If there's a prevailing theme to Toronto rapper Drake's career right now, it's to be found in the title and lyrics from the song "All Me" (found on the Deluxe Edition of his latest album Nothing Was the Same), the chief sentiment of which goes: "Came up, that's all me/stay true, that's all me/no help, that's all me/all me for real."
A typical boastful rap—and hopefully his early benefactor Lil' Wayne doesn't consider it a slap in the chops—but it helps set the tone for his current tour, which stopped at the Moda Center last night. There was no coterie of backup dancers or hype men with him, and what musicians that were there were wearing all black and on a platform sunk into the middle of the large circle that dominated the stage. Otherwise it was almost entirely all Drake. All the better to drink in the squeals of the many teenage girls in blush-inducing outfits, the grunts of their male hip-hop head companions, and the yawps of a gaggle of older folks trying to keep up with the youthful surroundings.
This also meant that his openers—rappers PartyNextDoor and Future, and soul/R&B singer extraordinaire Miguel—were forced to use a small lip of the stage that couldn't have been more than 15 feet wide. Miguel at least found a way to work with the constraints, setting himself, a drummer, and a keyboard player on raised platforms and surrounding it all with lights. And damn if he didn't make that small swath of real estate his bitch. He vamped, danced, strutted, and did the splits sending the young ladies at the show (of which there were many) into a frenzy. All while wearing a leather jacket festooned with black feathers. Well played, Miguel.
This was reflected by the audience at Saturday's show. Wait—let me back up here before I go any further. Yes, I saw the Village People. Live. In 2013. Or, at least, what remains of the "classic" lineup—that is, Alex Filey ("The G.I.), Felipe Rose ("The Indian"), and, while technically not a founding member, arguably the most identifiable member of the band (and even that might be a stretch), lead singer Ray Simpson ("The Cop"). The basically faceless "Biker," "Construction Worker," and "Cowboy" personae are all replacement members—and they all look like they could be in their early 30s. The relatively scant audience was, ostensibly, far more conservative than I had expected. There were a few dressed up as their favorite Village Person, most likely with ironic intent, and at least a handful of noxious disco revivalists, but mostly the crowd consisted of normal people, dressed down, dancing along geometrically and singing along tunelessly. It was about as gay as an Elton John concert, which is to say it wasn't really gay at all.
While more Downward Spiral material would have been welcome—no "Closer," although we did hear "A Warm Place"—the show proved Trent Reznor has moved well beyond the bile and rage that earned NIN much of its audience in the '90s. It's been replaced with a tight, incredibly talented outfit that includes heavy-hitters like bassist Pino Palladino (the Who) and singer Lisa Fischer (Twenty Feet from Stardom)—it's probably the band Reznor has wanted to play with all his life: an art-bent progressive rock band with serious chops.
Take a look at KT Wright's amazing photos from the show! Click on each to make 'em bigger, and lots more after the jump.
With none of the photogenic star power and fashion fawning of his far more prominent Mob mate, I didn't expect much support for A$AP Ferg's uncompromisingly ruthless music in Portland. Sounding nothing like the organic jazz-inflected, '90s, granola variety of hiphop our town favors, I was surprised to hear that the Trap Lord's show had sold out.
Then I arrived at Branx on Saturday and realized it was an all-ages show. A rapid assessment of the loudness of the outfits being worn clearly indicated that the unders outnumbered the elders by a fair margin. The youthful vigor of the crowd (along with the above-average bass reinforcement of the venue) helped elevate the otherwise bare-bones performance.
A spectacle is expected when it comes to arena shows, but Macklemore and Ryan Lewis kept their cards close to the chest for the bulk of the show. Sure, there were visuals, such as a video montage dedicated to Woody Harrelson and an LED flag that served as the foundation of Ryan Lewis' DJ decks, but it was relatively low-key for a show of this magnitude—with a larger crowd than even Britney Spears attracted during her last Rose City appearance. And there was plenty of energy from all there performers, but there was also a stop-and-start feeling to the show—a void if you will, one that needed filling. When Taylor Swift graced the same location in August, she delivered several long-winded soliloquies that her audience ate up with glee. That's one element Macklemore could deliver in spades, offering monologues about Grand Theft Auto, smoking weed, sobriety, creativity, and gay marriage. While there definitely cheers from the crowd, more often it was a slow clap that never reached an ovation. An awkward intimacy.
I'm sure that's the last time you're going to see Haim in such a small venue. They'll be a mere speck in your squinting eyes at their next show in Portland. So, hit the jump for more of Inger Klekacz's up close and personal photos from the show, with a couple shots of opening band Io Echo.
“You won’t see a concert like this anywhere else in the world,” said conductor Jeff Tyzik last Saturday at the concert Portland’s Indies. And he was right.
The Oregon Symphony teamed up with Mirah, Black Prairie, and Holcombe Waller at the Schnitzer last Saturday for Portland’s Indies. It was mostly wonderful. Waller opened the show with a shout-out to his niece in the audience and an anecdote about his bachelor-related frustration with attending weddings. During her set, Mirah referenced a show she recently played at a punk rock house in Philadelphia; her mom attended and helped herself to cleaning the punkers’ grungy stovetop. Basically, it was the stereotypical soft-voices and overt-authenticity stuff that people tend to talk about when they talk about Portland. Only it was in a big concert hall with Technicolor stage lights.
There was no mistaking the hominess last Saturday, but more importantly, there was no mistaking the fact that it was an interesting move for the Oregon Symphony’s programming, to pair up with local indie acts (although not entirely unprecedented: In May the symphony paired up with local band Blind Pilot). It’s no secret that symphonies across the country are having serious financial troubles—the Oregon Symphony included—and are seriously examining their budget and their programming to make ends meet. However, whereas other orchestras might bring in well-known, outside acts to generate sales, the Oregon Symphony booked a show with local acts. Which, you have to hand it to them, is kind of risky, but also smart, as it's in touch with the general ethos and tastes of a city that takes a lot of pride in its homegrown.
Perhaps you've read accounts of Fiona Apple's show at the Newmark Theatre last night (Robert Ham has a good one on Stereogum). I don't want to dwell on the horrible last 10 minutes of the show when a solitary heckler body-shamed Fiona Apple, because Apple and her incredible band played an amazing set, and to obsess over the last mortifying scene—when Portland transformed into a pitchfork-wielding mob of petulant preschoolers—would be to take away from the intimate and goofy and powerful set that these musicians so kindly worked their asses off to give to us. So let's try to remember the good parts—all 90 percent of the evening—because I sincerely doubt Fiona Apple will ever grace us with her presence again. Thanks, dickbag hecklers. Yes, even you well-wishers. Learn how to go to a show. It involves shutting your flaptraps and letting the talented people show you what they got. They most definitely don't need any help from you.
I saw Apple's electrifying show at the Schnitzer last summer and was blown away. It is handily in my top-five concerts of all time. She was riveting on stage, complete with wacky banter, and nailing every song as she dipped into her back catalog. It was powerful and fierce and full of raw emotion. This time out on tour, Apple has teamed up with frequent collaborator Blake Mills for a smaller and more intimate performance. The venue was cozier, the smudged chalkboard on stage added a whimsical, down-home spin, and the forbidden use of cell phones was meant to get us all fixed in the moment. Apple had a lot of nervous energy on the stage, cradling percussive doodads that she plucked from her toy chest of sounds, then ambling to the bass drum, where she slung herself, back to the piano bench, which she arched over backward. She was like a kid with boundless, unfocused energy. Until the songs started. Then she lasered in.
Fiona Apple is a genius. If she wants to walk around with an armful of gourds, then by all means. Once the first notes dropped, her powerful voice kicked in and the jitters melted away. She ripped through "Every Single Night," "Regret," and added a beautiful duet piece to Mills' very funny "Don't Tell Our Friends About Me." She killed "Dull Tool," and watched as Mills sang solo and played guitar (from his huge cache of guitars). As soon as it came down to the business of displaying her musical fortitude, Apple was a consummate professional. Honestly, I don't think her voice has ever sounded better. Gal can sing paint off walls. For all her silliness, Apple knows when she's clowning, like when she gently sparred with Mills over which one of them might grudgingly like Billy Joel, or when she let herself be the cobra to Mills' sexy snake-charming guitar solo. She was goofing, just like she set out to do at the start of the show. Couple that with Mills' stable and calm presence and fantastic accompaniment from bassist Sebastian Steinberg and drummer Barbara Gruska, and I'd say this show easily rivaled last July's house-on-fire performance. You know, until some jerk opened their mouth in the balcony.
More photos from the show by Jesse Champlin after the jump. And the last word I'm going to say about "helpful" hecklers.
Last weekend was amazing for anyone who loves '90s post-punk/emo (me), with weather to match! Joan of Arc played a stripped-down, quick set at Bunk Bar Friday night to a crowd of loyal fans. We suffered through the strange screeching sounds of the openers... Space Adventure of Dionysus on Acid or something? (They had a didgeridoo. And screeching.) I think most of us just went outside. Joan of Arc's set as a whole was perplexing at times, with strange solo songs that were sans music and more performance art, and a fairly abrupt ending. From what I hear that is pretty typical. It was still great to see them play and hear some favorite songs.
Sunday was a magical night at the Mission Theater—Ian MacKaye and his partner Amy Farina make up the guitar/drum duo the Evens, and we spent an hour swooning over their presence. It felt special to be in a beautiful setting tucked out of the rain with talent as great and respected as Fugazi frontman MacKaye. The Evens' records are all solid, their most recent being last years The Odds. The set was engaging, thoughtful, political, and warm. A real moment.
