Eugene Weekly : Music : 4.23.09

Ballsy Country Fried Flair

What happens when a band of Southern tavern punks have pissed in each other’s mouths onstage, made out with each other, eaten firecrackers, flashed their peckers, destroyed cheap guitars, crowd-surfed on a crowd of haters, started tiny riots, been kicked out of countries and generally run amok in every way imaginable? If you’re The Black Lips, you keep going until you do something unimaginable. The four bros from Atlanta haven’t reached that cliff yet, but when they reach it, rest assured they’ll use the diving board.

The Black Lips can stir a crowd up good and plenty. They can also kick out catchy three-minute jams pretty well, too. In 2007, the Lips released the underrated Good Bad Not Evil, a Velvet Underground-meets-The Hollies mix of acid rock and Dixie pop. Critics compared them to the Sex Pistols. If doing crazy shit at your shows is a copyright owned by Sid Vicious, then the label fits. But what often went overlooked in the ruckus was the music. Some of the queens of punk rock, from Tim Armstrong to Kurt Cobain, had both ballsy flair and musical talent. And so on to the Lips, who followed up Evil with this year’s 200 Million Thousand, an album that sounds drunker, messier and more fucked up than anything the Lips have done yet. In other words, they’re not “maturing” like elder statesmen of crotchety rock, and that pisses people off. And that’s a good thing. The Black Lips, Flowers Forever and The Strange Boys play at 9 pm Monday, April 27, at WOW Hall. $12 adv., $15 door. — Chuck Adams

Disco Love Affair

Since 2004, Eugene’s Disco Organica has been creating their popular “electro-soul-funk-fusion,” as they call it. Readers of Eugene Weekly love it, and voted Disco Organica as one of the top three jazz acts in 2008. The band is celebrating the release of its second CD, Rocket, and despite the name, the band isn’t disco at all, rather sprawling, sophisticated and soulful funky-jazz.

“Ben’s News” starts with a smooth, horn-forward groove. A lively piano soon kicks in, driving the funky feel for more than six minutes, with the sax getting increasingly excited. By the time it reaches the end, the groove is polite again, back in its place and ready for the next tone poem. “Bjorkana,” by contrast, lays back in the groove and lets vocalist Erin Flood’s sultry, deep voice shimmer in the shadows. As the name suggests, “Zizzle” is zazzier, sending the sax and piano out on separate exploratory missions. 

Rocket was recorded at Crescent Studios in Eugene and engineered by Don Latarski, a well-known Eugene jazz and blues guitarist. The album features current members Jesse Ogle (bass), Justin Birge (drums), Matt Calkins (tenor sax), Ben Scharf (keys) and Brad Erichsen (guitar). Former members are also represented on the album, including Flood, Easton Stuard (keys and flute), Hector Gutierrez (turntables) and Heather Nixon (vocals). Disco Organica and Juno What? play at 8 pm Friday, April 24, at WOW Hall. $12 adv., $14 door. — Vanessa Salvia

Moving “4Word”

Hawaiian reggae frontman Ras Gabriel writes songs inspired by roots reggae, with the same lyrical simplicity and combination of religious and political subject matter of the genre’s pioneers. There’s not much alteration to the tested roots formula — which is the point — and if you can tell Ras Gabriel’s a contemporary artist, it’s only due to song titles like, “No GMO.” Still, this is no substitute for the precursors Ras Gabriel’s inspired by; overall, the rhythms and melodies on his second album, The 4Word Message, are fairly simple, and when you listen to the album, it’s hard not to get the nagging feeling you’ve heard something like this before in every head shop you’ve ever frequented. Which doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, each song on the album is a distinct individual, keeping the songs from melting into each other like wallpaper patterns for someone on LSD. For a relatively new artist attempting to take on a well-loved, well-traveled genre, it’s pretty solid. Ras Gabriel releases The 4Word Message at 9 pm Saturday, April 25, at Jo Federigo’s. 21+. $5. — Sara Brickner

Puppets Gone Wild

Even puppets need a break once in a while. Four years of titillating audiences and outgrowing venues left the hardworking characters of Trunkful of Faces’ Drunk Puppet Revue in need of some rest and relaxation. This year they’re back with a naughty vengeance, ready to inhabit the exotic cavern of the (no longer Indigo) District with a “wickedly irreverent” new show, new songs and a new set of tricks up their sleeves. 

