Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fang Island

I saw Fang Island a few days ago at the Hawthorne Theater. I was worried that the hot weather that day would make the venue next to unbearable, but luckily (or unluckily for the band) only about 40 people showed up for the show.

The first opening band was the Hugs, an indie rock band from Portland. While not terrible, lead singer and guitarist Danny Delegato's "rocker" persona left a lot to be desired. It was obvious that he was in his own world and it was the rest of the band who kept the songs together.

The next band, the five piece Zechs Marquise, got the audience into the opening band (which is a really hard thing to do) with their funk inspired prog music. The band handled complicated key and time signature changes with ease, which is a big accomplishment when you have two guitarists, a bassist, drummer, and keys player. Their songs could have fallen apart at any point, but the great part was that they never did.

Finally Fang Island came on and the party really got started. Sadly it was a last minute decision to go to this show so I didn't have time to prepare and bring my camera with me which, because of Fang Island's great dance moves and stage performance, was sad. The band played a variety of songs, many of which were off of their new album, Major. While definitely not as innovative or unique as their first album, Fang IslandMajor isn't a total disappoint. The songs on it are fun and danceable with a capital D.

The energy on their album definetly carried into their live show- there really wasn't one down moment. I was glad, at that point, that it was such a small show because if it was any bigger all of the people dancing would have made the venue unbearably hot.

One of the best parts of the show was hanging out with some of the members of Fang Island after their set. They were all really friendly (there is nothing better than nice musicians) and when they found out it was the birthday of a friend who came to the show with me they gave her a free copy of their new album on vinyl- nicest band ever? Nicest band ever.

Check out Fang Island's "Life Coach".

Friday, August 3, 2012

PDX Pop Now

Here's how I like my music- local, free, all ages, and (usually) good. Meeting all of these goals is literally next to impossible, but there is one exception- the PDX Pop Music festival. Since the first festival in 2004, PDX Pop has put on a free all ages music festival that features local Portland area bands. The festival has expanded to have yearlong outreach programs in Portland to bring music to K-12 schools.
I've gone to the festival a few times over the years, but have usually been out of town for it. This year I could only attend a couple of the many shows because of other things going on, but I had a really great time there.
Arohan lead singer Taylor Gehrts 

The first band I saw was Arohan. The electro music left a lot to be desired and lead singer Taylor Gehrts spent most of the time messing around on his computer (I think he was checking his email) and asking the sound guy to turn up the reverb (the indie-rock version of turning the volume up to 11). The only entertaining part of the set was when Gehrts would make funny faces at the audience, of course only for a second before going back and messing around on his computer.

Litanic Mask 
After the disappointing set by Arohan I had no clue what the next band would be like- and that's one of my favorite things about PDX Pop Now. Most of the bands are very small and there are only a few larger bands that headline the festival. While a lot of these unknown bands are not so great there is usually a jewel in the rough that makes sitting through the rest of the bands manageable. This year, that band for me was Litanic Mask. Their sound could best be described as a goth take on electro inspired pop music. The lead singer (whose name I couldn't find ANYWHERE) had a smoky deep voice, a cool leather jacket, and dance moves that got even the amateur photographers in the crowd snapping pictures on their iPhones.

Even though I hadn't heard their music before, I'll definitely be keeping my ears open for Litanic Mask in the future.

The next day I got to the festival bright and early to catch a trio of bands in the early afternoon. The first band was Houndstooth, a cute indie band with a slight country twang. While still a little shaky (all the members looked at each other nervously before transitions in songs), Houndstooth's sound is solid and a little bit of a relief after electro after electro band.

Following Houndstooth was XDS- with not one but two drummers, a singer/guitarist, and of course of a synth (I'm starting to believe that to be a band in Portland in the 21st century you HAVE to have a synth). The band had a garage rock/DIYed feel- with duck taped equipment, hubcaps as symbols, and their logo painted on their amps. XDS is a great band to dance to in a hot summer afternoon- with gritty riffs and of course heavy beats (one of the benefits of having two drummers).

Chrome Wings
The last band I saw of the festival (because I was out of town for the last day) was noise band Chrome Wings. Noise music isn't really my thing and I've never gotten all that into it, but I decided to give Chrome Wings a chance. I was pretty disappointed. It wasn't that the music was bad- it was just boring. And John Jurow, one half of Chrome Wings, spent all the time switching from guitar, to keys, to vocals, leaving no time to focus on how he was sounding nor interact at all with the audience. With performances like that, I don't understand why I would ever want to see them live, when I could have the exact same experience listening to their recordings. After snapping a few pictures I ended up having a friend teach me how to hula hoop (something that I am TERRIBLE at), instead of standing up front and watching the show.

While some of the bands were pretty disappointing, I still enjoyed PDX Pop Now. There is really no other festival that brings together local musicians like PDX Pop. And it is pretty cool that through the years PDX Pop has stayed to it's original goal of bringing local music for free to people of all ages.