(Doug Fir, 830 E Burnside) Virtually all popular music is based on repetition—repeating rhythms, chord structures, catchy refrains. So why keep listening? Because the best musicians find mystery and suspense within those repeating phrases; a really good song is like a story that grabs you and won't let go until that final beat. Which is why London band 2:54 doesn't quite pass the test. Once you've heard the opening bars of any song on their self-titled debut, you can imagine, more or less, how the rest of the song will sound. Without much exception, you'll be right. Luckily, Brooklyn opening band Widowspeak offers much more mystery in their relaxed, wan, Velvet-y jangle and thump. Boasting some Northwest roots—members hail from Tacoma and Lakewood, Washington—Widowspeak have an inviting, involving sound, plus a devastatingly good rewrite of "In the Pines" on their excellent self-titled debut, recorded with Jarvis Taveniere of Woods. NED LANNAMANN
CLOSER ELECTRONIC MUSIC FESTIVAL: RAIZ, CYANWAVE, JAK, RYAN WALZ, MISS VIXEN
(Refuge, 116 SE Yamhill) Portland's second annual Closer Electronic Music Festival is a four-day festival featuring multiple venues hosting an array of talented performers from the Pacific Northwest and beyond. The focus on underground electronica makes Closer a good choice for the Portland debut of live electronic duo Cyanwave (Seattle's Justin Byrnes and Keith Kelley). Armed with drum machines, synthesizers, and an interesting philosophy on live performance, Cyanwave breathe fresh air into a genre that can often be clouded by artists indistinguishable from each other. Byrnes' background playing guitar in '90s rock bands and Kelley's extensive experience with Midwestern rave culture breed the perfect storm for a reinterpretation of techno. A forward-thinking value placed on "sound aesthetic over genre loyalty" leaves their musical experimentation limited not only to production, but continually explored via their live performances, which present an indulgence for both mind and body. CHRISTINA BROUSSARD
THE SKABBS, DEEP FRIED BOOGIE BAND, MAGNETIC HEALTH FACTORY
(Dante's, 1 SW 3rd) Read our article on the Skabbs.
SKELATOR, LAST EMPIRE, TANAGRA, RITUAL HEALING
(Branx, 320 SE 2nd) Read our article on Last Empire.
THE EX-GIRLFRIENDS CLUB, SUGAR SUGAR SUGAR, HOWLIN WINO
(Kenton Club, 2025 N Kilpatrick) A number of squares heard the Ex-Girlfriends Club via their song "Blowback (I Am Your SuperPAC)," which became a minor internet sensation after Politico featured the video. Apparently, some people found it surprising when rockers in eyeliner and feather boas acknowledged the 1970s were dead long enough to be pissed off by a topical Supreme Court decision. Unfortunately, "Blowback" isn't on Boo Hoo Hoo, the Ex-Girlfriends' debut LP, which avoids anything remotely topical. This is a glam band, and their province is performance, not politics. Frontman Albatross has styled his vocals after David Johansen of the New York Dolls, though the aesthetic evokes a particularly druggy garage, with none of the Dolls' sleeker R&B influences. The Ex-Girlfriends excel at grimy nursery rhymes ("Coming Off Benzos"), with a few weirder, dronier moments, as on the album's standout, "I'm Not Your Man," a sleazy celebration of the single life. REBECCA WILSON
MARK GARDENER, SKY PARADE, HAWKEYE
(Star Theater, 13 NW 6th) Mark Gardener and Andy Bell's falling out and the resultant dissolution of their joint songwriting vehicle, Ride—one of the best British rock bands ever—was a terrible tragedy of the '90s, right up there with Princess Diana's untimely death and Star Wars: Episode 1. In a commercially motivated, regressive misstep, Bell would go on to join Oasis (who wish they were one of the best British rock bands), in addition to forming a new band of his own, the regrettable Hurricane #1 (which sounded a lot like Oasis). Gardener, however, went on to release some stellar solo work of his own, in particular 2005's roundly gorgeous These Beautiful Ghosts. Live, he plays a mixture of Ride classics ("Twisterella," "Vapor Trail") and newer solo material. It all kicks equal amounts of ass. MORGAN TROPER
HAPPY LIFE SOLUTION: DJ SOLOMON, DJ HOJO, DJ vVv, DJ INITIAL P
(Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison) If you're not already on the Asian pop music tip, here's your chance. It's the Happy Life Solution: J-Pop & K-Pop Dance Party featuring many of the insanely fun and hooky Japanese and Korean pop hits, spun by DJs Solomon, Hojo, vVv, and Initial P! Hellooooo Kitty! WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY
MIKAH SYKES, JESS WILLIAMSON, DAVID PLELL
(The Waypost, 3120 N Williams) Chances are that few people in Portland—if any—have any idea who Jess Williamson is. Which means this show has that rare and truly great potential: surprise. Williamson is a singer from Austin, Texas. Her voice is reedy, magnetic, and evocative, with bits of Joanna Newsom, Feist, and other such enchanters. Williamson is backed by two multi-instrumentalists, a girl and boy. Together they play all manner of strings: banjo, cello, and electric guitar, much of which is cloaked under cavernous, shimmering, spooky reverb. This tour is the band's first and, subsequently, their first time in Portland, which means they could be in danger of playing an unjustly empty room. Jess Williamson and her band are a ghostly, smoky, entrancing delight, and the intimacy of this show has potential to be extra special; on return visits to the Northwest there's no reason to think Williamson couldn't be the Next Big Thing. ANDREW R TONRY
(Oregon Zoo, 4001 SW Canyon) Dust off your beehive and fake eyelashes, the B-52s are back on the lawn at the Zoo. Between monkey-flung feces and white wine spritzers, plan to dance that mess around. The Athens crew still sounds phenomenal, and they'll be belting out all your favorites in full party mode. COURTNEY FERGUSON
GOREGON MASSACRE FEST III: PHOBIA, MASSGRAVE, TRANSIENT, BURIALS, HONDURAN & MORE
(East End, 203 SE Grand) What is it about gore and Oregon, other than pleasing alliterative qualities, that go so well together? Is it the long, dreadful seasons of weak sun, heavy rain, and persistent evenings? Is it the abundance of cheap, accessible spaces in which to create, perform, and experience music that destroys and demands renewal? For these and other inexplicable reasons, Portland assumes its role as rightful host of the third Goregon Massacre Fest (the first since 2007) in an all-ages smorgasbord of bands that crush and exalt. Over two days, groups from across North America will share the stage with local stalwarts such as Burials, Elitist, Transient, and Honduran, all of whom are marked by their relentless dedication to independent, self-sufficient music communities—including, but not limited to, those that desecrate and slay. MARANDA BISH
Tip for End Hits?
Email them here.
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!