Maximizing the Ultra Bass
Ever since word hit the streets that Bassnectar was coming to town, anticipation of a massive party has been brewing. As the name suggests, there’s plenty of sweet bass in the music of Bassnectar. But even bass lovin’ freaks know that’s only part of the reason to get excited. The driving force behind Bassnectar is Lorin Ashton, one of San Francisco’s most popular DJs, but with more than three million plays on MySpace, he’s popular everywhere. Trying to pin a genre on Ashton is futile — there’s just not a word big or complex enough, or, let’s face it, fun enough. Unlike Girl Talk, which also recently blew away a frenzied McDonald Theatre crowd, Bassnectar doesn’t rely on mash-ups. Instead, there’s usually a focal bass point hidden somewhere around which everything else revolves in its own strange orbit.
Ashton calls his music “omni-tempo maximalism,” which covers everything he might dream up. His music creates worlds of rhythm and worlds within worlds. There are hip hop tempos in there, complex break beats, sometimes a sinewy jungle groove; he even uses authentic ragtime piano on the track “Carried Away.” You just never know what embellishment Ashton will come up with. His music can be heavy in an almost aggressive way, but it never feels threatening. And then there’s that bass. Yes, it’s deep and throbbing enough to penetrate the stoutest body armor. So let down your defenses. That bass is trying to tell you something: It’s time to dance. Bassnectar, Emancipator and Eliot Lipp play at 9 pm Thursday, Feb. 4, at the McDonald Theatre. $20 adv., $25 door. — Vanessa Salvia
Big Rockin’ Blues
Let’s have a show of hands if your blues band has done all of the following: played with Paul DeLay; performed at Morgan Freeman’s Ground Zero Blues Club in Mississippi; appeared in the annual International Blues Challenge; played at the Arkansas Blues & Heritage Festival; and entertained listeners at the Hard Rock Café on Beale Street in Memphis, Tenn.
Not too shabby for a band that’s only been at it for six years, and this is to say nothing of the dozens of nominations and awards Becki Sue and Her Big Rockin’ Daddies have received over the last few years as they have taken the Northwest’s blues scene by storm. These folks are everywhere, it seems.
With the rollicking, funky “Easy Go” and the swinging blues of tracks like “Big City Blues,” Becki Sue and company show that the blues can actually be quite fun. Becki Sue’s thin, low vocals aren’t always a perfect match with the songs, but they work well enough more often than not. The band shows some range on the chunky, guitar-laden “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” and even missteps like the twangy, sappy “Maybe” show they’re bold enough to take some risks, which is always worth noting.
Whether or not this is the next big thing in blues is open for debate, but the band plays with enough pizzazz that seeing one of their shows should be worth your time. Becki Sue and Her Big Rockin’ Daddies play at 9:30 pm Saturday, Jan. 30, at Mac’s at the Vets Club. 21+. $7. — Brian Palmer
Prepare to Pluck Your Face Off
“Everywhere you turn, there is a story. Under every old sofa seat, there is probably a song, and maybe enough change to catch the bus.” So says the Blackberry Bushes Stringband. This weekend, this original Americana bluegrass-style band will strum, pick, stomp and groove their way to Sam Bond’s Garage, where they may knock the socks right off your feet.
The Blackberry Bushes Stringband has played in all sorts of venues, from bars and galleries to festivals and street corners. Besides bluegrass, you can hear the influence of old-time and indie rock coming through in the rousing melodies of Jes Raymond’s guitar and Kendl Winter’s banjo. Joe Capoccia writes lyrics and drives the tempo with his bass. And you can’t forget Jakob Breitbach, the “fire and rattlesnake fiddler” who toured with The Asylum Street Spankers and The Mike and Amy Finders Band. Let it be known also that this Northwest group took 2nd place in the 2009 Telluride Bluegrass Band Competition. Their most recent CD, last fall’s Crow, is a 10-track music package guaranteed to move you. Blackberry Bushes Stringband and Bad Mitten Orchestre play at 9:30 pm Friday, Jan. 29, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+. $6. — Darcy Wallace
Today’s composers often use film as a vehicle for getting new sounds out there. In fact, listeners often hear cutting edge sounds without even realizing it in some (not all) film scores. In the past decade or so, composers have been setting old films to new music, thus allowing audiences to hear contemporary sounds without the risk of an unknown, concert-only experience. A Portland group, Filmusik, has presented several such performances of live accompaniment to films and cartoons, often drawing big crowds of nontraditional listeners. To accompany the rocket powered turtles, “brain eating space babes” and 25-story-tall monster in Filmusik’s latest show, the 1969 Japanese monster flick Gamera vs. Guiron, the musicians will perform enterprising Portlander Galen Huckins’ original score live, augmented by sound effects and live dialogue (in English) by the voice actors of Willamette Radio Workshop. Sounds like a lotta monsters, a lotta homegrown new music and a lotta fun. Filmusik’s Gamera vs. Guiron plays at 8 pm Friday, Jan. 29 at Cozmic Pizza. $8. — Brett Campbell
Fawning Over Fruit Bats
Fruit Bats frontman Eric Johnson spent a good portion of the four years between 2005’s Spelled in Bones and last year’s The Ruminant Band as a touring member of an unquestionably better-known Sub Pop band: The Shins. But if the positive critical reception of The Ruminant Band is any indicator, Johnson may find himself enjoying name recognition on par with James Mercer’s. Previously, Fruit Bats was, by and large, a one-man show when it came to the songwriting, but on The Ruminant Band, Johnson rescinded more artistic control to his backing musicians. The result of Johnson’s relinquished control is a fuller sound, one that’s reminiscent of the stony ‘60s protest folk rock sound that’s been enjoying a hearty revival thanks to Sub Pop (see: Blitzen Trapper, Fleet Foxes, Sera Cahoone, Grand Archives, etc.). In other words, it’s an album hip enough to play at parties, but it’s also the sort of thing you can put on for your parents to disprove the commonly held belief among aging hippies that no good music has been made since 1975. Make sure to get to the show early enough to check out Tu Fawning, a Portland project featuring Joe Haege of 31Knots and Corrina Repp. Repp’s sturdy vibrato is an acquired taste, but the band’s haunting instrumentation, hand-clap punctuation and penchant for discordant accents make for an intriguing, if slightly unsettling, listening experience. Fruit Bats and Tu Fawning perform at 8 pm Saturday, Jan. 30 at WOW Hall. $10 adv., $12 door. — Sara Brickner