Under the Wizard's Spell
So the skies are looking awfully gray and the leaves are changing colors, but that doesn't mean you have to succumb to that seasonal slump and loop Nico's Chelsea Girl over and over for the next three months. Fear not — the folks at DIVA and Human Monster have organized a couple of ear-bludgeoning noise shows, featuring some pretty hefty players in the noise scene, to celebrate this autumn's impending gloom. October's program brings in some big names like Gang Wizard and the Microwaves, and November's local gig celebrates many of the wonderful, chthonic noiseniks our region hosts. And while the shows fixate on noise, this upcoming round of ear-wrecking events feature a slight rock-oriented slant.
Headlining the first gig is the L.A.-based darling of Thurston Moore, the ever-grinning Gang Wizard. The band's thick, noise-punk style caught the ear of Moore, who released the band's first CD, El Cortez Buy Y'a Drink, on his "for-fun" hobby label, Ecstatic Peace (nine other record labels also released this album). Gang Wizard's forthcoming full-length, Byzantine Headache, is scheduled for release later this month on Load Records and promises to be even more devoid of anything musical than their previous recordings. While the band's debut 12" release from 1997 contains tracks with a much more defined, song-based structure, Gang Wizard drifted (or maybe flailed is a better word) towards a much more free-form style as they continued to add to their pile of split 7" releases. However, in the sense that the standard rock fare of drums, guitar and vocals are nearly always present in Gang Wizard's recordings, it's safe to say that their music is still somewhat connected to their "punk" roots.
Released as a preview to Byzantine Headache, "Don't Let Rep 33 Ever Fuck With Your Facce" is an intense, grating threshing on the ears, full of wailing feedback, maxed-out guitar riffs, pummeling drums and indiscernible, distorted vocals. With an always present tongue-in-cheek attitude toward their library of extreme recordings, the band says on their website, "Some of the records contain the exact same song as other records; it is up to the listener to determine whether s/he has been swindled." Even if their tracks were borrowed and shared between releases, it's pretty hard to feel swindled after fully absorbing the cathartic powers of the Wizard.
Other must-see performances at this month's event include the cacophonous, angular noise rock of Pittsburgh based Microwaves and the dissonant meditations of psyched-out Portland duo Space Hawk (they cite Hawkwind as one of their major influences — that's pretty awesome).
The November show finds a slightly different focus: the locals. With divergent sounds and diverse methods, you'll find much less rock and much more variation. Among a full clip of local talent, the night welcomes recent Texas transplant Ferveur Noire (aka Dillon Tulk), who now calls Corvallis home. Ferveur Noire's combination of furious electronic shrieks and armor-coated plates of distortion is arguably some of the harshest stuff coming out of the Willamette Valley. One of the most fascinating aspects to his work is the contrast created through the juxtaposition of occasional moments of quiet and subtler electronic effects.
What better way to welcome fall than with a big, noisy fuck you?
Fiddling and Burning
Most of us associate Celtic music with Ireland and Scotland, but the various tribes' peregrinations left strong Celtic traditions in Wales and Brittany, in the Galicia area of Spain and of course on this side of the pond, where the Celtic diaspora flourished from Nova Scotia to Appalachia. As with Roma (Gypsy) music, hearing different Celtic strains provides a fascinating historical as well as musical experience, allowing listeners to appreciate how different people variously transformed similar basic material.
But after a few seconds of jigs and strathspeys at a Celtic Fiddle Festival concert, historical musings give way to dance fever. This year's version, which returns to the WOW Hall Nov. 3, brings back mainstay Kevin Burke, late of the great Bothy Band, who actually grew up in London and has lived in Portland for the last two decades. One of the world's finest Irish fiddlers, Burke alone would be worth the price of admission, but this year's lineup also includes Breton fiddler Christian Lemaître (of Kornog) and Andre Brunet, who plays in the French-Canadian Celtic style of Quebec. Guitarist Ged Foley keeps it all together. The inflections may be different, but this music all has in common keening, melancholy tunes and irresistible dance rhythms. For more than a decade, this traveling showcase has shown why Celtic music is so durable: this is party music par excellence.
