Buttery Latin-country-soul, served warm.
No, the woman you see on stage is not Amelia.
That would be Teisha Helgerson, and the word you're looking for is probably "sultry."
Helgerson fronts the band Amelia, with Scott Weddle on guitar, Jesse Emerson on bass and Richard Cuellar on drums. The up-and-coming local outfit plays a simmering blend of melancholy pop, timeless country, Latin and soul, calling to mind hot moonlit nights in tequila-basted border towns or cool dames slinking through black-velvet nightclubs.
"Picking a band name almost killed us," says Weddle. "All of our friends were trying to help, which backfired because somebody would always hate the names we picked. We settled on Amelia because we thought it worked with our Spanish/Latin tastes and with the old-fashioned, antique thing we like."
Recorded at Mike Coykendall's Blue Rooms studio in Southeast Portland, Amelia's new album, Somewhere Left to Fall, has the burnished feel of a record that exists outside of time and trends. Though songs smolder more intensely in a live setting, the record shows off the subtleties of Weddle's songwriting and guitarwork and the richness of Helgerson's vocals.
A fan of Coykendall's band the Old Joe Clarks, Weddle tracked him down after hearing he'd moved to Portland from San Francisco. "I heard his band before I ever met him and loved the music," Weddle says. The two shared a record label, Checkered Past, from back when Weddle played guitar for the Flatirons. "When I found out he had a studio, and heard how good Fernando's last record he recorded there sounded, I asked him if he would work with us."
Coykendall plays on most of the tracks and lends eerie harmony vocals to one, "Come Clean." He and Weddle co-produced the record. "I have great faith in Mike's musical intuition," Weddle says. "He kept us all calm and centered and seemed to have endless patience with the process." Becky Ohlsen
Amelia plays Saturday, Nov. 23, at White Eagle, 836 N Russell St., 282-6810. 9:30 pm. $6. 21+.
Saddle Up for Drugsville
The Warlocks aren't looking to reinvent the wheel--just to get back on the horse.
The Warlocks, a bunch of dronedelic guys from Los Angeles, write almost as many songs about heroin as the Beach Boys did about cars, girls and surfing. Yes, the band also fixates on beastly downer-vibes reminiscent of Altamont or the Manson killings--you know, all the real garden-spot moments of the '60s. But with songs like "The Dope Feels Good" and "Shake the Dope Out," the dual-drummer, triple-guitarist psych-orchestra seems primarily obsessed with drug use.
"It's sex, drugs, and rock and roll, man," explains guitarist J.C. Rees via cell phone as he prepares for a sound check. "Everyone in the band at one point or another has been involved with drugs, sex, and rock and roll."
But in that order?
Rees insists the Warlocks' drug topics are "definitely not a reference to all people in the band. It's more about people that we know." Whoever's riding, though, the "horse" seems to flaunt its paralytic appeal throughout the band's oeuvre.
Bandleader-songwriter Bobby Hecksher started the Warlocks with the aim of creating a massive sound, using two drummers, three guitars and whatever else was handy. The band's recent Birdman Records album Phoenix nods (off?) to the Velvet Underground, Spacemen 3, Rolling Stones, MC5 and early Pink Floyd. Many songs run long into drone-jams, but Hecksher's penchant for catchy choruses and pretty melodies are as addictive as...well, you know.
The super-sized lineup has remained in near-constant flux since its Y2K debut on Bomp records, including such studio guests as former Spacemen 3 guitarist Sonic Boom and Brian Jonestown Massacre's Anton Newcombe. Rees is confident that the band will maintain its large-scale psychedelic attack for years to come.
"There's a lot of Warlocks out there," the guitarist says. Dave Clifford
The Warlocks play Wednesday, Nov. 20, at Berbati's Pan, 231 SW Ankeny St., 248-4579. The Out Crowd and Cocaine Unicorn also appear. 9 pm. $7. 21+.
MUSIC NEWS & OPINION
HISS and VINEGAR
GNR ROCKS NORTHWEST! NOT REALLY!
It once seemed the world waited, breath bated, for the return of Axl Rose and his retooled Guns N' Roses. Remember the Spin cover? The hideous (though hyped) MTV appearance? Sadly for the red-maned paunch-rocker, his long-delayed comeback looks to be mid-fizzle. For example, did you realize the new Guns (which, just to give you an idea, feature Buckethead) toured our great region just last week? What, you missed it too? Axl's three-date return began inauspiciously when he failed to show for a Vancouver, B.C., gig--the Canadians, famously deprived of things to be angry about, rioted. And that was the highlight: Rose and company played to raggedy, mostly empty houses at the epic-ugly Tacoma Dome and that famed palace of the people's culture, the Idaho Center just outside Boise. "Some of the 4,400 fans sneaked away early," writes Idaho Statesman critic Michael Deeds. "Others just chugged more beer and rawked on." County fair appearances can't be far behind. Axl--see ya never!
H&V HITS THE BRICKS
Who could pass up the chance to get hammered in an alien city and stumble drunk through the bad parts of town--especially when a top-flight music mini-fest is in session? Such was the case in San Francisco over the extended weekend of Nov. 14-17. Thundergods Neurosis hosted a four-night event named Beyond the Pale, calling upon such Clear Channel-disapproved artists as ambient grandfather Robert Rich, former Swans diva Jarboe, and doomy newcomers Tarantula Hawk to summon the darkness. Portland's Pleasure Forever had the dubious honor of performing between the psychically spooky (and physically confrontational) Phantom Limbs and the much-ballyhooed reunion of Savage Republic, but pulled it off with, as one PF lyric goes, "flash and panache": A set featuring several new songs showed the trio simultaneously adding more Vegas piano-flash and more leg-humping lustiness to its already sweaty and melodramatic oeuvre.
SCHIZOID SOCIOLOGICAL RIDDLE
What kind of country puts Trent Lott in charge of Congress one week, and Eminem on top of the box-office charts the next? Just wondering.
Blackbird packed out on Friday the 8th for a visit from the Scene Creamers, the new band featuring longtime D.C. scenemaker/svengali Ian Svenonius. Glad to see SvenDawg's looking unwholesome as ever--got the plasticky vampire hair and no-daylight sallowness going on strong. But is it just us, or does the one-time Nation of Ulysses and Make-Up pointman need a gimmick makeover? The band's neo-'60s kitsch-ridden psych-funk was completely predictable--everyone the indie (i.e., impoverished) side of J-Lo seems to be mining some warmed-over Great Society shtick. Bad enough that the Boomers will never shut up about the five or six years they spent experimenting with weed and Ho Chi Minh. Do their frickin' kids have to be on about it, too? Fortunately local openers The Formless injected fresh corpuscles into the night: The duo's stripped-bare brutalism could take 'em places.