The Madness of Marv
Marv Ellis goes underwater
BY STEVEN SAWADA
Underwater Not Underground, the new album by Genus Pro member Marv Ellis (aka Garrick Bushek), represents something much more than just another underground rap record. Born and raised here, Marv considers himself the “Unofficial Ambassador of Eugene.” When his parents split, he lived with his mother and attended Sheldon High School during the week and then commuted to his father’s place in West Eugene for weekends. While his experiences between these two drastically different socio-economic regions of the city shaped his perspectives of class and race, and in turn informed the angle of his music, Marv says his ennui is taking over. It soon may be time to move on.
|Marv Ellis and his Imaginary Friends, Metric and DJ Mathew Nelkin. 9 pm Saturday, 2/24 • Latitude 21 • $7 • 21+|
“When you see the same car in the same driveway for 20 years it starts to feel like Groundhog Day” he says with a hint of jest. “But it’s hard to ‘blow it up big’ in Eugene, and I’m going to have to go soon,” he adds in a more serious tone.
Underwater Not Underground marks a coming of age for Marv both spiritually and stylistically. On it, he croons, rhymes in Spanish, fuses live instrumentation with programmed beats and cracks open highly sophisticated subject matter (track six, “Lo Siento,” finds Marv apologizing to Latin American people for U.S. immigration policy).
“I spent about nine months on it, like obsessively. ‘Til the point my girlfriend was getting mad at me. But it is everything that I wanted it to be,” he says.
By experimenting with the various players on the album, Marv connected with different musicians from here and Portland, which allowed him to piece together a cohesive live band that he began playing shows with last year. His Imaginary Friends, as he’s labeled them, comprise a cellist, fiddler, bassist, percussionist, slide guitarist, drummer and bass player. Promoters looking for a livelier sound soon caught on and Marv and Friends began lining up bigger gigs between Eugene and Portland.
While all of this has awakened him to the potential of taking his music career to greater heights, he’s careful not to completely uproot his spirit. The album’s title not only references Marv’s aversion to the label of “underground” rap, it also affirms his identity here in the Northwest. He says the “underwater” part of the title is a reference to the incessant rainfall in the region and the different effects it can have on a person’s personality — the first track, “Water Torture,” alludes to the pain the rain can bring, while the album’s closer, “The Rain,” references the epiphany it can also evoke.
For now, Ellis is still in town, and he has a thoughtful new solo album to drop on the Eugene massive, even if it may be one of his last as our “Unofficial Ambassador.”
We Dig, We Dig
After 12 years, fans still dig The Dandy Warhols
BY AMANDA BURHOP
There was a time in the mid ’90s when The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre were convinced of their power to contrive a full scale musical revolution. While the latter band imploded under the weight of its ego and self-destructive behavior (mostly on the part of frontman Anton Newcombe), The Dandy Warhols pushed forward to consistently churn out records over the last 10 years. As front man Courtney Taylor-Taylor explains in the indie documentary Dig!, “We’re the most well-adjusted band in America.”
|The Dandy Warhols. 9 pm Thursday, 3/1 McDonald Theatre. $15 adv./$17 door|
While The Dandys aren’t completely without rock-star ego — at one point in the film Taylor-Taylor says, “I sneeze and hits come out” — the group has successfully overcome the cruelties of the record industry, the clashing of bandmate personalities and the struggle to maintain artistic freedom in the corporate rock world.
1995 marked the Portland-based band’s first release, Dandys Rule OK? Not long after that, The Dandys were picked up by major label Capitol Records. Since then the band has held on by the skin of its teeth as it’s been told time and time again that it isn’t a hit-producing machine — even though the band has supplied songs to cult films and TV shows like Daria and There’s Something About Mary.
While “Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth” and “Bohemian Like You” have kept the Dandy Warhols treading water with their label, it’s consistency and longevity that stand as testaments to the band’s success.
The latest album, 2005’s Odditorium or Warlords of Mars, is rooted in the band’s early years; it’s been described as less Welcome to the Monkey House, with its heavy dance beats, and more Dandys Rule OK? According to the band’s press release, “Born of long sessions that found the band experimenting freely with new instrumentation and adding new flavors to their trademark mix of seamless rock hooks, turned-on drone, deep psychedelia and a big shot of country blues, Odditorium is an expansive rock and roll album that could only come from the minds (and homes) of the Dandys.”
Like all artists, The Dandys struggle to define their success and the future of it. There’s a delicate balance between wanting enough financial success to continue in this cutthroat business and maintaining some bit of integrity, and that keeps artists on their toes. From the looks of it, The Dandys stand firmly on solid ground.
