Orca Team…Proves Rock n’ Roll Saves the Night

Picture this: it’s cold and rainy on a typical Portland night and you have just been stood up. Suddenly, you find yourself alone in a strip club (which really isn’t your scene but you wanted to live on the edge for a night). There are no familiar faces – yet is jam packed full of meat heads… the world never seemed more lonely. You start to bike home, defeated, but refuse to let the night go to waste. You decide to swing by the Hungry Tiger Too – a dingy dive that is sort of making a rock n’ roll come back – to see what is happening. Once you arrive, you hear sounds of sunshine permeating through the windows. Such sounds are vaguely familiar. You grab a whiskey, and enter the performance room filled with girls in cute dresses, and guys gently bobbing their heads to the catchy tunes. Suddenly, your horrible letdown of a night turns into a miracle of synchronicity proving that rock n’ roll can save the soul. You realize you have just randomly walked into a random bar only to catch a free show by one of your favorite Portland bands: Orca Team. The trio is clad in matching outfits: tight yellow shirts and dark bottoms, slightly resembling bumble bees as they bob up and down to their uplifting montage of 60’s surf, garage, and soul! The night is looking a lot brighter from there on out.

MFNW Adventure Part One

A Christmas miracle happened in September. Scenerio: I am working my day job when a bunch of non regulars stroll in looking hip in search of their next meal. As a certain gentleman waits for his order to finish up I make small talk and ask if anything fun is going on during the day. “Not really – just driving to Seattle,” the guy says. He looked liked he could have been in a band so I asked if he performed in Portland the night before. He answered “yes”, in fact, his band had played MFNW the previous night and now was headed north on tour. I said I was planning on catching a couple of MFNW shows but I didn’t have a wristband. Then the kind gentleman lifted his wrist up to his mouth and tore off a white plastic band with his teeth and handed it to me. It was his MFNW wristband that he didn’t need anymore. I thanked him and asked what his band was. He replied, “Cold Cave”, took his lunch and was off on his journey on the open road towards Seattle. On my lunch break, I looked up Cold Cave and found that they were actually pretty good. The nice guy who gave me access to one of the most hyped Portland festivals of the year will always been remembered in my music loving heart for his generosity.

So I left my workday feeling pretty dang good about my networking – or superior customer service skills – which landed me a MFNW wristband. After all, I was planning on dropping some dough to see Man Man anyways so it was quite an unexpected endowment. However, there is no such thing as a free lunch. I could have expected to pay some sort of price for my good luck – attending the concert alone. It’s cool though. I am a free-spirited, independent woman and sometimes I enjoy my alone time. Such a thing wasn’t obtained without a bit of chaos. The venue began to fill up with more and more people shuffling through.

Let's Wrestle

One thing about going to a show alone is that you can really enjoy the music and not feel pressure to socialize. I was happy to discover two awesome opening bands. Let’s Wrestle played energetic punk rock that reminded me a little bit of a simplified version of the Pixies. After they finished a rollicking set, a handful of very young looking guys began to set up. Their instrument selection was quite impressive: your standard drum, bass, guitar with synthesizers, large bongos, trumpets, etc. Such cargo took forever to set up but the wait was worth it. Once these guys pounced into their tunes the crowd started to jive and dance. The sound was a mixture of disjointed rhythms, cool sailing synths with boy harmonies floating up into the atmosphere recalling Grizzly Bear. Needless to say, I was quite impressed by their musicianship and ability to sway the crowd away from impatience.

As I waited for the main attraction, getting pummeled by teenagers and drunks, I was confused why I was at Hawthorne Theater in the first place. Why would Man Man’s booking agency allow them to play such a “meh” club? Months ago, when I had heard about their destination, I had asked myself, “why, why, why?!” Not only is the venue not big enough for a band of Man Man’s caliber, the sound is incredibly mediocre and seems to attract a breed of douche bags. I admit to referencing Man Man’s sound to Tom Waits – a lazy journalistic move, I know now – and found it incredibly obvious when the sound people played tunes from Wait’s greatest hits while the sweltering crowd became anxious… After awhile, they became hostile, pushing people forward into a locked sea of bruised hips and unwanted body contact. Yet, what can you expect? It is a music festival, right? You should be expecting to feel, smell and experience every sense associated with your neighbors (Though, a double fist of beer and shot of whiskey sure does help). After enduring a young couple practically getting it on in front of me (good thing they were at least mediocre in looks) and standing through the championed opening bands, Man Man was being summoned by their rabid fans, chanting, hollering, stomping and demanding the presence of their modern rock gods.

Man Man

Finally, the band appears and dives into some of their wild gypsy-jazz infested tunes. Immediately, towards the stage, people began to crowd surf and mosh – a celebrated tribal rock dance that seemed pretty outdated since Man Man is far from any sort of nineties revival band. Had to ditch the heart of the storm before I got shit kicked in the face by the boots of the flailing. I took a detour into the 21+ range of the event. Man Man was throwing themselves into “Top Drawer” one of my favorites and I couldn’t help but shake a little as I waited in line for a beer to cool off. After I had taken a few swigs, found a new spot and had a little bit more room, it was time for some dancing! Once you reach a certain level you don’t care so much what others think of you. Dance away. That is what is beautiful about being young and uninhibited. Sadly, I was probably one of the youngest – or having the most fun – grooving alone in the stand-still 21+ backdrop. It was time to move forward into the eye of the storm.

