the Ocean” and “Hiking Skin”.

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Fleet Foxes Announce Tour

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By Hollister Dixon

Do you have any idea how long it has been since Fleet Foxes did a tour? I do: roughly five years, when they were supporting Helplessness Blues, an album now old enough to be in grade school. The band took some time off while frontman Robin Pecknold went back to college, but they’re finally back, at long last, with Crack-Up (working title: Robin Goes to College*), out on June 16th on Nonesuch Records.

They’re going to be going on a tour of much bigger venues later, but Pecknold & Co. are going on a tiny tour of the Northwest in a series of intimate venues, including Spokane’s Knitting Factory (tickets here!) and Portland’s Crystal Ballroom (tickets here!). Their last Portland show was at Edgefield Amphitheater, so this will be a decidedly more cozy show than their last time through.

Below, you can check out their tour dates – which includes an incredibly enticing date at Portland’s Crystal Ballroom, and see the lyric video for Crack-Up lead single “Third of May / Ōdaigahara”.

*Not an actual working title

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Low Announce Co-Headline Tour With Mono

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By Hollister Dixon

Low, the (other) pride of Duluth, MN, the world’s best slowcore band, have been somewhat quiet since 2015’s fantastic Ones and Sixes. They’re a beautiful force on record, but they’re an entirely different beast when they’re playing live, especially in smaller rooms – their Doug Fir Lounge performance during the tour for Ones and Sixes still holds up as one of the best performances I’ve ever seen in that space. This June, west coast fans of their brand of patient music will get a chance to see the band play an all-too brief tour co-headlined by Japanese post-rock mammoths Mono.

This tour lasts just a week, starting at Los Angeles’ Globe Theater and snaking up the coast until they reach the Imperial in Vancouver, BC. For Portland-based fans, this will include a stop at the Wonder Ballroom on June 15th. Canadian fans will also be able to catch them at Calgary’s Sled Island Music and Arts Festival, as well as the SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival in Saskatoon.

After the jump, you can check out the dates for this tour, and listen to “No Comprende” from Ones and Sixes, as well as “Requiem For Hell” from Mono’s lovely album of the same name.

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This Month at Live Wire Radio: March

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By Hollister Dixon

If you’ve never been to a Live Wire Radio recording, you’re missing out on one of the most fun things to do in Portland. The long-running show – hosted by Luke Burbank and recorded at the Alberta Rose Theater – gives you a chance to watch an exceedingly great range of comedians, actors, writers, musicians, and a heck of a lot more making always fantastic, frequently surprising public radio.

This month’s shows are nothing to sniffle about. On Thursday, March 9th, they’re bringing in Welcome to Night Vale‘s Mara WilsonMy Drunk Kitchen‘s Hannah Hart, comedian Jim Norton, and singer-songwriter John Craigie. Later, on March 16th, they’ve got appearances by Saturday Night Live’s Sasheer Zamata, comedian (and Last Comic Standing winner) Alonzo Bodden, and A Real Good Day author Ayelet Waldman. Both are can’t-miss shows!

For tickets to these two tapings – and to see any of the other amazing shows on the horizon – head on over to Live Wire Radio‘s site. See you there!

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LIVE: Clipping.

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By Hollister Dixon // Photos by Yousef Hatlani

It’s a difficult task to try to categorize Clipping. Their closest well-known contemporary is Death Grips, but only because both are experimental hip-hop acts, though boiling both bands down to just that sells them short. Since their self-released debut, Midcity, they’ve built and perfected a sound that feels fresh and unique by striving to infuse power electronics and noise music with genuine songsmanship, all hinged around the intersection between the organic sounds created by producers Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson and the laser-precise rapping abilities of Daveed Diggs. His flow feels inhuman, which work perfectly with the harsh and often beautiful landscapes Snipes and Hutson create.

The first time I saw Clipping perform was in 2013, in a parking lot in the July heat in Seattle. It was Sub Pop’s 25th anniversary festival, the Silver Jubilee, and Clipping were there to serve as an announcement that they had been signed to the label. While the fiercely urban settings of Clipping’s music made an Airport Way parking lot a fantastic place to see the band, there’s a lot of subtlety and artfulness in what the band does, and as a result those subtleties were lost in exactly the kind of urbanscape their characters walk through every day.

This time, I got to see them at Holocene, a room I rarely visit but greatly enjoy because the room just sounds so damn good. From the moment the band began “Inside Out” from 2013’s CLPPNG, it was obvious that this was not only the right room for the band’s sound, but the right crowd to appreciate it. I know few fans of the band, so getting to see them performing to a sold-out crowd rapping along with every word was a treat. The band’s last album, Splendor & Misery, is an immaculately produced record full of cold, sterile environments – most likely intentional, as the album is one that takes place in the vacuum of space – and it was almost a relief to be able to get a reasonable amount of the detail during the six-song suite of songs from the album they played.

