Spectrum Culture concert reviews: Papercuts, Sea & Cake/Lia Ices, Minus the Bear/Velvet Teen, Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside

This one’s a four-fer!

First up is my review of Aughts icons Minus the Bear and the Velvet Teen, at the Doug Fir on Nov. 8:

image courtesy of behindthehype.com

Minus the Bear entered with “Thank You For Being A Friend” blaring on the P.A., their Velvet Teen compatriots standing off in the back row hollering in support. Vocalist-guitarist Jake Snider and bassist Cory Murchy, having long lost their tousled, early-indie-era locks, both sported full, messianic beards and long hair. Pulling largely from the recent Planet of Ice and Omni era for their first five tunes in advance of delving into Highly Refined Pirates, the latter was definitely the highlight for the crowd, which lit up palpably as soon as the opening seconds of “Thanks for the Killer Game of Crisco® Twister” could be made out beneath the waves of applause following the previous disco beat-heavy but surprisingly flat rendition of “Fine +2 Pts.”

Read the rest at Spectrum Culture.

Next up is local favorites and the Willamette Week’s Best New Band of 2010, Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside, at the Wonder Ballroom Nov. 18:

…loping onstage piecemeal to overly raucous appreciation from the front rows, Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside spared no delay before ringing in “Nightmares,” the slow-burning closer off their debut LP Dirty Radio, vocalist Ford’s full-voiced delivery cracking ever so slightly (“Sometimes I wish it would all collapse/ And I could finally fall on my ass“) as bassist Tyler Tornfelt, drummer Ford Tennis and guitarist Jeff Munger glided through the rendition. After transitioning directly into the title tune off 2009 EP Not An Animal, a simple “Thank you s’much” from Ford was sufficient to launch them into another stretch of tracks mining the young outfit’s favorite territory: freewheeling and jazzy, Golden Oldies-style rock ‘n’ roll imbued with raw punk irreverence and topped with Ford’s abdominal yowls and Etta James purrs.

The rest, again, can be found at Spectrum Culture.

Third is the odd pairing of Chicago’s easy, breezy indie jazz-rocker veterans the Sea & Cake with New York’s young upstart songstress Lia Ices, also at the Doug Fir, on Dec. 8:

For all the enthusiasm shown by the crowd for up-and-comer Lia Ices, seconds after the show’s jazzy Chicago headliners took the stage, it was pretty clear who most of the sold-out audience had paid to come watch. The crowd erupting immediately in whistles and howls at the appearance of the quartet; several concertgoers began hurling mild personal insults as well as song requests, ignored or fielded by co-vocalist co-guitarists Sam Prekop and Archer Prewitt. Mostly ignored, except in the case of a surprise dance-inducing rendition of “Jacking the Ball” (off their 1994 self-titled debut) that Prekop introduced halfway through the set with, “I’ll take what I can get.” But in terms of gain and contribution, Prekop, Prewitt, John McEntire (drums) and Eric Claridge (bass) brought more to bear than a willingness to appease listeners desiring them to dig deep into their discography (although they played material from several of their nine studio LPs). Wielding an almost preternatural unity on all 19 songs performed that night, the Sea and Cake had no trouble marching through a wide range of moods, from the lurching experimental valleys of earlier records to the tight, poppy strains of “Crossing Line” (from 2007′s Everybody), the latter enveloping Prekop and Prewitt’s capo tones on guitar and the rich brassy twang of Claridge’s bass.

The rest be here.

Last is the most recent — Papercuts at Portland’s Bunk Bar, December 10:

Dreary nights… have little on Papercuts’ quietly defiant preciousness, nor on the painstaking arrangements [lead guitarist/vocalist Jason] Quever puts at the center of nearly every Papercuts tune, even below the vaulted ceiling and pale, dim lights of combination sandwich shop/art gallery/drinking hole/music venue Bunk Bar, situated in Portland’s gritty industrial east waterfront district. Inside, the casual vibe and low-key setup (Bunk Bar lacking a stage in the traditional sense of the word) lent Quever, backed by frequent contributors David Enos (keys), Frankie Koeller (bass) and Graham Hill (drums), the air of someone playing an open mic, or just charitably scoring bar patrons’ Saturday evening with lush compositions pulled in at least some small part from a decidedly bygone, and more lo-fi, era.

And the rest of this piece is located, of course, back at Spectrum Culture.

Whew! More Spectrum reviews, Poetry365 (365ish?) and other content to follow soon. Thanks for reading!

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Spectrum Culture film feature, Oeuvre: Samuel Fuller – The Crimson Kimono

More from our Sam Fuller series. Strangely, Crimson Kimono has the dubious distinction of remaining one of the only mainstream American dramas featuring an Asian-American male in a leading role, more than a half-century after its release. More backlogged Spectrum reviews to come soon (as well as, hopefully, some more original material from me).

