Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Weather Machine Meets the Crooked River

Among the many great bands not playing MFNW (RIP) this year are Portland's own Weather Machine. Here's a video of Weather Machine performing by the gorge at Oregon's Peter Skene Ogden State Park.

I've crossed that bridge behind them once before, back in 2009 during a February trip across the Cascades from Portland to Bend.  It's an impressive sight, all the more so because the terrain is generally flat land between snow-capped mountains until you cross the Crooked River and suddenly the gorge unexpectedly opens up beneath you.  Must have come as quite the surprise to the Oregon Trail settlers passing through the area. 

In any event, Weather Machine's second album, Peach, is out now, and you can listen to the title cut below (the song in the video is the appropriately named Wild West Coast) and buy the album here.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Discreet Music

An historical treat - while browsing the interwebs yesterday, I came across UbuWeb's anthology of recordings on Brian Eno's short-lived (1975-1978) Obscure label.  Back at that time, I had collected three of the recordings  - Eno's Discreet Music (Obscure No. 3), the Jan Steele/John Cage split LP Voices and Instruments (Obscure No. 5), and Harold Budd's lovely Pavillion of Dreams (Obscure No. 10).  Based on the numbering sequence, I knew that there must have been other records in the series somewhere out there, but at the time, in those dark, pre-internet, days, I had no idea what they were or where to find them.

You can listen to the complete 10 recordings of the label over at UbuWeb.

Eno's Discreet Music, from the 1975 album of the same name, was his first true ambient composition, predating the landmark Music For Airports (1978) by three years.  Not surprisingly, Music For Airports was originally intended to be released as Obscure No. 11, but instead came out as Ambient 1, and initiated a new series of recordings, which included seminal performances by Eno, Budd, Laarji, and the estimable Jon Hassell.      

Anyway, here's Discreet Music.  Enjoy!

And if that's not enough, here's Harold Budd's Bismillahi 'Rrahmani 'Rrahim, featuring Marion Brown on saxophone, from The Pavilion of Dreams.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Gazelles In Flight

Suuns at Branx during MFNW (RIP) 2011
We've seen Montreal's Suuns only once, in September 2011, back when MFNW (RIP) was still a real thing (not the faint echo of its current incarnation).  They played a set in the dark and sweaty Branx, a club in Portland's industrial zone, opening for Portland's own Talkdemonic and Vancouver's Handsome Furs.  

A year later, Suuns and Radwan Ghazi Moumneh of Jerusalem In My Heart spent a week in a Montreal studio fusing their two distinct sounds into one set of fluid and trippy recordings for a collaborative record.  The songs were not performed live until 2013 at Pop Montreal, which jump-started both sides’ efforts to finish the record.

The final self-titled collaborative album from Suuns and Jerusalem In My Heart was released on April 14, 2015 by Secretly Canadian. 

No plans yet for either band to perform anywhere near the American South.  

Here's Charles-André Coderre's hypnotic video for the trance-inducing Gazelles in Flight.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

It's Official!

MusicFest NW (MFNW, RIP) is still dead.

Okay, I'll admit there are a few decent bands on the bill.  I'd love to see Beirut again, and I'd still like to catch Modest Mouse (rain and the crowds drove me away from the Shaky Knees festival last year before MM took the stage) and The Tallest Man on Earth (who's playing Buckhead Theater on May 26), but after the headliners, the pickings are pretty thin.  Certainly nothing to fly cross-country for (like I did in 2011, 2012, and 2013), and certainly nothing worth standing in the sun for three days in Waterfront Park, even if one happened to be in Portland at the time, anyway.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen!  Compare the 2015 line-up to the 6-day lineup from 2013 (note the "and many more" at the end of the line-up):  

I couldn't even begin to imagine the logistical nightmare involved in booking that many bands, and at approximately a dozen different venues, too, and I almost sympathized with the promoters last year when they downsized the festival to a single weekend at a single venue.  But okay, they've had almost two years to rest now - time to bring back the full enchilada.  

Or so I had hoped.  But even the 2014, scaled-down, two-day version of MFNW had a better line up (below) than this year's three-day version.  We've gone from great, to bad, to worse.

Back in 2011, I had little patience for those people complaining about that year's lineup for Seattle's Bumbershoot Festival.  Now, four years later, I've become one of those persons, in my case, complaining about Portland's MFNW. 

