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October 16th, 2002 | Music Stories
 

Music & Nightlife

     
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Amoree Lovell
IMAGE: roger poyda
PREVIEW
Amoree's Menageries
A Portland singer keeps many creepy things at her command.

Dilemmas, dilemmas. Amoree Lovell is dealing with one.

"I'm trying to decide," says Lovell, who sings and plays electric piano with cheeky Gothic élan. "Do you go with degree of weirdness, or number of kills?"

Lovell's working on an alphabet song about serial killers--so she needs 26 of them, obviously. She envisions the song as a highlight of her current work-in-progress, "Six Sadistic Songs for Children."

Touchy business.

"They have to fit together," she says, native Nebraska twang all over her voice. "Like, Bela Kiss rhymes with Albert Fish. But I was using Ed Gein for 'G' because I thought his name was pronounced gine instead of geen, and I wanted to rhyme it with 'vagina.' So now, do I replace Ed Gein? And I've still got to figure 'R' and 'S'."

Lovell has other self-imposed rules slowing her down: no killer nurses, no black widows, because "that's lame." When she's finished, though, her lighthearted survey of human evil will no doubt become another black-tipped Cupid's arrow in Lovell's quiver. Not all her songs are about murderers; some deal with subjects as quotidian as designated drivers, crushes, divorce and roommate troubles. But Amoree's everyday is viewed through a glass darkly, and if the "Six Sadistic Songs" project suggests an off-center sensibility to you--well, you could be on to something.

Lovell's mordant cabaret-style repertoire triangulates Nick Cave, Kurt Weill, some more blackhearted '80s New Wave and Danny Elfman, her personal hero. ("My influence? It's him. I rip off Danny Elfman every chance I get.") She cuts a unique figure on Portland's club scene, taking stages usually decked with rock bands, alone at the keys, wreathed in eternal cigarette smoke. She may be the only musician in a niche-happy town equally at home at punk dive Billy Ray's, indie-rock haven Blackbird, and Mock Crest Tavern, North Portland's blues stronghold. She's definitely the only one whose single favorite gig is playing the Hollywood Theatre lobby during the annual H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, as she did last weekend. And, cool as it is, you sort of hope no one else ever rewrote their childhood piano-lesson book into a cycle of love songs about Godzilla.

A striking figure, all right, cutting a profile all the more impressive for her self-avowed shyness.

"Promoting myself seems really foreign and alien," she says. "I'm not Muhammad Ali--even though I love Muhammad Ali. When he does it, it's beautiful. If I were to do that, I would feel horrible about myself. I find it much easier to talk about my piano. Yes, I can praise this amazing piece of engineering. It's easier to deflect a compliment onto the machine. But to actually take a compliment myself is very hard."

I have no idea what Lovell's house looks like. (We met at the new Vat & Tonsure, appropriate in its own way, opera blaring as dusk played out on the parking garage across the street.) But I know what I imagine: a pell-mell Victorian, going to seed and exhaling ghosts into some mossy Portland side street, protected by wrought-iron gates and feral blackberry bushes. Call it romantic, or call it Romantic. In any case, it's probably a complete misconception. But Lovell's music, so rough on her 76-key electric piano's bass end, makes it sound like a fun, though slightly freaky, place to visit.

She's been building this creaky manse since she moved to Portland in 1999, "driving across four states with four screaming cats." (Yes, a cat person--surprised?) Now, she has recording plans for November, to follow-up a debut EP with which she has a "love-hate relationship." Then, time, money and logistics permitting, she'll tour in February. And even as those plots coalesce, she's contemplating her next artistic move.

"I've established that I can play and smoke a cigarette at the same time. Now I'm trying to figure out what comes next. At one time, thinking about that would have made me crazy and made me cry, but I'm at a point where it's OK to think about those things. I actually enjoy it."

