Marv Ellis Is Mental
You’ve got to hand it to Eugene native Marv Ellis (born Garrick Bushek): he’s been working hard, and you can tell. His third album, Mental Picture Machine, is an ode to weed, the Pacific Northwest, the fine town of Eugene and, um … weed. It’s also the best album he’s recorded yet, assisted in no small part by a bunch of cameos; the most notable of these comes courtesy of Blackalicious’ legendary MC Gift of Gab on “What’s Hip!” A bilingual rapper, Ellis got his start performing as a part of Papa’s Soul Kitchen, a funk band that dissolved once Papa’s Soul Food Kitchen got popular (understandable, then, that the album is dedicated to the memory of Ted “Papa Soul” Lee.) Last time we spoke, though, Ellis told me he’s not sure he can call his music hip hop anymore — that he’s a “twisted amorphism of a bunch of different styles.” That’s still true, but it’s hard to think of a better descriptor for Mental Picture Machine than hip hop, guest instrumentation be damned. Where the stylistic lines really get blurred is in a live setting, where Ellis performs with his live funk band, the Platform. Essentially, this is a feel-good sort of hip hop soul fusion informed by Eugene’s unique culture. In other words, if there’s an MC who could convert one of the Eug’s many diehard Phish devotees to hip hop, Ellis is the man for the job. Marv Ellis and the Platform and Unkle Nancy and the Parallel Minds perform at 9 pm Saturday, Feb. 6, at Luckey’s. 21+. $7. — Sara Brickner
Jimmy LaValle’s Chorus
There’s no denying that The Album Leaf’s Jimmy LaValle is a musical mastermind, but for those of us who’ve always found ambient and/or post-rock to be almost universally soporific, his music was never the sort of thing you’d listen to except in the quietest moments. Until now, LaValle has retained complete control over his albums, recording 100 percent of the instruments himself and recruiting a rotating roster of live musicians to tour with him. But finally, after 10 years, four albums and a bout of writer’s block that caused LaValle to cease working on music for the longest period in his career, he decided to open up the creative process and record his fifth full-length effort with his current band. Its title, A Chorus of Storytellers, seems to reflect this newfound spirit of collaboration, but it’s definitely no accident that the result is more dynamic, engaging and poppy than anything LaValle has previously put out. Even the sleepiest numbers seem to harbor an unprecedented sense of energy and movement. Collaboration suits LaValle well. The Album Leaf and Sea Wolf perform at 8 pm Tuesday, Feb. 9, at the WOW Hall. $12 adv., $14 door. —Sara Brickner
Run for No Cover
The building on 6th and Willamette has had a few different incarnations: It was Joe’s, then Latitude 21, then Joe’s again. Now, it’s The Muse Lounge, a bar and venue that, promoters say, will never have a cover charge.
Though the Muse is understated on the outside, don’t let that scare you off: On the inside, the space has what a press release describes as an “upscale lounge atmosphere,” with leather couches for those who just want to relax. There’s a dance floor for the more adventurous, with plenty of room to groove to bands or unleash your inner John Travolta, depending on the night’s entertainment, which might range from a show by one of the venue’s monthly resident bands to karaoke with Slick Nick.
During happy hour (4-7 pm) and late at night, The Muse will serve “a unique arrangement” of tapas, the traditional Spanish arrangement of bite-sized appetizers of all varieties. Service industry employees get their own nightly happy hour from 9 pm to midnight.
As for live entertainment, The Muse Lounge already has big plans for the month of February: Over the next few weeks, it hosts bands ranging from Eugenean intrumentalists On the Tundra to Portland’s The Slants to Principle Groove, a reggae funk-rock band from Corvallis.
The Essentials, Keegan Smith (pictured) and the Farm and Rootdown — the Muse Lounge’s resident bands for February — play the grand opening celebration at 8 pm Friday, Feb. 5. 21+. No cover. For more info, see www.myspace.com/themuselounge or the Facebook fan page at http://wkly.ws/8z — Darcy Wallace
Have a Lovely Evening
Last June, Ashland’s Karen Lovely Band participated in the Cascade Blues Association’s “Journey to Memphis” competition held in Vancouver, Wash. The group, featuring guitarist Joe Diehl (who played on the 2001 Jerry Garcia tribute featuring Melvin Seals), drummer Teri Coté, bassist Bob DiChiro (of Les Deux Love Orchestra) and keyboardist Allen Crutcher, was among the top four bands from that competition, earning a spot at Portland’s annual Waterfront Blues Festival in July. As the first place winners of that competition, winning both best performance and best band, they were guaranteed a spot in the prestigious International Blues Challenge, held Jan. 20-23 this year in Memphis, Tenn. The Karen Lovely band wowed that crowd — and the judges — all the way to a second place win.
