BACKSPACE 10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY: TIANANMEN BEAR, TEN FOOT MOUSE, FAIR WEATHER WATCHERS, MISS MASSIVE SNOWFLAKE
(Backspace, 115 NW 5th) Half a year ago, things weren't looking too good for Backspace. The all-ages music venue and internet café was bombarded by an overwhelming variety of financial problems, including late-rent penalties and a pending lawsuit filed by music publishing mafia ASCAP for permitting cover songs and playing copyrighted material over the venue's PA. Thanks to a few successful benefit shows and countless generous donations, Backspace met their goal of $10,000 and are in the clear (for now)—and that's a really, really good thing. Backspace's role in the Portland music scene, as one of the only strictly all-ages venues in the city, is absolutely invaluable. Tonight's anniversary show consists of unruly booze-rock staples Tiananmen Bear, upstart hopefuls Ten Foot Mouse (whose lone single, "Papercut," sort of sounds like T. Rex), Eirean Bradley of the Portland Poetry Slam, and will be hosted by man-about-town/resident tastemaker/Backspace employee Arya Imig. Happy birthday Backspace, and hopefully many more. MORGAN TROPER
NICKI BLUHM AND THE GRAMBLERS, STONE FOXES
(Aladdin Theater, 3017 SE Milwaukie) Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers make hot-weather music, singer/songwriter grooves for sweaty nights. On their second album, Driftwood, Bluhm & Co. dabble in Americana ("Women's Prison" and a cover of Doug Sahm's "I Wanna Be Your Mama Again") with all the banjos and fiddles and other signifiers of that tuckered idiom. But they are at their best when they stop playing tourist and get comfortable in the West Coast sophistication that makes the album more tasteful than trendy. "Jetplane" is a standout, highlighting Bluhm's Ronstadt voice and lilting, clear-eyed songwriting. Bluhm is from San Francisco, where she lives with her husband, Tim, AKA Grambler Number One. Tim Bluhm—also of the Mother Hips—wrote a few of the songs on the album, including my favorite, "Wall of Early Morning Light," which begins more like an outtake from Dark Side of the Moon than a California country track. REBECCA WILSON
THE ESTRANGED, FREEDOM CLUB, DIVERS
(Kenton Club, 2025 N Kilpatrick) I don't think there is a 7-inch in my collection that has gotten more play in the past year than Divers' 2012 release. The free download of the tracks from the Rumbletowne Records website might be the only thing saving it from having the grooves worn out. Getting to see Divers' mind-blowing live show every couple weeks also helps. A full set of heart-on-sleeve rock songs that are packed to the brim with fist-pump and shout-along moments make them one of the must-see live bands in Portland. They package a huge Springsteen-esque vibe into a show that gets delivered to rowdy and joyous audiences in dive bars and sweaty basements. By the time the band closes out the night with 7-inch B-side "Montrose," complete with a bit of a curtain call moment toward the end, it doesn't just feel deserved, it's pretty much demanded. CHIPP TERWILLIGER
VOLCANIC PINNACLES, LAVAS MAGMAS
(Revival Drum Shop, 1465 SE Prescott) Tonight's event by the Creative Music Guild promises to be a seismic eruption of experimental innovation. For a few years now, the Guild has been responsible for promoting and showcasing Portland's most inspired left-field musicians and sound projects. Lavas Magmas and Volcanic Pinnacles are forged from the same igneous ore as all acts for CMG showcases, displaying an improvisational spirit that makes these shows a dynamic and unique experience for both audience and performer. Volcanic Pinnacles set a course for the center of the earth with Sun Ra-esque explorations into the free jazz inner core as a two-piece of saxophone and drums. In contrast, Lavas Magmas are the musique concrète project of Luis Gonzalez, who creates a rich drony ambience using a few oscillators and scrap metal, imbuing performances with a deep meditation into the elements of sound. WYATT SCHAFFNER
BRAINSTORM, GOTHIC TROPIC, MINDEN
(Dig a Pony, 736 SE Grand) LA trio Gothic Tropic make compelling, brightly distorted pop/rock/psych/garage music (they're all over the genre spectrum), with far-away tin-can vocals and instantly likeable rambliness. Their four-song EP, Awesome Problems, has been in my ears since I found it, but I suspect it's just a teardrop in Gothic Tropic's ocean of coconut-flavored reverb. EMILY NOKES Also see My, What a Busy Week!
4TH OF JULY BLOCK PARTY: DANAVA, LONG KNIFE, GAYTHEIST, PARADISE, THE SUICIDE NOTES, & MORE
(East End, 203 SE Grand) This year's lineup for East End's fourth annual Fourth of July Block Party is plenty reason to shut down a street. It's yet another assemblage of local heavies, including two of my favorites, Danava and Gaytheist. Since the release of 2011's Hemisphere of Shadows, Danava have been touring incessantly, turning gray matter into soup in the States as well as Europe. The good news: The band recently signed to Tee Pee Records, and will begin work on their next LP this summer. Gaytheist is currently man-handling audiences on the strength of the excellent Hold Me... But Not So Tight. Add about 10 more equally heavy bands, and this party generates enough power to level a city block. Enjoy it while you can. MARK LORE Also see Destination Fun.
