Out of Their Gourds?
Crazy twangy zydeco fun
BY JOHN DOOLEY
There is something funny about The Gourds. Not to be confused with the produce of Freeman Rowe, the intense gourd fanatic who sets up shop at the Eugene Saturday Market every year (that’s an altogether different kind of funny). No, The Gourds on topic are a tough-to-peg accordion, keys and strings thing from Austin, Texas.
|The Gourds. 7:30 pm Saturday, 4/7 Jaqua Concert Hall, The Shedd. $20-$28.
Familiar to fans of Austin City Limits and NPR, The Gourds tangle fur, fun and fandango into a unique style of catchy pop-top front porch zydeco. With reminiscent inklings of Bad Livers, Charlie Daniels, Buckwheat Zydeco, Neil Young and a likely twist of Uncle Tupelo (The Gourds’ multi-instrumentalist Max Johnson is formally of Uncle Tupelo and Wilco), The Gourds’ approach to music induces way more joy than their bulbous namesake. Unless you’re Freeman Rowe.
The Gourds’ music is unapologetically more old timey and zydeco influenced than Tejano or Norteño but with the rocking chair insistence of Texan string/accordion/washboard twang. Still, each song comes out sounding different than every other.
As the website attests, pinning down The Gourds’ sound isn’t easy:
There is just absolutely no way to categorize this music, these songs, without tearing up the English language. … They are quilters in the true sense of the word. Scraps, fragments, leftovers, images strung together in a continuous scrabble of sheets draped over old wood like charm. This is first and foremost a music of joy. From there it’s anybody’s guess what the friggin’ hell it is.
Lyrically, The Gourds’ songs combine everyday dark humor, death, drinking, collections, Cat Woman, farts and even bizarre experiences in Oregon hotels. Songs range from a Hammond B-3 infused Saturday morning cartoon soundtrack (“Pick and Roll”) to the universally unfortunate living situation in “My New Roommate.”
“My new roommate’s quiet he keeps to himself / Been in the can for hours and I can’t smell a thing / Why did you spill a box of wine in my bathtub? / C’mon let’s get you to the ER let’s get you sewn up.”
Someone please notify Freeman Rowe.
New Wave of Northwestern Bluegrass Americana
Is there a bluegrass convention this week?
BY VANESSA SALVIA
Around the Weekly office, where many, many CDs are delivered in the mail each week, we’re used to a plethora of bluegrass/Americana/newgrass/alt country/whatever bands. It’s quite common to have several BANACW bands touring the Northwest at once; they just don’t always all happen to land shows in Eugene during the same week. This week they do; plus, locals The Sugar Beets are celebrating their 17th anniversary. Fans of BANACW may have to pick and chose where to spend their music dollars. Here’s a rundown, looking to the locals first …
Eugene’s perennial favorites The Sugar Beets are celebrating their long and healthy life together: 17 years with very few line-up changes. Founding member Tanya Voxman (violin, ’90-’98) will rejoin the Beets for this show, and bandleader Marty Chilla says the group hopes to debut some new songs. Though the group doesn’t play as much as it used to, last year the Beets released Secret to Happiness, the band’s first new album in five years. Joining them for this special event is Grace Keller, a seventh generation American born in 1911, during Taft’s presidency. She grew up a Quaker in a North Carolina cabin with ten siblings. At nearly 96 years old, Keller sings harmony, plays keyboards and plays a 36-string autoharp. As usual, seats for The Beets’ first set give way to an open dance floor for the second set (WOW Hall, 8 pm 4/7, $10).
This event doesn’t exactly fit in with the BANACW theme, but it’s local and a CD release party to boot, so you should know about it. SpiritFarm, a “jazzy pop folk-rock jam band” (JPFRJB?), is celebrating the release of its second CD, Perils of Love, featuring such outstanding local guest musicians as guitarist Don Latarski and saxophonist Paul Biondi. As a quartet, the band flexes its muscles on all types of genres and performs mostly original music with the occasional cover (Luna, 8:30 pm 4/6, $10).
Mollybloom (all one word) plays contemporary bluegrass at Cozmic Pizza (7 pm 4/6, $5). This five-piece Salem band features banjo, mandolin, fiddle, guitar and bass, with a distinctively folksy feel.
