Wednesday, October 26, 2011

omn turns two! our second year in review.

Today marks two years to the day since Oregon Music News went live in 2009. It’s been an eventful year full growth and growing pains (a recent server move stagnated us for a couple of days), but a dedicated crew of OMNers has kept us afloat and flourishing through the trials and tribulations, chaos and triumphs.

As the story goes, the writers are now navigating the ship (or inmates running the asylum) as several key contributors stepped up to fill new roles, in addition to their normal written duties, during the last year. We’d like to recognize the efforts of Ana Ammann as Publisher, Mark Niemann-Ross as Tech Guru (aka Media Strategist), Alaya Wyndham-Price as Director of Business Development, Brandon Ellison as Social Media Specialist, Alex Jones as Associate Editor, Jessica Black as Promotions Manager, and Annette Zuzio as Production Director (who we will miss dearly as she recently moved to LA).

The days, weeks and months flew by, especially as we tackled numerous festivals during the summer months, accompanied by a slew of regular contributors. Our ridiculously talented and supportive team of photographers, writers and organizers allow OMN to publish fresh, local content on a daily basis–hardly a day passes without a new feature story, concert review, or piece of news. Just take a look at the homepage on any given day to see a swath of names covering a variety of genres and events across Oregon and the NW–some 8,000+ posts have been published in our first two years! From Classical to Metal to Family to the unclassifiable yet quintessentially understood, in Portland at least, Melting Pot, we cover it all in an attempt to comprehensively blanket the scene in Oregon.

We’ve also tried to build and support our community, sponsoring events like the Portland Jazz Festival, Mississippi Street Fair, Reel Music Festival, Silverton Wine & Jazz Festival, Soul’d Out and more, and we’ll continue to do so in the coming year.

We look forward to evolving technologically, capitalizing on mobile publishing opportunities, which we initiated this summer with two mobile, festival websites. Spearheaded by Mark Niemann-Ross and photographer/writer Kevin Tomanka, OMN went mobile with festival sites for the Waterfront Blues Festival and PDX Pop Now!, and we look to continue this success with future, local festivals.

As our readers, we’d also like to thank you for all your support, feedback and interaction here on OMN plus via Facebook and Twitter. (Psst… if you don’t already, like us! Follow us!) And we hope to see you all tonight at our free 2nd birthday party in the ballroom at The Secret Society. Doors open at 7pm with the Renato Caranto Project kicking it off with some fat, funky sax at 7:30pm followed by electronic alchemist Auditory Sculpture with collaborators (trumpeter Derek Sims and female vocalists Orianna Herrman of Oracle and Stephanie Schneiderman), and indie folkers Sunbeam closing it out.

Get more on the artists playing our party plus listen to a few songs in the opening minutes of KZME 107.1 FM’s Trixie Pop show (sound bite starts at 3:15) from last Thursday (and download the podcast here):

Thanks for all your visits.

Read some our favorite stories from year two on OMN.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

reel music festival 29 : 'searching for elliott smith

“Playing things too safe is the most popular way to fail. Dying is another way,” laughs Elliott Smith. “Or like… killing your emotions is another popular way… with you know, drugs or alcohol or whatever.”

Although Searching For Elliott Smith has screened sporadically since it’s release in 2009, the Gil Reyes-directed documentary will premier in Portland on Friday, October 21st as part of the NW Film Center’s 29th Reel Music Festival. October 21st also happens to be the eight-year anniversary of Elliott’s passing and Gil Reyes will be in attendance to introduce the film.

The 90-minute film chronicles Smith’s life from his teen years at Lincoln High School to his controversial death in LA in 2003 through the eyes of friends and collaborators, girlfriends and confidants, like Portland filmmaker Gus Van Sant (who used Smith’s “Miss Misery” in Good Will Hunting, rocketing him to national prominence), fiancée Jennifer Chiba (who witnessed his death), Sean Croghan (roommate and fellow musician), Robin Peringer (former band mate), Larry Crane (producer, owner of Jackpot Studios), and musicians Pete Krebs and Mary Lou Lord.

