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Honor Society Interview

June 28, 2009 No comments

Honor Society (an heir appearant to the Jonas Brothers) stopped in Portland on one of the first legs of the Jonas Brother’s Tour.  On Portland interviewed the band in two parts.  The first part was conducted by Hannah Kleinman (aged 10), On Portland’s youngest contributor.  Hannah talks with the band about their breakout song See You in The Dark,  how they got their start, where they first played and what songs they like to perform the most:

Watch Hannah’s Interview with Honor Society:

Our second part of the interview comes from On Portland editor Geoff Kleinman who talks to the Honor Society about the challenges of running two concurrent tours, who they’d most like to play with on stage and what the future holds for this up and coming pop phenom.

For more information on Honor Society see:

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Girls Rock The Movie – Rock N' Roll Camp for Girls on DVD

January 24, 2009 No comments
Girls Rock! The Move on DVD January 27

Girls Rock! The Move on DVD January 27

Portland is home to the internationally renowned Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls.  Each summer, groups of girls come together in the camp’s North Portland facility and form rock bands. Over the course of a week they learn, write, practice and perfect their songs. The finale of the week long camp is a performance in front of over 700 people at the Bagdad Theater.

This Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls experience was captured in the documentary Girls Rock! The Movie which follows a group of girls through a week at the camp in 2007. What’s so amazing about the documentary (and the camp) is how transformed the campers are after just one week.  On day one there are girls who you never could imagine getting up in front of anyone to sing who belt it out in front of hundreds of fans.

I was fortunate enough to see Girls Rock! The Movie during its festival run with my daughter. It made such a huge impression on her, she applied to the next session of Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls (their application goes online each year at 12:01 new years eve, a new family new years tradition).

My daughter attended the camp camp in 2008 and had a blast. Her band The Lightening Girls, made a huge impression on her and boosted her self confidence immeasurably. She also came away from the camp knowing how to defend herself as the camp spends an entire afternoon dealing with self defense.  She’s already signed up to come back for the summer of 2009.

Girls Rock! The Movie is an exceptional documentary about an extraordinary place.  If you weren’t aware of the Rock N’ Roll Camp for Girls you’ll be amazed that such a phenomenal organization is right here in your back yard.

Buy Girls Rock! The Movie on DVD and pply to attend Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls.

Categories: Family, Movies, Music Tags:

Chris Botti Delivers a Love Note to Jazz and Portland

December 21, 2008 3 comments
Chris Botti

Chris Botti with The Oregon Symphony

The Oregon Symphony does not crap around: at exactly seven thirty, not a moment after conductor Gregory Vajda took the podium and started off the evening of music. I’ve been to a lot of performances and concerts in my time and I’ve never been to one that started exactly, precisely, absolutely on time. Vajda didn’t want to waste a minute, he knew he only had two hours with his symphony and he wanted to use every last minute of that time performing.

The first act of the evening was a brisk 30 minute set by the symphony sans Chris Botti. Many conductors could have seen this as being sort of an ‘opening band’ to the main performer, but Vadja took the reigns and delivered a blockbuster set.  Mixing traditional Christmas carols with seasonal tunes Vadja lead the symphony through a wide range of tempos and styles, seamlessly transitioning from one to the next. The set came to its apex with the crescendo for “Farandole”  (from Suite No. 2 from L’Arlésienne) which flirted with an ovation from the audience.

The first act was capped with an extremely uptempo and frisky rendition of Frosty The Snowman arranged by Vadja himself. Think 50’s lounge version done with a wide orchestra, it was certainly unique. In just thirty minutes of performing Gregory Vajda showed what a phenomenal and dynamic conductor he is. This was the first performance of the Oregon Symphony with Gregory Vajda conducting that I’ve attended and it left me wanting to see more.

After a brief intermission Chris Botti took the stage. Botti is backed by a very talented band, each accomplished individually but chose to tour extensively with Botti.  Starting out with fairly traditional light jazz, the evening seemed like it was going to be an evening of Botti’s Greatest Hits.  The Oregon Symphony was pretty light in their accompaniment with  conductor Gregory Vajda doing  more head bobbing along with the music than conducting. But Botti quickly transitioned from light jazz to pure jazz and traversed a musical journey as diverse and enjoyable as the evening’s opening set.

