Eugene Weekly : Music : 3.27.08

Hemlock Rock

Whatever happened to the one-man band? Wasn’t there a time when a hunched-over busker with a bass drum on his back, cymbals between his legs, a guitar and a harmonica occupied every city street corner in America? No? Maybe it was a dream I had. Well, I’m glad someone out there is keeping the one-man band dream alive. His name is The Slow Poisoner, and he’s a bass-drum-stomping, sleigh-bell-shaking, guitar-strumming, self-described one-man surrealistic rock-and-roll band.

Hailing from San Francisco, the Slow Poisoner (also known as Andrew Goldfarb) looks like a southern Gothic Bible-thumper gone awry and sounds like the skeletons of Buddy Holly, Syd Barrett and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins dragged up from the bottom of a burbling swamp — bluesy, bizarre and sort of creepy. In his crackpot voice, he proselytizes about headless roosters, how-to hexing, glass eyes, unseen forces and, of course, mysterious tonics. And in true one-man band tradition, he plays up a snake oil salesman shtick, selling bottles of The Slow Poisoner’s Miracle Tonic at every show. Supposedly, the strange green potion will treat “Elephantiasis, Cholera, Barnacles, Boils, The Fits, Excessive Abscesses, Necrosis, Lavender Fever, General Wasting, Consumption, Women’s Troubles, Gout, Neuralgia, Wandering Limbs, Stoutness, Onanism and Disinterested Bladder.” If that alone doesn’t pique your curiosity, then perhaps you’re incurable. The Slow Poisoner plays with The Underlings and Leo London at 10 pm Saturday, March 29, at Luckey’s. 21+ show. $5. — Jeremy Ohmes


Rain On Me

Indie pop has risen from the Northwest with the commercial success of bands like Death Cab for Cutie and The Shins. Portland and Seattle have been hailed as indie meccas — and rightfully so, as listening to such bands may remind fans of the Northwest’s overcast skies and rainstorms. Canada’s The Coast, however, crosses borders both literally and musically, proving indie pop isn’t just a West Coast phenomenon.

The four friends (including two brothers) who comprise The Coast came together to make music starting in high school. They named their band for the Paul Simon song from Rhythm of The Saints and claim to be influenced by summer breezes and the smell of freshly cut grass. But despite the summery influences, the overcast-rainstorm vibe still comes across in The Coast’s music — in a very good way. Just like a thunderstorm pounding down rain with blasts of lightning, each layer comes together to create a beautiful rhythm. The members of The Coast pay attention to each tiny detail in every layer of their compositions, from oscillating synth beats to melodic guitar riffs and beautiful vocals. The Coast has a versatile sound, perfect for a calm day at home watching the rainfall or dancing up a thunderstorm at their latest show.

The Coast and Long, Tall and Ugly play at 10 pm Thursday, March 27, at Luckey’s. 21+ show. $3. — Anne Pick


Sweet Dope

Some of my favorite songs are covers: Save Ferris’ version of “Come on Eileen,” Cake’s take on “I Will Survive,” Guns N’ Roses’ rendition of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.” Who would have thought that “Sweet Dreams” would sound better as a freaky slow alternarock song? Better yet, who would have thought that a band could take a song like “The Dope Show” and turn it into a knee slapping, good ol’ time?

Unkle Nancy, lead singer of The Dope Show (and Unkle Nancy and the Family Jewels), has always been a huge fan of Marilyn Manson. “The band was created from my like of Manson, vaudeville and jug band music. One day I combined all three and it just worked,” he says.

Nancy’s version of “Dope Show” is fun and catchy as hell. What makes the band’s songs great is the musicians’ ability to mold the original song into their own style, thus making it more current and completely separate from the original. Whether or not you understand Marilyn Manson’s choice of style or antics on stage, the band has written some amazing songs. The Dope Show gives new life and a new arena to songs that are often scoffed at simply because of the listener’s dislike of Manson.

Throw in a banjo, saw, washboard, kazoo and vocals similar to that of Everlast, and the once creepy environment created by Manson becomes a barnyard vaudeville act. Don’t expect to see any colored contacts, clown makeup or screwing of chickens at The Dope Show’s performance. The members of The Dope Show are pretty normal looking twentysomething guys and gals with nothing to prove. You can expect a good time, though.

