Hockey vs. Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head
The Seattle-Portland rivalry is something that I, as one of the evil transplants who selfishly moved to the Northwest from a culturally devoid place in pursuit of a more artistically rich existence, have never really understood. Both cities have their distinct set of merits and flaws, but I’ve always felt that when it comes to the question of which city’s music scene is better, it’s a draw: Both places have spawned and continue to spawn incredibly talented, seminal artists. But when it comes to which of the two cities’ synth-pop buzz bands I think will hit the big time first — Portland’s Hockey or Seattle band Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head — I must betray my current geographic location and predict that Hockey will blow up first. Even though they’re a solid year behind NPSH in terms of debut album release dates, and even though they’re technically opening up the show.
Let’s start with first impressions. Hockey is a punchy, two-syllable name that’s easy to remember. Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head is a very long (and honestly, kind of stupid) name for a band that plays synth-pop, the unofficial soundtrack of (for?) ADD-addled kids everywhere. Secondly, while NPSH’s self-titled debut is a solidly catchy, hilarious selection of fun songs intended for the dance floor, the band’s jokey lyrics are lighthearted to a fault. There just aren’t any real feelings behind the fun. It’s a problem that plagues otherwise-solid electronic music, one that has always kept me from leaving pop territory and checking out real, unadulterated electronica. Simply put, NPSH’s songs are missing the emotive aspect of music that keeps you spinning a record long after the novelty of its newness wears off: because it makes you feel something other than the desire to shake your ass and get laid.
Hockey, on the other hand, manages to write goofy songs that also make you want to shake it like a maraca, but there’s a pop aspect to the music — think part New Wave dance jam, part ‘80s power ballad — that endows Hockey’s songs (some of them, anyway) with the real emotional substance that makes pop music, well, popular. No matter who hits first, though, there’s no question that we’ll be seeing plenty more press on both bands in the near future. Seeing these guys for free is not an opportunity to be squandered. Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head, Hockey and Chilly Willy play at 9 pm Friday, Oct. 30, at the EMU Ballroom, UO. Free. — Sara Brickner
Party Down With Crazy Engine
Melvin Seals last came to town on a warm summer night not too long ago: Seals and JGB closed the Eugene Celebration on Sept. 5. This time, he’s swinging by with Steve Kimock Crazy Engine. Kimock’s storied career spans more than three decades, since joining Keith and Donna Godchaux’s post-Grateful Dead project the Heart of Gold Band with drummer Greg Anton. In 1984, along with Anton and Quicksilver Messenger Service’s John Cipollina, Kimock founded the group Zero, which has become one of the quintessential San Fran jam bands.
Kimock’s latest project, Crazy Engine, includes Seals, his son John Morgan Kimock on drums, and bassist and vocalist Trevor Exter, well-known as a unique cello player in the NYC indie music scene. The combination of youth, experience and innovation creates a fresh twist on Kimock’s already singular approach to rock. Kimock is able to pull together disparate influences of folk, jazz, jam, bluegrass, psychedelia and rock, and turn it into something all his own — this time, all bound together with Seals’ organ flourishes.
Kimock calls Crazy Engine an “up-beat, gospel influenced, soul-rock band.” In a press release, Kimock says, “The country is all screwed up and I have a theory about how you get through that, you party. You show up and you put on a happy face and you get a bunch of people together and you just slam it down.” Sound good? Yeah, thought you’d like that. Steve Kimock Crazy Engine plays at 8 pm Friday, Oct. 30, at McDonald Theatre. $22.50 adv., $25 door. — Vanessa Salvia