MEAN JEANS, THE BUGS, BIG EYES, DJ BRADLEY
(Star Bar, 639 SE Morrison) Each and every Mean Jeans show keeps the Twiztömeter cranked up to full blast. Tonight's Fourth of July show, however, might blow the needle clean off. You know what to do: Find a BBQ and a nice daytime buzz. Slurp sausages and slam Jagey 'til the sun goes down. Shoot BB guns and throw fireworks off the roof. Come close to crumpling before filling your nostrils with a second wind. Then, quickly, find a way to Star Bar that bypasses the DUI checkpoint. Do whatever it takes; this shit's going to be off the hook. Bodies on top of bodies, sweaty, slipping on spilled beer, singing, and sneaking off to spew—pogoing all the while. Along with the Bugs' reverent smash and Big Eyes, it ought to be a celebration of America worth remembering. That is, if by the following morning, anyone still can. ANDREW R TONRY
WATERFRONT BLUES FESTIVAL: ERIC BURDON AND THE ANIMALS & MORE
(Waterfront Park, SW Naito & Columbia) I'm not sure where the Animals rank in the pantheon of British rock, but I'll go so far as to say their interpretations of others' songs are some of the best. Vocalist Eric Burdon's stage performances and booming voice were a big part of that, as the band went on to own songs like Lead Belly's "House of the Rising Sun" and Nina Simone's "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood." While this version of Eric Burdon and the Animals (the name "the Animals" is actually trademarked to original drummer John Steel) is certainly a watered-down excuse to crank out the hits to sexagenarians with money and Tommy Bahama shirts, Burdon's got real mojo, and this performance fits snugly in this year's newly vitalized Waterfront Blues Festival, which also includes Robert Plant and Mavis Staples. ML Also see Destination Fun.
NIGHT MECHANIC, BLESST CHEST
(Kenton Club, 2025 N Kilpatrick) Earlier this year, Night Mechanic released Working Late and gave Portland yet another peppy, lightly punk-tinged, super-melodic guitar rock album to cram on the shelf along with all the others. But Working Late is something special, filled with joy and sorrow and the ingredients that make up everyday life—a deep and abiding love of music, the elation and frustration of professional sports, the much-needed stress release of hanging out with friends, the surging rush of an alcohol buzz, the sting of a first date gone terribly and irreversibly wrong. It's an album that sounds great and feels even better; Night Mechanic are not just making excellent smarty-pants rock, but they also sound like they're having a shit-ton of fun doing it, too. NED LANNAMANN
JEFFREY LEWIS, AMENTA ABIOTO, THE BOY WHO LIVED, JAIMEE GARBACIK
(Backspace, 115 NW 5th) In a recent article for the New York Times, Jeffrey Lewis takes some time to dissect the impact that comes along with slight lyrical alterations in a song. He examines some classic songs and their early demos, handwritten lyric sheets, and live bootlegs to find slight tweaks in words and delivery that are able to elevate a message to new levels. It's a great read, especially coming from someone like Lewis, who has to be one of the most complex and literate lyricists making music right now. His songs are so jam-packed with allusions that you could spend days picking apart an album, attempting to footnote it line by line. Reading how a small live slip-up can send a lyric in a better direction, and of his regret in knowing the song is already committed to an album, makes you appreciate just how fine-tuned Lewis' songwriting is. CT
RODRIGO Y GABRIELA, ALEX WILSON
(Edgefield, 2126 SW Halsey, Troutdale) They're a long way from the streets of Dublin, Ireland, and even farther from Mexico City. But Rodrigo y Gabriela's soul-stirring virtuosity is still planted in the same soil of wonder where it first took root. Since the duo burst onto the international scene in the early '00s, its rampant fanbase has grown to include not just connoisseurs of percussive, instrumental acoustic music, but also lovers of metal (several heavy metal acts are direct influences on their mariachi-jazz-roots hybrid) and even hiphop. Their most recent album, Area 52, was their first with a backing band, and followed their film-scoring successes with Puss in Boots and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. But the band will always be most in their element in the live setting. RYAN J. PRADO
SAY ANYTHING, EISLEY, HRVRD, I THE MIGHTY
(Hawthorne Theatre, 1507 SE César E. Chávez) Say Anything might be the least "punk" band who identify as such, and that's really saying something when you think about how many other bands that applies to. The group's opus, ...Is a Real Boy, sounds perfect: Sonically the album is more dense than any other modern rock record I can think of, possibly with the exceptions of Weezer's Green Album and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. But the songs! When lead singer/obnoxious egoist Max Bemis isn't waxing poetic about scene politics he isn't articulate enough to effectively disassemble (which he does on at least half of ...Is a Real Boy), he hits it out of the park. Heck, "Every Man Has a Molly" was one of my favorite songs in high school (although I just listened to it for the first time in more than a year and I sorta cringed). MT
SEX CRIME, WHITE MURDER, PISS TEST
(The Know, 2026 NE Alberta) Featuring members of revered punks like the Epoxies, Thee Headliners, and more, Portland's Sex Crime converges at a peppy crossroads of scrappy, female-fronted new wave punk that's both absurd and wholly infectious. The Farfisa is tuned to the key of "wheeeee!" and breakneck power-chord mashing runs rampant. The band's May release, a 7-inch on Danger Records called Night Vision, is a ramshackle, fist-pumping, punk-rock tidal wave, which—given the anticipated temperature of the Know this evening—is something you're totally going to want. Considering the sinister nature of this lineup based solely on band monikers alone, you may want to hide your wallets and keep your drinks in your field of vision at all times. RJP
WATERFRONT BLUES FEST: ROBERT PLANT AND THE SENSATIONAL SPACE SHIFTERS, ROBERT RANDOLPH AND THE FAMILY BAND, MAVIS STAPLES, TAJ MAHAL, & MORE
(Waterfront Park, SW Naito & Columbia) See My, What a Busy Week!
