PDX Pop Now Several Months Later

I got to see a few acts I had never seen live before at this past summer’s PDX Pop Now festival. It was a quintessential PDX Pop Now experience with hot sun beating down on a multi-generational crowd, musicians in slightly self-conscious athletic wear battling each other in a match of Rigsketball, and the soothing scent of food cart burritos wafting through the air. It was also a quintessential PDX Pop Now experience, because it featured transformative performances from local artists and little kids schooling all us jaded adults on how to interpretive dance our hearts out.

I first caught Bryson Cone, a psychedelic/dream pop act with a perfect combination of catchy, inventive songwriting and lush, expansive arrangements. The band also featured members of prestigious local bands Cat Hoch and Reptaliens and everyone onstage had an undeniable chemistry.

Next Moorea Masa and the Mood effortlessly blended folk and R & B elements with a super tight but also highly emotive set. Most notable were the stellar vocals from both Masa herself and her backup singers, who at one point stilled the crowd with a stirring a cappella number.

Finally, I witnessed a performance by experimental electronic musician Omari Jazz. He lists his hometown on his Facebook page as The Chronosynclastic Infundibulum. This seems appropriate for someone whose beats and soundscapes have the ability to make the listener feel unfettered by the constructs of time and space. The music undulated in mass of interwoven polyrhythms and novel timbres. It was at once a party and a meditation as the crowd bobbed and swayed and, I assume, let their minds drift into space for a while.

CD release for “Complimentary Colors in Dandyland”

On Oct 12th Complimentary Colors, a duo of amazing and brilliant married musical ladies, set the scene at Mississippi Pizza to release their new album named “Complimentary Colors in Dandyland”. The EP is a collaborative effort with the folks at Dandyland Studios, and consists of 5 songs deep in the heart of wonderful folk songwriting and queer tradition. The show was truly one for the whole family, as was evident as you walked in the door: parents with happy young children found their seats with delicious pizza, anxiously awaiting the start of the performance.

Up first was Stephanie Strange, who also plays out under “Strange and The Familiars”. With smart lyrics, smart guitar work, and a great sense of humor, Stephanie easily found room in her set and songs to switch between plucky folk singing, and a sometimes vibrato-led pseudo-operatic inspired voice! She used a lot of great ideas for her lyrical ideas, and had a great mastery of “mood” when it came to what chords she decided to play. With perfect unity between her voice and her instrument, she was able to quickly paint worlds and experiences for us to exist within. She mentioned to me that playing solo was “always a challenge”, as to how easy or hard it is to get a crowd with you emotionally, but the kids in the crowd seemed to help. She says, “I love playing for kids…you never have to wonder if they’re into it and they’re not self conscious. and then of course opening for Complimentary Colors was wonderful. I’d never seen them perform. I fell in love with both of them halfway through the first song.”

Link to video

And it seemed that was the case for everyone in the room. After Stephanie Strange took a bow, and a short break for getting set up, Camille Rose and Ashley Elizabeth from Complimentary Colors took the stage with a small battalion of tiny instruments (all whom had their own names!). They immediately became a presence in the room with their amazing vocal harmonies which ranged from angelic to a deep bluesy growl. These two performers pack quite a punch with their wide range of expressive and creative outlets, making use of great songwriting ideas, tiny pianos, ukuleles, singing bowls, and the best god damn kazoo playing I have ever heard in my life (and I have heard a lot!). They even had their pal and Dandyland Producer Joey Helpish hop up on stage with them to beatbox, and create a really interesting mix of sound textures. The two made note throughout the night that they had been sick throughout the week and singing was tough, but I couldn’t really notice. If that was their vocal quality when they were just recovering from strep throat, I am not sure I would be able to handle the god-like attributes of their golden tones at full strength! Ending the set on an empowering, acapella song-chant which was held up by a beat of playing pattycakes, singing into each others eyes, Complimentary Colors had the whole pizza joint singing along by the end.

