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Music

However much we’d all like to tell 2016: “Go home, you’re drunk,” New Year’s Eve in Eugene offers plenty of options to get (responsibly) rowdy and dance away the woes of the weird year-that-was.

In 2016, emo was the dominant sound on the Eugene music scene — and across the nation.

About 10 years ago, emo ruled the world. You probably remember it, even if you tried to forget: the punky guitars, the mopey lyrics, the swoopy hair, the eyeliner. 

Well, we’re going to have to stop you right there.

An opera company that produces a New Year’s Eve show typically has two choices: It can present a full opera, often Richard Strauss’ Die Fledermaus (The Bat), which culminates in a bubbly masked ball. Or you can do some version of Opera’s Greatest Hits, featuring popular arias and choruses from the top 10 operas that still constitute the bulk of American operatic fare. 

Or you could do what Eugene Opera is doing with its “Opera Trio” this New Year’s Eve: Present one act from three very different operas. 

Singer-songwriter Phoebe Blume offers an eerily breathtaking setting — much like this winter itself — in her dark and moody oeuvre. 

“I don’t have a choice. I’m definitely dark,” Blume says. “But that is my happy; that’s my light. It’s a very honest approach that I take, which is just the essence of who I am.”

The road to becoming Sonic Bent is long and winding. The self-described “progressive jam with a splash of cry-in-your-beer Americana” band — featuring Jeff Alberts (drums, vocals), Keenan Dorn (guitar, vocals), Noah Kamrat (bass, vocals) and Patrick Kavaney (guitar, vocals) — got its start in 2011. Founding members Kamrat and Kavaney (who met in middle school), however, have been carving the cross-country path to Sonic Bent, dabbling in other music outfits that laid the groundwork for this one, over decades.

Last summer, Portland (and former Eugene) musician Joel Magid admitted on social media he was a sexual predator. The shocking confession garnered national attention, shining a spotlight on sexual assault in music scenes and their subcultures. A cohort of Eugene musicians, led by Jennifer Cheddar, Stephen Buettler and Nick Gamer (Pancho + The Factory), took the opportunity to galvanize. 

If someone makes a movie about the Standing Rock Lakota fighting back against Big Oil, that filmmaker might find the soundtrack at 7:30 pm Friday, Dec. 16, when the Riverside Chamber Symphony premieres Water is Life at Springfield’s Wildish Theater. When he began writing the 10-minute one-movement orchestral work, the composer, UO grad student Justin Ralls, couldn’t have known about the impending protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Wild Child is a band with an intimate toe-tapping twist that could give any indie-folk lover a music boner. Their sound swings between a bottle of wine on a rainy day and a hipster hootenanny.

For 20 years, Xasthur’s Scott Conner didn’t tour. He didn’t do interviews. He recorded solo. He posed with nooses, called himself “Malefic,” recorded songs with names like “Slaughtered Useless Beings In A Nihilistic Dream,” recorded vocals in a coffin and became one of the most famous figures in American black metal — a mostly Scandinavian phenomenon when Conner started Xasthur in 1995.

Ah, the holidays! Time for families and friends to get together and celebrate love and friendship and all those other virtues. So what’s the big family-friendly musical onstage this season about? Why, guns, of course. Hey, this is America! 

Portland singer-songwriter Tara Velarde fuses a wide range of vocals and Latin rhythms to create a concoction I can only describe as diva folk. In the course of one album, Velarde maneuvers her voice from feathery to spine-tingling. You could compare her to Ingrid Michaelson or Laura Marling, but she raises the bar for folk-pop with her experimental and multi-influential mash-ups within the genre. 

It’s often said punks and hippies don’t get along. Nevertheless, Blag Dahlia, vocalist and founding member of legendary and, in some circles, notorious San Francisco shock-punk legends Dwarves, would like to extend an olive branch to the hippie girls of Eugene. 

Mike Stortz always dreamt of relocating his band Johnny Raincloud from South Florida to Portland. During a recent visit to Oregon, Stortz caught a show at Portland music venue Crystal Ballroom. What transpired convinced Stortz to take the plunge.

As a young man, Chris Robinson experienced overnight success with his band The Black Crowes. The Crowes had a major hit in the late '80s with their album Shake Your Money Maker, led by the Rolling Stones-esque single “Hard To Handle.” 

New York-born Ian Matthias Bavitz, better known in the alt-rap world as Aesop Rock, is the epitome of a committed artist. Bavitz has been churning out music with mind-blowing word counts and sick rhythms for more than two decades, but there’s something more to his style than hyping up a crowd. This guy is a sculptor; the beat is his foundation, which he cuts and molds with his lyrics to create a work of art.

Music News & notes from down in the Willamette valley

Christopher Ward, known as mc chris, is considered the king of nerdcore rap. Filmmaker Kevin Smith once called him the “poet laureate of pop culture” due to his entertainment-inspired lyrics.

YG might not be a rapper that everyone has heard of, but his politically straightforward message echoed throughout cities across the nation last Tuesday night as results of the presidential election filtered in. The Compton rapper released his single “FDT (Fuck Donald Trump)" back in March — and, in fact, someone drove down 13th Avenue repeatedly playing this during the Trump rally in May — but the catchphrase has remained a whopping battle-cry during this political cycle. 

Liat Lis and Kyle McGonegle — comprising the old-time folk duo — are a reminder that sometimes, musicians are made for each other. Beyond the lush, characteristic two-part vocal harmonies that carve a wake through Lake Toba’s music, there is songwriting and performance talent at work that Eugene has not seen since the string-band heyday of the previous decade. 

Comic book artist, musician and New York native Jeffrey Lewis comes to Eugene behind his 2015 release, the appropriately titled Manhattan. Like a lost Lou Reed album, Manhattan recalls a time when New York was friendlier to artists and freaks. 

Classical music institutions usually reach backward, content to be historical museums of music by long-dead composers. It wasn’t always thus: Composers like Bach and Beethoven would have been appalled to see how today’s orchestras play mostly yesterday’s music. Had that notion prevailed in their time, the music of those great composers wouldn’t have survived. That retro attitude, a product of the early-mid-20th century, has gradually been changing, and Eugene Symphony president Scott Freck wants his band to lead the way. 

Skating Polly

 

When Andrew Katz, the drummer of alt-indie band Car Seat Headrest, was asked how he feels about returning to his hometown when touring, his response was: “God, it’s awful. I hate it.” 

Keep in mind that Katz is from Eugene, and grew up a mere eight blocks from the University of Oregon campus. 

Rising Appalachia adds an intoxicating recipe of banjo, blues and hip hop to old-time mountain folk. Front women and sisters Leah Song and Chloe Smith are two songbirds (or swamp fairies) who poetically confront social, environmental and political injustices — all the while sticking to their filthy, dirty Southern roots.