If Amber Valentine wasn’t so cute, Jucifer would be the baddest (as in bad ass) band in all of rawk. But she’s adorable, and even her voice, which is much more prominent on record than it is live, is sugary sweet. But wait, what am I talking about? It’s been too long since I’ve seen Jucifer perform, and supplementing my concert memories with CDs and press photos is thoroughly clouding my judgment. Jucifer — the husband and wife duo with the wall of amps — is totally anomalous on stage. When she’s playing live, there’s nothing cute about Amber Valentine; she’s a wild beast on the guitar, and her vocals sound like the roars of a pissed-off cougar. And to say that Ed Livengood plays the drums like a man possessed is just way too blasé; Livengood pounds his immense drum kit like a beefcake meth-head at the absolute zenith of his high. I mean, there’s probably still some melody and honey underneath all that riffage and pummeling. But fuck that noise; I want my guts rewired by the eviscerating low-end frequencies emanating from those monolithic amp stacks! Don’t let me dissuade you from buying their latest record, If Thine Enemy Hunger. But to truly feel the Jucifer experience, I beseech you, see them live. Jucifer plays with On the First Day … They Were Kittens and In the Name of God at 10 pm Friday, Feb. 23 at John Henry’s. 21+ show. $5. — Steven Sawada
Wanderin’ and Singin’
Ever hear Lucinda Williams, Slaid Cleaves or Greg Brown in concert? A bit of an odd assortment, yeah, but Jeffrey Foucault calls to mind these bluesy balladeers of place and love and loss. He produced his new album Ghost Repeater in Iowa City with the legendary blues guitar player Bo Ramsey (I’m from Iowa City, and that’s not exactly what Ramsey’s famous for there, but whatever), and the album shows the touches of Ramsey’s dark prairie visions and dark prairie sounds. The title track kicks off a full range of narratives. From traditionally agonized tunes like “Train to Jackson” to the longing, dancing waltz of “Tall Grass in Old Virginny,” Foucault, originally from Wisconsin, croons and charms the hearts of his listeners. The album has backing vocals from Foucault’s brilliant wife, singer-songwriter Kris Delmhorst, who writes of Ghost Repeater, “Irish people like it, small children like it, famous people like it and there’s an excellent chance that you will like it too.” Jeffrey Foucault plays at 7 pm Saturday, Feb. 24 at Luna. $10 adv., $12 door. — Suzi Steffen
Geoff Muldaur’s interest in blues started when his older brother became a fan of old-time jazz and forced him to listen to Jelly Roll Morton records. This led to country blues, and as a teenager Muldaur hitchhiked to Dallas with a broom so that he could obey Blind Lemon Jefferson’s wish: “See That My Grave is Kept Clean.” Attending Harvard, he fell in with a crowd of traditional music enthusiasts who revolved around the late Eric von Schmidt, and began playing guitar and singing in coffeehouses. His real break, though, came when he joined the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, lending his melodious bellow to the mix. Spying a beautiful fiddler in a rival band, the Even Dozen Jug Band, he told a friend “I’m going to marry that girl,” and before long, he and Maria d’Amato were indeed married, and she joined the Kweskin crew. After that band fell apart, he and Maria made a couple of amazing albums for Warner Bros., and he became vocalist with Paul Butterfield’s ill-fated band Better Days. One of the major folk-blues artists of the 1960s and ’70s, Muldaur, after a period of hard drinking and losing interest in the music business, has recently come back with a couple of critically acclaimed albums and live performances at venues as prestigious as Lincoln Center, the Getty Center and London’s Royal Festival Hall. He plays at 8 pm Sunday, Feb. 25 at Luna. $18.50 adv., $20 door. — Ed Ward
I can’t decide if I’m a sucker for Josh Ritter‘s precision-crafted, alt-country, creepily timeless, sorta-folky singer-songwriter tunes in general, or just for this one song from his 2005 record The Animal Years. “Thin Blue Flame” is a nine-minute track, something I’d usually find totally unnecessary. But it’s just so good, all gentle guitar and a build that take forever to reach a strange and heartstring-plucking pinnacle. Ritter sounds a little like Heartbreaker-era Ryan Adams, a little like Springsteen (as NPR pointed out), but he also sounds oddly like his heart’s never quite been broken, just cracked. At least at first. You get to track five, “Idaho,” and you might be listening to a lonesome troubadour of another era, one who calls to mind a song or two from Billy Bragg and Wilco’s Woody Guthrie-penned Mermaid Avenue. I still don’t entirely trust anyone who actually refers to himself as “weird,” but I can in pretty good conscience recommend giving Ritter a listen. Josh Ritter plays with Todd Snider at 8 pm Monday, Feb. 26 at the WOW Hall. $15 adv., $17 door. — Molly Templeton
It sounds like a piece of band mythology, but there it is, in black and white on the press release: Twelve hours after moving to Seattle in 2003, one-man-band Aqueduct was opening for Modest Mouse. Whoa. OK. Was that the reason to move or the reason to stay? This piece of paper doesn’t say.
Aqueduct — aka Oklahoman David Terry — is on tour (with a backing band) for his second full-lenth record, Or Give Me Death, a mix of songs that wouldn’t sound out of place at an ’80s roller rink, lyrics borrowed from The Princess Bride (“As You Wish”), wistful piano tunes with a bite (largely from Terry’s carefully not-too-pretty vocals) and ’70s melodies trading space with the language of the 2000s (“People never change, bitch / Don’t even try”). “Just the Way I Are” swoons with synthy strings but swaps them for horns for the chorus; “Wasted Energy” is a power ballad that can’t decide which other genres it most wants to play with. You want to dance? Want to hold up your lighter and sway? You get it all in one package. And it’s catchy, too. Aqueduct plays at 7 pm Tuesday, Feb. 27 at the Indigo District, a rare early all ages show. $5. — Molly Templeton