Jamie Iwata officially releases his new album this coming Sunday 6/26 at McMenamins’ White Eagle’s monthly local youth showcase with Niamh and Pedestrian Death Gang. I’ve been following Jamie’s musical journey since he was a student at the Portland School of Rock. He was one of the school’s ambassadors and student mentors through their House Band program. I’ve often seen him advising younger students on how to achieve a certain guitar tone or going over harmonies until they were perfect. Jamie has an incredible attention to detail and an overwhelming desire to communicate through music.
The job of a musician is not as easy as we would like to think. We see the performances, and we assume confidence, charisma, and an extroverted personality from what we see on stage. However, in many cases, true artists are thoughtful and quiet, sometimes reserved and doubtful about their ability to communicate clearly. Iwata has so far lived a life of grasping for both knowledge and expression, While attending college, he has written some beautiful prose dealing with life, disappointment, emotional pain, and the strength to overcome. Everywhere he has been, Iwata’s quiet and supportive presence has left the people in his life with the accurate impression that he is full of deep thoughts and good ideas.
The Sun features a collection of introspective songs that feature Iwata’s pure and perfect vocals accompanied by creative and clear guitar work. A beautiful expression of his mind and heart, very honest and vulnerable – a peek into the mind of Jamie Iwata! At the show, Iwata will be joined by additional instrumentalists and will have some physical copies of the new CD available. For now, you can listen to Follow the River from the new album on Soundcloud. The album is also available on Bandcamp.
You know what I’ve always wanted? A radio station that plays 100% local music 24-7, with very limited commercials…a station that plays a variety of genres with a nice mix, so that I could listen to it in local restaurants, banks and stores. I don’t really want to hear DJ’s talking – just music…I’d like to be able to access audio interviews with the participating artists online, read about current local music news, have access to local music calendars, and know where to find my favorite bands around town. I’d love to be able to find links to artists’ music pages, and connect to their websites and blogs. Maybe I’d even like to be able to submit a new band I have discovered, and get them on the station for an interview…
They say you can’t always get what you want – but who are “they” anyway? Portland Notes is creating the radio station I have always wanted! Paul Lankow, Teresa Topaz and I are currently curating music for the station, working around 6-8 hours a day from now until January 2017 to gather and listen to and catalogue all the local music we can find. We will be playing blues, folk, indie, rock, pop, bluegrass, country, soul, funk, R&B, and more.
The goal of this project is to offer a 24 hour stream of all local music with very limited commercials (to pay for bandwidth and artist royalties) and minimal talking. The station will be accessible from our existing www.portlandnotes.com website, where visitors can make comments, access show calendars, submit new music, read articles, and listen to podcasts with local musicians. We are teaming up with several local media outlets to provide the most updated calendar information, recordings of live local concerts, and podcast interviews with local artists. Look for content from Vortex Music Magazine, Local Roots Music from Northwest Artists, PDX Spotlight, School of Rock, McMenamins White Eagle Saloon and School of Rock, just to name a few.
So…for the next few months, we will be writing fewer articles, attending fewer events, and not be as visible on the scene. That’s because we are creating and building something wonderful! If you would like to submit an artist, please send WAV files or download code to firstname.lastname@example.org. No explicit lyrics, please. If you’d like to help in any other way, please let us know your areas of interest!
Those of you who know me will know that I am a huge fan of real classic rock. There’s just something about the aggressive nature of the instrumentals combined with heartfelt lyrics that speaks to my heart directly. Wilkinson Blades has been speaking to me this past week, with their new album Home. I absolutely had to interview the songwriter, Steve Wilkinson, because I had a few questions about the significance of what seemed to be very intentional and meaningful word choices…”Home” is a very strong one-word statement – and the album is indeed a homecoming in several ways. Wilkinson shared some of his personal story with us, and described how the formation of this band is itself a homecoming. The arrival at the new sound is also “home” for now – a real down-to-earth rock record that inspires a second, third, and fourth listen. Is it deep? Yes…but, can I understand it -also, yes! For me, that’s the very essence of rock and roll – it’s both relatable and emotionally challenging at the same time.
The writing process for Steve Wilkinson is interesting. The man’s brain is very active, and observations, events, and ponderings are all gathered inside – more than he knows what to do with sometimes! The solution is to express himself in song. Wilkinson has lived his life thus far in a search for both knowledge and expression. He’s looking over the experiences he’s had from childhood to present – then opening up and sharing himself with listeners in a truly vulnerable way. The music comes from an honest desire to process and share struggles and successes. Perhaps someone can identify, and perhaps that will cause a deep and personal connection with the music. That’s every honest musician’s hope, and certainly a longing that rings true with Wilkinson Blades’ Home. Wilkinson recalls the first musical experiences with his father, now deceased. He vividly remembers riding around in his dad’s car as a kid, listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, and thinking how cool it would be to make such magical sounding music. But as he pondered this he wondered why the lyrics were so dark. Now, as an adult and accomplished storyteller, he understands that sometimes music is a great way to get that stuff out in the world….kind of “community therapy of sorts.” To this day, Wilkinson still is a fan of the band, and appreciates the psychedelic stylings of Wilkinson Blades’ guitarist Grant Cumpston. Though Wilkinson has been the primary songwriter up to this point, he recognizes the expertise and combined experience of his bandmates – the sound may continue to evolve, as the band leaves themselves open to go where the music guides them.
