As a newcomer to Portland, I have just begun to get accustomed to the concert life style here. In Los Angeles, people would crowd the stage and venues would be packed to the brim. It was not a friendly environment and if you got there any time after the doors opened, well to be frank, you were screwed. So when we arrived at the Roseland theatre at the starting time to find a spot in the crowd in which we could actually see the stage and weren’t being suffocated by sweaty strangers, I was thrilled!
Since it was Halloween weekend, there were quite a few people in the costume spirit, despite the rain and the cold. In fact, the opening band Lady Danville was decked out inWhere’s Waldo costumes. To my surprise, these three men were an opener that I realized I had seen before once they apologized to the crowd for being from LA. The sheer awesome harmonizing abilities that they possessed were enough to implant their sound in my brain for the rest of time. After performing an incredible beautiful cover of MGMT’s “Kids” (which sounded like an acoustic version of the Soulwax Remix), they busted out their new song “Operating” from their latest album (release date TBD). It was impossible to resist the urge to dance around. Everyone in the crowd was at least bobbing their head and there was not one face frowning at the creativity being displayed on stage. One of their final songs was a hilarious piece called “I Want You Back.” There is no way to describe the brilliance of this piece so please, I beg you, watch the video online. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMflEFxCElo
Next up, to replace the recently dismantled The Academy Is… (who many people at the concert had originally gone to see), was the ever popular Australian beauty, Lenka. While the two men that joined her on stage where quite comedic looking themselves, it was hard to keep your eyes off the five months pregnant woman in heels. Her attempts at sexy and cute dancing were tainted once she announced that she was in deed with child, but amazingly her pregnancy did not affect her vocalization whatsoever. She had a wide range and surprisingly was able to control her breathing quite well. Lenka’s songs were catchy and her lyrics had a simplistic charm. The audience was never bored with her spunky personality and clever jokes. When she began to perform her popular song “The Show,” which was featured in the recent movie Moneyball, the crowd participation was deafening. The singing along may have contributed to her saying that Portland was one of her favorite cities in the world.
Then came the moment that everyone had been waiting for – the piano was center stage, the lights were dimmed, and the musical genius himself walked on stage. Andrew McMahon and his cronies, better known as Jack’s Mannequin, awoke the crowd with the lively piano melodies, shouting and harmonizing, and of course songs that caused the entire crowd to dance. Since the tour was to debut their new CD “People and Things” – they played an ample amount of newer songs. However, Andrew wanted to make it clear that since they now had three CDs they had decided to play longer shows, “and if you don’t like it, then leave!” The threat only brought the audience closer to the stage, praying that during the few times he left the piano bench, he would touch their hands.
Jack’s Mannequin has a wide array of songs. They elected to play their biggest hits as well as some of their favorite songs. There were slower songs, songs in which Andrew elected to jump on the piano keys and dance around in an awkwardly adorable manner, a set in which the whole left side of the speaker system was blown out, and those in which the passion for music that oozed out of his performance was palpable. After debuting the so-called light show (a string of skeleton Halloween lights on the piano) he brought out the harmonizing talents of Lady Danville to assist him with “Restless Dream.” While the entire concert was powerful and inspiring, the amount of talent and soul that was placed into this one piece stood out.
For those who are unaware, Andrew McMahon suffered through Acute Lymphatic Leukemia in 2005. It is because of this chilling experience that he has a completely different view on life than most. This appreciation for life and love is present in his lyrics. One song that embodies his desire for perseverance and hope is “Swim,” which was released on the 2007 album “The Glass Passenger.” Andrew prefaced the melodic tune on Friday night with, “It is a song about hope. It helped me to get through a tough time.” As he spoke the title of the song the audience audibly melted of joy. He then proceeded to get lost in the piano’s descants and reassuring all those who had ever felt pain or doubt to, “find the horizon, I promise you it’s not as far as you think.” Andrew’s passion for music, performing, hope, and living made the concert into a powerful life changing experience that no one present will be able to forget. If you ever get the chance to witness Jack’s Mannequin in concert for yourself, do not pass up the opportunity! Any music lover can appreciate the emotion that was put into the show.
