Two of Hearts
There’s something special about duets. Not to discredit solo musicians or bands, but the intimacy between two people sharing a song is undeniable. It doesn’t matter if they’re friends, lovers or even ex-lovers — watching and listening to a duet captures the essence of connection and affection. Like most of the arts, music is an isolated project when exercised alone, and bands can lose their connection for too many reasons to mention. But duos — they can connect like no other.
Devon Sproule and Paul Curreri, a married couple from Virginia, have solo projects that are as varied as the seasons. But when they come together, as they did on Valentine Duets, they create delicate country tunes.
Like a June Carter and Johnny Cash for a new generation, Sproule and Curreri purportedly met in 2000 when Curreri jumped on stage at one of Sproule’s shows to sing backup vocals with her. Since then, the pair has married and settled into a life of love and music. But they aren’t 100 percent country darlings. The two have individual tastes in music that get reflected in their separate projects. Sproule’s solo leanings are toward jazzy torch songs, which she loads with rich accordion and stand-up bass. Her voice trades its clear girlishness for a smoky, sultry undertone. Curreri’s music is harder to classify because he does it all. Sometimes he sounds like ’70s rock, other times it’s sweet country ballads. Regardless of what they play, you’ll be guaranteed a heart-warming show. Paul Curreri and Devon Sproule play at 8:30 pm Thursday, Oct. 25, at Luna. 21+ show. $10. — Amanda Burhop
Once again, I find myself writing about the joys and glories of the Massachusetts music scene. For Northampton, I suppose, it’s the confluence of Smith, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, U-Mass and Amherst that creates smart singer-songwriters like Chris Pureka with lovely voices and intensely intelligent lyrical skills. And then there’s Boston, where the coffeehouse scene in the 1990s was so competitve that people had to pay for the chance to sing a few of their songs; out of this scene came Catie Curtis. (If someone could explain to me why Portland’s many music stages combined with the UO, PSU, UP, Reed, etc., don’t produce the same mix of introspective yet political singers in the Willamette Valley, I’d be much obliged — I find it maddening. Maybe we need colder winters … )
In any case, if you live on the East Coast, you can see both of these women fairly often; my friends in N.Y. and Northampton see them so often, and over so many years, that they don’t understand how exciting it is when once or twice a year, Curtis arrives in the Northwest. Curtis’ combination of compassion, audience interaction, accessible lyrics and a girl-next-door (OK, slightly smarter, somewhat gawky yet still sexy girl-next-door) sensibility charms the hell out of her fans. The album Long Night Moon includes the award-winning “People Look Around,” co-written with Mark Erelli about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and sweet songs of love and learning about partnership and parenthood. And Chris Pureka, with her excellent newest album Dryland, can’t help but be a lovely opener for Curtis. The pair from Massachusetts performs at 8 pm Friday, Oct. 26, at the WOW Hall. $18 adv., $20 door. — Suzi Steffen
Aesop Rock’s 99-Octane Brain
Listening to experimental MC Aesop Rock sometimes reminds me of reading Virginia Woolf. Between the long sentences and tangents, understanding someone else’s unchecked brain spew takes more energy than the average schmo wants to invest in leisure activities like reading or hip hop. Which doesn’t mean that they’re not both brilliant — it just explains why many people who say they love hip hop spend their free time listening to that repetitive Akon crap, and why many people who say they love to read don’t ever finish anything but Nicholas Sparks novels.
The difference for me is that while deciphering Virginia Woolf’s streaming consciousness for pleasure requires a level of discipline I don’t possess, there’s no need to understand Aesop’s surreal poetry to enjoy his beats. The guy could get on stage and start rapid-firing “watermelon cantaloupe honeydew” at the crowd, and their hands would still be up in the air, waving to jazzy wind instruments mixed up with some synthy thing that sounds suspiciously like the background music to Columns (the Sega Genesis version of Tetris). Sometimes it gets weird, but it’s never boring.
If you haven’t done it yet, I recommend trying to decipher Aesop’s earlier efforts. It’s worth it. But his newest effort, None Shall Pass, finally brings a little organization into the jumbled brilliance of his rhymes. Solid beats and polished rhymes offer a clearer glimpse into Aesop’s hyperspeed cranium than any of his previous efforts. Like the work of that iconic composer of fables who shares his name, this album incorporates more storytelling, and the organization required to achieve a narrative arc seems to have cleaned up Aesop’s brain like an antique dealer unearthing sheet-sheathed treasures in a cluttered attic.
