Eugene Weekly : Music : 8.27.09

Listen to the Music

You’ll have to forgive On the Tundra their album art, which makes the Eugene band’s seven-song debut release, Electric Walls, look like the product of a psychedelic jam band with a focus on endless noodling solos (it’s the spirals and the fretboard on the back what done it). The instrumental quintet is nothing of the sort; guitarist Mark Leahey introduced his band over email by saying “This is indie rock instrumentalism in Eugene,” and while that’s a little dramatic (if we’re talking instrumental indie rock in Eugene, we’ve got to include Heavenly Oceans, at least), it’s not incorrect. 

Leahey lists Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky and Do Make Say Think as influences, and while there’s not quite as much epic complexity to On the Tundra’s songs, the band does pull off the difficult task faced by any instrumental-only rock musicians: They write songs that aren’t in danger of sounding like background music. People like vocals; they like words; they like the easy focus, the more spelled-out meanings. It’s more work, for a listener used to a verbal verse-chorus-verse, to listen to an instrumental rock band. You have to translate the musical phrases into meaning in a different way. You have to find the emotional highs and lows in the jangling or droning guitar melodies, in the restrained or elaborate drums and the intriguing intros. On the Tundra’s songs do have a tendency to run long and loose, energetic and tumbling, occasionally a little heavy (the oddly named “Route Grape/Warhammer”), but a lot of Electric Walls sounds almost familiar, like a song you once heard every day but forgot the words to long ago. On the Tundra celebrates the release of Electric Walls at 9 pm Thursday, Aug. 27, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+. $5. — Molly Templeton

Accept No Subs-stitutes

After twice digging through the pile of show posters I’ve collected over the years, I still couldn’t find the one I was looking for, the one I thought should be there: a poster for a U.K. Subs show. I swear I remember them playing in my hometown of Pensacola, Fla., in the mid-’80s. I can’t be sure now if they really did play there or if I’m blending them into so many others who did. And with the intervening decades, I had long lost touch with their musical output. So I was a little surprised to discover that they never left the scene. I did. 

The U.K. Subs have been actively recording and playing since their inception in London in 1978; their last work was a live album, Violent State, in 2005, and a studio album, Universal, in 2002. And yeah, their vintage punk sound has softened (more poppy, little slower) but it still has the sense of urgency of a match on gasoline-soaked paper that it always did. Current line-up for these punk legends (outside of the U.K.) is mainstay vocalist Charlie Harper, guitarist Nicky Garratt, bassist Alvin Gibbs and drummer Jamie Oliver.

Brought to you by Eugene Pyrate Punx, this is the U.K. Subs’ only show in Oregon on this tour and their first appearance in Eugene in 32 years. U.K. Subs, Rum Rebellion and Pirate Radio play at 7 pm Friday, Aug. 28, at The District. $10 adv., $12 door. — Vanessa Salvia

Just-Washed Honesty

There really aren’t any smoke and mirrors with Red Jacket Mine’s latest album, Lovers Lookout (due in October). Recorded almost entirely live on tape in studio, the band’s songs exhibit a naked honesty that implies exactly what they sound like on stage: clean rock/pop that’s only slightly sullied, as if the songs are being played by upstanding chaps who wandered into a rowdy Nashville roadhouse.

Singer Lincoln Barr produces thematic, high-octave vocals that have that just-washed Cadillac shine. His lyrics ring bell-like and clear above the loping rhythms provided by bassist Ryan Chapman and drummer Andy Salzman, who bridge the gap between 1970s honky-tonk and modern hipster rock transplanted to the Northwest. Patrick Porter, the guitar and pedal steel player, provides some of the album’s most interesting instrumental moments, including an intro to the song “So Long, Radiant Flower” that will have fans of country acts like Conway Twitty nodding their heads. 

In fact, one of the unfortunate things about this album is how few and far between these “country” moments are. The production is so tight, it might feel a little anal retentive at times. The snare drum in many of the songs sounds like it has been muted all to hell, and Barr, although sounding confident, revisits many of the same melodic themes in his vocals. If these guys were to let it all hang out, they could provide the kind of sublime aural satisfaction that discerning home listeners crave. But overall, this album is a pleaser.