“This is going to be an extravaganza!” promises bandleader and Drunk Puppet veteran Queen Accordionna. “We do a bunch of different shows throughout the evening with music in between. It’s like a vaudeville act. There’s no down time.”

Jeff Lake and Tamara Crafts are the creative team behind Trunkful of Faces; Eugeneans may know their endearing and bizarre creations from the Oregon Country Fair or local Shakespeare in the park productions. 2004 brought their motley crew of unusual, handcrafted creations into the Eugene bar scene with the first Drunk Puppet Night, modeled after a similar even in Seattle. 

“This is not a ‘sit down and shut your mouth and watch someone else do art’ type of evening,” Lake emphasizes. “It’s a give and take kind of evening. That’s why we do it in a bar. We want people to relax and have a beer.”

“We’re giving adults an opportunity to see puppets that are not dumbed down,” Crafts adds. “It’s such a great medium; it’s playful and you can get away with more!”

The puppets of Drunk Puppet Revue get away with quite a lot, actually, and the creators note that the taboo subject matter is not appropriate for children. And while the show might be called the “Drunk” Puppet Revue, Queen Accordionna assures audiences they can enjoy a twisted evening of entertainment without pounding the sauce all night long. “Just have a drink or two and get ready to laugh!” Catch the Drunk Puppet Revue at 8 pm Saturday, April 25, at the District. 21+. $10.
Adrienne van der Valk

Welcome to the TreeHouse

When Kit Day and Daniel Langenberg were laid off from Hynix last year, the two twentysomethings didn’t waste much time plotting their next move. After trading notes, they decided to act on a common vision: opening an all-ages music club. 

The result is TreeHouse Venue, a non-alcoholic, underage club opening on Centennial Loop on April 25. The medium-sized venue will feature a variety of bands, from acoustic to indie to hardcore, says Day, the club’s manager. In the beginning, the club will host shows on two or three Saturdays each month.   

Day, 23, is already busier than many people twice his age. Besides opening TreeHouse, Day is also a dad and a full-time student at LCC. “We just realized that if we’re going to do it, we’d better go for it now and make it a reality,” says Day. 

Day, who grew up in the Tri-Cities area of Washington state, says that he often spent time at an all-ages club owned by his parents before he turned 21. After he moved to Eugene several years ago to begin school at LCC, he began thinking about opening his own club. “I got used to [my parents’ club] being around, but there aren’t that many places to go in Eugene if you’re underage,” he says. “We wanted to create a place for kids to go, a safe place where parents won’t have to worry about alcohol.” Despite Day’s full schedule, he says that he’s “pursuing his dream.” 

TreeHouse Venue opens its doors on Saturday with two pop-punk bands: Emsley and Eight Seven Central play at 7 pm Saturday, April 25, at TreeHouse Venue, 89 Centennial Loop. Free. — Jessica Hirst

Star’s Heartbreak

Star Anna has a voice like a fresh bruise: tender, vivid, aching and unmistakable. There’s a heartbroken, smart-mouthed surliness to the tone of the Ellensburg, Wash., singer-songwriter, who came through town last fall (with her band The Laughing Dogs) while touring for her 2008 debut, Crooked Path. That record was on Malamute, but Anna went entirely independent for her second release, The Only Thing That Matters. You could call it alt country, a little heavy on the twang and a sense of dusty back roads; you could consider Anna’s liking for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and call it a certain kind of borderline-classic rock that insists you play it in a bar while nursing at least your third drink. 

Genre aside, these songs are laced with resignation and bitterness, heartbreak and defeat. There’s no irony here, no self-aware distance; Anna’s lyrics run through drunken evenings and lonely nights, cheating partners and departing lovers. On “Burn,” as Anna sings “I just want to burn your memory away / Every impression that you make,” she sound like she’s in a hurry, the song tumbling at a faster tempo than much of the rest of the record. “Tripping Wire,” the spare closing track, was recorded at 2 am, and a late night/early morning chill hangs over it as Anna, her voice cracking the tiniest bit, sings, “We can’t pay the bills but we can pay for the pills
/ To cover up what we the world instilled.” This is the moment when Sam Bond’s should fall silent, everyone leaving themselves behind for three and a half minutes. Maybe you want to be there for that. Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs, Chuckanut Drive and the touring-by-train Chris Brecht play at 9:30 pm Saturday, April 25, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+. $5. — Molly Templeton