Touching on the major points of his career and his struggles with drugs, alcohol, depression, and fame, many of the stories are well publicized but it’s moving to hear them directly from the mouths of those that knew him best, working with him or standing by his side in his most intimate moments. Whether it’s a high school teacher remembering him as a great student (he was a National Merit Scholar) or fellow musicians remembering his early drive and ambition in bands like Stranger Than Fiction and Heatmiser, the film tracks each album Smith released beginning with his career-defining, 180-degree turn from noisy, post-grunge to whispery acoustics on Roman Candle. The angst, aggression and emotion in Smith’s music didn’t disappear, rather he expressed it lyrically, in a gentle yet macabre fashion.

The gems that really stand out in the film are the moments where you are really let into Elliott Smith’s life, via old footage Reyes has dug up or through interviews with his confidants. Larry Crane, Smith’s archivist who said Smith graciously gave him a co-producer credit on “Miss Misery,” discusses the musical genius of Smith in the studio coupled with a clip of his amazing skill as a classical piano player.

The chronology of Smith’s life and work is a nice retrospective but the most touching and private accounts come from former roommate Sean Croghan, who also struggled with many of the same depressive tendencies as Smith. He happily remembers Elliott’s dry wit, dark humor and idiosyncrasies as well as his indie music attitude–turning your back on the record industry. But he also reveals their shared suicidal thoughts and “young man’s disease”–a propensity to sabotage something when things got too good. As his fame grew, fucking up on purpose became an art form for Smith, and Crane also touches on this self-destructive notion. Smith would have to destroy something before he was satisfied; he was so talented that his first take would be flawless, yet, to make it unique, he’d have to carefully place his own mistakes within the recording–that was his form of perfection.

Read the rest on OMN.

following the nw to san fran for treasure island

A weekend excursion to San Francisco doesn’t sound so bad, especially coupled with the fifth annual edition of the Treasure Island Music Festival–a fest which featured a handful of NW-bred acts (YACHT, Shabazz Palaces, Death Cab For Cutie, The Head and the Heart, and Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks) alongside Down Under dance (Empire Of The Sun, Cut Copy), riddling guitar work (Explosions in the Sky, Battles), sublime atmospherics (Beach House, Warpaint) and so much more indie rock, hip-hop, and electro with heart, soul and sweat.

Accompanied by the afternoon October sunshine and the wind whipping across the bay as concert-goers gazed towards the San Francisco skyline, TIMF 2011 was deftly curated by longtime SF purveyors of indie music, Noise Pop, which turns 20 next year. Alongside Another Planet Entertainment, the two have organized the nascent festival since 2007, booking a solid line up that truly fits Noise Pop’s indie ethos. From San Fran locals to blogosphere buzzers and hipster worshipees, the fest encompasses a fairly diverse swath of artists that attracted young audience members of all sects. With the pot smoke aplenty in the sea wind and everyone shelling out $9 for beers, here are a few highlights from Saturday, October 15th and Sunday, October 16th on Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay.

Saturday, October 15th

Flying from Iceland to San Fran to play for us: All who witnessed also joined the Kingdom of YACHT on Saturday. A Portland band that has grown exponentially over the last few years through constant touring and supporting DFA label mates like LCD Soundsystem, YACHT’s fleshed out full band, The Straight Gaze (which includes drummer Jeffrey Jerusalem and guitarists/keyboardists Bobby Birdman and Katy Davidson), has breathed new life into their old tracks and allowed them to be more innovative on stage. Jamming out on “Tripped & Fell in Love,” YACHT brings a feral, bouncing energy to stage every time–Claire L. Evans struggled to keep her skin-tight white dress from riding up as Jona Bechtolt has perfected his showy mic swing ‘n toss.

Spending most of her time teetering on the edge of the stage, Evans engaged and controlled the crowd, either with intensity or quips, querying if the audience had any questions for the band. ”What are my boots? They’re Doc Martens… I got them at the mall.”

Whether it was “Dystopia” or “Utopia,” YACHT played plenty of cuts from their latest Shangri-La, and of course, YACHT would cover The B-52′s’ “Mesopotamia,” sung by the latest addition to the band, guitarist/keyboardist Katy Davidson.

