Sunday, October 27, 2013

Blood Curdling Sounds of the Night














The Halloween edition of the I Hear a New World Podcast is available to listen to here, and to listen/download at http://ihearanewworld.podomatic.com.

Last night, while working diligently at finishing this mix before the weekend was over, I found myself struggling with the reality that I couldn't make this year's mix be everything to all people.    When my girlfriend inquired as to how things were going, I told her that I was having difficulties with trying to round it out with songs that were less scary and more suitable for a general audience. She smiled and said "I bet there are some people out there who would really appreciate a scary Halloween mix".  Thankfully,  my girlfriend was able to steer me in the right direction with her infinite wisdom.

From here, all the pieces started to gradually fall into place.  I worked on narrowing the amount of songs from over forty to around twenty, and I finished putting the intro together this morning. On previous mixes, I have provided the listener with some respite from the horror in the form of a campy horror trailer or a melodic doo-wop song about visiting a cemetery in the middle of the night. This time around, you will not be so fortunate to receive a break from the terror. Aside from a couple rockabilly and garage rock songs, this is one of the most spine-tingling, blood curdling mixes that you are likely to hear on the internet.

Please make sure to lock all of your doors, and don't listen to this with the lights out as the darkness that creeps in might make you lose your mind.

For anyone who wants a track listing for this mix, please drop me a line in the comments.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 14, 2013

MusicFest NW 2013- Recap- Fri-Sat-Sun

With the Halloween season creeping up on me once again, I will be presenting a more concise overview of my last three nights of Music Fest NW 201 to focus my energy on compiling a new Halloween mix over the next week. My hope is to have this year's mix posted within a week of Halloween so that everyone will have a sufficient amount of time to enjoy it.

Friday

La Luz- 9:00

Since I had already seen Mt. Eerie with Bonnie Prince Billy on Thursday, La Luz was definitely the best choice for the 9:00 time slot. I heard a few songs from their Damp Face ep that was released last year, and I was completely sold on their twisted surf noir sound that seemed to draw from influences as diverse as  Brenda Lee, David Lynch and The Ventures. After arriving at Dante's, the band started promptly at 9:00, and proceeded to deliver a fantastic set filled with seductive ballads, surf instrumentals and garage rock rave-ups. Their set was concise at 35 minutes, but filled with enough memorable moments to make me want to check them out the next time they come to town. 

Wooden Indian Burial Ground- 10:00

Up until the last minute, I had planned on checking out Godspeed You Black Emperor at 10:00, but I didn't want to miss the opportunity to see Unknown Mortal Orchestra at Branx. With this show starting at 11:00, that would have meant that I had to leave the Godspeed show at about 10:30 to allow time to drive to Branx and find a parking spot. I decide to just head to Branx to check out Wooden Indian Burial Ground at 10:00. I had already seen these guys open up for Fuzz at Bunk Bar a few months ago, and I thought that they sounded like they were trying too hard to be Thee Oh Sees. This time around, even though the sound at Branx was mediocre at best, they performed a high-energy set of dynamic psych rock that demonstrated that they were much more than an Oh Sees knockoff. I would recommend that anyone interested in fuzzed-out psych check these guys out. 

Unknown Mortal Orchestra- 11:00

So much has been said about these guys, that I can hardly do it justice with a condensed review, but all I can say is that Ruben and company delivered a commanding, mind-altering performance that will forever be imprinted on my brain. This is saying a lot considering that the sound was completely messed up throughout the set, with many of Ruben's blistering solos getting lost in the muddy mix. It seemed like the sound engineer was either inexperienced, or that the venue was experiencing technical difficulties that were beyond his control. Either way, towards the end of the set Ruben played an extended version of the catchiest song in the bands repertoire "Ffunny Ffrends" with a spiraling guitar solo that literally sent chills up and down my spine. He is easily one of the most exciting guitarists to check out live, and it's not a stretch to compare his talent and skill level to Jimi Hendrix. As the final shards of guitar shrapnel faded at the end of their second encore, I was standing there looking shell shocked as I couldn't believe what I had just witnessed. This is my 3rd time seeing these guys, and they just keep getting better. Do yourself a favor and pick up both of their records, and catch them live every time you get a chance. You will thank me later. 

