MusicWatch Weekly: Dress up in metal

Balinese gamelan, Finnish black metal, and an early Halloween come to Portland

The present author normally adheres to a strict “no promoting your own shows” policy, but since I spent a month telling you all about band camp in Bali, I feel it’s only fair to let you know that the results of that experiment in cross-cultural music training will be on display at The Old Church this Sunday, when Gamelan Wahyu Dari Langit perfoms alongside grindcore duo Snakes, the analog oscillator witchcraft of Mulva Myasis, and Arts Watch fave Dolphin Midwives.

The next day, while gong reverberations are still echoing around the venerated old building, organist Michael Barnes plays spooky Halloweeny music on TOC’s eldritch old Hook and Hastings organ for this week’s weekly free lunchtime concert. I don’t recommend trying to hide in the belfry overnight–rumor has it Quasimodo hides up there, waiting to sing Disney tunes to unwary trespassers.

King Riddle

I can’t help thinking of Daniel Riddle as Portland’s Robert Fripp, though not as a guitarist; Mike Gamble and Ryan Miller would stylistically fit that description far better than Riddle’s Barrettesque psych-pop. Maybe it’s just the resonance if his long running band’s name: King Black Acid, the only constant member of which (like Fripp with King Crimson) has been Riddle. From their formation in the ‘80s through their quiet successes in film licensing up to their present semi-legendary status, the band’s line-up has constantly shifted. I have to confess a fondness for this sort of band history; it’s the sort of behavior that leads to Distinct Eras (consider The Fall, of Montreal, Crim themselves). KBA’s current line-up, like earlier incarnations, has its own name: The Rainbow Lounge. The band performs with The Ghost Ease and Miss Rayon at Mississippi Studios tonight–get moving!

This weekend through Monday, Oregon Symphony and Artist-in-Residence cellist Johannes Moser perform Witold Lutosławski’s Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in Salem on Friday and at the Schnitz in Portland Saturday through Monday. Also on the program: Gabriela Lena Frank’s Walkabout: Concerto for Orchestra. Frank’s music is the smart, chewy, visceral variety of classical music, the kind that’s best experienced live, as anyone who heard her chamber music performed at PSU last summer can attest. Walkabout takes its subtitle and inspiration from Bartók, perhaps the most significant of Frank’s myriad influences. She’s more than a little Bartóky herself, sharing the Hungarian master’s fondness for pedagogical concerns and the rewards of digging into folk musics and refracting them through a modernist classical lens. And both composers earned reputations as master concert pianists, parallel to their other careers.

As for Beethoven: well, it’s really easy to whine about “Beethoven who?” and lament the dearth of contemporary classical music on large-scale local concerts. But really we have nothing to whine about, not when relatively underappreciated orchestral composers like Lutoslawski and living creators like Frank are at the table. In company like this, it can be quite thrilling to hear old favorites like the Fifth Symphony, a sort of timeless musical frisson arising from the alignment of centuries of compositional tradition. Duh-duh-duh-DUUUH.

Saturday night, hop off the Max downtown and get your face melted by Finnish black metalheads Oranssi Pazuzu. You never want to miss a chance to hear a European metal band with a devoted following–inevitably, you will get into them later, discover that they Never Come To The States, and curse yourself for missing them when you had the chance. Plus, geez, they came all the way from Finland. These guys had to fight immigration for this. You can cross the Willamette for once in your life.

Next Tuesday night, put on your black raincoat and slouch down to the Lovecraft Bar for self-tribute spookiness with Void Realm, Ormus, and Visions. Next Wednesday, back at Mississippi, you’ve already missed your chance to hear Portland composer Haley Heynderickx with her full band–the late show’s sold out. But you do still have a chance to hear her do a solo set at 7. Late dinner is more fun anyway, right?

Pumpkins scream in the dead of night

Halloween Tribute Band season comes early this week. I love this part of the year, when the streets get blanketed in beautifully dead leaves, porches fill with pumpkins and spiderwebs, and a host of local bands get together to learn a bunch of covers and play dress up for Halloween. (My favorite of recent years has been Portland metal nerds Burials performing Slayer’s epochal Reign In Blood as Frozen Water Burials, a feat they are sadly not repeating this year).

This Thursday–tonight!–up at at Killingsworth Dynasty, you’ve got Whipers as Wipers, Death Party as The Gun Club, and Frankie Teardrop as Suicide. Friday night at No Fun on Southeast Hawthorne, it’s Death Party again, Buzzcocks tribute band Noise Annoys, The Lobotomen doing The Ramones, and The Decliners covering Pacific Northwest favorites. Also on Friday, Bad JuJu and Fauxgazi and Michael McDanzig play The Fixin’ To in Saint Johns.

