It is a commonly accepted axiom in Portland that it's hard, if not impossible, to top a December To Remember show. However, apparently Fitz and The Tantrums didn't get the memo, because they did their level best to disprove that saying on Monday night - and they succeeded.
Although they were both crowd favorites, Fitz's two openers were about as disparate as you can get. Los Angeles indie-pop group HOLYCHILD started the evening off with a vaguely retro-sounding, super poppy set. Although the band has a good sound, their set was pretty uneven - when lead singer Liz Nistico stays within her range, she sounds great, but whenever she strays outside her register (or tries to rap), she has a tendency to veer painfully off-key.
I could level no such criticism about the second opening act, however. Austin singer Max Frost played a pitch-perfect, genre-bending set that combined indie pop, neo soul, a couple of other influences that I couldn't quite place. In the space of one song, Frost's music will make you think of everything from Jamiroquai to Alt J to Foster The People. Perhaps the most apt comparison, though, would be the latter band's lead singer, Mark Foster - although their styles are completely different, Max Frost displays the same level of energy and showmanship as the other M.F.
Neither opener could hold a candle to Fitz and The Tantrums, however. Although their first song (Get Away) started out slowly, that was the last low key moment of the show; by the time the song ended, they had worked the crowd into a screaming, cheering frenzy that only intensified during classics such as "Don't Gotta Work It Out," "Break The Walls" and "Breakin' the Chains of Love."
Midway through the show, singers Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs issued their usual edict to the crowd (the majority of whom were seeing Fitz for the first time) about audience participation, before leading the crowd in a call-and-response cover of The Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)." They eventually closed out the night with a barn-burner of an encore, ending with "Moneygrabber" (complete with confetti cannons) and "The Walker."
A band that can get the entire audience to clap and sing along to one or two songs? That's impressive. A band that can get the entire audience to clap and sing along to EVERY song? That's Fitz and The Tantrums.
Since the early days of KNRK, Passport Approved has been a weekly fixture on 94/7. For the past ten years, Portlanders have tuned in to hear host Sat Bisla introduce new music from all over the world - but on Friday night at the Doug Fir Lounge, they got to see the music firsthand. Prior to the show, we caught up with Sat and 94/7 Program Director Mark Hamilton, who took a few moments to celebrate Passport Approved's unofficial ten-year anniversary, noting that 94/7 was the second station in the nation to play Passport Approved and recounting some of Sat's more notable finds: The Ting Tings, Gotye, Adele and more recently, Lorde. But Sat came armed with more than just recollections - he also had four up-and-coming artists in tow.
GIORGI + LEO
Husband and wife duo Giorgi + Leo were the first act to take the stage, opening with a gutsy cover of Prince's "When Doves Cry." The only non-Australian act of the evening, Giorgi + Leo have a multinational pedigree - lately of London, Giorgi is originally from Los Angeles and Leo hails from Rome. Musically, they sound like someone crossed the The XX's guitar work with Ms Mr's vocals (albeit without as much of the 80's vibe). Although they're a little more pop-oriented than most of the bands we normally cover, they've got a solid sound.
Melbourne rocker Hamish Anderson was up next, with a bluesy set that combined Claptonesque riffs with Jacob Dylan-like vocals - not unimpressive for a guy in his early twenties. While he rocks out on most of his songs, some of his songs take on a more folky vibe. His recent single, "Howl" is definitely worth a listen.
Sydney rockers Lime Cordiale would be easy to dismiss as just another surf rock group, were it not for two things: first, most surf rockers don't usually feature trombones and trumpets in their lineup; secondly, few bands pull off the genre quite as deftly as these guys do. (If you want to see what I'm talking about, check out their single "Sleeping At Your Door.") With honey-sweet vocals and catchy hooks, Lime Cordiale sounds like they're straight out of the past - and it's a past I wish I lived in.
MONKS OF MELLONWAH
Within minutes of taking the stage, Monks of Mellonwah succeeded in answering a question that I had hitherto never thought to ask: Can Australians do Southern Rock? The answer is yes, sortof. Ok, maybe it's not Southern Rock, exactly, but the Syndey band has a semi-operatic quality that wouldn't sound out of place on a Red Hot Chili Peppers record... or on a cover of Skynyrd's "Simple Man" (I'm not saying that they would ever want to do this - just that they could pull it off).