I began to make my way back toward the stage. Man Man was getting hot. At this point, I could have said my biggest life regret was wearing a hoodie and a jacket to this show. I tucked my layers under the merch booth just as sequins were starting to be unveiled onstage. A fake mustachioed women was beginning to gain popularity as she christened other members of the audience with white tribal paint – a look Man Man has popularized for their onstage battles of sonic sound. Beads of sweat began to appear on the backs of women and the air was humid as a hot Subway in New York during summer. Man Man’s jerky tunes purged on, causing a minimal amount of people to lose their shit to their own interpretative dance calling – it was hard to move but I did it anyway, letting myself go in a sea of strangers. Women’s makeup was running off in the heat, their feathers limp and tribal war paint leaking down their face. Still, they were pretty underneath, exuding an in the moment mental state. The trend with the male audience members was taking their shirt off. Not too surprising for Man Man’s demographic of male fans.  Hot frenzy was quickly turning into a hot mess. Man Man’s music was especially sexy, probably fueling the rage of pheromones oozing from person to person in the audience. The sound was primitive, carnal and cut to the root of the human soul; infused with gypsy jazz, blatant Tom Waits rip offs and a janky Eastern European feel meshed with modern-day cool.

After the show I realized I had sweated out the equivalent to a session at the gym. In order to cool off I biked home without my jacket on and tried to cool down with a bowl of ice cream drenched in a delicious organic chocolate stout. I’m sure Man Man would be proud.

Guest Blogger Colleen covers Pickathon!!!

Outsider Music Press is proud to introduce our first guest blogger, Colleen Nielsen! She comes with us with a passionate recap about her experience at the 2010 Pickathon festival – a folk oriented festival held in the woods outside of Portland, OR. Be sure to check out other work by Colleen via I Fry Mine In Butter.

Dr. Dog; photo by Colleen

Pickathon 2010: Lots of love and a passionate rant by Colleen Nielsen

Just last week, the 12th annual Pickathon took place on the gorgeous Pendarvis Farm about 45 minutes outside of Portland in Happy Valley. I am not an early adopter of Pickathon but it was my 3rd year at the lovingly curated “Indie Roots Festival”; a broad enough theme to keep things fresh every year. The vibe is always mellow (and very family friendly), most fellow festival-goers are respectful and it’s not so big that you have to fight your way through a sea of drunks to get a glimpse of your favorite band. It’s like a big block party in the woods.

Past years at Pickathon, I have felt quite lucky to experience some amazing sets of music. My first year we wandered out to the stage in the woods and stumbled upon The Everybodyfields playing sweet, country-fied indie rock tunes to an audience of about 30 people sitting on hay bales. About two songs into their set, it started to rain and they had to shut off the PA. Instead of packing up, the band stepped down from the stage into the audience and continued their set as the rain came down. It was a wonderful, beautiful set and that was it: I was hooked on Pickathon. I also got to catch John Doe of X fronting the Sadies in a tiny barn downing Black Butte Porters in a single gulp and then ripping through some X nuggets and new rockabilly tinged numbers. Jolie Holland also performed a magical midnight set in the same barn.

This year’s Pickathon featured a pretty amazing line-up. A well balanced blend of some established bands (Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Heartless Bastards, The Punch Brothers), up-and-comers (These United States, Megafaun, Cotton Jones), and local heroes (Black Lillies, Typhoon, Michael Hurley, Weinland). Again, there were some truly fantastic performances. Richmond Fontaine did an amazing set with tunes about beautiful losers and down ‘n’ out sad folks finding their way home. The Fruit Bats tore through two rockin’ plugged in sets and notched up tempo that downplayed the heavy banjo presence on their records. The real break out for me was Maryland’s Cotton Jones. There is something about a band that can manage to create a thick atmosphere in the middle of the day on a large stage. It’s not easy to do but they pulled off their otherworldly twang with real grace.

Cave Singers, photo by Colleen

So all of this was wonderful and I don’t want to downplay what an utterly fantastic festival Pickathon is… but I have a gripe. I’m getting old, so please bear with me as I am about to rail against the younger whipper snappers around me. Here was an amazing, kick-ass festival that you were attending and how did you spend it? Glued to your G4 smart phone updating! It broke my heart to see so many people taking pictures with their cell-phones and then ignoring the band to talk about something they saw on the internet. Don’t worry, I’m fully aware of the irony of using the internet as my platform for bitching at people who are glued to the internet. But here’s the thing: I experienced that festival. I took the pictures I could when I could without getting in peoples way. I let myself enjoy the music (when people weren’t talking LOUDLY over the delicate songs of Michael Hurley for instance). And I’ve let myself have the last week to process the whole thing and not just vomit all over a few tweets and facebook updates.