The Dope Show and Unkle Nancy and the Family Jewels perform at 8:30 pm Sunday, March 30, at Sam Bonds. 21+ show. $3-$5. — Deanna Uutela


Starting Over

How do some bands make it to epic proportions while others who seemingly have the same talent struggle to cross that big time threshold? The Starting Line is one of those bands. While they have quite a following and ample MySpace and Facebook friends, they haven’t managed to thoroughly pop the media bubble.

The band began in Pennsylvania, back in 1999, when the members were around 14. After moving from one record label to another, they finally landed at Virgin. Before they were signed, the band was known as Sunday Drive, but the name was already taken. The Starting Line’s music is reminiscent of Fall Out Boy, but with a little less rock. The instrumentals and beats are original and catchy, but it sometimes feels like the lead singer is yelling at you rather than singing.

Their songs reflect a lot of angst towards past relationships and also at previous record labels. Songs like “Inspired by the $” are clearly emotional rants at past employers. The group does have songs that, although loud and rock-driven, are all about mushy love, like “Island”: “Let’s sail away / Find our own country / We’ll build a house and beds out of palm trees / Let’s get away.”

The band is currently on a college tour, but the guys have have recently announced that at the completion of the tour they will be turning their mics off for a while. After eight years of touring and recording, “eventually you need to stop for a minute and see what else is out there,” the band said at a recent press conference. The members each plan on pursuing something new, whether it’s family or a gig with another band. Maybe they’re hoping to make it bigger with someone else, which is kind of sad, but I guess that’s show biz. The Starting Line, Bayside, Four Years Strong and Steel Train play at 7:30 pm Wednesday, April 2, at the McDonald Theatre. $15 adv., $18 door. — Megan Udow


Nothing Like Bland

Down to Seal Level, the new release from Seattle’s Lucy Bland, doesn’t sound like the work of a band releasing its first full-length album. Precisely mixing traditionally rock instrumentation with gorgeous violin lines, typewriter clicks and electronic tones and sounds, the band lands somewhere between pop and indie rock — while dragging one foot in folk and a singer-songwritery aesthetic with their delicate, intimate songs. You might place them gently between the late-night fables of Azure Ray and the burbling ballads of the Postal Service, though Lucy Bland’s glitches and sparks are used more in the service of creating an atmosphere than of driving a melody that begs you to sing along. Cat Biell’s airy, controlled voice suits both the dreamy (“Venice”) and the forthright (“The Bridge”). On “Valor,” the guitars come to the forefront in a rather Britpoppy sort of way; as the music gets more familiar, Biell stretches out her words, the slow vocal melody providing an unexpected lethargy to the song’s first section. Criss-crossing tones and tempos, sweet strings and subtle beats, Lucy Bland creates smart, thoughtful songs that suggest a reflective mood, a coffee-steamed pane of glass streaked with raindrops, a polished wood floor. This is music that can stick in your head, affecting your perspective, without necessarily being catchy. Lucy Bland and The Fast Computers (a perfect pairing if ever there were one) play at 9 pm Wednesday, April 2, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+ show. $3-$5. — Molly Templeton


Avant Pop

Broadmindedness is a virtue in critics and listeners but not necessarily in artists. Plenty of examples exist of critics who have also been successful artists — John Updike, Virgil Thomson, Chrissie Hynde and Ned Rorem spring to mind — but it’s also possible for the capacious tastes of a truly open-eared music enthusiast to undermine the coherence a creative artist needs. Granted, some performers have made viable careers out of pastiche, but their music can sound like the aural equivalent of High Fidelity music nerds proving their cred by obscurity-citing one-upsmanship.

Not Dominique Leone. Though he’s contributed to Pitchfork, majored in music in college and claims inspiration from musical sources as varied as Debussy, XTC’s Andy Partridge and Miles Davis, Leone’s distinctive voice transcends his diverse influences, and his evident love of pop playfulness erases any suspicion of postmod posturing. The San Francisco-based Leone’s breadth of musical knowledge contributes to the collage-like flavor of his quirky music, in which various 1960s and ’70s style pop and so-called prog strains — ELO, Can, Bee Gees disco, Todd Rundgren, Beatles, Brian Wilson and many more — battle for supremacy. You can almost get whiplash from trying to keep up with his sudden changes of direction, but the poignant tunefulness of a straightforward ballad like “Conversational” leaves no doubt that Leone has the musical substance to ground his kite-flying no matter which way his many musical winds blow. Dominique Leone (vocals & keyboards) plays with Maryclare Brzytwa (flute & vocals) and Corey Fogel (drums) at 8:30 pm Wednesday, Aprll 2, at Cozmic Pizza. $5. — Brett Campbell