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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.