The latest installment of 94/7's "I Saw Them When" concert series got off to a slightly bittersweet start on Tuesday night, as Portlanders crowding into the Crystal Ballroom were treated to what turned out to be The Ecstatics farewell show in Portland. Having been a consistent fixture on Portland's concert scene and a regular opener at 94/7 shows, teenage rockers Eli & Quincy explained that they're moving to Los Angeles to pursue their music. Throughout their set (which was just as catchy & energetic as the last two times we've covered them in this blog), the boys took time to thank their fans and pay tribute to 94/7 as "the best radio station on the planet," before closing their set with a hilariously unexpected - but very apt - cover of Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream." Best of luck to you, guys, and to paraphrase Ms. Perry - "Don't ever look back, don't ever look back"... but we do hope you'll come back to visit, once in a while.
KONGOS is a difficult band to write about, only because their influences are impossible to pin down. One minute, they sound like Kings of Leon if they stole the accordion player from Dropkick Murphys; the next, you'll hear hints of blues, reggae, or even Muse-esque rock operatics. One thing is consistent, however - these four brothers know how to rock. For their set at The Crystal, the South African rockers led the crowd through a raucous, floor-stomping set. The band likes to pay tribute to their roots, too - during their encore, they covered their dad, John Kongos' 70's track, "Tokoloshe Man" (allegedly their dad was in the audience, too), along with The Beatle's "Come Together" and "Get Back" (although the latter two included guest vocals by Phoenix rapper Moe'z Art, along with samples from Dr. Dre's "Ain't Nothing But a G Thang" and Daft Punk's "Da Funk").
With bands that are as eclectic as KONGOS, music journalists have a tendency to make all kinds of outlandish comparisons... and we're not above the fray, in that regard. If you forced me to compare KONGOS to any one band in terms of sheer style and energy, I'd have say they remind me most of Stillwater from the movie "Almost Famous" - which is pretty much the highest praise I can dish out for any band, actually.
It's not every day that you can literally say "I Saw Them When," but as Little Hurricane proved on Saturday at the Wonder Ballroom, when you can, it's not a bad thing, at all.
Early in 2012, Little Hurricane was the first band to be featured for only 94 cents a ticket in 94/7's "I Saw Them When" concert series. In the intervening two years, they've become a regular visitor to Portland's concert scene, but I personally haven't been able to revisit them until now - so I was curious to see what they sounded like, after all this time. I can't say that I was disappointed.
Little Hurricane took the stage after a rousing and well-paired opening set by Lincoln Durham, whose unique brand of bluesy southern rock transitioned seamlessly into Little Hurricane's bluesy not-so-southern rock set. For their show at the Wonder, the band performed the standard mix of old and new material, punctuated by a few covers (including a not-too-shabby rendition of Bill Wither's "Ain't No Sunshine" and an unexpected but no-less-enjoyable cover of "Afternoon Delight" during their encore). After two years of touring and two more records, the San Diego band is a little more polished than they were back in 2012, but the key elements are still there - Anthony Catalano's howling, brooding vocals and low-key guitar work paired with C.C. Spina's vicious drumming and effervescent stage presence. They also seemed to have addressed the one criticism that many people leveled against the band: CC's not a very strong singer, especially live. (This is still the case, but she doesn't take the lead on as many songs as she used to, so it's not as noticeable.)
I'm sure we'll continue to see Little Hurricane in Portland in the future, but even if we don't, I think they'll always be a band that Portlanders will be happy to boast that we saw them back in the day.
Sasquatch Music Festival is the ultimate NW Music Festival. Several genres of music, performed on five stages within 3 days. The main Sasquatch stage, built seemingly upon a canvas of painted scenery, which in fact is just the very real, very beautiful Gorge of George, Washington. The combination of the nature and the coverage of so many different types of music make this festival one for every human to enjoy. Below are some of the acts I believed to be highlights of my 2014 Sasquatch Music Festival. I wish it was humanly possible to see and hear each band and artist perform. However, I suppose that’s the beauty of a festival—every individual has a unique experience to share.
