Tag Archives: Crystal Ballroom

LIVE: Slowdive, Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR

Slowdive

Slowdive // Photo Credit: Yousef Hatlani

By Hollister Dixon

The relationship between time and music is a very strange one. Given enough time, any band can find their moment in the sun, and build up enough of a fanbase to make a reunion a viable idea; or, as Autumn Andel put it succinctly in her review of Slowdive’s performance: “Only time is the most reliable critic.” In the case of Slowdive, time has been incredibly kind. So, for those who weren’t aware of the band’s past, here’s a quick history lesson: Slowdive began in 1989, got a chance to put out three albums (’91’s Just For a Day, ’93’s Souvlaki, and ’95’s Pygmalion), and got screwed over by their US label (SBK records, who pushed back releases and pulled funding for tours) on several occasions. The records failed to sell, and reviews ranged from saying Souvlaki would “undoubtedly go down in industry history as one of the laziest ever”, to statements like “This record is a soulless void[…] I would rather drown choking in a bath full of porridge than ever listen to it again”. The band broke up in 1995, not long after Creation Records dropped them due to Pygmalion failing commercially. Really, I can’t blame them, and it’s a wonder they ever looked back after everything.

That should have been the end. But, thanks to the passage of time, and the invent of the internet, Slowdive found themselves a following. Which is how we get from a failed shoegaze band from Reading to a show-stopping, sold-out show playing behemoths. Though tastes may change, a great record will always be a great record, and a great band will always be a great band. Continue reading

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Photos: Slowdive, Low – Crystal Ballroom, 11/5/14

The Crystal Ballroom was host to one of 2014’s best and most anticipated shows last night when Minnesotan Slowcore legends Low and newly reunited Shoegaze darlings Slowdive played to a capacity crowd, seemingly suspending 1,300 fans – many new and many old – in a dream (for at least a few hours.) From the outset of Slowdive’s performance, it was obvious that their songs not only sounded timeless but also pristine and pointedly affecting, with many attendees recounting how many times they shed a tear over the course of the evening. Suffice it to say, music rarely sounds this good. Find our photos of the evening over on our Facebook page, or click on the photo below.

Slowdive // Photo by Yousef Hatlani

Slowdive // Photo by Yousef Hatlani

 

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LIVE: Brand New, Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR

Brand New // Photo Credit: Hollister Dixon

Brand New // Photo Credit: Hollister Dixon

By Hollister Dixon

Brand New occupy a very specific, very big place in my heart. I first heard the bombastic, pop punk gem of a record Your Favorite Weapon at roughly 16, and enjoyed it quite a lot. Then I discovered the very heartfelt and dynamic Deja Entendu, and fell head over heels in love with the band. Not long after falling in love, they released their third record, the wildly different and incredibly mature The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, an album so far removed in every way from Your Favorite Weapon that it may as well not even be the same band. This also includes the band’s last record, Daisy, which could be described as “impenetrable” (and has, by my showgoing companion/FOTR contributor/only real Brand New fan I know Jordan Portlock), which continues that trek away from those wry, goofy pop punk roots. The last time Brand New stopped by Portland was the 2011 incarnation of MusicFest Northwest, and at that point, Daisy was already two years old. And, despite being five years removed from that record, and despite having no new material to speak of, it seemed like as good of a time as any for the band to come back to Portland – and a good reason for me to fall back in love with Jesse Lacey’s words.

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LIVE: Slint, Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR

Slint // Photo Credit: Yousef Hatlani

By Hollister Dixon // Photos by Yousef Hatlani

Before we begin, let’s talk a little bit about the history of Slint: Existing for six years in the late 80s/early 90s, Louisville, KY’s Slint (made up of Brian McMahan, David Pajo, Britt Walford, Ethan Buckler, and Todd Brashear) lasted just long enough to put out three releases (1989’s Tweez, and 1991’s Spiderland, as well as an untitled EP, which came out after they’d already broken up) and call it quits.In the time since, however, Spiderland took on a life of its own, proving to have a longevity that was almost unpredictable. The band’s mix of not-quite-post-rock and not-quite-math-rock influenced an incredible amount of bands, to the point where they’ve been cited as the catalyst for both post rock and math rock. In 2005, the band set off on a reasonably sized tour, and have played music sporadically to adoring crowds ever since.

