The Parson Red Heads at McMenamins Grand Lodge

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.

Cascadia Is A Spiritual Science Fiction

“Cascadia” off of The Multiversal Adventures of Whysir: Journey Through The Hallway of Always, is a three way powerhouse of local PDX indie rap and hip hop. Three all time greats: Whysir, Empress, and Galloping Strider, come together to direct a movie of a single on par with The Matrix: collecting together an ambient cyberpunk beat, mundane splice of life lyrics, and spiritual science fiction cosmology to hit a back that breaks down walls faster than a kaleidoscope. You can find out more about each artist on their individual pages, and keep hitting repeat over and over again.

Redcoat Turncoat and the Toads Spawn Fresh Earworms

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.

The Art of Novelty with M.A.R.C. and the Horsejerks, Latter Day Skanks, and RLLRBLL

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!

P.L.O.W. Enters the Ring at the New Kickstand Theater

Normally I cover music, but today I’m branching out and covering P.L.O.W.! What is P.L.O.W.? one might ask. It stands for Portland Legends of Wrestling, so one may infer that it is a wrestling league. Perhaps this is true. Their shows do feature over-the-top personas, bitter rivalries, silly costumes, ample trash talking and an untrustworthy host -all hallmarks of a proper wrestling company! However, there is no actual wrestling involved in their performances -though there is a splash zone! Consider yourself warned.

They claim to have lost their wrestling license, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this is all an elaborate ruse to get wrestling enthusiasts to watch long-form, character-based improv comedy built around loosely scripted plot points. But I could be wrong. Perhaps we’ll never know.

What I do know is that the Wednesday, May 22nd show I attended was P.L.O.W.’s first installment at the new Kickstand Comedy Theater space. They had just recently moved from a small space above the Siren Theater to the former Brody Theater space. I was happy to see them move to a theater and to see the Brody’s building continue to be used for comedy/improv performances. However, there are still some kinks to work out. The venue doesn’t have full curtains at the moment, leaving the room fairly bright on a late Spring evening and making it somewhat difficult to follow the show’s very funny pre-recorded video segments. Hopefully this will be remedied before their next show.

The show opened with the aforementioned video segments, which recapped P.L.O.W.’s ongoing saga. We learned that, in the previous installment, things ended with no discernible champion. Interviewer and show host, Ed Hosea, played by comedian Shane Hosea, was given an ultimatum by the league’s Benevolent Overlord, the stone-faced, shades-wearing Jane Demeanie, played by comedian/actor Anne Zander, to name a champion or be fired from the show. In an act of haste and absurdity, Hosea declared the P.L.O.W. champion to be 90s sitcom star Fran Drescher. So the question loomed large at this night’s show: will Fran show up to claim her title?

After the video intros, the aforementioned harried host and official interviewer Ed Hosea introduced the show. He sported a rumpled but professorial tweed jacket, a ponytail, and retro aviator glasses, and had the demeanor of a man whose life could fall apart at any moment, embodying a strange mix of WWE sleaze and small-town-indy-promoter desperation.

After this introduction, Ed began interviewing a series of characters, the first of which was Frank Drescher, a banal, shades-wearing, East coast dude played by comedian Steven Wilbur. Frank explained that he showed up to claim the championship belt only to learn that he had misinterpreted a tweet about Fran Drescher being awarded the the title. He was flummoxed and enraged to learn this, claiming that Fran is his arch nemesis!Next, the crowd was offered a diversion from the show’s typical wrestling-adjacent shenanigans by visiting stand-up comedian and television actor, Ron Lynch. He performed a set of absurd jokes, one-man sketches, and even a bit of prestidigitation!

On the heels of this stand-up comedy interlude came arch-heel “Hollywood” Chris Khatami from San Francisco, strutting up to the stage to the gauche sounds of Santana’s “Smooth” feat. Rob Thomas. While his name initially seems like a confusing identity/geography paradox, it perfectly encapsulates his character as a distillation of everything artsy Northwesterners hate most about wealthy, neoliberal Californians. He wore a Nancy Pelosi t-shirt and taunted the audience with claims of San Francisco’s superiority over Portland, generating a rumble of boos and jeers. He also performed his signature gross out move, chugging and spitting La Croix onto himself, the stage, and a few audience members!

Tensions mounted as the NPR-loving, trash-talking Paula Poundface was summoned to the stage. However, the in-your-face character previously (and in the pre-show videos) played by Natalie Haddad had been inexplicably replaced with a more mild-mannered version of herself, played by actor Dan Heise in a shoulder-length brunette wig. Ed Hosea seemed perplexed by this surprise, but the league’s Benevolent Overlord Jane DeMeanie insisted that this was the real Paula Poundface. So Hosea reluctantly began officiating the closest thing to actual wrestling in the show: an arm wrestling competition between “Hollywood” Chris Khatami and Paula Poundface.

Khatami triumphed much to the chagrin of the audience as the question still loomed: will Fran Drescher show up to claim her title?! That question was answered as The Nanny herself* entered the room in a loud but stylish floral jumpsuit, oversized rose tinted glasses and open-toed heels. She gracefully and nasally accepted the league’s shiny new belt between awkwardly long laughs. However she faced opposition from her nemesis Frank Drescher as well as other wrestling characters, and there were even some unexpected shenanigans at the hand of Ed Hosea’s twin brother Shane Hosea (also played by Shane Hosea)!

*portrayed by local comedian and illustrator Carolyn Main

If you’d like to follow the continuing drama, check out P.L.O.W’s Facebook page for more videos, promos, and forthcoming details about their next quarterly installment coming up in August.

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