Two local bands, The Cabin Project and Camp Crush combined forces this past January 31st at Doug Fir Lounge to release a new full-length album and a new EP, respectively (check out Ramune’s review of the Cabin Project’s new album, Decenter, here). Both bands are defined by their strong emotive and melodic songwriting, but each has very different genre hallmarks.
Camp Crush, a synth-pop duo consisting of Jen Deale on keyboards and lead vocals and Chris Spicer on drums, quickly got the room bobbing with tight rhythms and big, anthemic choruses. Their sound combines the icy textures and dance beats of new wave with the bombast of 80s pop and hair metal. I couldn’t help but imagine some of their emphatically belted choruses being delivered by Bonnie Tyler or Foreigner. The duo also brought out bassist Benjy Rickard (Labradora) and guitarist David Ricardo (The Zags, The Cool Whips) for a few enjoyably dramatic songs near the end of their set. Both Rickard and Ricardo played on Camp Crush’s new EP, Run.
The Cabin Project quickly drew in the audience with their ethereal Americana songs that combine the intimacy of folk music with the orchestral flair of indie pop. Frontwoman Katie Sawicki’s warm, reverberant guitar tones blended effortlessly with two part vocal harmonies (from Sawicki and drummer/vocalist Zanny Geffel), melodic basslines from Kelly Clifton, and sweeping, pedal-modified violin phrases from Jean Mastaler. Additionally, Geffel’s dynamic drums perfectly complemented the melodic and emotional swells of the tunes. Sawicki took some time during the set to speak about the meaning and and intention of their new songs as personal reflections of queer women living in a trying and frightening political climate, and many of the attendees were longtime fans who sang along passionately with songs, adding to the intimacy and connectedness of the concert experience.
It has been fun to watch Tara Velarde change and grow as a musician these past 5+ years. After graduating with a BA in Music Education from Pacific University at Forest Grove in 2013, Tara wasted no time forming a band and playing out. That band was The Tara Novellas formed with her brother Jamos and sister Cally. As she got more involved in the vibrant Portland music community, the initial band morphed a bit, and then released a 4-track EP.
During this time, Tara sported her signature short haircut, the likeness of which was painted on their bass drum. We joked at the time about how she could never change her hair. A while later, Tara dropped the band name, reinvented herself as a solo, and released a full length CD Get Out and Walk. You can hear her do many of these tracks live today. Last year, she grew out the hair and released two singles Touch You and Willow Baby both of which we’re pleased to be playing on Portland Notes Radio.
In keeping with the theme of change and growth, here’s a video of Tara’s “A Man” at McMenamins Grand Lodge.
As if she didn’t have enough to do, Tara started a new project in the form of a podcast called “Making the Move”. It is all about independent musicians making the move into music full time. The goal is to provide relevant insights for musicians, and a bit of inside-baseball for the rest of us. Find it on Spotify, and Apple Podcasts. The podcast is hosted by Vortex Magazine. Stay up to date at the @makingthemove Instagram page.
Mick Schafer grew up singing in the church, and starting at age 20, has been on a long and fascinating musical road. Fortunately for us, this local, accessible, music legend lands at Clark’s Bistro & Pub in Hillsboro once a month or so. Mick’s work has been compared to “a mash up of Los Lobos, Lyle Lovett, and Elvis Costello with a gravelly soulful voice all his own. He mixes roots with love and loss to deliver an inspired connection with his audience and their life experience.” His eclectic album One Silken Scarf was released in 2017, which I encourage you to check out.
Mick is remarkably open about both his successes and failures in life, which can be seen in his on-stage banter and his music. In this video clip, he talks and sings about his romantic life, which has been pretty messy over the years. Since the same is true for most of us, this is how Mick brings it right home.
When a band plays a combination of origials and covers, you get to learn a lot about them. What I learned recently about the the JT Wise Band is they have a lot of heart and talent. This quartet, made up of JT Wise on electric guitar, Margaret Wise on bass, Jim Stein on rhythm/slide guitar and Ken Woodside on drums, play Rock and Americana music by Townes Van Zant, Gram Parsons, Richard Thompson, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, and Lucinda Williams. Probibly their biggest influence is The Grateful Dead, and you’ll likely hear one of those tunes in each set. While I’m not a huge Dead fan, this quartet captures that vibe better than anyone else I’ve heard, causing me to appreciate why their are so many Dead-heads out there!
It didn’t take long for this quartet to grow and captivate the basement venue of McMenamins Grand Lodge. Margaret is the songwriter, and in this clip, she describes how she came to write “Portland”.
The Colin Trio is songwriter Colin Hogan on vocals, guitar, and piano; Brian Link on bass; and Matt Ramsdell on drums and percussion. The Trio combines jazzy, country blues with Southern soul, led by Colin’s sultry vocals. In early December, they played the middle set of the evening, as a guest of Tara Valarde, who enjoys a once-a-month residency at The Grand Lodge, and often has guests in tow. The trio’s music is being played on the radio stream, and Colin was interviewed by Kelly Jones in early 2017.
This being Colin’s first visit to The Grand Lodge, there were a couple of things she didn’t know. First, the “Garage Door” location actually *has* a garage door. Knowing this would have made trekking in the gear much easier for her and the band. Second, there is an outdoor soaking pool down the hall, so it is commonplace to see people wandering about in white bath robes. With those wandering robes in mind, let’s join The Colin Trio on stage doing “Simple Sweet Something”.