Wilkinson, so far, remains the main songwriter, having written these songs originally for a solo recording project. When asked to play live, Wilkinson returned to what he knew would work. A band of men he has known for years – Portland natives, musicians to their core, and above all – friends and musical truth-seekers. Rock music is authentic and timeless. It makes no apologies for speaking truth – and the songs that endure are ones that cross generational boundaries. Steve Wilkinson has a firm grasp on this with the new band – for they are not actually new…
The members of Wilkinson Blades are a band who have known each other and grown alongside each other as musicians for years. Singer-songwriter and guitarist Steve Wilkinson, vocalist and guitarist Grant Cumpston, drummer Jon Beyer, and bassist Johnny Huck had all played together as the band Gravelpit starting in the 1990’s. As often happens with bands, members move, start other projects and families, and end up not being able to continue as a group. Wilkinson had to keep writing, because he kept having experiences and processing events. He recorded his songs as a solo project. When Wilkinson was asked to perform his new recorded music live, he drew on this trusted solid musical base, and added players as the music called for it. The addition of Rich Landar on keyboards completes the core group, who now are already considering their new musical endeavor. The band operates well together – letting the music speak for itself is the key. The feeling is different from the Gravelpit vibe, as the current project seems to have found their unique sound. This Wilkinson Blades sound may cross more genres in the future, but the core sound will continue to be recognizable.
Having just released her first EP at age 16, Niamh is not new to the stage. She’s been performing for years and already has a nice overseas fan base. Making it in Portland is a whole different story, especially as a young woman who specializes in unabashed electric rock. She’s determined to get her music out there, having created some very well-produced tunes, and a very easily navigable website. Niamh is an experienced multi-instrumentalist, having spent serious time in lessons for vocals, piano, bass and guitar. She has been an All Star for School of Rock, and a vital member of the School of Rock Portland Haus Band. Now she prepares to present her new EP at an all-ages youth showcase at the end of the month.
Niamh’s sound is full, rich, and aggressive – her voice and lyrics are mature, while reflecting the advantages that young women have as they discover their ability to protect and defend themselves with their words and emotional intensity. Throughout the EP, the lyrics seem to offer one solid bit of advice: in relationships, be aware that one person is probably more invested than the other. This message is very representative of this generation’s approach to love – the power lies in the hands of the least invested… it’s interesting to think about, certainly. The songs that stick with a listener are often about failed relationships, longing, conquering loss, and moving on. Niamh writes from the perspective of someone who has done some research.
Knowing her personally, I can say that Niamh is a very intelligent young woman. I believe she has used her insight from listening to others’ personal struggles, learned from her own mistakes, and gained a good sense of her strengths and weaknesses. The lyrics are easily understood, the instrumentation is skilled, and designed to be memorable, with special attention to cleverly crafted bass lines, The EP is brimming with all the oohs and ahhhhs in the background vocals that make you want to sing along. And we invite you to come sing along at White Eagle Saloon on Sunday, June 26. Niamh headlines this youth event, which features her EP release, another EP release from Jamie Iwata, and an appearance by Pedestrian Death Gang. See you there!
Tomorrow, Saturday May 28 is another great day in the local music scene! An all-ages concert by youth and for youth will blow everyone away from the first note played at noon! This is an event dedicated to raising awareness of the quality of our local youth bands, as well as to offer a chance for musicians to learn about a different topic relating to the industry. Doors open at 11:30, and tickets are available online or at the door. White Eagle Saloon is located at 836 N Russell St.
Shadows of the Revolution, an all-youth cover band, will open the show at noon with songs you will know and love. They perform at a variety of venues this summer – catch them here first! Size 85 High Tops will follow with their unique father-daughter front team, offering a variety of genres – all original. New Social Outcasts is next, with some of the most passionate young men I’ve ever seen on stage. Jack Mortensen Band is our headliner, with the lovely and talented Miaya Shambry on vocals. Their music will get us all cheering and out of our seats. This will be one to remember! Jack Mortensen band is also performing in July at a fantastic Radio Hot Tub event, and has applied to be part of Robert Richter’s Local Roots show this year.
Our media partners, Vortex Music Magazine, Teri’s Tunes, and PDX Spotlight have been sharing the event – Mike Burling from PDX Spotlight is working to create an upcoming episode of the television show featuring some youth bands. School of Rock provides backline again for this event, we have Connor Johnson as stage manager, and the fantastic Teresa Topaz will be on hand to deliver an informational and interactive lesson on guitar tone. John Guffey is training several people on stage set-up and tear down. Danny Frye will run our sound – This is going to be awesome!