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Music

January 18, 2018

Josh Hodges has a confession: He doesn’t like to dance. Which is only notable because the music he makes with popular Portland band STRFKR is so damned danceable.

Tunes like “Never Ever,” off STRFKR’s terrific 2016 release Being No One Going Nowhere, feature some of the tastiest grooves and infectious hooks this side of Pharell Williams. It all has just enough urban cool and ’80s revivalism to keep it palatable for Portland — an enticing mix of contemporary electronic dance music mixed with more conventional verse-chorus-verse songwriting.

January 11, 2018

In any contest to name the mythical “world’s greatest electric bassist,” Victor Wooten would score right at the top. The five-time Grammy winner — who also composes, produces and teaches — gained worldwide fame for his buoyant work in Béla Fleck’s Flecktones, which continues.

January 11, 2018

Even though he loves The Ramones, Britt Daniel sometimes gets tired of that straight-ahead rock ’n’ roll 4/4 beat. Daniel is lead singer and guitarist with acclaimed Austin indie rockers Spoon.

“It makes it a little more fun if we can find a groove,” he tells me. “It sort of comes instinctually.” We’re talking about Spoon’s latest release, Hot Thoughts, the band’s ninth studio record and first since returning to well-known indie rock record label Matador. 

January 4, 2018

Reggae is not monolithic. Yet — a little like country music, hip hop or punk — stereotypes exist about how reggae should sound, how the music should be played and even how reggae musicians should look and act. Eugene reggae-rock act One Dollar Check tells me they hope to dispel some of these notions with their latest release, Fill the Void

January 4, 2018

Tatiana Havill Affatati, bassist and back-up vocalist with new Eugene garage-rock three-piece Nudie Mags, has been reading David Byrne’s book How Music Works. She’s particularly interested in the bit Byrne writes about how, before modern recording technology, music was written specifically to fill the space where it was performed, from the concert hall to the beer hall. 

December 28, 2017

Clean energy. Wireless charging. A world connected by invisible communication technology. For many, these technologies are today’s reality and tomorrow’s hope — but they were first realistically envisioned more than a century ago by a Serbian-American immigrant whose name most of us know only because a new car is named after him. 

December 28, 2017

“No big bands ever play Eugene.” 

I frequently hear variations on this sentiment repeated by local music fans — and it drives me nuts. 

This year alone saw SZA, Brockhampton, Travis Scott, Tori Amos, Kehlani, Tyler the Creator, Ty Segall, Protomartyr, Shins, Bedouine, Foo Fighters and A Perfect Circle come through town. That’s just off the top of my head — a deeper dive would produce even more, but as it stands that’s a list of some of the year’s biggest names in music. 

December 21, 2017

Years before this little band called Nirvana suddenly put Seattle on the glittery transcontinental map of rock music, a cornball clutch of great local outfits were plying their own inbred brand of Northwest cool, playing for peanuts in small joints to an incestuous tribe of passionate geeks and plaid-clad oafs.

December 21, 2017

I’m hanging out with Eugene band VCR and two oversized black house cats at their rehearsal space in the Whiteaker. Drummer Tyler Howard is treating me to the fake TED Talk/quasi-standup comedy shtick he calls VAPEtalks, which he occasionally performs at venues around town.

In the act, Howard riffs on techno-babble nonsense, spouting statistics about the cloud and the future of emails and global warming, spoofing the knowing gravitas that’s become TED Talk’s signature style. 

December 14, 2017

Violinist Lindsey Stirling has a presence from another time — a magic that emulates the innocence of awe and wonder. She twirls like a ballerina on stage and entrances audiences with the intricate spells cast by her violin. And, for a split second, you’re caught thinking that the stories in fairytales really do exist.

December 13, 2017

The skies may have been sunny so far this month, but let’s face it: It’s been a dark and stormy year, and given our usual winter weather, the gloom is likely to remain with us for a while.

December 7, 2017

Todd Park Mohr, bandleader with Big Head Todd and The Monsters, tells me there’s one primary lyrical theme on his band’s latest release: “The heart is always wrong.” We’re talking about New World Arisin’, Big Head Todd’s 12th studio album, out now on Big Records. 

“I find conflict to be a rich subject matter,” he explains, “trying to understand what all conflicts have in common. Relationships are conflict-driven. I think our emotions are part of that structure. Oftentimes they’re misleading or wrong, and people are trapped in conflicts.”

November 30, 2017

 I brought my second-grader, P, to the Tori Amos show at the Hult Center Nov. 25 (his first, my fifth) thinking that, as a budding performer himself, he might really be interested in her music, her performance, and all the other bits that go into a making a concert.

