Eugene Weekly : Music : 10.21.10


Blue Scholar Suspension

Even when Seattle’s Blue Scholars are in between releases (they’ve been in and out of the studio lately working on new material), the duo’s sharp, sometimes-acerbic rhymes about the state of the union still make waves. Last month, a teacher in Spokane was suspended for playing “Commencement Day,” a song from the band’s 2005 EP The Long March, for his students. The administration claimed the decision was made not because of the song’s content, which contains the typical challenges to conventional authority we’ve come to know and expect from Geo and Sabzi (including a particularly appropriate censure of school censorship), but because of the use of the words “fuck” and “shit.” If anything positive came out of the whole fracas other than a very timely and relevant discussion of what is “appropriate” to use in the classroom, it’s the knowledge that the Blue Scholars will not be selling out their values even as they play ever-larger venues. Over the past six years, both Geo and Sabzi have honed their skills to a razor-sharp precision that comes off like a gourmet meal served in lieu of the mass-marketed McDonald’s nonsense you’re likely to hear if you flip on any Top 40, Clear Channel-operated hip-hop radio station in the country. Why most people still go for the McDonald’s is anyone’s guess, but if incidents like the one in Spokane keep occurring, perhaps folks will consider putting down the junk food and tasting the real stuff. Blue Scholars, Grieves and Budo and Undermind and K.I. play at 8 pm Thursday, Oct. 21, and Friday, Oct. 22, at WOW Hall. $15. — Sara Brickner


An Anniversary Knocks

Twenty years ago, the Trashcan Sinatras released their debut album, Cake. The album has gone down in history as an underrated classic of the era. To celebrate the anniversary, as well as the release of their fifth studio album, In the Music, the band has been touring all summer long. After an invitation to open for fellow Scots Belle & Sebastian in Seattle, the band decided to extend the tour into the fall, adding an acoustic west coast leg that stops in Eugene at Sam Bond’s Garage on Oct. 21.

Cake scored the Trashcan Sinatras some Smiths-inspired hits with songs such as “Obscurity Knocks,” “Circling the Circumference” and “Only Tongue Can Tell.” The band has since stayed busy recording, touring and fostering a devoted fanbase. To kick off the 2010 summer tour, they played in a Portland living room to 50 fans that had traveled from all over the West Coast.

In the Music contains 10 new studio recordings and eight previously unavailable live acoustic tracks. The BBC describes it as “tender, affecting music that impresses with increasing listens.” The band plans to release more acoustic material in November on a live release called Brel, as well as reissuing their back catalog in 2011 with more touring to follow. The Trashcan Sinatras, Alpha Tango Alpha and Glass Elevator play at 9 pm Thursday, Oct. 21, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+. $10. — William Kennedy


Not Grizzled nor Grisly

Between the name and the sound — like one of their punktastic Fat Wreck Chords labelmates run through a Sam Bond’s filter (or maybe the other way around?) — I half expected the nine members of Old Man Markley to be a bunch of prematurely grizzled old punks who’d set their grown-up sights on a more bluegrass-tinged existence. But no. Well, sort of. OMM calls itself “an amalgam of LA’s finest punk bands and seasoned bluegrass musicians,” a description which fairly effectively suggests the infectious power of OMM’s rollicking, harmony-rich first single, “For Better For Worse.” The three-year-old band’s debut album isn’t due out in January, making “For Better For Worse” a charming tease. At just under three minutes, the tune does a shockingly precise job of combining rambunctious, runaway percussion with a cheerily frantic fiddle and a singalong chorus that ends, “She’s an angel / I’m just a man / I’ll always love her / Until I can’t stand.” The song’s B-side is a Screeching Weasel cover, “The Science of Myth,” a thoughtful narrative about fact and faith; both tracks benefit from crisp production and the gruff edges of singer Johnny’s (no last name) voice. These guys and gals will be sharing stages with the likes of NOFX and the Bouncing Souls later in the year, but they’re also a perfect fit for Cottage Grove’s cozy Axe & Fiddle. Catch them with Scott McDougall at 8:30 pm Friday, Oct. 22, at the Axe & Fiddle. 21+. $5. — Molly Templeton


Bleary Be Damned

Coming off a two-week stretch that included The Flaming Lips, EOTO and Umphrey’s McGee might leave some Eugene concertgoers bleary eyed, but for the truly dedicated there’s more. Ultraviolet Hippopotamus, aside from having an absolutely ridiculous name, are a six-piece prog-rock, jam infused, rootsy batch of goodness hailing from Grand Rapids, Mich. If you were at Summercamp this year, you had the chance to hear them right after an EOTO set. They’ve played at other festivals such as 10,000 Lakes and are making their way into the upper echelons of the Midwest jam circuit. 