Despite the fact that their music seems like an ill fit for a live experience, it seemed absolutely necessary to get the chance to pay homage to this band. And it felt fantastic, for the most part. More on that in a bit.

First off, let’s talk a little bit about Tropical Trash. Now, I am a very big fan of noise rock bands, and I have nothing but respect for them. However, the Louisville, KY band seemed to have missed an important lesson about the nature of noise rock: if it lacks structure, it will fail. This is a style of music that requires a specific kind of balance, where you pit the joy of sonic dissonance up against the joy of songwriting, and see what comes out of the battle. But while that battle is often a graceful ballet (see: Sonic Youth, a band as obsessed with cacophony as they were with fascinating song structures), it turns into an ugly, one-sided beating if you forego form and set your course directly towards noise. Their entire set felt like a group of people lazily forming pieces made entirely of unrelated notes, and it wasn’t until maybe three songs from the end that I heard something that actually sounded like a song. Before that, it was anybody’s guess what I was hearing, but it didn’t sound like music to me at all, is just sounded like a band that couldn’t be bothered to care much about what they were playing. It was disheartening, because when they did play songs, it sounded fantastic. Better luck next time, I suppose.

Tropical Trash // Photo Credit: Yousef Hatlani

So before we talk about Slint‘s performance: let’s talk about crowds. As a very frequent showgoer, I am a big admirer of great atmosphere within a crowd, and when a band like Slint comes back to live music, and plays your city, it’s probably for the best to get them the love and respect they deserve. However, it seems like the crowd that evening was unaware of this unspoken rule, as they took the set as license to talk very loudly, mosh for no discernable reason, and generally tarnish the experience. One such person (you know who you are, guy in the Thrasher shirt) was bad enough that, when he tried to drunkenly apologize to me, I felt compelled to let him know that he was ruining the night for me. This inspired him to be even louder, heckled the band, insulted Portland’s crowds, and acted foolish enough that even his friend told him that he needed to take a step back. That guy left four songs before the end, so I hope he’s happy having missed “Good Morning, Captain”. As for the rest of the crowd, who treated Slint like a mid-week opener: for shame, people.

Now, enough about the crowd. What about the band? For one, I spoke with FOTR’s photographer/co-host before the band took the stage, and I pointed out that, if the band’s sound mix was wrong, the entire show would be completely ruined. Pristine production is the name of the game here, where no notes feel superfluous, and every piece needs to be in lockstep with the rest. How was this part? The short answer: it was fantastic. But the long answer: the band’s singer/guitarist, Brian McMahan, must know that this is true, as he took it upon himself to act as the band’s sound engineer as well as performer, often taking a time out to walk over to the on-stage mixing board (something I’ve never seen onstage before) and fiddle with things, until it was just right. The effect was incredibly noticeable: by allowing a band built around the balance of sound to do what they needed to to maintain that balance, you get a performance that’s enough to leave anybody awestruck. It was, without a doubt, one of the best sounding performances I’ve ever gotten to see. This was paired with an incredibly understated use (or non-use) of the stage’s lighting, opting to present themselves as distinguished silhouettes most of the time, only somewhat visible in the half light of the Ballroom. Compared to the weekend’s other two shows and their lighting (more on those later), this was the most moody, atmospheric set I’ve ever seen, and that’s without even getting into the band’s performance itself.

Slint // Photo Credit: Yousef Hatlani

As for the band, they were incredibly tight, almost absurdly so. Each member of the band fell into a perfect groove with every other member, allowing for an impressive state of serene soundscapes, all of which were incredibly easy to get lost in. And while the last band I saw that was so capable of this did so in a way that made it all feel unnecessary (looking at you, Mazzy Star), Slint’s strengths lie in that unwavering perfection, providing an incredible case for the power of a band sounding exactly like the record while performing the material live. They played every song from Spiderland, and each one sounded better than the last, up until the punishingly beautiful conclusion/Spiderland closer “Good Morning, Captain”, which wrapped up with a wave of reverb bigger and more punishing than anything I’ve ever experienced. I would have been perfectly happy if the band had walked offstage and ended the evening without an encore, as the performance of that song topped anything that could have come after it. And, in truth, it did; the band came back for two songs (“Pat” and “Rhoda” from Tweez), both of which felt like song sketches more than anything else, and it felt strange to end the night with those two tracks, after the blistering beauty of “Good Morning, Captain”. As far as I’m concerned, this was the show’s one and only misstep, though this is a minor trifle.

