Eugene Weekly : Music : 11.26.08

This Week’s Grrrlz Rock Picks

We’ve clearly got to highlight the Grrrlz Rock Grand Finale at the WOW Hall! The Emerald City Roller Girls host a lineup of music and dance that includes the Kings Krew dance company; The Whopner County Country All-Stars (pictured), an 8-year-old Eugene band whose sassy singer, Sara Scofield, is also credited as the lead kazoo player (the band is soon to be releasing an album cheekily titled It’s Too Loud); Hannah Miller, Mary Farris and Sabine; and Circa Vitae, the current project of Sprout City Studios’ Thaddeus Moore and friends, whose MySpace page says the band sounds like the illegitimate love child of Radiohead, A Perfect Circle, Sunny Day Real Estate, Blonde Redhead and Arcade Fire. 7 pm Saturday, Nov. 29, WOW Hall. $7. — Molly Templeton



Fancy Bandits 

These women push pop music’s boundaries with vocals that lean heavily on ethereal harmonies, which are accompanied by eerie, klezmer-influenced keyboard stylings. It’s like going to a Gothic circus. And in an unusual, refreshing twist, this band contains NO guitarist. Fancy Bandits are just a bassist, a drummer and the keys, which take the lead in lieu of the tried, true and tired guitar. 10 pm Friday, Nov. 28, Luckey’s. 21+. $6. — Sara Brickner



We Like to Groove You

Given their high-energy, rock and roll-meets-Gospel-meets-funk-and-soul sound, it’s easy to understand why Robert Randolph & the Family Band’s debut studio recording was titled Unclassified. Their sound is genre-bending and in some respects it is stereotype-obliterating, so that name is apt. The same can be said of Randolph himself, whose virtuoso performances on the pedal steel guitar have redefined how people view the instrument, not to mention landed him guest appearances on numerous albums with everyone from Ozzy Osbourne to The Blind Boys of Alabama. 

The band’s second album, Colorblind, further cemented their status as groove rock stalwarts when it was released in 2006. Lead single “Thrill of It” demanded you turn up your car stereo with the windows rolled down, and the funky “Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That” splashed across NBC sitcom ads for months. Eric Clapton gave the band’s cover of “Jesus is Just Alright,” some extra kick, while Dave Matthews and his late bandmate LeRoi Moore added some feel-good flavor to the lively “Love is the Only Way.”

The band’s already legendary live shows feature extended jams, audience participation and band members switching instruments to demonstrate their versatility. To give you some perspective on how popular their show is, their first recording of any kind was the album Live at the Wetlands. Shows often run longer than the time they’ve been allotted depending on how good a time everyone is having, so the band sometimes won’t have an opening act. With performances like these, they don’t need any. Robert Randolph and the Family Band play at  8 pm Friday, Nov. 28, at the McDonald Theater. 21+. Free tickets available at various locations; see for details. — Brian Palmer



In the Key of Sea

While the dreary, grey days in the Valley do nothing for me, they do provide the perfect backdrop for Unkle Nancy and the Family Jewels’ latest release, The Gypsy Pirate Blues. The album, which was released in late October, is a blend of rum-soaked pirate ballads, ragtime and gypsy folk.

Unkle Nancy, from “Everywhere” Oregon, has dabbled in a host of musical genres: hip hop, indie, backwoods country and now pirate folk rock. While immediate comparisons come to mind — Jason Webley and Tom Waits — the band truly has a sound all its own. 

The eight-piece group differentiates itself by the use of transitions and variation within the CD, as well as in individual songs. The album raises spirits with drunken singalongs like “Hey Hey,” a song that challenges and entertains listeners with its mean-spirited lyrics about despising someone. Despite its use of abrasive expletives, it still gets my feet tapping. 

The song “Gypsy Pirate Blues” is a perfect example of the band’s excellent use of variation. It begins with a Spanish-style tone that is almost sexy in a weird way. About five minutes in to the eight-minute song, the mood switches gears. It becomes raw and gritty as the song tells the story of a murder. 

While Unkle Nancy’s ragtime songs will get you dancing, it’s the band’s sea chanteys that provide a playfully dark mood. “I Wish I Were a Sailor” is an intentionally sloppy, almost drunk-sounding ditty. Think Tom Waits fronting The Decemberists.

Unkle Nancy and the Family Jewels play at 8:30 pm Sunday, Nov. 30, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+. $3-$5. Washboards and kazoos are welcome.  — Amanda Burhop





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