Last time Rubblebucket was in town, I went and saw them, steeling myself against a letdown. The hype around their previous show here (at The Bite of Bend) was loud enough to I figured they couldn’t possibly live up to it.
But they’re a very, very, very good and fun band, especially live. Here’s what I wrote after that show:
The octet … plays exuberant, globally inspired pop music that sounds like the stuttering polyrhythms and vibrant horns of Afrobeat dancing with the steady, motorik pulse of the English band Stereolab, all fronted by the terrific vocals of Kalmia Traver, who is clearly influenced by Icelandic pop superstar Björk.
If that sounds like a stylistic mishmash, well, it is. But it’s pretty amazing how well it works.
The thing about Rubblebucket is they play music that is unique, and discernibly different from pretty much any other band you’ll hear. That’s not hard to do. Anyone can start a band that blends, I don’t know, polka and dubstep.
What Rubblebucket does well is take in their influences and push out a hyper-prismatic sound that comes off as totally natural and totally unforced. And that is hard to do.
Here’s a new video the band put out today. Details on their show in Bend tonight are below.
The Omegaween Ball, featuring performances by Rubblebucket and Empty Space Orchestra; 9 tonight, doors open at 8 p.m.; $15 at the door; Century Center, 70 S.W. Century Drive, Bend; www.parallel44presents.com.
Because of the party hearty nature of Halloween weekend — and the sheer number of bands playing ‘ween-themed shows over the next few nights — we’re going to venture outside of the music section this week into GO! Magazine’s cover story, which features not 20 … not 30 … not 40 … but 50+ Halloween parties, concerts, trick or treats, costume contests, films, readings and more.
If you don’t find something spooky to do in these listings, you just aren’t looking hard enough. Happy Halloween! Y’all have fun out and be safe out there.
And the rest of the music section: Head for the Hills and Dead Winter Carpenters, a benefit for Gary Bowne, Moira Smiley & VOCO, Children of Nova and My Favorite Sacred Songs. Plus Blackstrap, Dela Project, Third Seven and Truckstop Gravy and a whole bunch of other stuff.
Watching Danny Barnes play the banjo is a sweet, sublime experience. The alt-country veteran — a former Bad Liver and current Dave Matthews associate — possesses an endearing blend of virtuosic skill and experimental eccentricity that, when combined with his soft-spoken style and goofy, ever-present grin, makes for a very mellow but mind-bending kind of show.
Last Thursday at Maverick’s Country Bar and Grill in Bend, Barnes bounced back and forth between his twangy, low-key tunes and extended banjo jams, which he often introduced by singing “let the banjer play,” as if it was its own entity. And in a way, it was. When Barnes would retreat into a long instrumental stretch, he’d back away from the mic, his eyelids would lower, and that grin would creep across his face, as if he was checking out of reality and letting his fingers cast a spell.
The magic wasn’t all in Barnes’ fingers, though. It also came from a small table covered with electrical cords and effects pedals that the man treated like his own personal grown-up toy box. Barnes made heavy use of reverb and delay effects, as well as spacey, ambient noises, and he used some sort of pedal that lowered the pitch of his strings, allowing him to play bass lines, which he would record and then play back on a loop. And he seemed to delight in ending his songs by pushing a button that sent all the recorded loops into reverse (like this) for no apparent reason other than just for fun. Which is a better reason than any other, I guess.
Barnes did several songs from his outstanding 2009 album “Pizza Box,” including the lolling title track, the bumpy clatter of “Miss Misty Swan” (complete with some of the most tolerable scat singing I’ve ever heard), and the cheeky love song “TSA.” The prettiest and best song of the night was also from “Pizza Box,” called “Overdue.” Even in a venue with pool tables across the way and a bar ringed with people, it was one of those show-stopping moments where it seems like everything outside the stage lights fades away.
