The night ended with the thud of an acoustic guitar on carpet, and Kyle Morris growling, “I didn’t know I was in a fucking jazz band.” His set of heartfelt, soul-searching twang had been interrupted by two musicians who apparently decided to back him without really asking (a decision that can only have been fueled by alcohol, because as far as I know, etiquette dictates that if someone doesn’t ask you to back them, you don’t. Period). I’m not usually a fan of twangy singer-songwriter fare, but I was intrigued by Morris and his pathos, the Damascus steel knife on his hip and large hat shading his eyes from the sun when it set. I was fully prepared for some buckaroo ho-down shit, but instead I was treated to well-composed, emotionally gripping music, at least until that vibe was imposed upon. I’ll look forward to sets from him in the future.
It has been a long time since I’ve been at a loss for words in describing a band and their sound. This is certainly the case for Little Furry Things, a band who is just getting off the ground in Portland and whose mish-mash of 90’s post-college radio rock, a little bit of blues and country, and even some slight post-hardcore influences had my head spinning more than the Old Crow and keg beer that had been offered throughout the evening. The “hook” of the evening was a transcendent outro breakdown for one of their songs that honestly made me want to skank it out. Much like Kyle Morris after them, Little Furry Things showed me the promise of a new musical discovery. Also, some kind of police officer showed up for their set, and the genius of hosting shows in close proximity to a large venue (The Wonder Ballroom) was demonstrated…as the authority figure was dismissed and the music continued. There’s almost nothing better at a house show than turning cops away and continuing to rock.
I honestly couldn’t tell you if Charming Birds are good, mostly because for a large part of their set they insisted on playing with a super loud stage volume without adjusting the vocal mics accordingly. I tend to assume that the lyrics and vocals in simplistic alt-rock are an important part of the compositions, and these were simply inaudible. For now, I think I’ll stick with “stubborn” as a modifier, it takes a certain kind of commitment to keep on trucking when no one can hear a goddam thing.
I never thought I would show up to a random house show and leave with knowledge of a band that sits right in the middle of the spectrum of Portland legends Danava and blue-collar neer-do-wells Pushy, but there sits Spirit Lake, who absolutely crushed the shit out of their performance. Maybe it was the fact that it was their “home court” (the drummer was the host for the evening), or maybe it was the combination of well seasoned musicians getting together to play an energetic and soulful mix of classic-rock inspired jams, but they killed it, and had my favorite performance of the evening. The psych/heavy psych scene in Portland keeps popping out gems, and Spirit Lake is certainly one of them.
Preceding Spirit Lake was Hong Kong Banana, my first full set of the evening. Their energetic and country/blues/rock infused set had me interested enough to research the band after the show, where I found out that they have been around for a while and are in somewhat of a “transition” period right now. That transition seems to be going pretty well, as the band was tight and inspiring. They honestly reminded me of some good old-fashioned midwestern rock bands that I used to enjoy back in the day, particularly a more country-fried version of Super 88 from Peoria, IL.
Summertime in Portland is upon us. It is the season for showing up to random house shows, catching 5 bands and legitimately enjoying 4 of them. We are spoiled here in the Rose City, and if this kind of quality keeps up for the sunny days, I’m not sure anyone is prepared to handle it. Just make sure to drink responsibly while you’re at it. Enjoy more photos below.