Finally. In 2006, The Thermals stopped in Eugene while touring for their taut, pointed album The Body, the Blood, the Machine, playing to a relatively small but disproportionately delighted WOW Hall crowd. Theyve not been back since, though those of us with a slight obsession have had plenty of opportunities to see the band in Portland. Two shows in one day at last falls Musicfest NW couldnt dull my enthusiasm for seeing The Thermals play. Its not just that the bands literate, intense yet playful songs ã not pop-punk, but part pop, part punk and all built to carry singer-guitarist Hutch Harris distinctive yelp ã are best listened to with the focus and immersion a concert setting can offer. The Thermals are the perfect live band: Harris, scowling and wiry, his lyrics full of contradictions and phrases that sum up ideas bigger than the three-minute songs seem able to contain; bassist Kathy Foster, bouncing slightly and smiling a strangely calm smile; and drummer Westin Glass, a hyperactive Muppet whose perpetual shit-eating grin and tendency to sing along, unmiked, adds an extra layer of infectiousness to songs already spiked with singalong choruses and dynamic shifts. Personal Life, the Thermals 2010 release, opens with an impossibly wistful, crunchy guitar. "Im Gonna Change Your Life” builds the promise of a relationship with lines that alternate hope and pain: "Im gonna change your life / Im gonna leave my mark / We can lie in the light / We can wander in the dark.” Harris lines up possibility and bleakness, bitterness and love, in perfect pairs over the records 10 tracks; you get "I Dont Believe You,” forceful and defiant, and then "Only For You” a few songs later, and neither is as simple as the title suggests ã which is par for the course where The Thermals are concerned. The Thermals, White Fang and The Blimp play at 9 pm Friday, Jan. 14, at the WOW Hall. $12 adv., $14 door. ã Molly
Make a Joyful Noise
Fifteen years after first hearing the music of Wayne "The Train” Hancock with his debut Thunderstorms and Neon Signs, I finally had the pleasure of talking to him on the phone, and his gritty twang is just as authentic as his passion for juke joint swing music. "If I wasnt playing music, Id be robbing banks,” Hancock said from Las Vegas, where hes preparing for his upcoming tour. Hancock sports a tattoo on his shoulder that reads "Play Til You Die.” "I dont ever want to stop playing,” he says.
Hancock has made a name for himself playing unvarnished Western swing ã "Its boogie woogie music,” he says. When he first started, he got run out of Nashville by bigwigs who told him he was too raw, too twangy, too old-fashioned. It gave him a bit of an attitude, and since then hes been hell-bent on doing things his way. Hancock is 46 now, and reckons hes got another 20, maybe 30 years left in him. He doesnt plan on changing anything. "I havent changed since I started and I dont want to,” he says. "I never get tired of it.”
Just about everything Hancock says conveys a zeal for his music and lifestyle. "In the Bible it says, •make a joyful noise to the world, and thats what I do. I like playing music and feeling good when I do it. I dont do it because of making a living, I do it because I really got to do it,” he says. "Im kind of like a doctor. Its a service. You go to the doctor to get shots if you want to get well. If you need to get well spiritually, you come to us and I give you a shot of music.” Wayne Hancock plays at 7 pm Monday, Jan. 17, at WOW Hall. $10 adv., $12 door. ã Vanessa Salvia
Acoustic, Shining, Enough
Recorded music, a beautiful thing that provides relief from annoying workmates or commutes from hell or the grind of everyday life, cant hold a candle to performers in person. But Shawn Colvins lovely 2009 Grammy-nominated album Shawn Colvin Live, recorded at Yoshis jazz club in San Francisco, comes damn close.
The album sports fine Gnarls Barkley and Talking Heads covers and features Colvins distinctive finger-picking on a purely acoustic album. Colvin also hits nearly every song played millions of times on •90s radio or in the headphones of the lovelorn. You want "Shotgun Down the Avalanche,” "Sunny Came Home,” "Polaroids,” "Diamonds in the Rough” or "Steady On”? Youve got •em
The warm sound of Live, intimate and inviting, might remind listeners of evenings spent with friends, the quiet that follows a laughter-filled dinner as the singer takes the stage, the feeling of hopping on a bike or opening the car door after the concert, a little entranced, a little transformed by the experience, comforted by song.
But why just buy the album when you could see the real thing? Colvin, who hasnt been around Eugene in a few years, returns to the Shedds Jaqua Concert Hall at 7:30 pm Thursday, Jan. 20, in an acoustic show. Tix run an entirely reasonable $32-$42. ã Suzi Steffen
Spanish influenza killed millions in the infamous epidemic of 1918, but Influenza Italiana ã the title of a concert coming up on Sunday ã is much more benign. With a few exceptions, much of the Baroque music we hear these days comes from German composers such as J.S. Bach, Handel and Telemann. But they and other northern composers owed a decided debt to Vivaldi, Corelli and the Italian music of the previous generations, including less well known composers such as Caccini, Castello, Cazzati, Falconieri, Merula and more. Their music and more by German speaking composers Froberger, Kapsberger and Rosenmuller (which isnt a law firm), who brought those scintillating Italian sounds north beginning in the 17th century, will be performed Sunday in a program devoted to the Italian influence on Baroque music. Playing on the beautiful-looking and -sounding instruments and in the styles appropriate to the time will be the Baroque ensemble Musica Maestrale, comprising some of the regions expert performers on authentic period instruments: Joanna Blendulf, often seen playing viol and cello with Portland Baroque Orchestra and literally a dozen other early music aggregations in the Northwest, San Francisco Bay Area and beyond; Eugene organist Julia Brown; Portland theorbist and Baroque guitarist Hideki Yamaya, who plays in the Oregon Renaissance Band, PBO and at least three other ensembles I know of; recorder player and ã what do you call someone who plays the Renaissance ancestor to the trombone? Sackbut-head? ã Bryce Peltier, and singer Aaron Cain. Musica Maestrale performs at 4 pm Sunday, Jan. 16, at First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive Street. $10. ãBrett Campbell
Music cant always focus on politics or religion, but Seattle indie pop outfit Ivan & Alyosha doesnt shrink from challenging listeners beliefs and worldviews. With its name that hearkens to a classic Dostoevskian religious debate, the band might want its fans to infer that it incorporates some faith-based topics. You would be correct in that assumption, but if youd write them off because of that youd be selling yourself short.
On their new Fathers Be Kind EP, Ivan & Alyosha express their personal faiths and weave their own brand of folksiness with something resembling contemporary hymns. Tim Wilsons voice and melodious guitar on the single "Glorify” soar and jingle-jangle in a tune that seems more appropriate in a whiskey bar than in a church pew. The title track explores the volatile and impressionable impact that a father has on his children and does what so many other poppy songs neglect in expressing a struggle to find real answers in an oft confusing and disenchanting world. "Well you know that the light at the / end of the tunnel is dim / Dont answer / To the mediocre lies that have gone ahead,” laments Wilson. And while the tunnel may be dimly lit for some, the curious intertwine of faith, personal struggle and great music is vibrant enough to attract the masses. Cody Beebe and the Crooks and Ivan & Alyosha play at 8:30 pm Saturday, Jan. 15, at the Axe & Fiddle, Cottage Grove. 21+. $5. ã Andrew Hitz