Barnes also played a few songs from his upcoming album “Rocket,” which he pulled out of the suitcase at the back of the stage to offer to the crowd. (The suitcase had a sweater draped across it, as if Barnes rolled into town and headed straight to Maverick’s, bringing inside everything he had with him.) He also declared himself a “tape freak” and showed off some cassettes he had available for sale, hand-made at his kitchen table. “I found some sparkly paper at the copy shop,” Barnes said, pointing at the cover.
And therein lies the considerable charm of Danny Barnes: Mega-talent, DIY enthusiast, smart businessman, oddball experimentalist, and above all, creator of beautiful music. And now, provider of the most understated great show of 2011 in Central Oregon.
Here are a few videos of the night that showcase all the twangy, pretty and jammy sides that make Danny Barnes so interesting:
Also in the music section: King Yellowman returns to town, the Tower of Power show is sold out, guitar hero Scott Pemberton plays Silver Moon, a cappella groups On the Rocks and Divisi will perform to benefit Sisters schools, Celtic folkie Colleen Raney kicks off the new HarmonyHouse season, a Tumalo house concert will benefit the High & Dry Bluegrass Festival, and Innovation Theatre features an eclectic weekend, with Violin vs. Vinyl and Jay Tablet tonight, 2Mex and a hip-hop bill Saturday and 2nd Hand Soldiers playing a benefit for a local guy with cancer on Sunday. Oh, plus we have blurbs on Stephanie Schneiderman, Just People and Viva Le Vox!
On the Rocks will perform at Sisters High School on Oct. 22. We’ll have a short story in Friday’s GO! Magazine, but in the meantime, here’s a press release from the Sisters Starry Nights folks with all the details:
From “The Sing Off” to Starry Nights:
On the Rocks Comes to Sisters on October 22
“Starry Nights Presents On the Rocks” on Saturday, October 22 in the Sisters High School Auditorium. “On the Rocks” is the award-winning men’s vocal a cappella group from the University of Oregon that won over fans nationwide with its high energy, entertaining, choreographed performances last year on the NBC show “The Sing Off.” Their repertoire ranges from contemporary pop, doo-wop classics, hip-hop, R&B, country and standards, as well as original songs.
Lobby doors open at 6 p.m. with music by Sisters Americana Project student performers and a silent auction. The concert begins at 7:00 p.m. with an opening set by Divisi, the acclaimed UO women’s a cappella vocal group, and the SHS Jazz Choir.
The event is a benefit for the Sisters Schools Foundation, raising critical funds for classroom and co-curricular programs at Sisters Elementary, Middle and High Schools.
Sponsored by St. Charles Health System, “Starry Nights Presents On the Rocks” promises to be an evening that all ages will enjoy. Reserved tickets start at $20 and are available online at www.sistersstarrynights.org or at Clearwater Gallery, located at the corner of Cascade and Pine in Sisters. For more information, call 541-549-8521 x 4007.
We’re entering an incredibly busy few weeks on the Central Oregon music scene, especially considering it’s mid-October, a time when local stages used to go virtually quiet. No more.
So I recruited a little help to cover everything going on this week. Below, you’ll find links to our interviews with the rapper Afroman, the newgrass legend David Grisman and indie-folk upstarts The Builders and The Butchers, plus briefs on a ton of other artists. I hope you’ll click around and check it out, or better yet, grab a print copy of The Bulletin today and flip through GO! Magazine.
Afroman returns to the Domino Room Sunday. My colleague Rachael Rees chatted with him about who inspires him, how he gets ready for shows, and what it feels like when many people only want to hear one of your songs a decade after it was a hit.
GO!: Why do you keep coming back to Bend?
Afroman: I love my fans. I have some strongholds in America … because of people who heard “Because I Got High.” It’s been 10 years since “Because I Got High” and cities like Bend are keeping me in the game. Bend has kept with me past “Because I Got High” and is familiar with all my songs.
GO!: What is your ritual before you get on stage to perform?
A: I like to get to town early and get into the mood of hip-hop and what it means to me. I don’t want to shortchange my fans so I smoke blunts and play music while I pull out my best clothes. I go to the barber shop. I do my nails. (I) put on my cologne and buy jewelry cleaner to drop my big chains in. It’s about quality, looking good and rapping good.
