Shades of Gray
The digital revolution has made it easier for artists to create and tour multimedia works in which sound and vision comprise a unified whole and neither plays a subordinate accompanist role. In Eugene, you can find many of these artists at DIVA, which is primarily an art gallery, after all, but which commendably refuses to limit its concept of art to pictures that hang on the wall. As a result, it’s become a frequent host for innovative multimedia artists from not only the West Coast but also the world beyond.
DIVA’s latest intermedia visitor, Incite, weds tightly constructed, concise bursts of deep bass, static and other fragmentary, sometimes spooky electronic sounds and textures to strangely enticing psychedelic (if that word can be used for images restricted to shades of gray) abstract video projections. The stark, rapidly changing patterns somehow go well with the spare electrominimalism. The award-winning Hamburg-based duo (Kera Nagel and André Aspelmeier) plays international arts festivals as well as clubs, and the best way to get a glimpse of what they do is to check out their videos online (another component of the digital revolution) at www.incite.fragmentedmedia.org/video_incite.html and www.myspace.com/incitefm
The other performers on the bill, whose music will accompany short works by regional video artists, include New York City’s Clocks Ticking Backwards, whose intriguing electronic sounds ride on more conventional beats, and Rejouissance, Jim Heffernan’s moody guitar-based rock. Five bucks ($3 for students) gets you mind expanding experiences for the eyes as well as the ears.
Incite/, Rejouissance, Clocks Ticking Backwards and the JiRCs perform at 8 pm Saturday, July 21, at DIVA. — Brett Campbell
Short Sharp Shocked
Shelley Short isn’t just another sweet-voiced singer, although she writes tender, strummed folk songs in a style reminiscent of the Be Good Tanyas. While I was listening to her second CD, 2006’s Captain Wildhorse (Rides the Heart of Tomorrow), Neko Case came to mind. Short’s music has little in common with Case’s other than a sweeping sense of the dramatic, but in a just world this 27-year-old would be as popular as Case.
Case’s earthy voice gives her songs mass, but Short’s songs are delicate, almost weightless. Her songs aren’t exactly cheery; neither are they somber. They spark stirring emotion through unexpected vocal phrasing and inventive lyricism. “Like Anything, It’s Small” is particularly worthy of adoration, as Short’s voice waltzes into the lines, “It’s cold here / It’s nice here / Life goes on enough here / Like anything it’s a small life that we live here / And I’m riding the end to a story that hasn’t begun.”
Some songs, like “On The Waterfront” (inspired by the Marlon Brando movie of the same name), sound particularly rustic thanks to winsome plucking. And Short croons lovesick on “Pullin’ Pullin’,” describing that familiar tugging when she thinks of her lost love.
Short speaks in the same coltish voice with which she sings. She sweltered in Portland on a recent 100-degree day, describing her job teaching art to kids in summer camp. After moving to Chicago for a while and spending a few months in L.A. (“It was not the place for me,” she says. “It’s a crazy city”), she is settled again in Portland.
She has a new CD, finished but unreleased, entitled Water For The Day. Label issues and her cross-country moves have kept it sitting on the shelf, but she’s hoping for a September release.
She will be performing with stand-up bassist Gary James.
Shelley Short, Vermillion Lies and Brian Kenney Fresno play at 9 pm Friday, July 20, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+ show. $5 — Vanessa Salvia
I must admit, I felt a little disappointed when I first found out that Vampire Weekend has nothing to do with vampires. I expected a group all dressed as Lily Munster and bad versions of Spike from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer singing covers of “Highway to Hell” and Mudhoney’s “Suck You Dry.” As good as that sounds, what I got instead were four relatively unknown Columbia graduates singing about grammar, which I found to be surprisingly bizarre and yet entertaining in its own way.
The band’s name actually refers to the name of a movie the lead singer, Ezra Koenig, made the summer after his freshman year of college. He says the movie was about a guy named Walcott who had to go to Cape Cod to escape a vampire invasion. With no other association to vampires, there are bound to be a handful of confused teens downloading what they think will be another song they can really sink their teeth into.
Though they’ve been labeled an Ivy league-pop band, Vampire Weekend defies the stereotypical sugar-coated, my grandfather and I love to listen to you on our yacht sound that typically surrounds the New York indie pop scene. With a mix of Afrobeat, a multitude of classical instruments, vocals that sound like the spawn of Paul Simon and Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas and one of the best band names ever, Vampire Weekend stands out from the preppy crowd.
Every song sounds different from the next: The band spews out an African-inspired beat in “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” creates some charming schoolboy pop in “Oxford Comma” and tries its hand at ska on “A-Punk,” during which I couldn’t help but laugh at their smurfy interpretation. Proving to the music world that there is something to be said for collared shirts and an expensive education, Vampire Weekend puts the cool in collegiate and does for the maracas what Will Ferrell did for the cowbell. I say to heck with the cowbells — we need more maracas.
Vampire Weekend plays at 10 pm Friday, July 20, at the Indigo District. 21+ show. Free. — Deanna Uutela
Raising Roosters and Raising Hell
Smack in northern Humboldt County, 8 miles inland from 101, is the sleepy little shitburg Blue Lake (pop. 1110). Surrounded by bucolic cow fields and daffodils, you’d think cow punks The Rubberneckers would lead a quiet life at their infamous Farmhouse. Instead, they raise hell at the Logger Bar, taunt the police and raise annoying alarm-clock roosters. Not to mention the rock and roll thing.
On their first album, This Is the Whiskey Rebellion, they snidely peppered the CD with answering-machine clips between their raucous thresher-inspired riffs. One was from an angry neighbor woman who issues a disturbing yet uncertain threat, and another from the mayor of Blue Lake complaining about the Farmhouse rooster. Local papers caught wind of the story. The mayor became a laughingstock and, as mentioned on the band’s second album, Live From the Farmhouse, the rooster became soup stock.
‘Neckers’ front man Clay Smith shrugs it off. “We all know each other,” he says. “They love us as long as we’re not keeping them up at night. No one really likes getting rocked out of bed by a band or a rooster. We try to make friends, not enemies. We also try to be a little quieter at night.”
Maybe that’s the difference between cow punks and citybillies? Real cow punks tip their hats when they pee on your fence.
Fortunately, The Rubberneckers are far more than pedantic podunk pluckers. The band’s careening Peterbuilt sound and witty lyrics-forward songs are more mechanized mayhem than porch swing. The latest release, Political Songs About Drinking, is the strongest offering yet.
“The new album is the culmination of years of work, in songwriting and craft, and our ability to record. The new songs are better, hookier, catchier, better harmonies. There isn’t a single song that I don’t like, which is new because there is always something I’m not happy with. You’re gonna flip,” Smith says.
The Rubberneckers, Sid and Fancy, My Life in Black and White and Attractive and Popular play at 9 pm Wednesday, July 25, at the Indigo District. 21+ show. $5. — John Dooley