KONGOS | The Kongos brothers gave the crowd a joyful set before transitioning into what most didn’t expect -- a beat-bumping performance from their respected friend Moe’z Art, who rapped over their instrumental mix to Come Together by The Beatles and Nuthin’ But A G Thang by Dr. Dre. The band transitioned back to their more predictable style, but the crowd’s energy level stayed high as they played Come With Me Now.
THE NAKED AND FAMOUS | Being at Sasquatch stage level of the amphitheater (or as some refer to as the pit) for this performance I got to observe the chemistry the five band mates had together. Although they were clad in all black, The Naked and Famous colored the stage with their excitement of performing for a full main stage crowd.
FOALS | True to the electric and interactive nature of their performances, lead man Yannis Philippakis crowd surfed, electric guitar in hand while he and his band continued to play their set on Sasquatch on the first day. The band covered songs from all albums, including Inhaler and My Number.
FOSTER THE PEOPLE | Foster The People delivered a high energy sunset performance on the Sasquatch stage, playing majority of their Supermodel album, along with Houdini, a clear audience favorite. It was hard to tell if the crowd was feeding off the band’s energy, or the band was feeding off the crowd’s, but the vibe was incredible all around the amphitheater.
FIRST AID KIT | This was folk music done so right. These ladies brought a crowd-pleasing, soothing energy to Sasquatch. The two sisters performed their original songs, including tracks from their new album Stay Gold, along with covers of Paul Simon and Johnny Cash on the main stage. It was a perfect vibe for a mid-afternoon on the hill. Their voices complimented the vast Gorge scenery in a way that was enchanting.
CITY AND COLOUR | This was also an awesome set for sitting on the hill during the day time, looking outwards to the gorgeous view. Sasquatch attracts a large amount of people from Canada, and being a Canadian band, it seemed to me that the crowd consisted of many fans from the home land. As I looked around, many sung along to Hello, I’m In Delaware.
WASHED OUT | Performing on the Bigfoot stage on the second day, Washed Out played All I Know, a harmonious song that was placed beautifully in their set at so close to sundown. This set turned out to be one of the most buzzed-about of the weekend.
M.I.A. | It was fun seeing M.I.A. live, since she tours so infrequently. As to be expected, M.I.A. brought the fire performing favorites Paper Planes (which she cut with Lorde’s Royals) Bad Girls, Galang, and Boyz, all the while two dancers powerfully danced along-side her on stage. Her colorful lightshow was wonderfully stimulating, in view of the Gorge’s late-sunset canvas.
BANKS | What an utterly captivating performance by this woman. Her voice is alluring and sultry, and even more beautiful than the artist herself. Performing This Is What It Feels Like, Goddess, and her acoustic rendition of Aaliyah’s early ‘90s R&B hit Are U That Somebody?, this performance was one I stumbled on by chance, and turned out to be a highlight of my festival experience.
These are the times that try men's souls. Or rather last night was one of those times - when Portlanders were forced to choose between Foster The People at the Roseland Theater and the Foals / Cage The Elephant double-header at Crystal Ballroom. That said, by all accounts, it doesn't sound like there was anyone that regretted being at the Crystal... and I can speak with certainty that there weren't any cases of concert-goers' remorse at the Roseland, either.
Following her recent appearance in support of Broods, Meg Myers returned to a Portland stage for the second time in as many weeks. Clad entirely in black - along with her entire band - Meg presented a slightly more somber, reigned-in appearance than she did at Mississippi Studios, but her singing was no less intense. After rocking out through songs like "Adelaide" and her most recent single, "Desire" (which prompted a concert-goer next to me to remark, "Uh... this song sounds like a threat. But I like it."), the singer ended her set with a howling rendition of "Heart Heart Head."