Ty Segall- 12:00

Unfortunately it was a night filled with tough decisions, as by choosing to see Unknown Mortal Orchestra's entire set I missed most of Ty Segall's performance at Dante's. First, it took me over 20 minutes to find parking, and then once I arrived at the venue they were at capacity. It seemed unlikely that I would be admitted into the show, especially since the bouncer came out and said to the entire group of people waiting "You guys aren't going to get into the show. Go home". While I thought he was a jerk, this action most likely resulted in my getting into the show for the last few songs as most of the people in line took the bouncer's advice and headed home. I could barely see the stage as the place was utterly packed, but this is what can be expected when a high profile artist like Segall is booked at a tiny venue like Dante's. One of the last songs he played was the utterly contagious "You Make the Sun Fry" from Goodbye Bread which had most of the crowd in front frantically running into each other in a frenzied manner. He came back out to play a couple songs for the encore, and then signed off for the night. I'm glad I got to catch a little bit of his set, but I was disappointed that I had to hear most of his performance while standing outside. 

Saturday

Angel Olsen- 8:30

I decided to check out Angel Olsen despite really only hearing a handful of songs from her debut album Half Way Home".  When I found out that she was playing The Old Church, that sealed the deal for me. I got here early to ensure that I would be able to sit during the performance, but I still wasn't able to secure a place closer to the stage. What unfolded before me during the next 35 minutes was an utterly transfixing performance that held my attention until the last note was plucked on her guitar. I had planned on leaving halfway through her performance, but it was so spellbinding that I couldn't fathom leaving until I heard everything that she was ready and willing to play. Add this to the ever-growing list of talented, haunting female folk artists that have been cropping up lately. 

Shuggie Otis and Charles Bradley- 9:00- 10:30 

I headed to the Crystal Ballroom to check out Shuggie Otis, but sadly was not able to get into this show. Instead, I waited in line throughout his entire set chatting with other people who had hoped to get into to see Shuggie Otis, but they also hadn't planned ahead. Thankfully, most of the people who were there to see Shuggie were not staying for Charles Bradley.

I had seen Charles Bradley at the Aladdin late last year, but he puts on such a great live show that I couldn't justify missing him this time around. I was able to get a pretty good spot in the middle of the Crystal Ballroom, and the crowd was quickly filling up to capacity. It was different band than I had seen the last time except for the bandleader and one of the horn players from Menahan Street Band, but once again the bandleader introduced Charles Bradley before he took the stage. For those of you who haven't seen Bradley live, it is really your only chance to see classic soul that personifies the best qualities from Otis Redding, James Brown and Marvin Gaye. He comes on stage wearing a garish black and gold outfit, soulfully singing his heart out while lamenting lost loves with a burning intensity that just has to be real. He split the performance up into two distinct sets, so this gave me the opportunity to check out one of the three bands I wanted to see who were playing at 11:00

The Dodos- 11:00

I had heard many great things about The Dodos live performance, so I decided to head to Star Theater to check them out. I have to admin that I had higher expectations for this performance, and I was let down. It was much more mellow and had an indie-pop sound that I really wasn't digging. I gave them about 10 minutes before I decided to head across the street to the Roseland in order to catch the end of Godspeed You Black Emperor's performance.

Godspeed You Black Emperor- 10:00

While the performance started at 10:00 this evening, I got there around 11:20. Believe it or not, even with showing up this late, I was able to see them play for about 40 minutes. There were about ten people on stage playing in pitch dark except for an 8 mm sepia-toned movie projected on the screen behind the band. I don't think that I would have been able to endure much more of their performance than I did as the entire band either stared at the floor, or were faced away from the audience as they played their epic dirges for the capacity crowd at the Roseland. I was glad that I checked them out, but I don't think that I will be spending any more money to check them out unless they play a seated venue like the Aladdin.

