My colleague David Jasper talked to folk singer and father of an impressive brood, Loudon Wainwright III, about the inevitability of getting older … and what comes after that. Here’s an excerpt:
(Wainwright) told GO!, “I had a collection of songs that it seemed like, every single one of them, in one way or another, dealt with the topic. So I threw caution to the wind … my producer Dick Connette (and I) just decided to focus on that particular subject, and I think we did.”
They were conscious of not making things too heavy.
“Certainly, with that subject, it needs a light touch. Otherwise, you just get people bummed out for 50 minutes or however long the record lasts,” he said. “The idea being, we’re going to do a record about death and decay, but it would be entertaining.”
Plus: David Jacobs-Strain at the HarmonyHouse, Giraffe Dodgers and The Brown Edition at McMenamins, Bend d’Vine’s new jazz series, Tony Smiley + Keez + MoWo, The Selfless Riot, Greg Botsford and more. It’s all here.
Every once in a while I look at the music section in GO! and am both proud and amazed at the amount of stuff we get to. We don’t get to it all, but we get to a lot.
This is one of those weeks:
-After years of opening for bigger names and selling out the Tower Theatre, Brandi Carlile is back in Bend Saturday to headline the Les Schwab Amphitheater. Opening act Blitzen Trapper is awesome, too. We talked to both of them.
Elsewhere in this week’s music section: Lauren Mann and the Fairly Odd Folk, DJ Wicked’s all-vinyl weekend, Estocar and The The The Thunder at Silver Moon, nelo at Black Butte Ranch, Back From The Dead at Maragas Winery, Moon Mountain Ramblers at Elk Lake Resort, Dixieland Party Band and Friends in La Pine, The JZ Band, a very busy weekend at The Horned Hand and more!
I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I’m some High on Fire superfan or whatever. But I have to say: I’m as stoked for their show at the Domino Room Saturday night as I have been for any show ’round here in a long time.
Why? I’m not 100-percent sure. I think, mainly, I’m just looking forward to being sonically pummeled for more than an hour. It’s not something we get in Bend all that often, really.
Anyway, be jealous metal nerds … I interviewed Matt Pike!
On Monday, I spoke with Pike about High on Fire’s new material (they’re playing some), the current metal resurgence (he thinks it’s great, obvs) and the burden he feels when making an album. An excerpt:
“We get a little bit nitpicky because of what we’ve put out already,” he said. “It’s like … how do I top the last one? And I can’t put out a bunch of s–t that doesn’t sound quite as good, so … it’s a little more of a pain.”
For all High on Fire’s booming brawn, the trio has its sights set on a lofty long-term goal while also dealing with the same kind of indecision and self-doubt faced by mere mortals like you and me.
“You wanna achieve as much as you can in one lifetime, but at the same time, sometimes it’s harder than it seems, even if you’re a very intelligent person and you know what you’re doing,” Pike said.
“There’s still these moments where you’re like, ‘I don’t know if that’s good enough or not. I can’t tell,’” he said. “And you second-guess yourself.”
Also, be sure to check out the back of today’s GO! Magazine for our alternate High on Fire cover! (But only if you like awesome, evil demon-goats playing guitar with their foot perched on Pilot Butte as the Cascades erupt in the background.)
Elsewhere in this week’s music section: Sisters singer-songwriter Anastacia celebrates her new CD with a show at the HarmonyHouse, Christian Kane brings country to Maverick’s, Hellbound Glory brings a decidedly different kind of country to The Horned Hand, the Homegrown Reunion show gathers a bunch of local talent for a good cause, Tony Smiley returns to town, 2nd Hand Soldiers play Silver Moon, and much more.
Downtown Bend will celebrate Cinco de Mayo in style Thursday as L.A. fusionistas Ozomatli headline a free outdoor celebration on Wall Street. My conversation with band co-founder Ulises Bella focused more on Ozo’s world travels than its music.
But it’s the band’s role as U.S. Department of State-designated Cultural Ambassadors that sparks a fire in Bella. When he talks about Ozomatli’s music, he sounds excited. When he talks about its overseas work, he sounds inspired.
Since 2007, the band has traveled to Nepal, India, Myanmar, Madagascar, Jordan, Tunisia, South Africa, Egypt, Mongolia and China on official government business, playing free public concerts, conducting workshops and doing community outreach in, as Bella puts it, “places no bands go to.”
To wit: Last summer, Ozomatli performed for thousands of people in a public square in Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar. They were the first Western band to play there. Ever.
“We feel like some pioneers. Like, yo, we’re gonna go into this country and … maybe a handful of people might know who we are,” Bella said. “In a weird way, it’s a great litmus test for letting the music stand on its own.