Botti is extremely charismatic and talented but he uses the spotlight sparingly instead opting to share the stage with the other talented musicians he plays with. Botti’s extremely humble approach is refreshing and it’s reflected in his playing.  One high moment of the evening came from the performance of Miles Davis‘s Flamenco Sketches from Kind of Blue where the Oregon Symphony connected with the song in a phenomenal way.  It may seem like a near impossibility for a Symphony to play jazz, but the Oregon Symphony came as close as you can get with one of the more ambitious conducting tasks of the night.

There were a lot of high points to Botti’s performance including a haunting duet between Chris Botti and guitarist Mark Whitfield on Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah. The performance captured all the nuances of Buckley’s arrangement while imbuing it with Botti’s own signature style.  American Idol backup singer Sy Smith took the stage for a brilliantly jazzy rendition of The Look of Love. The chemistry between Smith and Botti’s band was so good I could have watched an entire evening of them.

The absolute high point of the evening was when violinist Lucia Micarelli joined Botti to play the theme song from Cinema Paradiso.  Lucia Micarelli is mind blowingly talented and perhaps the best violinist I’ve heard. Together with Botti, Micarelli elevated the evening to a height so far above the rest of the performance. The two only played two songs together and as with Sy Smith I could have easily listened to an entire evening of the two playing together.

Botti finished the evening by turning off his mics and doing an ‘un-plugged’ version of Frank Sinatra’s favorite lounge act closing song. It was refreshing to hear Botti’s trumpet in its unamplified state, it presented a different perspective on his work and talent and was a great way to close the evening.

Chris Botti is an extremely talented and hard working musician who continues to have the ability to make each performance feel fresh and unique. Botti continues to surround himself with talented performers who deliver world class music at every outing. Chris Botti: Home for the Holidays was an excellent showcase of that talent as well as a love note to Jazz and the town where he learned his craft.

More info:

Categories: Music Tags: ,

Nine Inch Nails Dazzles Portland Fans at The Rose Garden

December 8, 2008 7 comments
Trent Reznor at The Rose Garden in Portland (photo: David Lawrence)

Trent Reznor at The Rose Garden in Portland (photo: David Lawrence)

The Nine Inch Nails concert at The Rose Garden started like many hard rock/industrial concerts – with a ton of smoke and bright lights. The sea of strobes lit the Rose Garden in bursts of blinding lights as Nine Inch Nails belted out their first three songs in a full on sonic assault.

Then it all changed. The stage went dark and the band moved to the front of the stage backed by a complex weaving of LCD lights and screens. At that point the show wasn’t just about the music anymore. Reznor and company danced and moved in conjunction with a sea of light and color in something akin to a post modern living digital painting.

The rich tapestry of light and sound constantly evolved through out the show, taking the audience on a visual trip that probably could only have otherwise been achieved under the influence of some hallucinatory drug.

With this amazing feast of the senses, Nine Inch Nails moved through their large breadth of music touching on almost every album and digital release. Bouncing around their musical time line, the band made each song sound as if it were new and fresh.

The middle of the show was a quiet contemplative series of songs from NIN’s “Ghosts” release, which felt like it came from an entirely separate universe than the band’s opening numbers. The Ghosts block was surreal, meditative and beautiful.

Every song thereafter had some sort of amazing visual surprise attached. On one Reznor moved around the stage interacting with a blanked of digital static that covered the stage, on another digital noise danced on the floor like snow and then flew to the heavens. (No description of these visuals could ever do them justice although I tried to capture the NIN Portland experience on Twitter).

The final lap of the concert returned to the bright lights and strobe of the beginning, punctuating the complete journey the band had taken the audience through the show. Coming back for an encore Reznor did a rendition of “Hurt” which felt as fresh and emotionally immediate as ever.

Reznor and NIN have taken a very different road musically. They’ve constantly foiled convention and defied confinement within the traditional music industry. Now on tour they’ve literally reinvented the concert going experience with an auditory and visual feast like none I’ve ever seen. There’s no way you can experience this Nine Inch Nails experience any other way than running out and seeing them live, no photo, youtube video, DVD or Blu-Ray of this show will ever have the impact of the unmediated experience. That experience makes Nine Inch Nails one of the preeminent bands to see live perhaps now even rivaling U2.

