Everything’s Coming Up Green
Partyin’ for Saint Patrick
BY VANESSA SALVIA
St. Patrick’s Day traditions: Wear green, drink a pint or two and visit the local pub for all-night sing-a-longs. The first two may be optional, but don’t skip the last. There’s a wealth of music this year, but surprisingly little is of the Irish type.
Luckey’s has lined up Sid and Fancy, who will share the stage with Circled By Hounds (post-Pogues, semi-traditional Irish music by members of now-defunct Toad in the Hole) and The Glenwood Rebel Rovers (Irish rock from members of Los Mex Pistols del Norte). The Rovers give reason to barhop: They play 1 pm to 4 pm at McShane’s and then Max’s from 9 pm until night’s end. At 10:30 pm, five members cruise to Luckey’s to be joined by the rest of the band halfway through the set, when the Max’s guys take a break. All return to Max’s, playing until 12:30-ish, whereupon half go to Diablo’s and start a set, with the rest of the band arriving in the middle of that gig. They return to Max’s around 1:45 am for the final set. (As a finale, bandleader Bruce Hartnell promises to materialize at all four bars simultaneously.) Several Mex Pistols are represented, along with three ex-TITH and two Visible Men, including Daddies Dan. Also appearing at Diablo’s that night is Professor Gall, an entertaining mix of “klezmer, artrock, bluegrass, alternative folk, experimental jazz and cowpunk.” Professor Gall is the crazed alter-ego of Portland’s Drew Norman of The Cow Trippers.
After a hiatus of 4-plus years, Eugene’s Skye recently returned to performing. For more on their March 17 WOW Hall show, see Brett Campbell’s story, page 31.
Sam Bond’s offers an evening with The Nettles (9 pm, $5). Guitar, bass, drums and fiddle fuel this blend of Irish and American music, while they also make room for traditional instrumentation like pipes and pennywhistle. They’re known for wild improvisations and a driving sense of rhythm that will leave you foot stompin’ for more.
St. Patrick Christianized Ireland, so perhaps a Christian focus would be appropriate? Redemption Rocks! presents a hip hop concert featuring Nik Fury, M.C. Incyte, Proof and The Breakdown Dancers at Cozmic Pizza (3 pm, free). Cozmic is just getting started, with “The War Comes Home,” an anti-war fundraiser with folkie Janet Bates following (7 pm, $5-$20). Later, Oregon’s own 18-year-old Brad Mackeson performs a gritty singer-songwriter set, showing talent beyond his years (10 pm, $3-$5).
Erik Muiderman performs at Luna (8:30 pm, $6). This popular and talented guitarist wears many hats: fingerstyle picking, flatpicking, acoustic, electric, folk, rock and blues.
Satin Love Orchestra performs a benefit concert for Habitat For Humanity at the McDonald Theatre (8 pm, $14 adv., $16 door). This 10-member band covers disco and funk hits from the ’70s and ’80s, so boogie on down for a good cause.
J.C. Rico & Zulu Dragon are a terrifically entertaining, last-all-night blues and rock band. Their covers are smokin’ and you will leave satisfied. (Mac’s at the Vet’s, 9:30 pm, $4)
A short drive away, Cottage Grove’s Axe & Fiddle presents three nights of shows leading up to St. Patrick’s special party. The Caledonians offer Celtic bagpipes, drumming and dance on traditional as well as “new age” Celtic tunes (8 pm 3/15, $5). Circled By Hounds performs an acoustic set, supported by Knockagow (6:30 pm 3/16, $3-$6). Finally, Fiana performs an Irish set (8 pm 3/17, $5). No word on what type o’ Irish they are; you’ll have to take a chance.
Skye returns to the WOW Hall
BY BRETT CAMPBELL
Way back at the end of the 20th century, one of the best Celtic music bands outside of the Emerald Isle lived, of all places, in Eugene. Performing classic Irish music and new tunes composed in traditional style, Skye started winning fans after playing the Willamette Valley Folk Festival and other local fairs and clubs and eventually became one of the Pacific Northwest’s most acclaimed Irish music ensembles, chosen to open concerts by Celtic stars such as Solas and Dougie MacLean. Skye’s annual St. Patrick’s Day gig at the WOW Hall was always one of the year’s musical highlights, and the band’s sole CD, It’s About Time, is one of the finest ever made by a Eugene band.