After a stripper (“Sugar Torch”) is gunned down in the street, LAPD detectives Sgt. Charlie Bancroft and Joe Kojaku (Glenn Corbett and James Shigeta) are tasked with picking her killer out from a short list of unsavory types while keeping young college co-ed and artist Christine Downes (Victoria Shaw), key witness and acquaintance of the deceased, out of harm’s way. This, in the inexplicable mores of the era (or at least in the logic of Samuel Fuller’s 1959 post-noir The Crimson Kimono), requires the precocious creative shack up with the detectives in their hotel suite – safer than her sorority house, they reason – where, to no great surprise, a love triangle develops between the very-dissimilar officers and their attractive ward. The tautly formal yet sensitive Kojaku plays piano, while the more unprofessional and headstrong Bancroft, with a jawline of chiseled granite, launches double-entendres at the young woman, and the conflict between the “knucklehead” upstart and grizzled veteran is underlined by deeper hints of ethnic tension and reinforced by their mirrored affections. In a vocabulary already well-established by writer-director Fuller, it’s a story of star-crossed lovers. Like his previous China Gate, one of its primary focuses is race and on the difference between hatred born of bigotry (one of Fuller’s enduring themes) and “normal, healthy, jealous hate.”

Read the rest here: Spectrum Culture – Oeuvre: Samuel Fuller – The Crimson Kimono

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Open letter to fellow supporters of Occupy Portland: Occupy Portland 2.0

[Note: Please feel free to copy, alter or distribute.]

Hello fellow Occupiers,

First of all, for the sake of the movement and its progress I strongly support all those willing to form a contingent of any size to stay in the camp and face arrest come Sunday morning. Although many in the public will be relieved the parks have been cleared (however temporarily) and others view it as a blow or setback for OP, if those remaining are peaceful as well as steadfast in the face of all police action, any outcome will be an overall benefit, increasing our overall visibility and presence in the media and public consciousness.

What happens at 3 or 4am Sunday morning after the police have left, whether to reoccupy the park or not, is something which I think no individual person or even OP itself can control. That being said, I think the scheduled clearing of the camp is the perfect opportunity for the adoption of new tactics in the spirit of the idea of “Occupy 2.0.” Below are some realities I feel the movements faces, and some options for what could come next.

Given that, as an Occupy movement we must occupy something, as well as:

a) With talk of occupying multiple parks simultaneously, there’s some idea floating around that our resources are unlimited. We need to be realistic, but still reach for greatness. Our ideas hold infinite power, but our personnel/popular support and logistical capacity is not currently sufficient for action like that. Moreover, spreading ourselves thin (in any way) presents the police with an obvious advantage when it comes to closing down individual parks and arresting smaller numbers of campers. We are strongest when we are united, at our most diverse and out in force of numbers.

b) A portion of the public’s negative reactions to our occupation(s) have stemmed from perception (correct or not) that OP caused significant damage to the parks, presented a public safety risk and cost taxpayers money (in the form of police presence and park cleanup/repair). Conversely, these concerns provide a major strategic resource: we will grow in public support if we use principles of sustainability and occupy without doing damage or putting undue stress on already strained City resources (or even to save the City money, so as to focus on funding other essential services); many already with avowed sympathy with our cause would be swayed to our side. There is reason to believe this represents a large segment of the general population.

c) It is getting colder. As the temperature continues to drop, the chances of someone in a long-term camp freezing to death increases, and the reality of long-term logistics for such a camp become infinitely more complex.

d) As occupiers, community members and human beings, we (in our strength of numbers) have not just an obligation but a fantastic opportunity to fill a serious need obviously vacated by national, state and local gov’t. — that of feeding, sheltering and/or otherwise assisting and lending our aid (material, emotional, political and otherwise) to the housing-insecure and those cast aside.

e) At this time OP’s weakness is not in self-policing, nor in muddled messaging, but in outreach. This movement is not just a movement, or an occupation, but is the seed of national discussion. If we self-represent as the 99%, it behooves us to resemble the 99% more than in name. We’ve done a good job of this, peaceful egalitarianism (talk about your basic human values) being at the root of our movement, but need to recapture the diversity present in the first marches. As much of the occupation’s power as possible must be invested in arms of promotion (there doesn’t have to be a limit to how many or what form they take). Sunday’s amazingness was a testament to the hard work so many occupiers have done, forsaking jobs, school, families, friends and the comforts of home to do so. Let’s continue that trend.

