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March 29th, 2006 Jason Simms, Casey Jarman, Michael Byrne | Music Stories
 

Local Reviews & Previews

     
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The Manholes
IMAGE: JIM REYNOLDS

Euromotion Saturday April 1

Trouble getting a gig? Euromotion delivers marketing tips from the future.

[ELECTRO-DANCE] Ben Sanabria, who manages the Portland-based, year 3012-transplant, Casio/guitar/drums five-piece Euromotion, claims, "We do very little to promote the band." Yet Seann McKeel, who books the Wonder Ballroom, tracked down the time travelers and offered them a weekend headlining gig at the nearly 800-capacity club. She explains: "I hosted Euromotion at Nocturnal a couple years ago, and I had little idea what we were in store for. It sold out, and the audience was so very into it that when the music had ended, people wouldn't leave; they wouldn't stop dancing. Euromotion is magical!" So how does a band that claims not to self-promote gain such a rabid following?

Step 1: Make a hilarious demo that also demonstrates a lot of talent and "give it out primitive-ancient-2006-technology style" (keyboardist Antonio's vernacular for free distribution online). Sanabria says at least 400 CDR copies of Euromotion recordings were also given away before 2004.

Step 2: Mouth's the word. Euromotion never solicits MySpace friends—people find them—and many share their "Eurostories" on the comments page. Most of them mention how they were given a CD by a friend and were pleasantly surprised to find out that there's is a real-live, gigging band behind it. One fan with the moniker "Don't Smoke Crack" posted, "Until i saw this page, I thought Euromotion was a joke...I guess I was wrong. You guys are now my heros [sic]."

Step 3: Create all-inclusive, feel-good performances. "The band's message is vague, but always positive," says Sanabria. Lyrics boasting the healing powers of dancing are couched in hilarious grammar abuse. As vocalist Skeeter, a German from the year 3012, struggles to explain, "Sometimes I try to sing a song to you and I just laugh at what you think is the funny part." The band's dance moves are equally silly; you cannot out-goofy them. No one has to worry about looking or sounding foolish—the band does it for them, all while playing quality dance music.

Step 4: Never stop expanding the joke. Euromotion's shows continue to grow more elaborate—the band now wears monochromatic outfits and recently hung from the ceiling of the Doug Fir. At their upcoming appearance, among other surprises, the group will have a sign-language interpreter to bring their all-inclusive message to the hearing-impaired. JASON SIMMS. Euromotion plays with the Mathematicians and DJ Beyond at the Wonder Ballroom. 9 pm. $5 advance, $7 day of show. All ages.

Spun DJ Academy

From warehouse digs to college credits: Spun DJ Academy is growing up.

[HIP-HOP] For now, Spun DJ Academy is a graffiti-covered, cubicle-sized room on the second floor of a Southeast Portland warehouse. Its co-founders, Brandon Neustel and Jenna S., dress like people you might find at a rave. But the not-for-profit music school is much more serious than its casual dress code and humble facade would have you believe. Later this year, Spun will relocate in order to meet its overwhelming enrollment, and it's working toward becoming an accredited (degree-granting) institution. CASEY JARMAN.

WW: Is there anything like Spun out there?

Brandon Neustel: The first DJ academy was in London, England; it's called Technics Academy. After that, Grandmaster Flash started Scratch DJ Academy in New York, and now he has one in L.A. and Florida. To the best of my knowledge, we were the third or fourth in the world. I believe we're the only nonprofit DJ academy in the world. I think those other schools are like, "Here, pay $300 to come hang out with a superstar." This isn't a holiday here. We push our students very hard.

Who is the average Spun student?

We get everybody. I have a 35-year-old and I have a 14-year-old. I have hip-hop kids; I have ravers; I have, you know, the MTV generation. That's great, because we don't teach genre, we just teach beats per minute. As long as the BPMs read out, we can show you how to mix whatever you want.

Technology is changing pretty fast. Is there always going to be a place for the DJ?

The turntable is an instrument. When you see what our turntablists do with that thing, you really see that it's an instrument, it's an art. When I go to a club, I want to see someone moving their hands. A lot of the new technology still lets you do that.

Where do you want Spun to be in five years?

In Portland! I've had a lot of people very interested in us going to Seattle, Minneapolis, Phoenix. So in five years, I'd like us to at least be in Seattle and Minneapolis. Also, we should have our accreditation by then: That will allow our students to not only get college elective credits but also financial aid. That would be huge. Classes start April 1 (registration open until all classes are full). For more information (such as the undisclosed location) and to register, call 533-7007 or visit www.spunacademy.com.

Anna Oxygen This Is An Exercise

Anna Oxygen pulls a retro prank, but she's laughing with us, not at us.

