Friday, March 19, 2010

Between the Sea and Sky


Swallows is addicted to making records. Between the Sea and Sky, the Portland duo's third full length which comes out tomorrow, is the band's 9th release, and they're already working on their 10th. When I stopped by their practice space to interview them for this profile in today's Oregonian, frontwoman Em Brownlowe plugged in an acoustic guitar (for the last 6 years, she's rocked electric). She and drummer Jon Miller showed me a couple of new tunes that sort sounded like Violent Femmes meets Veruca Salt to me. It was really good stuff, and I gather you're likely to hear some of it tomorrow night at the Langano Lounge.

One thing I didn't get to mention in the Oregonian piece, is that Between is both produced by and dedicated to the memory of Kipp Crawford who was tragically killed in a bike accident just weeks after finishing the recording. One of the new Swallows songs I heard is about him, and among band posters in the band's tiny basement practice space is a framed picture of him, which I think might have been this photo.


Pretty much all of Swallows' music is on their website, so download it (I recommend the remix album--another thing I wish I could have fit into the article), and if you come to the Langano at Southeast 15th and Hawthorne tomorrow, March 20, you get a free copy of their latest.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Psychology of Booze & Guilt

Since I wasn't able to review the great new album from local madman Professor Gall for The Oregonian, I wrote a live review of his CD release show last Friday.

I had put off seeing Professor Gall for a long time, because while I liked the spirit of his 2006 album, Intravenous Delusion, I thought it was a bit scattered and loose. While the The Psychology of Booze & Guilt isn't perfect, the occasional awkward vocal phrase doesn't interfere with the flow of a very creative, dark, fun jazz/rock record.

And the live show didn't disappoint! In fact, I'd say Professor Gall is one of the best live acts in town. The band has such presence that you really feel like you're seeing a show in some shack on a southern highway.

Professor Gall's next Portland show is Friday, March 26th at Dante's.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tapestry of Webs

I am a huge, huge Blood Brothers fan. Their 2006 post hardcore masterpiece, Young Machetes, was probably my favorite that year, and I remember not even caring that at 23, I was one of the oldest people at their show in Portland that year. They were just too magical, too intense for a lot of grownups to handle, and I mean that completely seriously.

The band broke up in 2007 and basically split into two bands, Jaguar Love, whose debut I reviewed for Spin, and Past Lives, whose first full length just came out and who is playing Portland tonight. I had a really enjoyable half-hour phone conversation with Jordan Blilie for this feature that appeared in Friday's Oregonian.

Since the focus of the piece is Past Lives, there were a couple of tidbits about Blood Brothers that I didn't get to include, so I'll share those now. The first one, and this may be old news to some, is that Blood Brothers was more Whitney's vision than Blilie's. It's funny, because when I first heard Blood Brothers, for some reason I assumed Blilie was the leader creatively. I guess Johnny Whitney's vocals were just so insane--I couldn't picture him focusing long enough to write the songs!

But when Blilie was talking about how he had to relearn how to write songs by himself, he said, "My process was always linked to working with someone else and I was always contributing to his vision of things" (emphasis added). So Tapestry of Webs is kind of the world's first look at Jordan as a songwriter. When I pointed that out, he joked about how they should have called it Shades of Jordan.

The second thing I learned in the interview that might be interesting to Blood Brothers fans is that Blilie and the Jaguar Love guys are on fairly good terms these days. I was pleased to learn this since in doing research for the piece, I had read on various forums and such that the former bandmates weren't on speaking terms. But Blilie had nothing but positive things to say about Johnny Whitney and Cody Vototalo. And in fact, Blilie apparently saw Jaguar Love play for the first time a few weeks ago and was impressed. "There's not another band like Jaguar Love floating around," he says. "I think that's a good thing."

He went on, "Our breakup wasn't without its rough patches, but I think enough time has gone by and enough room and space has been allotted. I was just talking to Cody a couple of days ago. I'm happy that the two of them have continued to play together and make records."

Past Lives plays at East End in Portland tonight.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Elizabethan England Hath Talent

Yeah, so my band the Metal Shakespeare Company auditioned for America's Got Talent and it landed us on the local news, again. Can you believe we got Drew Carney to wear our shirt and a costume? Well, actually, that's not that hard to believe.

Wish us luck!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Olympic Vancouverage

Cold as Ice

Maybe it was just seeing all that snow, a rarity in New Mexico, but I remember as a young boy, I loved the Winter Olympics. This year, they were just a 6 hour drive from where I live and work, so the English, baby! team rented an RV and headed north to make English lessons at the Games.

The first question everyone asks me is, "What events did you see." We saw the luge, and it actually turned out to be one of the funniest videos we made.

But we were lucky to squeeze in the luge! It was an extremely hectic few days. We made 14 lessons, interviewed 5 athletes, and appeared in two news segments, one for American television and one for Chinese State TV.

Here are a couple of interview highlights. Chinese snowboarder Liu Jaiyu explaining what it means to ride goofy.

And gold medalist figure skaters Zhao Hongbo and Shen Xue demonstrating a lift for us. The other lesson we did with them, "head over heels," went viral on Chinese video site with more than 50,000 views in the first few days!

4-year-old Jason watching the Calgary Olympics with his parents on TV would be glad to know that 22 years he'd be there in Canada to be part of the action. He might be disappointed though that his dreams of a bobsled medal would be dashed by the fact that he would never actually start training.