Date: January 31, 2013
The Venue: Mississippi Studios, Portland, Oregon
The Artists (In order of appearance): Summer Cannibals, Desert Noises and Crushed Out
The Crowd: Pretty good, it was large enough so the venue felt and looked full, but there was plenty of room to move around. The crowd itself was very Portland, meaning anything goes, from ironic t-shirts to suits. More importantly the crowd was engaged in all three acts upholding there end of the symbiotic relationship that is crucial to a good show.
The Bands: I’ll elaborate more on each band below, but overall all three bands were very good at their specific styles, but none seemed to be transcendent. They all gave good energy, and seemed to earnestly enjoy the venue as well as appreciate the energy the crowd was giving them.
Overall Reaction: A solid show from top to bottom. It was not the kind of show you’ll be telling your friends about a week later, but I wouldn’t be disappointed to see any of these bands show up on bills for other concerts I’ll see in the future, and if I saw Crushed Out was playing in town again, I’d definitely consider going to see them.
Merchandise Purchased: I was impressed with Crushed Out enough to purchase their album, and if I wasn’t being cheap I may have also purchase one of their t-shirts because it featured a double headed shark. I got a thing for sharks. Also of note, is Summer Cannibals were actually selling cassette tapes of their album. So Portland, but in this instance I mean that in a good way.
The Nitty Gritty
Summer Cannibals: This is a classic example of a band that has the philosophy of, “I know some bar chords, we should play them.” Nothing fancy about the Cannibals, but I appreciate that in an opening act. I hate going to rock shows and being greeted with opening acts that feature slow acoustic guitars, or keyboards. To steal a line from Twisted Sister, “I wanna rock.”
The band itself is obviously in the early stages of their career. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out this was the first show they’d put on. I say this because when they weren’t mashing chords, their stage presence was shy at best. So much so the first couple of times the guitarist spoke, I thought it might be a bit of a shtick, because despite his timidness he was quite charming in his earnestness. By the end of their set it was quite obvious he just wasn’t used to being behind a mic. My second clue to this being an early show was at the end of their set they gave thank you’s that were reminiscent of Oscar acceptance speeches.
Despite or maybe because of this I quite enjoyed their set. Their no frills approach, was refreshing, and I liked the fact they stuck to what they did well. It will be interesting to see how Summer Cannibals progresses as a band, and I look forward to catching them later on down the line once they’ve had a chance to mature, but overall a promising start.
Desert Noises: Desert Noises is a hard band to describe. The editor of the website described them as Tom Petty meets Band of Horses, and as I watched the show I tried to come up with my own comparison. There was something very familiar about the band, but figuring out what it was I found elusive. The only comparison I could come up with was Kings of Leon. That was based more on an airy, ethereal quality of the vocals, and less about the style itself. As musically they had more of a folksy quality than Kings of Leon does. More like if the Doobie Brothers were fronted by the lead singer of Kings of Leon.
This inability to put Desert Noises into a convenient box is probably what makes them an interesting band to see. At first look they seem to be a bit of a band of hippies, and this is especially true of the lead singer, Kyle Henderson, who has the long stringy blonde hair, and doesn’t wear shoes on stage (being January, he did wear socks). To further the stereo type he often exulted the crowd to dance, but only in the most passive ways like, “I don’t want to tell you what to do, but you can dance,” or something very similar anyway. If you just played the music in the background you might see them as a jam band that understands and believes in song structure, but there is more there. There is a deep passion in Kyle, and for his songs and occasionally on stage he shows you a glimpse as he wails out a chorus and you can see the raw emotion in his face. Music is about emotion, it was these moment that made me believe that there is something more to the band. This was reinforced on the rare occasions they let their lead guitarist rip out a guitar solo, because he had chops to spare.
Overall Desert Noises style is not my favorite style of music, but there was just enough uniqueness to keep me engaged in their entire set. They will never be one of my favorite bands, but there is enough below the surface to make this a band worth seeing at least once on the chance your tastes are more inline than mine were, because they are very good at what they do.
Crushed Out: To be honest, I had trepidations about this band. First of all it’s a two piece. So my mind went immediately to the White Stripes. Don’t get me wrong, I like the White Stripes fine, but you have to be pretty special to be as pompous as Jack White, and still manage to make likeable music. It raises the difficulty, beyond what most musicians are capable of. This preconceived notion was only reinforced when I looked at the guitars on stage, and one of them looked like on those 70’s Japanese model that Jack White is so fond of. Within the first 30 seconds of Crushed Out’s set, my worries were put to rest. Yes the first song had a definite blues influence, but to me the band sounded more like Eagles of Death Metal and less like the White Stripes. As their set continued it became clear that as a band they were much less serious than the White Stripes, but more serious than a silly band like the Eagles of Death Metal. I would describe them as a cross between the two bands only with a definite 60’s vibe to them. The result is a music style that is more accessible than either.
The combination of the drummer, Moselle Spiller, and guitarist/ lead vocalist, Frank Hoier, is an interesting one. The Frank seemed very comfortable in his own skin, and very earnest, which made his interaction with the audience understated, but effective. Maybe the best example of this was a story of how they came to regularly cover House of the Rising Son by the Animals (a pretty good cover by the way). Apparently they were at some venue in North Carolina and were playing two sets. During the intermission out of the blue a patron requested they cover that song of all songs. The response was something to the extent of, “hey, we like old 60’s spooky folk songs, why not.” They played it, liked it, and have been playing it ever since.
It’s interesting to compare his approach with that of Moselle, who has decidedly more showy approach. The act consists of the drummer in a very shiny leotard type top occasional doing gymnast type poses while playing the drums. On the surface it’s different, and adds a bit of sexual energy to the show, but when juxtaposed to the Frank’s more laid back approach the two don’t marry well together, and the parts don’t quite equal the sum. Overall they would probably be better off taking a more laid back approach overall.
That’s a minor nitpick, and the more I think about the concert, and listen to the CD I purchased at the show, the more I like the band. The live show wasn’t a blow your mind type thing, but if you’re looking for a night of fun music with heavy blues and 60’s pop influence, you could do much worse than checking out Crushed Out.