Robert Sherwood (mandolin, vocals, guitar), August Dennis (bass), Marisa Korth (vocals, guitar) and Carlo Canlas (violin, vocals) are the musicians who make up Backwater Opera — a group that stitches the sound of bluegrass music into a classical indie-rock tapestry. It’s an aesthetic the band calls “chambergrass.”
Back in 1994, UO freshman Douglas Jenkins bought a cheap cello. The instrument was way too small for him and, what’s more, he didn’t know how to play it. But thanks to the generosity of a superb teacher (Eugene Symphony cellist Sylvie Spengler) and his own DIY determination, Jenkins — who’d played guitar in high-school punk bands — not only learned to play but also taught himself how to arrange pop music for lots of cellos.
There’s a rough and rugged synergy going on in Portland. This synergy is between two musical factions that you’d never think would combine forces. It blends the grungiest corners of the urban jungle with the “just-don’t-give-a-fuck” contigent of the Northwest backwoods. It’s jug band, it’s folk punk, rockabilly, punk blues, cowpunk and psychobilly. Call it whatever suits your fancy, ‘cause by the time the corn whiskey hits your bloodstream it’ll all blend together seamlessly.
Watching a carboy of beer or a jar of kimchi gurgle with life or erupt from a blow-off tube is like peeking into an alternative universe. At the Fun with Fermentation Festival hosted by the Willamette Valley Sustainable Foods Alliance, you can learn all about that and more.
Bend, Oregon — known for ski bums, sprawling subdivisions, beautiful scenery and ... experimental prog-influenced post-rock? No, I wouldn’t have guessed that either, but Bend’s Empty Space Orchestra is beginning to make a big noise both east of the Cascades and up and down the Willamette Valley.
Portland Cello Project (PCP) is an interlocking mass of classical and indie rock music that will make you stop and ponder just what else cellos are capable of when in the hands of incredibly talented and stylistically brave musicians.
Dubstep has become synonymous with blunt-force bass and overproduced breakless anarchy. Vibesquad and Kraddy, however, retain the grimy bubbles and ethereal space in their music that originally defined the style without sacrificing the raw modern power that fans eat up.
When I hear the term “world music,” I reach for my revolver. That category ranks right up there with such fallacious and vaguely ethnocentric utterances as “reverse racism” and “primitive culture,” and the queasy phrase contains all the smug bourgeois self-abnegation of a middle-age white dude in a beret reading The Tibetan Book of the Dead over a non-fat vanilla latte at Café Sniff.
It used to be rare to hear Oregon musicians play Baroque music the way composers intended rather than in the anachronistic styles that dominated performances till the end of the 20th century. Now, it’s happily becoming commonplace — but no less a delight.