The group disbanded in 2002 as the members pursued disparate musical and nonmusical directions. Singer/guitarist/ fiddler/recorder player Julia Heydon dove more deeply into one of her other passions, Renaissance music, but also found other Celtic musicians to jam with. One of them, Glen Waddell, played guitar, Scottish pipes and whistle — the latter elements missing from Skye’s original incarnation. The combination clicked so well that Heydon prevailed upon two of her old Skyemates — percussionist/guitarist/singer Lexy Wellman and fiddler Michael Bardossi — to unretire and join her and Waddell in a re-formed Skye. And they’ve chosen an ideal venue for their re-introduction: the WOW Hall, on St. Paddy’s Day, March 17. Waddell’s pipery has added a new dimension to the group, which is also at work on a new CD. The return of Skye is the best news I’ve heard about Eugene music in quite awhile; Celtic music fans shouldn’t miss their return to the stage.
Some other members of Heydon’s Eugene early music cohort — Rachel Streeter, Jamie Weaver, Rose Barrett, Jim Rich and Margaret Gries — play in a group called Touchstone with visiting viola da gamba master Roy Whelden. He’s also a composer who writes new music for ancient instruments and has been recorded on the wonderful New Albion label. The group, augmented by UO harp professor and virtuosa Laura Zaerr, also performs on March 17, but as it’s at 3 pm (United Lutheran Church, 22nd and Washington), you can catch both their show and Skye’s. They’ll perform old and new music for harpsichord, voice, guitar, triple harp, recorder, Baroque flute and violin. At the same church the next evening, March 18, they’ll play French Baroque music by Couperin and Monteclair. These are all splendid musicians performing in a wonderfully intimate setting with admission by freewill donation, so there’s no reason to miss these rare opportunities to hear some lovely classic and new music.
When the Shedd opened up a few years ago and started bringing some of the biggest names in jazz to town, I expected to be dazzled by the likes of Bill Frisell and Wayne Shorter — and I was. And yet if I had to pick just one Shedd jazz concert as my favorite, it would have to be the Dave Holland Quintet‘s 2003 appearance. Oh, I knew that Holland was a legend almost from the time he moved from Britain to join Miles Davis’s first great ’70s group. But I didn’t realize that he’d recruited a monster band of amazingly creative musicians, led by sax master Chris Potter and featuring trombonist Robin Eubanks, vibist Steve Nelson and drummer Billy Kilson. Somehow that group reached several of those transcendent moments of perfect musical connection that happen only rarely, even when the best musicians are involved. It was a truly magical show of the very best jazz can offer. I have no idea if they’ll attain such heights again, but I sure wouldn’t want to miss it if they did, and in any case, a show with these all stars can be nothing less than scintillating. Find out on March 21 at the Shedd.
There’s more traditional jazz the next night when Cozmic Pizza hosts Club 7, four twentysomething West Coast musicians devoted to the swingin’ jazz of the 1920s and ’30s. And on March 28, the Missoula-based jazz-funksters of the Fulcrum Theory arrive at Luna. They should appeal to fans of Medeski Martin & Wood, Karl Denson, Garaj Mahal and that breed.
The UO’s winter season wraps up with another installment of Flute Day, one of my favorite UO concerts last year. This year’s version, which happens in Beall Hall on March 17, features a fusillade of new flute sounds by contemporary composers such as Peteris Vasks and Frederic Rzewski and more. The performers are acclaimed flutists Leonard Garrison and Molly Barth. I’ve seen Barth perform with the terrific contemporary music group Eighth Blackbird and, since she moved to Portland, with FearNoMusic, and she’s a real pistol in modern flute music. On March 15, UO choral groups combine in an international program of music from Brazil, Zambia, various European outposts, Jamaica and more. And they’ll also host the Indonesian Youth Choir, which will sing music from Java, Bali and other islands, augmented by dancers.