Link to video

The show overall had an amazing, warm, vibrant feeling of community to it. It was especially awesome to see a show at a space that was so child and kid-friendly, at a time that was accessible to anyone who loves music but also has the responsibilities to their family. Camille Rose felt it was a very important issue to her, she commented, “I work with kids and young adults during my day job. Ashley and I have many dear friends with kids, babies to teens. One of the most important things to both of us is our community and we think it’s awful that the families we know never get to come out and see our shows. For these reasons, it was important to us that the EP release show was a celebration that everyone could attend. Plus, it’s great to see NEW young people get involved with our music. Maybe that’s why we love the tiny instruments so much.”

Everyone else loves your tiny instruments too, as well as the amazing new release of wonderful music. Check out “Complimentary Colors in Dandyland” on Soundcloud and Spotify!

Editor’s Note: We welcome Ruune as our newest contributing writer! See his bio on our About page.

Three for the show at The Firkin in June

This past June, I got a chance to draw some sketches at a characteristically eclectic show at The Firkin, Portland’s coziest dive bar venue. Devin Brown, known for fronting local garage rock band Devy Metal, played a stripped down solo set of his inventively melodic pop rock songs, followed by the moody but effusive sounds of CHAD, a new project of Sarah Lane from The Late Great. Finally,  DMN rounded out the evening and transformed the bar into a mini dance club with their glossy, energetic synth-pop.

Devy Metal at the Firkin on June 15, 2018

Chad at the Firkin on June 15, 2018

DMN at the Firkin on June 15, 2018

Editor’s note: These three drawings are included in the complete collection, which is accessed from the Sketches menu.

Rocket 3’s What’s the Frequency? An Ingenious Indie-Pop Album with All the Feels

Indie trio Rocket 3 is back with a new album that will knock your socks off. Their first album, Burn, was an absolute gem, so it is no surprise that this one, What’s the Frequency?, is solid gold as well. This album is not to be missed, and will take you on an emotional journey filled with nostalgia.

What’s the Frequency? kicks off with a jangly tune titled “I Choose Love.” The use of glockenspiel combined with Ramune Nagisetty’s warm vocals is so soothing, it sounds like a more intricate version of a lullaby. Not only is this a great song, it comes with a beautiful message, especially in this divisive political climate: we should all choose love. The second song on the album, “Echoes,” recounts a memory of an audience member being humiliated in an auditorium full of people laughing at their expense. The lyrics paint this picture as clear as day, and you can’t help but empathize for said audience member. The following tune, “What If” is a brilliant song about the struggles of drug addiction and how a “little pill” can ruin relationships. Despite having such a heavy subject, this song sounds uplifting. The use of masterful lyrics, a lilting melody, an epic rhythm section by Andrew Anymouse and Kenneth Foust, along with soulful keyboard by Gavin Duffy, make this song such a treat to listen to.

Next is my favorite song on the album: “Hip Shot.” This song is unbelievably catchy, and the saxophone playing by the very talented Gavin Duffy, really adds to this track’s shine. The infectious groove of this song will make you want to dance. After this comes “Favorite Thing,’ a song about true love and how it has grown over time. This song has a reggae feel, and is sure to hit home for those in love – both new love and love that has stood the test of time. Following this is a feel good summer jam, “Slow Your Roll,” which is all about taking it easy. The following tune is a breakup track titled “Giving Up.” This song has very relatable lyrics that tug at the heart strings, and will resonate with those who have ever been through a breakup. Gavin Duffy slays on keys, Kenneth Foust and Andrew Anymouse bring the groove, and Ramune Nagisetty nails it on the rhythm guitar as well as on vocals. Nagisetty’s vocals throughout the album are rich and emotional, conveying the feeling of the songs so well.

The next song, “I Don’t Need Ya,” is about the root of all evil, money. Specifically, it’s about breaking away from the concept that money rules all. The closing track on the album, “Evershine,” is about a relationship that has run its course. Nagisetty sings from the point of view of the partner who has been wronged time and time again and is leaving. This song is very musically interesting, and includes gorgeous saxophone playing performed by Gavin Duffy, metallophone performed by Andrew Anymouse, and a melody that is sure to get stuck in your head. This tune starts and closes with beautifully harmonized “oohs” and “ahs” that may induce goosebumps.