I now present to you: 10 minutes of Throbbing Gristle singing “Happy Birthday” to me.
Blouse is from Portland. See em’!
hey motherphôquers <— that’s French for ‘seal’ —> you’re welcome…
YEP MHMM FUCK IT
Fresh off the release of her latest album, “Strange Mercy” (which garnered a score of 9.0 on Pitchfork), Annie Clark of St. Vincent gave a stellar performance at Portland’s Crystal Ballroom. She’s a master of mood and ambience. Think glitz: fog machines and laser lights. Tacky? Not this time. Combined with Clark’s coolly stoic stage presence and angelic voice, it was otherworldly.
The set list showcased a range of songs from St. Vincent’s repertoire. From her early work, we heard “Actor out of work” and “Save me from what I want” all the way up her most recent material (“Cruel” and “Surgeon”).
All crowd pleasers. All magnificently performed. I’m still in awe. Granted, I’ve been listening to St. Vincent for a few years now and have prayed (to whatever heathen god would ever consider listening to me) to see her live for some time. That caveat aside, everyone seemed stunned (in the best way) by the performance. I’m consistently surprised by how adeptly Clark blends profound lyrics, velvety-delicate vocals, and virtuosic. Musicianship.
St. Vincent made the stars align that night, to be sure. If you ever have the opportunity to see St. Vincent live, you’ll get a performance that rivals, and perhaps exceeds, studio recordings. Can we really ask for more?
And goddamn, can Clark shred on that guitar…
I guess I don’t quite understand the concept behind much of what’s hot right now in media. Mere adequacy reigns supreme. Perhaps it’s the sheer quantity of media images and sounds that are injected into our membranes each day, like a horse tranquilizer injected in our skulls through a steel-lined turkey baster, that allow us to move freely through artist’s discography without a slowing of pace or a chance to ponder the legitimacy of such art.
This, in so many words, is how I feel about Twin Shadow, project of 80’s resurrection George Lewis Jr. Twin Shadow played at Portland staple The Doug Fir Lounge a few weeks ago, and I gotta tell you, I thought he was totally okay.
I didn’t hate the show, please don’t get me wrong. Lewis and his backing band,who collectively look like a sub-genre super hero team (Glam Wave! Surf Punk Boy! Gothlectro! Pseudo-Hippie-Core! Assemble!!!) led a crowd of twenty somethings (and the few inevitable Doug Fir midlife crisis dads) through a synthed out, slow-dancable, crescendo and decrescendo of 80’s meets hits-of-tomorrow jams. Lewis’s voice was a furious yawn, a black hole of melancholic angst. Think Flock of Seagulls with way more reverb.
God damn, that sounded pretentious.
What really tripped me up was the crowd, the majority of which looked like they had never heard of this gold chained, pompadoured qualude-core singer (I admit, I was one of them, but free tickets are a hell of a drug). What surprised me the most was the lack of focus on Twin Shadow during the set. The hipsters (a term I tend to argue has zero solidified meaning) mouthed out random vowels as if to look like a true fan, but hardly looked at the dude. Most of the crowd was scanning the bar and dance floor, as if they had lost a puppy…all of them lost a puppy!
It was at that point I realized that this momentum caused by simply adequate music was a race. We live in Portland, Oregon for fucks sakes; there are more bands than people here. Thus, in an age when music is hurled at us in immeasurable quantities, we must run and fight and claw our way to an individual self. Finding music that is “incredible” has run it’s course. Dragon Force is annoying as hell. Even “bad” music has had its hay day, now long gone. So where are we? Music that makes the cut is hot right now. From the looks of it, soon enough this will expire as well.
My mother always had a saying. “The pendulum always swings back”. It’s her weird way of saying all good things come around in time. I believe that is an all encompassing statement. For now, with music like Twin Shadow, it seems the pendulum is simply at the bottom of it’s swing.