The Bridge City Blues Band have been playing together for over six years. They have made their reputation playing a high energy mixture of rhythm and blues standards both classic and new, from Jimmy Reed, Willie Dixon, Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters to Bo Dudley, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, Albert Collins, Sonny Boy Williamson and BB King, Taj Mahal and many more. I recently captured a Muddy Waters tune at McMenamins Rock creek Tavern.
To help them work out some new material for an upcoming album, The Parson Red Heads recently completed a mini-tour of several McMenamins venues at the Grand Lodge. Over the course of the past 15 years as a band, The Parson Red Heads have released 4 full length records and countless EPs and mini-albums. On a dark, drizzly and misty Thursday evening, we were treated to a lot of their new music. “Time After Time” is a five-year-old song which (if you listen to Portland Notes Radio) you’ll recognize.
Well, some kind of magic happened at the split EP release party last weekend at the Firkin Tavern. Ginger-haired bass player extraordinaire, Matt Dinaro, joined what appears to be his third Portland band, Redcoat Turncoat (fronted by another red-haired talent, Nate Birkholz) for a split EP release party and birthday celebration. Also on board were Dinaro’s second band, Streetcar Conductors, and his first band, the Toads, who split the EP with Redcoat Turncoat. This might sound confusing, but when you hear all three of these bands, it makes sense. Tasty power pop tunes and genius songwriting are the common thread.
The Toads, who have established themselves as one of Portland’s musical treasures, joined with Redcoat Turncoat to release the split EP, Let’s Call the Cops, with each band contributing 4 tracks to the CD format. The first four tracks belong to the Toads, with songs and production as good, or maybe even better, than anything than they’ve previously released. All four tunes are gems. Finer Folk is a catchy number with a touch of country twang in its guitar riffs and lyrics, “you know there’s finer folk than the ones we’ve got now, go out and use your vote,” that resonate for the time and place.
The new news here is the brilliance of Redcoat Turncoat. In a world where music is polished until it loses its feeling, Redcoat Turncoat has a different kind of shine. The naked simplicity of Birkholz’ vocals reminds me of the Juno movie soundtrack (think Moldy Peaches and Kimya Dawson), but… combined with mesmerizing 80ths synth and keyboard melodies dotted with piano and guitar riffs. The genius of these songs is that they sound immediately familiar, as if you’ve heard them before, but you can’t put your finger on it. A hint of Velvet Underground comes through in the layering to create seriously addictive earworms. In particular, the tune, Michigan Eyes, has an unforgettably strong pulsing beat and melody that goes on for 7 minutes but doesn’t get old. The tune’s lyrics include a reference to the last release from Redcoat Turncoat, which was a 2010 EP called “How do you feel about long goodbyes?” The four tracks from Redcoat Turncoat end with a retro throwback, Hey You, that reminds me of simpler pre-internet days. The band is planning for a future vinyl release that will include the song, Alright, which was part of the PDX POP NOW compilation last year, and has this adorable music video featuring Birkholz and his toddler son.
The split EP release party at the Firkin was epic. Power pop maestros, Streetcar Conductors, played a stripped down opening set with drummer Jonathan Moore playing acoustic guitar instead, followed by Redcoat Turncoat, and a closing 15 minute power set by the Toads. It had to be one of Portland’s best gigs of the year, and the Firkin crowd was extra special. The new CD is on heavy rotation and every tune is great. Bravo!
Track fb to keep an eye out for rare gigs from the Toads and Redcoat Turncoat and check out both of their splits on Bandcamp.
It is rare that I make the lengthy pilgrimage to the Fixin’ To in the northern climes of St. Johns, but I was glad that I did a couple Fridays ago for M.A.R.C. and the Horsejerks’ album release party. It was a night of high novelty, art rock and goofy theatrics.
RLLRBLL started the show with a rousing set of their gothy synth-led art rock. Their dark, earnest songs made them somewhat of an odd band out on a bill with two bands that deal heavily in camp and tongue in cheek humor, but their performance was still incredibly engaging. Beautiful, delicate ballads crescendoed into cacophonous climaxes in inventive compositions executed with precision and intensity by musicians who have been playing together for more than 20 years.
Latter Day Skanks graced the stage next, clad in missionary/punk drag and rocking hard-hitting drums, screaming flying-V guitar, crabcore stances, and hilariously obscene lyrics. Their music is an in-your-face comedy/novelty take on hardcore punk and hard rock with a satirical blade pointed at the Mormon church and other institutions that discriminate against queer folks. Each member possesses a stage name and rank within the Church of Latter Day Skanks, with Prophetess Josephina Smith on lead vocals and bass, Elder Bring ‘Em Hung on guitar and vocals, and Elder Milfred Trimley on drums. They also have some pretty choice song hymn titles, like “Jesus Plasty” and “Under the Boner of Heaven.”
M.A.R.C. and the Horsejerks converged upon the stage with its six wig-clad members, over a dozen instruments, and multiple horse props. Frontman M.A.R.C. Horsejerk (who may or may not have associations with other area bands like Nasalrod, Mr. Frederick, and General Electric) remained in character throughout the performance and even during soundcheck. He embodied the role of a cartoonish, grizzled horse rancher with a penchant for cheese, animal husbandry, shopping at Sears, and bellyaching about his neighbors, singing and speaking with a vocal timbre somewhere between Captain Beefheart and Yosemite Sam. M.A.R.C.’s backing band had a variety of whimsical stage names and instrumental talents, with Tawny Winufer Sandasin on bass and foot tambourine, Toots/Tater on banjo and guitar, Twiggy Barndust on washboard, glockenspiel and auxiliary drums/percussion, Mouse Milk on keyboard and viola, and Bobby Butts on trumpet, guitar and auxiliary percussion. Despite being flanked by such a robust ensemble, M.A.R.C. also had a bit of a one-man-band setup with foot-pedal-operated bass and snare drums that he played while strumming an acoustic guitar and yawping about his bucolic dreams and misadventures. While the off-kilter vocals and goofy, deranged lyrical content was consistent throughout the set, they began with a number of folksy and melodically pretty numbers that were at times reminiscent of Sufjan Stevens or Andrew Bird. As the performance progressed, the band began to rock harder and stranger, revealing a unique brand of avant garde folk-rock with some faint echoes of poly-genre weirdos like Butthole Surfers, Mr. Bungle and perhaps even Terry Riley. In addition to all this, M.A.R.C. peppered the set with comical and sometimes incoherent ramblings, audience members danced and hollered, a hobby horse was passed around the room, and at some point I found myself pumping a plastic horse statue up and down in the air in rhythm with the music. It was definitely a good set!