Putting on a Benefit, Putting on a Costume, Putting on a Show

Halloween tribute nights have become a beloved tradition in many live music scenes. One of the most compelling aspects of the Halloween season is the culturally sanctioned opportunity to try on a different identity. For bands, it’s an excellent opportunity to embody a band that’s inspired them -or at the very least, entertained them. For audiences, it’s a chance to revel in familiar hits and the spectacle of retro costumes and comical wigs. The Trick or Treat! Tribute Night at Turn! Turn! Turn! On Friday, October 26th was no exception. It was a fundraiser for the local non-profit Not OK PDX, a women-run organization that runs training workshops aimed at empowering local businesses and service industry staff to recognize and interrupt sexual violence, and I’m happy to report that the house was packed!

The event featured 6 different local melodic garage pop bands, all of whom are somehow involved in Portland’s Nuggets Night community, masquerading as other bands: The Shriekers performed as The Oberlin Spires, Metropolitan Farms performed as XTC, The Cool Whips performed as The Monkees, Mink Shoals performed as The Bee Gees, The Mean Reds performed as The Go-Gos, and Creature Party performed The B-52s. The event organizers ran a very tight ship, creating a smooth show going experience for such a packed bill: sets were fairly short -probably about 20 minutes, the show started at 8 on the dot, and Rachel Good, a.k.a. DJ Stonebunny kept spirits high with garage rock classics during the brief change-overs between sets. The only drawback to this was that I missed the first set by The Shriekers due to my tardiness. It also meant I had to sketch extra fast, though the pace matched the upbeat nature of most of the music.

I was excited to see Metropolitan Farms play as XTC. I’ve long been a big fan of their charismatic, jangly sound and front-man Josh Mayer’s songwriting, which features intricate melodies and counterpoint, and a wry sense of humor. Many of these qualities are reminiscent of the arty pop rock of XTC, so it seemed like a great fit, and they didn’t disappoint. They powered through tricky arrangements and delivered bright, harmonizing vocals with aplomb. They also made sure to feature some Andy Partridge style glasses, and at least one puritan costume.The Cool Whips’ tight harmonies, jaunty stage presence, and A+ wig (and beanie) game flawlessly channeled the effervescent charm of the iconic made-for-TV pop group, The Monkees. They also gave a tight yet effusive instrumental performance and wore delightfully campy late sixties garb, making for a thoroughly enjoyable set of melodic pop candy.I was really delighted by Mink Shoals’ shimmering performance of Bee Gees tunes, many from the earlier, torchier portion of their catalog. This was an excellent choice, as lead singer Melissa Bell’s smooth vocals were perfectly suited for earnest Robin Gibb style crooning. I also really appreciated the expertly tied white aviator scarves donned by multiple band members, subtly adding to the soft rock aesthetic.Next, The Mean Reds took to the stage in perfectly matching pink leotards, tutus, tiaras, and opera gloves, forming a near perfect recreation of the Go-Go’s Vacation album cover –sans waterskis. They tore through their high energy pop catalog with garage rock gusto as the audience bopped along.The evening concluded with the presence of a very tall beehive wig and a frenetic set of B-52s classics performed by the festive, local monsters in Creature Party. A driving drumbeat and jittery micro-synth immediately got the crowd moving as they opened with the classic “Rock Lobster.” This energy continued all the way through their set, including its twist ending: an original Creature Party song, which turned out to be the perfect novelty garage rock treat!

Andy Harrison explores possibilities at Clark’s Bistro and Pub

Andy Harrison is a prolific songwriter with 18 CD releases to his name so far. While his music is certainly entertaining, he wants it to be transformational to those who hear it, helping people find lasting happiness in their lives. You won’t hear songs about good-love-gone-bad from Andy, but songs about possibilities for a better future. I have captured a good example at Clark’s Bistro and Pub from Friday, October 26.

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I’ve been personally stalking Andy for ten years now. My first journal entry about him was when he played the Venetian in Hillsboro on October 24, 2008. He was doing mostly covers there, including a rousing rendition of Stayin’ Alive! I have enjoyed watching Andy morph into a fine singer/songwriter and motivational speaker. Of course, he would tell the possibilities for tomorrow are without limits.