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My biggest worry going into the show was that the material from Splendor & Misery would feel difficult to enjoy when blended with the band’s other music. The album functions substantially better as an album than as several disconnected songs, as they’re built around a single story. Giving the album a long stretch in the spotlight was the best way to handle this, allowing those songs to exist together as intended, bolstered on either end by songs from the band’s other works. The band have crafted the Splendor & Misery suite to function as a great piece of their set, though, starting with a teaser of “The Breach” before going into “Wake Up” and “Air ‘Em Out”, which may become a set staple for the band if the crowds continue to react to it like Holocene’s did. My greatest disappointment here is the (most likely necessary) exclusion of “All Black”, though the almost acapella nature of the song would likely make for an underwhelming concert performance.

The other side of the Splendor suite was full of hits. “Work Work”? You got it. “Summertime”? Bring it on. “Body & Blood”? Of course. Diggs spat fire on “Taking Off”, and even utilised former collaborator (and show opener) Baseck to do his part from Midcity cut “Bout.That”. Reports from friends who saw them at other shows suggest that Diggs is a little on the rusty side with the band’s older material, but it was hard to see any creakiness here. They felt much more polished than they did during my first trip into their world, but it was still a brilliant trip.

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It Started With a Mixx: A Los Campesinos! Primer

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By Hollister Dixon

Over the last decade, Los Campesinos! have been an incredibly dynamic beast. Starting as a too-smart tweepop band, they’ve morphed into a band of consistent and surprising depth. The band’s frontman, Gareth Paisey, is one of the sharpest lyricists working today, and though the rest of the band’s lineup has shifted pretty constantly over the years, he’s always been surrounded by other, equally talented players. The band are days away from the release of their 6th LP, Sick Scenes, and are about to embark on their first major North American tour in five years.

We present to you 10 songs over the course of the last six albums. It would be easy to do an equally wordy rundown of all of the band’s non-album material, but for the sake of ease, I’ve decided to stick to their albums.

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INTERVIEW: Clipping.

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By Hollister Dixon

This week, Los Angeles experimental hip-hop group Clipping. will be embarking on their North American tour in support of their new album, Splendor & Misery (out now on Sub Pop). I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to ask William Hutson, one of the band’s producers, about the inner working of the band, their creative processes, and how Splendor & Misery came to be. 

You can find all of the band’s upcoming dates – including their upcoming Portland performance at Holocene – right here.

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Grandaddy Announce Tour In Support of New Album, Last Place

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By Hollister Dixon

It has been 11 years since we got Grandaddy‘s last album, Just Like the Fambly Cat. The band announced their breakup shortly before the album’s release, and though they’ve been in action again since their return to the stage in 2012, they’ve still been relatively quiet over the years. That’s all about to change with Last Place, due out March 3rd on 30th Century Records. The album has been described as “a symphonic swirl of lo-fi sonics and mile-high harmonies, found sounds and electronics-gone-awry mingling with perfect, power pop guitar tones.” For anyone who knows and loves Grandaddy, this an incredibly enticing thing.

The band will also be embarking on a neat little world tour starting in late February, taking them all the way until the summer, with European festival sets at Primavera SoundMotel Mozaique Festival, and This Is Not A Love Song Festival.

After the jump, you can check out “Evermore” from Last Place and see where the band will be stopping this spring. This includes two shows at Portland’s Revolution Hall – one all ages, and one 21+. Word to the wise: just see both! Tickets for these two are here and here.

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Clipping. Announce 2017 World Tour

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By Hollister Dixon

Los Angeles experimental hip-hop collective Clipping. have been steadily warming their engines since their triumphant return following frontman Daveed Diggs’ exit from his role in the smash hit Broadway musical HamiltonThis year saw the release of the Wriggle EP, and their first LP since 2014’s CLPPNG, called Splendor & Misery – a densely packed story of distant future space slavery and digital love (as only Clipping. could tell it). Today, the band have announced a lengthy world tour to support Splendor & Misery, which is slated to start in early December and go straight on ’til April. For all of you in the Northwest, you can get tickets to their Holocene (Portland) show right here, and their Crocodile (Seattle) here.

The band also stopped by Conan to perform Splendor cut “Air ‘Em Out”, which you can check out over on the Team Coco site. After the jump, have a look at their tour dates and check out the videos for “Air ‘Em Out” and Wriggle‘s “Shooter.” Both Splendor & Misery and Wriggle are out now on Sub Pop Records and Deathbomb Arc.

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