BOB MOULD, CYMBALS EAT GUITARS
(Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell) Cymbals Eat Guitars made a splash in 2009 with its debut album Why There Are Mountains, a fine (if a bit undercooked) slab of indie rock in a world increasingly unfriendly to slabs of indie rock. It was shaggy and sprawling, with Joseph D'Agostino's yelps set against a sea of Built to Spill/Modest Mouse guitar acrobatics. I say that to say this: Cymbals Eat Guitars' new album Lose is a giant leap forward for the New York band. The basic components haven't changed—the Pacific Northwest still courses through the music, and D'Agostino still sings like he really, really wants you to know he means it—but the songwriting on Lose is noticeably more mature, the arrangements are more elegant, and there is more texture to everything the band does. A half-dozen years in, Cymbals Eat Guitars sounds like a band settling into its skin, and that's a wonderful thing. BEN SALMON Also see My, What a Busy Week!, and All-Ages Action!
THE BAD PLUS
(Jimmy Mak's, 221 NW 10th) When the Bad Plus come to town, you'd do well to heed their clarion call. This Minnesota-born, New York-bred jazz trio has evolved far beyond their early work, when they'd combine knotty, whimsical originals with kitschy covers of Rush and Blondie. As their last two albums have proven, the group has been developing in leaps and bounds. Earlier this year, they released an adaptation of The Rite of Spring that yanked and pulled at the well-known score by using electronic beats, drummer Dave King's wandering rhythms, and a puckish spirit that Stravinsky surely would have admired. New album Inevitable Western finds King, pianist Ethan Iverson, and bassist Reid Anderson settling back into a comfortable groove together, with a set of originals that bats around time signatures and dissonance like balls of colorful yarn. ROBERT HAM
SIR ELTON JOHN, BRIGHT LIGHT BRIGHT LIGHT
(Moda Center, 1 Center Ct) Did you know that Elton John's real name is Reginald Kenneth Dwight? Did you know that he is currently 67 and has sold more than 300 million records in his career? Did you know that Sean Lennon is one of his 10 godchildren? Did you know that he hates Madonna? Sorry, I fell into a Wikipedia hole. Anyway, I'm so-so on John's discography—for every legit hit and moment of Disney genius, you've also got your "Bennie and the Jets" (AKA the worst song ever) (BENNIIIEEE) and your "Crocodile Rock" (second-worst song ever). True, he's a seriously talented piano player, but I'm more in it for the personality—the gay rights and AIDS activism, the glasses, the gap tooth, the glitter, the crotchety celebrity bitch-slapping. Oh, and he once described Jesus as a "compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems." EMILY NOKES
THE ORWELLS, SKATERS, THE PICTUREBOOKS
(Star Theater, 13 NW 6th) The Orwells' national imprint has mainly been relegated to an inspired performance on Late Show with David Letterman, in which vocalist Mario Cuomo's manic onstage persona sent shivers up Dave's aging spine, prompting calls for an encore. The Elmhurst, Illinois, quintet's powerfully straightforward take on hard-hitting punk and pop is an infectious blend. The band's superb 2013 EP, Other Voices, lassoed both the rock-ballad revival and a working-class abandon, specifically on the two versions of the title track, one of which was produced by Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio. Their latest, Disgraceland, is their first on the major-label circuit and it shaves the edge off their underground scuzz, but still cuts to the quick on singles like "Who Needs You?" and "Dirty Sheets." RYAN J. PRADO
YOUR RIVAL, OUR FIRST BRAINS, SLOTHS, LOVE AND CARING, ROBOT BOY, DUCK. LITTLE BROTHER, DUCK!, SAID GONER, MR. BONES
(Laughing Horse Books, 12 NE 10th) Laughing Horse ran a very good race, and now it is time to set the pony out to pasture. Much more than your friendly neighborhood anarchist bookstore, Laughing Horse Books was one of the only—and I mean ONLY—places left in this town that reliably held shows that people under the age of 21 could attend. After months of ups and downs and fundraisers, their lease has finally been terminated, so Laughing Horse now heads off to join the long parade of shuttered Portland venues in that all-ages space in the sky (including Satyricon, Backspace, the Artistery, Meow Meow, and dear god the list just goes on and on). But after 29 years at a couple of different locations, Laughing Horse is not going into the night quietly. A stacked bill of local punk and underground bands—including a one-off reunion set from Duck. Little Brother, Duck!—will send it off. It's a free event, although donations are heartily welcomed, and you are encouraged to wear your finest funeral attire. NED LANNAMANN
SAM SMITH, BROODS
(Edgefield, 2126 SW Halsey, Troutdale) The greatest trick Sam Smith ever pulled was convincing the world he made "hip" music. "Latch," his ass-shaking collaboration with vocal-house revivalists Disclosure, provided Smith with his first big break. He turned out not to be the second coming of Roland Clark, but rather a blue-eyed soul man with the voice of a long-suffering cherub. He and his team of producers create OCD-shiny adult-contemporary with just enough electronic trickery to make the blognoscenti nod in approval, and the right amount of unvarnished romanticism to get the teens on board. A strange time to live in, music-wise, when it's the unironic classicist who's getting everyone's knickers twisted. KYLE FLECK
