Eugene Weekly : Music : 4.9.09

Dynamic DIY Duo

Mention riot grrl, and most folks familiar with that early-’90s feminist punk scene think of the more provocative bands like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile. Often left in the shadows is the visionary duo Mecca Normal, who helped define riot grrl’s subversive, do-it-yourself spirit a few years earlier, albeit in a more evocative manner. Forming in 1984, the indie rock two-piece proffered many of the confrontational, feminist themes that would later define the movement, but Mecca Normal has always been less about shoving its politics in your face than simply sneaking them under your skin — sans rhythm section. Jean Smith’s haunting voice and silver-tongued poetry coupled with David Lester’s eddying, often dissonant guitar have the ability to inspire activism, elicit introspection and marry the personal and political in the span of one song. And the duo has done just that over the course of 13 albums released on a veritable who’s-who of indie-rock labels — K Records, Kill Rock Stars, Matador, Sub Pop and their own Smarten Up! label. While their current tour marks the 25-year anniversary of the band, Smith and Lester aren’t celebrating the milestone with a pat-on-the-back retrospective tour; they’re hitting the road with the same mission and message of progressive social change that’s always been central to their music. The DIY duo is only performing in Eugene, but earlier in the day they will present a lecture entitled “How Art and Music Can Change the World” at Salem’s Cherry City Music Festival. What’s more punk than that? Mecca Normal plays with Pony Prance and Yoko Raga at 8 pm Friday, April 10, at Wandering Goat. $4. — Jeremy Ohmes

While My Sitar Gently Weeps

Genre-bending is nothing new for Jeremy Wegner. He first began playing guitar at age 13 and got into sitar music through the Beatles. He didn’t have access to a sitar, so he began playing an Appalachian dulcimer to achieve some similar sounds. In 1990, when his father returned from a trip to India with a real sitar, Wegner taught himself, and took to it quickly. A local tabla player helped Wegner master the rhythms of Indian music; soon after he formed the group Bindaas, blending traditional sitar and tabla rhythms with Western harmonies on violin and cello. Wegner also plays with local folk rockers the Sugar Beets and has been playing klezmer music with the Klezmonauts since 1996. 

Wegner’s new CD, Nevermind The Triangles, is a natural amalgamation of these many talents. One three-part track, “The Pistachio Set,” begins with a classic Indian raga and then turns into an Irish jig, followed by an Appalachian-style bluegrass melody. He follows that up with a mellow tune called “Stepladder,” a simple, lovely guitar and cello duet. Surprisingly, the switch-ups aren’t awkward. Everything flows together well, and the lack of vocals allows each different melody to shine (though Wegner does finish out the CD with a vocal rendition of the Pete Seeger tune “Adam the Inventor”). Lots of fellow musicians joined Wegner, providing a rich tableau of instrumentation, including violin, fiddle, dobro, tabla and various percussion, along with Wegner’s own saz, sarod, mandolin, banjo and guitar, giving listeners plenty to just listen to, dance to or meditate to. Jeremy Wegner celebrates the release of his new CD with the Sugar Beets, 9 pm Saturday, April 11, at Sam Bond’s Garage. (21+,  $7); and with Bindaas and the Klezmonauts, 4 pm Sunday, April 12, at Tsunami Books (all ages, $10 sug. don.). — Vanessa Salvia

The Roots Vanquish Late Night Television

photo by Todd Cooper

Just over a month ago, The Roots made their debut as Jimmy Fallon’s house band for the SNL alum’s new late night show, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. When this news first became public, the group’s legion of fans were abuzz with anticipation, much of it venomous. Would it be a total disaster? Did this mean the band was — God forbid — selling out? I, too, feared the worst (late night TV bands are so cheesy), but the answer turned out to be no. In fact, at this point it might be best for everyone involved if NBC just gives the show to The Roots and tells Jimmy Fallon to take a hike. But even if The Roots’ decision to take on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon had turned out to be a complete and total disaster, I’d still urge you to go see them live. These guys have been churning out seminal hip hop albums like butter for the past 15 years, and you could see The Roots 100 times and never see the same set twice: In addition to their own formidable body of work, the band has been known to cover a smorgasbord of notable artists, from Bob Dylan to Guns ‘N Roses in the same night. The Roots and Lyrics Born play at 7 pm Saturday, April 11, at the McDonald Theatre. $29.50 adv., $32 door. — Sara Brickner





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