Sketches from Noggin Festival 2018

I was lucky enough to catch some live music on Saturday, October 20th at Noggin Fest, a two day multi-media, multi-disciplinary festival benefitting local art and science education non-profit NW Noggin. In addition to a stellar music line-up, the festival featured neuroscience lectures, an art auction, science workshops, and raffles. I got a chance to do some sketches of long-standing Portland bands, When We Met and Human Ottoman.

When We Met is a duo that performs effusive, punkish power pop anthems with Melissa Dorres on bass and Brian Casey on guitar. Both members sing and are also accompanied by an arsenal of samples and drum programming, which gives them a surprisingly big sound for such a small group. The two also bounce around stage, creating an engaging and electrifying performance.

Human Ottoman is a band I have seen in a few times and with slightly different instrumental configurations, though they’ve always had the common thread of Grayson Fiske on Vibraphone, Susan Lucia on drums, an inventive, jazz fusion inspired sound, and an affable, humorous stage presence. This evening, they were joined by a new electric bass player who effortlessly created tight jazz/funk grooves with Lucia while Fiske delivered experimental vibraphone sounds that answered the question: what if Lionel Hampton had a sweet, sweet pedal board and was also in outer space?

A triple bill at Eastside Bar and Grill

The Dizzies are a self described alt rock band that came down from Olympia Washington to rock the Eastside Bar and Grill last week, on a great bill with creative bands. Playing a set of longer groovy songs with plenty of room to jam out, they toed a fantastic line between Blind Melon, Led Zeppelin and Mr Bungle. There wasn’t much room for applause because this band pretty much steamrolled through their whole set, song after song, maybe only taking a break once or twice to very earnestly thank the intimate crowd for watching them play during their tour. They started off a show of three piece bands, each taking on a different path on rock and roll. You can check them out HERE.

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Labido Cornucopia was up next, choosing to ditch the bass guitar in favor of two killer guitar players backed by a good, strong drummer. I might be dating myself here, but one of the first things I thought when I looked these folks up on the internet was that they reminded me of the band that both featured in the theme song and existed in the world of classic Nickelodeon show “Pete & Pete”. Now don’t get me wrong, that isn’t speaking to any immaturity of the band I was watching: despite Polaris being on a teen episodic adventure show, they were an amazing band in the 90’s. Labido Cornucopia got the energy of the crowd up with their unison shout-singing vocals, punk rhythms, and good humor. All three members were really great at their instruments, but what really got to me was all of the chances that the lead vocalist took with their vocals. Ranging from a punk shout to a theatrical falsetto and everything in between, you never knew quite what was coming next, and it was that tension and drama that really kept me engaged with the set. They were pretty mathy with their instrumentals, but not quite “noodly”, which was a breath of fresh air, like some love child between The Pixies and Coheed and Cambria. It was amazing to see a band just unabashedly be themselves! You can check out their music HERE.

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Last up in the night was The Carotids, which took another turn in instrumentation by having the lead vocalist sit behind the drumset. These folks just brought the pure, unfiltered and raw punk energy, with almost a bit of a hardcore metal edge thrown in for good measure. One thing that really tied all of these bands together was that they all seemed to have a really good time performing, nobody took themselves too seriously, and it made the show that much more enjoyable. The Carotids wrecked what was left of the Eastside Bar and Grill with their power chord driven rock and roll, and you can catch their music HERE.

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Brother Not Brother at McMenamins Grand Lodge

Brother Not Brother (formerly Hammerhead) is an indie folk-rock band made up of Tyler Robinson and Andrew Harrison, who have been rocking the Portland music scene since 2015. In addition to their dualing-guitar thing, Andrew (on the left) has a tambourine on a foot pedal while Tyler (on the right) has a bass drum, allowing them to build songs big, then suddenly bring them down, which they do to a T. The other amazing thing about these guys, though related, is the wide range of moods they can create, and their ability to adapt to where they are performing. Saturday, October 13, at the Garage Door inside McMenamins Grand Lodge, they had a quiet, attentive audience. Their music sets were created for them.

My favorite song from the set was “Modern-Day Astronaut”, but I chose to show you “Death Of Eden” in the video because it demonstrates the many moods they can create, even in a short, five-minute time span.

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