PREVIEW: Cool Ghouls
Photo by Michael Bordelon
I know you need something new to listen to. I also know you want a soundtrack to play along with your upcoming summer of campfires, road trips to somewhere warm, and substantial drinking at an awesome house party. Lucky for you I have the perfect recommendation: Cool Ghouls.
I had the opportunity to talk with the foursome earlier this week. They seemed to be having a small party on the other end of the phone and I have the feeling they bring the party with them wherever they go.
If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the Cool Ghouls self-titled release that came out last month from label Empty Cellar, stop what you are doing and play it. No one around you will complain. Their sound is a mix of straight out of the 1960s Troggs slash San Francisco Bay area attitude slash a hint of we don’t-give-a-shit level of seriousness. The hooks are catchy, the harmonies are pure fun and you will probably have “Natural Life” stuck in your head for days.
I’m a nerd about songwriting lately, so I had to ask about their process. Unsurprisingly, the songs for this album were all written democratically. Each band member came to the table with a riff or idea and then they “jam it out” until a song emerges. The process was very collaborative and translates well in their sound. This sort of collaboration requires a strong foundation of friendship, and it was obvious in my conversation with them that they are very good friends. In fact, band members Pat Thomas, Ryan Wong and Pat McDonald have known each other since high school. Alex Fleshman was later introduced to the band through McDonald from the dorms at SF State. Throughout my conversation with them they complimented one another, made each other have lady giggles, and seemed to have that chemistry that all great bands possess.
When I asked if there is anything they want potential fans to know about them, there was a collective “ahhhhhhhhh shit” from the room. It’s a tough question when you are just getting started (the band formed officially in 2011 but had been in the works since 2006). To summarize their thoughts: they are not trying to take themselves too seriously and they are just cool, normal, guys doing their thing. True that.
Check out this video for “Natural Life.” I think it does a great job summarizing the band. It has amazing scenery and a dancing bear. I have the feeling the bear was drunk for reals.
So what can you expect when you go see them live in either Portland or Seattle (or both?). For starters, the power might go out. Apparently they have knocked out the electricity at two different venues. Also, as the band has previously experienced, people might crawl in through the windows to get inside to see them play. What will definitely happen? You will be a happier person.
Cool Ghouls at The Know, Portland, OR June 2nd and Chop Suey, Seattle, WA on June 3rd. Special thanks to MHCP contributor and all around bad ass, Steve Sprinkel for turning me on to these guys.
The Black Angels (Hanni El Khatib, and Wall of Death not reviewed) at Wonder Ballroom, Portland, OR
• Wednesday night show. House was packed.
• Awesome crowd doing awesome things.
• Seemed like the majority of the people there were on a lot of drugs.
The Black Angels
• Chick drummer. I’m not talking Meg White keeping a back beat bullshit. This chick shreds.
• Two lefty guitarists?? What? Serious. Good ones too.
• Face melting visuals. I feel like I barely watched the band. I just watched the pretty pictures. This band totally gets their shit. Just imagine staring at the covers of “Passover”, “Directions to See a Ghost” and “Phosphene Dream” on a retarded amount of ‘shrooms.
• Another thing that distracted me from watching the band was the performance of an amazing fan. This dude pretended to conduct an entire song. Maybe even the whole fucking show. And he fucking nailed it.
• There was a guy in front of me that was playing with his hair in a really weird sexual way. Or at least that’s what I thought until I realized he was having a HARDCORE make out session to the tune of “Black Grease”. They left when the song ended. Presumably to bone.
• On a more serious note, I’m concerned that there might be something seriously wrong with the top of the lead singers face. I’ve seen these guys a few times, and I’ve seen photos, but never the top half of his face. I have two theories.
1.) Face Scales.
2.) Maybe his eyes are extra sensitive to the stage lights so he pulls his hat way down.
• Option 1 is the lead theory at the moment.
I give this show 8 stars. One star for the awesome make out couple. One star for having a stoner conductor in the audience. One star for never revealing your face above the nose. Two stars for having a female drummer and two lefty guitarists. And two stars for completely understanding your sound and translating that to a live show both visually and sonically. I wish I was TRIPPING MAJOR BALLSACK like everyone else.
xoxo Guest Contributor, Steve Sprinkel
Shuggie Otis + Jesca Hoop at The Triple Door in Seattle, WA
- Tuesday night packed show sponsored by 91.3 KBCS. Beautiful spring day in Seattle.