“In a lot of ways, there’s something in our music, especially rhythmically, that you can latch onto and be like, ‘Hey, I kind of know this. This kind of seems familiar to me,’” he continued. “We start playing and immediately the reaction is for the most part overwhelmingly positive.”
Elsewhere in this week’s jam-packed music section, we’ve got short stories on Cash’d Out and The Staxx Brothers, plus The Northstar Session, Mad Rad, The Anvil Blasters, Sara Jackson-Holman, Super Adventure Club, Brandi Carlile, Floater, Tony Smiley and Marv Ellis, the Acorn Project and more.
Portlander Tony Smiley will bring his flashy one-man-band show back to Bend’s MadHappy Lounge tonight. I spoke with him about folks’ misconceptions about what he does, especially among the people who book music venues.
Smiley plays all over Portland and the Northwest, and has made several trips to Bend over the past couple of years.
Getting his foot in the door at a new venue can be tough, but once he’s in, he’s always asked back, he said.
“They have this whole idea in their head (that it’s) not going to fly. (They say,) ‘We’re a rock club!’” Smiley said. “It’s like, just give me a chance. And once they see me, they’re like, ‘Oh, well, I had no idea. I expected some guy with cymbals between his knees and an accordion under his arm.’”
Elizabeth Cook performs at McMenamins in Bend. Photo by Ben.
In today’s Feedback column, I review a couple of midweek shows from late January. L.A. roots-rockers Dawes and Nashville country singer Elizabeth Cook were both great.
… the charming Cook had everyone eating out of the palm of her hand. Such is the power of a sassy gal with a sugary Southern accent and a sharp sense of humor. After a warm-up set by her husband, the renowned guitarist Tim Carroll, Cook took over the evening and commanded the room, bouncing back and forth between her songs, hilarious ruminations on topics ranging from video games to Vanna White, and the occasional well-chosen cover.
She dedicated the Louvin Brothers’ “Cash on the Barrelhead” to Charlie Louvin, who died earlier that day. She did a heart-stoppingly pretty version of the Velvet Underground’s “Sunday Morning.” And she strapped on some percussive shoes for a clogging routine to accompany Carroll on a train song called “The T.V.G.”
I hope you’ll read the whole thing — including plenty on Dawes at the Silver Moon — by clicking here.
Elsewhere in this week’s music section: Hillstomp is in town to do a two-night stand at Silver Moon, the Ty Curtis Band plays the Domino Room, Minnesota-based indie-folkers the Caroline Smith Duo are at Parrilla, Tom Russell continues the Sisters Folk Festival’s Winter Concert Series and a bunch of reggae acts are gathering to celebrate Bob Marley’s birthday. Happy b-day, Bobby!
The main feature story in the music section of Friday’s GO! Magazine will tell you everything you need to know about Tony Smiley, a Portland-based multi-instrumentalist who uses looping pedals to build robust rock songs that go way beyond the kind of lightweight fare you often hear from loopers.
So, yeah, pick up GO! on Friday and read up on Smiley. In the meantime, this video provides a terrific, high-def look at exactly how he does his thing. Smiley made this video as an application to a national looping contest, in which he ended up placing third.
Built to Spill is coming to Bend on Wednesday! Very exciting. I rambled on a bit on the band’s amazing three-album run in the late 1990s.
… from 1994 to 1999, Boise, Idaho’s Built to Spill — formed nearly two decades ago by Doug Martsch, torchbearer for the Northwest music scene — put together a magical three-album run with “There’s Nothing Wrong With Love,” “Perfect From Now On” and “Keep It Like A Secret.” Each is wonderful in its own way; “Love” spills over with compact, punchy pop songs, “Perfect” sprawls like prog-rock updated for the 21st century, and “Secret” is a splendid marriage of the two, 10 tracks of dreamy, delightful pop-rock bliss.
The common thread is Martsch’s distinctive style: psychedelic guitar heroism more associated with ’70s jams than ’90s indie rock and a lullaby voice that scales Neil Young’s helium-heights, backed by a band with a no-nonsense approach to playing. Built to Spill doesn’t trade in showy stage goofs to draw you in. No, they came to rock, ever so gently, and then build up to a melt-your-face crescendo, and that’s exactly what they’re going to do.
(Someone called WoodyDee got the above footage of Billy Bragg soundchecking before his show in Bend. Very cool.)
I went and saw Billy Bragg at the Tower Theatre on election night and enjoyed myself quite a bit. The guy is nothing if not entertaining. Here’s an excerpt of my review:
… I was most struck by Bragg’s strong, distinctive voice, and his way with melody. At best, I’m a casual fan of the man’s recorded work, so many of the songs were new to me. But all were tied together by an easygoing charm that belied whatever their lyrical theme happened to be, whether it was Japanese-American internment during World War II, the power of a union, or the “misanthropic, misbegotten merchants of gloom.” Or, you know … a pretty girl.