Aesop Rock performs with Rob Sonic, DJ Big Wiz, Black Moth Super Rainbow, DJ Signify and Blockhead at 9 pm Tuesday, Oct. 30, at the WOW Hall. $16 adv., $18 door. — Sara Brickner
Uke It Out
There are certain occurrences you can expect when someone you know returns from a trip to Hawai’i: One, your pal will be completely broke. Two, he’ll brag about how he got leied. And three, he’ll want to play you a song he learned on his souvenir ukulele.
The ukulele is synonymous with Hawai’ian luaus, but you might be surprised to know, as I was, that there are ukulele clubs all over the country: Bellingham, Seattle, Santa Cruz and even a couple — the Ukulaneys and the Mele Ohana — here in Eugene. The attendance of these clubs is high, and they prove that it doesn’t take a luau to enjoy playing or just listening to the pleasant picking of a uker.
So if you’re interested in trying out the mini guitar, where’s the best place to start? Well, how about at the UkeToberFest? Event creators and fellow Ukulaney members Brook Adams and Keith Blackwell saw an interest and a market for the festival and decided that this year is the year to expose the uke to the rest of Eugene.
This one-day event will offer workshops, jam sessions, hula, a swap meet, open mic, four concerts by a dozen or so local uke acts and a presentation from Buck Mueller on the history of Hawai’ian music, where you can learn interesting facts about the ukulele like how uku lele is Hawai’ian for “jumping flea.”
The festival events will be at various Eugene venues including Rogue Brewery, DIVA, Saturday Market Stage and Cozmic Pizza; just check out their website (www.brookadams.com)for an exact schedule and prices.
The UkeToberFest begins at 9:15 am Saturday, Oct. 27. Price varies depending on event. — Deanna Uutela
Czech It Out
The members of Uz Jsme Doma (pronounced ‘ooje-smay-doma’ and loosely translated as “Now we’re at home”) began their career playing secret shows, not because of hype or manufactured mystique, but because they had to. When the quintet formed in 1985, rock ‘n’ roll in then-Czechoslovakia was considered illegal, an antisocial and decadent form of Western capitalism. The band’s first gig was a hush-hush performance on a riverboat in Prague, and for the next four years leading up to the Velvet Revolution, concerts were clandestine meetings in off-the-map places, undisclosed until right before the show for fear of the police finding out and cracking down. Uz Jsme Doma grew out of that widespread paranoia when music was literally dangerous and art represented freedom, and their spazzed-out, avant-punk sound is a cacophonous rejoinder to that era.
Equally influenced by Frank Zappa’s absurdity, Pere Ubu’s art-damaged dissonance and the Residents’ satiric experimentalism (all of which they discovered via smuggled tapes), Uz Jsme Doma’s music is a freakishly convulsive hybrid of rock, jazz, punk and ska. Saxophones skronk; guitars gangle; melodies mutate into math equations; rhythms ride bucking time signatures; voices vociferate in operatic Czech. It’s a hyperactive Slavic goulash that’s hard to study to, but an unforgettable, visceral experience live. And after 16 years of touring, including a visit to the U.S. at least once a year since 1995 and the first cultural contact to Bosnia after the ’95 Dayton Accords, Uz Jsme Doma is a must-see, frenetic and fun shot in the arm. The word’s out; hopefully, the cops won’t come. Uz Jsme Doma, Capillary Action and On the First Day … They Were Kittens play at 8 pm Thursday, Nov. 1 at the WOW Hall. $10 adv., $12 door. — Jeremy Ohmes
The Dawning of the Red Heads
Imagine running through a field with long reeds gently stroking your bare arms; your sideburns tickle your jaw as the cool breeze dishevels your already dirtied hair. In stride with you in this slow-motion daydream are young and old comrades with flowing hair, obnoxious sunglasses and impeccable taste in vintage clothing. The October sun beats down on you as ominous gray clouds come in and try to ruin your vibe, but your army of cool prevails to the sounds of tambourines and love. Can you dig it, you millennial hipsters, you?
If you feel you can paint a better picture than the one above after listening to The Parson Red Heads‘ first full-length album, King Giraffe, please write a letter to the editor: The rest of us are just flat-out feeling it. Following a psychedelic rock revival led in part by the success of the Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols’ documentary, Dig!, Parson Red Heads sound like everyone you have already heard, but it resonates well. To sum up the album: tambourines, guitar solos, ’60s folk-pop crooning and keyboards that transport you to another era. Oregonian founders Evan Way (vocals, guitar), Brette Marie Way (drums, vocals), Erin Way, Sam Fowles (guitar, vocals), Charlie Hester (guitar, vocals) and Dane Garrard (bass) play with up to 12 members at a time to intensify their neo-free love, “free and easy” tour experience. If only Joel Gion could make an appearance on tambourine.
The Parson Red Heads play with Patrick Hayden and Brian Hall at 8:30 pm Sunday, Oct. 28, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+ show. $5. — Katie Cornell