Eugene Weekly : Music : 8.7.08

Not Six, Not Finnish

As cool as the name sounds, The Hellblinki Sextet isn’t really a sextet. The “psycho cabaret” band from Asheville, N.C., with elements of folk, gypsy, free jazz, punk rock and swing mixed into its sound, is actually currently a trio or a solo act by bandleader Andrew Benjamin, who performs in a top hat and tuxedo, face painted white, eyes lined in kohl, a pointy goatee rounding off the look. 

In the past, Hellblinki has performed as a true sextet, but nowadays Benjamin performs with Valerie Meiss, who contributes operatic vocals and plays the glockenspiel and various other instruments, and Brad Lunsford on bass and percussion. Their music is weird and quirky, with lyrics about the pirate’s life or bad kids who aren’t getting anything for Christmas. Many of the songs sound like they belong with something animated or made for kids but with a dark, sinister twist. This isn’t so surprising, since Sesame Street songs are some of the band’s biggest influences. 

The band, created eight years ago, has been evolving for quite some time. Benjamin created The Hellblinki Sextet to perform live after a debut album, featuring music he and his friends recorded at a party, failed to gain as much attention as he’d hoped. Although the band has since shrunk to half its original size, it has actually been a bonus, allowing them to tour more and making it easier to find a good groove together.

The Hellblinki Sextet performs at 8:30 pm Sunday, Aug. 10, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+ show. $5. — Inka Bajandas


Johnny Cash, Lost and Found

I have a few regrets in life. One is leaving a yard sale without that 1950s lamp with the blue shade that was priced at only $5 (How could I walk away from that? Sigh). Another regret is not going to see the Man in Black when I had the chance. My friends were going. They bought tickets for his planned Portland appearance in — I think — 1997, and urged me to go with them. I almost did, but couldn’t justify emptying my bank account for a ticket, drinks, gas, drinks, food, drinks, etc. My friends swore I’d regret the decision, but my money was precious, and that bag of pot (or whatever) that I was saving up for was precious, too. 

As my friends described it later, the concert was better than seeing God, and only too late did I realize how foolish I had been. Still, I clung to the hope that I would have another opportunity to see Johnny Cash, and that chance came when he announced a Hult Center appearance the next year. Yes! I was first in line to buy a ticket. But sadly, soon an announcement was made about Cash’s failing health, and shortly after that the Hult Center appearance was canceled, along with all of his other tour dates. 

Watching Johnny Cash tribute band Cash’d Out perform is as close as we can get to the real thing now, and, in fact, they are the only tribute band endorsed by the official Cash website. Vocalist Douglas Benson looks eerily like Cash himself if you look at him sideways, and at times he’s able to match that rich baritone. With Cash’d Out, you can “Walk the Line” back in time and get a taste of what an early Cash performance may have been like. Cash’d Out plays at 7 pm Thursday, 8/14, at John Henry’s. 21+ show. $9 adv., $11 door. — Vanessa Salvia

Reggae Fest Rolls Again

Thomas Mapfumo

Reggae music, 100 percent organic food, education and sustainability.  Sounds like the perfect world, right?  At this weekend’s Northwest World Reggae Festival, you can enjoy this ideal environment for three days straight. The festival is a vast celebration of reggae music, organic food and crafts from all corners of the world. Featured bands and musicians — from countries including New Zealand, Hawaii, St. Croix, Trinidad, Belize, the U.K, the U.S. and, of course, Jamaica — include Thomas Mapfumo, Macka B, Warrior King, Midnight, Mighty Diamonds, Sister Carol, Queen Omega, Katchafire, NOMO, Ooklah and Oregon’s own Lafa Taylor.

“One of the most unique parts of our festival is our commitment to being as green as we can be,” says Doug Carnie, the festival’s director of operations. Recycling centers throughout the site include different waste streams allowing separate recycling for glass, plastic, paper and food products. All trucks and generators will run off biodiesel, and fresh on-site well water is available. 

According to Carnie, the NWWRF is a family-friendly event and its location near Marcola has been called “the best small festival site on the West Coast.”  So if you want to participate in this cultural celebration while jammin’ out to uplifting reggae music, come on out to the scenic festival “nestled in the foothills” of the Cascade Range. The Northwest World Reggae Festival takes place August 8-10 near Marcola; music starts at 5 pm Friday and 11 am Saturday and Sunday. $110 three-day pass, $90 Saturday and Sunday pass; $40 Sunday only. Check for more information. — Courtney Jacobs

Hip Hop, Drop and Roll

When it comes to hip hop and roll bands, very few of these mutant hybrids ever see the light of day — because of the few brave souls who attempt the combination, only a small minority ever manage to create something that not only doesn’t make you want to gouge out your eardrums, but is actually clever and fun. But Gym Class Heroes are one such example of a band that successfully figured out how to combine rock, hip hop and electro in perfect proportions to create something that pleases the palate of hip hop fans, rock fans or anyone else who digs a good old-fashioned dance party. In fact, it was pop punk prince Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy who helped get the Gym Class Heroes signed to his band’s label, Fueled by Ramen, in 2004 — and even though the only significant trait the bands share are the topical lyrics about girls and partying, at least the Gym Class Heroes’ rhymes don’t make you cringe because they’re so painfully melodramatic and cliché. You know, like pop punk lyrics. Even “New Friend Request,” a Gym Class Heroes song about meeting a girl on MySpace, is better than the emo, life-sucks-no-girls-like-me crap that’s been contaminating rock music lately. But if more bands could figure out this hip hop-rock combination — and there are some other good ones that haven’t hit it big yet, like Seattle’s Saturday Knights — it might just save punk music from becoming a cliché, while simultaneously broadening the horizons of rock-centric music geeks. Gym Class Heroes, The Academy Is…, Cobra Starship, Four Year Strong and TYGA play at 6 pm Monday, Aug. 11, at the McDonald Theatre. $23.50 adv., $25 door. — Sara Brickner