Red Jacket Mine, Drew Grow and the Pastor’s Wives and Dan Jones and the Squids play at 9:30 pm Friday, Aug. 28, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+. $5. — Shaun O’Dell

Boys of (the End of) Summer

Depending whom you ask, Band of Horses’ set at Lollapalooza in July was either the highlight of the weekend (Esquire’s blog gave them “The Daily Endorsement” for upstaging everyone else) or a disrespectful kiss-off to festival founder Perry Farrell. Long story (garnered from many a write-up) short: Lou Reed went on late, cutting into Band of Horses’ set. Singer Ben Bridwell didn’t feel like ending things when Jane’s Addiction took the stage at the opposite end of Grant Park. And the band played energetically on. The Jane’s fans hated them. Their own fans proclaimed it the best show of the weekend. 

I’d settle for Band of Horses’ McDonald show being the best show of summer’s long goodbye — their nostalgia-dipped songs are made for the last days before the leaves turn, when it’s hard to muster up the energy to do anything but spend all your evenings sitting in the last sunbeams. It’s been two years since Band of Horses last released an album: 2007’s Cease to Begin trundled down the same path as the band’s debut (2006’s Everything All the Time), full of plaintive harmonies and backyard ballads with the occasional twinge of humor, maybe a “Yee-haw!” or two (hello, “Weed Party”) and at least one thunderous mini-epic that clings to Americana by virtue of Bridwell’s reverb-draped, sometimes eerily sweet voice (yeah, yeah, put him in the same category as Jim James if you must). The Seattle-based band is working on record number three with producer Phil Ek (who’s also worked with plenty of their Sub Pop labelmates, including The Shins and Fleet Foxes), and live reports mention a new song or two. It’s about time — and about time the band’s relentless touring (they’re in Hawaii opening for Willie Nelson just days earlier) brings them back to us. Band of Horses and Cass McCombs play at 9 pm Tuesday, Sept. 1, at the McDonald Theatre. $20 adv., $23 door. — Molly Templeton

For Richer or for Poorer

The music of San Francisco area artists Chantelle Tibbs, Deborah Crooks and Emily Bonn, combined with unique video messages about money, yoga and artist lifestyle, come together for the Indie Abundance: Music, Money & Mindfulness tour, which stops in Eugene this week. The tour embraces the idea of sharing personal and professional experience in all facets of life. According to Tibbs “We want to give back in any way we can. We’re offering people resources for living well in less than favorable times.”

The three women, who play individual sets, perform a medley of musical styles: indie, folk, acoustic, Cajun, country and bluegrass. Tibbs relies on acoustic guitar and gritty, passionate vocals; her songs focus on themes of love and loss and personal discovery. Tibbs is also the head of the money aspect of the tour — she wants to see “all kinds of people making money. Money Be Green focuses on money management for creative minded people with a major focus on abundance rather than only money.” 

Songwriter Crooks has a strong lyrical presence and rock/folk style reminiscent of Sheryl Crow or Natalie Merchant. Her portion of the tour — mindfulness — focuses on lifestyle. Bonn, a folk/bluegrass artist and a former member of the Whoreshoes, brings her rich vocals and country spirit to the group effort. 

The tour kicks off in San Francisco and makes its way up the West Coast; catch it at 8 pm Thursday, Sept. 3, at Cozmic Pizza. $5. — Katie Kalk

Back to the Roadhouse

Ryan Bingham’s gravelly voice and light drawl make him sound like a young Steve Earle ­ and judging by his sophomore release, Roadhouse Sun, on Lost Highway (the same label alt-country luminaries Lucida Williams and Ryan Adams call home), it’s likely that the Austin songwriter will follow a similar path to fame. While he’s a relatively young artist, the guy sounds so weathered, you’d never believe he’s only 28 — a compelling argument to either stop or start smoking, depending on who’s listening. Bingham’s is the kind of country that’ll appeal to people who claim not to like country; his rollicking riffs borrow as much from your parents’ classic hippie rock as Dylan borrowed from Guthrie, creating a sort of hybrid between Southern rock and straight-up honky tonk. It’s a sound that speaks to an era long-past, but doesn’t lean on nostalgia — there’s a fresh approach happening here that makes Bingham seem both ancient and brand-new all at once. Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses play at 8:30 pm Monday, Aug. 31, at John Henry’s. 21+. $12 adv., $14 door. — Sara Brickner