Let’s unpack that last lineup. Bad JuJu is a Siouxsie and the Banshees tribute band. Simple enough; we’re there. Denver-based Fauxgazi has possibly the best pun name ever (we’re still waiting for a math-punk-djent-shoegaze band called Meshoeggazi). The full name of the last one is Michael McDanzig and the Misfit Bros, which is apparently Misfits songs as sung by Doobie Brother Michael McDonald and not the other way around.

Finally, on Saturday night at The Fixin’ To, Boys Keep Swinging performs their final show of David Bowie tunes, with The Candy Ohs invoking the ghost of Ric Osasek with their tribute to The Cars.

Extradited

Another exception to that self-promotion thing: last weekend, your physically exhausted and voiceless author had to call in sick to the Extradition Series fall concert. Fortunately, Charles Rose was there to tell me (and you) all about it:

It’s always funny to me when people within the classical music world ask the question “what can we do to get young people to come to these concerts?” as if the answer isn’t obvious. It’s not that young people don’t appreciate classical music anymore–we do–but the downward-mobility of Millenials and the even bleaker conditions for Gen-Z offer a far better explanation for our absence. And even if the under-forty crowd could afford it, ticket sales make up less than half of the Oregon Symphony’s revenue, the rest coming from charitable donations by non-profits and wealthy patrons. The economic risk of playing new works, the perils of meritocracy, a bad case of cost disease, and the massive expenses of running a symphony mean that talented musicians have sought other means to express themselves, creating spaces that cater to their own musical interests.

This is where the Extradition Series comes in: they are Patreon-supported, perform in small non-conventional venues, and have less obligation to sell out by playing shit everyone knows already, focusing on the disciples of John Cage and Pauline Oliveros.

Surprisingly, this concert on October 19 was actually quite funny–and sometimes the performers themselves were in on the joke. In Sarah Hughes’ Fires and Conifers, Branic Howard and Maxx Katz chuckled at the oddly appropriate sound of a car alarm going off outside, while later the “disruptor” Loren Chasse took a phone call, slammed doors, cleaned windows and climbed over the audience. While the disruptor did, yes, distract from the music–that was the point–he added an air of unpredictability that was invigorating in a way that is usually missing at “serious” concerts. The final piece, Toshi Ichiyanagi’s Music for Electronic Metronomes, had an equally manic energy, placing an endless series of odd sounds and movements over an ever-changing cloud of off-beat metronomes.

I can’t help but compare the reaction to these deliberate disruptions with the derision and vitriol we feel when a cell phone goes off in the Schnitz, or when someone coughs at, say, a Keith Jarrett concert: anything that takes us away from unperturbed listening and complete engrossment by the musical masters before us is a faux pas. But this sense of engagement and fourth-wall breaking helps me resonate with the music as something that is alive and relevant to our world today, not some artifact that is to be dryly contemplated. 

This may be part of why I see a much higher ratio of young people at Extradition shows–though it is somewhat unfair to compare a concert for three thousand people to a concert for forty. While the music at Extradition is more “challenging”–whatever that means–it is actually more inviting because of etiquette (or lack thereof) surrounding the show. The dark, somewhat drab interior of the Leaven Community Center feels far more welcoming than the flashy, ornate exterior of the Schitz that signals to passersby that, “this is where the music happens, the serious music, where you can’t afford to be.” It also helps that Extradition tickets were quite reasonably priced.

I’m not certain if the performers of Extradition would agree with my assessment, however. Any political reading of art risks falling into dubious territory, like when you start saying that brass instruments are inherently masculine or something. And I’m not even sure of it myself. I’m simply one of those Gen-Z musicians trying to figure out my place as a young artist within a culture that is changing rapidly before us.

Everybody make a scream

Thanks Charles! Everybody stay tuned for next week, when we’ll tell you all about the next crop of Halloween shows. I’ve got to run for now–I’m late for gamelan practice!

Want to read more music news in Oregon? Support Oregon ArtsWatch

One Response. Have your say.

  1. bob priest says:

    Ah, the Lutoslawski Cello Concerto – a life changing work for me! First hearing it 4 decades ago prompted me to contact & study with him in Warszawa waaaay back during Martial Law daze.

    BTW, I’m currently in a Lutoslawski kinda mood more than usual after Salonen’s rousing performance of his 4th Symphony with the LA Phil last night @ Disney Hall. OMG, is THAT ever an amazing space of grace. Mommy, can we please get one of those up ‘n’ running here in Global Village PDX?

    I’m seriously stoked about scrambling to The Schnitz when I get back from El Lay on Monday & thank the OSO soooo much for such a wonderful homecoming!

    Dzienky,

    Bobski

Join the discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.