Holy Battles! How a three-piece keeps up such an insane pace while swapping so many instruments (like Ian Williams simultaneously playing two keyboards with a guitar hanging from his neck) and sounds/samples plus pedals and more… most will never comprehend. All three lined up against the front of the stage with the drum kit at center as the art/math rock experimentalists managed to be creepy and danceable at the same time, almost coming unhinged yet remaining cohesive. With drummer John Stanier reaching for the tallest cymbal from the lowest seat and Dave Konopka wrangling a bevy of bass, guitars, and effects, the entire performance was furious, leaving stage and lawn breathless.

DJing the live set: Playing a truncated version of what they just delivered in Portland, the skinny, collared-shirted crew of Cut Copy orchestrates live sets that are transformative; and it’s all about pacing. The Aussie four-piece, with an additional touring percussionist, manages to blend and extend one song into the next, transforming beats live, reworking the material so the clip is seamless and always increasing.

Super tropical with guitarist Tim Hoey providing plenty of percussion himself, singer Dan Whitford opened his palms in a welcoming, “come hither” gesture; pointed his index fingers skyward and wagged them to the beat; or simply thrust his dukes to the sky, forearms bared, fist pumping to his own jams.

Cut Copy songs display a mastery of electronic ebb and flow, the breakdown followed by a build up until the track explodes. And these eruptions are all the more sensuously intense live, whether it’s one of many cuts from their latest Zonoscope or “Lights & Music,” “Hearts On Fire,” “Saturdays,” or set closer “Out There On The Ice.” On the final leg of touring behind Zonoscope, “yes, no, maybe,” we just didn’t want to hear that their time was up.

Most smoke, most costume changes: None other than Empire Of The Sun provided the grandiose ending to day one at Treasure Island. Narrating a futuristic tale, the exact story of which was lost but the elements that made it a musical spectacular (six costume changes for the four female dancers, a psychedelic video journey, props, capes, and hairy shoulder pads) were not.

It was an electro-musical fronted by Luke Steele strutting across stage in his tined headpiece, indulging in flamboyant guitar solos, giving the crowd exactly what it longed for. Dousing the stage in smoke from extinguisher-like hoses, Steele’s elaborate glam-influences felt most present on the downtempo ballad “Without You,” which felt like Prince crooning from Bowie’s mouth as Steele gazed out into the sea of people through a painted face, a stripe across his eyes.

Wonderfully active and theatrical, a blazing light show and the synchronicity of the dancers, even while wearing swordfish heads covered in lengthy blonde, mermaid locks, built and pushed the dramatic set forward until Steele stood silently, considering the audience’s cheers. ”Thank you San Francisco” and in a flash Steele turned and smashed his guitar leaving the white body dangling from the neck. (This was the final performance of their current tour.) Thirty minutes still remained in the set.

After several unsure moments, Empire Of The Sun returned for the set closer “Walking On A Dream” in Japanese-inspired costumes with Steele as a wild-haired samurai and his dancers geisha-like. But it was to be the final cut, leaving a sensational memory in their wake but also something to be desired as the set supposedly had 20-some minutes remaining. Exiting after several ostentatious bows, EOTS left the crowd with a feeling of needing more–more songs, or even another performance, as it was impossible to devour so many swirling elements in a single set. From the decorated, blue acoustic used to strum the opening chords to “We Are The People” to the Steele’s costumed support, viking drummer and Tarzan guitarist, it may be another while before we get our second act.

Sunday, October 16th

No better setting to watch Seattle’s The Head and the Heart as the audience basked in the bright sun radiating from behind the San Francisco skyline. Rich with singalong songs from their self-titled debut, the warm glow from the stage coupled with everyone clapping to the shakers and tambourines made THATH’s set feel like an old-time revival. Sharing a new song with an amazing violin riff, courtesy of Charity Rose Thielen, and a great drum and bassline, the whole lawn was humming along to the multi-part, guy/girl harmonies driven by sturdy backing chords on the ever-present piano and acoustic guitars.

