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Eugene Weekly : Music : 3.11.10




Rum, Sodomy & Kmria

Since the early ‘80s, the Pogues have provided the main vein into the bleary, blistering joys of traditional Celtic punk. They are the hooligans of Irish folk/rock, defining — on albums like Rum, Sodomy & the Lash and If I Should Fall from Grace with God — the walleyed ballads and jiggy stomps and breakneck rave-ups that can send even the driest wagon careening into the whiskey ditch. Their tightly spooled, wonderfully raucous music is fronted by the woozy, phlegmatic genius of Shane MacGowan, whose pugilist mug and snarling vocals channel the incendiary poetry and pissed-off politics of disenfranchised County Cork cunts whose topsy-turvy inheritance includes Blarney Stones, Flann O’Brien, Protestant shenanigans and Catholic wafers. When, in the oddly touching duet “Fairytale of New York,” MacGowan forlornly sings, “I could have been someone,” Kirsty MacColl’s dismissive answer is, “Well, so could anyone,” and that bit of hilarious, equal opportunity loathing captures in a pint glass the dog-eared despair, gallows humor, inebriated aplomb and pure guts that is MacGowan and gang.

A bloke of heroically self-destructive appetites, MacGowan is elsewhere picking three-leaf clovers this week, so in his stead we have, thankfully, the tribute band Kmria (as in, “Kiss My Royal Irish Ass”), featuring the stellar lineup of REM rhythm guitarist Scott McCaughey, Decemberists current (Jennie Conlee and Chris Funk) and past (Jesse Emerson and Ezra Holbrook), as well as Derek Brown, Hanz Araki and Casey Neill. These crackerjack musicians will pour forth a heady brew of Pogues classics, all without the added worry of MacGowan spontaneously expectorating his liver during “A Pair of Brown Eyes.” Kmria plays at 9 pm Friday, March 12, at Sam Bond’s. 21+.  $8. — Rick Levin



Un-Diminished Capacity

Listen to any surf-rock band and it doesn’t take more than a song or two to tell if they are inspired or insipid. Instrumental bands had better create something powerfully interesting if they’re not going to have vocals. Most don’t. Seattle’s Diminished Men is different. They do remind me of Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, and not just because their name and that of their latest LP, Shadow Instrumentals, tangentially references them. 

Cool, jazzy guitar work explores gloriously experimental but elegant atmospheres, a change in detail slight yet bracing in mood. The soundscape they create is darkly noirish, with occasional Morricone-esque spaghetti Western overtones, sometimes with the humming thrill of a spy movie soundtrack. From the opening heartbeat-like duh duh dum drumbeat that continues throughout the song, “Sleep is the Cousin of Death” is serene yet vicious right to its slithering end three minutes later, like an Angelo Badalementi soundtrack for a vampire film. Songs like “Russian Cobra,” however, or “Medical Mysteries” evoke worlds more geographically familiar but equally strange. There’s not a second in which to think about getting bored. 

Abram Hurd, guitarist with Eugene’s Rye Wolves and Scrolls, hosted Diminished Men at his now-shuttered Epic Space venue last year. “Literally shattering any and all genres they are drawn towards, D-Men are like being in a really fucked up David Lynch film,” he says. “Deserts and psychedelic shimmering reverb transport one through instrumental landscapes that resonate between Europe and Asia without a single moment wasted.” The genius is in the details, and D-Men are masters of their craft. Diminished Men and Scrolls play at 7 pm Sunday, March 14, at Wandering Goat. Donations. — Vanessa Salvia