Despite a terribly irreverent crowd and a funky encore, it’s hard to figure out a way this performance could have felt better. This was a rare moment in time where I felt truly awestruck by the discipline and talent of a band, and despite occasional moments of blistering guitar work, I never felt compelled to thrash around like I normally would at another show. Slint are a band that don’t need that. They’re a band that deserves to be heard live with your head bowed and your eyes closed, while taking in every single note that fell from their perfect songs.

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Slowdive To Play Crystal Ballroom November 5th, With Support by Low

slowdive

By Hollister Dixon

When people think of shoegaze, they often think of My Bloody Valentine, and for good reason: they’re possibly the finest example of the genre there is. But, when they aren’t thinking of MBV, they’re likely thinking of the band’s Creation Records labelmates Slowdive. The Reading band were the dreamlike, ambient, almost poppy answer to MBV’s sometimes brutal soundscapes, existing for a very short, very pristine six-year span in the late 80s/early 90s, just long enough to release three records – 1991’s Just For A Day, 1993’s Souvlaki (the band’s masterwork), and 1995’s Pygmalion – before stepping down from the stage one day, never to return. But, in early 2014, that changed. The band had gotten back together, ready to perform to rabid, almost religiously devoted fans all over the place, who have been hanging on every syllable that Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell produced 20 years ago.

Slowdive are currently in the middle of a delightfully long tour across North America and Europe, and this autumn sees the band stopping by the Crystal Ballroom on November 5th, with support by Duluth, MN slowcore giants Low, one of the few bands that manages to capture the same essence that Slowdive did all those years ago. If you’re a fan of rolling sonic landscapes, dreamy vocals, and the feeling of heavy eyelids, this is without a doubt the best way to help you prepare for winter in the Northwest.

You can click right here to head over to the Crystal Ballroom page to read more about the show and buy tickets. You can also continue below to have a look at the rest of the band’s upcoming tour dates.

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Conor Oberst Comes to Crystal Ballroom October 1st

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By Hollister Dixon

Conor Oberst, once (and possibly still?) frontman of seminal Omaha band Bright Eyes/less-seminal-but-still-wonderful Desaparecidos/not-seminal-but-still-very-fun Monsters of Folk, isn’t saying much about the future of his day job (The People’s Key, the band’s fantastic 2011 record, was rumored to be the band’s final album), but he’s keeping himself busy. He’s about to start a nice little month-long jaunt through the heart of America, promoting his newest solo effort, Upside Down Mountain (out now on Nonesuch), and will be dropping by the Crystal Ballroom at the tail end of things, on October 1st, with support by his friend/producer Jonathan Wilson.

This will be Oberst’s first show in Portland since Bright Eyes stopped by the same venue to put on a stellar, hilariously rowdy show in support of the last (and maybe final?) Bright Eyes record, the aforementioned The People’s Key, though to be honest, it’s hard to not envy those attending the last show on the tour, co-headlined by none other than John Prine. Jealousy aside, Oberst is one hell of a performer, and this one shouldn’t be missed.

Click right here to get tickets to this performance and find out more, and click the jump to have a look at Oberst’s upcoming tour dates as well.

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The New Pornographers to Play Crystal Ballroom October 8th

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By Hollister Dixon

In 2007, I set myself down to accomplish some incredibly mundane task. What was that task? I’m not sure. Point is: to keep me company, I decided the best way to spend this time was to put on the internet stream of KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic, then and now one of the most untouchable music programs in the world. As I was cleaning my keyboard (or whatever it was that I was doing), I found myself transfixed by the sounds and voice coming from my speakers. I scrambled to figure out who I was listening to, and discovered the track was “Myriad Harbour” from Challengers by Vancouver, BC’s (arguably) most fun musical export, The New Pornographers. To this day, I can’t listen to that track taking immense joy from the wonderful call-and-response Dan Bejar (aka Destroyer) puts on with himself and a multitracked version of himself, and the line “Do you think the girls here ever wonder how they got so pretty?”, and that’s a joy that permeates a lot of the band’s music.

The New Pornographers – made up of talents like Neko Case, AC Newman, and the aforementioned Dan Bejar – have been pretty quiet in recent years, following the release of 2010’s Together. This week sees the release of their new album, Brill Bruisers (out on Matador), an album as light and breezy as its goofy title suggests. And to support the new record, the band has decided to go on a pretty big ol’ North American tour.

