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Music

British-American musician Nellie McKay tends to find the inspiration for her musical projects and performances in other people, and most of her subjects, although not widely known, are extremely interesting.

“Everyone I talk to, there’s something different in the air,” says Bri Childs, guitarist with Eugene/Portland instrumental act Childspeak. She’s talking about the energy in Eugene’s indie-rock scene. “Bands are really supporting each other,” she continues. “The music community is growing so fast.”

There’s less of the Oregon Bach Festival than there used to be. Some of that amounts to addition by subtraction. Gone are the bloated, historically inauthentic on anachronistic modern instruments and tunings that undermined the full beauty of authentic Baroque music. 

Surf-rock band La Luz is a sepia-filtered road trip down Hwy 101 in the dead of summer. The group mashes together doo-wop, angst and dance jams with an added sprinkle of vocals thick as winter fog. From their Seattle roots to a newfound home in Los Angeles, La Luz creates a balanced stew of purely West Coast sounds.

Now based in Brooklyn, songwriter Lucy Marie Horton grew up in Vancouver, Washington. She says she didn’t experience catcalling until she moved back East. 

I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t from time to time like to feel sad — to occasionally pull melancholy over themselves like a warm blanket or, on a warm summer day, bathe in it like a cool, dark room. 

The overture to Gypsy kicks off the show with one of those rousing, familiar tunes that practically bellows “classic American musical.” And a classic this is, the 1959 masterpiece by writer Arthur Laurents, composer Jule Styne, choreographer Jerome Robbins and young lyricist Stephen Sondheim (just off his breakthrough with West Side Story).

According to Selena Mooney, aka Missy Suicide, in order to understand the impact of burlesque as an art form — to, as she puts it, “feel the feels” it produces for performers and audience members — you simply have to see a show.

Ben Falgoust, vocalist with New Orleans-based extreme metal act Goatwhore, recalls when he first heard metal music. “It was like a feeling,” he tells me over the phone. “It was an instant thing. It was like, interest. When you’re young, certain things turn your head. That’s when you start your quest.” 

Eugene musician Katelynn Erb wants you to attend the event she’s helped plan, produce and promote. The event is The Joy of Sex: A Celebration of Positive Sexuality & Art, a mix of live music, dance and performance art happening at Hi-Fi Music Hall in downtown Eugene.

Critically acclaimed songwriter Cory Branan has the stuff of a Nashville country music mega-star: stuff like a twinkle in his eye and a Southern drawl, boyish good looks made rugged by a three-day beard, and a chesty baritone — equally suited for hold-me-close dance numbers as well as arena-ready anthems. 

Country folk band Dear Lemon Trees is more than a balanced collage of solo artists gone trio. Their music is a glass of homemade sun tea on a hot Southern porch, a match made in countryside heaven. 

Beer and classical music enjoy a long and storied relationship, stretching back to those monks who chanted holy praise by night and brewed ales by day, through all those Austrian and German composers who quaffed their way through compositions, performances and post-concert revelry — practices that I understand continue today.

Heavily auto-tuned, Houston’s Travis Scott may seem just another robot-voiced rapper stretching his limited vocal range into a kind of soul music for the singularity: a casualty of modern pop existing in a focused grouped box that’s within a box and produced in a factory. 

“It sounds like aiming when you’re shooting a basketball. It’s not gonna work,” Zach Lupetin of L.A. roots, soul and Americana act Dustbowl Revival tells me over the phone. I’m talking to him about fighting perfectionism while in the studio.

Veronica Cruz, vocalist and guitarist with Long Beach punk act Rats in the Louvre, says her band takes its name from an article she read about rats plaguing the art museum in Paris. “A lot of tourists were spotting them while eating lunch in the garden,” Cruz explains. “I thought it was funny and ironic. Sort of like low-class culture invading the high class.” 

San Francisco’s dark country and blues-rockers Dead Country Gentlemen has played the Eugene area only once before. Guitarist and vocalist Cameron Ray says last time through, his band stayed with some friends around Pleasant Hill. “It was the highlight of my trip,” Ray recalls.

The academy and the arts don’t always mix well. Entombing arts in the ivory tower can lead to insularity, esotericism and disregard of popular appeal. But at its best, the academy can enrich the arts with its depth of knowledge, benefiting audiences with previously undiscovered repertoire and styles of interpretation.

Kikagaku Moyo, a Japanese psych-rock band, is returning to Eugene to promote their new release. It’s called Stone Garden EP. It’s out now and it was recorded in Prague.

Imagine the burgeoning ’90s-era Pacific Northwest indie rock scene as a classroom. Then imagine former Cottage Grove resident Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse as the hyperactive, erratic yet undeniably brilliant kid at the back of that classroom — the kid who, despite expectations, goes ahead and produces an indie rock masterpiece. 

Bohemian musician Worth creates a mash-up of sounds akin to a spin-art kid’s toy: a beautiful mess. Within the course of one album, you’re taken on a ride from the bayou to the strip club, from a lover’s arms to church — all with seemingly no rhyme or reason.

Folk activist-musician Holly Near is a seasoned singer-songwriter whose recipe is impossible to pin down. Her honeylike yet raspy vocals cry out against oppression, while her tender demeanor draws in crowds who crave a church geared towards a soul, not a deity. After 45 years of performing her highly politicized songs, Near has found herself — on stages, in her audience, and in her own personal struggles with and against waves of oppression.

As the standard thunk-ditty of old-time slouches toward relative obscurity in this year of our Lord 2017, solace is sought via groove over hymnal, salty ocean over fiery lake, windswept desert over Paradise garden.

In 18th-century poet William Blake’s invented mythology, the character Urizen embodies conventional reason and law, often depicted as a bearded old man carrying nets or architects’ tools. Blake was fascinated by the tension between enlightenment and humanity’s baser instincts — free love, for example — and through Urizen, the poet seems to present societal dictums as a trap or snare preventing humans from reaching their truest plane of existence.