The sense of love and community reorganized into a group hug and then a huge circle as it spread, culminating in an engagement. The couple spun around and around the inside of the circle until everyone collapsed inward to bounce together to the final building verses of ”Down In The Valley.” The wonderful slow build continued on closer “Rivers and Roads” as Charity was allowed a vocal moment to shine, leading the tingling chorus before the rowdy slamming of the kick drum and keys finished the song with a punch.

All or nothing: With eyes always downcast and of course hardly uttering a word, Explosions in the Sky created a complicated commotion of extremes. Minimum or maximum, always a million degrees emotive whether sitting cross-legged or kneeling–hunched over their beat up Stratocasters, introspectively communicating with their instruments–or shredding ferociously, a blur of hands in dim, colored lights. Munaf Rayani stood before the Texas flag, drapped from the largest Fender amp, with his guitar slung low almost seeming to graze his shoe tops as he swung from side to side like a pendulum.

An elaborate orchestra of clean and distorted, the four guitars, a stage floor filled with pedals, and drums crafted a ceaseless, intricate narrative that soared and dove, quietly wept and roared with rage. Haunting and full of sheer bliss, the intimacy, intensity and drama of Explosions’ guitar work could make you sweat in the cool night and also warm you up as the jelly fish, numbering 12, roamed throughout the audience to finish their set.

Read the rest of the highlights on OMN and see more photos from day one and two.

Friday, October 14, 2011

always on the road : a q/a with seattle’s the head + the heart

After months and months of touring supporting some of their “personal favorite bands,” Seattle’s The Head and the Heart finally got their first headlining tour. And although they enjoy playing the corner stages of pubs–much like the Ballard bar, Conor Byrne, in which they met on open mic nights–this tour is no small potatoes, even if their self-recorded, self-titled debut has the intimate, inviting feel of a small hinterland orchestra. As the indie folk-pop six-piece headlines mid-sized venues across the nation, selling out a few along the way, they’ll be in Eugene on Tuesday, October 18th at the WOW Hall and in Portland on Wednesday, October 19th at the Crystal Ballroom before wrapping it all up with a (huge!) homecoming gig at Seattle’s Key Arena.

As the venues and audiences increase in size, THATH is learning to invite the masses into their performances laden with delicate vocal harmonies violin melodies. As the energy and emotion is amplified by the pounding piano and percussion, the band transforms into an ardent choir that begs for the crowd to participate by singing, stomping, clapping, swaying, and cooing along.

Just two years old, The Head and the Heart was formed in the summer of 2009 by Josiah Johnson (vocals, guitar, percussion) and Jonathan Russell (vocals, guitar, percussion), and after a few more open mic sessions at Conor Byrne, the band soon included Charity Rose Thielen (violin, vocals), Chris Zasche (bass), Kenny Hensley (piano), and Tyler Williams (drums).

OMN spoke to Charity Rose Thielen on the phone from Atlanta just after the band kicked off their current tour at Austin City Limits where their time was “really busy,” playing three shows in three days playing, which she called “three of the best shows” in recent memory. Watch a performance of “Rivers and Roads” live at ACL on September 18th, 2011:

Touring with openers Thao with The Get Down Stay Down and Seattle pals Lemolo, THATH is currently feeling like a tight, cohesive unit and the NW shows should be no different after that warm up.

Then again, the road is no place new for THATH.

Read the rest on OMN.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

celebrate omn’s second birthday with sunbeam on october 26

Lead by Portland singer/songwriter Brian Hall and supported by wife Amy and friends, Sunbeam may be a fairly new band around town but their calm harmonies carry a confidence and a warmth like a ray of, well… a sunbeam. Self-releasing their debut album, Sunbeam & the Lovely Ghost, in August their rambling sweetness is typified by the stand out track “Honey” (below), a rhythmic effort that would sound good next to Americana-inspired folk rock like Blitzen Trapper or baroque-pop like Beirut:

The lovely melodies are helped along by band members Liz Palmer (keyboards/vocals), Charlie Morris (guitars/vocals), Adam Souza (bass/vocals), and Jon Collins (drums), and in their short career they’ve already shared stages with friends and collaborators like Nick Jaina, Norman, Mike Coykendall (She & Him, M. Ward), The Parson Red Heads, and The Ascetic Junkies.