- This venue is straight up rad. The Triple Door is a dinner theater with excellent food and stadium style seating. In case you were wondering, I had the veggie pad thai and a glass of wine, my date had the 7 Flavor Beef with a whiskey and beer back. Manhattans for dessert. Everything was reasonably priced and the service was great. Get there early to settle in and eat your dinner. Can’t remember the last time I saw a band and drank wine. Oh wait yes I do.
- For the record, except for a newborn baby, we were the youngest people in the room.
- She came on stage, no one clapped and it was really weird. Maybe people were paying too much attention to their dinners?
- So I guess this is what they call “freak folk?” Listen to the song “Murder of Birds” from the album Hunting My Dress to get an idea.
- Major points for strange song topics. One song she introduced was about fantasizing about being injured and in the hospital. The album version of this song “Hospital (Win Your Love)” off The House That Jack Built has drums and other instrumentation but she performed a stripped down version with just her guitar and a backup singer. I like the live version much better.
- Here is my advice for a Shuggie Otis show: if you think a song is going to suck, just wait for the guitar solo.
- Face melting, funky, jams. The way Shuggie plays guitar makes me want to learn how to play just like him.
- It’s too bad the sound guy wasn’t paying attention. We were sitting right by him and he was busy doing other stuff. As a result we could not hear the horns or winds. There were loads of sax, flute, trumpet, etc. solos but we couldn’t hear them. At one point toward the end of the show the flute player had some frustrated hand gestures for the sound guy and adjustments were finally made. But it was the last song.
- His band is called the Shuggie Otis Rite and consists of 7 people besides Shuggie. Love that the dummer, Nick Otis, was wearing sunglasses. The whole band was well accessorized and if you were wearing a button down shirt on stage, chest exposure was required. BTW best band website ever…check it out here.
- Let’s talk about Shuggie’s son, Eric who also plays guitar in the Rite. His style may be different but he can still shred with the best of them.
- A few songs in and a handful of people were leaving. I don’t think they were leaving because they didn’t like it, I think they were leaving to go bone. It’s that kind of music. There was even a guy in the very back of the room dancing by himself and dry humping the wall.
- The banter between songs was THE BEST. Fave Shuggie quotes of the night: “Shuggie like sugar” and “Get a dictionary and go look it up fool” and of course “Shuggie Otis Rite has invaded Seattle, Washington!”
- After the double encore and massive jam session to end the night complete with disco ball and a crowd up on their feet, we were greeted outside by a spaced out guy with open arms looking in wonder and astonishment at the Triple Door and asking “What is this place?” My thoughts exactly.
I give this show 18 stars. One star for Jesca’s voice and her quirky songs. Fifteen stars for Shuggie’s guitar shredding. Seriously. One extra star just for the whammy bar. One star for the drummer’s sunglasses. Minus ten million stars for the sound mixing but I won’t count that toward the total.
PS Shuggie is playing again tonight at the Triple Door. You should stop denying yourself fun and go.
Maps and Atlases + Young Man and Hustle and Done at The Crocodile
- Sunday night. Pretty good turn out for a Sunday.
- Fantastic crowd
- Really amazing solo dancing guy during first two bands at the front of the audience. His moves included: casting out a fishing line and reeling it in, jumping jacks, and my personal fave playing air guitar but look like you’re stroking the worlds biggest d*ck. Seriously though, people were taking video of this guy.
- Hey why is there no drum kit set up for the first band…
Hustle and Drone
- Okay everyone settle down, they don’t have a drummer but it all works out in the end.
- I love it when the first band of the night is surprisingly great. Dave Davison from Maps and Atlases even came out to watch.
- You know that awkward space between a small crowd and the stage? The audience doesn’t want to get too close in case the band sucks and most bands react to the space by either ignoring it or talking about it uncomfortably. Hustle and Drone had the confidence to know that space would dissipate in a song or two. The music literally drew the audience in.
- They were confident, comfortable in their own skin and had balls big enough to cover Radiohead (Idioteque).
- Vocalist Ryan Neighbors had some of his own great dance skills behind his keyboard. The pink light box behind him served as an excelled backdrop for his fancy leg moves.
