Eugene Weekly : Music : 4.3.08

Putting the Fun in Funeral

What’s a show without mohawks, zombie rockers and songs about the dead? Not a good show in my opinion. In the spirit of the Dead Kennedys and The Cramps, The Nekronotz put on a high-energy show packed full of psychobilly melody and horror punk hijinks.

Hailing from Hell, Oregon, aka some hodunk town, band members Cutlip Nekronot, Ligi Von Skum and THE Reverend Tommy Gunn are all about entertaining the audience.

“Our shows are meant to be an outlet for the world. We want it to be a place away from politics and life … a place where a person can come and escape life and rock for an hour or so and feel fuckin’ awesome,” said lead singer/guitarist Cutlip Nekronot in recent press material.

Clad in swanky suits and ghoulish makeup, the band makes being a zombie look hot. I’ve seen them playing alongside The Koffin Kats and Zombie Ghost Train, and believe me, these guys could charm the panties off your grandma. It is hard to imagine that at one point in their career the band members actually contemplated getting rid of the costumes.

“That is what the Nekronotz are all about: an entertaining live show,” says Cutlip.

With the recent release of their new album A Day in Hell, the guys are stepping up their game and embracing their alter egos with songs like “Dead,” “REDRUM” and “F’ck Emo.” Expect to hear Cutlip’s best Elvis drawl, Ligi Von Skum’s bass blowing up and THE Rev preaching to the drum gods.

The Nekronotz and Hi Fi Ramblers perform at 10 pm Saturday, April 5, at Diablos Downtown Lounge. 21+ show. $6. — Deanna Uutela


Softly, Softly, Taggers

Getting a press kit from the Portland band Soft Tags is like getting a gift from a really creative boyfriend. Housed in a modest brown box with a Spanish vocabulary sticker on the front (mine said “El Cantarito”), the Tags’ EP and introductory materials were lovingly nestled amidst quirky goodies like a Stash tea bag (orange spice) and a frayed guitar string (either an A or a D). Cute as a button. Oh, and there was a really cute button in there too. After opening something so precious, I really wanted to like these self-declaredly lo-fi, DIY fellows and, luckily, the tracks they sent lived up to their promotional promises (“fuzzed-out acoustic guitars, songs in waltz time, a rejection of chorus-vs-chorus song structure”). There’s a kind of Mazzy Star-ish, Joy-Division-y, recorded-in-a-bathroom sound to the winchester mansion EP that deeply satisfies the indie rock lover in me. And while I have no idea how the low-budget-and-proud recording quality will translate into a live performance, the lyrical quality of their songs combined with the multi-media lightshow they tour with and their general sense of whimsy and style make Soft Tags a pretty appealing prospect for a Saturday night.

Soft Tags will share the stage with Just People, a local band with a big collective heart. How big? Well, they’re giving away T-shirts and music at their CD release party, and their goal as a band is to “raise personal consciousness through music and family.” And you thought rock stars just wanted to get laid! Just People has about a gazillion members, but their ringleader is one Scott Gilmore, singer, idealist and wrangler of youthful energy. Just People will be celebrating their second album, Yet to Be Named, at the Luckey’s show; expect to hear some jamming, some unusual harmonies and instrumentation and some encouragement to get off your butt and get active.

Soft Tags, Just People and The Four Trees play at 10 pm Saturday, April 5, at Luckey’s. 21+ show. $5. — Adrienne van der Valk


Shoegazer for Stargazers

In his quest to become the Van Morrison of rap, Jacksonville Beach, Fla., MC Astronautalis has journeyed from the Scribble Jam Battle Stage (where the likes of Eminem and Slug got their feet wet) to the Vans Warped Tour. After spending years performing as a freestyle and battle rapper, making traditional hip hop ceased to sate Astronautalis’ creative appetite. So Astronautalis, whose real name is Andy Bothwell, ushered his music in a new direction that incorporated his love for Smog and Calvin Johnson as well as Dr. Dre and Young Jeezy. The resulting hybrid amalgamation of hip hop, indie pop and electro sounds like something you’d expect from Bay Area weird-hop label anticon — and like many anticon artists (including Sole, for whom Bothwell has created beats), Bothwell cites shoegazer rock as a major influence. But unlike the shoegazers of old, it was the ex-theater major’s energetic live show that inspired Orlando label Fighting Records to pick up Astronautalis and re-release his 2003 self-released debut, You And Yer Good Ideas.

