Bombs, Burgers and Blades
Mr. Lif's voice is stronger than steel.
BY DAN HOYT
There's nothing polite about Mr. Lif. Though his name is honorable, his rhymes are scathing and to the point. Favorite topics include the world today, his culture and just how awesome he is.
|Mr. Lif, Cage, The pHormula,The Reward System. 9 pm, Wed., 7/19. WOW Hall, $10 adv./$12 dos.|
From the moment he declared, "I defeated Zeus and Thor, now they want more / I call on the rains so now let it pour / To soften up the ground so I can bury the gore," on his 2002 EP, Emergency Rations, Mr. Lif made it clear he thinks he's one of the biggest forces to be reckoned with in the hip hop underground.
With his new joint, Mo' Mega, Lif is back on the attack. "Mo' represents dialect created by African Americans," says Lif on his MySpace profile. "It's impossible to consider the African American without acknowledging the history of slavery… Mega is of course, descriptive of the ruling class, and the hyper-modernized world largely created by big business. The term Mo' Mega represents the clash of the working class vs. ruling class."
Lif writes about class struggle and disenchantment with working class life in "The Fries," describing America's addiction to fast-food culture and television, at one point yelling over a bizarre Blackalicious-like beat: "The TV! / The TV did it!" Lif's voice, which starts high on each rhyme and then descends in a slow fall, portrays an attitude of boredom with this lifestyle.
He also adds some Caribbean style to Mo' Mega with "Washitup," which bounces along with a reggae beat as Lif pumps himself up a bit more and lets his Jamaican accent hang out. In this song, Lif shows all his artistic talent and flavor.
Say what you will about modern hip hop, especially the mainstream — Mr. Lif throws that aside and strikes at the heart of the art of the genre. His music is simple, yet it has an edge sharper than a Ginsu.
The Dead Americans, Alive On Stage
Local band celebrates CD release.
BY VANESSA SALVIA
|The Dead Americans w/ Eleven Eyes. 10 pm, Sat., 7/15. Wetlands, $3.|
The band's name is provocative, and the music is too, but not everything about the Dead Americans is as politically charged. Zak Johnson started the band four years ago while living out in the country, working on an organic farm and raising his young daughter. "The people I worked with were DJs and it really broadened my perspective and my enjoyment of music," Johnson said. "I started to listen to all this indie rock and all this obscure stuff and it really made me want to write songs and be in a band."
When the war in Iraq started, Johnson felt inspired to action. "I had a radio and was listening to all the stuff going on about the war starting and it fueled me to want to create something remarkable and beautiful."
Johnson had plenty of musical experience behind him, having played in Abacadubi, Olem Alves Band, West Coast Rhythm Kings and the UO Gospel Ensemble. But it took awhile before he found the solid line-up he has today. With production help from Eleven Eyes drummer Steve Weems, the band is celebrating the release of their debut CD, The Boy Who Shot Out the Sun.
Self-produced and totally self-funded, the album took about a year and a half to record. "I'm really pleased with how it turned out," Johnson said. "It was a lot of hard work, and it's nice to have something to show for all your efforts. "
Johnson's grandparents owned a roller rink, and he inherited stacks of early rock and soul 45s. "I was playing them on my Fisher-Price record player … and just rocking out as a kid. I've always liked the classic sound, but I've also always liked the cutting edge attitude of indie rock. I definitely say our sound is like Jefferson Airplane, Pavement and Fugazi having a lovechild. It's a lot of fun!"
House Band to the World
Pink Martini gets around.
BY JOHN GINN
|Pink Martini w/ the March Fourth Marching Band. 7 pm, Sat., 7/15. Cuthbert Amphitheater, $26 gen./ $33 res.|
From the 1930s through the 1950s, movie characters would often visit an impossibly cool and elegant nightclub, a wonderland of grace and sophistication. The patrons were dressed to the nines for an evening out, and Maurice, the trusty maitre d', always had a table ready for the movie's hero.
In a world where such a nightclub might actually exist, Pink Martini would have to be the ultimate house band, abounding, like those fantasy nightclubs, with style, taste and an easy worldliness.
Attending a Pink Martini concert is like joining a musical caravan that travels the globe. The playlist includes sambas, rumbas, gypsy folk songs and obscure songs from Japanese thrillers, usually sung in Japanese, courtesy of the band's prodigiously talented vocalist China Forbes. At one concert, I gave up counting how many languages she had used when I reached nine. Whether she is singing phonetically or if she actually speaks any of the languages, I don't know. But her inflections and vocal shadings certainly seem authentic.
Formed in 1994 by pianist Thomas Lauderdale, the group initially rode a crest created by a lounge revival that saw the Pink Martini brand of exotica become hip again. Pink Martini was perfect bachelor pad music, but while some of the lounge revival was an ironic response to the grunge Seattle scene, there was nothing ironic about Pink Martini's approach to their material.
Instead, they have imbued the genre with the style, experimentation, craft and solid musicianship that were originally its hallmarks. More than a decade later, they continue to expand into new global frontiers.
The March Fourth Marching Band, which just returned from Germany where they won the international battle of the carnival bands, will also perform.