Friday, August 27, 2010

Tough Tuesday

I have an article in today's Oregonian about one of my favorite Portland bands, Pure Country Gold who is releasing their second album tomorrow at Club 21. Somewhere a few years ago, though I can't find it now, I remember them saying something about how, even if there isn't one, they imagine a good looking gal in the front row of their shows and play the kind of show that would make her dance. That attitude is why I love them. Clearly, I'm not the only one--the quote in the story from the Club 21 bartender? Yeah, she took time out of her vacation in New Orleans to call me. That's love!

This is the second time I've covered PCG (they also played a show in my living room once, which ruled). I did a long interview with both band members in 2007 when they made the top ten Best New Bands countdown in Willamette Week. One thing that didn't come up then or now was juke boxes. Apparently, PCG is on a lot of them around town. Good to know!

Image: Tough Tuesday album cover by Chanda Helzer depicting Club 21 regulars.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Growing Old With the Warped Tour

I've never had a bad time at Warped Tour. I kind of lived for it as a teen. The first out of town shows I played with my old punk band were scheduled around getting to see Warped in Denver (it never hits my hometown of Albuquerque).

So it was actually a huge thrill for me to get to talk to Warped founder Kevin Lyman for this preview of today's Portland-area show. In fact, I figured he'd probably be too busy to do it. But apparently, he makes extra time in his day by just being really smart. He had a lot of good stuff to say in the five minutes I talked to him.

One choice nugget I didn't get to include in the piece was his memory of the Warped Tour's first stop in Portland at a relatively small club:

You know La Luna? The club? Yeah, Warped Tour played there in 1995. We set up the skateboard ramp in the little lot behind it and we got a keg of beer because we had no where to set up anything else and we sat in that little dressing room behind the stage and that was the whole Warped Tour set up.

See, that's the thing about Warped. It still kind of has that lawless, party vibe even though it's all huge now. When I reviewed it for Willamette Week in 2006, I certainly enjoyed the literal pyramid of free beer backstage. And I remember my old band's friends/mentors Guttermouth impressing us with stories of getting kicked off the tour for trying to blow up H20's tour bus with fireworks and for giving out whiskey shots with t-shirt purchases, even to 10-year-olds.

The cops must be on to this at least a little. Another good quote from Kevin that I didn't get to include was about how at Warped's last location in the Portland area--which required a lot of driving, unlike the festival's current Washington County Fairgrounds home which is on a light rail line--cops seemed to hassle teenage drivers unnecessarily.

We were way out on the road. That was a long way for kids to go. But last year, watching the kids get off the train and go to the Warped Tour? That was pretty cool vs having to drive through the speed traps. I remember we'd send a runner out to get something and it would be like 20 cops writing tickets to kids. It was almost like that skateboarding's a crime thing: driving on the highway's a crime if you're under 25, you know?

Of course, Warped Tour has its sucky corporate side that kind of takes advantage of bands. I've written about that too. But I really wish I was out at the festival today instead of having rehab from knee surgery, mostly because the Portland date now includes a "Legends Stage" with old punk bands like GBH. I guess if the bum knee wasn't enough, the fact that this stage would be the highlight of the fest for me is enough to confirm that as far as punks go, I've crossed into old-timer territory.

Image: Guttermouth still at it on the Warped circuit last year.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

So Long, SubArachnoid Space

Well, the band that made my favorite record of 2009 is splitting up. SubArachnoid Space is ending their 14-year run tonight at Mississippi Studios, and I was fortunate to be able to write a brief oral history of the band for the occasion.

The story focuses on the partnership between drummer Chris Van Huffel and guitarist Melynda Jackson. Melynda and I talked for over an hour on the phone for the interview. I kept thinking we were done and then turning the recorder back on when she said something else quotable. I really sympathized with a lot of her complaints about leading a band and working with musicians. It's so hard to be driven without coming off as bossy, and that's one of the reasons I recently dissolved my band (farewell show pending) as well.

If I weren't laid up after knee surgery right now, I'd go see SubArachnoid's last show. It's sure to be emotional, since their music always is and this show will be a release of all the band has gone through over the years. Don't forget to wear white. At least I got to see (and review!) their second to last show at the Day of Hel fest in July.

In the process of writing the oral history, I reached out to a lot of different bands that had been touched by SAS over the years. Due to my short deadline, I only got one in time, from Mike from YOB. This one came in just a little too late from Philadelphia's Bardo Pond so I figured I'd post it here. I gather SAS had quite a following on the East Coast.

I really can't believe it's farewell. I hope, and knowing those guys, I trust they'll keep making sounds.
We've known Melynda and company for so long, I can't remember exactly when we first met and played together! They always took such good care of Bardo Pond on our trips out west: giving us a place to sleep, loaning us equipment, cooking meals together, and of course, playing killer shows at Bottom of the Hill! And it was always such a treat to meet up with a sister on the road...
I love SubArachnoid Space's combination of their heavy, swirling soundtracks with the visual element - really fantastic films and editing. I've really never seen anybody else do it quite like that, the darkness of the riffs and imagery are so special. We saw those guys in Philly the last time they came through, and they really took it up a notch. The projections were hitting Melynda in her beautiful white gown. A real highlight for me is when she sings through her guitar. Maybe there is more vocalizing in future experiments?
I'm really gonna miss hearing them and feeling them turn on the light in that spongy place in my brain!

Warm Greets,

Isobel Sollenberger

Photo: Melynda and Chris. The only known of just the two of them together. By Kawabata Makoto.

Don't Fear The Bieber

I recently volunteered for the assignment of reviewing a Justin Beiber show. I kind of look for opportunities like these to write about music I don't know that much about, but that doesn't require that much knowledge to write about. It's fun to just take something like this on and be as objective as possible.

And of course, I thought it would be fun to bring someone to a Justin Bieber concert. Then we found out that they weren't giving any press passes. Kind of smart, really, since other reporters would see this as an opportunity to be snarky, not objective. In any case, The Oregonian had to buy me a ticket. One ticket.

When I got to my seat, there were some teenage girls in it. I tried to explain they were in my seat, and one of them said, "How many are you?" I held up one finger. They didn't move.

Feeling awkward as hell, I sat in the nearest empty seat. Then someone bumped me from there. Then I got bumped again. Finally I had to stand up for myself. I busted out my ticket to give the teens in my seat the boot. Ultimately, they convinced me to trade for a slightly further seat. The whole experience really pushed my limit of awkwardness--the lone male hipster in sea of kids and their moms.

The concert was pretty good actually. I had fun. I was glad I brought ear plugs, not for the music but for the loud screaming. After talking to a friend of mine who went to see Britney Spears for a lark onetime, I think everyone should go see a pop concert like this at some point just for the experience.

Props to Ryan White for the best Bieber-pun title, which I stole for this post.