Eugene Weekly : Music : 5.3.07

On the Road Again

In my mind the Yard Dogs Road Show is traveling to us by caravan. Dust Bowl-era wagons carrying weathered suitcases filled with ripped leggings, feather boas and snappy suspenders are guided by women dressed in dirty-hot, Wild West lingerie and surly men with long, slender moustaches that they twirl with their fingers. Of course, in my vision the traveling road show, bringing a showcase of cabaret, vaudeville and rock music, makes its way on foot along a dusty trail — that’s just the inner Carnivàle fan in me talking. But in all likelihood, they probably drive minivans and only wear their costumes while onstage.

Yard Dogs Road Show

It’s no matter how they get here, though, just so long as they do.

Part burlesque and vaudeville, this “Cabaret Blitz” is pure eye candy. Sword swallowers, fire eaters, burlesque and chorus-line dancers, accompanied by the Yard Dogs band, deliver a visual feast for the eyes. And to think the spectacle began as merely a three-piece jug band.

“We lead the modern hobohemian on a visual and sonic journey through part of history that may or may not have existed — followed by an ambitious return to the emotional challenges of our punch-drunk contemporary world,” says their webpage. Led by professional misfits and thrill seekers, the Yard Dogs Road Show is a history lesson come to life. Forget Murder Mystery Trains where Billy the Kid robs the rich while onlookers eat a juicy steak dinner; Yard Dogs is here to overload your senses with 18th century visual stimuli.

Portland’s Vagabond Opera will help in this endeavor. While only scheduled for shows in Eugene and Ashland, the six-piece band’s blend of swing, tango and jazz is a perfect fit with the evening’s bill.

So get out your best pair of pinstriped pants or that corset you’ve never had an occasion to wear — everything goes at the Yard Dogs Road Show. Catch the show at 8 pm Wednesday, May 9 at the McDonald Theatre. $15 adv., $18 door. — Amanda Burhop


Honolulu Hot Rods

Writing about The Hell Caminos made me a little nervous. Could this band’s music live up to their impossibly kick-ass name? Before I listened to their stuff, I conjured up a Frankensteinian hybrid of sound reflecting my fantasies about what a band called the “Hell Caminos” should sound like: Hank III’s energy and recklessness, Hillstomp’s creative genius, maybe a little ZZ Top thrown in there to cool things down and bring some cred to the automotive theme.

The Hell Caminos

Then there’s the fact that the band’s from Hawaii. The product of a rockabilly germ transported to a non-native environment and set free to grow and multiply, isolated from its roots and natural enemies; what kind of beautiful monster might this twist of musical evolution produce?

Well, I was sort of close to the mark with the hybrid. I needed to have specified both sets of Hank’s show (the country and the punk), swapped out ZZ Top for Elvis and thrown in some kitschy surf music band like the Ventures (but only if they were zombies or escaped mental patients). It turns out the island infusion transforms “psychobilly” into an experience at once nostalgic for the sounds of the ’50s and firmly grounded in the bitter grit and grime of modern alt country/punk. They’re James Dean on acid; they’re the drunken tragedy after the sock-hop; they’ll make you want to watch Cry Baby with your old X albums blaring in the background.

The Hell Caminos are known for two things in Hawaii: killer live shows and inspiring kids to get involved in the exploratory, underground music scene. With a rep and a name like that, who needs another reason to go see them? Oh, how about the fact they tour with a positively fetching female dancer? The Hell Caminos play with Hi-Fi Ramblers and The Caskateers at 10 pm Wednesday, May 9 at Diablo’s Downtown Lounge. 21+ show. $4. — Adrienne van der Valk


High on F@#*ing Fire, Dude!

When High on Fire members crank on their amps and step up to the mic, there’s nothing pretty about it. Singer and guitarist Matt Pike is missing a few teeth. His cigarette-graveled voice growls out songs steeped in themes of war, hard living and a little Dungeons & Dragons. No one is preening for the cameras. All that matters is that the band descends upon the stage like an asteroid slamming into the earth, throwing out riffs like chunks of basalt and bringing on the rock like a mountain crumbling into dust.

High On Fire

Pike formed High on Fire in 1998, six months after the breakup of his former band, stoner metal legend Sleep. Of the guys Pike jammed with at the time, only drummer Des Kensel remains. The band has torn through a few bass players, most recently Thrones/Melvins bassist Joe Preston (former Eugenean, remember Snakepit?). Jeff Matz, Relapse labelmate from Zeke, is now the permanent new addition.

In a phone interview from HoF’s base in Oakland, Kensel says HoF is playing a few West Coast shows before they head to the Seattle studio of Jack Endino (Nirvana, Zeke) to record their follow up to 2004’s Blessed Black Wings. Kensel promises the new record by mid-September. “Once that comes out, we’re just gonna be throwing in the van again,” he says.

“These three shows in the Northwest are to break in some of the new songs before we go into the studio and to have a little spending money in Seattle,” Kensel says. One tune, called “Death is This Communion,” is probably the title track of the next album. “Rumors of War,” “The Waste of Tiamat” and “Furywhip” are the completed songs they’ll likely play. “We’ll have another two done by the time we get up to Seattle, hopefully,” Kensel says. High on Fire plays with Severein and Tormentium at 8 pm Thursday, May 10 at the WOW Hall. $8 adv., $10 door. — Vanessa Salvia