Eugene’s sunny pop/rock/reggae band Rootdown returns to Bend this weekend to celebrate the release of its new album “Tidal Wave.” I spoke with frontman Paul Wright about Rootdown’s upbeat music and upbeat message.
“Our banner is one of hope and positive momentum,” Wright said. “We want to be about encouraging people and about bringing hope, and sometimes living in Oregon — at least on our side over here — it can be pretty depressing six or seven months out of the year.
“When it’s sunny here, man, we take notice,” he continued. “We kinda bring that same feeling that I get when it’s springtime and summer starts to hit here. I think we bring that with our show and our music.”
Feedback this week focuses on the sudden springtime surge of locally made albums we’re experiencing, and I look ahead at what other local recordings are underway and might be released by the end of the year. Wondering what’s up with Moon Mountain Ramblers, Eric Tollefson, Mosley Wotta, Erin Cole-Baker, Tuck and Roll and a bunch more? Click here to find out.
Elsewhere in this week’s music section, we’ve got the wildly eclectic Vagabond Opera, a showcase of local songwriters Tollefson, Sara Jackson-Holman and Kylan Johnson at McMenamins, the return of the Portland Cello Project, the shred-tastic guitar skills of Jennifer Batten, and some ’90s-influenced indie rock from Slow Trucks, plus a Last Band Standing update.
Per the Les Schwab Amphitheater’s website, tailor-made-for-Bend singer-songwriter Ben Harper will return to the venue on Aug. 26. Tickets will cost $39 plus fees and go on sale May 13. It’ll be the eclectic guitar wizard’s first Bend show since he played for a massive crowd on Memorial Day weekend in 2006.
As long as we’re all here hanging out, here are a few other shows that were recently announced.
–Australian roots/jam band the John Butler Trio will return to town on Aug. 18 to play the Clear Summer Nights series at the Athletic Club of Bend. Tickets go on sale Friday at Newport Avenue Market.
(For those keeping score at home, that’s Butler and Harper both in Bend within eight days of each other. Gonna be a big week for the beanie-wearin’, hackey-sackin’, puka-shellin’, just-chillin’-brah set!)
–On July 22, alt-rock boom survivors Everclear will play outside at the Century Center. And by “survivors” I mean Art Alexakis and a bunch of hired guns who’ve replaced the guys that backed Art in all those videos you remember from the mid-’90s. Tickets and more info is here.
More fun stuff, in chronological order:
–Oregon-based reggae/pop/rock band Rootdown will hold its CD-release show for its new album “Tidal Wave” on May 21 at McMenamins Old St. Francis School. Much more on that in the May 20 GO! Magazine.
–Not 100-percent sure, but I think indie rock icon Rebecca Gates (of The Spinanes) will be at MadHappy Lounge on May 29. Supporting will be a good Seattle band called The Thoughts.
–A solid little Americana band from San Francisco called Or, the Whale is playing June 1 at McMenamins Old St. Francis School. If you dig Neil Young, early Wilco, etc., you should check ’em out.
–Fingerpicking guitar master Tommy Emmanuel will visit the Tower Theatre on June 15. I don’t know much about Emmanuel except that he’s a top-shelf guitarist and a hero of local musician Tim Coffey, and that’s good enough for me. Details here.
–If you don’t know The Devil Whale, you should. They’re a fine rock band from Salt Lake City that’ll play McMenamins on Aug. 17. Buzzy pop-rock a la the Velvet Underground. Good stuff.
The Oxford Hotel in downtown Bend will kick off its new jazz series this weekend with three performances by the Mel Brown Quartet. I spoke with the band’s namesake drummer about the MBQ, one of three bands he plays in at Jimmy Mak’s jazz club in Portland’s Pearl District.
The MBQ came together years ago to play tight, hard-swinging bop in a style somewhat similar to that of one of Brown’s heros, Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers. The group has been described as a quartet of bandleaders, though Pacini is the official music director, leading the MBQ through its vast repertoire of originals and standards “with a different twist,” Brown said.
“(The band) is kind of like my background — the way I was raised, the music I grew up on,” Brown said. “We play straight ahead, and it feels really good. Everybody plays and we listen to each other a lot.
“Plus everybody likes each other,” he continued. “In most bands you get something good going and all of a sudden there’s an internal fight, and that’s because you’re around each other too much. I see some of these guys once a week, so we don’t have time to get mad. Hell, we’re just happy to be playing.”