David Grisman was here only a year ago, but that was with his quintet in a seated venue. Tonight, he’s back with his bluegrass band at the Domino Room, where you can dance the night away to the Dawg. Grisman was kind enough to answer a few questions via email, and David Jasper wrote a story about him.
It’s quite clear that appreciating the roots of bluegrass is important to Grisman. He says that when he first heard the form, it was initially “the banjo, played in the style of Earl Scruggs, that blew my head off.
“I think bluegrass is a perfectly orchestrated style of instrumental and vocal music, with real roots in the stories and lives of the people,” he said. “It elevates folk music to a virtuosic status and runs the gamut of human expression. Plus, the history of bluegrass is something that occurred in my lifetime, and I had the opportunity to witness it happening and meet and even play with many of its great architects.”
Portland folk-rock band The Builders and The Butchers return to Bend next week to play two shows at McMenamins Old St. Francis School. Rachael Rees asked them a few questions via email, too, and frontman Ryan Sollee responded.
Sollee and his band mates — who came together playing on the streets of Portland — look to the past for both lyrical and musical inspiration, striving for authenticity and sounds that ignore today’s emphasis on commercial viability.
“I have no problem with pop and major radio artists altering their sound digitally. They are playing to an audience that obviously doesn’t care,” Sollee said. “Where I get frustrated is in the indie world when vocals are obviously (Auto-Tuned). It just doesn’t sound very honest to me.”
Elsewhere in this week’s music section: Dave Matthews tells you why you should check out Danny Barnes Thursday night, the Water Tower Bucket Boys and Moon Mountain Ramblers team up at Silver Moon, Innovation Theatre throws a launch party to celebrate its new Madhappy vibe, Tony Pacini and Chuck Redd return to Jazz at Joe’s, and Franchot Tone is moving to California and playing a farewell show tonight, plus The Ben Rice Band, Ali Handal, Hurtbird and more. Oh, and this previous blog post about Birthday Suits. WHEW!
Minneapolis-based power duo the Birthday Suits will light up The Horned Hand Monday (8 p.m., $2-5 suggested donation) with their explosive live show, a wild and kinetic spectacle that has drawn comparisons to Mt. Punkmore acts like the Ramones and the Stooges. Birthday Suits aren’t quite punk, though; certainly the energy and tempo is there, but Japanese imports Hideo Takahashi (guitar) and Matthew Kazama (drums, like this) trade more in big, hooky garage-rock riffs that erupt like solar flares and rumble like thunder. These two dudes know how to make a racket.
Earlier this week, The Bulletin’s Rachael Rees emailed some questions to Takahashi, and he emailed back some answers. Here’s her report, followed by a video that showcases Birthday Suits’ strengths.
Matthew Kazama, left, and Hideo Takahashi are Birthday Suits
Guitarist and vocalist Hideo Takahashi said audiences might not like the sound of Birthday Suits’ music, but he guarantees they’ll feel it was worth paying to watch them play thanks to their physical energy on stage.
In an email interview, Takahashi described the band’s music as “loud music you won’t like,” but someone must like it; Takahashi and drummer Matthew Kazama have toured across the globe in 2011, from Los Angeles to Spain.
The duo is known and sometimes criticized for placing an emphasis on touring rather than spending time in the studio. Since 2005 the band has released two albums — “Cherry Blue” in 2005 and “The Minnesota: Mouth To Mouth” last year — totaling 37 minutes of music.
“You can write good songs and people will tell you they’re good songs,” Takahashi said. “But if you put out good shows, right away people would tell you to your face it was good with all kinds of expression.”
Takahashi said he’s personally inspired by Japanese pop music, old school punk like the Dead Kennedys and Japanese garage-punk such as Teengenerate.
He admitted it’s challenging to write songs without the second guitar and bass often found in rock bands, but said it has channeled the duo’s creativity, ultimately giving them more freedom when writing songs.
“We write songs together,” he said. “The songs I sing I write the lyrics for, the songs (Kazama) sings he does.”
