One of the most delightful things about summer in Portland is enjoying free live music outside on the Doug Fir patio on Sunday afternoons. Bevelers haven’t played out in a year, so seeing them play in the Pickin’ on Sundays series was a rare treat. The duo, Lee Aulson and Adria Ivanitsky, are integral to Portland’s music scene. Lee has been a booker for several music venues and hosted a singer songwriter showcase at Vivace coffeehouse for many years, which even featured Taylor John Williams before he reached fame on the Voice. More recently, Lee and Adria have separately formed new projects, Lee and the Bees and Cool Schmool, though they still enjoy playing together.
During their patio set, they each took turns playing a single guitar, playing simple tunes and singing beautiful harmonies. Adria claims that anyone can go on tour with two chord songs like they did, but that’s because the chords are just the backdrop for their beautiful harmonies. In fact, this live acapella performance of their song, Icebergs, proves that guitar chords are entirely optional.
Tumbledown’s latest release In Between kicks off with a song called Friend in Texas that immediately conjures up an image that suits this 5 piece band. This is Americana that will have you humming and tapping your foot within minutes, if not seconds. The opening tune includes a harmonica jam that pretty much settles any questions about what this band is about. Even if you don’t have a friend in Texas, you’ll find yourself singing along.
Tumbledown has two lead singers, Tyler South and Scott Robertson, collaboratively songwriting, and swapping lead and harmony singing. Drummer, John Markealli, lays down a solid beat for the rest of the band to build upon, creating catchy dynamics that are fresh, yet immediately familiar. Bass player, Brian Panulla, adds a third harmony and occasional lap steel guitar.
Fun fact: this band has a deep TriMet connection. Brian joined in 2014 after seeing them play at a TriMet function. Keyboard player Dave Whipple, who works at TriMet, joined in 2015 after seeing them play at a TriMet function. Scott also works at TriMet. It seems like TriMet functions are a great place to meet friendly musicians!
It’s clearly evident that the band takes inspiration from Tom Petty, Neil Young, and other icons of the songwriting craft. While the band has over 30 songs, they chose to focus on producing what they felt were their best 7 songs for this debut EP, which explains why it is so strong from start to finish.
Tumbledown also sounds great in person. Catch them live on Saturday, September 9, at Skyline Tavern or on Tuesday, September 19, at McMenamin’s White Eagle.
When listening to The Lower 48 it’s impossible not to be stunned by their beautiful harmonies. It’s no surprise to learn that this 60’s influenced pop band started out as bona fide folk singers. Their first album, Everywhere to Go, from 2009 reflects a simple acoustic band with impeccable three part harmonies. Since then, the Lower 48 have turned their harmonies away from folk and towards psychedelic pop. The result is simply brilliant.
The Lower 48 list the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band as a specific influence, as well as the Kinks, but in my mind I think the closest comparison might be the early 90’s also-from-Minneapolis band, Trip Shakespeare’s album, Lulu. All three multi-instrumentalists and vocalists, Sarah, Ben, and Nick, have lived in Portland for eight years, but they still play most of their gigs while on tour. Their stage show is a must see.
Check out this live clip of The Lower 48 performing their song, Rabbit Hole, recorded at Alberta Street Pub on August 12, 2017. You can pick up their most recent album, Hot Fool, through on-line streaming, CD, and vinyl, and catch their upcoming gig at Rontom’s on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, Sept 3, 2017.
Leona announced her full length solo album, 2:11, on Feb 11, 2017 with this post “please talk to me about these songs, they were all made in the last 2 months and 11 days and in response to the situation of the world”.
The 11 songs on this album are spare of instrumentation, with only a minimal bass or piano as a backdrop for her delicate airy voice. Ghost-like falsetto backing vocals are distorted and distant, evoking nostalgia for an era gone by, like an old transistor radio. The lyrics might be the inner voices echoing in her head, exposed and provocative.
In the first track, Blood, Leona sings “I am a story wrapped up in skin. I’m ready… to begin.” My favorite song might be kingbabybrave (listen below), whose words “I want to be brave like a white boy” trigger questions about social forces and insecurities. The album leads the listener along an engaging path towards the uplifting harmonies in destiny beckons where the lyrics “if you take me I won’t pretend I don’t want to go” are characteristically bare and honest. The closing song, night thoughts, neatly wraps up this masterpiece with the words “you say tomorrow like it’s a guarantee”.
There are some open questions-for example, recording and production credits are missing, and the third track ends with a 90 second silence that isn’t obviously deliberate. Even so, 2:11, unusual in its raw beauty, is what art is to me.
The one-word band name “Airport” immediately begs the question, “what are they going to sound like?” The name Airport alludes to Jet, and to other one-word band names like Television- but I am so off the mark. What Airport sounds like is floating in the sky, stretched out in comfort above the clouds.
This band plays songs with a relaxed tempo, an occasional pedal steel guitar, and dreamy vocals that you could fall asleep to. In fact, track six is entitled “Sleeping”. Their vibe might be called country music shoe gaze (they cite MBV as an influence). It is understated hypnotic sweetness. Their strength is a consistency where one song sounds like another, creating a unified feel that you quickly get used to and fall in love with.