It’s a bit of a risk with him; will his attention span hold out? Will it be too loud? Will he talk in his too-loud voice or his too-loud stage whisper the entire performance? I keep my fingers crossed and we take the leap. 

November 30, 2017

Musicals used to start on stage and then go to the big screen. But that’s been changing lately, and one of the most prominent early screen-to-stage musicals was the 1952 film classic Singin’ in the Rain, which creators Betty Comden and Adolph Green adapted into a stage musical (with choreography by none other than Twyla Tharp) three decades later.

November 30, 2017

Here’s a quick rundown on Dave Grohl’s résumé: He was the drummer with Nirvana. That really ought to be enough, but Grohl also fronts the long-lasting and arguably more commercially successful Foo Fighters. This year the grunge-lite, neo-classic rock Foos released their ninth studio record Concrete and Gold

November 30, 2017

In 1891, Oscar Wilde wrote: “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” This evokes mysterious electronic musician Slow Magic (nobody’s sure who he really is), who performs behind a multi-colored animal mask, never revealing his true face. The popular producer stops in Eugene behind his latest release Float

November 22, 2017

Eugene artists Halie Loren, Bettreena “Betty” Jaeger and Amelia Reising will never forget the first time they heard the music of Tori Amos.

Jaeger is a singer-songwriter best known for her work with Betty and the Boy and now Betty and the Babes. “As a kid, I found her music deeply terrifying in a way,” Jaeger says. “I sensed a level of indescribable rage in her voice that immediately caught my attention as a sensitive preteen.” 

November 22, 2017

There are things both vintage and new in the plastic soul of Denver-based husband and wife duo Tennis. On the band’s latest release, Yours Conditionally, Helen Reddy meets the ’70s vibe of male/female duos like Buckingham Nicks, or the soulful disco shuffle of Minnie Riperton and the Commodores’ “Easy.”

There are glassy keyboards and Steely Dan guitar licks, as well as the dream pop of contemporary bands like Beach House up against the detached, aristocratic pretense of popular millennial indie rock acts like Vampire Weekend. 

November 16, 2017

“Sonder” is defined by The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows as the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. Experimental indie musician Kishi Bashi  — that’s the performance name for Kaoru Ishibashi — creates a soundscape as dynamic as the lives of people buzzing around us with his vast array of instruments and meshing of genres. 

November 16, 2017

From Joseph Joachim to Jascha Heifetz to Itzhak Perlman to Joshua Bell and so many more, solo violinists have been the closest things to rock stars in classical music. Star pianists like Liszt and Glenn Gould and Van Cliburn might argue, but as even flamboyant rock pianists Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elton John discovered, it’s easier to flash your chops onstage when you can stand up and move around.

November 9, 2017

Ani DiFranco has had many labels — singer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, poet, activist, feminist, businesswoman — but at the end of the day she’s just Ani. Unlike so many in her business, DiFranco has flourished by staying true to her character and forging her own path.

November 9, 2017

Pete Bernhard, guitarist with the Santa Cruz-based The Devil Makes Three, says you’ll hear all kinds of old-timey music on his band’s latest release, Redemption and Ruin.

“We tried to choose a little bit of everything,” he tells me over the phone. “Some gospel, some folk songs, some old-time stuff, some country music.”

In the rhythm section, you’ll hear what sounds like a trashcan lid. “There were some junk drums for sure,” Bernhard says. “Weird things like hubcaps, stuff like that. If it seemed like it sounded right on the tune, we used it.” 

November 9, 2017

Los Angeles songwriter Phoebe Bridgers is emailing me from Europe, riding in a van somewhere between Germany and the Netherlands. “I can see miles and miles of forest,” Bridgers writes, “and every once in a while a big open field.” It’s a lonely scene that sits nicely alongside Bridgers’ lonely music.

She is in Europe and will soon be in Eugene, supporting her solo debut, Stranger in the Alps, an album of sad and acoustic lo-fi indie music landing somewhere folksier than Elliott Smith but just this side of roots music.

November 2, 2017

How do you turn a mountain into music? Ask composer Benjamin Krause.

A recent University of Oregon grad, now teaching in Indiana, Krause just wrote a string quartet inspired by views of Oregon’s Cascade mountains (Jefferson, the Sisters, lava fields, lonely trees, etc.) from the Dee Wright Observatory. The terrain and the feelings evoked by the Cascades are audible in Krause’s music, commissioned and performed by Eugene’s Delgani String Quartet this Sunday (Nov. 5) afternoon and Tuesday (Nov. 7) night at United Lutheran Church, 2230 Washington Street.