Eugene Weekly : Music : 6.21.07

The Secret is Out

It’s summertime, and the livin’ is easy, especially when music, wine and food samples are involved. And a kids’ craft and play area to keep the little ones happy? And kids 15 and under are free? Sign me up, bro.

The first annual Summerfest at Secret House Winery promises all this and more as it highlights some of the best local food, music, wine and beer in a daylong celebration.

Organizer Darrel Kau says he and the owners of Secret House decided to do “something different from the commercial concert venue.” Summerfest stemmed from a desire to counter the proliferation of summer concerts with high ticket prices. Kau envisioned an affordable “best of” event for the whole family. “This is the first time we’re doing this, and we’re hoping it breaks even so we can do it again,” Kau says. “It’s in a vineyard, it’s not as formalized as an amphitheater . . . so you just come on in and walk around. There’s lots of space to lounge and fields to play in. It’s very inviting.”

Kau targeted some of the area’s best music. The fest starts at 2 pm with The KoKo Lovetet, representing with slightly funky cool jazz. It gets hotter as the day goes on with the spicy salsa of Eugene’s favorite Latin musicians, Lo Nuestro. After that, sampling time starts at 3 pm! The $10 ticket is a small price to pay for the ample samples coming your way: the wines of Secret House, of course, plus the local brews of Ninkasi Brewing Company and the foods of Mario Bros., Three Forks Wok & Grill and Larson’s Fine Chocolate and Ice Cream.

The day could end there, and I’d be happy, but it’s just getting started. Norma Fraser will perform soulful roots reggae, sung in her warm Jamaican patois that makes any event seem like a tropical holiday. You get a little gritty in the mix with Justin King and the Apologies, who kick out rock and roll with King’s virtuosic guitar. Disco Organica follows, with “trip hop lounge that grooves the soul.”

No Eugene “best of” celebration would be complete without the blues, and you can hardly do better than The Vipers with Deb Cleveland. They’re known and loved by blues fans everywhere, and they draw this celebration of what’s great about summertime in Eugene to a close. Summerfest begins at 2 pm Satuday, June 23, at Secret House Winery (88324 Vineyard Lane, Veneta; for directions see$10, youth under 15 free. Vanessa Salvia


Modern Troubador

Alfonso Maya

Stereotyping of Mexicans isn’t limited to Republican congressmen; it’s easy to assume that a troubadour from Cuernavaca must be playing norteño or ranchero or any of the various varieties of Mexican pop/rock. But Alfonso Maya‘s warm, intimate tunes appeal as much to straightforward folk music fans as world music types.

Maya’s songs emerge from the trova tradition spawned in eastern Cuba. The similarity of the trovadores name to “troubadours” is probably no accident: As part of the socially conscious Nueva Cancion movement that originated in the 1960s, these traveling singer-songrwriters conveyed news, political satire and social concerns around the island. Borne on breezy bossa nova, son and other Latin American rhythms, the style migrated to Mexico, finding a sympathetic home in the now bustling arts capital of Cuernavaca.

Sometimes melancholy, sometimes impetuous, Maya’s loping trova ballads can evoke Gilberto Gil’s early sound. From sly digs at commercial music (couched in hook-laden melodies) to cheerful celebrations of the underground scene to wistful songs of lost love, Maya’s memorable melodies leap across language barriers to the hearts of listeners.

Alfonso Maya plays at 7:30 pm Saturday, June 23, at Cozmic Pizza ($8), and at 7:30 pm Sunday, June 24, at Green Salmon in Yachats. — Brett Campbell



Light on Dark

Lightning Dust

Pieces of other bands from farther north arrive in town this week in the form of Lightning Dust and The Cave Singers. But don’t be fooled: Lightning Dust, the new project of Black Mountain members Amber Webber and Joshua Wells, doesn’t sound like Black Mountain. And The Cave Singers don’t sound like bassist Derek Fudesco’s old band, Pretty Girls Make Graves. Far from it: The trio’s spare tunes, which hover around old-timey but sometimes suggest classic rock done up acoustic style, are haunted by their singer’s scratchy, impassioned voice.

