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Santogold Delivers The Gold

October 6, 2008 Comments off
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: ,

Mythbusters – Live

October 5, 2008 1 comment
Mythbusters Adam and Jamie with Rich Emerson

Mythbusters Adam and Jamie with Rich Emerson

Let me get this out right from the start, in their live appearance the Mythbusters DO NOT Blow stuff up. Sitting in the sold out crowd at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall you could feel the collective hope that all the warnings and disclaimers about the show NOT containing explosions were false.

The two science geeks who host the popular Discovery channel show had a huge task ahead of them, how to entertain a group of people who would rather see you blowing crap up than talking about it.  I’m happy to report that Adam and Jamie (prompted by Host Rick Emerson) did a fantastic job of engaging and entertaining the audience for an hour and forty five minutes.

Billed as a ‘Behind The Scenes / Inside The Actor’s Studio for Science Geeks” the interactive talk gave an experience with Adam and Jamie that you just couldn’t get in an audio commentary on a DVD or in a behind the scenes snippet.  Shooting entirely from the hip both Mythbusters showed just how immensely entertaining they are, even in their every day life.

Peppered with video clips (which I wish they had more), the talk did have a few slow points, but Emerson did a solid job of moving things right along. The show reached its high point when members of the audience got to ask the Mythbusters their own questions.

Some of the nuggets of info gleaned from the talk:

  • In their spare time they do the kind of experiments that Discovery Channel won’t let them do on TV.
  • Upcoming episodes include ‘How to Polish A Turd” and “Slipping on a Banana Peel”
  • Discovery Channel nixed “How Many Licks Does it Take to Get To The Center of A Tootsie Roll Pop”
  • Jamie owns and runs his own company which does work for the private industry and the government
  • An Airplane will take off on a conveyor belt runway…damn it (so stop sending emails)
  • None should ever mess with Jamie’s béret
  • Their absolute favorite episode is “Lead Balloon”
  • The exploding water heater actually went up 750 feet in the air (with a 15 second hang time)

The finale of the show was a blooper reel and clip reel of some of their best explosions which they called “Explosion Porn” including a lot of footage from a high speed camera which was an absolute hit with the crowd.

The Mythbusters could have done a kitchy stadium style show for ‘the kids’ filled with explosions and pyrotechnics but they opted for a much more honest and informal chat.  I really enjoyed it but I think my sevenyear old son sill wanted to see explosions.

Categories: Events Tags:

Birthday Brunch at Beulahland

October 4, 2008 Comments off

Reason #412 why I am madly in love with Portland. Today is my wife’s 36th birthday and so rather than go through the regular breakfast routine we decided to go down to NE 28th and catch a bite at Beulahland.

Even though the skies were foreboding we decided to walk down to Beulahland (and we were rewarded with a nice break in the clouds).

Beulahland for Brunch is an experience in simple perfection.  We had their basic brekky (done vegan) with piping hot stumptown coffee and a Manchester United game on their big screen (they beat Blackburn 2-0). Service was fast, friendly and our coffee cups were never devoid of steaming hot coffee.

I’ve traveled quite a bit and the experience at Beulahland for brunch reminds me of some of the best pub breakfasts I’ve had around the world.  It’s a simple gem and it’s right here in our back yard.

Categories: Family, Food Tags:

Monontix Portland Show Pictures

October 3, 2008 Comments off

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

Categories: Music Tags:

Interview with Monotonix

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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

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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: ,

What I Learned From WordCamp Portland

September 28, 2008 Comments off

I’ve lived in Portland for 15 years and in that time I’ve seen tremendous change and growth in the Portland internet community. The Portland tech community has gone from early seedling groups like Lenny Charnoff’s Netogether and Mike Pritchard’s Internet Entrepreneurs Association to full blown, large scale, sold out events like Ignite Portland and WordCamp Portland. It’s been an amazing thing to watch.

Sitting in the sold out room for WordCamp Portland I was struck by just how dynamic and exciting the internet community in Portland has become.  There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to write about it, doesn’t want the rest of the world to know about our little secret (but I think the secret is already out). Big things are happening here in Portland. When I say big things, I don’t mean some major Internet company is going to be opening its doors, and I don’t mean there will be some huge announcement of some grand Oregon based product.  The magic of what’s happening here is that it’s a million little exciting things that all add up to a very significant and flourishing community.

Aside from my realizations of just how great the community is. I did learn some very specific and helpful things:

In all, It was a full Saturday well spent, unbelievable value at $10 and an event I’ll absolutely attend again when it comes around net year.

Categories: Technology 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:

Categories: Music Tags: ,

Stout Time Has Arrived

September 23, 2008 Comments off

Photo by david.nikonvscanon

Photo by david.nikonvscanon

For dinner the other night I went to the Bye and Bye (1011 NE Alberta St). I did what I always do: I stared at the menu for a long time and ended up ordering the exact same thing I always get – The BBQ platter. Rather than order an IPA to accompany my meal I realized that it was ‘Stout Time’.

Stout time comes when the air is crisp in the morning, the clouds migrate back into the sky and it begins to rain again. It’s a time when you retire the summer IPA’s and wheat beers and pick up the dark stuff.

The Stout I had was Alemeda Brewing‘s Black Bear XX Stout – an amazing chocolaty, coffee-esque, dark but clean beer that was the the perfect start to autumn and a fantastic accompaniment to my vegan BBQ platter.

Happy Hour runs 4-7 at the Bye and Bye and I plan to be drinking many more of those stouts in the weeks to come.

Categories: Beer Tags: , ,

Stout Time is Here!

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For dinner the other night I went to the Bye and Bye (1011 NE Alberta St). I did what I always do: I stared at the menu for a long time and ended up ordering the exact same thing I always get – The BBQ platter.  Rather than order an IPA to accompany my meal I realized that it was ‘Stout Time’.

Stout time comes when the air is crisp in the morning, the clouds migrate back into the sky and it begins to rain again. It’s a time when you retire the summer IPA’s and wheat beers and pick up the dark stuff.

The Stout I had was Alemeda Brewing‘s Black Bear XX Stout – an amazing chocolaty, coffee-esque, dark but clean beer that was the the perfect start to autumn and a fantastic accompaniment to my vegan BBQ platter.

Happy Hour runs 4-7 at the Bye and Bye Cafe and I plan to be drinking many more of those stouts in the weeks to come.

Categories: Food Tags: