Primer: Calobo


1988 on Washington's Orcas Island.


Sounds like: Indigo Girls meet Blues Traveler, then go on to form Fleetwood Mac.

For fans of: The '90s; the Beavers; a wildly talented troupe of musicians with distinct-yet-approachable tastes that cared most about finding an audience for tunes well out of fashion.

Latest release: Calobo itself hasn't recorded a new album since before its 2001 split, but singer-mandolinist Caleb Klauder's globe-trotting old-time outfit Foghorn Stringband and Americana supergroup Black Prairie (featuring pianist Jenny Conlee and bassist Nate Query, also of a little band known as the Decemberists) have issued, respectively, Outshine the Sun and A Tear in the Eye Is a Wound in the Heart over the past month.

Why you care: Nostalgia plays a part, of course. Calobo moved around 150,000 albums—staggering sales figures for a band without notable radio play, label support or an established independent distribution network—through a decade's worth of constant touring up and down the West Coast and maintaining a reliable presence at university campuses (chiefly Oregon State University and Lewis & Clark, where members attended school). At a time when the local music scene was relatively grasslands far as the eye could see, there simply was no other professionally organized and rigorously trained outfit concentrating upon songcraft that actually spurred onlookers to hit the floor and dance. Portland's not the sort of city for collegiate homecoming events, but that's the most relevant corollary to the sweeping bonhomie Calobo's reunion engenders—most notably for the band itself, whose members have enjoyed such success through their individual projects that varying touring schedules never before allowed this serendipitous mutual break.

SEE IT: Calobo plays Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W Burnside St., on Friday, Oct. 5. 9 pm. $18 advance, $20 day of show. All ages. 

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