Here are some photos of the concert (photos by David Lawrence)

More info on NIN in Portland:

 

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Storm Surge – Storm Large's Next Chapter

November 15, 2008 No comments
Storm Large Sings at The Selfless Afterparty

Storm Large Sings at The Selfless After Party

Storm Large has had a number of phases of her career: local lounge buzz singer, international television superstar (on Rock Star: Supernova),  and local celebrity.  Recently Storm has opened a new chapter to her career, almost literally.  With a novel in the works, a successful run in Cabaret and an upcoming one woman show entitled Crazy Enough Storm Large is expanding her universe and redefining herself as a performer.

Last week Storm appeared as a surprise guest in the much talked about Super Project Lab. She treated the crowd to renditions songs which artists had asked McCain to stop using in his campaign. It was a buzz worthy performance that snagged her another spot in the Super Project Lab November 22nd show.

On Thursday Storm played at the Pander Brothers’s Selfless after party. Storm appears on the Selfless soundtrack, a film which won top honors at this year’s Bend Film Festival.  Dressed in a long skin tight black dress, Storm sang soulfully with a depth of emotion and sophistication that counterpoints her often in-your-face larger than life style.

I spoke to Storm about her new direction and upcoming one woman show Crazy Enough. “I really hope people connect with it,” commented Storm, “there’s a lot of really dark and personal stuff in the show, and I don’t want people to just feel sorry for me.”

Last fall Storm played Sally Bowles in the Portland Center Stage production of Cabaret. “Researching the play and its context historically really impacted me, I was surprised how deep I got into the role,” Storm recalls, “and it popped my theater cherry and set me up for my show.”

In addition to preparing the show, Storm is also working on a novel. “I started blogging around all the election stuff, and it got me my first death threat…from a guy in Gresham!” explained Storm, “but I found that I loved writing, and there have been a number of authors who are really pushing me to write.”

Crazy Enough is set for Portland Center Stage 3/31/09 and will run 3 months. In the mean time Storm is singing up a storm, appearing at many key Portland events as well as providing the entertainment for private functions.

Storm’s single Ladylike made it all the way to  #5 on the Billboard charts, and so now the big questions is will Crazy Enough land her on Broadway?

Categories: Events, Music Tags:

Santogold Delivers The Gold

October 6, 2008 No comments
Santogold Brings The Audience on Stage

Santogold Brings The Audience on Stage

The show Sunday night at the Crystal Ballroom was billed as “Goldrush” and featured four ‘Myspace buzz bands’ including: Low v. Diamond, Alice Smith, Mates of State and headliner Santogold.

In an evening with four bands my expectations for the first band were pretty low, but Low v. Diamond delivered and impressed me with a strong set that felt more like a headlining set than an early opener. With good chemistry, a full textured rock sound and a talented lead singer Low v. Diamond showed showed real potential. Their sound is rocky ballad that can be filed comfortably between The Killers and Snow Patrol.

Low v. Diamond was followed up by the very stripped down Alice Smith. Accompanied onstage with only a single electric guitarist Alice Smith showed quite solidly that she has the presence to fill the stage. Her set captivated the audience who seemed to hang on every note. Smith’s vocals often have the affectation and texturing that’s reminiscent of Amy Winehouse, but she’s really at best when she lets go of the vocal styling and is just herself. Alice Smith shines when she seems to loose herself in the emotion of her songs and I’d love to see here again when she’s backed by a full band.

Alice Smith was followed by Mates of State, a keyboard and drum duet which moved swiftly through an upbeat and poppy set. I really wanted to like Mates of State, they are an extremely affable band with very listenable harmonies, but I felt like I had to really work to like them. Many of their songs are so packed that there’s very little room to really connect with them. Some of the songs take left turns which clearly left the audience behind. Mates of State did their job as an opening band, but the need some fine tuning to really grow.

After Mates of State there was an extremely long break as the stage was stripped almost completely bare. The crowd was clearly impatient waiting so long for Santogold, but all frustrations were quickly erased as she took the stage. Although it was a relatively short set Santogold was on the top of her game for every moment of it. Without a single drop in energy Sontogold’s set was celebration from the first note to the last.

Backed only by a DJ and two backup singers Santogold filled the stage with a contageous energy which flowed into the crowd. I saw more people dancing at the Santogold that almost any other show I’ve seen at the Crystal. The set which lasted just over an hour featured most of the songs off Santogold’s debut album. In many of the recent concerts I’ve attended you can tell which song gets the most radio play because it’s usually the point when the crowd comes alive. At the Santogold show the crowd responded to each song like it was a ‘hit’ song.

