Eugene Weekly : Music : 1.25.07

The Teacha’s Disciples
KRS-One’s students share some thoughts

The last time KRS-One rolled through Eugene, I effused at length about all the wonderful contributions The Teacha has made to hip hop. As half of the legendary Boogie Down Productions (the other half being DJ Scott La Rock, RIP), KRS-One penned the introduction to the book on gangsta rap, and as a solo artist he elevated the hip hop movement to the various plateaus of “conscious” rap that exist today (from Mr. Lif to the Roots, many owe a great debt to the man).

KRS-ONE, D-FAULT, ANIMAL FARM. 8 pm Fri., Jan. 26. WOW Hall. $18. adv./$20 door

When he hit the WOW Hall stage almost two years ago, it was a sight to behold. Here was a man who 25 years ago laid the groundwork for a monolithic cultural phenomenon, completely rocking a modest Eugene performing arts center. Without a modicum of pretension or bombast, KRS-One reached out to all the young hip hop heads in the audience and performed with all the heart and soul he could muster.

For his upcoming visit, rather than reiterate my last homage to The Teacha, I thought it might be more insightful to hear the perspectives of a couple local MCs.

One component of the Animal Farm crew, Kenny Wilson, describes first hearing KRS-One’s music as a “big turning point” in his life. “To me, he was someone who showed me that you could put intelligence into your lyrics,” Wilson explains.

Wilson says that shortly after KRS-One’s last WOW Hall performance, Animal Farm was offered a chance to work with him on a collaborative track, which will be included on the forthcoming Animal Farm album (scheduled to be released sometime this spring). “His writing is more inspirational to me than anyone else’s,” Wilson says. “There’s really only a couple other people I’d like to do a track with — maybe Rakim or Run DMC.”

Animal Farm member and D-Fault agitator Hanif Panni (aka Hanif Wondir) shares Wilson’s sentiments. “KRS-One helped me to believe in hip hop again, especially while I was a teenager,” he says. “When hip hop seems to be getting worse, KRS-One seems to be getting better.”

D-Fault, the live 10-piece hip hop group, hopes to release a new album sometime this summer. Both D-Fault and Animal Farm will open for their Teacha on his return visit.



King of the Road
Justin King and bandmates declare their freedom

Justin King (second from right) and bandmates

It took me a few days to reach Justin King. When we finally spoke he apologized, saying he’d been in Chicago, “on a rampage with a couple of buddies.” King’s celebratory mood is understandable considering he’s an independent artist again and promoting a new EP he’s calling a “declaration of freedom.” After a protracted legal battle with Sony/Epic, King retained the rights to music he and his band made while on the label, something most artists find very difficult to achieve. “There’s been so many hirings and firings and tumultuousness over there that we weren’t getting the kind of attention that we needed,” King says. “We just care too much about the music we’re making.”

The new five-song EP, Fall/Rise, features material the band didn’t record with Sony. “We did it as a way to tide over folks who know our music until we get the record done,” King says, ” which actually looks like it’ll be a lot sooner than we thought.” The band has enough material for “more than a full-length,” which they hope to wrap up within the next few months.

Musically, King finds himself moving toward minimalism as he “grows up.” “I’m becoming less interested in fancy guitar stuff,” he says. “I’ve been more focused on the song.” While guitar playing is still definitely an element in King’s music, it’s not at the forefront as it used to be. “I don’t like to live in one world, one genre, too long,” he explains.

If you know King’s previous solo work, especially the mostly instrumental Le Bleu, his work with bandmates Drew Dresman, Ehren Ebbage and Nadir Jeevanjee might surprise you. King’s a talented songwriter, able to match a catchy phrase with a catchy riff whether for a slow ballad or a Wallflowers-like rocker. After cruising solo, being in a band fits King like a glove. “I had these songs that felt like they wanted drums, and they wanted bass, and they wanted to be more layered,” he explains. “Being in a band is something that cements you all together, and that’s something cool to be a part of.”   

JUSTIN KING EP RELEASE. 8:30 pm Sun., Jan. 28. Sam Bond’s Garage. $3 • 21+ show


Rocking Us Softly

The Comforters

Why are husband and wife duos so darn adorable? And why are we such suckers for them? Perhaps it’s the romantic idea of spending lazy summer days writing music with the person you’re most comfortable with. Aw, the very notion of turning out lovey-dovey songs about each other is so saccharine I can hardly stand it. But all mushy feelings aside, we also like them when they’re good musicians.

The Comforters, Pia and Jason Robbins with Sean Peterson on upright bass, describe their sound as “tender Americana pop.” The acoustic trio’s debut record, Transplants, is saturated with seemingly weightless songs. Pia’s delicate vocals float over a loose acoustic guitar and keyboard melody, recalling Rose Melberg or Maria Taylor but with a more ethereal quality.

Recording at their own Big Timbre studio in Eugene, The Comforters create songs that are pretty on the surface but dark in the lyrics. As much as I’d like to boast of their cutesy songs about one another, the album is mostly devoid of love songs with the exception of “I Want to Rock.” And that’s OK. While that song feels warm and breezy and brings to mind postcard images of a tropical isle, others, like “Lazy Sundays” and “The Call,” are melancholy and brooding.