Another magnificent musical tradition comes out of Cuba, which mixed African, Caribbean and European musical styles into an even more danceable brew. And like any other durable art form, Cuban music keeps evolving, lately absorbing jazz, funk, hip hop and reggae elements. Tiempo Libre's concert at the Shedd on Oct. 29 features conservatory-trained Cuban exiles now based in Miami who specialize in timba, a driving mix of Latin jazz and son, the older style that got so much attention in Buena Vista Social Club. The next night, the Shedd hosts a pair of Hawaiian ukulele masters, Herb Ohta Jr. and Daniel Ho. The uke is enjoying a resurgence that's making everyone forget Tiny Tim. In the right hands, it's a seriously fun instrument capable of surprising variety and virtuosity. Ho has brought Hawaii's mesmerizing slack key guitar tradition to the ukulele, and together, the pair provide a rich concoction of island sounds.
Eugene's own Mood Area 52 always sounded like they were providing the soundtrack to an alternate universe where lounge music was a serious blend of Piazzolla and jazz rather than merely a lifestyle marketing concept. So the tango masters have long made a splendid accompaniment to silent films — including, for the fourth time, MA52's Michael Roderick's original score for F.W. Murnau's spellbinding 1922 silent film Nosferatu. Can't think of a better Halloween treat: Oct. 27 at Tsunami Books, and it'll include readings of "macabre prose and poetry." Also this weekend, Portland's superb Third Angle new music ensemble is performing another new film score (composed by Vivek Madalla) to a classic movie, King Vidor's 1924 Wild Oranges. That's at Portland State University's Lincoln Hall Oct. 27-28.
The fall jazz season heats up this weekend as new UO saxophone prof Idit Shner unveils her pianoless trio (with drummer Gary Hobbs and bassist Dave Captein) at the UO music school room 178 on Oct. 27. Shner is a young Israeli sax star who's mastered both contemporary jazz and classical styles. Next month, she joins New York bassist Whitney Moulton, a Pleasant Hill native and UO grad, who returns home for a show at Jo Federigo's on Nov. 17 with drummer Kevin Congleton and pianist Jeff Lovell. Moulton has scored some impressive gigs in NYC. Jazz fans might also consider the UO's Oct. 30 jazz arranger's concert, featuring the music of composer/trumpeter Jamey Simmons, and saxman Roger Woods' quartet at Luna on Oct. 28.
There's some jazz bubbling through the groovy, spacy music of both Pnuma Trio and Reeble Jar, who play a strong double bill at the WOW Hall on Oct. 26. Memphis-based Pnuma, joined for this gig by Signal Path guitarist Ryan Burnett, should appeal to fans of Lotus, STS9 and similar techno-jammies. Reeble Jar's pulsating mix of didgeridoo, harmonica, guitar, keyboards, sax, bass and drums has enriched the Eugene scene for awhile now. The band's Tyler Spencer is also lending his didg to the "Save Trevor" benefit at Cozmic Pizza, along with the excellent Kudana (which plays Zimbabwean marimba styles), Caimllo & Stephanie and DJs Reiterate, Wong Wei & Keri. This is a good cause: reimbursing yet another family victimized by America's cruel excuse for a health care system that values insurance company greed over public health. The Wanasie family's newborn son Trevor needed a liver transplant, and insurance isn't covering all the medical bills, so these bands have generously pitched in to help. You can, too, by hearing their music at Cozmic Pizza on Oct. 27.
Are You Ready for Halloweeeeeeeeek?
October 31st is on a Tuesday? Aaagh! Halloween in the middle of the week can cause confusion and panic to those determined to reach maximize fun potential during haunting season. But I like to think of the awkward timing as an excuse to make a week of it (kind of like your birthday … or at least my birthday). So stock up on your favorite energy drink and get out your day planner because thankfully we live in a town that accommodates a partying public fervently invested in the one holiday of the year set aside just for freaks.
If you're a fan of bloodsucking on any level, you have no doubt seen but not heard the original creepy silent version of Nosferatu. Mood Area 52, Eugene's prolific provider of old-world atmosphere, starts off the pre-'ween weekend festivities with a Friday night performance of their original soundtrack to this horror classic at Tsunami (see Brett Campbell's column, page 55, for more details). Once you've been sufficiently spine-tingled, get your costume ready for a trial run at one (or many) of the bar parties around town. John Henry's will open its darkened depths to funky sweat-mongers marauding for '80s music, strong drinks and eye candy (no wonder it's the Best Place to Shake Your Booty). Your friendly neighborhood DJs, Chris and Jenn, will man and woman (respectively) the turntables for the Halloween Ball. Got no rhythm or a cumbersome costume? Sam Bond's Garage's Halloween party might be more your speed. Enjoy the music of Rush and Led Zeppelin (without the hassle of time travel) performed by Rush Mountmore and Stairway Denied at the watering hole voted Eugene's Best Bar. For something less retro, more metro, grab your glitter and party at The Ovulators' Halloween Bash at Latitude 21. This fashion-forward foursome looks intergalactically-glam at any given performance; this show's bound to be a little something extra.
