[BOMBASTIC FUZZ-ROCK] It's not a stretch to say that damn near every written story about Texan indie-rock group Centro-matic includes the word "gravel." That's because the voice coming out of its slight, scruffy-faced singer, Will Johnson, is more than a bit rough around the edges. But that's not to say Johnson's incapable of fluidity; in fact, his voice positively soars when he occasionally steps back from the mic for a few precious moments of unamplified a cappella grandeur onstage. And his decade-plus-old band is nothing if not smooth—at least when it comes to synergistic collaboration, huge energy and delivering reliably epic, flawless and rocking live shows.
Johnson's weathered pipes, damaged guitar and knack for cryptic yet relatable lyrics ("We're caught in it backwards/ Racing down asphalt finding the faults") mark the band's individual tracks, for sure. But Centro-matic's sound—which ranges from fuzzed-the-hell-out lo-fi noise rock (see late-'90s opus The Static vs. the Strings, Vol. 1) to grandly arranged, piano-speckled alt-country (ably documented on gorgeous '03 effort Love You Just the Same)—owes just as much to his absurdly talented compadres: drummer Matt Pence, cellist-violinist Scott Danbom and bassist Mark Hedman. Touring in support of Dual Hawks, a two-disc combo effort by Centro and its mellower side project South San Gabriel, the quartet's sure to play one of the festival's best sets. And, judging by the packed house at its MFNW appearance two years back, Portland knows it.