In more positive news, yesterday I drove around the new site (Central Park and vicinity) of this year's Shaky Knees festival, using the map on the new festival app as my guide to where the stages will be, and am happy to report that it looks like there will be a lot more room and a lot more shade than last year's festival in the parking lot for Atlantic Station.   

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Let's Play A Game

Which version do you prefer?  This classic one by Marilyn Monroe?

Or Rob Zombie's retake performed by Baby Firefly?

That one went south pretty quick!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Meanwhile, What's Going On With Thao?

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down at MFNW (RIP) 2013
I don't know what she's been up to lately, but today she shared this email exchange via Facebook:

Thao - I found you and the band after seeing your picture in an Oxfam mailing. You had a bowl of greens and one of the most luminous smiles I've ever seen, which drew me to google you up and listen and watch on YouTube. The music was great, different and poetic, a female Bob Dylan. However, watching carefully I almost never saw a flash of that smile and nothing sustained. It was disappointing. I know it's like asking someone to be happy, but I sure would like to see you consciously let that smile out when you perform, at least between songs. It would so add to the performance. Forgive my presumptiveness and all the best. I'm keeping an eye out for the opportunity to see you perform live closer to my neck of the woods, Chicago.
Ron (today at 12:13 pm)

Ron - I don't smile while I'm performing because I'm busy doing things, none of which are giving one teeny fuck what you think.

Picture attached to Thao's reply

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Dan Deacon at The Mammal Gallery, Atlanta - April 18, 2015

My wristband for the Sweetwater 420 Festival was still valid for Saturday, but rather than return to Centennial Park and the mud, the blood, and the beer (to quote Johnny Cash) and see Gov't Mule, Primus, and Cage the Elephant, I instead packed it in with what seemed like a thousand other people at The Mammal Gallery to see Baltimore's Dan Deacon.

Atlanta's Shantih, Shantih opened.  Shantih Shantih is a four-piece, all-woman band playing "fuzzed out, desert dusted rock n roll" featuring Anna Kramer of The Lost Cause.

It was a nice start, and after that things got weird.  First we got - I don't know what to call him (comedian?  guru? motivational speaker?) - Ben O'Brien, or as he likes to call himself, "Earth Universe."  "I am not a spiritual guru who travels the world convincing people to join my wicked sweet cult," he claims.  Earth Universe explained how he became awakened by reading a mint Dr. Bronner's bottle while seated on the toilet.   

"I used to be a really inspiring cool filmmaker, but I gave all that up the day I became enlightened," he explains.  He may no longer be a filmmaker, but he spent most of the rest of the evening videoing Dan Deacon's set.

More cosmic truths, but ones you could dance to, came next when sisters Taraka and Nimai Larson, aka Prince Rama, took the stage.  For those of you keeping score at home, this was my fourth time seeing the band after previous appearances at Farm 255 in Athens, at The Earl, and at the Hopscotch Festival in Raleigh.  Ironically, the sisters' parents have also been at every Prince Rama show I've attended as well.  The band has added a third member, a keyboard player, freeing up Taraka to focus more on vocals and guitar, and with interacting more with the audience.  They also had a lot of new songs in their set as well.  

By this time (I'm not sure what hour it was as I had lost all track of time), the venue was packed and it was getting incredibly hot in the under-ventilated, non-air-conditioned Mammal Gallery.  But as soon as Dan Deacon took the stage, he brought the energy level up to a fever pitch with his manic music, dance contests, guided meditations, and general insanity.

I'd like to say it was as hot as the surface of the sun in there, but I always think of the sun's surface as being arid, so let me say instead it was as hot as, oh I don't know, Venus?, in The Mammal Gallery during Dan Deacon's set.  It was a swampy, sweaty, down-on-the-bayou kind of hot, and condensate was dripping off the pipes along the gallery's ceiling.  It was so crowded that some people were standing of the backs of the few furnishings in the gallery, and others were literally climbing the walls.  It got so frantic that the floors were literally bouncing as people danced.   

In other words, it was a perfect Dan Deacon performance - a sweaty, pipe-dripping, floor-bouncing, wall-climbing, lights-flashing night of insane music.  If you think I'm exaggerating or improperly using the word "literally," here's video proof, part of my very occasional 30 Seconds of video series (very few of which actually are 30 seconds in length).  

In all, it was a great show, and to enjoy it you just had to go with the flow of it all, no matter how ridiculous, how outre, how manic, it all became.  But one of the best parts of the evening, to be honest, was finally stepping outside after the show at what turned out to be 1:00 am and finally getting a breath of cool, fresh air.