Photos after the Jump!
Slabtown played host to 10 (yes, ten) really great bands last Friday in celebration of Portland's own Dirtnap Records' 14th birthday! Highlights included: Marked Men (duh), White Wires, Mean Jeans, Canadians, booze, and the Bad Sports set where lead singer
Orville Neeley Daniel Fried got booped on the nose while trying to be dramatic. He then proceeded to tell the crowd that they didn't deserve to be seeing them play—in true "punker than thou" fashion. It was hilarious. It also begged the question of what he felt like someone would have to do, outside of buying a ticket to the show, that would be deserving of an audience with "his grace." Anyways..
Lots more photos after the jump!
Friday night was a good night for MusicfestNW—a crazy good and busy line-up, and some time to relax for me in order to save strength for Saturday. I went down to see Dan Deacon's set first. He set up his variety of toys and loops and synths right on the brick of the Pioneer Courthouse and took full advantage of the space. He had the crowd create a dance contest, spreading out and getting silly, and everyone loved it. Animal Collective were the main event, one of the biggest names for the headlining shows this year. I was largely unimpressed from a photographer's standpoint of their set-up and stage presence. The four equally talented members were all spread as far away from each other as possible on stage, and there were too many stands and Moogs in the way of everything to make the photos all that interesting... but I tried! I didn't stay for the whole set, although it did have its moments of familiar joy.
I also caught a little bit of Wild Ones at the Star Theater ("We're Wild Ones, we're soo cute!") before heading out to the Aladdin Theater for a good old fashioned cry with Bonnie 'Prince' Billy. His stage presence (alone, solo acoustic) was mesmerizing. He joked and told stories about his songs, and it felt very connected and real the whole time.
Photos after the jump!
Marmoset Records hosted a MFNW party last Thursday with lots of free food, drinks, and great bands, including: a beautiful and intimate set from John Vanderslice, Radiation City, and the Love Language. It was an awesome opportunity to get around some of the pains of scheduling and see a few bands that were playing at otherwise 'difficult' times. It was definitely hard to pick what to see Thursday night, and the pouring rain didn't help.
I was so glad to step out of the rain and into the Old Church for Like a Villain and Typhoon. I think I can safely say it was one of the best shows of the entire week. It was truly magical: the perfect full and encompassing music in the perfect setting to warm us all up. I also caught Young the Giant at the Pioneer Courthouse, and Fred Armisen performing as Ian Rubbish at the Crystal. I ended the night with Bob Mould at the Doug Fir; Fred Armisen joined him on stage for the last song, and he appropriately made a few "I am not worthy" gestures when they finished.
Photos after the jump!
Someone asked me yesterday which shows I went to during MusicfestNW, and I could barely remember. “I saw gin & tonic, Miller High Life, and Taco Bell,” was my response. “And with all that I fucking missed Superchunk.”
I did miss Superchunk (but Taco Bell killed it). I saw plenty of other bands, though, most of which I had to look up to remember. Not that there were any forgettable performances, it just reinforces what a whirlwind MusicfestNW really is. Add the fact that it started on Tuesday, and this old man was tuckered out by the Sunday finale (although I did muster the strength to go see the non-MFNW Adam Ant show, which was great).
Rather than give a long-winded blow-by-blow of my festival experience (which included Deerhunter, Redd Kross, The Men, Team Dresch and Yob), I thought I’d recall a couple performances that pulled me out of my noisy comfort zone.
When my friend pointed to the poster at Bunk Bar of a young man with a bristly mustache, holding a fiddle and wearing a starched shirt buttoned all the way to the top, I laughed in my friend’s face. “Yeah, probably won’t see you there.”
Well, I did see my friend there. And that old-timey little rascal ended up being Frank Fairfield. His “aww shucks” demeanor and pickin’ and fiddlin’ skills got me and the rest of the room hootin’ and hollerin’ (even though Bunk was probably not the best choice of venue for him). I don’t think it’s an act. This guy is an old soul, and he was immediately endearing. Plus, according to my friend who interviewed Fairfield, when he opened for Fleet Foxes, he barely knew who the band was, and later admitted he didn’t really care for them. Bonus points, Frank. Fairfield also boasts a large collection of 78s. Essentially, he’s a weirdo. But instead of collecting comics and playing D&D, he collects records and plays his great-grandmother’s music.
I think Fairfield should have opened for Bonnie "Prince" Billy, an older old soul who’s also the genuine article. His performance at the Aladdin Theater was just as mesmerizing—his voice, and especially his storytelling. I’m not going to rush out and buy his music, but I get it now. It’s rare that someone on a stool with a guitar will hold my attention. But Fairfield and Will Oldham did it. Thanks, gents.
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