Bothwell’s second Fighting Records album, 2006’s Mighty Ocean and Nine Dark Theaters, ventures deeper into the experimental pop realm than You And Yer Good Ideas. Not unlike a more accessible, comprehensible Why?, Bothwell sets his angsty, reflective rhymes to subdued, synth-heavy beats that often bear more of a resemblance to a Death Cab for Cutie melody than to a club jam. Mighty Ocean provided Bothwell with his first studio experience, a step up from You And Yer Good Ideas, which was recorded in a bathroom.

Though some of the completed tracks on Mighty Ocean sound like understated, minimalist works, they are actually the product of a painstaking layering process; one track on Mighty Ocean and Nine Dark Theaters (Bothwell won’t say which) incorporates samples from more than 120 songs. And while a third album is in the works, Bothwell’s perfectionism might mean that its release is a ways off. In the interim, see Astronautalis perform at 9 pm Sunday, April 6, at Cozmic Pizza. $5. –Sara Brickner


Healing the Commons

Other than recent visitor Alice di Micele, could there be a more perfect singer-songwriter for the Corvallis Unitarian Universalist Fellowship’s “Concert for the Commons” than Libby Roderick? The Alaskan activist/folkie’s 1990 song “How Could Anyone” rocketed through the global community with viral speed — but this virus, instead of devastating lives, heals them. Seriously. Even Anderson Cooper said so, on Anderson Cooper 360 a few years back, when the show featured the healing power of the song. And now the Canadian Broadcasting Company has gotten into the act, what with a program featuring the use of the song in restorative forgiveness events and all. Cry along now: “How could anyone ever tell you / You were anything less than beautiful? / How could anyone ever tell you / You were less than whole?” Even if you’re resistant to hokey, the song’s lyrics reach deep down to that wounded kid place and make the kid feel a whole hell of a lot better.

But Roderick’s got more than the song that chokes up therapists and patients alike: She’s an environmentalist, an activist for Alaskan Native rights and a citizen of the world in a most responsible fashion. In Corvallis, she’ll provide an emotionally grounded and thoughtful — yet fun and musically enjoyable — balance to OSU’s excellent “Who Owns the Commons?” lecture series. which has featured scholar/activists from Kathleen Dean Moore to David Korten in the past few months. Roderick plays with Corvallis fave Cassandra Robertson at 7:30 pm Wednesday, April 9, at the Corvallis Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 2945 NW Circle Blvd. Cash-only tix are $8 at the door. — Suzi Steffen


Nice Aggro

While waiting for the latest MxPx album to show up in the mail, I took a little trip down memory lane with the band’s 1996 Life in General. Oh, the mid ’90s. Was it “Chick Magnet” or “Move to Bremerton” that charmed me first? Don’t look so shocked: I’m a sucker for pop punk. Blame it on “Longview”-era Green Day, or the first time I heard the Descendents, or that last Jawbreaker album. Or blame it a little bit on this Bremerton, Wash., trio, whose singalong choruses and catchy hooks are enough to help me overlook the moments when the lyrics of “Do Your Feet Hurt?” shift from the Say Anything reference of “Do you care when I tell you / Step around that broken glass?” into a cringeworthy few lines about saving oneself for one’s “one and only love.”

In the years since I last bought an MxPx record (1998’s Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo), the band’s gotten sleeker and fiercer. Secret Weapon (released last summer) still offers a few truly poppy, bouncy tracks, but sometimes it sounds like something you heard on the radio the other day; “Top of the Charts” is just a little too tidy, too … nice, even if that was the sarcastic point of the song, which kisses off a former record label that, as the cliché goes, didn’t hear a single. But several songs shift into a different kind of aggression, a simmering anger that takes sharpest form in the two-minute title track, which begins raucously, singer/bassist Mike Herrera belting, “You always had some trouble with authority / And that’s the way growing up’s supposed to be.” “Secret Weapon” segues straight into “Shut It Down,” a nonstop anthem of insistent drums and whoa-oh choruses that’s one of two songs on the record that address society’s dependence on technology, on communication via cell phones and computer screens. They’re a little old-fashioned, these boys (men, now, really, though I keep thinking of them as the teenagers they were when the band formed). But that’s part of the charm. MxPx plays with headliner Chiodos, The Color Fred and Protest the Hero at 7 pm Wednesday, April 9, at Taboo. $16.50 adv., $20 door. — Molly Templeton