Year of the Universe
When I first heard Arkhum last year, my gut told me they were too talented to remain an unheralded Eugene/Springfield-based band for long. The band played their first show in February 2007, and now their debut album, Anno Universum, will be released in August on Vendlus Records, with worldwide distribution in October. Artwork for the album is based on a painting by their friend Abe Hurd from local band Rye Wolves; in keeping with their Lovecraftian influence, the art features massive tentacled things, ritualistic symbols and a window seemingly opening to another dimension.
Though all Arkhum’s members are in their late teens or early 20s, they possess an insane amount of talent and technical skill. Nineteen-year-old guitarist Stephen Parker’s older brother, Kenneth, does most of the guttural growling and high-pitched black metal-ish screaming without effects other than a little reverb, so most of what you’re hearing are otherworldly sick sounds he’s making with his actual vocal chords. Instrumentation is crushing but precise. Swirling and angular guitar riffs, with the counterpoint high and low vocals, create an unsettling atmosphere.
Anno Universum was mixed and mastered by Jason Walton (Agalloch, ELS, Self Spiller), and there’s a good chance that this album will garner the band a lot of attention. “We’re really stoked on how it came out,” says Stephen. “It was quite the insane shock to me when I stumbled across an article about Arkhum posting a new track online. We definitely make our music because we love metal and we love the music we make, but it’s a joyous thing finding out that others really dig your music as well. A great big thank goes out to all the have supported Arkhum through the years and who have helped us get to this point.” Arkhum, Omnihility, Rye Wolves and Infernus play at 7 pm Friday, Aug. 20, at Wandering Goat. All ages. $4. — Vanessa Salvia
Just Having Fun
Don’t let the name trip you up. Eugene’s Just the Tip began as a dynamic duo: singer Jay Schroeder and guitarist Ira Mazie, who were “just the tip” of the band. Next, they added Justin Grado (lead guitar), Jeff Opsahl (bass) and Sammy Wayne (drums). Their smooth blend of soul, rock and funk should appeal to a wide array of music lovers, from those who long for classic rock to those just looking for an energetic live show. Just the Tip’s debut album, Hero’s Journey, features 11 original songs that range from smooth and sensitive to raw and filled with energy, tinted with shades of classic bands like Stone Temple Pilots, Santana and Dave Matthews Band. The first track, “Trouble” glides along a desolate road, smooth and bluesy. Schroeder’s strong, deep voice is assertive in its claims: “I know I’m causing trouble, so come on over, baby, and see how it’s done.” The title track tells the story of setting out on a journey to prove oneself, while the powerful “Earn My Turn” wails like a siren. The closing track, “Heroes in a Half Shell (TMNT),” brings it back to the ’80s: “Wanna watch some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with you; wanna see what Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles do.” Shades of the television theme song are layered with chants of “Heroes in a half-shell!” in the background for a song that is just plain fun. Just the Tip plays at 9 pm Friday, Aug. 20,, at Diablo’s Downtown Lounge. 21+. Free. — Catherine Foss
Mat Kearney’s third album (and second major label release), last year’s City of Black & White, has had neither the critical success of 2004’s Bullet nor the commercial success of 2006’s Nothing Left to Lose, but Eugene-born Kearney has continued to give the album his full support. CB&W is an indie pop album that hits as often as it misses. Half the songs steer into the realm of radio-friendly blandness (“All I Have”) and epic but familiar I-would-do-anything-for-you relationship songs (“New York to California”), but the other half is filled with more complex, stirring performances (as on the album’s ethereal title track). “Never Be Ready” reminds the listener that if you wait for the perfect time to make your move, you’ll never get anything done, while “On and On” includes the knife-sharp-true lyric: “Nothing worth anything ever goes down easy.” These ideas may not be earth-shattering, but they are strong, thought-provoking reminders about the importance of making each day count. Oddly enough, the second half of the album outshines the first; it’s odd that the strongest tracks don’t appear first on the album. Then again, maybe Kearney wanted to try something different. Next time he might hit a home run with this tactic, but this time around he only gets a double. Mat Kearney plays at 7:30 pm Wednesday, Aug. 25, at WOW Hall. $20 adv., $23 door. — Brian Palmer
Living on That Dusty Trail
Since the mid ’80s, Robert Earl Keen’s songwriting styles have proven to be unequaled. His many loyal fans gladly venture into the vivid settings rendered in Keen’s songs — where his colorful and eclectic characters reside — to live the stories themselves. They know the gang that hangs out at Mr. Blues in “Feelin’ Good Again.” They’re in the alley with Sonny and Sherry in “The Road Goes on Forever” as that fateful shot rings out. They live to drink Mescal with the boys from the old Broken O at Amanda’s Saloon on “Sonora’s Death Row.”
Keen’s subject matter is as wide as the Texas skyline and can sometimes take listeners to places dark and dreadful. He can cast you into a shadowy, paranoid persona where you know everyone is out to “Blow You Away.” In “Billy Gray” he shares the tender story from long ago of young Sarah’s tragic love for Billy. In the end, you’re there next to Billy’s headstone. Keen also has a very sharp wit that shines in the perennial favorite “Merry Christmas from the Family” and in the recent “Wireless in Heaven.”
Robert Earl Keen may very well be the father of Americana music (as some have called him). It’s unclear if he’s ever made that claim, so maybe he’s more like its illegitimate father. But he’s no deadbeat dad — after all, he’s nurtured and supported Americana for years, and there are many singer-songwriters who claim him as their inspiration. Robert Earl Keen plays Music on the Halfshell at 7 pm Tuesday, Aug. 24, at Stewart Park, Roseburg. Free. Blake Phillips
Bluegrass Lovers Rejoice!
In 1985, Bob Geldof’s brainchild Live Aid came together as one of the largest benefit concerts in history. Twenty years later, Live 8 was staged from eight simultaneous locations worldwide. Now, in 2010, Corvallis answers to the behemoths of benefit with Beavergrass. OK, so the festival may not be fighting hunger, poverty or disease per se, but it does hold close the idea that our children are the future, with all proceeds going toward the Corvallis High School District Foundation.
The two-day festival features 17 different artists — including Grammy winners Peter Rowan and Laurie Lewis — playing on two stages. But it would be foolish to take musicians as the essence of any festival, and Beavergrass is no different. The atmosphere is truly what makes these experiences great, and so there will be jams — led by artists — that get the public involved, and a square dance that will make you the opposite of a square.
The folks behind Beavergrass are also doing everything in their power to remind the public that a green festival is a good one. They encourage the use of reuseable water bottles, napkins and utensils; support carpools; and even promote preparation techniques like taking reusable bags when buying groceries to bring along.
This being the festival’s first year, success is a must if the event is to happen a second time, but as Beavergrass founder Mike Meyer puts it: “I feel the audience and local talent is strong here, and this area loves the West Coast version of bluegrass that I love.” So no worries, man. Beavergrass takes place Aug. 20-21 in Central Park, Corvallis; adults $25-$40 day, 2-day $55; youth $10-15 day, 2-day $20. — Andy Valentine