Introducing ALL-AGES ACTION PRESENTS—It's no secret that the all-ages music scene in Portland is in critical condition. In the absence of venues like Backspace, Laughing Horse Books, and Slabtown, there's only a handful of spaces left that consistently book all-ages or DIY shows, and those shows garner little to no attention from most local outlets. With "All-Ages Action Presents"—a new series of all-ages (always!) shows that I've booked, helped curate, or been involved with—the Mercury is working to support efforts by artists and venues to provide opportunities for all-ages music to flourish. We've only just begun...
All-Ages Action Presents: Lee Corey Oswald, Blowout, Mr. Bones; Anarres Infoshop, 7515 N Alma
Considering there's been a lot of discussion lately about the restored local interest in rock music (Summer Cannibals, et al.), it's kind of mind-boggling that the press hasn't dedicated more attention to Lee Corey Oswald. They formed six years ago while founding members Lee Ellis and Corey Ciresi were still part of the short-lived modern sock-hop band Monarques, and their early material as a folk-punk duo felt indebted to bands like Against Me!, early Kind of Like Spitting, and the Mountain Goats. Those influences are still markedly apparent in Ellis' songwriting, but the group has expanded to a fully amplified quartet, and their latest effort, Regards, is a rare jewel of a contemporary punk record, showcasing the aforementioned influences in addition to '90s alternative touchstones like Superdrag, Teenage Fanclub, and Knapsack. Thematically, the songwriting covers territory uncharacteristic of pop-punk, from the vulnerable romantic bereavement of songs like "Living Room" and "Snow Globe" to the scathing critiques of scene politics in "Progress" and the title track, to stoner anthem "Scatterbrain" (assuming you're into that sort of thing). It's a record that's literate without being pedantic, and it flirts with the best, most enduring aspects of pop-punk—specifically, vintage Green Day—without totally surrendering to the expectations placed on them for (technically) being a Warped Tour band. Also playing are terrific indie/emo up-and-comers Blowout and Mr. Bones (conflict of interest disclaimer: I co-released Mr. Bones' tape).
Raw Nerves w/the Light, Crime Desire; Black Water Bar, 835 NE Broadway
As someone who has a lot of hang-ups about modern hardcore—both musical and social—I admire how self-aware Raw Nerves are. They aren't afraid to poke fun at the genre's inherent machismo, and they constantly revel in goofy barbecue metal inanity, employing pick slides and pentatonic leads all over their most recent LP, Futile Efforts. They wouldn't be worth discussing if they were mere satirists, however, and Futile Efforts is also a vital punk record by a vital punk band that exemplifies the impact aggressive music can have (while realizing it can sometimes be pretty stupid, too).
Bad Religion w/Off!, Rendered Useless; Roseland, 8 NW 6th
Bad Religion's 2013 LP True North is one of the band's more consistent releases in recent memory, a predictably catchy collection of politicized, flamboyant punk songs that rarely exceed two and a half minutes and probably sound exactly like you'd imagine—just like every other song Greg Graffin has written in the last 25 years.