Category Archives: Notable Performances

Show reports

Don’t Tell Mary rocks the Tigardville Station

Don't Tell MaryIf you are looking for an excuse to get out on the dance floor to some in-your-face Rock & Roll and driving Blues, then you need to seek out Don’t Tell Mary, a local full-throttle rock cover band. Drawing from their collective roots in folk, heavy metal, classic rock, grunge, and blues, this band can put together a set of music that will make you feel like a kid again. Singer-songwriter Jennifer Swick-Birkland and vocalist Beth Britton front the band with veteran players Jeff Birkland on lead guitar, Bart Kilpatrick on bass, and Mike Miller on drums.

With a name like Don’t Tell Mary, you know there’s got to be a story. However, until Mary is told, we will never know what it is, beyond Mary being Jennifer’s best friend. Saturday night, November 3rd, at the Tigardville Station Pub & Grill, I heard a set of music originally done by The Beatles, KT Tunstall, Stevie Wonder, Rolling Stones, The Romantics, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Talking Heads, Tracy Chapman and Led Zeppelin. In the midst of all that, they tossed in this little gem Jennifer wrote for her daughter called Little Girl.

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Pretty Gritty plays a busy Rock Creek Tavern on a Monday!

Pretty Gritty is a Portland-based Rootsy-Americana duo formed 8 years ago in Maryland. Before moving to Portland in 2014, they sold their self-produced and self-titled CD (2012) and the River EP (2013) at shows. They were followed by the release of the Lonely Road EP in 2016 and the Full length CD Seven Year Itch in March 2018.

Sarah and Blane enjoyed a month-long Monday-evening residency at McMenamins Rock Creek Tavern in October. I was lucky enough to grab a bar stool on their final evening. They were pleased to see the larger-than-usual turnout that evening. I understand that they are already booked again for next October. Nothing like planning ahead!

There is nothing flashy or superficial about these guys. Every song in the set I heard, had a purpose and a message (which was overwhelmingly positive). No string of good-love-gone-bad songs from these two. The set was made up of about half and half originals and covers, which I like since you can learn a lot about an artist from their treatment of familiar songs, as well as their own.

So, join me at the bar for a few minutes and have a listen to “You And Me”.

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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?