Partying Through Jazz History 

Connoisseurs know that pianist Dick Hyman is one of the great authorities on jazz history. Not only can he play just about anything in any style; he effortlessly conveys the kind of deep musical wisdom that comes from half a century of work in studios with some of music’s most revered legends, and assiduous study, recording (more than 100 albums), composing and performing in all styles from ragtime forward. He’s also written for classical ensembles and dance companies, performed on many major film soundtracks and continues to prolifically record, lecture and perform. On Friday, Hyman will be playing with one of his classic jazz comrades, veteran clarinetist Ken Peplowski (who inherited Hyman’s jazz director position at the Shedd’s American music festival), a sublime player and quite an authority himself. As you’d expect, E Pluribus Duo, their new duets disc, boasts moments of autumnal wisdom and grace befitting their  experience — but also contains heapings of wit, whimsicality and mischief more common in musicians half their age. Somewhat reminiscent of Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond’s duets album, it’s a scintillating stroll through jazz history from two great musicians who know it best. The next day, the venerable pair lead one of Shedd’s fabulous, four-hour cabaret-style jazz parties featuring fellow legends Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar, Portland pianist/songwriter Dave Frishberg and other first-rate players. Dick Hyman and Ken Peplowski perform duets at 7:30 pm Friday, March 12 ($28-$36), and lead the Jazz Party Jam Session at 7:30 pm Saturday, March 13 ($24-$48), at The Shedd. — Brett Campbell



New Sounds. No, Really

It is safe to say I have never heard anything quite like LYNX and Janover. Chances are good that you haven’t either. How often have you heard music that combines acoustic guitar, hip hop, scratching, down-tempo electronica, rapid-fire rapping and … the hammered dulcimer? Seriously. But that’s just how this duo rolls, combining a variety of sounds, styles, tempos and genres to create something unique and memorable.

The uncommon sounds are only the beginning, as LYNX adds some unusual vocal stylings to the music. When he isn’t rapping or beatboxing, he lets his voice travel pretty much wherever it wants to go.  Whether high and thin or low and flat, his performance demands your attention because half the time you aren’t sure if he’s hitting the mark or off-key. Oddly enough, that seems to be the point: getting the audience to pay attention and make up their minds about what they’re hearing.

The songs created by LYNX and Janover aren’t cookie-cutter tracks you’ve heard thousands of times before, so if you’re looking for more generic radio-ready friendly music then this is definitely not the band for you. Jamie Janover fills out the tracks with hypnotic beats and his dulcimer playing is mesmerizing; paired with intrigue of LYNX’s performance, it’s part of something that is refreshingly atypical and well worth sinking your teeth into. LYNX and Janover play at 8:30 pm Saturday, March 13, at Cozmic Pizza.  $8 adv., $12 door. — Brian Palmer



The Devil Inside

The aging academic, about to kill himself, makes a deal with the devil: youth, love and success … at the cost of his soul.

Eugene Opera’s Faust might be perfect for an academic setting like Eugene, though the European darkness of Charles Gounod’s setting of Goethe’s famous tale wilts on sunny days in Eugene’s gorgeous spring. Still, if you happened to wander by a Faust rehearsal even on a sunny day, the beauty of the principals’ voices might have convinced you to sell your soul for tickets to this weekend’s opera.

Unlike Eugene Opera’s last production, the curiously optimistic Marriage of Figaro, Faust offers more glimpses into the shadowy side of the human soul. To carry out the tales of seduction, betrayal, triumph and defeat, Opera Executive Director (and Faust director) Mark Beudert has gathered an accomplished cast of principals for this anguished tale of desire and sin, including recent Chicago Lyric Opera success Scott Ramsay as the scholar who wants it all and Australian bass Steven Gallop as the smooth, sophisticated Mephistopheles. Aaron St. Clair Nicholson (whose name is practically a character name in itself) plays the tragically heroic Valentin, and young soprano Christina Pier plays the tragically unheroic Marguerite. Warm-voiced mezzo Elizabeth Pojanowski sings the pants role of Siebel; Eugene favorites Philip Engdahl (Wagner) and Bereniece Jones (Martha) round out the principal cast. 

“The chorus has been working so hard,” Beudert says, and many chorus members were preparing for this Romantic French opera even before Figaro ended. And the new design (see a shot of the model, and tons of short videos of the singers, at EW! A Blog) makes the stage a mysterious, ambiguous place where characters appear and disappear to fit the plot. 

The deep seduction of knowledge combined with the best-known work of Romantic literature and sweet-voiced singers: that’s what Faust offers this weekend. If I may whisper in your ear? Don’t miss this production.

Faust plays at 7:30 pm Friday, March 12, and at 2:30 pm Sunday, March 14, at the Hult Center. Student tickets start at $10; other tix $21-$80. hultcenter.org or 541-682-5000. — Suzi Steffen