A Life Less Legendary
It’s a ballsy move, and one that few record labels, major or independent, would dare attempt: Last April, the Living Legends, an eight-person crew famous for successfully self-releasing their records and surviving on the proceeds, put out two different crew albums on the same day. One was an individual record, The Grouch’s Show You The World; the other was a long EP, The Gathering, which features every single Legend on every single track. But they’ve got the gumption to do stuff like that because they know the secret to success as independent musicians: a dedicated fan base that will always buy your records, no matter when they come out. Which might be why The Gathering reached #16 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers (Independent) chart the week of April 26, with Show You The World not terribly far behind at #31 on the same chart during the same week. You’d think that maybe it would’ve made more sense to wait, but then, if one album doesn’t do well, so what? It won’t be long before the next comes out. So far, the Legends have collectively self-released over 50 albums of sharp, self-satisfied (if not downright boastful) wordplay set to very danceable but uncomplicated beats cobbled together with beatmaking software and a few samples.
But then, beats aren’t what made the Legends famous; it’s the raps. As a collective, the Living Legends rhyme tighter than pretty much anything you’ll find on the radio or in the underground. Simple beats aside, if it weren’t for the group’s mass appeal, could they charge $15 a head for concert tickets? Hell no. And yet, the Living Legends haven’t quite broken through the mainstream radio’s glass ceiling for independent musicians. “She Wants Me,” the second track on The Gathering, is the kind of banger that could skyrocket to the top of the charts with the right major-label push. That might be why Murs, one of the most successful of the eight Legends, decided to give Warner Bros. a try; he’ll be releasing his next record, Murs for President, on that label Sept. 30. If Warner doesn’t drop him first (remember Little Brother?), maybe it’ll help the Legends break through. Lord knows they deserve it. The Living Legends, The Bayliens and Sandpeople play at 9 pm Wednesday, Sept. 17, at the WOW Hall. $15 adv., $18 door. — Sara Brickner
Resistance Is Futile
When I first arrived in Oregon in 1991, I was aware of only a couple of bands from Oregon. At the time, the Pacific Northwest was not known for much of anything except loggers and hippies — certainly not punk music. But one afternoon while wandering the streets of Portland, I chanced upon the X-Ray Café, and my perception changed. It was the middle of the afternoon, and some forgettable band was soundchecking, but the music playing over the speakers turned out to be Portland band Resist. After chatting with the bartender a while and perusing the many posters on the walls, I left the X-Ray with no doubt that I was on the threshold of a whole new musical frontier and that there were hundreds, if not thousands, of bands hidden in and around Eugene and Portland that now awaited my discovery.
Resist went on to be one of Oregon’s most well-known anarchist punk bands, though they rarely played outside of their hometown. They managed to keep themselves together from the late ‘80s through 1994, at a time when most bands in Eugene were splitting up and reforming every 10 seconds. When Resist finally did split, the members went on to form other notable bands including Godless, Defiance and Severed Heads Of State. For the next generation of punks, Resist was myth and legend until three of the four original members (Kelly Halliburton, Tom Nims and Ward Young) joined up for a reunion show in 2007. Nims and Young are keeping it going and are playing several West Coast shows throughout this year, one of which is Corvallis’ upcoming Punk in the Park show. Resist, Adelitas, The Wobblies, Angries, Muckraker, Solid Gold, Blood on the Banjo and Bad Terms play from 1 pm to 9 pm Saturday, Sept. 13, at Bruce Starker Arts Amphitheatre, Corvallis. $7. — Vanessa Salvia
Final Opening Night
If you have to move, say, to the Nashville Symphony, a sizeable step up from Eugene, best to go out with a bang. Or so planned Eugene Symphony Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero, who wanted music with a flourish for his last opening concert here.
The program hits hard on popular, energetic Russian music, including Rimsky Korsakov’s Russian Easter Overture, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 and the 1945 version of Stravinsky’s suite from the ballet Firebird. The orchestra’s musicians, in the midst of a crazed fall schedule that includes three free conductor search concerts and a special appearance by Yo-Yo Ma, will be all warmed up by the time Sept. 18 rolls around.
“One of the languages [the Eugene] orchestra plays well is Russian,” Guerrero says (just after finishing a rehearsal in Nashville, where he’s about to conduct three performances with Sir James Galway). “Russian music is so colorful, and it works well in the Hult Center,” he adds.
Guerrero — who’s skilled at bringing strong soloists to Eugene — says he’s happy to work with Terrence Wilson on the Rachmaninoff. Wilson was commissioned by the Charlotte Symphony to perform the premiere of Michael Daugherty’s piano concerto, Deus ex Machina, in March 2007, and Guerrero served as that concert’s conductor. The music director says, “It was almost like an arranged marriage, but we connected so well, and I immediately looked at hiim as someone to explore the repertoire with.” Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 serves as a famously difficult test for pianists, and Guerrero says, “It really showcases Terrence’s virtuousity.”
The Eugene audience will recognize much of the music in the final, showcase piece, Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. The familiar music should be enjoyable for everyone, Guerrero says. “It’s fun to conduct when the musicians are looking forward to the music. I just have to stand up there and move my hands; the music almost comes by itself.”
Guerrero’s final opener begins and ends with big, enjoyable, accessible music. The Eugene Symphony plays at 8 pm Thursday, Sept. 18, at the Hult Center. $15-$66. — Suzi Steffen