2013 has been a banner year for both synthpop and female-fronted bands, at least where The Wonder Ballroom is concerned. Earlier this year, Portland was treated to visits from Polica, Bat for Lashes, and Chvrches - and things came full circle this Friday night when Channy and the rest of the gang returned to The Wonder in support of Polica's new album, "Shulamith."
If you've never seen Polica in concert, it's an experience. Vocalist Channy Leaneagh can seem a little somber, at times - she doesn't smile much and she tends to dispense with on-stage banter: there are no cute anecdotes about visiting Voodoo Donuts or Powell's, here. Leaneagh's often serious demeanor belies the passion behind her music, though - once she starts singing, she closes her eyes, dances to the beat, and lets loose with ethereal, hauntingly beautiful vocals.
While they played a few of their older songs (including the crowd favorite, "Dark Star"), much of Friday's setlist focused on material off of Shulamith - including the singles "Tiff" and "Chain My Name" - before closing out with a brilliant cover of Lesley Gore's "You Don't Own Me." One thing is for sure, though - whether they're playing new material, old material, or really old cover material - Polica's got a unique sound that will transport you to another place.
Industrial music fans were given a rare treat on Monday night, when rocker Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails returned to The Moda Center as part of their first tour since returning from a four-year hiatus earlier this year.
Following a suitably incendiary instrumental set from openers Explosions In The Sky, NIN came onstage amidst a barrage of light and sound that continued uninterrupted for well over an hour. I've been to concerts with impressive light shows in my day, but nothing quite prepares you for the sheer power and relentless energy that Nine Inch Nails has at their disposal. The set list for Monday's show included selections from every part of NIN's two-and-a-half decade long discography, including classics such as "Head Like a Hole" and "The Hand That Feeds" alongside selections from the band's new album, Hesitation Marks, finally culminating with a powerful and haunting rendition of their 1994 hit, "Hurt."
Although Nine Inch Nails' sound has evolved quite a bit over the past two decades, Monday night's show proved that Trent and Company are still as powerful and compelling as ever.
Fans of all ages packed into Mississippi Studios in droves this weekend for the latest 94/7 Session with Switchfoot. The band stopped in Portland to play a short, acoustic set. The San Diego rockers played a couple of old favorites before taking a few moments to hold an impromptu Q&A with their fans. They rounded out their set with their new single, "Who We Are", followed by an enthusiastic band sing-along to "Hello Hurricane" and then finished off with their classic hit, "Dare You To Move."
It's been over a decade since "Meant to Live" came out, but if the all-ages crowd at MissStu is any indication, Switchfoot's flame shows no signs of flickering anytime soon.
There are sold out shows, and then there are SOLD OUT shows. This Saturday's triple-header with Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr, Family of the Year, and Atlas Genius was definitely one of the latter, as the Crystal Ballroom quickly filled to capacity with hundreds of screaming fans of the three bands.
Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr kicked off the evenings festivities with a short, spirited set. The Detroit band's sound has changed substantially since their debut in 2011 - the eerie, synth-heavy sounds of "Morning Thought" have given way to a gentler, catchier form of electro-pop, with songs like "If You Didn't See Me (The You Weren't on the Dancefloor)" and "Don't Tell Me" that gave the crowd a steady beat to dance to.
Second opening act Family of the Year kept the party going with songs like St. Croix (a song that bears a passing resemblance to Madonna's "Holiday") and the fast-becoming-ubiquitous "Hero", which drew a huge response from the crowd. If "dance folk" ever becomes a genre, Family of the Year will definitely be at the forefront of the movement.
Although the concert had been going for about two hours, the crowd's enthusiasm showed no signs of waning as headliners Atlas Genius finally took the stage a little after 11 PM. While both of the openers had been enthusiastic about playing in Portland, Atlas Genius upped the ante on the evening's PDX love-fest, repeatedly noting how much they enjoyed playing here, even going so far as to admit "We love Portland almost more than (their native) Australia." The crowd ate it up, and responded with equal enthusiasm to the band's set, which moved from crowd-favorite to crowd-favorite (with one album and one EP to their name, pretty much every song was a favorite), including their recent single "If So" and capping the evening with their breakout hit, "Trojans." While these boys from down under may continue to circumnavigate the globe, Portlanders are always grateful when Atlas Genius's finger lands on this part of the map.
You never know quite what to expect when a band reunites after a long hiatus. Will they chart a new course or will they return to their old ways? Will this precipitate a return to their former glory, or is this merely a last hurrah? And perhaps most importantly, are they going to play any of their old hits or will they force the audience to listen exclusively to their new material? These questions were no doubt on many people's minds as they filed into the Wonder Ballroom on Friday night to see Scottish rockers The Fratellis.
Lead singer was Jon Fratelli was quick to dispel any concerns about the last question - a few minutes into their sold-out show, he entered into a verbal contract with the crowd, "For every new song we play, we'll give you an old one" - a promise they more lived up to, doling out generous helpings of their 2006 album "Costello Music" alongside fresh tracks from their new record, "We Need Medicine."
It's been over seven years since The Fratellis burst onto the scene with "Chelsea Dagger" and the group's sound has definitely changed significantly in the interim. Following a four-year hiatus, the band traded in the raucous pub-rock vocals and burlesque-inspired music videos for a more bluesy, rockabilly vibe. Although it's quite a departure from their past sound, songs like "Seven Days Seven Nights" and "Halloween Blues" retain much of the energy of the band's earlier work, albeit with a more mature finish.
While it's unlikely that "We Need Medicine" is going to return The Fratellis to the spotlight, their fans at the Wonder greeted old and new material alike with wild enthusiasm - and I'd say that counts as a successful comeback.
While December may still be a few weeks off, on Monday night it became a "November 2 Remember" as Tame Impala rocked the Crystal Ballroom for the first show of this year's December to Remember concert series. Although they were originally scheduled to open for Vampire Weekend during Dec2Rem, a scheduling conflict forced the Australian psych-rockers to push up their show by a month. This proved to be a blessing in disguise, as we got to enjoy a longer set from them - for the last gig of their American tour, the band played a marathon show with no opener that lasted close to 90 minutes.
Tame Impala has played two sold-out shows in Portland this year, and both times have been have been wild sprees of pure psychedelic rock goodness, complete with a light show that would make even Pink Floyd fans jealous. While many people are probably familiar with the gnarly blues riffs of the band's breakout single, "Elephant", most of their repertoire has the lush, ethereal sound of songs like "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards." During some of the more trippy instrumental interludes, front man Kevin Parker frequently would turn and play with his back to the crowd, as though he was lost in the music.
Although there were a few moments where the vocals were washed out and a couple of the guitar solos bordered on self-indulgent (hey - it wouldn't be pysch-rock if they didn't, right?), Tame Impala played an amazing set that proves that the legacy of psychedelic rock is alive and well. And if this is any indication of what's to come, this may very well be the best December 2 Remember, yet!