Eugene Weekly : Music : 10.15.09

Blind Pilot Flies Higher

So much for their former gigs at Sam Bond’s Garage: Blind Pilot is not just the Northwest’s Next Big Thing anymore; they’re the country’s Next Big Thing. After completing a tour with fellow Northwest heavyweights The Decemberists (not to mention the Hold Steady) and playing almost every significant music festival in the country, Blind Pilot’s on the brink of serious success. Still, the band’s keeping calm in the face of all this attention. This headlining tour — away from the huge stages and echo-y concert halls required to house the Decemberists’ new, bigger sound and their larger audiences — should prove a break from all the hype, giving Blind Pilot a chance to shine on its own and see how many new fans they’ve picked up in the past year of touring with big names. The rare indie pop band whose live presence is as, if not more, alluring than their near-perfect debut record, 3 Rounds and a Sound, it’s worth making a point to see Blind Pilot as many times as possible before they, too, are rocking huge concert venues like the bands they’ve spent the past six months opening for. Blind Pilot tours supported by the Low Anthem, a crusty roots band from Providence, R.I., whose decidedly modern interpretations of Americana fluctuate between gruff, rollicking jams and ethereal, mournful falsetto numbers. It’s a bizarre choice of opener for Blind Pilot, a band as approachable as the Low Anthem is an acquired taste. Blind Pilot and the Low Anthem play at 8 pm Monday, October 19, at the WOW Hall. $13 adv., $15 door. — Sara Brickner

General Sublimity

Jewish reggae artist Matisyahu’s message is simple: Life is a difficult struggle and things look dark, but everything is going to be better one day. It’s a message he never seems to stray from. It’s positive and, at times, it’s sublime. 

We haven’t heard a new LP from Matisyahu (born Matthew Miller) since his 2006 album Youth, which was nominated for Best Reggae Album at the Grammys. His new album, Light, seems to have let the reggae beat that made him famous mostly fall by the wayside in favor of stronger hip hop and rock beats with the occasional dub vocal echo. The reasons for doing this aren’t entirely clear, but the band ends up sounding more like 311 slowed down.

Actually, everything on Light feels slowed down, which makes for much easier lyrical interpretation but breaks up the flow of his songs on a rhythmic and melodic level. There aren’t really any of the ska-paced tracks like “King Without a Crown” on this record. Those unfamiliar with Matisyahu’s tendency to sing in generalities instead of specific instances might also be distracted by an incomplete picture when imagining what he is talking about. But for those seeking uplifting spirituality, Matisyahu might be what you’re looking for. Matisyahu and Heavyweight Dub Champion play at 8 pm Monday, October 19, at the McDonald Theatre. $22 adv., $25 door. — Shaun O’Dell

Young and Cobwebby

Neil Young’s artistic offspring — from J. Mascis to Band of Horses’ Ben Bridwell — have grown so numerous these days we can start slotting them by the appropriate era they tap into, starting with early Buffalo Springfield and moving on up. For example, Bowery Boy Blue singer/songwriter Zeb Gould’s music, with its artfully simple orchestration and cobwebby atmosphere of time lost, is a hybridized branch budding straight from Neil Young’s neglected 1974 album On the Beach (think, especially, of “For the Turnstiles”). The overall effect is of nostalgia that stings like whiskey on a canker sore. On Bowery Boy Blue’s debut, Stalk That Myth, Gould’s songs stake their rightful claim to a very particular type of Americana: sepia-toned, mountain folksy, proud but defeated, with all the echoes and moans of a lovely old colonial settling into itself. The music doesn’t break any new ground, but the ground it walks is hallowed. Bowery Boy Blue plays at 8 pm Thursday, Oct. 22, at the Axe & Fiddle, Cottage Grove. 21+. $3. — Rick Levin

Waves of Ani

If you went to college in the ’90s, you felt one of the waves of Ani diFranco. Wave one: In 1990, DiFranco releases an eponymous tape, one that’s copied and handed ’round mostly from female friend to other female friends across the country. DiFranco tours a ton, playing venues like the Hampshire College cafeteria in Northampton, say, and releases 1991’s Not So Soft. If you lived through that era of Ani, you probably said at one point or another, “I don’t wear anything I can’t wipe my hands on.”

If you came of age in the later ‘90s, you might have written words from “Untouchable Face” or “Independence Day” on some bathroom wall (and there are a lot of you, judging from bathroom walls in college towns all over the country). Later waves include those outraged by the outrage at Ani’s marriage to a man (which, hey, she’s now done twice), those who found Ani because of her prison activism, those who saw Ani perform for Dennis Kucinich rallies and those whose aunts, professors, resident hall advisers — even moms and dads — speak of Ani with reverence and nostalgia.

But there’s no reason for nostalgia; diFranco’s still performing, popping out new albums at a crazy clip and inspiring emotional and musical honesty. DiFranco regularly comes through Eugene with her band, now built of the superb Todd Sickafoose, Alison Miller and Mike Dillon. Her newest album is Red Letter Year, a work that includes a song with these lyrics: “I’ve got myself a new mantra; it says, ‘Don’t forget to have a good time.’” The title track, though, is about Katrina. “You and I both know how to drink, so we will always have work in this town,” she sings, after some trademark political commentary on the 43rd president. “It’s a drunken lament,” she said in an interview with The rest of the album covers giving birth (her daughter was born in early 2007) and enjoying her family, maybe even finding some kind of non-patriarchal religion (“The Atom”). 

You can join the newest wave (or re-bond with all of your appreciation for her) at 8 pm Wednesday, Oct. 21, at the McDonald Theater. Anais Mitchell opens. Advance tix $32 adv.; $37 door. — Suzi Steffen

Getting in Your Bloodstream

Remember when The Killers first appeared, all indulgence and hungover-morning vocals, catchy melodies and enough of a beat to keep you moving, even if it was one of those half-hearted, self-conscious little indie dances? If you’ve forgotten, Bad Veins are here to remind you. The Cincinnati duo — originally a solo project for Benjamin Davis, who brought on drummer Sebastien Schultz after his first show — arrives on a wave of adulation, with their hometown paper asking whether they’re indie’s next big thing and their tour sponsored by Daytrotter (a website which posts fantastic, intimate, live Daytrotter Sessions by all your — er, my — favorite bands). The band reportedly charms their audiences from a stage decorated with a flower box and a reel-to-reel named Irene, which handles the parts of Bad Veins’ songs that the two fellows can’t perform on their own. (Hey, it’s cooler than yet another iPod.) From the dreamy sweep of “You Kill” to the playful way “Gold and Warm” veers just past the places it appears to be headed, Bad Veins’ songs have a sense of certainty — and a knack for a gorgeous flourish — that seems to belong to a band with more than one record under its collective belt. The Subjects, Bad Veins and The Blue Elevators play at 9:30 pm Friday, Oct. 16, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+. $5. — Molly Templeton