Santogold performed one cover, The Clash’s Guns of Brixton, transforming it into a rich and contemporary song. Even though the show’s music came from a turntable the show never felt pre-programmed or stiff. At one point Santogold messed up the lyrics to a song, laughing she ran out into the crowd pulling fans up on to stage for another go. The result felt like a dance party.

Santogold is the real deal, she’s an immensely talented performer who is even better live than in her recordings. The concert at the Crystal Ballroom was her first performance in Portland, but it certainly won’t be her last. Santogold is clearly a star on the rise and she’s got the potencial to be an extremely hot ticket the next time she’s in town.

Categories: Music Tags: ,

Monontix Portland Show Pictures

October 3, 2008 No comments

I’m happy to report lightening can strike twice. Here are my photos from the Monotonix Show at The Wonder Ballroom:

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Interview with Monotonix

Monotonix at The Wonder Ballroom

Monotonix at The Wonder Ballroom

In my final installment of my coverage of Monotonix, I have a back stage interview which I did with the band.

In the interview Monotonix talks about how thier performing from the floor got started, what they see as the definition of punk, how many times they’ve gotten injured in their shows and what the future may hold for the band.

Listen to the complete Monotonix interview which runs about 15 mins.

Be sure to check out the Monotonix web site and see when they play in your area… and be sure to see them. You can thank me later.

Categories: Interview, Music Tags:

Why Monotonix Is So Important To Music

Monotonix at The Wonder Ballroom

Monotonix at The Wonder Ballroom

Back in early September I had the fortune of attending Monotonix’s show at MusicFestNW. Their short and explosive set was one of the most impactual concerts I’ve attended for a very long time. When I heard that Monotonix was returning to Portland to open for The Silver Jews I knew I had to see them again. I had to know if the show at Satyricon was some sort of anomaly. Was it just something that happened in that time and place?

It was clear from the get go that the show at the Wonder Ballroom was going to be different than Satyricon. The slightly sparse crowd was filled with thritysomething couples, out on a Tuesday night date, all of which seemed more interested in a mellow beer and music. Most of them congregated on the ‘other’ side of the OLCC beer barrier (a ridiculous regulation for all ages shows that bifurcates an audience in the worst way). The Silver Jews are a toe tapping, sway back and forth, geee aren’t they cool kind of band; so the idea of a wildly flailing and explosive Israeli punk band opening for them is an extremely unlikely paring.

As with the Satyricon show Monotonix set up their drum set out on the floor. The band entered to a few hoots and hollers. One of the guys next to me exclaimed, “This is going to blow your mind”. I wondered if that would be true. Could they blow my mind again? Would Monotonix able to catch lightening in a bottle and unleash it again and again? With their explosive start I knew from the beginning that the answer was a resounding YES.

Playing a much longer set than at Satyricon, Monotonix unleashed their music on to the fairly unsuspecting Silver Jews crowd. At one point guitarist Yonatan Gat lept across the OLCC barrier, followed by vocalist Ami Shalev who was shoved back by Wonder Ballroom security. It was the first scuffle between a band’s lead singer and security I’ve seen in years. Undaunted Ami plowed ahead taking out the barriers and one of the security guards. If punk is a state of mind vs. a musical genre, I’d submit that this scuffle was punk.

Crossing that line seemed to really engage the otherwise mellow crowd who encouraged the band. Both Avi and Yonata took to the air, floating above the crowd… It wasn’t the whole room bouncing at once experience of their Satyricon show, but a similar energy was there. Avi fond his way up onto the stage where he thrust a water battle into his pants and then pretended to ejaculate with it on one fan. He then stripped down stuffing his shirt into his shorts and proceeded to sing an Israeli folk song. Leaping off the stage the band ripped through another song, this time with their signature trash can dump over drummer Ran Shimoni.

The band then lifted the drum set and moved it to the back of the venue. Monotonix isn’t just a band that plays on the floor, the entire venue is their stage – no matter where you are, you are part of the show. Soon after Ran picked up his snare drum and ran it up to the balcony where he continued to play. Avi follows, running up onto the balcony and and then over the railing. As he balances precariously on the balcony ledge Avi yells that he’s going to jump on the count of four….and then he does. The audience catches him and he continues to belt out their final song.