REVA DEVITO, GOTHIC TROPIC
(Rontoms, 600 E Burnside) See Thursday's listing.
THE LONESOME BILLIES, ALBATROSS
(Doug Fir, 830 E Burnside) The Lonesome Billies have a future, but it remains to be seen whether it will be as a band, a troupe of performance artists, or playing Johnny Cash covers in a Vegas revue. The four members all claim the name Bill (and, presumably, a solitary worldview), and singer Billy West Kimsey has the deep voice and conversational singing style of the Man in Black. But this band also has a little something in common with Ween's brilliant genre album 12 Golden Country Greats. See, thematically, the Lonesome Billies run heavy on bizarre imagery and nihilism, which makes for a surprising and at times humorous contrast ("Rats at Your Feet") to the sing-along choruses and acoustic guitars. Also with a flair for the dramatic, Albatross are storytellers of tales that probably aren't going to end well. Their call-and-response narratives and purple violins call to mind morose Civil War ballads. They kick off the Doug Fir's free summertime patio series, Pickin' on Sundays. RW
PLAYGROUND PARK PARTY: AUDIOELECTRONIC, RICH LACHAPELLE, PHIDELITY, & MORE
(Cathedral Park, N Edison & Pittsburg) Now in its seventh year, the annual Playground Park Party is upon us, just in time for gorgeous Northwest summer weather. This all-day event is held in Cathedral Park and features some of Portland's favorite musical gurus dropping everything from "Deep Caribbean Soul Boogie" to "Cosmic Reverent Balearic Groove." If the past seven years are any indication, the varied and interesting styles of dance music are guaranteed to get you up and moving on the grassy knoll, amid children young and old. The picturesque landscape of Cathedral Park will be the absolute perfect backdrop for a blissful day filled with summer fun and relaxation. CHRISTINA BROUSSARD
ASHLEY ERIKSSON, FILARDO, LLOYD AND MICHAEL, STEPHEN STEINBRINK
(Record Room, 8 NE Killingsworth) Ashley Eriksson seems to be popping up everywhere. When she isn't playing with her main band, Olympia's LAKE, you might be able to catch her as a part-time member in Memory Boys or Baby Island. You may have heard her on the cartoon Adventure Time, which she lends some great moments to, including the lovely closing credit theme "Island Song." She recently joined up with Phil Elverum and brought her gorgeous backing vocals to his latest touring lineup for Mount Eerie, a tour on which she pulled double duty by filling the opening slot in support of her new K Records album, Colours. She even has an ongoing YouTube series where she plays songs off Colours on different pianos throughout Olympia. All this, and somehow she still finds time to share her stunning, mood-evoking blend of lo-fi pop at Record Room tonight. CT
THE MELODIC, SONG PRESERVATION
SOCIETY, JOSH AND MER
(Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi) It would be misleading to make too much—as their record label does—of the Melodic's penchant for African folk. Fortunately, the British up-and-comers don't need niche genres to sell themselves. Case in point: They are touring America on the tails of their very first EP, On My Way, which means they must be doing something right. Their charming man/woman vocals and creative instrumentations have an experimental jauntiness that calls to mind their countrymen Tunng more than anything from Africa. Song Preservation Society are an LA-based trio specializing in somber Simon and Garfunkelesque melodies. This is meaningful music, the antithesis of say, Bruno Mars, with careful lyrics and acoustic guitars that make your heart lurch unexpectedly to your throat. Still, they don't rely solely on pathos to turn heads. The instrumentation on songs like "Stars" is surprisingly muscular, adding drama and mystery that puts them far from the open mic crowd. RW