- Best way to introduce a tune: “Chicks like this song”
- Do me a favor and check them out the next time they come through your town.
- Five piece from Chicago. Took a few songs for the band to hit their stride.
- Nice, dreamy sound. Easy to listen to and get lost in. Their recordings do not capture the essence of atmosphere in the songs this band plays. Very pretty.
- Number of Periodic Table of Elements shirts on stage:
- Love the way everyone in this band plays their instruments. Their sound is very clean and very tight and each song changes enough to keep you guessing.
- Great simple set design with amp stands that were glowing pyramids.
- Giant bass drum on the stage looked like it was going to fall into the audience while the bass player was hitting it. Watch out.
- Cover of Tears for Fears “Everybody Wants to Rule The World” was unexpected but really suited them.
I give this show 6 stars. One star for Hustle and Drone and all their awesome. One star for the craziest dancing fan ever. One star for The Crocodile keeping it real. Three stars for Maps and Atlases nailing it.
Okay okay, we’re back! After so many shows last year we need a little palette cleanser. But we are both itching to rock…it’s time!
We now have coverage in Seattle as well as Portland. Pacific NW takeover? We think so…
See you soon!
MHCP Year In Review 2012
Total bands seen: 144!
Approx annual ticket cost: about $1000 each (does not include any travel costs)
Number of cocktails consumed: 312ish
Number of drummers A got her picture taken with: 1
Weirdest Show: Alan Resnick opening for Lower Dens at Mississippi Studios
Rowdiest Crowd: Girl Talk (both at Sasquatch and at MFNW)
Loudest Show: A Place to Bury Strangers in Portland.
Furthest Travelled: A Place To Bury Strangers in Brighton, England.
Most Anticipated: Pulp
C’s Biggest Disappointment: Cat Power
A’s Biggest Disappointment: Black Keys
Most Boring Show: War on Drugs
Most crowded show: YACHT
Stinkiest Show: King Tuff
Surprisingly good: Nouvelle Vague (and would have been even better at a smaller venue)
Worst Attendance Yet Best Show: Cloud Nothings.
Best Band You’ve Never Heard Of: Ume
Best Venue: Doug Fir, but hoping for better bands to play there in 2013.
Up and Coming Venue: Bunk Bar! Surprisingly great bands played there this year and we can’t wait to see more.
Worst Venue: Rotture. Yikes.
Best Set Design: Foster the People
Most Fashionable Band: Santigold at Sasquatch
Most Memorable: Jezabels. It was on a boat a required a costume. We’ll remember it for a long time.
Worst Show: Cold War Kids (they only got one star).
C’s Best Show: Pulp at the Warfield Theater
A’s Best Show: Bon Iver at Sasquatch
Super huge thanks to: Music Scene PDX, Twisted Wire PDX, Portland Mercury, KINK, Your Mom
JD McPherson at Roseland Theater (Allen Stone and Blind Pilot not reviewed)
- Sunday night. REALLY windy night. Taking the Fremont bridge to get downtown was not the best idea.
- Sold out!
- Fundraiser for Portland’s Sunshine Division. Silent auction downstairs. That sort of sums up the crowd.
- We arrived right at 7pm when the show started and people must have gotten there early, because people were already very drunk.
- This quote I overheard sums it up: “What goes on here tonight stays here.”
- First time in a long while I have been to a 21+ Roseland show. Balcony was reserved seating only but there was a bar on the main level and all the way downstairs too.
- Rockabilly hoedown commence!
- Slicked back hair on stage required.
- As soon as they started playing, the people in the reserved balcony seating immediately regretted their decision to sit down.
- Their music transports you to another time and place. In a good way. Is it possible to be nostalgic for a time before you were born?
- Upright bass player, Jimmy Sutton, is the bees knees. There was some serious bass slapping going on. His charisma carried the band through their set.
- North Side Gal was a crowd pleaser and the band really responded to the crowd’s energy, but I was worried they weren’t going to be able to top it…
- Then they played “Wolf Teeth” and people started throwing stuff. It was awesome.
- At the end of the set, they received a standing ovation from the balcony.
I give this show 12 stars. Ten stars for the coolest bass player of the year. One star for Roseland having a bar on every floor. One star for “Wolf Teeth” and all it’s awesomeness. Can’t wait to see these guys again.
PREVIEW: J.D. McPherson at Roseland Theater, Sunday December 16th, 2012.