MÁSCARAS, HORDERS, SARCASTIC DHARMA SOCIETY
(High Water Mark, 6800 NE MLK) If his Facebook bio is to be trusted, singer/songwriter Mat Vuksinich has been performing as the Sarcastic Dharma Society since 2003, although his first proper release wasn't until 2007's This Is Me with a Piano and a Lot of Love, a precocious, bite-sized songbook that sounds like early Tom Waits sped up to 45 RPM. Vuksinich exchanged keys for guitar on the subsequent EP, Sannyasa Songs (of Love), one of the best and most overlooked local releases of the past five years. Last year, the Sarcastic Dharma Society formally expanded from a solo project into a five-piece—replete with saxophone—providing Vuksinich with the sonic flexibility his deeply sophisticated pop songs have long called for. The group's latest, a collection of five new songs recorded live at Laughing Horse Books, is hopefully a taste of things to come. MORGAN TROPER
MUSCLE AND MARROW, HAIL, ACASUAL
(The Know, 2026 NE Alberta) Look up Muscle and Marrow online and one of the first things that pops up is a live performance from the duo, looking dejected during an acoustic rendition of "Golden Sun" as they perch atop an anonymous gravestone at Lone Fir Cemetery. That morose patina endures when vocalist/guitarist Kira Clark and drummer Keith McGraw open up their cacophonous monster full maw. Theirs is a tortured kind of ambience bent on minimalist repetitions and the slow-building energy and tension of a band like Swans. The Human Cry, the band's terrifyingly pretty doom record, has the potential to lull you into secret alcoves of madness and beauty in a gloomy tug o' war. RJP
OREGON SYMPHONY, NADJA SALERNO-SONNENBERG
(Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway) Following a slew of preseason concerts, the Oregon Symphony kicks off the 2014/2015 season the same way certain Viennese in April 1800 kicked off their budding new century—with upstart Beethoven's Symphony #1. Don't be fooled: Ludwig's First is every bit as miraculous as its later symphonic siblings, and with Carlos Kalmar conducting, chances are pretty great his interpretation will feel fresh and revelatory. A violin concerto from Dmitri Shostakovich follows intermission, performed by the indefatigable soloist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. Last time the fiery fiddler was in town, she confessed to drinking Red Bull before hitting the stage, so don't be surprised if the concerto's brutal Stalinesque undertones seem more manic than usual. The program—which repeats Sunday and Monday—is bookended by a pair of good ol' American composers, starting with Michael Torke's six-minute burst of crackling syncopation and ending with Samuel Barber's infanticidal Medea's Dance of Vengeance, a violent percussive blowout that certainly lives up to its provocative title. Men in tuxes with tam-tams and whips? Yes, please. BRIAN HORAY
BED, MANX, MARS AND THE MASSACRE
(The Foggy Notion, 3416 N Lombard) I've been sleeping on Bed. I generally try to avoid cringeworthy puns at all costs, but there is no better way to put it. Bed is husband-and-wife San Francisco transplants Alex Haager and Sierra Frost and drummer Andy Harmsen, and the self-described "slow-fi" trio has been playing shows and releasing singles on Haager and Frost's own Breakup Records label since arriving in Portland earlier this year. "Boys" and "Brothers" offer up glimpses at the band's fuzzed-out, alluring jangle pop, but nothing could have prepared me for their third single, the recently released "Wayward." On the track, Frost's poignant and bittersweet vocal calls to mind Grandaddy's Jason Lytle as a heavy rhythm section crunches through an autumnal jam for the ages. It's a soaring slab of Pixies-esque alt-rock, and it ranks up there as one of the best tunes I've heard all year. CHIPP TERWILLIGER
WAND, STILL CAVES, THE RAT
(The Know, 2026 NE Alberta) The new psych and garage blood spills freely from San Francisco to Los Angeles, with artists like Mikal Cronin, Meatbodies, and Ty Segall (and all his iterations and cronies) sharing an incestuous collaborative spirit. La La Land's Wand fall in this camp: Frontman Cory Thomas Hanson having played with Cronin and others over the years. With Wand, Hanson leads a motley crew through some serious spacious psych-pop that has a lot happening underneath the music. The band's latest, Ganglion Reef, is an energetic, spaced-out set that exposes Hanson's proclivity for fantasy—it's the key to setting Wand apart from LA's garage-rock dons. MARK LORE
THE GUTTERS, WHITE GLOVE, PLASTIC HARMONY BAND
(Turn! Turn! Turn!, 8 NE Killingsworth) The Gutters pronounce the word "gutter" in the preferred British-punk fashion: "Gah-ah." (Because getting your tongue around all those unnecessary consonants is awfully hard work—why bovva?) Of course, the Portland band is a long way from ol' Blighty, but with a brand-new 12-inch slice of their patented garbage rock, the guitar-and-drums duo might actually have enough steam to cross the pond. (They're aiming for a UK mini-tour in October.) Eventually is a worthy follow-up to the Gutters' pretty great Should We Make a Seven Inch?, and its 18 songs, simple and snotty and fun, are either genius or idiocy or both. Actually, I'm downplaying them a bit—these are all terrific and hilarious songs, and the Gutters are a trashy, smashy good time. NL
OREGON SYMPHONY, NADJA SALERNO-SONNENBERG
(Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway) See Saturday's listing.
