Eugene Weekly : Music : 8.18.11


Summer Sounds at the Cuthbert 

Surf rock never truly died. It morphed into music that washes ashore in a beautiful, zombie-Lazarus type of way about once a year — summer (unless you live in Santa Cruz or San Diego, where it is summer all the time and you bump the stuff daily). 

In the universe of beach music, 311 doesn’t have a niche; it is a niche. A hybrid of white-boy reggae stitched to an undercurrent of watered down funk music, with guitars that can thrash like a rock band alongside signature ‘90s alternative vocals, the L.A.-based band is built for outdoor stages and scorching sunny days. 311’s tunes happen to be the almost perfect combination for an all-out hit the beach with the windows down and the top off sort of excursion. 

But we don’t have a beach here in Oregon. We have a coast. The differences being that unless you are a diehard surfer with a very thick wetsuit you aren’t out wave riding, and you’d be hard pressed to find a real bikini culture anywhere in Lincoln City. But that doesn’t mean 311 isn’t a more than perfect fit for us right now. After all, summer is upon us in all its sunburning glory. The Cuthbert is a great outdoor venue to experience this band; you can bring your own sand and water if you want, and it is definitely swim-trunk and bikini-top warm outside.

Let’s be honest here: If you love 311 you are probably an early 30-something with an old, beat-up skateboard in your garage, a faded Powell Peralta t-shirt in your closet and stories about high school circa 1999. That’s all good, given recent trends (‘80s music coming back ten years after the turn of the century), and it’s only a matter of time before there is some overwhelming resurgence of ‘90s alternative jams — and why not? 

311 plays 6:30 pm Thursday, Aug. 25, at the Cuthbert Amphitheater; $40 adv., $45 door. — Dante Zuñiga-West

Sweetheart With A Shotgun

There’s a type of street cred in roots music that comes of having a thick accent from Texas, Louisiana or other southern digs — that yes-indeedy-you-have-seen-some-hard-times-by-God credibility.

A glowing exception to this rule is Eilen Jewell, the Idaho native whose latest album is Queen of the Minor Key. Her clear-as-day voice is honey, and sweetest when backed by a thumping upright bass. But don’t let her voice and angelic appearance fool you — Jewell is anything but a country sweetheart or jug-band dame.

In Queen of the Minor Key, Cupid isn’t some innocent little baby who stole your darlin’ away; he’s a creeper with a sawed-off six-gauge. Jewell’s lyrics certainly mess with you (“Santa Fe” is one of the rawest portrayals of the new American West since the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Californication), but every word is so heartfelt you keep coming back for a piece of the pain.

Jewell freely jumps genres, playing around with blues on “Only One” and while also sneaking in some surf-rock on “Warning Signs.” Queen of the Minor Key brings to mind a lady traveler, weary from the road and everything that comes with it. Bring over the guitar, she’s got some crazy tales to recount. And how about some whiskey?

Eilen Jewell plays 9 pm Thursday, Aug. 25, at Sam Bond’s Garage; $10. —Brit McGinnis

Cellar Door

If I was lightly armed and on the run from the law in a dusty Cadillac El Dorado driving down a dark highway through a Southwestern landscape with only one choice of music to have stuck in the tape deck, I would choose the eerie, heart-thumping tunes of Strange Vine. Members Ian Blesse (drums, Rhodes piano, vocals) and Toby Cordova (guitars, vocals), still chugging along in an epic year of touring (which included the SXSW festival in Austin), aren’t just the best band to come out of Fresno, Calif.; they are contenders for underground cult status. Strange Vine has mastered an oddly menacing mix of abstract rock with blues undertones, and listeners could lose themselves in the band’s combined vocal talent. 

A young, gutsy duo of road warriors, Strange Vine is capable of painting moods in your mind. They are the coagulation of Led Zeppelin and The Melvins — think The Black Keys mixed with an almost (at times) Cobain-ish vocal tone. Or Love and a .45 meets Deliverance (in a good way), but you’d have to watch both these movies in sepia in a poorly lit room, with whiskey and burnt popcorn; that’s the flavor Strange Vine puts out. 

These guys have songs that belong adrift behind the cellar door of your skull, and they are tearing through the West Coast with shows in San Diego, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and, soon, Cottage Grove. Strange Vine is perfect for an Axe & Fiddle crowd. They will be completely in their element, and frankly Sam Bond’s should book them — they’d be an excellent match for that venue as well. 

Show-goers who hit up the Strange Vine performance will be treated to opening act accompaniment by Eugene rock/jam powerhouse Strum Theory. This may be the best gig in town all weekend. 

Strange Vine plays with Strum Theory 8:30 pm, Friday, Aug. 19 at The Axe & Fiddle; $5. — Dante Zuñiga-West




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