As we head into the last few weeks of the year, it’s hard not to reflect on all the fantastic albums released over the past 12 months. I’ll admit, I’ve been working my list (and been having lots of debates with myself) but J.D. McPherson’s April 2012 release “Signs and Signifiers” is definitely a contender. Ask any of my friends, it’s been on every playlist at work and home since early this summer and continues to be on repeat.
So in the spirit of making everything into a list at this time of year, here is a list of five simple reasons for why you should go see J.D. McPherson play on Sunday night at the KINK FM Jingle Bell Jam:
1. You have a cute dress that is borderline rockabilly and you need an event to wear it to.
2. You love to dance.
3. McPherson’s influences include a range from Delta blues to Led Zeppelin to Buddy Holly to Little Richard, all things you love and you are curious what it sounds like when these are all mixed together.
4. It’s a fundraiser for Portland’s Sunshine Division. They offer free emergency food and clothing assistance to families in need.
5. He is opening for Allen Stone and Blind Pilot.
And just in case you need one more reason, I’m going be there…
J.D. McPherson is opening for Allen Stone and Blind Pilot at Roseland Theater Dec 16th. Doors at 5:30pm, show at 7pm. $25-$45. Photo credit Jim Herrington.
Whitehorse + Dustin Johnsen at Doug Fir
- Tuesday night. Haven’t seen the Doug Fir this empty before.
- Do not order a glass of red wine at Doug Fir. Ever. Stick to the hard stuff or beer.
- Very quiet, soothing acoustic Portland based singer/songwriter.
- It’s the kind of music that is in the background while you quietly catch up with your friends. So that’s what we did.
- Husband and wife duo Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland didn’t disappoint. We were sitting at the bar and after one song we were drawn to finish our drinks and head to the stage. They have fantastic voices.
- There were a lot of M. Ward-esque moments.
- Doucet talked about Elliot Smith’s influence on his songwriting and gave some props to Portland.
- Definitely a lot of cords on stage to connect all those pedals, a stomping board and the array of microphones which includes old telephone receivers. We both fell in love with the great sound of their voices in the old telephone receivers.
- There was a lot of looping going on and we appreciate that. It definitely made the performance interesting and kept us guessing. We really liked that it was hard to predict what part of the song they would play live over the loops. For example, in one song they looped the guitars, vocals etc and ended the song by both playing a drum.
- They didn’t do the looping thing the entire show, they spent time just the two of them in the front of the stage in a permanent fret bone* playing some great songs, including a fantastic cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire.”
- The crowd was so small that people were sitting on the stairs to watch. Their music has a lot of energy so it’s gotta be hard to play for a crowd like that.
- We’d love to see this band opening for someone like Wilco or Ryan Adams. Or maybe Band of Horses it a better fit considering their name… Either way we want to see what they can do with a full band including drummer, bass player etc.
We give this show 5 stars. One star for the stomp board. One star for excellent chemistry. Two stars for fret bone. One star for old telephone receiver microphones.
*Fret bone: when two guitarists play facing each other, instruments only inches apart. Usually includes jamming or face melting.
xoxo A + C
PREVIEW: Whitehorse at Doug Fir Lounge, Tuesday December 4th, 2012.
What do you do when your Canadian co-worker who has excellent taste in music suggests you check out a band from his motherland?
This happened to me last week. The co-worker will remain anonymous, but the band is Whitehorse. As soon as I got the heads up about this band, I listened to their new record The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss and kind of fell in love. This husband and wife team (Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland) has chemistry, great voices and the kind of record that seems like it’s going to be amazing live. Good thing they are going to be in Portland at Doug Fir Lounge next week.
McClelland says: “We have a pretty complicated setup on stage. We’re looping rhythms. Luke has a kick drum and I have a stomp box, and we have seven guitars, bass guitar, keyboards, and tons of percussion. So for a lot of the songs, we’re building pretty complicated loops and playing along to that. We’re building it very organically on stage so anything can happen. It’s gone very wrong, and very right.”
So what do you do when your Canadian co-worker who has excellent taste in music suggests you check out a band from his motherland? You say thank you.
Whitehorse with Dustin Johnsen at Doug Fir Lounge Dec 4th. Doors at 8pm, show at 9pm. $10 advance, $10 day of show. Photo credit Paul Wright.