This weekend found us visiting two different Whiteaker clubs for our Friday and Saturday explorations, one we had previously visited before and a brand new venue. The entertainment offered between the two almost differed as widely as do the establishments themselves – we saw folks performing folk / blues and bluegrass/Appalachian folk on Friday, and what I can only call funk hard rock (you’d have to see them to understand that!) on Saturday. But enough with the intros – here’s the scoop!
Friday, July 15, 2011 at Sam Bond’s Garage, Eugene, Oregon –
This duo from Bozeman, Montana were excellent, with the amazingly sultry, dulcet tones of Gillian Howe paired with Tyler Miller on guitar who strummed and noodled like a classic master. It was a delightful set – Tyler also provides very nice vocals as well. We absolutely loved Gillian’s peacock lace dress with ribbed stockings and western boots (ok, I like eclectic fashions!). Tyler’s patter between the songs was both witty and barbed, really fun. They throw in a respectable amount of bluegrass with what would best be termed “caberet” folk stylings sprinkled throughout. While most of the set were original songs from their recently released self-titled album, they did throw in a couple covers at the end of the set. Gillian makes nice use of a bullet mic as well. It was a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable performance – thanks for coming to Eugene, TH! Find this awesome pair on Facebook, Myspace, and at tumbledownhouse.com.
Blackberry Bushes – Kendl Winter (banjo, vocals), Jes Raymond (guitar, vocals), Jakob Breitbach (fiddle, vocals), River Breitbach (hope I have that right – most of the info online did not include info on this amazing mandolin playing madman!), and Joe Capoccia (upright bass, vocals).
By the time this Olympia, Washington group opened their set, the club was packed (as in SRO) – Jeanice had to elbow her way through the crowd to the front of the stage for pictures! We loved this band – the vocals by Kendl and Jes were so sweet (reminded me of Dixie Chicks), with excellent mandolin strumming and picking by River. Kendl’s banjo picking was amazing, weaving around and through Joe’s bass thumping. Jakob on fiddle was pure joy – he tore it up! Bluegrass never sounded so good, I really wish this venue had a full-sized dance floor although folks did manage to stomp around in front of the stage anyways. We were mesmerized – I didn’t want to stop watching and listening to take notes! Joe’s vocals on “Virginia” were a treat (he wrote that song), and Jes’ boot stomping was beyond description – she’s awesome! They used some excellent tempo changes throughout as well. If you weren’t there, you missed a helluva party! Find them on Facebook, Myspace, and their webpage at http://theblackberrybushes.com.
Saturday, July 16, 2011 at the Wandering Goat, Eugene, Oregon –
The Filthiest People Alive – Ken Howe (drums), Andrew Lathrop (rhythm guitar,harmonica, vocals), Jeff Matthews (keyboards, lead vocals), Mike Tolman (lead guitar, vocals), Jeff Walske (bass)
Both bands made a point of catching up with us both before and during the show as well as between sets (thank you guys!!). I try to get a bit of info that may not be available to the casual online observer, so I asked Andrew and Mike what one thing would they want to say to other young bands in the area, and they were quick to answer: “Don’t give up!” I think that pretty well sums it up. The name comes from the old 70’s movie, “Pink Flamingos” (you’ll have to ask them for the specific reference, I can’t repeat it because it makes me laugh too hard to type!). As a band, they’ve been together for about five years now, and while several of the members are involved in other projects, FPA has still been active, frequently playing local venues such as the Wandering Goat and including some PDX events. Ken on drums is the most recent member of the band, having only been with them for about two years now. Jeff M.’s lead vocals bring a whole new definition to the term “bass” but don’t try to pin him to that one range – he can do an alto/tenor wail just as easily! He has the most amazing, ultra-cool funk rock stylings, boogie-ing along with the band when he wasn’t singing lead vocals – it was awesome! I also loved how they changed the vocals up between Mike and Andrew. Their transitions from funk to old school rock were excellent as well. Reminded me a bit of the Talking Heads on their second song, “Love and Money” (see full set list below). I really liked how all the guitars were absolutely tight with the bass and drums. The crowd loved these guys – Jeff M.’s keyboards on “Month of Mondays” (please gods, let that never happen!) were a really nice touch as well.
What I thought was pretty funny was that FPA made a point of saying that Poli High were their favorite local band – and guess who Poli High’s fave band is? Yep – you got it: FPA! I asked Andrew what was up with that (some kinda conspiracy maybe?!!) and he just laughed and explained that they are all friends, having known each other for years. They simply enjoy playing together – and it shows. They dedicated “No End” to Poli High which was cool, and I really liked “No End.” If it was possible for such a thing as hard R&B rock as a genre, then this band is IT. Andrew’s guitar work with the mouth harp on “You’ll Never Find Me” was perfection. I noticed nice tempo (and style) changes throughout the set as well, which kept the energy moving without dragging or stalling, especially in “Stealing Keats.” Ken’s drumming on “The Sickness” kicked a$$, with Mike’s lead guitar weaving such pretty melodies, that was definitely one of my favorite songs of the evening. Lyrically, their songs are as complex as the music – I’d love to get some lyric sheets (hint hint), I know I missed some of the poetry of the songs just being blown away by the awesome music.
