Back to the Future
Mason Jennings knows how to mix the old with the new. His voice has that folky, almost whiny tone that made legends Lou Reed and Bob Dylan so famous. This attribute landed Jennings a spot on the soundtrack for I'm Not There, Todd Haynes' acclaimed film about Bob Dylan. The Midwestern singer-songwriter recorded renditions of "The Times They Are A-Changin'" and "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll," which Christian Bale lip-syncs in the movie.
The 28-year-old musician also en-compasses the laidback feel that artists such as Jack Johnson so effectively emanate. Johnson and Jennings must've been exchanging vibes when Jennings performed a show that Johnson attended years ago. When Jennings walked off stage, Johnson urged him to keep playing. They've been friends ever since, and Jennings' May 20 release, In The Ever, is his first on Johnson's record label, Brushfire.
In "Fighter Girl," the first single off his soon-to-be-released seventh album, Jennings wails, "Hey, hey, little fighter girl / It's you and me now against this whole wide world," as he strums his guitar and his band backs him up with powerful bass and drums. The track radiates an energy that can only be created by passion.
Jennings is currently co-headlining a national tour with Brett Dennen. The freckled, red-haired Californian's style is much like that of Jennings, putting a modern twist on '70s folk. After releasing a successful album, So Much More, in 2006 and constantly touring, Dennen has created a devoted fan base and was named one of Rolling Stone's "Artists to Watch" in 2008. Not too shabby.
Jennings and Dennen play with Missy Higgins at 7:30 pm Sunday, May 18, at Indigo District. All ages. $20 adv., $22 door. — Katrina Nattress
If you've ever been to a concert in Eugene, you've probably seen Patrick Hayden. He plays guitar for a couple of local bands that seem to open for every other indie act that rolls through town. He's one of the Squids in Dan Jones and the Squids. He's the frontman of the semi-defunct, occasionally reuniting Deke Falcon. He's also a doctoral student in anthropology at the UO, and his solo stuff reflects this concentration more clearly than his bands. His 13-song CD, Doubles, meanders between finger-picked folk songs and ambling indie meditation with splashes of percussion and full band instrumentation here and there. At times, Hayden sounds like he could be the third long-lost Kirkwood brother from the Meat Puppets. His world-weary voice has a country-tinged crack to it, filtered through flannel. The music sounds like it sprouts directly from where the forest meets the desert, where conifers give way to cactus. In other words, it has a Northwest heart, but it wears the Southwest on its sleeve. It's hard to explain, but essentially Hayden has created an ethnography of early grunge, a stripped-down form stripped down even more. Patrick Hayden plays a CD release show with Heavenly Oceans and Willoughby at 9 pm Saturday, May 17, at Sam Bond's Garage. 21+ show. $5. — Jeremy Ohmes
The Original Dirty Bastard
Some say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. And while Clarence Reid and his X-rated alter ego Blowfly have been telling the same old dirty jokes for 40 years, at least now he's put them to new music. Long before 2 Live Crew, Ol' Dirty Bastard and other parental advisory-stickered rappers, Blowfly was the undisputed master of filthy, freaky, potty-mouthed rap. He started recording his raunchy late-night party rhymes in the '60s, and his "Rap Dirty" single is considered by many to be the first rap record. The lewd and crude rapper would set popular soul and pop hits to old-school funk and turn them into prurient parodies such as "Shitting on the Dock of the Bay," "Whole Lotta Fuckin' Goin' On" and "Suck Around the Clock."
On his latest album (his 30th or so record), Blowfly stretches his salacious wings into new creative territory, this time perverting punk rock. He's swapped the funky grooves and booty-shakin' rhythms for distorted downstroked guitars and pounding drums, but his porno freak message is still the same. If you didn't think the Stooges "I Wanna Be Your Dog" was sleazy before, how about Blowfly's "I Wanna Fuck Your Dog"? Or what about his interpretation of the Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go" mutated into "Should I Fuck This Big Fat Ho"? Or maybe "I Wanna Be Fellated" instead of the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated"? Any hormone-addled teenager could have come up with the material, but Blowfly just turned 60, and his shtick as a dirty old dog will never get old. On this tour he's paired up with ANTiSEEN, the former backing band for controversial, scatological punk rocker G.G. Allin. This show looks like a match made in XXX heaven. Blowfly plays with ANTiSEEN at 9 pm Friday, May 19, at John Henry's. 21+ show. $8. —Jeremy Ohmes
Singing for Someone Else's Supper
A harmonious mix of music and kindness has come together to form Soulshine, the love child of Caban and David Rhodes of Tsunami Books. It combines both their passion for music and their desire to help in the community.
The CD features the Rhodes and friends performing songs by Michael Franti and Spearhead. The project came about because of "a love for Spearhead music and the message of the Michael Franti songs," says Caban Rhodes.
Inspired by lyrics like, "You can bomb the world to pieces / but you can't bomb it into peace" and perhaps one of Franti's more well known songs, "Everyone Deserves Music," the Rhodes will give all proceeds from the Soulshine project to meeting the basic needs of Eugene's homeless.For the release party, Soulshine asks everyone to bring donations of canned goods."Soulshine," says Caban Rhodes, "came out of wanting to have a purpose to do those songs to give back to the community." Soulshine's release party is at 5 pm Saturday, May 17, at Tsunami Books. — Megan Udow
Finding Better Things
I've got no idea why a band from Austin, Texas, is called What Made Milwaukee Famous. But I've got a decent idea who should give the band's second album, What Doesn't Kill Us, a listen: fans of shiny, melody-rich, lively songs that wear their writers' hearts on their sleeves. From track to track, the band's retro-sparked tunes are done up in semi-gloss production (courtesy of sometime Sparklehorse member Chris Michaels) and slip easily between pop and rock sensibilities, calling to mind, at various points, The Shins, Ryan Adams, Cheap Trick and Snow Patrol. "Resistance St." begins with a repeating guitar part through which a piano meanders; Michael Kingcaid's usually cheery voice takes on a slight hollowness and reaches for a few high notes that tremble with Thom Yorke-like intonation. The sweet "Prevailing Wind" follows, shifting from a tumbling verse (courtesy of an insistent acoustic guitar) to a swooping, TV-soundtrack-ready chorus. There's got to be a formula for this sort of heart-tugging, carefully building song, but the band never sounds formulaic as it trips playfully through the last few decades of popular music. A hint of '70s arena rock here, of alt-folk rambunctiousness there, a singalong chorus or bubbling harmony dotted throughout — What Made Milwaukee Famous borrows disciminately from just the right sources, muddles those inspirations with the band members' own creative notions and turns out a summery, balanced record that sounds like a step on the way to even greater things. What Made Milwaukee Famous plays with Leo London at 9 pm Tuesday, May 20, at the WOW Hall. $10 adv., $12 door. — Molly Templeton