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Music

Music news & notes from down in the Willamette valley.

Musical traditions, like cuisine, say a lot about a culture. Pay attention and learn of pinnacles, invasions, conquests and declines. The recipe for great music and food is often the contradiction of outsiders celebrating their own lousy situation, mixing in ingredients that in different contexts might not make sense. New York’s Gogol Bordello has long been one of rock’s tastiest stews — a culture unto themselves. 

We usually hear one dimension of Peter Tchaikovsky: his melody-drenched ballet scores, especially that one that cracks up every Christmas.

But along with famous concertos and symphonies, the great Russian Romantic composer also wrote operas, and this Friday and Saturday, March 11-12, Eugene Opera presents one of the most popular, Eugene Onegin, at the Hult Center. Based on Pushkin’s novel of romantic reversals — girl wants boy, boy rejects girl, then changes his mind, with tragic consequences — Tchaikovsky’s 1888 lyric opera has everything fans cherish in his music: sumptuous melodies, emotional drama, even dance in all three acts, choreographed here by Antonio Anacan and performed by a half-dozen Eugene Ballet dancers.

Jared Pellerin grew up in New Orleans but was displaced in high school when Hurricane Katrina hit. Forced to abandon all of his possessions and take with him only his resilience and the influence of New Orleans’ music culture, Pellerin relocated with his family to Jackson, Mississippi. 

While the Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Festival is only in its third year in Eugene, it’s part of a 34-year-old tradition that “began in 1982 as a tribute to one of Hawaii’s iconic and most celebrated slack key musicians, Gabby ‘Pops’ Pahinui, considered the ‘Modern Day Godfather’ of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar.” The one-day fest kicks off 7:30 pm Friday, March 4, in the Hult Center’s Soreng Theater. For newbies, slack-key guitar is a fingerstyle type of guitar music that became popular in Hawaii in the 1960s.

Last year, Seattle band Chastity Belt released its debut, Time to Go Home, on Hardly Art, a subsidiary of Sub Pop Records used to foster and grow interesting bands that might not otherwise be quite ready for prime time. 

Ani DiFranco doesn’t mince words: Her current tour is called Vote Dammit! The objective is to ignite the political fires of an audience through music and community building. 

“It’s about participation,” DiFranco tells EW. “If we sit out on election day, bad things will happen, but if everyone who could vote would vote we’d have a better country.” 

Is another run through of Burt Bacharach’s music really what the world needs now?

Don’t dismiss Eugene Concert Choir’s Feb. 27 show at the Hult Center as another profitable exercise in yet more boomer nostalgia. True, with maybe the exception of Lennon-McCartney and Motown, no one else’s music dominated the ’60s pop charts as much as the irresistibly catchy tunes cranked out by the songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

Music news & notes from down in the Willamette valley.

Metric always seemed a bit timeless to me, which might explain why it freaks me out that the Canadian band has been together for nearly two decades. How have they managed to continue headlining theaters like the McDonald even as fellow Canadian contemporaries like Broken Social Scene and Stars faded from view?

L.A.-based instrumental jazz-rock outfit Kneebody and electronic producer and muttonchops enthusiast Daedelus are the kind of musicians who blow apart any form of genre classification. 

Music news & notes from down in the Willamette valley

Badi Assad comes from a distinguished Brazilian musical family, but she’s blazed new trails, not just as a guitarist (like her brothers Sergio and Odair) but also as a vocalist and body-and-vocal percussionist. Her musical vision broadened to embrace jazz, pop and world music, including collaborations with jazz giants John Abercrombie and Larry Coryell, as well as covers of U2, Bjork, Tori Amos and more. 

STRFKR frontman Josh Hodges thinks a good bit about living without a home — an intentional, rent-free kind of unhoused lifestyle: van dwellers, guys living out of old school buses. 

“There’s some baseball player who lives in his van,” Hughes explains. “It’s not even about a money thing; it just fits his lifestyle.” 

What is the sound of Northwest rock? Some might answer Bikini Kill, Nirvana, The Wipers or even The Kingsmen. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I posit it’s Boise’s Built to Spill

The Annual Freshman Class Cypher put out by XXL Magazine is something like a rap world debutante ball — a chance for the genre’s most promising hopefuls to prove their mettle in rap’s oldest battle tradition. 

Jessica Lea Mayfield is a chameleon. From her first folk-country release With Blasphemy, So Heartfelt (produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys) through her grunge-alternative record Make My Head Sing, Mayfield’s rural music, tinged with a Liz Phair sound, is ever changing — like a pink-haired glittery punk rocker with the heart of a country singer. 

Another musical family, banjo masters Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn, perform duets on Feb. 10 at The Shedd. Fleck’s incomparable skill, 15 Grammies and wide range of musical explorations, along with Washburn’s singing and songwriting promise a show that’s more than just pickin’ and grinnin’, although there’ll be plenty of both.

PWR BTTM is a self-identified queer-core duo from upstate New York that now resides in Brooklyn. 

Last year the band gained massive critical buzz with the release of its debut LP Ugly Cherries, a collection of punk and power-pop tunes subverting heteronormative guitar rock reminiscent of Weezer.

Saintseneca’s guitar-based music is sweetly earnest, exhibiting the infectious melodies and charmingly snotty lo-fi sensibilities of Pavement. In other words, Saintseneca are quintessential college rock.

Yes, technically speaking, Shabazz Palaces is a rap group. But that sort of classification is about as accurate as calling Bitches Brew a jazz record or Captain Beefheart a rock star. Sure, it gets you in the right galaxy, but it does nothing to describe the bizarre constellation of fractured beats, warped vocals and occult imagery the group has formed during their six years together. 

Music News & notes from down in the Willamette valley.

Most people think of the University of Oregon’s contribution to our community’s creativity as primarily educational. But many of its faculty members perform, and this Thursday, Jan. 14, at 7:30 pm, a passel of them will be strutting their onstage skills at the school’s Beall Concert Hall for MASSIVE: A UO Megarecital.

Songwriter Vanessa Carlton’s 2015 release Liberman is partially inspired by her grandfather. “He was a painter,” Carlton tells EW. Carlton’s family changed its surname from Liberman to Lee after World War II “because of anti-Semitism,” she says.

Carlton hangs her grandfather’s work near the piano where she writes her music. “The swirling, beautiful, crazy colors ended up being the inspiration for the type of music I was writing. I wanted to honor his work as a painter,” she recalls.