Diablo's Downtown Lounge has been throwing scandalous Halloween shindigs for so long, they can no longer limit their celebration of the dark side to just one night. This year, you can pick the party that's right for you with five full nights of themed debauchery. Friday night kicks it off with Pirate and Gypsy Night, then on to Zombie Disco Party Night, Fetish Night and Movie Monster Madness. The big kahuna is on Tuesday, when you can rock out with Appetite for Deception, a whole band that runs around dressed like Guns 'N' Roses … all the time! (Wouldn't it be frighteningly post-modern if they didn't dress up for Halloween?) As in year's past, great costumes equal cool prizes at Diablo's, and this party allows the opportunity to drink from the fountain of the Best Bartender in Eugene.
If partying with a guy in a Slash wig doesn't appeal to you (and if so, what's your problem?) Halloween night holds jazzier, blues-ier, country-er and dub-ier options for those lacking butt rock sensibilities. John Henry's hosts the country-rock of Reckless Kelly, an acclaimed Austin outfit with Oregon roots. Stick around for a top secret late show with an Unannounced Special Guest. At the WOW Hall, Heavyweight Dub Champion will set up their soundboards for a night of haunting hip-hop alongside Etheric Double and Jorah LaFleur. Like your parties to benefit local kids? Cozmic Pizza is throwing an All-Star Blues Benefit to generate support for the Rainy Day Blues Society's educational efforts. All Hallows' Eve at Luckey's features the signature funk and jazz stylings of Eugene's Best Jazz Band, Eleven Eyes, and local favorites Disco Organica. Don't slack on your costume, 'cause the cooler you look, the lower your cover. Same policy at Luna, where JC Rico & Zulu Dragon will be singin' the blues; if you save some money at the door, you'll be able to afford another killer martini from Adam's Place. So dress up. Everybody wins.
See? With proper focus and concentration, you can have a no-holds barred, mid-week Halloween freak-out sesh. Now that you've got your schedule (check the calendar for late-arrival announcements that couldn't squeeze into this column), all you need is a creative costume. Yes, aspiring pimps and naughty nurses, I'm talking to you.
Let's Do the Time Warp
Eugene's underground music scene during the 1980s is the subject of filmmaker Matthew R. Paden's documentary Panic — Making Mountains Out of Molehills, slated for a late 2007 release. As part of that documentary, several influential bands of the time are reuniting for one night of shows, exciting news for those who experienced the madness firsthand, were too drunk to remember or were too young to make the scene.
The reunion show features sets by Saint Huck, Rawheadrex, Uncle Charlie, Moose Lodge and A Few Chairs. The Cherry Poppin' Daddies' Steve Perry, then of Saint Huck, recalls those days as formative for what became the phenomenon of grunge, with the two main scenes being hardcore punk and psychedelia. "I think the merging of those two scenes became grunge, and a lot of the bands represented that," Perry says. "I think the interest to the filmmaker is that it was kind of the proto-grunge scene. It's a really interesting time period in the history of Northwest rock."
Many of these musicians still perform locally and have intertwined to form other popular local bands, like Moose Lodge's Bruno Bersani, also of Osgood Slaughter and later Billy Jack. Saint Huck, Rawheadrex, Uncle Charlie, Moose Lodge and A Few Chairs play at 9 pm Friday, Oct. 27 at the WOW Hall. $8 adv., $12 door. — Vanessa Salvia
We Can Sing for a Long, Long Time
Oh, my sisters! You know where you were the first time you heard Cris Williamson's 1975 album, The Changer and the Changed. And if you were lucky, listening to her sing "Sweet woman, risin' inside my glow" got you and your honey where you lived. (Oh yeah.) Maybe you were a babydyke who had just read begun reading off our backs or the seminal, er, vaginal Lesbian Nation by Jill Johnston. Or maybe you were one of the wonderful heterosexual-but-not-homophobic women who took a queer sister to a Cris show, thinking that "women's music" and "sisters loving sisters" wasn't just about lockin' lips and gettin' it on. (And we applaud you for it, 'cause you were right! Some of it was about politicizing lockin' lips and gettin' it on!) Anyway, if you lived through the times that tried wimmin's souls, you know from needing inspirational music. And we bet Cris inspired you.
