Before I got sick earlier this month and shut down both this space and the part of my brain that craves loud sounds, I'd been making an effort to attend more shows. I was aiming to snap myself out of a home-bound listening routine that generally involves staring at a wall with headphones on, my hands on a keyboard and my body at a sort of rest that looks like death. I was missing collective joy, sweaty shapes, throbbing rooms, buzzing ears, expensive beers. And so in the week leading up to that midnight hour when some evil bug found a soft spot in my chest to feed on, I took in as many shows as my sensitive senses could handle.
I took pictures, but my phone is apparently intent on capturing blur and blur alone at this point. So hold this familiar image in your mind's eye: guitars; black t-shirts; drummers doing that weird chewing-strangling thing with their mouths while they play; bass players attempting to disappear into their own awkward shells; and people like me standing and staring, waiting to be impressed or at least not bored.
I was mostly not bored and sometimes impressed. This is what I saw.
Anne, Your Rival, Industrial Park – Holocene, June 3
I almost skipped this one. I was afraid Anne's melancholy shoegazing would tip my malaise over into serious sadness. But I went, prepared to shed public tears. Turns out Anne's headlining set, which was far more exuberant than I'd expected, sent me back out into the night trailing good vibes. It was newcomer Industrial Park that hacked through to my plaintive parts and cuddled up to my soul-sickness. This local guitar-drum duo self-identifies as âdoom-gazeâ, and I'm hard-pressed to hammer together a more apt hyphenated descriptor. But âpost-punk-slowcoreâ or âgoth-gazeâ might come close to capturing what Industrial Park is up to with its droning, driving soundtracks for sadsacks. I know who I'll be turning to next time I'm looking to wallow, that's all I know. LISTEN!
Mean Jeans, Therapists, Long Knife – Star Bar, June 6
I'm ashamed to admit this was my first time catching Portland punks Therapists. They play seemingly everywhere all the time, but for some reasonâprobably my mild agoraphobia or my 10pm bedtime or bothâthe stars hadn't aligned before Mean Jeans' tour kick-off show at Star Bar. Better late than never. Standing on a bar stool to see over a packed, bobbing mass of humanity, I witnessed a perfect display of classic punk rock ferocity, the four guys in Therapists pulling off a tight, aggressive blend of Black Flag and the Germs. I recall repeatedly screaming the words âholy shitâ into my brother's blasted ears. I know I say this a lot, but in my universe, it's very high praise: I felt like a teenager all over again, a sloppy mess of joy and rage thrilling to sounds made by people sorta like me who know just what those clashing feelings feel like. WATCH!
White Lung, Wax Idols – The Know, June 9
I was nervous about this show. (Yes, show-going mostly involves a lot of anxiety and shame for me). White Lung's new album, Sorry, had owned my speakers, headphones, brain and heart in the week leading up its appearance at the Know. I was afraid the Vancouver, B.C. band would fail to render the focused, dense fury of its record into a satisfying live experience. I needn't have worried. Well, no, I did need to, because I wouldn't know what to do with myself if I didn't worry, but a more balanced person needn't have done much pre-show fretting, because White Lung is an increasingly rare breed of band, one that can be stripped of overdubbed flourishes without losing any of its beauty and power. Guitarist Kenneth William deserves a good deal of credit for keeping White Lung's live iteration from slipping into rote hardcore speed and volume, his hands seemingly doubling on his guitar's neck to conjure improbable post-punk stabs and swirls while his comrades charge headlong into the fray he creates. Don't miss this band next time they roll through Portland. LISTEN!