This album is incredible from start to finish. It has been in my heavy rotation since I got my hands on a copy in July, and I have a feeling it will be for a long time. Be sure to give it a listen if you are on the hunt for ingenious indie-pop with all the feels.

Follow Rocket 3 on fb, their website, SoundCloud, Spotify, and wherever you listen to music.

-Carmen Charters

Haley Heynderickx has a Quiet Voice and a Lot to Say

I spent the whole weekend flat out in bed with the flu listening to Haley Heynderickx. It was somehow appropriate to slow down time and spend it on soaking up the music of this Portland songwriter. Haley grew up in Forest Grove, which is far enough outside of Portland not to be considered a suburb. It is a small college town, home to Pacific University, in the middle of a scenic agricultural valley. Knowing what I know about Forest Grove, it seems nothing less than perfect that her recent album is entitled “I Need to Start a Garden.”

The album is a snapshot of a moment in time in an intriguing journey. Haley is of Filipino descent and grew up in a religious household with a mother who dragged her to karaoke. Then at the age of 11 Haley got a used guitar with a hole in the back and started taking guitar lessons from the only guitar teacher around, who was a bluegrass musician. The bluegrass influence is evident in her fingerpicking style, complete with a bass line, and punctuating flourishes. Her fingerpicking weaves a perfect nest for her fragile voice, as strong and delicate as spun glass. Bob Boilen from NPR’s Tiny Desk even went so far as to use the word frail, but in the most flattering way possible. In fact, she gives Boilen’s Tiny Desk contest a lot of credit for her quick rise, though her label, Mama Bird Recording Co., has done a lot to guide her along as well.

Haley’s guitar playing and voice are only half of the package. The other half is her songwriting and character. Her songs, some of which were recorded and released more than once, are polished gems with odd tunings and thoughtful lyrics about god, starting gardens, not being put in a box, how people are judged, and so many more things. Her songs are so unusual, they get under your skin with rawness, they don’t inspire humming or earworm jingles- they make you want to listen again, as if you were hungry for something like this. And I think we are.

The attention that artists and bands like Lucy Dacus, Soccer Mommy, Palehound, and Haley Heynderickx are getting is notable. These young women are writing songs that ask questions more interesting than the worn out “I love him so much”, “he dumped me,” and “now I’ll be strong” themes of modern pop divas. These young women are writing songs that are more compelling. On my favorite tune from the album, “untitled god song”, she describes god as a woman- “maybe my god has thick hips and big lips… she speaks every language…. she spins me around like a marionette”.

Haley is unsure as to how her journey will unfold, described poetically by her lyrics “my web is still spinning you can’t see it yet.” She needs to be alone and quiet for her songwriting process, but she’s been touring non-stop, performing with her full band, and sometimes solo, all over the world. She is playing this Thursday, September 27, at Revolution Hall with several other artists on the Mama Bird label.

Haley has given so many great interviews, each shedding more light on who she is. Learn more about her by clicking through the links in the story and the additional sources included below.

P.S. If you enjoyed reading this, please subscribe to the Portland Notes blog. We are looking for a few more writers who are enthusiastic about sharing their stories about Portland music culture, including album and live band reviews. Contact us if you are interested in writing!

Haley Heynderickx website

Rolling Stone https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/haley-heynderickx-garden-interview-705288/

Willamette Week

https://www.wweek.com/music/2015/12/08/introducing-haley-heynderickx/

https://www.wweek.com/music/profiles/2017/03/15/haley-heynderickxs-folk-music-finds-power-in-quietude/

SXSW https://www.austinchronicle.com/music/2018-03-16/sxsw-music-interview-haley-heynderickx/

Stereogum https://www.stereogum.com/1978242/artist-to-watch-haley-heynderickx/franchises/interview/

Pitchfork https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/haley-heynderickx-i-need-to-start-a-garden/

Independent UK https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/haley-heynderickx-video-no-face-premiere-i-need-to-start-a-garden-new-music-a8331941.html

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