So haul out the androgyny, dear ones, and get your overall-and-bandanna-clad selves ready to celebrate the 30th (collective gasp) anniversary of the album that began it all … the tunes for all of those late-night make-out-when-you-should-be-paying-bills-or-studying sessions … the impetus for scraping together enough money to buy Meg Christian's or Holly Near's latest … the chest-bared, intensive-workshopped Michigan madness … all of the sistah love. Yeah, OK, Alex Dobkin actually started it with Lavender Jane Loves Women, or maybe it was an anti-patriarchal de-centered grassroots effort across the world, but anyway. Cris is our hometown hero(ine). And damnit, get a 30th Anniversary Limited Edition Changer and the Changed CD (yep, it's on CD now) and check out Cris' sexy picture with the cowboy hat! Mmm, yeah. Cris Williamson brings Teresa Trull, Barbara Higbie, Vicki Randle and Soromundi Lesbian Chorus of Eugene to take back the Hult Center at 8 pm Saturday, Oct. 28. $35-$75. — Suzi Steffen
The Boys Are Back In Town
Floater's new album rocks, and not because it's called Stone By Stone. Hardcore fans have heard some new material at recent shows, but bassist/vocalist Robert Wynia promises more surprises at this CD release show. Stone By Stone is officially available Oct. 31.
Wynia describes the new CD as a few steps removed from the acoustic material Floater has been focused on. While not representing a new direction, it does show the band branching out; for instance, they recorded with ProTools for the first time. "It's not going to be a letdown for anybody, I don't think, but it is definitely rock," Wynia says. "For the hardened acoustic fans it's probably going to be a little shocking, but for people who have been on board for quite a while it's more of a return to … something along the lines of [2000's] Burning Sosobra."
An enduring question for fans is why the band isn't enjoying more mainstream success. They've sold out the WOW Hall more times than anyone and have loyal fans who would face down a convoy of semis to save the band from disaster. Wynia says the homogenization of radio airwaves is partly to blame. Corporations who own radio stations either own labels or get kickbacks for promoting certain artists. "We have commercial radio stations that play us, and the DJs that play us get threatened by the owners that they'll fire them," Wynia laments. "We're seen as competition."
The financial freedom that major label support represents comes at a price Floater isn't willing to pay, however. Wynia says the band defies the easy categorization labels want, and reps don't know how to market them. Floater no longer courts major labels, and no one tells them what kind of music to make. The fans love it, and that's what counts. Floater plays at 9 pm Saturday, Oct. 28 at the McDonald. $13 adv., $15 door. — Vanessa Salvia
Two Wrights Don't Make A Wrong
Safety first, even for famous punk rock singers. As I phoned John Wright, who heads NoMeansNo along with his brother Rob, he had just picked up his 7- and 10-year-old sons from school. Not wanting to drive with his precious passengers in Victoria, B.C., traffic with a phone glued to his ear, he pulled over. Then we chatted about the new NoMeansNo CD, All Roads Lead To Ausfahrt, and life in general.
The band hasn't produced a new CD since 2000, but they have toured a lot, released a best-of CD, and recorded as alter egos Hanson Brothers. The band was home on break for two weeks before wrapping up their six-week cross-country tour. Wright said life at home is "normal" when he's not touring: "Doing dad stuff, like taking the kids to school, taking them to soccer, taking them to music," Wright laughed. "You're basically a chauffeur!" His kids have seen NoMeansNo twice, and according to Wright, they like it, although he tries to keep the songs with cuss words out of earshot.
NoMeansNo emerged from the Canadian underground in 1981, and though they have never achieved mainstream success, they remain one of the most consistently popular punk bands. Strictly punk is a misnomer, however. Most of the time, their punk geekiness undergoes a genetic mutation before surfacing as unstructured art school jazz trips. The band's songs are never pretentious and often very funny without being stupid, something Wright says only happens "if you've got nothing to say." He says the band members all have a good sense of humor, which makes it easier to talk about the unpleasant subjects that sometimes come up in their lyrics.
Ausfahrt is, according to Wright, "a little more straightforward and rocking," with shorter songs harkening back to their '80s work. "Shorter and snappier but rather dark and tongue in cheek," he says. In other words, unmistakable NoMeansNo.
NoMeansNo, Los Mex Pistols del Norte and Middian play at 8 pm, Thursday, Nov. 2 at the WOW Hall. $10 adv., $12 door. — Vanessa Salvia