Fruit Bats; photo by Colleen

I reached my tipping point when during a ethereal, elegant set in the woods from Bonnie “Prince” Billy, two young ‘uns behind me were loudly talking about this: “YOU SHOULD LOOK THEM UP ON GOOGLE, THEY DO REALLY INTERESTING THINGS. LOOK THEM UP ON GOOGLE.” Gah! How frustrating. There is a wonderful, special, interesting thing happening right now. You are here. You are having the chance to experience something tangible and real and you are shitting all over it! Listen, I get it. The internet is marvelous. It is a great tool for connecting. But how can you connect if all you do is go through the motions regurgitating someone else’s content? Shut it off for a hour or two. Take in some art. Read a book, a real one that you can hold in your hands. Make something. Anything! Not only is what you’re doing unsustainable, it’s rude. Be kind to your fellow concertgoers. Be aware of the people around you. You might make some new friends and connections! You might be surprised what happens when you become silent and observe.

Heartless Bastards; photo by Colleen

Now that that is off my chest, let me reiterate: Pickathon is awesome! It makes me proud that my adopted home has not only produced this festival but so many excellent bands. People come from all over the country to see this thing and I get to live right near it! Viva the non-corporate get-together. Now get the hell out there and create something. I’ll probably come see it!

You can gladly bitch at what I create with a handful of other grumpy curmudgeons over on pop-culture blog, I Fry Mine In Butter.

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Thank you Colleen for your coverage (and your blunt honesty). Do YOU have something to say? Photos or video to share? Be our next guest blogger. Pitch your story to outsidermusicpdx [@] yahoo.com

OUTSIDER MUSIC PRESS: YELLOWFEVER VIDEO RECAP

YellowFever played to an intimate crowd last night at East End bringing a myriad of new songs. I had anticipated the show’s focus to spotlight tracks from their new LP, Cats and Rats, however, the opportunity for a sing-a-long was few and far between as YellowFever was trying out a more challenging set on a captive audience.

Throughout the years, YellowFever has been given multiple pats on the back for their keeping their songs down to earth, reigned in with a 90s-esque simplicity. Released via the Vivian Girls label, Wild World Records, YellowFever’s Cats and Rats is reliant on minimalist structure and catchy melodies that stick to your memory capsules. Yet last night’s set foreshadows the inevitable growth of the duo’s musical capacities beyond everyone’s nostalgia for the return of the 90s.

Drummer, Adam Jones, is a wonder to watch as he knocks out his beats in between tapping out bass lines on some sort of keyboard modulator. Meanwhile, Jennifer Moore coos and caws out her atypical yet contagious lyrical inflections alternating her instrumental contributions between her collection of beat up guitars, loop pedal, and a vintage organ. In fact, YellowFever is starting to sound more like Devo’s Freedom of Choice era rather than a simplistic avante-garage act. Check out YellowFever while they are on tour.

Outsider Music Press is happy to feature YellowFever as our first live video production!

GHOST TO FALCO – Live At Valentines, June 13

This past Sunday, I was lucky enough to stumble into Valentines around 11 o’clock to partake in a night-cap with friends. It’s entrance is on one of the last romantic alley ways in Old Town Portland. The small cafe is the home to many art shows, experimental and avant guard music and being a small – yet quaint – joint is notorious for getting stuffy with pretense and is easily over packed with a crowd of 40 people. However, on this night, I was able to step around the band with ease and refrain from falling back on the old timey line, “What does it take to get a drink in ‘ere?”.

The lights were dim and a small group of people were scattered around the tiny bar’s European bistro tables. A few people were sipping red wine at the bar’s edge and though this is the calmest I have ever seen Valentines after dark, everyone was listening attentively to the three-piece band who was weaving an atmosphere of minimalist indie rock around them like a warm cocoon.

The trio was fronted by a wiry fellow playing guitar with a small array of special effects, singing softly yet determined. The backing band watched his every move and was careful to perform on the mark paying special notice to the dynamic of their leader’s mood. Behind them were three black and white televisions, each flicking a single word: Ghost. To. Falco. It dawned on me that I had seen the band several years ago and listening to them upon this night was like catching up with an old friend, hearing stories of travel and heartache, a buzz of familiarity mixed with an urge to discover more about their growing pains.

Musically, Ghost To Falco is a collaboration between a talented musical entourage and the divine spirit of Eric Crespo, whom has been writing and recording under the name Ghost To Falco since 2001. The music was at times minimal and vaguely experimental in a primitive Phil Elverum sort of way – then with a quick switch the aura becomes an intense wall of sound before dropping down into somber bedside prayers. Enough suspense to keep you waiting, guessing and hoping for resolve.

Ghost to Falco will be leaving their home in Portland, OR in a matter of days to live the dreams of wanderers – flying across the Atlantic to play a handful of shows in Italy in support of their third full length, Exotic Believers (out now Cape and Chalice/Infinite Front). Look forward to our review soon, in the meantime, check out this video of Crespo’s performance of “The End” in Paris:

PS> Learn more about Ghost To Falco via their incredibly designed website

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