Eugene Weekly : Music : 12.3.09

This is Not Pyrite

Let’s face facts: Even when a genre as broad as indie rock’s been around for two decades, doing something new with it is nearly impossible. But L.A.-based band Fool’s Gold has managed it: The group, whose live incarnation contains anywhere from seven to 12 people, combines a variety of West African sounds (Tuareg blues from Mali, Senegalese percussion and Ethiopian soul, among others), tropicalia, Middle Eastern music, psychedelic West Coast surf pop and a lead vocalist who sings in Hebrew the majority of the time. In combining so many different styles, the members of Fool’s Gold have managed to create something that draws from artists and styles you’ve heard before without sounding quite like any of them. No, it’s not authentic, but the love the folks in Fool’s Gold share for the music of the world is completely sincere. Though the band’s inevitably drawn tons of comparisons to Vampire Weekend, Fool’s Gold is an improvement upon Vampire Weekend’s appropriation of African sounds, one that’s not only fun to dance to, but refreshingly unpretentious as well. The band began as an impromptu side project — lead guitarist Lewis Pesacov and vocalist Luke Top started the band for fun — but Pesacov and most of Foreign Born, his other band, became staples at all of the band’s performances. Though Pesacov is the only member of Foreign Born present on this tour, the band’s live presence is always intoxicating: Expect bright melodies and a menagerie of percussion capable of charming even the most tepid crowd. Fool’s Gold, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes and Local Natives play at 8 pm Thursday, December 10, at the WOW Hall. $10 adv., $12 door. — Sara Brickner

Ankle Deep in Thrash

The band Saviours have been leaders in the Bay Area metal scene since forming in 2005, but they’ve played with some high profile bands lately, like Saint Vitus, Neurosis and High on Fire. Now that they’re touring with 3 Inches of Blood (pictured), I predict metalheads across the country will remember their name. Saviours is often lumped into the drunk rawk bin — they’ve drawn comparisons to retro rock with Thin Lizzy-inspired guitars — but I find the work more thrash revivalist. The new album from this band, Accelerated Living, has a moderately fast South of Heaven tempo, slowing down the pace with no loss of heaviness or momentum.  

Holy Grail definitely fits in with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal revival, recalling the fist-pumping sound of early ’80s (pre-glam) metal. Born when three members of White Wizzard decided to forge their own path, Holy Grail sounds much like that L.A. band, with lots of Judas Priest and very early Metallica influences, precision playing and razor sharp vocals. Holy Grail is already getting a lot of attention and has signed to Prosthetic Records on the strength of just a few months of shows and one EP, Improper Burial, released in November. 

Headliner 3 Inches of Blood are riding high on the release of Here Waits Thy Doom. Here waits falsetto screams matched with guttural growls, and guitars that can shred and chug. But while 3IOB employ the thrash template, they don’t stick to it, which makes their music all the more unpredictable and epic. Three Inches of Blood, Saviours, Holy Grail and Dusks Embrace play at 7:30 pm Friday, Dec. 4, at the WOW Hall. $12 adv., $15 door. — Vanessa Salvia

Creating Joy

On Dec. 3, Daniel Rachev leads the Eugene Symphony — along with guest pianist Alexandre Dossin (pictured) — in a performance of music by Haydn, Beethoven and Brahms. The music of these three composers will immerse the audience into a dynamic, three-dimensional conception of the world through the magic of sheer musical grandeur.

The construction of The Creation is, musically speaking, traditional: Haydn uses the customary division of choruses, accompanied recitations (usually descriptive passages), arias and second recitations. He retained the old-fashioned Italian second recitations for coloristic reasons: in these brief sections, listeners have a chance to rest from the vast sound of the choruses. The boundless loneliness of the introduction, a “Representation of Chaos, is astounding not only for its harmonic modernity, but also in its fabulous orchestration — the wild sweep of the clarinet and the almost sinister, gray woodwind scoring which so movingly depicts the Earth surrounded by swirling darkness. 

The dramatic opposition of Beethoven’s Concerto No. 1 in C Major  for Piano appears immediately, as the strings contrast a forceful motive with a rapid scale, starkly separated by silence. When the piano enters fully, it becomes the catalyst for reconciling extremes. Towards the end, the music gradually slows as it repeats the opening motif. A small cadenza over a sustained string chord brings the tempo down to adagio for an oboe solo. It’s a scrupulously enthralling movement.

Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Opus 68 works on a rigidly constructed musical logic which is never quite spontaneous and contains squirmy music, especially in its first movement. In the third movement, Brahms replaced traditional dance movement with a more hypothetical intermezzo. Just bring your ears and heart along and willingly surrender to the rhapsodist. The Eugene Symphony performs at 8 pm Thursday, Dec. 3, at the Hult Center. $15-$58. — Ziphron Elliot

Tripping Down Tin Pan Alley

There is something savvy but sweetly innocent about Meaghan Smith’s music, which she describes as “modern vintage.” The term is apt, conjuring as it does the velvet goldmine of second-hand boutiques and used vinyl shops. Like a flapper with two turntables and a microphone, the Canadian-born Smith borrows from the plucky, lush sounds of show tunes, big band and scratchy old cartoon soundtracks — think Bugs Bunny and Benny Goodman — and gently coaxes these earlier eras into the technological present, utilizing a sampled blip here, a reconstituted beat there. It works. Smith’s voice, which moves between the sexy effervescence of Ronnie Spector and the spun-sugar vocals of Norah Jones, is always pushed to the fore, where it certainly belongs. But it’s her songwriting that raises Smith above the fray.

On songs like “Poor” and “Take Me Dancing” from her first full-length album, The Cricket’s Orchestra, Smith — the child of a piano teacher and a bass player — strolls comfortably down Tin Pan Alley, revealing a knack for the elegant minimalism and sunshine-on-the-sidewalk melodies of Gershwin-era Americana. “This stupid heart, this foolish thing, failed me from the start, and keeps malfunctioning,” she sings on the snappy opener “Heartbroken,” a sure-footed piece of Motown mojo that could stand as this decade’s “Please Mr. Postman.” Smith has said she wants her music to make “you feel like you’re leaving one world and entering another.” It’s a lofty goal, but Smith nails it.

Meaghan Smith plays with Joe Purdy at 7:30 pm Tuesday, Dec. 8, at the WOW Hall. $13 adv., $15 door. She also plays a free show that day at 3 pm at Barnes & Noble. — Rick Levin 

In Memoriam

Tragically, the show scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 9, at Sam Bond’s has turned into a memorial for Love That Dress frontman Scott Herscher, who passed away unexpectedly in early November. Berg Radin, a friend of Herscher’s and a member of Portland band And And And, said Tuesday that he originally had booked three shows in advance for the two bands, and since both he and Herscher were from Eugene, the Sam Bond’s show would be a homecoming of sorts. Since Herscher’s death, previously scheduled shows in Portland have morphed into impromptu memorials, Radin said, adding that the remaining members of Love That Dress have been playing Herscher’s songs in tribute, and that members of the audience have been invited onto stage to do the same. The Eugene show will follow suit. A Facebook page now announces the show as “on tour for one night only for scott herscher,” with one musician’s post promising to “END THE NIGHT IN LOVING MAYHEM PLAYING SONGS FOR SCOTT.“ And And And, Love That Dress and Leo London play at 9 pm Wednesday, Dec. 9, Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+. Free. — Rick Levin