Saturday, March 15, 2014

South Of The Oregon Trail With The Thermals

21 FEBRUARY, 2014
Colleen Green
Every once in awhile, Portland's Thermals expand their reach and extend their touring swing to the hinterlands, in this case Central California. It was four years since they graced the very same stage at the Velvet Jones, underneath the watchful portrait of Statler and Waldorf. Not having to drive to Los Angeles or San Francisco from The Great Middle after a full day's work is this cat's equivalent of a winning lottery ticket, knowing full well that what energy one does have will be entirely sucked away by the close of the evening.
The last time we caught up with Thermals was at the 2013 Noise Pop Festival at San Francisco's Rickshaw Stop, where they were just introducing material from the then forthcoming Desperate Ground, and focusing primarily on the re-release of PPM. A year down the road, with the songs road tested and ready, Desperate Ground proved the cornerstone of a high velocity 20 song set. As observed last year, with drummer Westin Glass settled in, this is truly the vintage Thermals lineup, able to change up on a dime, and with a ferocious command of a weighty back catalogue. Razor sharp takes on "The Sunset", "Faces Stay With Me", and "The Sword By My Side" stood out, and the crowd went ballistic for tracks from 2006's The Body, The Blood, The Machine. Personal highlight of the night was seeing an old friend's young daughter seeing the band for the first time, which, if possible, heightened the excitement even more.
As for Colleen Green, it was just a week removed since seeing her open the Vivian Girls LA farewell show, and this was her second stint as an opener for Thermals. The comfort translated, and while still rocking just guitar and drum machine, the clutch of songs from last year's Sock It To Me more than held up against the classics like "I Wanna Be Degraded". Watching her hit her zone and turn audiences around has been a pleasure, and that confidence will fuel her future work. When put on the spot for a description, what came out was: "She'll kick your butt like a one-woman Ronettes", and I'm okay sticking with that.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Scaling New Heights With Tacocat

09 MARCH, 2014
Seattle's Tacocat took over the loft at Echo Park's Origami Vinyl for a short but sweet set, racking up seven songs weighted heavily to their new LP NVM (out on Hardly Art). The quartet, (Emily Nokes, Bree McKenna, Lelah Maupin, and Eric Randall), came to grips with fear of heights, and mysterious transmissions from a local Latin radio station that streamed into Eric's amp, lending a little Eastside flavor to the set. High points of the new album were present and accounted for, including a sprightly "Bridge To Hawaii", and the killer trio of "Psychedelic Quinceanera", "Hey Girl", and "Crimson Wave", that, beneath the catchiness, left no doubt about their particular world view. Having established their beachhead in a guitar buzz, they rounded things off with "Cat Fancy" and "Volcano" from their EP Take Me To Your Dealer. As venue prep for the coming madness of SXSW, it was hopefully not too traumatic an experience for the band. It was surely a memorable occasion for the audience.

poor Bree, trapped in the stairwell...

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

the volume dealers: Cheatahs at Amoeba SF

01 MARCH, 2014
In the midst of a quick US tour to further the cause of their self-titled debut LP on Wichita Recordings, Cheatahs did the San Francisco thing in honor of the Noise Pop Festival, and the London-based quartet, whose members span the globe, found time to work in an in store appearance at Amoeba in SF. Their set was generous, laying down most of the album pitched at club level, and with no punches pulled. I can say without reservation that I regretted the earplugs that lay on the dash of my car, doing good to no one but the omnipresent meter people. While much has been made of their shoegaze roots and antecedents, it's what they do with it that counts. Usually the last thing i want to hear is an album replicated, but in this case, it was amazing to see that lush cave of sound recreated by just four people. At this point, the record is so addictive that the only thing that will suffice is more...

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Shadows And Light: Angel Olsen live

03 MARCH, 2014
While the Noise Pop Festival concluded its yearly run on Sunday, the following day offered up a gentle reminder that San Francisco never sleeps, as the Great American Music Hall welcomed Angel Olsen. Olsen's been making her way up the state, selling out in San Diego and wowing Los Angeles.
Her newest album, Burn Your Fire For No Witness, saw her transition to a full band, and the show reflected accordingly. Opening with "Hi Five", Olsen cast her spell from the get-go, milking a fat fuzz-tone to offset the longing and dislocation of the lyrics. Along with "Forgiven/Forgotten", they've opened her up to a whole new audience, but one gets the impression that it would be dangerous to trap her in any one place, as evidenced by her droll observation, "Got that one out of the way...", at the song's conclusion.
"Stars" showed off the band in full flight, and with "Lights Out", the groove was locked in. With her sardonic stage presence and unshakeable mien, she would make a fine denizen of The Roadhouse, should David Lynch ever get moving on that rumored reboot of Twin Peaks. The records only half prepare you or what's to come, and when she finally cuts loose with The Voice, it's truly one for the ages, and all the sudden those Roy Orbison comparisons are starting to make sense. The foundation of that comparison is not purely the voice, but the subtext, the songs of finding strength in the pain, the literal forging of one's self in the fire. The peak of the evening was a dynamic take on new album closer "Windows", starting soft and lulling one in, before the band came in on a wave and rode the song to an immense conclusion. The band left the stage on that high note, but Olsen remained to essay a gut-clenching solo take on "Enemy" that reduced the noisy dinner hall to utter silence. A musical E.F. Hutton moment, to be sure, and an exclamation point to the evening. While her musical pallete has broadened, the roots are strong, and the only question seems to be where she wants to go.
Cian Nugent opened things up in style, with the Irish folkie picking his way through a meandering acoustic journey, seemingly oblivious to the rustling crowd. As the song progressed and his technical expertise became undeniable, engagement began. On "Double Horse", a stark cut that built to an intense conclusion, he thoroughly made his mark, and received a thundering ovation. Switching over to electric, he pulled out a Michael Hurley cover, a perfect choice for a San Francisco audience. As a lesson in faith in one's own vision, and as a prelude of what was to come, it was a fitting start to the evening.