Yeah, I’m a bit jaded. When you write about music, you have to actually listen to it. A lot of it. And most of it is, well, meh. But when I heard Portland’s Milkbomb for the first time, my ears snapped to attention. My immediate thought upon hearing the grungy guitar line on “Ashtray” was that Kurt Cobain had been reincarnated. It’s not quite the mess of molten effects and twists that Nirvana invented, but it’s dense and noisy, the vocals a stew of boredom and cynicism.
Then I started to hear shades of Grant Hart singing from New Day Rising-era Hüsker Dü. “Aurelia” is a blistering rocker that has the bounce and catchiness of later Social Distortion. “Witherspoon” shifts into punk gear with a riff that would get the flannel flying on even the sunniest of Northwest days. How could I never have heard of these guys before? Turns out that Peter Sampson, Kevin Dukes and Isaac Dickman (from Eugene’s Candy Machine Wrecker) haven’t officially released their debut record yet. None of These People Are Real will drop on July 25.
What is real is the music. It’s gritty. It’s stripped down and distorted. It was recorded for less than $450 in drummer Duke’s basement. It’s as if the fumes of teen spirit are still hovering in the air. Milkbomb, Candy Machine Wrecker and NINJA play at 9 pm Saturday, July 11, at Samurai Duck. 21+. $5 door. — Vanessa Salvia
Vaudeville, Americana and variety are back with the arrival of California duo Jay and Lou Smart — two up-and-coming multi-instrument musicians putting the art of the act back into the show. With an acoustic, old-timey folk sound, a plethora of eclectic instruments (guitars, banjos, ukuleles, xylophones, oboes, whistles and harps, to name a few), harmonizing vocals and their unique style of dapper dress, The Smart Brothers sing, dance and play in a performance that harks back to turn-of-the-century entertainment.
“It’s new music with an old feel,” Lou says. “It feels nostalgic even if it’s your first time hearing it. We just have a good time and make sure that everyone in the audience does the same.”
The brothers come from a long line of musical tradition. “Our grandparents were entertainers in a big time swing band in Portugal,” Lou says. “Our mom was the singer in a folk band. [They] taught us to sing before we could talk. We’ve been singing ever since.”
Pulling from inspirations as diverse as The Everly Brothers, Queen, The Beach Boys and Beethoven, the brothers have created entirely original songs that have won them awards at Atlanta’s Songwriter Shootout and the San Diego Music Awards.
“We get ideas from everything in life,” Lou says. “Love, family, surfing, the beach, traveling. One of us will write a song, then the other will add his harmony part and instrument part.”
It all comes together to form their unique brand of old-timey yet contemporary folk-art entertainment. The Smart Brothers play at 8 pm Thursday, July 16, at Cozmic Pizza (all ages, $5) and with Tornado Rider and The Pioneers of Primetime TV at 10 pm Friday, July 17, at Luckey’s (21+, $5). Katie Kalk