Saturday, September 10
Avi Buffalo @ Doug Fir Lounge
After a very long Friday night, I was running late to the Doug Fir Saturday morning and eventually gave up on seeing Antlers and Explosions In The Sky. I did, however, roll in right on time to take a look at the wonderful poster expo set up at the Jupiter Hotel and then catch Long Beach, California's Avi Buffalo. Avi Buffalo's "What's In It For?" has been one of my favorite tracks of the last couple of years, and the group plays great light, slightly twangy pop songs—sort of like Neil Young fronting the Shins. This afternoon session was definitely worth seeing, even as front man Avi Zahner-Isenberg motormouthed his banter between songs, clearly over enjoying our city's rich supply of good coffee.
Arrow of Light, Casey Jarman, Alison Hallett, Your Rival, Michael Heald, Drew Scott Swenhaugen @ The Woods
One festival just wasn't enough for me this weekend, so I stopped by THIS! Fest at the Woods for a few quick hours. The gathering was a great concept featuring two writers reading between bands. I wanted to stay all night but left for a friend's birthday party.
Rebecca Gates, Ted Leo @ Backspace
Shortly after midnight, Rebecca Gates led us all through a sing along of "Happy Birthday" directed at Ted Leo, who had just turned 41. Leo played along on guitar, not letting up for a second. A little after 12:30, Leo said it was getting late. I almost never shout things at performers I don't know, but I just had to yell, "It's early!" Leo could have played all night.
Priory @ Someday Lounge
With past releases by Sexton Blake and Blind Pilot under their belt, Expunged Records have had a pretty good track record. Priory, falling somewhere between those two projects in style, feels like a natural progression for the label. The group showed a lot of energy and had a great light show, soldiering on into the waning hours of the night.
Sunday, September 11
LMFAO, Ke$ha @ Rose Garden
LMFAO are an absolute embarrassment and one of the worst wastes I've ever seen. It's appalling that the group is even remotely successful beyond a few joke parties. What's worse is that they are the son and grandson (Uncle and nephew to each other) of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr. Clearly taste has skipped two generations. Then again, it was the younger Gordy's Grandmother who tonight gave a rambling, stuttered and totally-out-of-place remembrance of 9/11 capped by a reminder to "Keep pimping!" Somewhere Andrew W.K. facepalmed. Pretty much anything that followed this overwrought display would have been a welcome palette cleanser. Ke$ha would have been awesome regardless. After all, what better way to wind down the summer season than with the reigning master of summer anthems? It might seem a little strange to rant about the tastelessness of LMFAO and then turn around and praise Ke$ha, who can certainly come off as questionable, tasteless and borderline offensive to the sensibilities of some. There's something different about Ke$ha though that separates her from the middling-go-nowhere garbage peddled by LMFAO. Indeed, Ke$ha has the personality, stage presence and dynamism to have seamlessly integrated herself into the mainstream as, to put it in simplistic demographic terms, a white female rapper. Think about that for a second. Ke$ha can rap the verses and sing the hooks, and she appears to have the ambition and momentum behind her to run the clock until further notice. Tik tok!
Monday, September 12
William Topley @ Music Millennium
Caught just the last two songs of Topley's acoustic set, but it was enough to make me want to see more the next day.
Tuesday, September 13
William Topley and the Black River Band @ Mission Theater
Mission Theater proved an ideal setting for William Topley and the Black River Band. If you were to walk into a random pub in England, you would be dead lucky to catch a group with the sheer talent of Topley and his group. Tonight, at an intimate McMennamins owned "brew and view" venue, the British singer and his ace group played a rollicking and rustic set. Topley, who had a major radio hit in 2002 with "Back to Believing," bears an eerie visual resemblance to Van Morrison and shares that singer's gutty warmth, obsessions with nature and American geography and culture. Similar touchstones would be Joe Cocker and later-blooming-baby-boomer-generation-Americans Marc Cohn, Bruce Hornsby and Huey Lewis. It feels like a crime that Topley isn't better known. Maybe somewhere along the line the fates smiled a little harder on David Gray and James Blunt instead. Then again, perhaps we can be OK with keeping Topley our little-secret-handshake-password-guarded treasure.
Thursday, September 15
Elba @ Ella St. Social Cub
"Romanticism implies nostalgia for damaged goods," wrote jazz pianist Brad Melhdau. Two seconds into seeing Seattle's Elba fill the cozy confines of Ella St. Social Cub with their wall of atmospheric ringing guitar laced songs and pretty harmonies, I felt nostalgic about the band despite never having seen the group play live. Here's hoping they make several more memories for us in the future.
Mitten @ Someday Lounge
Depeche Mode's "Just Can't Get Enough" turned 30 earlier this month, so it seemed fitting that late in their set, Mitten covered my favorite Depeche Mode track "Never Let You Down Again." The Brooklyn-based trio harmonized sweetly over glitchy beat-driven electro pop. Two days later they opened for DEVO, the Psychedelic Furs and Tom Tom Club at the Red Hook Brewery 30th Anniversary Celebration. Not bad.
Friday, September 16
Fringe Class, Profcal @ Backspace
Playing just their second show, Fringe Class played an impressive synth-heavy set with lots of new-wave influence.
Devo @ Crystal Ballroom
What can ya say about seeing Devo? It was surreal. Members of And And And, the Minders, Red Fang, STLS and other Portland bands could be spotted among the crowd. Devo has had much influence over modern groups, but are now five years overdue for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This is an honor the legendarily iconoclastic band would probably just as soon ignore. Devo performed their deconstructionist post-modern takes on "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and "Secret Agent Man" and, of course, their best-remembered original material. There were costume changes, masks, a great video screen and lots of lots of antics. Wrapped in their absurdity is a dystopian worldview with a dark cautionary optimism as unfortunately prescient today as it was when they first formed in the wake of the Kent State shootings.