PDX @ the EC
Big city music on small town stages
by Molly Templeton
I’ve got Portland on the brain. I just spent three nights traipsing around the City of Roses for Musicfest NW — and now, as it turns out, more than a dozen Portland bands, including Eugene favorites Misty River and Hillstomp, are trekking down I-5 to play at various Eugene Celebration stages.
Some of them come through more often than others; honest truth is, I’ve been waiting for way too long for the noisemakers of 31Knots (9 pm Friday, Rogue Stage) to grace us with their presence. On MySpace, the lone song from the band’s new album, Worried Well, shifts the urgency a little, leaning more toward their complicated, piano-dotted songs than the spare, bass-driven sound of older tracks like the 99-second “Thousand Wars.” “Who can tell me the universal rule of thumb?” singer Joe Haege asks a chorus of women in Worried Well’s “Compass Commands”; they reply, cheerfully, “Kill or be killed!” The Onion A/V Club wrote that “31Knots might as well perform its new album on the mountain faces where the Spartans left weakling babies to die.” There’s a lot of dystopian weariness in 31Knots’ sound, and it doesn’t lend itself to instantaneous admiration. Give it a minute. Or three or four. And when it’s over, head to the WOW Hall for two more Portland groups: the cello-laced indie-folk group Bright Red Paper (10:30 pm) and folky, intimate Weinland (11:30 pm). Bright Red Paper has been on hiatus, but you might have seen them at Cozmic Pizza in August with the Portland Cello Project (3 pm Sunday, Broadway Plaza); the two groups share a member in cellist Douglas Jenkins. The mostly instrumental BRP lists influences from Biz Markie to Arvo Pärt; their songs show their roots in group improvisation, but without being noodly or self-indulgent. Weinland closes the night with the sort of poignant, faintly poppy Americana that ought to be played in tiny, wood-floored rooms where every breathy line slips out cracked windows into cold air. La Lamentor, their latest album, has the Portland press dishing out praise: “Damn, is it beautiful,” wrote Willamette Week, while The Oregonian called it an
“early contender for local album of the year.”
On Saturday, the Rogue Stage starts with former Eugeneans The Fast Computers (7:30 pm) opening for The Helio Sequence (9 pm), a band whose poppy talents I’ve underestimated since 2004’s Love and Distance. “Keep Your Eyes Ahead,” the title track from the band’s newest album, blends cascading guitars with a drumbeat reminiscent of Modest Mouse; appropriate, since drummer Benjamin Weikel has played with the Mouse. If you find yourself imagining videos by British guitar bands of the late 1980s when you listen to these guys, you’re not alone. The night ends with Menomena (10:30 pm), whose 2007 record Friend or Foe was described by the Boston Globe as sounding “like a campfire sing-along at the most evil band camp in the underworld.” Yes. (The Globe also used the phrase “party-favor instrumentation,” which makes an unfair amount of sense here.) Pieces of various brilliant songs seem carefully glued to each other; it all makes sense, in a strange, fractured way, but never lets you get too comfortable. In the pretty, disconcerting “Wet and Rusting,” twinkling glockenspiels and acoustic guitars trade places with precision drums and a bossy bass line; later, an insistent piano melody weaves two vocal lines into something downright gorgeous. Friend or Foe requires that you pay attention; listening to it as background music has never done anything for me. So don’t indulge too much before they play, mmkay?
Eugene Celebration 2008
It’s That Slime Again! New S.L.U.G. Queen wins in a close one
Event Junkies Volunteers put the Eugene in EC
Laugh, Cry, Be Inspired Film Festival at DIVA
Living La Vida Local A three-day whirlwind of music and food
PDX @ the EC Big city music on small town stages
Celebrate Downtown at the EC Merchants anticipate excitement, if not more sales
The Official Eugene Celebration Site Schedule, Map, Directions and more