I feel that:

1) We need to redouble our focus on non-violence, and add to that objective improvement of the public good and employment of fully sustainable practices. In other words, we need to do what corporations are not doing: take care of the environment, take care of people, improve or at least cast no footprint where we’ve been, clean up after ourselves and contribute demonstrably, altruistically and wholly to the public good. This could include everything from cutting out all food packaging in the kitchen to forming a permanent cleanup squad before/after events to discouraging people from putting out cigarette butts on the ground. Perhaps efforts in this vein would even reduce or eliminate police presence at our gatherings. [Edit: realism.] (b, d)

2) Rather than occupy a specific park through the winter, organize rotating daily marches and overnight sit-ins at various parks in the Metro region. These overnight or short-term sit-ins operate on a changing basis so as to reduce physical and environmental impact on the site (and to, by peacefully assembling in changing locations, reduce chance of police action). For the marches, we come out en masse to create visibility, rally, talk to folks, draw them out, march in their neighborhoods and set up temporary camp in a different park/area each day, hold evening GAs and have all-night civic issue debates, cuddle-ins, political philosophy readings, quiet dance parties, etc. As daily action we organize free events for the benefit of all citizens including bank action marches, picketing bad corporate citizens, putting on concerts like the one at Pioneer Square, community-wide potlucks and swaps, public food tours and gardening info sessions, skill seminars, Reclaim The Streets actions, film screenings, local credit union/local biz events, trash pick-ups, vacant housing reclamation, repainting homes, fundraisers for those in danger of being foreclosed on, etc. These are all basic elements of community, humanism and civic duty which a Civil Society should provide but which ours presently does not. (a, b)

3) Reach out to all not currently involved. Tap into the underground wellspring of public support we certifiably (and as of Sunday, demonstrably) enjoy. More street team, media and outreach committee focus. This could include door-to-door, community discussions, co-organizational events, etc. Give bike advocates, fiscal conservatives, public health advocates, families, downtown office workers and those living out past 82nd or over the West Hills more reason and opportunity to march and act with us, and work with existing groups of citizens with common cause. As we (along with other strategies) do more events for the public benefit, spread march routes all over the city and manifest the ideal of benefiting the public good, others will attract. (At this point, if OP or OWS achieves critical mass, it won’t matter what or where we occupy. We will have all the people with us. Who will arrest us if the police are with us?) Perhaps a rather important element to outreach is to allow more people (in fact, hundreds upon hundreds just here in town, if not more), who sympathize and want to help but are somehow unable, to participate via internet. (a, c, e)

4) Contribute demonstrably and constantly to improving the plight of those on the street, addicted to drugs and emotionally troubled. To start with, we need to take care of our many housing-insecure (or volitionally nomadic), and otherwise vulnerable friends, continue to work closely with them and to help fill the need gap (in keeping with idea 1). If this means setting up clean, well-organized R2D2 spinoffs in vacant lots around the city and large public food gardens, so be it. As part of outreach, and part of events, we can march with them, visit shelters, squats and encampments to break bread with those staying there, deliver donated goods/gear or medical supplies to rehab clinics, crowdsource people’s bail, etc. (d)

5) Maintain some office space (on top of all other occupations decided on). We need a warm and dry place for computers and equipment to function, to organize large-scale events (like in 1-3), and for GAs when it is too unpleasant out. If we add an online participatory model to the GA, we can run broader-based GAs within a given space (to accommodate all those who choose to be physically present). (c, e)

6) At winter’s end, we can begin talking about re-occupying something longterm, when we have the logistical experience and widespread popular support under our belts (or at least improving). (c)

Remember the key is to build a widespread, peaceful and sustainable movement!

Of course, the great thing about this popular consensus model and movement is that if there are good reasons for us to stop doing something we’re trying out, or to start doing something differently, that option is always open to us. (And additionally, we can continue doing all the many things that have and continue to work!) So I hope that this and any other suggestions generated or decided on in the coming weeks regarding the future of this movement will carry with them the caveat that we can always reconsider. But we have such a huge opportunity to take this to Occupy Portland 2.0 that I could not resist sharing my ideas.

If this movement is an organism, it was conceived October 6 and born on Sunday. Now, let’s help it learn to walk and talk!

Thanks for your time!

Joe Clinkenbeard

[Note: This is a living document. Changes will be made (see below).
Edit Nov 10: Yeah. I definitely had two #4s and two letter ‘d’s in those lists. Whoops. Results of being rushed ‘to press.’ Fixed. Also I’ve gone through and cleaned up a bit here and there.
Edit Nov 14: Edited for timeliness, as clearing has already occurred.]