Once she picks her killers, she'll be well on her way. Zach Dundas

MUSIC & NIGHTLIFE NEWS, REPORTS, OPINION
HISS and VINEGAR

STOP US IF YOU'VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE, BUT...

...a Portland hip-hop club is fighting state liquor watchdogs and local cops! Yes, seems hard to believe. But when Rockafella's, a hip-hop-themed nightspot that opened in July on Southwest 4th Avenue, asked the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to transform a 90-day temporary sauce permit into a permanent license, the club hit a snag. The Portland Police Bureau gets to chip in its $0.02 on any OLCC application, and in a Sept. 27 letter, vice squad Lt. Larry Kochever laid down an unfavorable recommendation. OLCC staffers seconded that emotion last week, denying Rockafella's.

Kochever says Stephanos, another downtown dance club owned by Rockafella's owners Patrick Marlton and Emanuel Amato, has issues with rowdy patrons, noise complaints, etc. He also says problems suffered by Polly Esther's, the cheeseball neo-'70s club that occupied Rockafella's address through last spring, haven't abated.

"Last weekend, they weren't even operating with a liquor license, and there were dozens of officers down there, dealing with numerous fights," Kochever says, by way of example.

Rockafella's is the second major hip-hop club to face shutdown this year; Old Town magnet Balzer's shuttered last spring after years of jousting with officialdom. Echoing the Balzer's case, police and OLCC officials say there are compelling public-safety reasons for Rockafella's not to have a license. And as in the Balzer's case, people who work for the club claim their predicament stems from official hostility to hip-hop.

"When we bought Polly Esther's, we got our 90-day license no problem," says Steve Marlton, Patrick's brother and general manager of both clubs. "Then they find out we're doing hip-hop, and suddenly we have a problem." Officials cite law-and-order concerns, rather than musical gripes, when discussing the Rock's rejection.

Marlton says Rockafella's will remain open as an all-ages club while the owners weigh appeal options.

GOGOL BORDELLO: BAPTISM, MARRIAGE, CIRCUMCISION...IN ONE!

A pair of Hiss & Vinegar operatives shelled out a stiff $25 on Saturday, Oct. 5, to see TequilaJazzz at wonderfully odd, back-alley International Club Mummy. Seemed worth it to see one of Russia's biggest rock bands--too bad only a few dozen of Portland's thousands of Russians thought likewise. Dismal turnout aside, the evening evolved into a riotous time, largely at the hands of the kids from MiruMir, Portland's finest Russian-American rock band. (A band, incidentally, that's developing a very well-rounded hard-pop sound and wishes doorknob writers from WW would knock off calling 'em "three-chord noise"...duly noted.) Vodka gone, tequila uncorked, the hour grew late. Suffice to say, H&V's little men were in small condition to rock again come Sabbathday--and yet Gogol Bordello beckoned with yet more Eastern European madness at Dante's.

Advance hype had the place packed with rock-scene faces, thrift-suit proponents, pogo-happy boys and even a few women looking distinctly like aerobics instructors. No matter. The crazed gypsy-punk of GB, coupled with a bizarre (hot, some said) pair of artsy female dancers, proved a great leveler. Of minds, that is, and inhibitions. Hutz, a mustachioed insaniac with calf muscles like little steel bands, leapt and plummeted and harangued in several tortured tongues. The accordion player looked like...an accordion player, complete with striped shirt and tragic-clown expression. The fiddler, a Russian fortysomething, introduced a sweet look for gentlemen of a certain age: leather vest, no shirt, ponytail. And as the room flew off the handle, you could believe the prediction of multikultural revolution hammered home by GB's Multi Kontra Culti vs. Irony. If you missed it, we feel bad for you.

Report, you knave, you varlot! Email hiss@wweek.com.


Amoree Lovell plays Saturday, Oct. 19, at Blackbird, 3728 NE Sandy Blvd., 282-9949. Rasputina and the Spooky Dance Band also appear. 9:30 pm. Cover. 21+.
 
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