Bragg was subdued and soulful on “Farm Boy,” and “Shirley” was a fun little slice of sunny pop. He did a few Woody Guthrie numbers, showed off his guitar skills on “The Milkman of Human Kindness,” and provided the prettiest moment of the night through the entrancing, arpeggiated chords of “Tank Park Salute.”
Oregon hard-rock legends Floater are back in town this weekend, this time for two shows — electric tonight and acoustic on Saturday — at Mountain’s Edge. Frontman Rob Wynia agreed to an e-mail interview and then answered all my questions in a way that surely set a record for correct grammar usage in a band interview. Here’s a piece of it:
GO!: Portland’s music scene has long had a strong reputation, perhaps never more so than right now. And yet Floater has always sort of existed outside the normal channels of press praise, scene backslapping, etc. Do you ever look at what’s happening there and sort of gloat at the fact that Floater has achieved what it’s achieved without necessarily playing by the traditional rules?
RW: At first (years ago) I felt hurt by the fact that no matter what we did the press seemed to either hate Floater or simply ignore us. But the shows are such a total blast, and the fans are so vocal and supportive that eventually you just say f–k it. The flip side is that on the rare occasions when you are praised in the press you have to sort of ignore that too. You can’t have it both ways. If everybody hated us then we’d play in our garage for each other. But since it seems in general to only be critics, then screw ’em.
Also in this week’s music section: indie-folk singer Sean Hayes plays a Bend yoga studio, one-man rock show Tony Smiley returns to town, can’t-miss Michiganders Frontier Ruckus play the Wednesday-night gig at McMenamins Old St. Francis School and local fave Eric Tollefson hits Silver Moon, plus The Luce Cruz tonight at Parrilla Grill, Allan Byer on Saturday at Cork Cellars in Sisters, and the Thumbprint Collective hosts an “Open Lab” Wednesday at Bendistillery Martini Bar. And if you’ve found nothing to suit you so far, you can always find more in our complete music listings.
Suzanne Vega plays at the Tower Theatre on Sunday. I talked to her about her new “Close-Up” project, in which she’s re-recording dozens of her songs. Here’s an excerpt:
Re-recording the songs acoustically was in part an economic decision. But Vega also liked the idea of reinventing them.
“I had no interest in doing a cover version of ‘Luka.’ It was like, ‘No. No thank you,’” she said. “Nor did I want to do a sort of Suzanne Vega-lite version. So I thought, ‘Let’s just do stark recordings of the absolute minimum.’”
Vega’s an interesting subject. You should read the whole thing here.
In Feedback, I launch my campaign to get reunited indie-rock kings Pavement to the Les Schwab Amphitheater in Bend.
Of course there are people out there who are stoked to hear the Steve Miller Band is coming to Bend. But those people aren’t in my Internet-o-sphere. In there, the team behind the Schwab needs a pick-me-up. They need a booking that’ll get the Twitterati buzzing. They need to reel in a big, cred-building life raft with plenty of room for those who’ve felt neglected for the past year and a half.
They need Pavement.
It’s unlikely, I’m sure. But I’m compelled to put the idea out there and see if we can’t get a snowball rolling on this thing. I’ve had a few dozen people tell me, both personally and via cyber-waves, that they’d love, love, love to see Pavement in Bend. So let’s put our signatures where our mouths are: I’m going to set up a blog post on Frequency like a petition to get Pavement in our town, and all you have to do is go there and leave a comment showing your support for the idea. Better yet, pledge to buy tickets.
If you pass it around to your friends — friends in Bend, Redmond, Sisters, Eugene, Portland, Boise, and so on — and get them to sign it, who knows what might happen?
Finally, local boys A.M. Interstate have completed their new album “Love Your Sniper.” They’ll play much of it Saturday night at Silver Moon. Here’s a bit about it:
Although it’s not out yet, the brothers are shopping the album around to record labels, looking for a deal. But a quick trip through an advance copy finds the Ericksons moving further from the cosmic Americana sound of their past work and more toward a psych-roots-rawk feel, like The Beatles jamming with Neil Young in a dive bar where the jukebox plays My Bloody Valentine’s “Loveless” on repeat, eternally. (That would be a sweet bar.)
“Sniper” has a sense of momentum that the meandering “Kimono Dragon” sometimes lacked; two listens in, it sounds like the best work of the band’s catalog so far.
Also in the music section this week: Baltimore roots-rock band The Bridge, Floater frontman Rob Wynia plays a solo show, and Blackstrap, Trina Hamlin, Tony Smiley and a bunch of locals playing a benefit for CASA. And, as always, you can find more in our complete music calendar.