Bottom line is this band puts on an awesome show, with front man Jeff’s theatrics just the icing on the cake as all of them are excellent musicians. I’d like to see them in a bigger venue, I noticed Jeff W. (aka bass man) tried to hide next to Ken’s drum kit, but Jeanice managed to catch him as well (don’t you love that expression – it just screams, “Wha? Wha you lookin’ at?!”). Whether he tries to hide or not, his bass work was straight on, and the audience adored Mike’s lead guitar riffs, which just ripped. The train rolling by periodically seemed to do nothing but add to the sound, almost as if they had it timed. It was pretty awesome! Find them on Facebook and Myspace – check out this youtube video – a couple years old, but it gives you an idea!
Set List: Kind Bud, Love and Money, Escape From the Earth, Month of Mondays, No End, Barely Legal (cover), You’ll Never Find Me, Stealing Keats, The Sickness, Blue Sky Man
Poli High – Matthew V. Le Shay (piano/vocals), Jonathan Bilenki (guitar/vocals), Trevor Enright (bass), Douglas Keilitz (drums)
Besides their AWESOME flyers (created by Matt), this band (their name comes from Harry Nilsson’s “The Point!”) packs some serious energy. Most of the members originally hail from the East Coast (Trevor being the exception as sole Oregonian), they also took the time to chat several times throughout the evening, especially Matt and Jon who made sure I got their set list (thanks!) and the flyer from the show (thank you thank you!!). Jon’s answer to my question of what would you want to say to local bands trying to make it was, “Don’t take yourself too seriously – have fun! Make music with your friends – buy a ukulele and sing birthday songs (preferably in one key)!” As I mentioned previously, these guys also stated that FPA was their fave local band – I still think that is really way cool and too funny! They are also one of the member bands of the collective “Working Stiff Music” (a group of sixteen local music groups – get a punch card, fill it out, get free stuff – excellent!). Matt’s keyboards are just astounding, you can definitely see his classical music background here. It’s hard to believe this band has been together less than a year. They do some nice transitions with different time signatures as well. Jon’s lead guitar riffs simply shine, with nice rhythm guitar strumming filling in and excellent vocal harmonies, and Trevor’s bass was well placed.
Smooth as silk, their R&B stylings are hard to put into any one genre. The club still had a full crowd for this set, and it was nice to have Doug playing drums with wrapped brushes, keeping a solid foundation without overwhelming the rest of the music. Trevor tried to hide as well (what is it about bass players wanting to fade into the background?!) but he played a solid and rock steady bass line throughout. Matt’s vocals are a gravel pathway riding on the front – an interesting and unusual effect for lead vocals. I especially liked “Performance Anxiety” as vaudeville funk comes on with a hard rock edge.
With nice intros for each song from Jon, I would have liked to see a bit more energy going back and forth between the band and the audience – it would have made this set go from noteable to astounding. They are obviously extremely talented musicians, and everything was so complex that I won’t even attempt to try to put this band in a box – Cake comes to mind, but only inasmuch as the stories in the songs were so twisted! I’ll definitely look forward to seeing them again to see their continued evolution towards perfection. Find them on Facebook, Myspace, and ReverbNation.
Set List: Headspin (sound check – new song!), Totem Turtle (instrumental), Portholes & Porcupines, Performance Anxiety, Shiitake Attack, I’ll Trade You a Daisy [For a Mushroom]), Brundlefly, The Wickerman, Piss & Vinegar, Worm’s Eye, Sugar Cain
Spotlight – The Wandering Goat (268 Madison Street, Eugene, Oregon)
A very cute coffee café, this is not a bar (so don’t go expecting hard alcohol – although they do have Ninkasi on tap as well as a nice selection of house wines), the decor is basic black tables and chairs with mint green walls and an unfinished concrete floor, and very cool art work throughout the place. Situated on the far side (away from downtown) of the railroad tracks, this location gives a bit of competition to bands playing when the trains come through periodically (although it can – and did – provide a cool counterpoint!). They have a very nice house sound system, and the raised floor seating area doubles as a decent-sized stage. With select bagels, scones, and other baked goods as well as a homemade soup of the day and killer wraps, this place has everything you could want in a live music venue. They could use some fans (the kind that blow air – not people clapping!) facing the stage tho. Excellent service from the folks at the counter who were friendly, patient, and helpful (I had no idea what I wanted when I walked in – but I definitely recommend the single cup brewed Ethiopian Sidamo!). Don’t dress to impress when you come here, this is casual come-as-you-are comfort. I wasn’t feeling all that great and nearly canceled TCC’s attendance tonight, but I have to tell you I felt at least 150% better for having been here – they have the most amazing coffees, and the music was just perfect!
And we thought the bathrooms (ladies at least) which offered chalk to write on the walls was an awesome touch – and of course I couldn’t resist – so I had to make our mark for history (which has now become TCC’s new picture!!)