You might think after reading this impressive list of awards that Karen Lovely had built up to this with decades of experience. In fact, she took a near-20-year hiatus from singing and only revived her blues career in 2007.
Lovely has a voice that fills the room; she can lead listeners through every emotion, with soft, sexy whispers, joyful noises and crescendos that soar from the depths of her soul. Her debut record, Lucky Girl, delivers a mix of contemporary and old school blues originals. She makes B.B. King’s “Tell Me Baby” her own story, puts some sweat into John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom” and turns smoky on the subdued rendering of “Too Little, Too Late.” The Karen Lovely Band plays at 9:30 pm Friday, Feb. 5, at Mac’s at the Vets Club. 21+. $6. You can also catch the band earlier in the evening as part of the More Hope for Haiti benefit at the WOW Hall. For details, see www.wowhall.org — Vanessa Salvia
Music for Health (Care)
Phoebe Blume is a woman of many trades. She’s worked in nonprofit health care for almost 10 years, but she’s also a varied and talented musician. Blume performs a benefit concert for the Musicians Emergency Medical Association (MEMA) on Saturday, showcasing music from her new album, The Homing Beasts.
Blume was trained in opera and classical music but also spent time in the South and on her father’s farm, giving her a love for blues. She combines all these influences in The Homing Beasts, with songs that are vastly different without seeming disconnected. The title track opens with an almost tribal-sounding beat, starting simple and adding layers of complexity. Blume’s love and respect for nature is apparent in “The Homing Beasts,” “Little Trees” and the lyrics in other tracks. The penultimate song, “C’est Toi, Mon Ami,” shows her classical training, while “Hot and Sweet” features the blues. And the lyrics of the final track, “Rise Up Now, Child,” could reflect her experience in health care while calling for hope and strength in trying times.
The upcoming concert is Blume’s first public performance of her compositions, but it also shows her passion for MEMA’s goals. She has seen the ways that sudden illness or injury can devastate someone with no insurance. Her band features several talented artists, including Rich Sellars of Floydian Slips and Almond Davis of The Hi-Tones, along with Steve Arriola and Joe Croce. Accompanying the group is saxophonist Paul Biondi, who has performed with the likes of Gladys Knight and Aretha Franklin, and is a founder of MEMA.
Phoebe Blume plays at 8 pm Saturday, Feb. 6, at the Vet’s Club Ballroom. 21+. $5-$15 (CD included if you pay $10 or more). — Darcy Wallace
Good Band, Good Cause
It’s fitting that a laid-back, feel-good band like Rootdown is headlining an event to raise money for Hosea Youth Services. Rootdown’s reggae-tinged pop/rock sounds smack of sunwashed Saturdays in Santa Cruz, leaving the listener warm, happy and encouraged. Hosea Youth Services helps provide food, counseling and other services, and in 2010 they will be Lane County’s site for homeless youth to have a place to sleep and stay warm when the temperature drops below 28 degrees. The connection between these two couldn’t be more clear.
Rootdown features Paul Wright, who has distinguished himself in recent years as one of the Northwest’s most talented Christian artists. The band plays tunes that range from the multilingual and whimsical (“Burrito Boy”) to the inspiring and sometimes raucous (“Pick Up Yourself”). In “Roots,” the band takes its message of positivity, mixes it with calls to the audience to use talents for a greater good and then takes the serious and meaningful undertones of the song and turns the track into an infectious party anthem.
Even the band’s not-so-imaginatively titled love tracks (“Real Love,” “Sweet Love”) are affecting in their lack of crass declarations and sappy sentimentality because the band chooses to focus on the purity and depth that can be found in love if people are willing to look for it. Rootdown creates groovy music that will make you gladly lose track of time as you bob to the beats and absorb the aural beauty.
Joining the festivities are local artists Nik Fury and The Great Exploration as well as performers from the Breakdown Dance Company in Springfield. Fury’s music is a frenetic hybrid of fuzzy garage rock, hip-hop and rap, but his rap stylings are on the bland side. The Great Exploration gets its righteous rock on in the vein of bands like Coldplay, Danyew and Seabird, and they have enough elan to start a fire with their music.
Former UO football standouts Josh Bidwell and Saul Patu will be appearing, and door prizes include CDs, autographed TobyMac merchandise, concert tickets and gift certificates to Karma Clothing. All proceeds will go directly to Hosea Youth Services. 7 pm Saturday, Feb. 6, Morse Events Center, Northwest Christian University. $6 adv., $8 door. — Brian Palmer