I've seen a handful of bands that have enthusiastic followings - Lorde, Chvrches, even Foster The People in a more intimate setting like Doug Fir. But nothing could have prepared me for the sheer power and energy of the sold-out crowd that packed into the Roseland Theater to see Mark Foster and the gang on Thursday night. When the group started the show off with "Miss You", they were met with a deafening cheer, and the noise level never dipped below a dull roar for the entirety of the show. Although the band saved most of their more iconic songs for the second half of their set ("Coming of Age", "Houdini", "Pumped Up Kicks" and "Helena Beat" all came in relatively short order, at the end), it didn't matter, because the crowd seemed to know every song by heart.
Although the band is supremely talented as a whole, much of Foster The People's crowd appeal comes from lead singer Mark Foster's knack for showmanship and raw charisma. Mark has arguably become the Justin Timberlake of indie rock, and he's a fairly reflective guy, as well. Shortly before launching into the last song of the night ("Don't Stop"), he paused to share a final thought with the crowd: "The enemy of our generation is isolation, and apathy is its friend." Pretty deep stuff, there - but fortunately for the crowd at the Roseland, neither isolation nor apathy were to be found, that evening.
Misssissippi Studios played host to an impressive showcase of artists on Sunday night as Holiday Friends, Meg Myers, and Broods packed into the North Portland venue for the most recent installment in 94/7’s “I Saw Them When” concert series.
Much like Hustle & Drone last week, Astoria band Holiday Friends is another PetAid alumni who has gone on fame and fortune as an I Saw Them When opener... and much like Hustle & Drone, these guys did not disappoint, either. Combining crisp vocals with catchy hooks and innovative percussion, the band gave an impressive performance that served as an apt reminder of why they're a consistent fixture at 94/7 shows.
Second opener Meg Myers' performance was equally impressive. It was also a little scary. The Los Angeles singer-songwriter has a magnetic presence and a powerful voice that evokes comparisons to Fiona Apple or Nico Vega's Aja Volkman. On stage, though, she sings with an intensity that occasionally borders on frightening - howling into the mic, rolling her eyes in the back of her head, and staring unblinkingly into the crowd for long stretches of time.
If there's one word that I'd use to describe New Zealand duo Broods, I think "enrapturing" would be most apt. There are many bands that boast enthusiastic crowds at their shows (we recently talked about how impressive the crowd response was at The Colourist and Chvrches), but I've never seen a band with the capacity to create instant fans the way Broods does. Quite a few people I ran into on Sunday hadn't heard more than a couple of the duo's songs at the start of the evening - but singer Georgia Nott's piercing voice and energetic stage presence quickly made believers out of the crowd. Although the Kiwi duo had received a warm reception at the start of the show, by the time they started the first few bars of "Bridges" they were greeted a roar from the crowd that was almost deafening.
In "Bridges", Georgia poses the question, "Can we forget about it?" If you were at Mississippi Studios on Sunday night, I don't think it's possible - nor would we want to.
The latest installment in 94/7’s “I Saw Them When” concert series started off on Thursday night with a great opening set by local artists Hustle and Drone. The band, fronted by ex-Portugal The Man keyboardist Ryan Neighbors, has come a long way since they played PetAid last summer. Although they were fun to listen to back then, over the past ten months, the band has become a frequent (and increasingly in-demand) fixture on Portland’s small venue circuit, honing their combination of tight electronica beats and slick harmonies into a polished act that seems ready for national exposure.
Not to be outdone, Matthew Hemerlein aka Lo-Fang (sometimes stylized as L0-Fang), started off his set with an improvised live-looping number that featured all three of the instruments he plays – violin, cello, and guitar. This initial confluence of instruments is perhaps an apt metaphor for Lo-Fang’s overall sound, which plays electronic influences against Hemerlein’s classical training and mixes moody, sometimes brooding lyrics with dreamy, ethereal vocals. There were also several classical-meets-Johnny-Cash moments, when Hemerlein swaggered around on-stage, playing his violin with his guitar slung over his back. There were several surprises throughout the set, as well – mid-way through the show, musician/entertainer Reggie Watts joined Lo-Fang onstage for a loop-heavy duet, and at the end of the night, Hemerlein put on a bathrobe to sing “When We’re Fire” before launching into an unexpected and hilariously entertaining cover of Ginuwine’s “Pony.”