TOTAL SLACKER, PAWS, FLASHLIGHTS
(Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi) Shortly after their last show in Portland, the Scottish punk-rock band PAWS made headlines when Morrissey attempted to have the band's Santa Ana, California, show canceled over fears that their sounds would bleed over into his set in an adjacent venue. PAWS held their ground, refusing to budge even when offered double their guaranteed payment to cancel, and the band ended up playing a later set once Moz had toddled off to bed. It's not surprising that the trio refused to be silenced or bought out that evening. Just look at PAWS' touring schedule, now about to stretch into its ninth month—or better yet, take a listen to Youth Culture Forever, their fantastic sophomore album from earlier this year. The release is packed with melodic heart-on-sleeve anthems that beg to be belted out in front of crowds on a nightly basis. Fortunately, PAWS seem hell-bent on making that a reality. CT Also see My, What a Busy Week!
NIK TURNER'S HAWKWIND, WITCH MOUNTAIN, HEDERSLEBEN
(Star Theater, 13 NW 6th) Wily Nik Turner’s 74 and still truckin’ down the interstellar highway with his deathless batch of Hawkwind tunes. The saxophonist/flautist/vocalist was a crucial spark in Hawkwind’s hyper-influential space rock; he played on all the essential records they cut from 1969 to 1977. Equipped with a panoply of spaceship sound effects and riffs meant to engage you for infinity, the songs from that era remain as inspirational now as they did when they were whipping hippies into frenzies at massive outdoor festivals. In his own cussed way, Nik Turner is still master of the universe. Gawk at the silver machine he’s assembled to replicate the old Hawkwind magic. DAVE SEGAL Also read our article on Witch Mountain.
THE KOOKS, HALSEY, PRIORY
(Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell) The Kooks' first two records are gleaming examples of muscular Britpop mixed with shaggy, American-style rock 'n' roll, landing somewhere between the shimmering beauty of the Kinks and the cigarette-burn swagger of the Rolling Stones. Their new one, Listen, doesn't reach the same heights. The band tries to expand its sonic horizons, blending synths, a gospel chorus, and other experiments into its typically snappy sound. The results are good. Not great. The Kooks sound like they've still got ideas that they're trying to work out, but they've run out of the juice that fuels younger, hungrier bands. Speaking of which: Opening tonight will be local electro-pop duo Priory, who everyone on the planet has decided is Portland's next big thing. Priory's album is due next year and they'll be huge shortly after that, so hop on the bandwagon now if you haven't already. BS
OREGON SYMPHONY, NADJA SALERNO-SONNENBERG
(Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway) See Saturday's listing.
AMON AMARTH, SABATON, SKELETONWITCH
(Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell) What is it with the big-shot, one-dimensional metal bands (which everyone seems to like but me) touring with opening acts that are so much better then they are? Sure, you want an opener that'll warm up your crowd, but not one that will ignite a wildfire that brings down the building. Amon Amarth's mid-tempo, Viking-themed death metal has become so boring and predictable, they could probably just mix up the tracks from their old records, rename them, pass them off as a new release, and nobody could tell the difference. They're no match for the relentless ferocity of Skeletonwitch. From one record to the next, Skeletonwitch's speed and dexterity seem to grow. You'd think after 10 years and five full-lengths, the Ohio band would tone it down a smidge, but somehow they keep churning out unholy, whiplashing riffs like they're trying to win a race. The devastating tornado of metal that Skeletonwitch will no doubt deliver will have you calling it a night before the stale Norsemen take the stage. ARIS WALES
(Aladdin Theater, 3017 SE Milwaukie) Their distinctive look (Body Glove surfwear never had it so good) and chart successes ("Cult of Personality" hit the top 20 in 1988) will likely always tie Living Colour to the past for musical nostalgists. But since reconvening in 2000 after a five-year hiatus, the quartet of New Yorkers has proven to still have a lot of fire in their bellies. 2003's album Collideøscope was a fierce attack on American politics post-9/11, and its follow-up, The Chair in the Doorway, exhibited equal force and a keen choice of collaborator in former Pop Group frontman Mark Stewart. On the road to drum up hype prior to the release of a new album, the band is here to stare into the lily-white world of heavy rock and dare it to flinch. RH Also see My, What a Busy Week!