The Comforters aren’t always acoustic. The record is full of electric and slide guitar, organs, drums and airy harmonies, which add diversity to each song. So go ahead, feel The Comforters at 7 pm Thursday, Jan. 25 at Territorial Winery. Free. — Amanda Burhop


New! Fresh! Controversial!

Among the explosion of new and unusual music at the UO this month is the always exciting Music Today Festival. On Jan. 29, the festival’s big concert features So Percussion in a belated celebration of the 70th birthday of the world’s greatest living composer, Steve Reich, including some of his mesmerizing early so-called minimalist works — “Music for Pieces of Wood,” the once-controversial, still powerful “Four Organs,” (which sparked both raucous cheers and catcalls at its early 1970s performances) and part of the massive, highly influential 1971 masterpiece Drumming. This mighty music still packs the power to move the emotions like nothing else, and this is certainly one of the most highly recommended concerts of the year. The program also has sounds by one of Reich’s musical descendants, David Lang of New York’s Bang on a Can all stars. So Percussion also joins the UO’s Pacific Rim Gamelan on Jan. 30 in music by UO graduate composers.

Two other Music Today concerts focus on contemporary songs: On Jan. 26, the harmonica/guitar/voices duo of Joe Powers and Lewis Childs perform music by Astor Piazzolla as well as Brazilian, Italian, Yiddish, and jazz songs, with guest appearances by Japanese koto master Mitsuki Dazai and even some tap dancers. The next night has Loyola University faculty musicians Philip and Ellen Frohnmayer singing classical songs from Mozart, Handel and others, then 20th century songs from Leonard Bernstein, Ned Rorem, Cole Porter and more. The Music Today Festival takes place Jan. 26-30 at Beall Hall, UO. Tickets to individual shows are $7-$10. — Brett Campbell


A Musician for All Seasons

Way back on Sept. 28, I was lucky enough to profile the Eugene Symphony‘s concertmaster, Kathryn Lucktenberg (check out if you’re dying to read it). Not only was she a gracious subject, but the others who spoke to me about her said she was a marvelous and dedicated musician. That’s most likely clear to anyone who has been to the Symphony this year and seen her passion for the music — the pounding feet during applause, the flickering tongue as a sign of concentration, the joy on her face when others perform well. On Thursday, Jan. 25, the Symphony highlights Lucktenberg performing Antonio Vivaldi’s über-popular Four Seasons. Yes, you may have heard this piece in any coffee shop you care to visit, but there’s a reason: The music is darn fine. And a bonus, unavailable with espresso, is that the Symphony will also project translations of the four sonnets on which Vivaldi based the music.

After intermission, the Symphony and its valiant concertmaster return for another bang-up piece, Beethoven’s towering and massively familiar (OK, at least the first four notes) Symphony No. 5. The evening will be a musically comfortable night for those who haven’t heard much classical music before, but conductor and artistic director Giancarlo Guerrero likes to provide energetic interpretations, so even those who would love to hear newer music from the Symphony will probably be pleased (and anticipating the UO’s Music Today fest). If you don’t have a ticket yet, you’re probably out of luck; there might be last-minute returns, of course, but these superb musicians have sold out the house. But take heart, those of you who waited a bit too long! The Symphony performs the same program at 7:30 pm Friday, Jan. 26 at Jacoby Auditorium in Roseburg (and it’s less spendy, which makes up for the gas costs). See this show by hook or crook; you won’t regret it. — Suzi Steffen


Fingerpicking Kicks

2007 will be remembered for a long time as having one heck of a wintry winter. At least until we have another winter next summer. While it’s still nippy now, why not head to Luna, cozy up with a hot toddy and toast your loaves next to a blazing guitar?

Adrian Legg

Musical string theorist Adrian Legg, whom Joe Satriani says has “hammers for fingers,” is renowned for his unmatched acoustic prowess. Legg flings musical moods and guitar glitter with unfettered ease, from eclectic folk ballads to intricate percussive minstrelsy. Voted Guitarist of the Decade by Guitarist magazine and chosen as Guitar Player‘s Reader’s Poll Winner for Best Acoustic Fingerstyle Guitarist four consecutive years, Legg is considered a master of the craft.

Legg’s passion for the guitar remains respectful and optimistic. “Although we may look fondly on the simple acoustic instrument,” he says, “and while it still has a sweet little voice, the mechanical and technical opportunities offered by this constantly evolving instrument are there to be enjoyed by any artist who wants a broader palette.”

Acoustically and aesthetically, Luna is the perfect room to witness Legg’s intricate talents. It’s hard to imagine a cozier Eugene venue matching Luna’s intimacy. Sure, Luna’s prices are a little steep, but well worth it for an evening spent absorbing Legg’s unusually warm virtuosity. Adrian Legg plays at 8 pm Saturday, Jan. 27 at Luna. 21+ show. $20. — John Dooley



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