On October 8th, New Pornos will be dropping into the Crystal Ballroom for the first time since their tour supporting Together, and they’ll have all three of the big names (Case, Newman, Bejar) with them. But that’s not all: to support them/help get the crowd in the mood for awesome pop songs, New York noise poppers The Pains of Being Pure at Heart will be opening for a whole bunch of dates. If you’re looking for a good excuse to get out and dance, this is one of the best opportunities you have this autumn, so check it out!

For more info, click here to head over to the Crystal Ballroom’s page, and hit the jump to check out all of the band’s upcoming dates, as well as the video for Brill Bruisers track “War on the East Coast”.

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LIVE: Washed Out, Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR

Note: Be sure to check out Linneas’ photos on our Facebook page

By Cory Butcher // Photos by Linneas Boland-Godbey

The weather wasn’t the only thing that was chill in Portland on Thursday night, as chillwave auteur Ernest Greene brought Washed Out to the Crystal Ballroom. I’ve seen Washed Out a few times over the past few years, and the project has come a long way in a short time, going from one man standing behind a MacBook, playing to a sparse crowd to a 5 piece band filling up the Crystal Ballroom.

Kisses @ Crystal Ballroom. Photo by Linneas Boland-Godbey

Kisses // Photo Credit: Linneas Boland-Godbey

Kisses, a synthpop band from Southern California, kicked off the show around 9. Despite the crowd’s reluctance to move, Kisses played a very energetic set, keeping the mood upbeat and trying to get the audience engaged. Lead singer/guitarist Jesse Kivel and keyboardist Zinzi Edmundson harmonized well, and set the mood well for what was to come later in the evening. Since it is Portland, most of the audience tried there hardest not to react at all, despite multiple attempts by Kivel to get the audience to dance. As their set continued, the audience warmed up, clapping along, nodding in rhythm, and by the end, I think I even saw a few groups of people dancing.

Washed Out @ Crystal Ballroom. Photo by Linneas Boland-Godbey

 

Washed Out // Photo Credit: Linneas Boland-Godbey

Washed Out took to the brightly lit stage shortly after 10, and immediately got the crowd grooving with Paracosm opener “It All Feels Right,” then followed it up with the percussion-driven “Belong,” from Greene’s cassette-only debut High Times. The band sounded amazing, switching instruments from song to song and never missing a beat. They even threw in a cover of chillwave contemporaries Small Black’s “Despicable Dogs.” Throughout the night, Greene stepped out behind his synthesizer to play to the crowd and encourage them to move,even though by that point no one in the venue was standing still, save for a few people in the front row videotaping the show in a very conspicuous manner. The set reached a crescendo around 11, when they played the unofficial Portland anthem/Portlandia theme-song “Feel It All Around.” Until that moment, I didn’t know that it was possible to sing along to Washed Out’s hazy vocals. They closed out the set with “Amor Fati,” a standout track from 2011’s Within and Without. For the encore, the stage darkened, and the lights and the bass began to pulse, and it almost turned into an EDM show as they played a version of “Hold Out” that was nearly unrecognizable from the original track from 2009’s Life of Leisure, before bidding the crowd adieu with “Eyes Be Closed.” This was the fourth time I’d seen Washed Out, and it was by far the best performance I’ve seen from them.

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Two Boys, One Show: Mazzy Star, Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR

By Hollister Dixon and Arya Imig

After 17 years, Mazzy Star decided to make a new record, Seasons of Your Day, and go on tour to support it. The band kicked off the tour in Portland, and despite the expectations we had, Arya and I felt somewhat let down by the show. Below is the conversation we had about the performance, and how we feel after a few days.

Hollister: I don’t know what to say. I kinda started feeling underwhelmed.

Arya: Oh man, so many people walked out, dude. [Referring to the mass exodus following the band playing “that one song”, in this case “Fade Into You”]

H: That’s really ridiculous. But somehow not surprising. Did it feel kinda weird to you, too? Or was it just me? Something about the show was sorta off.

A: I don’t know about weird. It was about what I expected, given the reputation and music involved. This wasn’t a Cut Copy rave hall show, it was literally the music and only the music speaking for itself. Whether that’s alienating or not is an interesting question.