Takahashi said he started Birthday Suits with Kazama when their previous band Sweet J.A.P. fell apart.
“Sweet J.A.P. ended because one of us had different opinions about the band, ” Takahashi said. “I think less chefs in the kitchen worked better.”
This one’s for the underground metal nerds: Heavy-as-a-stone headbangers High on Fire are playing the Domino Room in Bend on Nov. 19.
The band — fronted by Matt Pike of the revered metal band Sleep — plays a pretty awesome blend of chugging traditional metal and druggy stoner/doom stuff, with fantasy elements that course throughout the music. For example, when UltimateGuitar.com asked him about the origins of High on Fire’s 2010 album “Snakes for the Divine,” Pike answered thusly:
“The title ‘Snakes for the Divine’ is based on the premise that Adam and Eve weren’t the first people on Earth, and Adam actually having a wife that was a Reptilian named Lilith. They were the first two people to actually take the reptilian DNA, and make shape shifting human beings that go between the fourth-dimensional, the Anunnaki, and human beings. Eventually, from ancient Mesopotamia, this spawned a thing called the Illuminati – the enlightened ones – coming up through the centuries, and choosing the kings, controlling your media, controlling your banking, blah blah blah. It’s just theory at most points. I thought it’d make a great metal song, so I just went ahead and started writing about that.”
He just went ahead and started writing about that!
(Thanks to a busy schedule, it’s been a month since MusicfestNW took over Portland and I still haven’t published daily recaps of my experience. My bad. Still, I think seeing 20 of the coolest bands going over three days is worth documenting, even belatedly. So below, you’ll find Day 3. Day 1 is here and Day 2 is here. And if you’d like to read my overview of the festival’s highlights that ran in print, click here.)
One of the great things about events like Portland’s MusicfestNW is the shoulder-to-shoulder variety. You can see a funk legend and then a futuristic electro-pop duo and then a throwback ’90s indie rock band like I did on Day 1 of this year’s festival. Or you can see a local pop-rock band followed by a white-hot hip-hop artist followed by a quiet, heart-wringing female singer-songwriter like I did on Day 2. (And that’s without venturing out to the venues that focused on electronic, metal, jazz and country!)
Or you can do what I did on Saturday night of MusicfestNW 2011 and see seven bands that all fall somewhere on the post/punk/psych/rock/metal/drone spectrum.
The part of me that digs that particular musical spectrum has been growing over the past few years; after a lifetime of pop-rock, twang and hip-hop, I have found myself increasingly attracted to the sludgy, spacey, squealy sounds of good ol’ psychedelic rock bands. So I was excited for Saturday’s lineup.
An oasis of calm in the madness of MusicfestNW.
That excitement was tempered, perhaps, by two things. 1) I was tired. By Saturday afternoon, I’d grown cranky and indecisive; I skipped a bunch of sweet day parties with free music and food in favor of shopping for records and sitting, quietly, in a Big Town Hero with a Diet Coke and an alt-weekly in an effort to chill. I am not proud. And 2) That night’s headliner at the Doug Fir, the fine British pop band The Vaccines, canceled just days before the festival because of health issues. There are a lot of great acts at MusicfestNW, but that cancellation took out one of the bands I was most excited to see.
Anyway, Saturday began at 4 p.m. at Pioneer Courthouse Square, “Portland’s living room,” as it’s known, in the middle of downtown. There, one of my favorite artists ever — Matthew Cooper, aka Eluvium — had the unenviable task of playing ambient music for a mid-afternoon crowd on what might have been the hottest day of the year. I loved every second of it, but I can certainly understand how passers-by (and even many folks who showed up early to get a good spot for the evening’s headliner, Explosions in the Sky) might’ve thought, “What the hell is this noise?” Well, that noise is some of the most mind-bendingly beautiful music being made these days by one of the most inventive musicians of the past decade. Here’s a long sample; please note that all I did for most of the time was hang the camera from my wrist while filming. Whatever you see here was the intent.