Sonny and the Sunsets- 12:00

This was the last show of the evening that I was interested in seeing, so I left the Roseland around 12:10, and then got to Bunk Bar in time to catch about half of Sonny's set.  I enjoyed the live performance a lot more than the records I have heard as they are usually lo-fi and don't begin to demonstrate how proficient Sonny is on lead guitar. Many of the songs I heard were upbeat and driving with the whole band looking like they were having the best time of their lives. I would definitely check these guys out again.

Sunday

Neko Case-8:00

I got to the show around 5:30 to meet some friends and check out the opener The Moondoggies, but I really wasn't paying much attention during their set. It sounded like they mainly had a classic rock vibe that evoked a cross between My Morning Jacket and Neil Young. The next band called Pickwick didn't really do anything for me as most of their songs sounded like they were lifted straight off a playlist from a generic Portland radio station.

After enduring the last band, I was ready for Case to come out and blow my mind, and she definitely didn't let me down. Even though she played a set that drew mostly from the new album, she did throw in a couple of classics from Blacklisted and Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. Case, along with Jon Rauhouse on steel guitar and Kelly Hogan on backing vocals commanded the crowd and infused her stage show with hilarious stage banter between her fellow band members. She played close to an 80 minute set, and at times I felt like I was listening to an angel sing from the heavens as her astonishing voice clearly touched each and every person in the audience. I couldn't think of a more fitting way to close out the festival than to witness the majesty of Neko Case's voice as it filled the open air of downtown Portland.

This closes out my recap of my experience at MusicFest 2013. Be on the lookout for my Halloween mix within the next week or so.

Friday, October 04, 2013

MusicFest NW 2013- Recap- Wed- Thurs

Ideally this post would have been up shortly after Music Fest NW was over, but I have been fighting a cold for almost a month now. Due to this, I will be providing a much shorter breakdown of the shows to allow time for a new podcast and some new Halloween-themed posts.

Wednesday

Eyelids- 8:00

I decided to check out Eyelids at the Doug Fir Lounge, but due to a late start and a difficulty with finding a parking space, I arrived in the middle of their set. My initial feeling was that they were an adequate rock band who was lacking a strong, engaging stage presence. The highlight of their set was when they brought out a special guest to sing lead on a cover version of the Gun Club classic "Sex Beat".

Lonnie Holley- 9:30

I arrived at the Crystal Ballroom about 15 minutes prior to Lonnie Holley's performance, and it already felt like a sweat box despite the fact that it wasn't even close to capacity. I think that I had fairly high expectations for his performance because of various things that I had read about every live show being distinctive from the last one. Unfortunately, the tunes never went anywhere, and his repetitive vocal warbling got on my nerves by the middle of the first song. I kept trying to get into it, especially once Bradford Cox joined in on drums, but it just didn't hold my attention. Each song flowed into the next one with no breaks which lead to the feeling of these songs just going on forever. I like improvisational jazz and experimental music, but this was just not up my alley.

Deerhunter- 10:30

The main reason that I came out this evening was to catch Deerhunter for the 6th time. The last time I saw them, they put on a lackluster performance at the Wonder Ballroom. It was an ill-fated evening riddled with sound problems that ended up throwing Bradford's timing off, and ultimately resulted in the whole band being out of sync. My hope was that with the momentum of just releasing Monomania in May that the new songs would bring a much needed energy to their show tonight.  Thankfully, the band played nearly a 90 minute set heavy on the Monomania material with several classic tracks from earlier albums including an especially jammy version of "Nothing Ever Happened". They closed the show with an exceptional rendition of "Fluorescent Grey" that at close to sixteen minutes would seem to be a test on the audience's patience, though almost everyone stuck it out to experience the orgasmic wall of guitars during the last couple minutes of the song. All in all, I couldn't think of a better way to end my evening.