Anna Oxygen This Is An Exercise (Kill Rock Stars)

[SYNTH-POP] Anna Oxygen's This Is an Exercise has given us an '80s synth-pop throwback, Electroclash™ homage and L.A dance-club parody all neatly packed into 12 tracks. At first glance, the album reads like a history lesson in plastic music. At second, it plays at art-school subversion, and then there's the third. If you get there, you won't be able to turn away: The album is so over-the-top catchy, listening is like being snared in a retro bear-trap. But such a slow death is worth the bloody melodic bait lurking between those iron jaws. Anna Oxygen's talent for writing a complex melodic hook is undeniable: Plug it into any genre—country-western, suburban emo, hell, even Christian-core—and I'd be a willing victim.

The first fatal, soon-to-be-every-DJ's-favorite hook comes during "Fake Pajamas." Oxygen's polished, opera-trained vocals repeat the pseudo-intellectual refrain, "See with your eyes/ And not with your mind" while a one-two punch of throbbing bass and bleeping synth are layered over a beat I'm reasonably sure came preprogrammed into my own Casio PT-100, circa 1987.

If that track's the thematic signifier, it becomes apparent that we're being fucked with during the futurist absurdism of "Mechanical Fish." It's like a year 3030 version of the Sonic Youth's "Kool Thing" dialogue (where Kim Gordon plays coy to Chuck D.'s badass), only, instead of "Are you going to liberate us girls from male white corporate oppression?," Oxygen's choice line is "I was trying to build a robotic fish/ instead of trying to ask a real fish for advice." Along with "Psychic Rainbow," these songs make for fine "gotchas" within an album that's built on them. MICHAEL BYRNE.

Anna Oxygen plays with Noll, Diana Joy, DJ Beyonda and Disc Jockey Jamms as part of Fleshtone Friday, March 31, at Holocene. 9 pm. $6. 21+.

The Manholes March 26 at Food Hole

The brief brilliance of Portland's most dangerous band.

[PUNK] The Manholes' band leader and vocalist, Ryan "Manhole" (not his real name), has earned his band banishment from many of the clubs in town. The 27-year-old destroyed a jukebox with a chair at Slabtown and fled—bleeding, in a prom dress—on foot across the Ross Island Bridge, after smashing a window at the Twilight. He is admittedly blacked out for many of his shows, and his blond pubic hair almost always makes an appearance.

Before last Sunday's show at Food Hole, Ryan is a little soberer than usual, doing some last-minute rehearsing with two new teenage members of his band, 15-year-old bass player Ryan Reynolds and 16-year-old guitarist Nick Vicario. As the band begins, I am amazed to find them somehow tighter, louder and tougher than the old lineup, even though Vicario later claims he was bullshitting much of the performance.

Ryan's shirt is off from the start. He approaches the audience of about 35 with a feminine shimmy before dropping into a series of leg-flailing headstands and screams. Eventually, he stands up to give stage directions to his band, signaling for them to quiet down and bring it up again with his hands. He gets a little frustrated by Vicario and Reynolds' confusion and hesitation.

After three songs, Ryan takes Vicario's guitar and orders Reynolds to hold the microphone for him as he sings a ballad about Elliott Smith. Amidst snickers, Manhole yells at the crowd to shut up between lines like, "Every geek of the Willamette Week/ Is flogging the dead Either/Or ear/ And awoke a killed rock star/ Twistin' on the devil's dreamworks."

Next he places the microphone between his knees, bends over into it, saying he should have been on the all-local Smith tribute album, To: Elliott From: Portland, and tries to begin a Smith cover. But as the crowd laughs and talks, he stands up and threatens them with violence, ultimately dropping the mic, yelling "This show is over!" unplugging everything and storming out to hysterical laughter.

The whole thing lasts about 12 minutes, which is typical for the Manholes, and few were disappointed. As the most dangerous band in Portland, the Manholes offer a rare experience: a completely unpredictable show. Ryan remarks, "I'm actually intelligent, even though everyone thinks I'm a retard." And it's true—his lyrics, banter and washed-up tortured genius stage act make for some of the wittiest and rowdiest entertainment in town. He's really outdone himself for absurdity by recruiting an underage band—I hope it doesn't land him in jail. JASON SIMMS.


Euromotion plays with the Mathematicians and DJ Beyond at the Wonder Ballroom. 9 pm. $5 advance, $7 day of show. All ages.

Anna Oxygen plays with Noll, Diana Joy, DJ Beyonda and Disc Jockey Jamms as part of Fleshtone Friday, March 31, at Holocene. 9 pm. $6. 21+.

 
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