Two epic but very different series came to an end on Friday night, as Modest Mouse ended their two-night concert set at the Crystal Ballroom amdist the final playoff game of the Portland Trailblazers' match-up against the Houston Rockets.
After an opening set by post-hardcore band Survival Knife (a talented act, but perhaps a slightly unusual choice given the crowd), Modest Mouse came on stage with as much fanfare and crowd adulation as you would expect at a sold-out show featuring a band whose next album has been eagerly awaited by fans since George W was still in office. But there was also a certain degree of uncertainty in the air - would they preview new material? Has time robbed them of their edge? You never really know until the lights dim.
I had never seen Modest Mouse live, before, so I have nothing to gauge Friday night's performance against, but I'm told by veteran fans that it was pretty much par for the course. To the uninitiated, however, that course can seem pretty unusual, at times.
The band played several of their most recognizable songs (including "Ocean Breathes Salty" and "Dashboard") right out of the gate, leaving the remainder of their two hour show (punctuated by weird, rambling asides from Isaac Brock and a twenty minute interval before the encore) devoted to their less well-known - and sometimes less accessible - material. For the fans packed up at the front, every song was a crowd favorite, but for more casual listeners milling in the back, the concert had some slow moments, and you could see a lot of concert-goers surreptitiously checking the Blazers score on their phones. (In fact, when news of their last-second win hit social media, a ripple of cheers went through the back half of the Crystal, temporarily threatening to drown out the music.)
While Modest Mouse's "comeback" may not have had the same populist appeal as the Blazers win, for fans of either group, Friday night definitely proved itself to be a long-awaited victory.
One of the first rock concerts I ever saw was Franz Ferdinand. It was 2005 and the Glasgow rockers, fresh off the success of their debut album, were playing the Roseland Theater to promote the impending release of their sophomore effort, You Could Have it So Much Better. At the time, the band's body of work was compact enough that they were able to fit almost every song off of both albums into their set. Almost a decade later, things came full circle when Franz Ferdinand returned to the Roseland on Saturday night, and their show proved that while they may no longer be the fresh-faced lads I saw in my youth, where showmanship is concerned, some things never change.
Saturday night's performance at the Roseland was a showcase of Franz Ferdinand's typical high-energy performance style and flare for theatrics. Before their set, a large curtain shrouded their equipment, pulling away to reveal the stage setup just moments before the band came on stage, opening with "Bullet" and "Michael" amidst a storm of strobe lights and screaming fans. The rest of the show went the same way. For close to an hour and a half, the band tore through one crowd favorite after another with the madcap energy that you would expect from a much younger band. Franz Ferdinand's stage presence doesn't always translate well to full-length albums (I would consider myself to be a pretty decent fan of the band, but I confess that it's been probably a year or two since I've dusted off my copy of You Could Have It So Much Better or Tonight), but live, they are a revelation.
Although you wouldn't know that most of the band is in their late thirties and forties, there are moments when you can tell that Franz Ferdinand isn't quite as young as they once were. Although he's still quite athletic in his performances, lead singer Alex Kapranos doesn't jump quite as high or quite as often as he used to, and more importantly, there were a couple of times where his voice seemed to quaver a bit - after years of touring, he can't hit the high notes the same way he once did. All in all, though, the band seems to have deftly channeled the energy from their wild, sweaty club days into a more polished but no less energetic brand of showmanship. And showmanship really is one of the most notable things about the band - they seem to eschew many typical concert conventions: probably 85% of their setlist was from their first two albums, and they seemed much more concerned with the flow of the set than rationing out crowd favorites one at a time. There was no forcing the crowd to wait until the encore to hear "Take Me Out", here - instead they closed out with the more thematically appropriate "Goodbye Lovers and Friends" and an old-fashioned curtain call.
Franz Ferdinand may not be the young upstarts I saw a decade ago, anymore - but Saturday night definitely proved that they've made the transition from post-punk princes to rock royalty, just fine.