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Concert reviews: Moonface (Oct. 16, Doug Fir Lounge) and Hooray for Earth (Oct. 10, Missippi Studios)

Two concerts from last month I reviewed for Spectrum Culture, plus vids of the bands involved:

In concert, Moonface…

is more than just Spencer Krug’s one man show. Touring behind the debut album Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I’d Hoped, Krug (on keys) enlisted percussionist Mike Bigelow to provide the other half of the equation implied by the album’s title. A few lit candles and the image of a roaring fire was projected behind Krug and Bigelow. Perched atop Krug’s synthesizer setup was a miniature lighted globe, its mismatched hemispheres feeding into one another confusedly. One inebriated fan placed her bag on the stage in front of Krug’s keyboard as he entered in a brown, long-sleeve button-up workshirt and Bigelow in a simple tee, capped with a tight green beanie. When a request from the crowd in front came to “Rock Me Amadeus,” Krug returned: “All right, we’ll rock you Amadeus.”

And for the rest: Spectrum Culture concert review: Moonface

As for Hooray for Earth…

the New York band, about to enter into its sixth year of existence, is going through growing pains. Their recent intensive synth-pop twirler True Loves has garnered them a bit of buzz and a dedicated – if small fanbase as they set out on a five-week tour (their first outside the Northeast) in support of it. These growing pains manifested themselves, at least for their Mississippi Studios show in support of Cymbals Eat Guitars, in an almost painfully loud set that left the crowd, the band and their sound more than a little unbalanced.

The rest is here: Spectrum Culture concert review: Hooray for Earth

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Spectrum Culture concert review: Deelay Ceelay @ Backspace Lounge, October 8

The homegrown dance-music instrumentalists played an all-ages show at Backspace.

Deelay Ceelay is an experience. As a collaboration between two enthusiastic (and enthusiastically geeky) Portlanders, percussionist Delaney Kelly and musician/video artist Chris Lael Larson, Deelay Ceelay is both more than and less than a band in concert. Sure, with most of their music coming pre-recorded and the only thing “live” about their shows being the absolutely manic rounds of pounding each of them do on their twin drum kits, it may not amount to much on paper. But through a combination of lighting and experimental film/animation (synched to the music and projected behind them), the high-strung, ADHD disco-funk blaring from their monitors, a hardcore cadre of dedicated fans and the sheer sweat they put into keeping pace on the drums, it can – and often does – make for a raucous time.

For the rest: Spectrum Culture concert review: Deelay Ceelay

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Spectrum Culture music review: Dominant Legs – Invitation

Not much to hear here. Girls’ guitarist and some chick team up, release lazy, substanceless music, nobody notices and everyone goes back to their daily lives. Trust me, though, it’s better that way. I enjoy writing bad reviews about as much as I enjoy listening to bad music (and not just because trashing someone else’s hard work makes my heart sad) — it makes me acutely aware of every second ticking slowly down to my eventual demise.

The title Invitation suggests a poor man’s Celebration (MGMT being a hipster-lite Daft Punk), and the impression is basically correct. Echoing tales of a party once told at some other party that the unreliable narrator might never have attended, there isn’t much of real substance. The chorus on the opening track, “Take a Bow,” is set to a synth line so basic in progression it could have been found on a children’s program: “As we go round and round and round/ We go up and down and down/ As well.” (Yes, those are the actual words.) Flaccid melodies plod on predictably, underlined by decent musicianship, and become quick victims of the lyrics in all but a few cases. Even with the help of some inspired moments and the exuberance of its two players, it’s sort of like a washed-out photo, nonspecifically banal.

Read the rest here: Spectrum Culture music review: Dominant Legs – Invitation

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Spectrum Culture album review: Björk – Biophilia

The Icelandic songstress’s eighth studio album. Definitely not as strong as past work, but still hovering in that delightful space that is uniquely hers. Large portions of the album were composed on the iPad, and in the run-up to the release a series of multimedia apps paired with each song allowed, among other things, user remixes.

image courtesy of somekindofawesome.com

Whatever their ilk, the more effective tracks on the album ignite in the fashion most becoming of Björk: shot through with effervescence in the arrangements that have always lent her style its distinctness, but now framed by a more mature, pointed focus. As with natural selection, the change can register as hit-or-miss, and Biophilia sometimes works against its own exuberant intentions. There’s a less-showy control displayed in the album’s first half, neatly translating as outrage (or outrageousness) present in her earlier work curbed by creeping melancholy or violent creation given over to tender-handed uncreation. In either case, it’s a new sonic manifestation for her. Whether this and other elements are an admixture of the snowier, softer parts of Vespertine and the breathy exhilaration of Medúlla or a growing twilight side to her music coming from somewhere else won’t be evident until later, of course, when Björk returns to the studio and makes her next album on whatever newfangled technological doodad we’re using to interface on then.

Read the rest here:

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