H: It felt really alienating. I thought the performance was good, but the problem was that a) the band performed almost in darkness, and b) it sounded pretty damn close to the record. It lead me to wonder, would it have just been easier to listen to the records at home in my living room, instead of standing in a giant room with a bunch of people drunkenly yelling?
You know me, I eat up reunion shows like nobody’s business. But that one felt less celebratory, and more… I guess it just felt like they were going through the motions a little bit.

A: Yeah in a lot of ways that’s exactly what they were doing. If performing live is such a god damn chore for her [Hope Sandoval, Mazzy Star frontwoman], why bother?

H: I almost feel like nobody told her that you can just make a record and not go on tour to support it. I have to wonder if the fact that Portland was the very first show of the tour might have affected it, but apparently Seattle didn’t get much out of her, either.
I get the whole “shy, semi-reclusive musician” thing, but I’ve seen a handful who have seemed grateful to get up there. Why perform, if you don’t want to? In the end, I feel sorta bad for everyone else. You and I got in free to cover it, but what about the people who paid like $40 after fees for that performance? How would you feel if that’s what you got for a show that spendy? I know it isn’t that spendy, but $40 is a fair chunk to spend on a ticket at the Crystal Ballroom, and in Portland in general, unless it’s the Schnitz or the Rose Garden or whatever.
A few days on, I feel like I wasted my time. I kinda feel bad for the people who walked out saying, “I’m never going to see that money again,” and now have a bad taste in their mouth about such wonderful, beautiful music.

A: I saw some pretty bummed expressions. And when I wandered over to all ages, people near me were spouting kinda pissed off things like, “Oh yeah let’s play another slow one”, but that was like somebody who was just a douchebag unfamiliar with them.

H: I’ll admit, the bulk of their oeuvre is unfamiliar to me, but I still know the score. It’s not as though they’re a very dynamic band, sonically speaking. They made/make blissed out dream pop. Of course they’re gonna play another fucking slow one.
What could have been better about the show? Would you see them again, after that?

A: I don’t really feel like I would see them again except if it was in a more intimate venue like the Aladdin or the Doug Fir.

H: Was that a weird case of the opener being somehow more interesting to watch than the headliner?

A: It was kind of a very stark contrast, but I appreciated it for not dragging out the monochrome.
As for what could have been better, certainly a show like that could have felt perhaps more powerful among fewer people … for how intimate that music is the space did not suit it and it wasn’t a matter of sound or anything, i thought the sound was actually pretty good where I was. Things sounded pristine. Or, as you think, almost too pristine. What was positive – i loved hearing the harmonica playing live.

H: Oh my, the harmonica made me swoon.
I’ve never had a problem with pristine, but the issue I took was that it sounded like it was a straight-up recording, if I closed my eyes. I guess, it wasn’t that it was pristine, it was that it was a little too… lifeless, maybe?
I don’t know if “lifeless” is the word, but it felt like they were just playing the notes and singing the words, instead of actually feeling them. Like I said: going through the motions.

A: I.E. pristine: don’t play the semantics game, if it sounded like the record then it sounded pristine and you had a problem with it sounding like the record.

H: Fair. I just wanted a little more mud, I guess. I didn’t want a carbon copy by a band that wasn’t really even interested in making the copy.

A: Yeah, true, it was carbon copy. Honestly though her nerves are probably at fault, because she can’t deal with improv. I thought they looked into some very swayable grooves at times. It’s definitely a wanderlust sound though; I told David [Sexton, friend of the show] they evoked the claustrophobic feel of a desert at night.

H: I can kinda see that, actually. That’s a very interesting way to put it.
When it comes down to it, I don’t feel like it was a BAD show, just disappointing. The music was fantastic, but unremarkable in its execution.
I’ll look forward to reading reports from other shows on this tour. I’d feel bad if they played a complete tour like that, with Sandoval never getting the steady footing to put on a really, really good show every night, or at least enjoy it.

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LATE NIGHT DISPATCHES

We’ve decided to record a small segment after every show we go to, while the experience is fresh in our heads. We intended to put them up immediately, but we didn’t get the chance. We have three, two of which are packaged together. The first one is for the Built to Spill secret show at Bunk Bar in October, combined with a review of Snow Patrol and Noel Gallagher’s co-headline set at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Click here to listen/right-click to download.

The second is from the homecoming show by Menomena, at the Crystal Ballroom, with special guest and friend of the show, Anna Mackay. Click here to listen/right-click to download.

Enjoy!

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