As with any small town, community, scene or style, the incest potential quotient in Eugene is high. However, if you put stringed instruments and Mason jars of strong beer in the hands of all participants, you get collectively supportive and dynamic music without sounding recyclical. For The Stagger and Sway, this is tantamount to success. Having played in various bands together over the past few years (and continuing to work with other musicians on other projects), the current lineup of Mike Last (acoustic guitar, vocals), Jerry Abelin (upright bass, vocals), Ken Howe (drums) and Brian Patrick (electric guitar, lap-steel, mandolin etc.) has spent the past year and half since the release of their sophomore album playing more than 60 shows in the Northwest and writing new material for their next record.
Break Til You Bend is a strong collection of honest songs about driving down the curves and switchbacks of Americana as a raucous band of off-kilter beerocrats. Propelled by Last’s acoustic swagger, The Stagger and Sway sounds like Uncle Tupelo’s country honey smeared across Built to Spill’s under-construction foot-stomp stage.
“Our live shows hit harder than our albums,” says Last, but Saturday offers the unique opportunity to see both sides of the sonic spectrum. “For the early show, we play a stripped down all acoustic set,” Last says, “and at night we’ll plug in and rock.” Either way, make sure you stagger, sway and grab another microbrew.
The Stagger and Sway plays 5 pm Saturday, April 21, at Sam Bonds, and 10 pm at Cornucopia Bar and Burgers on 5th; Both shows are free. — Patrick Newson