Beyond just knowing how to jingle jangle an uppity ditty, these Michiganders pull from a hefty size bag of original jams that range from near reggae sounding riddims to funky bluegrass. Not to pigeonhole, but UV Hippo is most reminiscent of earlier Umphrey’s jams like “Hurt Bird Bath,” more Zappa-like than classic Americana jam, and capable of lengthy, improvised jams that sustain crowd energy. Already claimed as “anthems” among their Midwest following, songs like “North Coast” show their varied influences. Some have a bluegrass twang; others, like “Lay Off the Cream Soda,” an amalgam of funk. 

Even though for the most part these guys are still in the “opening” act band stage, you best believe they can hold their own playing a two-hour show. On their first West Coast tour UV Hippo is looking to melt some faces off in Eugene. Ultraviolet Hippopotamus plays at 10 pm Friday, Oct. 22, at Luckey’s. 21+. $5.
— Andrew Hitz


Kreepy Krauts

It’s hard to believe the German psychobilly band Mad Sin began in 1987, almost 25 years ago. It’s even harder to believe they’re still at it, considering they haven’t exactly been the poster children for clean living, and that they took a hiatus following their 2007 album 20 Years of Sin Sin. Some of the personal tragedies that have befallen them in recent months gave inspiration to their 13th album release, Burn and Rise. As the name suggests, some of the themes are about coming back like the phoenix from the brink of what nearly ended their musical careers and their very lives. In 2009, some close friends of the band passed away. Then vocalist Koefte deVille suffered from severe blood poisoning that left him hospitalized and facing death. As if that wasn’t bad enough, deVille was dumped by his long-term girlfriend, followed by a doctor’s diagnosis: “Change your ways or be dead within a year.”

Well, change he did, and his physical and mental resurgence resonated with the rest of the band as well. They got back into the studio, and the result was Burn and Rise. The album’s 18 songs sound tight as ever, indicating that their blend of psychobilly, rockabilly, ’50s rock-and-roll, punk, surf and even a little country is still fresh as ever. Mad Sin and The Phenomenauts play at 7:30 pm Tuesday, Oct. 26, at WOW Hall. $13 adv., $15 door. — Vanessa Salvia


Passion on the Plains

If there’s one thing Eugene learned from the Eugene Symphony’s most recent conductor search, it’s that Danail Rachev has the passion and grace to conduct composers like Alexander Borodin. In this week’s concert — whose main event is the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 with guest artist Jon Kimura Parker — local audiences will again get to hear some Borodin, with the famous In the Steppes of Central Asia kicking off a concert of Russian intensity and glory. The final piece is Stravinsky’s Petrushka, a ballet which, like Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, is just as often played as performed. 

While Borodin’s piece depicts what one reviewer called “the untamed frontier of Russia’s past,” Stravinsky focuses on the tale of a puppet who comes alive. This concert, perhaps needless to say, will mix narratives with the musical sensitivity Rachev always shows, and he’ll keep on demanding a high-quality performance from the musicians while also asking the audience to keep up. It’s also Rachev’s opening concert for the season thanks to the birth of his first child just as the season began. 

As for the Tchaikovsky, don’t fret, lovers of Tchaikovsky symphonic works: This piano concerto gives much play to the power of the orchestra as well as the skill of the soloist. From armies to a piano/orchestra duel/duet to the animation of the puppet, this concert of Russian masters, under the baton of Maestro Rachev, should earn wild applause from a fired-up Eugene audience. The weather may not be warm, but Silva Hall will be. 

The Eugene Symphony with Jon Kimura Parker plays at 8 pm Thursday, Oct. 21, at the Hult Center. $36-$54. — Suzi Steffen