Eugene Weekly : Music : 3.20.08

Earth, Water, Wind, Alice

Back in the day, I volunteered many hours at Columbia, Mo.’s Peace Nook. The Earth-lovin’, former-SDS, hippie folks who ran the store/meeting space (“a nonprofit community resource for peace, the environment and social justice,” if I remember correctly what I said to many visitors) loved, and I mean loved, to play Alice DiMicele. There was something in her deep voice and deeply singer-songwriterish music about salmon, bears, mountains and streams (oh, and natural childbirth), and it all seemed exotic and kind of far away.

Far away from Missouri turns out to be pretty damn close to Eugene — Medford, to be specific. But for five years, DiMicele took a break from singin’ and songwritin’ to be a whitewater kayaker and raft guide. Now it’s time for a new CD called by ebb and flow, an album that mixes her stunning bluesy vocal sound on songs about water conservation, peace, meditation and more. “I’m made out of water / Water is the only thing that can quench my thirst / I’m always trying to get back to the water / From that very first breath on my day of birth,” she sings in “Made Out of Water,” and if you like, you can watch on YouTube or DiMicele’s MySpace page as Country Fairies dance to the song. It’s pretty clear why she resonated with the enviros of my college days — DiMicele’s passionate and earnest efforts for environmental and social justice couldn’t be more suited for the Peace Nook and, for that matter, for Eugene. She hasn’t been here for a concert in a good long while, so expect her set to be packed. Get your tix early! Alice DiMicele plays at 8 pm Friday, March 21, at Tsunami Books. $10 adv., $12 door. — Suzi Steffen 

Found Sounds

Sort of like Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” but without the maddening pulse or spooky paranoia, The Dimes found inspiration under the floorboards. Pierre Kaiser, the guitarist for the Portland four-piece, discovered a bundle of Depression-era newspapers buried beneath the floor of his 1908 home. He passed them along to the group’s history buff/singer-songwriter, Johnny Clay, who became captivated by the bizarre characters stuck behind the fading newsprint. Clay breathed new life into the enigmatic personalities on the page, penning songs about them and eventually including many of the character sketches on The Dimes’ first full-length album, The Silent Generation.

Poppy, literate and ridiculously charming, The Silent Generation bounces back and forth between Clay’s historical recreations and original three-minute ditties. The sad story of a WWI soldier who can’t sleep because of a stray bullet lodged in his brain (“Paul Kern Can’t Sleep”) leads into the headbobbing, woh-oh-ohing sing-along “Catch Me Jumping.” On “Chicago 1929,” Clay sings, “Who in their right mind would live in a place where the devil himself resides?” lamenting the bloody Valentine’s Day Massacre before leaping into a pool of clear and catchy pop on “Letters in the Sea.” Despite its mix of Depression-inspired doom and semi-lighthearted originals, The Silent Generation doesn’t feel like a bunch of mood swings. The music stays punchy and buoyant throughout as cozy Death Cab for Cutie-ish melodies mingle with sunny Brian Wilson harmonies and then strike up a quirky conversation with Sufjan Stevens in the corner of a party. The Dimes have made a brilliant pop album that will stick to your brain, stay on repeat and keep your ear to the floor. The Dimes and Justin King play at 9 pm Saturday, March 22, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+ show. $5. — Jeremy Ohmes


Wicked Circus

“Welcome to our wicked little fascinations / Right on time to join us for the ride / We devised an antiquated machination / Oddities await, so won’t you kindly step inside?” For those interested in stepping inside a circus darker than the hair in the bearded lady’s beard, the Circus Contraption Band may bring you under the big top.

The Circus Contraption Band usually accompanies Seattle’s live, one-act circus troupe Circus Contraption. The band spins a web of dark carnival tales strong enough to catch any slip of a tightrope walker. Each song embraces every detail of a turn of the 20th century circus show, from creaking doors to the flicker of a nickelodeon.

The band’s third album, Grand American Traveling Dime Museum, debuted with Circus Contraption’s show of the same name. The circus has been working hard to create their next show, The SHOW to End All SHOWS, which will debut in Seattle in May, along with the band’s new album. The Circus Contraption Band sounds like they could play over nightmare visions of evil clowns and corrupt circuses in film and television. Their style, vaudevillian in nature, could accompany Broadway musicals in the vein of Chicago. The Circus Contraption Band also brings to mind Oogie Boogie and his spooky lair in Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Spooky may be the best way to describe the Circus Contraption Band, but pack all your friends into your tiny clown car and “Come to the circus while you can / We’ve got a grand disaster plan…”

Circus Contraption Band performs with Orkestar Zirkonium and the Bad Mitten Orchestre at 9 pm Saturday, March 22, at the WOW Hall. $10 adv., $12 door. — Anne Pick