Sunday, May 24, 2009

Wanted: American Folk Metal Musicians

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I recorded these two songs with my friend Mark Jackson-Weaver last year, and despite the fact that I think they're the best songs I've recorded so far, this is the first daylight they've seen. I wanted to put out a call for musicians to play this style of music with me (Mark lives in Albuquerque) but I didn't know what to call it or how to describe it or even what I was going for really. But tonight I figured it out. I want to start an American folk metal band.

European metal bands that draw on Norse folk traditions are common. But why not look to blues and country? Could a metal band incorporate elements of doom and thrash as well as Negro spirituals and traditional American folk songs like the ones that inspired Bob Dylan? Is it possible to be brutal and lyrical? I think without realizing it, that's where I was heading here, if subtly.

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I'll take care of guitar and lead vocals. Would you like to play drums, bass, piano, fiddle, pedal steel, banjo, washboard, harmonica or something else?

Image: If Deadwood had a doom band, this would be it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Introducing the Falafel Waffle

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I remember being at the Multnomah County Bike Fair last summer at Colonel Summers Park and thinking, "I wish there was some place nearby I could get some food." Too bad Tiger's Cafe hadn't opened yet--although a falafel waffle might have killed me that day considering how hot and full of beer I was.

But in search of food I went and not finding anything, I returned to the park, fell asleep in the grass, and woke up when a truck came to remove the portable toilets! A little hummus platter would have kept me from looking like a bum and almost being crushed by a Honey Bucket. But alas, last summer Joseph Nemr was still in Iraq and one of the most creative and surprisingly good East-meets-West dishes known to man had not been invented yet.

Considering my personal knowledge of the need for an eatery near Southeast 20th and Belmont, I was pleased to be assigned a story on the grand opening of Tiger's Cafe, which came out in today's Oregonian. It's a Lebanese restaurant opened by Nemr, who was a translator in Iraq until last November, and his wife Mary.

One of the things that really makes the place stand out is its Lebanese flag-inspired cedar tree mural by Jenn Reilly. She majored in business at Emerson and it seems to compliment her painting skills well--the mural is really purposeful, adds class to the restaurant, and makes it feel like more than your usual neighborhood ethnic place.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Head Banging for the Old Gods

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Growing up, one of the things that appealed to me about punk was its anti-Christian message. I saw religion as the cause of problems in the world, so I was drawn to bands that tore it down.

But with the exception of Bad Religion, there aren't a lot of punk bands that are interested in filling the spiritual gap left if one casts out organized religion. That's why I'm glad to see folk metal rising as a popular underground genre. While it's spiritually rebellious, it seems to supply the foundation for a healthier spirituality (you know, over nihilism). Rather than just saying, "God is dead," the pagan message of bands like Moonsorrow and Korpiklaani, whose show last weekend I reviewed for the Oregonian, offers up more suitable replacement deities (in however vague a way), like earth, nature or madness.

So you may notice the review is somewhat focused on the crowd at the show, particularly the teenagers. I spied a pair of teeny tiny teenage girls headbanging nonstop at the show. They were probably so up for it because they were so small couldn't see anything, they just had to feel it. I asked 18-year-old Bertha Marmolejo what about the pagan message of the night's music offerings appealed to her. She said, "It's anti-Christian," which struck me as a familiar response, but somehow I felt she was in better hands with Moonsorrow and Korpiklaani than I was with the Exploited or Anti-Flag, or any number of kids in Albuquerque were with Question the Answers. However useful those bands are or have been, the growing folk metal trend seems more loving.

Photo: Moonsorrow glows with occult energy, by me.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Good Music of Alfredo Muro

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"I believe in good music," Alfredo Muro told me over pie at Laughing Planet on Mississippi when we met forthis story that was in yesterday's Oregonian.

His open mindedness is apparent in his solo guitar Latin jazz work, which doesn't hesitate to borrow from pop or the bizarre while interpreting classical and folk pieces. Muro seemed really happy doing what he does, which, when you think about it, is rare, except in children. How many truly happy adults do you know?

The story of how he left a law practice in Peru, came to Portland with no English, and worked for two decades to reach the point where he can tour international stages is inspirational. Not included in the Oregonian story is the interesting fact that he first started playing pop guitar as a kid and even won a TV talent show. It's a pretty unique journey.

I've been listening to Muro's music a lot since writing this story and I hope I get a chance to see him live soon. The Oregonian story was tied to a show he did last night at the Bagdad, a big fund raiser with $50 tickets, but he has two other, stranger appearances tomorrow, one tomorrow at 10am at the Unity World Healing Center in West Linn and another at a Rinconcito Peruano Restaurant in Vancouver at 3pm. Check his calendar for details.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I was on a TV on TV

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Last week, KGW did a news segment on English, baby!. I appear in the clip they play, interviewing Sasha Vujacic. I never realized that when they show clips like that, they're actually just played on a TV which has a camera pointed at it.

Overall the operation was amazingly simple. It was just the host and one crew member on site with a producer coming through the earpiece. The appearance ran like clockwork--we were in and out in under half an hour.

Anyway, the best part is I'm actually going to make an English lesson out of the interview. So keep an eye out for that. The peg for the story on KGW was that Ebaby! recently reached a million members. So it's been getting lots of press lately. The site has been appeared in Successful Promotions magazine and on Business Insanity Talk Radio in the last month.