Eugene Weekly : Music : 3.26.09

Verve and Fervor

Less like Langston Hughes’ “The Weary Blues” and more like the lively piano sounds of Jerry Lee Lewis, the music of the D. K. Stewart Band will likely set you to dancing instead of wanting to drown your sorrows in the nearest pint. 

Nowhere is this more evident than on the wild “Shameless Boogie,” on which Stewart pounds the ivories to a pulp as the band tries to keep pace with his enthusiastic playing. And while tunes like “I Cried So Much for You” and “How Many More Years” do have appropriately sad tones, the music is more defiantly upbeat than woeful, which mirrors Stewart’s “You-ain’t-gonna-keep-me-down” attitude.

Stewart has backed up some noteworthy blues musicians, including Robert Cray, Paul deLay and Curtis Salgado, and he’s played prominent blues festivals from Portland to Europe. As a bandleader and piano player, Stewart has enough verve and fervor to liven up anybody’s night and get you ready to toss your doldrums right out the window. The D.K. Stewart band plays at  9:30 pm Friday, March 27, at Mac’s at the Vets Club. 21+. $7. — Brian Palmer

X Marks The Spot

When my 10-year-old daughter heard me listening to Seattle’s X-Ray Press, she advised me to describe them as “unique and odd,” and actually, both words are apt adjectives for the band’s experiments in sound. 

What X-Ray Press does, and what made it sound off-kilter to her young ears, is take what might be a perfectly normal song in another band’s hands and teach it to do things normal songs aren’t supposed to do. Time signatures change with each breath, jumping-bean guitar lines swap salvos with a bass that’s moving in the opposite direction and keyboard melodies pop in and out of existence randomly. Even the vocals oscillate between something approaching rhythmic singing and ragged screaming. Somewhere amidst all that juxtaposition is unconventional melody. With a constantly shifting frame of reference, an X-Ray Press song can at any point induce either seizures or hypnotic fascination, depending on whether you decide to pick a sound thread and try to follow it or focus on the whole. 

The band’s debut EP, brkn type, was released late in 2007, so they’re about due for another one, and according to their MySpace page are currently in the studio hammering out a full-length. Spin magazine praised the band’s “high energy and weirdly memorable” live shows and pinned a “highly recommended” blue ribbon on its prog-punk shirtfront. The Slowdown, X-Ray Press, Cull and Rye Wolves play at 7 pm Sunday, March 29, at Indigo District. All ages. $8. — Vanessa Salvia

The Beat Goes On

Dave Wakeling and the Beat — The English Beat in America — arrived on the ska revivalist scene in 1979, around the same time as most of their checker-boarded contemporaries — The Specials, Madness, The Selecter and Bad Manners. To some extent, the Beat set themselves apart from the second-wave pack with their punk toaster/rapper, Ranking Roger, and their elder Jamaican saxman, Saxa, who played with the likes of Desmond Dekker, Prince Buster and Laurel Aitken in the first wave of ska. But what really separated the Beat from their Two-Tone compatriots was the downright diversity of their influences. They filtered ska and rocksteady through punk, post-punk, Motown, soul, funk, pop and even calypso while tackling sobering social and political issues. The themes may have been heavy — the anti-Thatcherism of “Stand Down Margaret,” the cultural nihilism of “Mirror in the Bathroom,” the anti-jingoism of “I Am Your Flag” and the anti-violence of “Two Swords” and “Over and Over” — but the loose-limbed grooves and dub-accented melodies kept the music light on its feet and the audience dancing (or rather skanking) all night long. After three successful albums, the Beat disbanded in 1983, and Wakeling and Roger went on to form the poppy, new romantic group General Public (“Tenderness”), while guitarist Andy Cox and bassist David Steele formed Fine Young Cannibals (“She Drives Me Crazy”). Currently, Dave Wakeling, who now lives in California, is performing as The English Beat and for this 30th anniversary tour, he is the only original member playing the hits of the Beat, General Public and some new material. The English Beat plays at 8 pm Tuesday, March 31, at the WOW Hall. $20 adv., $23 door.
Jeremy Ohmes

Organ-ically Yours

Tearing out of the high desert like some demonic hell-ride, Scott Wexton is otherwise known as the Voodoo Organist, an organ-pounding, whiskey-loving, demented disciple of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Tom Waits and Anton LaVey. The road warrior has played more than 500 shows from coast to coast, hauling his 1949 Hammond organ and Moog Taurus bass pedals with him wherever he goes. Supported solely by a drummer, the Voodoo Organist kicks out a colossal sound, thick with tube-driven Hammond swells and steamrolling bass grooves, and his music straddles the line between fiendish horror-movie soundtracks and sleazy Cramps-inspired garage rock. He’s currently supporting his latest long-player, Darwin Dance Hall Days, which features songs like “Dig the Hole,” a gothic-blues sermon complete with chunky organ chords, an eerie theremin line and a feverish growl that sounds like Rob Zombie fronting Iron Butterfly. On “The Revenge of the Black Widow,” a distorted bass line rumbles over a danceable disco beat while beefy organ fills and sporadic synth trills make you feel like you’re in a scene from Arachnophobia. In other words, it’s creepy, campy and diabolically fun. The Voodoo Organist plays with Front Toward Enemy and Tullis at 9 pm Saturday, March 28, at Diablo’s Downtown Lounge. 21+. $5. — Jeremy Ohmes



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