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Eugene Weekly : Music : 5.24.07

"Moody Concept"

The Shedd hosts Mood Area 52

BY VANESSA SALVIA

Michael Roderick is a concept guy, a big thinker with a flair for bringing ideas to life. He's led Mood Area 52 from its beginnings as a "nuevo tango" ensemble to more of a high-art concept, with silent film and other visual enhancements accompanying the group's live performances.

Mood Area 52's "Cincinnatus 'Joachin' Heine Miller's Century: 1850 through 1950 in The Oregon Country" 7:30 pm Saturday, May 26. The Shedd, $15-$20

Roderick's newest idea for the six-piece band grew from his teaching job. "I have enjoyed coming up with song concepts out of weird pieces of folklore for quite some time now," says Roderick. "As I was doing some research for my 8th grade curriculum … I came across information about this particular character, 'Cincinnatus "Joachin" Heine Miller.' My interest was sparked because it said he was an early editor of the first Eugene, Oregon, newspaper … and I thought an interesting concept would be to lace together a show around pieces of Oregon folklore." Roderick discovered that Miller was the son of mid-19th century Quaker settlers, yet he seemed to live an adventurous and romantic life: He was a horse camp cook, had scurvy, was shot in the mouth with an arrow, stole horses, married and betrayed a Native American woman, called himself a judge and took the name "Joachin" after a famous Mexican rebel. His life was a starting point for colorful, passionate songs about other events in Oregon's history, resulting in the song cycle Roderick calls "Cincinnatus 'Joachin' Heine Miller's Century: 1850 through 1950 in The Oregon Country."

This character's name is the title of Mood Area's new EP, which will be available at the Shedd show. The band will perform 21 new songs, including some instrumentals, but most featuring the vocal harmonies of Roderick and Marietta Bonaventure. The songs on the EP are stylistically similar to the songs you can expect to hear at the Shedd. Most of the Oregon history songs will find a home on an upcoming new Mood Area full-length.

Playing the Shedd is a first for this local band, an honor that presents some unique sound engineering challenges in the large hall. "We're going to play acoustically, but we're going to play with a full band, so we've been working out the dynamics … and it's interesting because it's approaching music in the way that bands were one hundred years ago. They were playing shows in big venues just like that and playing totally acoustically."

Large format black and white drawings, created by Roderick for each of the songs, will be part of the presentation. "Each song will be introduced sort of like it's an historical news story, and we'll have an illustration for each song," says Roderick.