There is a distinct feeling after a Monotonix show that something has happened. Monotonix brings the music off the stage and into the audience in a way that make the audience a part of the music. In may ways this is what’s been really missing with music lately. Music has become a very personal and individualized experience: people download music on to their computer, move it on to their iPod and then listen to it on their headphones. Often the only real sharing people do of their musical experience is when they snag music from Bittorrent. The reason to go see live music isn’t so YOU get to see the band in person, it’s much bigger than that. Concerts are a communal experience where the audience is just as important as the band on stage.

Most people seem to have lost sense of this communal experience. At many of the concerts I’ve been at lately I see people checking their phones, texting each other, shoe gazing, generally consuming the music without any consideration to the people around them. At a recent concert I even witnessed an event where someone almost got into a fist fight over someone singing along with the music.

There’s no question that the music industry is broken. It’s easy for people to blame record companies for the poor state of music, but I think audiences are as much to blame. Monotonix is a reminder of a time in music where music was experienced not just consumed. When the band plays from within the audience they change the dynamics, they break the personal bubbles surrounding so many of us and force you to stop watching and start participating. So many of people dance around and sing to the music when we think no one else is looking, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Concerts aren’t just spectacle, they are the shared experience of music in a deep fundamental way. When we all dance together and sing together to the same music, it connects us in a way much more powerful than adding someone as your friend on facebook or shooting them an IM. We all become a part of something bigger than ourselves and help create an experience which can only happen in that space and time.

This is why Monotonix is so important to music right now. In my mind they may be one of the MOST important things going on in music. Sure, anyone can set up their instruments on the floor and play (and maybe more bands should), but so few bands are so committed to destroying that barrier between band and audience, so committed to changing the musical experience that I think they’re worthy of being held out as an example of what should be.

Be sure to listen to my: Interview With Monotonix

Categories: Music Tags: ,

Not So Shiny Toy Guns – A Concert Review

September 26, 2008 2 comments
Shiny Toy Guns Hiding Behind Smoke and Lights

Shiny Toy Guns Hiding Behind Smoke and Lights

I’m sorry to report the shine has come off the penny. Shiny Toy Guns has effectively gutted itself, replacing lead singer Carah Faye Charnow with Sisely Treasure and moving the female lead vocalist spot to something just above a back-up singer. Chad Petree made it extremely clear in front of the sold out Berbatti’s Pan crowd that he is The One and that the Shiny Toy Guns stage doesn’t have room for another strong and dynamic vocalist. Petree is extremely talented, but what made the band so appealing was the vocal interplay between Petree and Charnow. Without Chanrow Petree is left short, a fact that was clearly reflected in the band’s extremely brief and underwhelming show.

The crowd seemed very eager to welcome Treasure with open arms, cheering loudly as she took the stage. Their eagerness was not matched by the band who stashed her towards the back of the stage, under mountains of smoke, and relegated her to the occasional backup vocal. It wasn’t until she finally stepped forward to sing lead vocals on one of the bands notable songs, ‘Le Disco’ that it became clear that gamble to reorganize the band was a bust. As a lead vocalist, Treasure struggled through many of the Shiny Toy Guns’ song, never quite connecting with them. Her performance brought very little of herself and seemed more like a mimicry of the recorded music than anything else.

I don’t think there would have been as big of a problem if the band really brought her in and shared their new direction, but they don’t seem to really have one. The one and only song which they performed from their new album Season of Poison was Ricochet, a Marilyn Mansonesque driving rock song which was ok at best. Treasure did seem more in her element belting out rougher, Pat Benetar like, vocals to a driving beat. But that was it. The only real peek into what the band might someday be.

Unfortunately, most of the 50 minute set was a peek at what the band isn’t – they aren’t the band they used to be. The Shiny Toy Guns left the crowd stunned as the exited the stage after just 38 minutes. Playing only a couple of songs in their encore, the band was off the stage before 11, less than an hour after initially taking the stage (and they were the headliner).

It’s no fun to be a fan of a band and see them take a turn for the worse, especially a band that shows tremendous potential.

The show at Berbatti’s Pan reminded me of a quote from Annie Hall: There’s an old joke – two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of ’em says, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” The other one says, “Yeah, I know; and such small portions.”

Here are pictures from the Shiny Toy Guns Concert:

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