Expanded online April 2013 scene report
Illustration by Mark Beyer
So here’s the breakdown: I attended nine live music events in April. Four were all-local lineups, and three happened at Synchro Studio, with Guild Cinema, Low Spirits, Launchpad, The Tannex, Iron Haus and Gold House filling out the month. I caught Pepper Griswald thrice, Fando and DJ Muffins twice, H[Ω] and Glorious Stephan more than once, if you count listening from outside. I love all these locals, though Stephan can be unnervingly random, especially when screaming non sequiturs at their audience. Local videographer fredricksbrooke documented their Tannex debut; watch at bit.ly/gstephan.
Other impressionistic flashes:
Burque Pops featured local punster Jeff Gassoway and several ex-Burqueño musicians who only convene every several years due to far-flung membership. Conceived as a recording session, the three bassists and one drummer played an intimate, industrious and inspiring short-notice set accompanied by obscure videos after hours at the Guild.
I finally caught one of local music historian Captain America’s Garage & Wax nights and was well rewarded. Mr. and Mrs. Jones came off like a fun Billy Childish project, and pitch-perfect vinyl was spun by Amy X-Rated and The Huron Valley Listening Club (Rudi Thornburgh of Deadtown Lovers, Super Public). While most surf rock strikes me as musical wallpaper, Phantom Lake are always sublime and on time. It seems like anything those pros touch gets enhanced in some way.
Organized by Roman Barham, a heavy all-local show at Launchpad felt a lot like a family reunion soundtracked by Pepper G’s darkwave shrieko, H[Ω] pimp-shredding and Gusher's gushing. Roñoso even had audible vocals and merch for sale. Everyone was stoked with Wes running sound. After many years of disgust and frustration on my part, the vibe at the ‘pad seems to have turned around some. More good people are calling shots there, like the aforementioned employees. Fingers crossed.
Chicago guitar/drums duo The Funs lived up to their name with simple fuzzed-out rock, instrument-swapping and creating harmonic illusions from vocal and instrumental blur. Afterward I got eardrum buzz from Bigawatt’s doubled-upvocal sampling accompanied by wistful accordion, though her Brothers Kuchar-esque art-chola brows were a bit distracting.
Lady Uranium has a strong voice she puts to bracing use in the new romantic/dreampop style she's working in. She recently opened for Boston-based Pile and Fat History Month, who played wonderfully woozy, drunk-swerving indie rock. Both bands seemed cut from the same cloth, though FHM's lyrics and approach were earthier. While listening I got fixated on “Richard Buckner-meets-Pixies” as a perfect formula to plug into that lazy rock-crit descriptive algorithm.
Uranium Worker, a new local fave, creates solid, early industrial music for acidheads. Local jazz-punk combo The Happiness of Lovemaking seems to only exist when I set up shows for them, but every set is a mindbender. Lots of stuff got broken during this one, like the ceiling and the fourth wall. Pacific NW tour-orists Malaikat dan Singa raised the High Weirdness bar with post-punk rhythm backing Bahasa vocals, throat singing and Hindu dance moves in printed lame’ pants. No one could look away. Not everyone was there for the music, though. At the door, one entitled scenester smugly declared, “I don’t have any money; I just bought a bottle of whiskey,” and continued to contribute bullshit and start drama throughout the night. The last laugh was had by Fando, who checked everyone’s head, confounding expectations and delivering abstract passages interspersed with dense rockouts.
Bath House, comprised of folks from Coma Recovery, Streights and Contortionist, debuted this month. While easy to dismiss as just more aggro hardcore dudes flexing in black T-shirts, their chunky, brutal onslaught throbbed my old brain just right. If you require a literal wall of amps, though, please don't play house shows. No neighborhood is that tolerant, a fact confirmed by random cop-chopper spotlighting and a visit from APD. Fortunately, Nashville-based Ttotals played their gorgeous “outer blues” jams before that happened.
Hanta gets better with every show they play, and are already a solid alternate for sludge/crust stalwarts Roñoso. In contrast, it was painful hearing some local throwback punk with martial beats and tired militant posturing from kids too young to wax nostalgic about “old school”—and who would want to?
Recent migrants to Portland, Prizehog has a heavy, lurching Melvins/Harvey Milk influence, and they're the nicest people. Repeated attempts to get them on that night's Black Mountain bill at Launchpad failed, as BM's agent couldn’t be bothered. It’s frustrating when industry folks ignore local advice about what works in any given town. The potential audience was split, but the DIY show flowed like butter, and it felt great; and all of this happened despite a last-minute venue change after a burglary at the original house venue. So watch your backs, guitar thieves; this scene looks out for its own.