Brown is a legend in the Northwest jazz scene, and you should click here to read the whole interview. While you’re there, read up on the other jazz happenings this weekend, including a Just Joe’s show at Greenwood Playhouse, and Cascade School of Music’s effort to revive the old Sunday shows at Be Bop Coffee House.
Champagne Champagne's Pearl Dragon performs in the rafters of the Old Mill Music Lounge. Photo by Ben.
This week’s Feedback column focuses on two Seattle hip-hop groups — Champagne Champagne and Mad Rad — that performed last weekend at the Old Mill Music Lounge. There’s weren’t many people there, so chances are decent you weren’t there, so read on …
As is frequently the case in this genre, Champagne Champagne’s DJ (Mark Gajadhar) is a secret, shadowy weapon. As is less frequently the case, he may be their MVP. (MCs Sir Thomas) Gray and Pearl Dragon were solid, engaging performers all night; Gray manned a mic stand like a rock singer, and his partner stalked off the stage more than once to rap from within the crowd. They slayed their best song (so far), “Soda & Pop Rocks,” with its wicked, dubstep-y bass line and shoutouts to the streets of Seattle: “My city’s not pretty it’s gritty,” Pearl Dragon raps. “Top notch when the block’s hot, blow up like soda and pop rocks.”
Elsewhere, the MCs showcased their influences: indie/alt-rock (one tune referenced Sonic Youth’s “Bull in the Heather”) and ’80s-child pop culture (“She looks like Molly Ringwald. She’s beautiful to me.”), while Gajadhar rocked like an octopus working overtime, bouncing from electric guitar to keyboard to tambourine to drum machine to melodica and back. His work was sometimes ominous and murky (“Something Strange”), sometimes bright and poppy (“Hollywood Shampoo” sounds like hip-hop built on a Shins song), and sometimes a sweet and sour collision of video-game bloops and punk-rock squall.
Elsewhere in this week’s music section: Larry and His Flask headline a show to benefit two of its members’ dad, Tribal Seeds and Anthony B (separately) bring reggae to the Domino Room, Rootdown rocks McMenamins, Empty Space Orchestra continues its January residency at Silver Moon, Seattle folkie Sarah Sample plays Sisters, MC Mystic spins Michael Jackson tunes at MadHappy Lounge and local bands Five Pint Mary and Boxcar Stringband play a benefit for BAKESTARR.
Frequency contributor Ethan Maffey checked out the Bend Spring Festival Saturday night and filed this report. Be sure to read all the way through and then check out the video Ethan shot of Eugene’s Rootdown:
This past weekend, the popular Bend neighborhood NorthWest Crossing hosted a scaled-down version of the typical seasonal downtown festival. From the looks of things on Saturday, the smaller festival seemed to be a complete success, and possibly the best indicator was the scheduled music that evening.
First to take the stage was local singer-songwriter Reed Thomas Lawrence, in one of his final Bend shows before his planned relocation to Los Angeles this summer. Still hanging on to a bit of the reggae-pop sound from his last album, the man they call RTL has clearly begun to incorporate more blues and traditional rock into his catalog. New and unreleased material was featured throughout much of his set and, though it was performed with a band put together only days earlier, easily Lawrence is ready for the big city.
After a free-verse introduction by RTL during his final song and a quick stage change-out, Eugene’s reggae/pop/rock band Rootdown — fronted by former solo artist Paul Wright — was ready to finish off the festival crowd and did so with surprising prowess. During Lawrence’s set, Rootdown bassist Jackson Michelson ventured in front of the stage and joined a lady who was enjoying the music with her own brand of dancing. Unsure of whether this represented the headlining band as dorky attention-grabbers or simple lovers of life and fun, I reserved making that call until their set … and it didn’t take long for me to get an answer.
While Rootdown’s music hasn’t pushed any envelopes or carved out brand new sounds, what it has done is present the genre with thoughtful accuracy and brilliant honesty. The performance of tracks from their latest album, “Summer Of Love,” delivered such upbeat messages and rhythms, most festival goers couldn’t help but jump in the air with pumped fists or split index and middle fingers, resonating the peaceful and yet energetic feel of the music. The members of Rootdown are genuine guys who love what they do, communicate that to the audience with every smile and perform each song with the kind of energy found at a Michael Franti concert. Their stage direction is tightly executed and they engage the crowd with charisma that shows off their charm. By the end of the night, I had become a big fan and unashamedly asked them autograph my CD.
If you missed this show, you can still catch an acoustic performance from Rootdown May 9 at The Kilns here in Bend, before they venture as far away as Alaska on their college campus tour … and I suggest you do.