On Wednesday, October 26th Sunbeam will also be closing out Oregon Music New’s second birthday party at The Secret Society where they’ll share the stage with the funky Renato Caranto Project and electronic producer Auditory Sculpture with collaborators Stephanie Schneiderman, Orianna Herrman and Derek Sims. And it’s free so you have no reason not to show–plus there’ll be cake!

Sunbeam’s 10-track debut is “an album about love and estrangement and forgiveness and hope,” as described by Brian, that will leave you with an affection for more airs of a Sunbeam summer, especially as the months get colder and wetter.

Feel free to warm yourself up at OMN’s 2nd birthday party on Wednesday, October 26th at The Secret Society. Doors open at 7pm, show starts at 7:30pm with the Renato Caranto Project followed by Auditory Sculpture and Sunbeam. Get more details on the line up here; 21+, free.

Read this story on OMN.

Friday, October 7, 2011

q/a with alicia j. rose on curating ‘that was then, this is now : portland music videos’ for reel music festival 29

Last January, Oregon Music News curated the first-ever Portland Music Videos showcase, in conjunction with the Northwest Film Center’s Reel Music Festival 28, and for the 29th edition, we’re proud to have Portland director, photographer, musician and former booker Alicia J. Rose selecting the clips.

Last year we gave the nod to Rose by showing her music video for Loch Lomond’s “Blue Lead Fences,” and in just the last eight months alone, Rose has released gorgeously intriguing videos for Portland locals like AgesandAges, Menomena, and Holcombe Waller, among others.

On Tuesday, October 11th at the Mission Theater, Rose, alongside Sara Lund, will show her selection of Portland Music Videos, a presentation dubbed That Was Then, This Is Now–the theme is “a hand-picked selection of vintage and current music video offerings created by a host of talented directors and animators who call Portland home,” and Then includes videos from Elliott Smith (Jem Cohen), Nirvana (Lance Bangs), and Sleater-Kinney (Miranda July), while Now selections include Menomena (Stefan Nadelman), Fleet Foxes (Sean Pecknold), Modest Mouse (Nando Costa), The Decemberists (Dennis Fitzgerald & Greg Brown), Death Cab For Cutie (Lance Bangs), Miracles Club (Judah Switzer), Sallie Ford (Matthew Ross), and many more as well as the world premiere Rose’s own video for Talkdemonic’s “City Sleep.” The complete line up of videos is listed at the end of this article.

Always a crowd-pleaser, watch Whitey McConnaughy’s selection for Red Fang’s “Wires” and read bassist Aaron Beam’s comments on creating the video:

Alicia J. Rose answered a few questions for OMN on her theme, process, and new music video.

Tell us about your theme–That Was Then, This Is Now–and why you chose it.

I wanted to curate a video program that encompassed the spirit of the past and the present. Creatives have been flourishing wildly in basements around Portland for years, making music and film that defies both budgetary and logical means. To me there’s a connection between the scene in the early ’90s and what’s going on today. A certain authenticity and heart of expression has driven a palpable evolution in both artistic arenas.

I moved to Portland in 1995 after stopping through on tour in the early ’90s. I found out about the scene from working at college radio and booking The Chameleon in the early ’90s in San Francisco. I was a giant fan of bands hailing from here–Hazel, Unwound, Elliott Smith, etc. There was something really special going on. All the bands I saw from Portland had a certain kind of earnest passion that I instantly connected to. The videos I chose for the Then part of my program represent an overview of the cream of the crop. The Now portion is a sampling of the incredible directorial and musical talent that has been emerging since the “SLR revolution” and the crazy interwebs. Now, there is a new ease and motivation to creating video work and Portland is ripe with juicy locations and skilled crewfolk. Just like bands can now make records with their computers, directors can now make videos with their regular cameras. Whoah.

What were the criteria?

With only a couple exceptions, I stuck to Portland bands and Portland directors. The Then program was ’90s based, and the Now program, I wanted to keep more current–2000-ish forward. There are two directors that have videos in both sections–Zak and Lance–and they still live and work here. But of course I made a few choices that had only one side covered…

Read the rest on OMN.