Lightning Dust creates moody, often bleak, relatively slow tunes, with the exception, on their new self-titled album, of the almost disconcertingly jaunty “Wind Me Up.” Amber Webber’s voice is sweet and thick and dark as molasses, winding stickily through songs that are grounded in Joshua Wells’ gracefully straightforward piano lines and occasionally, as on the melancholy and gorgeous “Castles and Caves,” layered with just the right amount of cello. “Jump In,” on which Wells shares the vocal lead, has a carnival-like piano bit that might snag the ears of Jason Webley fans. Wells has a conversational delivery that adds to the peculiar sideshow vibe that sparks some of the songs, but Webber’s tremulous, powerful voice is the star here. At her most plaintive, Webber brings to mind PJ Harvey; the band’s more dirge-like and dreamy tunes suggest Cat Power replacing Nico with the Velvet Underground. Lightning Dust creates hymns for empty rooms with rain-struck windows; their music calls up images of cobwebs in bright corners, clean clothes in the dirt and other such contradictary visions. Lightning Dust and The Cave Singers play at 9 pm Sunday, June 24, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+ show. $5. — Molly Templeton



Musical Complexities

The members of The Walton Complex have been struggling for years to get the band organized and find a sound that’s cohesive and represents who they are. The three founding members met in fall 2003 in the UO residence hall that gave them their name, which explains their slow start and freshness to the Eugene music scene. While college is a great place to meet like-minded musicians, it’s a constant battle to keep up with studies and play music on a regular basis. As a result, music usually comes second.

Since 2003, the band has gone through a few member shakeups as well as experiencing the dreaded conflicting-musical-directions battle. But eventually the band (now Nicholas Arjuna, Matthew Radich, Daniel Rosove and Dan Duerfeldt) found their “cohesive and unified sound.” Drawing from influences like Neil Young, Wilco and Doug Martsch, The Walton Complex plays a mix of jam rock and blues with a garage-band sound. While the band is still working on a professional recording, the songs on its MySpace page point to the band’s growing professionalism and confidence. “Take” begins with a smooth slide guitar that is quickly replaced with an electric guitar riff that switches between building choruses and mellow verses. “Your Garden” is more bluesy but with a hint of ’60s rock. Some sort of reverb is always present on the vocals, which places the lyrics in the background and foregrounds intricate song structure and the musicians’ skills.

“Returning from their long break, the Walton Complex has adapted, channeling their musically independent energy into a new raw sound, filled with dissonance, tension, and detailed musical interplay,” says their MySpace page. But sadly, the boys’ email hinted at the band’s end. If that’s the case, take the opportunity to see them while you still can. The Walton Complex and Boy Eats Drum Machine play at 10 pm Sunday, June 24, at the Indigo District. 21+ show. $3. — Amanda Burhop



Drinking on the Job

Jeff Burke and Vida Wakeman enjoy the simple things in life: acoustic guitar, road trips, drinking on the job and country music. Hailing from New Orleans, The Jeff & Vida Band has its own southern style — a mix of rockabilly and bluegrass.

The Jeff & Vida Band

The duo met in Madison, Wisconsin, where Wakeman attended the university. From there they left for New York City to pursue their music career, but NYC didn’t give the duo the inspiration they were looking for. They found their muse on a road trip to Nashville.

“We left New York because we couldn’t afford to live there anymore, and we were thinking pretty heavily about moving to Nashville,” says Burke in press material. “We never did make it to Nashville. After we visited some friends in the southeast, we needed to make some money, and New Orleans was the place to do that. We have lived there ever since.”

Their musical influences range from Bob Dylan to Chuck Berry. Wakeman, the main singer-songwriter of the group, was influenced the most by her father’s musical tastes: Merle Haggard, Patsy Cline, Little Richard. Burke, the group’s main instrumentalist, began playing on an electric guitar but soon switched to the acoustic, later picking up the banjo and mandolin after being exposed to bluegrass and roots music. “I started listening to Doc Watson when I lived in New York City and then a friend invited me down to the Merlefest in North Carolina. I was so excited by the raw power that all those great musicians could get out of just their acoustic instruments that all I wanted to do was learn how to play that style of music,” he says in press material.

With a voice as unique as Janis Joplin’s and a look that is as wild and free-spirited as her music, Wakeman has a mesmerizing quality that makes you want to listen. And Burke, the Ricky to her Lucy, has no problem matching her vivaciousness with a vitality all his own. The Jeff & Vida Band and The Comforters play at 9 pm Wednesday, June 27, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+ show. $5. — Deanna Uutela