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.