Lastly, Port Angeles, Wash., band Deadwood Revival brings its folksy/rootsy/bluegrass sound to Sam Bond’s 4/11 (9 pm, $3-$5) and Cottage Grove’s Axe & Fiddle 4/14 (8 pm, $5). Though a duo, the pair manages to project the complexity of a full band. Kim Trenerry plays rhythm guitar and bass while Jason Mogi makes magic with slide banjo and guitar — though admittedly not all at once. The couple harmonizes magnificently and crafts music that’s fun and uplifting.
Breakout Band Alert
Being a relatively young band, both in terms of age and vintage, might seem like a disadvantage in the saturated world of indie rock. But the members of barely-year-old quintet Delaney knew they were meant to make music together from the beginning, and they didn’t let their tender ages stop them from jumping right into a recording career. Crafted from various links to bass player Bobby Seus, the group jelled before they even met in person. Seus had previously played genre-bending music with guitarist Lee Barbara, drummer Mike Fremeau, keyboardist Mike Maimone and guitarist Matt Marnocha. After graduating from college, he summoned them to combine talents, testing their musical chemistry first from a distance, electronically. The resulting efforts were so successful that far-away members of Delaney packed their knapsacks and moved to Medford in the spring of 2006, relocating to Portland last September.
Now touring in support of its self-titled debut album, Delaney is finding its niche as a favorite on the campus rock scene. With self-identified influences like Coldplay, Weezer and Fountains of Wayne, the band’s dedication to the pop end of the music spectrum is evident. But the interplay of three songwriters and three vocalists also means that Delaney’s sound doesn’t stick around in one category for too long. Tracks like “On the Go” open a hushed, unassuming window into the softer side of a band that likes to rock but wouldn’t mind backing up your afternoon fantasies as well. Lyrically, they can make a love song out of a trip to the arcade (“I spent an hour on the claw machine / I saved my ticket to buy you a ring”).
There is a special type of enthusiasm infused into the live shows of bands riding high atop the first big wave of their careers. It’s almost a sure bet Delaney’s upcoming Eugene show will have that feel-good vibe. Delaney plays at 10 pm Friday, April 6 at Luckey’s. 21+ show. $3-$5. — Adrienne van der Valk
Can Michael Stipe Be Far Behind?
Wait, wait … is Peter Buck really coming to Eugene? All you children of the 1980s (and I don’t mean those born then; sorry, EW calendar editor) know what I’m talking about. So the founding lead guitarist of R.E.M. plays in Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3, right? ‘Tis true. And now that I’ve gotten my panties in a twist about a Real Live Music Hero of My Youth at Sam Bond’s, I start looking into the Robyn Hitchcock himself. He’s kind of a minor god, a joker whose Monkees-like delivery mixes humorous tones with more serious lyrics. (At least, that’s what online sources tell me.) Hitchcock, who’s been floating vaguely in the recesses of my mind since he opened for R.E.M. on tour in 1989, surfaces on his hilarious and historically fabulous Web biography not only as a founding member of the punk/New Wave Soft Boys but as a movie actor in the sadly awful 2004 remake of The Manchurian Candidate (plus, thankfully, so much more: Remember Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians?).
I don’t have the album on my hot little computer yet, but Salon.com’s free Audiofile download on Monday, April 2 is Hitchcock’s “Olé! Tarantula,” a trippy, poppy, Beatles-ish blend of surreality and sensual imagery. I listen again and again. I think, and this is only a thought, that the song’s about sex. “Look at his fingers caressing the keys / If he don’t please you, well, you just can’t be pleased.” Mmmm hmmmm. And that’s only the title song of the album released last October. iTunes, here I come. Venus 3, to give the superish group its due, consists not only of Buck but also Bill Rieflin, formerly of Ministry and now the drummer for R.E.M., and Young Fresh Fellows frontman Scott McCaughey, who, yes, also works with R.E.M. How can these musical godlings be playing at tiny Sam Bond’s? Is this an April Fool’s joke? Nope. It’s true. Woot! Robyn Hitchcock and Venus 3 play Sam Bond’s on (Easter) Sunday, April 8 at 8 p.m. $14. — Suzi Steffen