Thursday

Like a Villain- Old Church- 8:30

I was taking a chance on this show as I had really only heard a couple songs by Like a Villain on her Bandcamp page.  When I got there, the show had already been going for about 10 minutes, and apparently everyone got to the Old Church early to avoid standing in line to see Typhoon. Because of this, I was standing for the entire performance, and this could have negatively affected my opinion about her performance. I would have to say that she has a stunning voice, operatic and with a very dynamic range, and a church is the perfect venue to showcase her voice. However, I was hoping to see more of the experimental looping with her vocals and flute that seemed to earn her comparisons to fellow Portlander Liz Harris of Grouper. She had great stage presence, and really captivated the audience, but I was really not that into the songs that she played.

Mount Eerie- Aladdin- 9:00

As I didn't leave The Old Church until close to 9:00, I arrived at the Mount Eerie show close to the end of their set. I think that one complaint I have about Music fest this year is the lack of communication about what type of set bands were going to play- solo, acoustic, full band, etc. When I got to the Aladdin, Phil Elverum was playing acoustic guitar and singing with two female singers. I know that Eleverum's work with the Microphones, and a lot of Mount Eerie's stuff is pretty experimental and heavy, but I never expected such a quiet performance. The songs that I heard had pretty melodies, and I liked the way that Elverum's voice harmonized with the female voices. It was a decent show, but definitely not what I expected.

Bonnie Prince Billy- Aladdin- 10:00

After grabbing some chamomile tea, I searched for an empty seat amongst the sold out crowd. After
the Mount Eerie set ended, people began to shuffle out of their seats to the next performance on their agenda. I was able to find an empty seat right behind the mixing board, so the sound was superb.
By the time Bonnie Prince Billy came out, I was starting to realize that I was feeling warm and my throat was beginning to feel sore. His set was filled with many great songs, most of which I recognized but couldn't tell you the name of them if my life depended on it. The first time I saw Bonnie Prince Billy was with a full band at a Jackpot Records in-store performance.  Tonight, he was accompanied only by an acoustic guitar and a microphone. This was the perfect venue for capturing the cracks and subtle nuances of his voice as the Aladdin has the best acoustics of any venue in the city. He seemed to be in a conversational mood too, as there was much more in-between song banter than I had experienced the first time I saw him. At one point, it seemed like it was the Bonnie Prince Billy comedy hour, as he ranted about Facebook and other various societal ills. I stayed until about 11:00, and then I decided to head to Doug Fir to see Bob Mould.

Bob Mould- Doug Fir Lounge- 11:00

I was really torn between checking out this show and seeing Houndstooth at Bunk Bar. Since I hadn't ever seen Bob Mould before, I decided that it was worth it to give him a shot. What I didn't realize was that he was going to be playing solo with an electric guitar and amplifier. While I recognized a couple songs, including the fantastic "Hoover Dam" from Sugar's Copper Blue, this type of setup with no band and one person playing electric guitar didn't really hold my interest for long. I 'm glad that I went though as Mould has a great stage presence, and it was great to hear a couple classic songs. This would have been another case where it would have been great to know if an artist was going to be playing solo, acoustic, or with a full band.

Houndstooth- Bunk Bar- 11:00

As luck would have it, I was stuck behind a slow train about one block before the Bunk Bar. The result was that I only caught three songs from Houndstooth, but they were really great. On their debut record Ride Out the Dark, they sound like a cross between Neil Young and Trailer Bride, trading off vocals between a male and female singer, and featuring blistering guitar solos in between haunting melodies. The bottom line is that they sounded fantastic live, and they are definitely on my list of bands to check out around town since they live in Portland.

Hopefully the next installment of this will be sooner than the last as I would like to ensure that the details of my experience don't get lost in the fray.

I hope you have enjoyed this post, and you can look forward to more music soon.