Looks like DIVA is bringing the noise again. Over the past few years, Downtown Initiative for the Visual Arts has given so-called noise music a home in Eugene, opening ears — sometimes impolitely — to the diverse textures of this John Cage inspired sound art, often presented in combination with innovative video. Now the occasionally edgy downtown art center has cleverly grabbed Extreme Animals on their way up to play Portland’s TBA Festival. The duo is an unholy alliance of artist Jacob Ciocci (who belongs to the art collective Paper Rad and makes comics, animations, installations and more) and San Diego musician David Wightman, who works in many groups while studying for his doctorate in music. Their brand of noise boasts a lot of punk and dance pop (!) influence and humor, so they’re sort of the noise band for party people, but as with so many DIVA shows, it’s the combination of sound and visuals and, in this case, theatrical excess that makes an Extreme Animals show an aptly named, all-enveloping experience, a wild and wacky one even by DIVA standards. Prepare yourself accordingly. Extreme Animals present “Music is a Question With No Answer” at 7:30 pm Thursday, Sept. 9, at DIVA. $6-$9 ss. — Brett Campbell
Get Under The Comforters
Let me get this out of the way up front: calm, warm, soothing, quiet. When a band is called The Comforters, and when they sound like this Eugene-based husband and wife duo, these are the words that immediately come to mind when describing them. But The Comforters are more than these easy descriptors.
Jason and Pia Robbins met in L.A. In 2005 they downsized to Eugene, along with their dog Walrus, and The Comforters were born. The group’s debut, Transplants, garnered them radio airplay and some tracks off the album were licensed for film and TV. Folk would be another easy way to describe their predominantly acoustic sound, but the group would also fit neatly amongst the Cowboy Junkies, The Sundays, Belle and Sebastian and The Smiths in anyone’s collection.
2010’s Two Piece Orchestra finds the pair exploring similar territory. They’re backed by a super group of local Eugene musicians helping to flesh out their intimate keyboard, voice and guitar arrangements. The real star is Pia Robbins’ crystal clear, melancholy voice. When she steps to the mic, even the most distracted crowd tends to quiet down and listen.
It would also be a bit of a cop-out to call the Comforters sad. But they are — in a bittersweet way. The kind of sad that makes you sort of … happy? That’s sort of, I dunno, comforting? On “Would It Break Your Heart” from Two Piece Orchestra, Pia Robbins makes like a lovesick Morrissey when she pleads with romantic optimism “What about you, my love? Would it break your heart to see this through?” and Jason Robbins’ slide guitar answers as if to say “Yes, it would.”
The Comforters celebrate the release of Two Piece Orchestra and their 10-year wedding anniversary at 9 pm Friday, Sept. 10, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+. $5. — William Kennedy
Whatever muse has inspired Joanne Rand has only seemed to have grown stronger with time. Rand just released her 10th CD, Snake Oil and Hummingbirds, last year, and now she’s back in Eugene celebrating the release of a new CD, Live with Claudia Paige. Paige, who in 2007 was voted one of the 25 best female drummers worldwide, has performed and recorded with some of the top stars of the past 20 years, including Jerry Garcia and Grateful Dead, Bonnie Raitt, Frank Zappa and more. The CD was recorded at the Caspar Community Center in Caspar, Colo., and includes back-up vocals by Diane Patterson, herself well-known in central California for her music and activism.
Rand is touring throughout the next few months to bring this CD to life for audiences. One of the songs, “Prayer for the River,” is on Rand’s last studio CD. Most of the remaining 10 are culled from her past releases, like “Rock Therapy,” from her 2005 release Where Our Power Lies, and “Drop of Water,” from 1999’s Family History. Others are favorites written by Rand’s contemporaries, such as “Big Woman” by Joules Graves, and “Pains of Manhood,” partially based on a poem written by her brother, Jordan Rand, which she stumbled upon 15 years after his death.
No matter who or what inspires Rand’s musical output, at its core is a loving fierceness and sense of oneness with nature that Rand doesn’t hold back on. Not quite folk, not quite rock, whether she wrote the song or not, Rand’s outlook is all her own. Joanne Rand plays at 8:30 pm Sunday, Sept. 12, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+. $10. — Vanessa Salvia
Not Fado Away
It’s a testament to music’s new global reach that a perpetually sad, once obscure song style from an overlooked corner of Europe could win a not inconsiderable worldwide audience in just a few years, but that’s what happened with fado. Often compared to the blues for its bummer subject, the ever melancholy music birthed an international star two generations ago, Amalia Rodrigues, and another one now, Mariza, who toured the U.S. and sang with the Oregon Symphony last year. Fado’s ascendance shows no sign of abating. The next fado phenom looks to be Ramana Vieira, who was actually born in California but imbibed the music at home from her Portuguese parents. After classical training in San Francisco, Vieira went back to her roots and started singing fado and tributes to its Elvis, Amalia herself. Soon she was opening for the great Mariza, playing the Grammys and releasing CDs of both traditional and original fado, much of the latter sounding like a crossover that should appeal to American listeners who like pop ballads as much as world music. If anyone can expand fado’s audience and take the music from Portuguese dive bars to PBS specials, it’s Vieira. Ramana Viera plays at 7:30 pm Friday, Sept. 10, at the WOW Hall. $13 adv., $15 door, $20 reserved. — Brett Campbell
Daydreams and Lullabies
MySpace is responsible for the fruition of 21-year-old Sara Jackson-Holman’s musical dreams. When Anthony McNamer, president of the Portland-based company Expunged Records, clicked on Holman’s MySpace page, he was taken aback by what he heard. Holman has been compared to strong female vocalists like Feist and Norah Jones, and boasts a strong yet vulnerable voice that was impossible for McNamer to overlook. He promptly asked for a demo CD, which she hadn’t yet created. Taking the next steps toward becoming a professional musician happened quickly for this Bend native. Soon, in what seemed surreal to Holman, she was in the studio working on an actual album. Her full-length debut, When You Dream, was released in May.
Holman’s soulful and emotionally fragile compositions are not what I would typically listen to, but something about her poignant lyrics and confident voice enticed me to keep the album playing. When You Dream is in some ways the usual collection of angry ballads to a bad ex-boyfriend, but Holman’s puns and twisted lyrics prevent her from coming off as a damsel in distress. The melodies are a mixture of bouncy, rhythmic songs along with dreamy, melodic trances. “I’m grasping at straws and I’m chasing the wind as I fall on my face over and over again,” she croons in “Into the Blue,” a bittersweet token of honesty. And, in Cellophane: “Wrap my heart in cellophane / Keep it dry when it rains / Maybe that way I’ll keep it safe from you.” Each song is uniquely matched with complementary melodies. The title track reminded me of a child’s music box, “Red Ink” is full of angry piano notes, “California Gold Rush” is a tranquil lullaby and “Maybe Something’s Wrong” twirls like a waltz. Sara Jackson-Holman plays at 9 pm Wednesday, Sept. 15, at Cozmic Pizza. $7. — Catherine Foss