What were you doing when you were 17? Were you playing to a sold-out crowd at The Crystal Ballroom? Yeah, me neither.
While it might be something of a cliche to make a big deal of her age, there's no denying that Lorde's status as a teenage rockstar is a large part of her cachet. And judging by the screaming crowd that turned out en masse for her sold out show on Wednesday, that cachet is not insignificant. For Day 4 of December To Remember, the Kiwi singer played an early show at the Crystal in advance of Vampire Weekend, marking her first (but hopefully not last) visit to the City of Roses.
For her Portland debut, Lorde played an impressive set featuring almost all of the songs on her freshman release, Pure Heroine. Although the album's only been out for a little over two months, the crowd seemed to know every song by heart, singing along at the top of their lungs - only falling silent during her breakout hit, "Royals" (at first this struck me as strange - until I realised that almost everyone had stopped to capture the moment on their phones). Lorde wrapped up her set with her most recent single "Team" and, after a brief aside to rail against encores (she opined that they always seem forced), she closed out with "A World Alone."
Seeing her in person, you realize just how young Lorde really is (she turned 17 just last month), but her youthfulness is belied by her articulation and impressive vocal capabilities. As far as Lorde's next visit to Portland goes, we may have to wait til it's announced, but I think most of her fans would agree - Lorde can be on our team, anytime she wants.
As December To Remember entered its third night, the love fest continued at the Crystal Ballroom with another stellar show, this time featuring Hunter Hunted, Said The Whale, and Portland's perennial favorites, The Mowgli's.
Los Angeles duo Hunter Hunted got the party started with a short, solid set that was equally notable for its light, airy vocals and for their killer cover of The Pixies' "Where is My Mind?", before relinquishing the stage to Said the Whale. This Vancouver BC based quintet proved that they were an opener in name only - they rocked and riled up the crowd as well as any headliner I've seen. Interestingly, four of their five members took turns on vocals, giving the band a pretty wide range of sound, from the ballad-like "Seasons" to their hit single "I Love You," which has a bit of Britt Daniel vibe.
(Said The Whale)
After two rousing openers, The Mowgli's finally took the stage. After seeing the crowds at The Neighbourhood and Foals, I thought Portland couldn't get any more enthusiastic about a band... but I was sorely mistaken. The sound level at The Mowgli's never dipped below a low roar for their entire show. Much like their Dec2Rem compatriots and fellow Los Angeles residents, The NBHD, The Mowgli's made their Portland debut earlier this year during Febuary's "I Saw Them When" concert series at the Crystal, and are now making their third pass through Portland as part of their Random Acts of Kindness tour. And much like The NBHD, each show they've played in Portland has been successively better and better than the one that came before. The comparison ends there, though - because while The NBHD has always been a little too cool for school, The Mowgli's are all about spreading the love.
After kicking things off with "Emily", the band took the screaming crowd on a roller-coaster ride through their setlist, with band members jumping on amps, wading into the crowd, and encouraging the audience to sing (and at one point scream) along to favorites such as "Love Is Easy," "San Francisco," and "Time," all the while espousing their trademark gospel of peace, love and understanding. After the show, a couple of concertgoers told me they felt like they had gone to church and a rock concert, all in one - and while I'm not sure I would go that far, there's no doubt that everyone felt the love, that night.
For the second night of December To Remember, Portlanders were faced with a difficult choice: see Alt-J at Crystal Ballroom or Foals at Wonder Ballroom. Through the machinations of fate and circumstance, this writer ended up at the Wonder Ballroom - and while I hear Alt-J was stellar as well (by all accounts, both bands gave amazing performances), I don't regret going to see the Foals for one instant.
Local band Portland band Animal Eyes kicked off the evening. Their particular brand of accordion-backed art rock definitely isn't for everyone, but they played a solid set and did a good job of getting the crowd amped up for the main act.
I saw Foals a few years ago during their tour in support of Total Life Forever, and at the time, they pretty much sounded like the world's greatest Talking Heads tribute band (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). Not so with the band that showed up on Monday night, however - not only has their sonic catalog evolved in a funkier, edgier repertoire (songs like "Inhaler" are much more reminiscent of The Cure or Depeche Mode than they are David Byrne) and their stage presence has been honed into something positively electrifying. Despite fighting jet lag, the band turned it up to 11 for the first show of their US tour, belting out hits like "My Number" and "Inhaler" and shredding with wild, speaker-destroying abandon, culminating with lead singer Yannis Philippakis wading into the crowd during the band's encore.
Foals have our number, alright - and if Monday night's show is any indication, they've really got it dialed in.
Stay tuned for our coverage of Tuesday's show with The Mowglis for December To Remember, Night 3!
December got off to an explosive start when The Neighbourhood returned to The Crystal Ballroom on Sunday night to kick off 94/7's December To Remember concert series.The NBHD has played three sold-out shows in Portland this year, but this Sunday's show was by far their best performance to date. From the minute lead singer Jesse Rutherford started in on the first few bars of "Let It Go," the crowd erupted in cheers and applause - and their enthusiasm continued unabated until long after the last song was played and the roadies had begun clearing the stage.
In their previous two shows, The NBHD delivered energetic but sometimes uneven performances - just what you'd expect from a band that got real famous, real fast. But such slight stumbles were nowhere to be seen on Sunday - their Dec2Rem set was polished and darn-near flawless - rolling through hits like "Sweater Weather" and crowd favorites like "Everybody's Watching Me" and "Straight To Hell" with great aplomb. There's little doubt that the boys from SoCal have finally hit their stride, and they've set the bar pretty high for the rest of December To Remember. The only question is - can the other bands live up to the challenge? We're looking forward to finding out!
No other band from the grunge era has had both the longevity and cultural impact that Pearl Jam has enjoyed - they've become both a paradigm of modern alternative rock and an occasional target for parody (as many people remember from Portlandia's "Eddie Vedder tattoo" sketch). So when it was announced earlier this year that Pearl Jam was returning to Portland for the first time since 2000, I don't think anyone doubted that their show would be epic - but probably only a select few anticipated how positively Homeric their Black Friday concert at The Moda Center would be.
After an opening set by early grunge rockers Mudhoney, PJ made their way onstage. Although they took a few breaks, they wouldn't relinquish the spotlight for almost two and a half hours. During their marathon set, they played over 30 songs, including a cover of Velvet Underground's "After Hours", two impressive Pink Floyd covers, and almost all of their seminal debut album, Ten.
Everyone at Friday's show no doubt has their most memorable moment - for some, it might've been hearing them cover Pink Floyd or Velvet Underground. For others, it was probably watching Scott McCready playing the guitar behind his back during "Even Flow." But for me (and probably a large chunk of the audience), one of the biggest surprises came at the end the show, when Sleater-Kinney reunited for the first time since 2006 to join REM's Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey onstage for a massive jam session to Neil Young's "Rocking In the Free World."
With any luck, Pearl Jam will return to Portland some day (and hopefully a little sooner than they did this time), but no matter how many times they come to town, there's no doubt about it: this concert was one for the record books.