Eugene Weekly : Music : 7.10.08

The Leading Ladies of Led

Led Zeppelin was always meant to be experienced live. Those mammoth, anthemic riffs; those pummeling, body-quaking rhythms; that heavy-as-Stonehenge groove and the over-the-top sexual swagger — all of it sounds great on record, but Zeppelin was made for the stage. Unfortunately, when most bands take a stab at getting the Led out live, they either come off as stilted and too technical or just plain sloppy. Zepparella is that rare beast, though, that can faithfully channel the aggression, the passion and the power that only Page, Plant, Bonham and Jones possessed. 

The all-female Zeppelin tribute aren’t note-for-note virtuosos, re-creating every Bonham triplet or Page hammer-on, but they’re no devil-may-care dilettantes either. The four ladies of Zepparella are experienced disciples of hard rock and heavy metal — the drummer and guitarist played in the AC/DC tribute band AC/DShe and also made up the metal band BOTTOM with the bassist. Their musicianship and chemistry is unmistakable as they gallop out the thundering groove of “Immigrant Song” and surrender themselves to the psychedelic blues of “Dazed and Confused.” Singer and stage actress Anna Kristina summons the androgynous strut and pose of Robert Plant and shows how femme-like his banshee wail was to begin with. On the live album Pleasing Pounding, Zepparella alternates between the aforementioned classics and some deeper cuts like “Sick Again” and “Trampled Under Foot,” and what’s most impressive is how the ladies (or Ledies) work within the structure of each song. They take chances, inflating Zeppelin’s already expansive sound yet bringing back down to earth the one band that could be truly classified as bigger than big. Zepparella plays with Floater and Slow Children at 6 pm Friday, July 11, at Secret House Vineyards. $16.50 adv., $20 door. — Jeremy Ohmes


If you’re a fan of writer Starhawk (and what sane person wouldn’t love it if Fifth Sacred Thing could actually work, eh? Let’s defeat the conservative warmongers with invitations to locally produced dinners!), you’ll love Corvallis’ Cassandra Robertson, who’s pretty much like a combo of Ani DiFranco-sounding rhythms with lyrics that could easily have been penned by Starhawk herself. (Checking the liner notes just now, I discovered that indeed, the lyrics to Robertson’s song “Hermana’s Well” come directly from  Starhawk. So.) 

Robertson calls her sound “progressive folk-grass” and herself “a conduit for all thing positive.” On her new CD, Impulse to Dream, Robertson, with her solidly strong voice, conveys lyrics like “Out of the past and into the now / We will succeed when to each we empower” with conviction (even if the grammar doesn’t scan, the sentiment shines through). “Angel in the Back” speaks of personal freedom while “Into the Streets” and “Syriana,” as you might expect, inspire listeners to activism — the personal is political, indeed. Yes, we cynical ones might roll our eyes at lines like “Let’s commit to ourselves; let’s be who we are,” but Robertson’s depth of serious and earnest appeal can’t be denied. 

Cassandra Robertson plays at 4 pm Saturday, July 12, on the Energy Park Stage at the Oregon Country Fair, and plays a CD release party with some of her backing band at 7 pm Thursday, July 17, at Sahalie Wine Cellars in Corvallis. $3-$5. — Suzi Steffen

Tall, Dark and Doomy

There’s no such thing as a little bit of doom in metal. Doom music either evokes a sense of dread and despair or it doesn’t. Stoner rock can be doomy, but for the most part it doesn’t make the listener feel like the world is ending. Without an accompanying apocalyptic atmosphere, you’re left with music that makes you feel like the worst thing that could happen is that your dog eats your stash. Which would certainly be bad, but not as bad as, say, the entire planet annihilated in an inferno of death. The Roller, a four-piece band from Austin, Texas, combines all the necessary elements to create this deadly vista. 

Add to that a little bit of Satanism, or at least a heathen outlook manifested through gravelly, growling vocals typical of black metal, and you’ve got nearly peerless doom metal. With more than a passing nod toward doom progenitors Black Sabbath, The Roller has plenty of movement in their music, which never settles into drone territory. The Roller lumbers along, then bursts into Tony Iommi-sized riffs, which, like on “Rattle of the Shaman,” are often interspersed between Melvins-like sludge and head-bobbing bass grooves. One Roller track was written for the second installment of the IF series, a multimedia project initiated by Austin label Monofonus Press. The project unites writers, visual artists and musicians; in this case, Rebecca Bengal authored a story called “Captioning for the Blind” about “absence and animal carcasses.” Painter Virginia Yount created visions of mysterious landscapes to accompany it, and The Roller composed   “Zugunruhe,” named for the eerie restlessness that animals exhibit when the time of their seasonal migration approaches. 

The Roller formed in 2005 and released a demo in 2006. They’re currently on tour supporting their June 17 release of a self-titled full-length recording. Happy Bastards, The Roller and Lucika play at 9 pm Tuesday, July 15, at Samurai Duck. 21+ show. $5. — Vanessa Salvia

Wide-Eyed & Open-Armed

It doesn’t seem possible that the voice — the old-soul voice, sweet and sour and halfway to breaking — that comes from Nelson Kempf is really his own. The cherub-faced Alaskan is half of the Old Believers; the other half is the only slightly more worldly-looking Keeley Boyle, whose reserved tones are no less lovely. On their new album, Eight Golden Greats, the duo crafts careful, gentle melodies and more propulsive songs that seem to take just a spoonful of new-century swagger and drop it into fireside folk-pop, like a jigger of whiskey into a mug of steaming coffee. 

The eight songs have tiny, melancholy titles (“No More,” “That’s All”) and are reflective, as Kempf writes in the band’s bio, of the pair leaving Alaska for Portland in late 2006. “Our hopes and fears and memories and dreams were all curling around in our minds, and we did not yet understand they they were not ours, for we were only doing what everyone has always done,” he writes of leaving home for the first time. And like that sentiment, familiar but phrased with simple elegance, the duo’s songs use strings, spare percussion, Kempf’s slightly throaty voice, Boyle’s sweet, sometimes conversational delivery and the self-aware coyness of indie pop to suggest lament and lullaby, celebration and sentimentality. The delicate chords and fuzzy vocals of “Waltz #3” give way, as the album winds to its close, to the restrained build of “The Glories All Been Done,” a five-minute set-closer that probably sounds even more wide-eyed and open-armed live. The Old Believers and Bill Mallonee play 9 pm Monday, July 14, at Cozmic Pizza. $5. — Molly Templeton

Rustling Crow

Susurri, a play on the word susurrus (meaning a soft murmuring or rustling sound), is a good name for Jaylene Arnold’s mostly solo act. A susurrus describes the pianist and vocalist’s calm, atmospheric music well.   

Arnold, a local musician and newcomer to the Eugene music scene, was classically trained in piano as a child. But eventually she decided that classical music wasn’t for her and started experimenting with writing her own songs. The transition from classical musician to impressionistic songwriter was a process of building confidence. She remembers feeling intimidated and running out of the room when some other musicians first invited her to a jam session because they learned to play by ear, not with sheet music.

Still, she hasn’t entirely abandoned her classical training and influences, especially Chopin. ”I can’t help but incorporate that into my music,” she says.

Since graduating this year from the UO with an MFA, Arnold simultaneously turned her music into more than a hobby and landed her first big gig last month. In her upcoming show and EP release at Cozmic Pizza, she performs with fellow solo artist Max Schramm of Blast Wagon. They plan to perform by themselves and accompanying each other. 

Susurri and Blast Wagon play at 9 pm Wednesday, July 16, at Cozmic Pizza. $2. — Inka Bajandas