Eugene Weekly : Music : 9.24.09

Comfortable Chum

What do you get when you combine eight musicians who’ve been around the block, some ’90s rock/alternative, a little classic rock, a little bluegrass, a little folk and a little rhythmic blues? You get Works Progress Administration, a newly formed, very cool “low-key supergroup” made up of Glen Philips, former frontman of Toad the Wet Sprocket, Sean and Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek, Luke Bulla of Lyle Lovett’s band, Greg Leisz of Joni Mitchell’s band, Benmont Tench of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Pete Thomas and Davey Faragher of Elvis Costello & The Imposters. 

Both a “long haul project and a side project,” according to Philips, WPA constitutes quite the musician lineup, and the sound they’ve created is passionate, natural and easy, born of an obvious camaraderie. These guys are having fun together. Coming off the Sept. 15 release of their self-titled first studio album, the group is kicking off a nationwide tour. 

“We came together pretty naturally,” says Phillips. “We’d all had projects together or been friends for a number of years. The sound just defined itself — it’s a group of people who really know how to listen, so everyone made room for each other quickly and naturally. The songs aren’t trying to match any particular genre, but the combination of people gets it sounding like us without a lot of work.” 

“We just got together in my living room and started playing through [the songs] and all contributed ideas,” Sean Watkins adds. “It was really natural feeling, and just a lot of fun. We all respected each other’s ideas and so the songs took shape without much effort at all.”

Works Progress Administration, Molly Jenson and Ehren Ebbage play at 8 pm Sunday, Sept. 27, at the WOW Hall. $15 adv., $18 door, $20 reserved seating. — Katie Kalk

Running Water

Likely you’ve never heard of Trumans Water. Born in the year of Nevermind — aka “The Year Punk Broke,” aka 1991 — this odd, obscure and slightly obscurantist outfit originated in San Diego as the brainchild of two brothers, Kirk and Kevin Branstetter, who, shedding the rest of the band, relocated to Portland in 1994 before Kevin flew off to France, thereby turning Trumans Water into something of a cross-continent vanity project. Not that they don’t have their pedigree. The band’s discography is substantial, though most of the release dates reside in the previous century. As does, apparently, their sound, a blend of post-punk and DIY discord that sits somewhere between the woozy, Velvets-y experimentalism of Yo La Tengo and the screechy metal music and inside-out pop of early Sonic Youth. Their lo-fi music, with its flattened vocals and teetering instrumentation, seems at once familiar and far away, like the nostalgic odor of damp fallen leaves. It was the late, great John Peel who, for all intents and purposes, can either be blamed or thanked for the fact that Trumans Water is still running; Peel played the whole of the band’s debut, Of Thick Tum, on an episode of his internationally influential BBC Radio One show. Consider this rare show, which includes Eugene’s own Splendor & the Resistance, a chance to revisit — or perhaps discover — an era when punk rock entered the improvisational architecture of jazz and gorgeously fucked it all up. 

Trumans Water plays with The Bugs, Sad Horse and Splendor & the Resistance at 9 pm Monday, Sept. 28, at Goodfella’s. 21+. Free. — Rick Levin

A Perfect Storm

The rhythm section of Eugene’s Parade of Storms rose from the demise of On The First Day…They Were Kittens and borrows the guitar player from Lucika. The band’s Pink Floyd influence is readily apparent, but there’s a lot more going on. 

Their self-titled five-song debut forms a song cycle about warrior-types at sea on a ship named The Falcon. They sail into the unknown, into an endless storm, imprisonment, battle and redemptive victory. On the seven-minute instrumental track “The Descent of the Falcon,” tendrils of psychedelic-doom heaviness swim in a sea of Pink Floyd-ish guitars. By the end, it’s as epic as Floyd’s own “Echoes.” Grand and etched in light and dark, it could be a new classic of riff rock. 

The opening keyboard melody and drums on “Confronting the King” foreshadow a conflict, which comes with the first vocal line: “So they call you the king.” Sheer musical force follows, referencing Floyd again with windswept riffs that flow with properly mournful tones. Daybreak comes in the form of “Surfacing.” The rhythm section reaches for psychedelic heights and voices are raised in victorious harmony, while the drums propel the song toward an ending that never comes — the ship sails on. 

These guys are all talented and experienced players who seem to have found their pole star. The band is heading out for a week-long tour with Summers in Kuwait (from Arcata). On The First Day didn’t see their due of critical interest; maybe Parade of Storms will. Parade of Storms, Summers in Kuwait and Ninth Moon Black play at 9 pm Tuesday, Sept. 29, at Oak Street Speakeasy. 21+ show. — Vanessa Salvia




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