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Eugene Weekly : Music : 9.3.09




In Full Bloom

There aren’t a lot of bands that can get my husband’s hips shakin’. Being from a staid Midwestern family, his dancing bones are mostly fused together; picture Vulcan dancing in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. So when he started grooving to the opening strains of “Bad Tattoo” from Alpha Dahlia’s new CD Mind Warp, I knew it was something special. Even more so because when I pointed out that he was boppin’ like a teenager, he didn’t remember doing it. The music by this Eugene band has that kind of infectiousness; it seeps into your head when you don’t realize it and takes control. 

“Bad Tattoo” starts out with pop genius reminiscent of the Young Fresh Fellows. It’s even shiny on the surface but with a cutting humor like so many of the Fellows’ songs: there’s something about waking up in the morning with a bad tattoo, and having no class ‘cause a bastard’s name is tattooed on your ass. It’s probably a topic that shouldn’t be a danceable ditty, but singer Sassy O and her backing threesome of Joe Pettit Jr., Michael Fuchs and Shawn Notdurft pull it off with style.

The pop vein they’re mining runs deep throughout the rest of the album’s 15 tracks. “Cranford’s Car” boasts a short-but-sweet fuzzy rock-god guitar line. That’s followed by a 16-second experiment, then the rest of the album conveys a little bit of surf rock, a little bit of ’60s pop, a little bit of ’70s glam and a lot of devil-may-care optimism. Alpha Dahlia, Tom Heinl and Hot For Chocolate play at 9 pm Saturday, Sept. 5, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+. $5. — Vanessa Salvia



Not a Poor Blend

What do British post-WWII anomie and cornpone Yankee can-do-ism have in common? Is there any connection between the artistic expressions of lugubrious limeys and the foot-stompin’ tomfoolery of sauced up hillbillies? To put it bluntly, do Scotch and moonshine mix? The unexpected answers to the above questions are, respectively: a lot, yes and rather well, thank you.

In an age when tributes, and especially tribute bands, have proliferated in an epidemic of Spinal Tap self-parody, Poor Man’s Whiskey — a crackerjack bluegrass band from San Francisco — has achieved something surprising. This quintet of talented finger-pickers has taken a classic album nobody ever wants or needs to hear again — namely, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon — and made it fresh, even exciting. Neither parody nor ham-fisted hero worship, PMW’s Dark Side of the Moonshine takes the seminal prog-rock virtuosity and poetic despair of Roger Waters’ masterpiece and makes it a viable piece of Americana — and they do it with a sense of humor and jug-blowing joy that never tarnishes their obvious reverence for the material. Witness the fun they have re-creating the echoed vocals of “Us and Them,” with each band member chiming in with his own interpretation (“Blue… blue… sad… blue… azul”).

They’ve upped the ante during their live performances of Moonshine (which features a second disk of excellent originals) by donning Wizard of Oz costumes, a nod to the legendary stoner pastime of cueing the movie to play to Floyd. This, however, is just icing. Go for the music. Poor Man’s Whiskey plays Dark Side of the Moonshine at 9 pm Thursday, Sept. 10, at the WOW Hall. $15 adv., $20 door. — Rick Levin