Gourmet Ear Candy
The bad person in me indulges in a few gleeful moments of mean-spirited anticipation whenever I’m about to listen to an artist currently enjoying “little darlin'” status. “‘Abundant in imagination and vision?'” I snark to myself as I pop a lovingly produced promo EP into my CD player. “I’ll be the judge of that.” If I had a moustache, I’d totally be twirling it at this point. But then performers like Chris Robley come along and ruin all the fun. Portland-based Robley’s first solo effort, This Is The, has been resoundingly endorsed by critics for both its lyrical depth and instrumental qualities, but what sold me on this album is how ecstatically different it is than anything else out there right now (and yes, I have heard every album that has ever been produced in the history of recorded sound, so I can say this with complete confidence and authority). Robley and his rotating band of merry men and women (dubbed The Fear of Heights) have assembled an unselfconscious collection of ten simple, folky songs (ranging in content from love to wooden legs to dictatorship) and woven around them a melodic tapestry that can simultaneously remind you of The Shins, Chris Isaac, Ani DiFranco, Donovan and the soundtrack to Twin Peaks. The music is visually tangible. I feel like I am hallucinating when I listen to this album. I can’t remember the last time something this artsy didn’t annoy the crap out of me, but I guess that’s what happens when those rare, golden people who offer substance over self-congratulation make albums. Bless them. Chris Robley plays with DoublePlusGood at 10 pm Monday, March 19 at the Downtown Lounge. 21+ show. — Adrienne van der Valk
Pickin’ and Strummin’
|Robin and Linda Williams and Their Fine Group|
At the end of my sophomore year of college, I drove off to Boonville, Mo., for (I kid you not) the Big Muddy Folk Festival. Yep, I used to love a lot of fiddlin’ and a lot of banjoin’, a lot of that high-pitched, high-paced pickin’ and strummin’ loaded over vocal tracks. If Robin and Linda Willams and Their Fine Group had been near Boonville, they would have fit right in at the Big Muddy with their bluegrass/country/folk blend. Linda on banjo and guitar, Robin on guitar, both of ’em on vocals, they stride out from their house deep in the Shenandoah Valley to spread the word of close-harmonied twang to a nation thirsty for the sounds of Appalachia. Listen to “Prairie Home Companion” and you’ll hear Robin and Linda, whom promoter Mike Meyer calls the radio show’s house band. And their most recent CD, 2004’s Deeper Waters, shines with gems like “Old Plank Road” (with Mary Chapin Carpenter and Sissy Spacek on harmony — day-amn!) and “Leaving the Land,” made all the more poignant by Iris Dement’s anguished harmonies. The vengeful “Just Glad You’re Gone” won’t get you pumped like the Dixie Chicks’ “Earl,” but it’s still nice and nasty: “You wallow in the shoals where shallow dreams feed hollow souls … You’re a taker, you’re a user, you’re time I wasted on a loser.”
Their best songs sound new but familiar, an itch you might scratch by tracking down other bluegrass groups. After constant touring alongside their group (Jim Watson of the Red Clay Ramblers on string bass and harmony and Jimmy Gaudreau on mandolin and mandola), Robin and Linda are some of the best-known bluegrass practitioners in the country. They perform traditional songs (slightly reworked), but they’ve also won awards for their own songwriting and had their songs covered by luminaries from Kathy Mattea to Emmylou Harris. Their live performances, say those in the know, bring out the best in a crowd (especially one well-lubricated by some of that there moonshine at Luna); wear your best duds and stand at the ready for a rompin’ great time. Robin and Linda Williams and Their Fine Group play at 8 pm on Thursday, March 22, at Luna. $23.50 adv., $25 door. —Suzi Steffen
Jewmongous Strikes Back
Sean Altman: The name takes me way back … Don’t ask why I was watching Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? well into my teens; it was a way too traumatic time in my life to revisit. But the fact is I watched that show religiously, buffing up on my geography and history while listening to the snazzy barbershop quartet stylings of Altman’s former group Rockapella. Between Greg Lee’s sleuthy detective work and The Chief’s heavy-handed guidance, Rockapella would offer a bit of comic relief amidst all that boring learning.
Since Altman’s departure from the a capella group nearly 10 years ago, he’s nurtured a successful solo career with three solo albums under his belt and a brand new one attributed to his new nom de plume, Jewmongous. With tongue in cheek, Altman’s touts his new project as being “Taller than Jesus.” On the new record, Unorthodox, Altman offers a whimsical new approach to Jewish joke-pop with songs like “Hot Jewish Chicks,” “The Porno Made Me Do It” and the rabidly incisive “Jews for Jesus.” With his neo-doo-wop vocal inflections illuminating every tune, even his more explicit songs sound completely ridiculous and hilarious. Jews and gentiles alike, everyone can appreciate a good-natured Jewmongous parody. Jewmongous performs at 8 pm Thursday, March 22 at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+ show. $15. — Steven Sawada