Cheap Trick w/Peter Frampton; Oregon Zoo, 4001 SW Canyon
Apparently, there are two types of people in the world: Those who haven't really considered Cheap Trick's existence, and those who realize Cheap Trick are one of the most important and influential bands in the annals of rock.
You'll find me firmly in the latter camp. The group's 1977 self-titled debut, while existing slightly outside of the punk genus, feels essentially related to the era's seminal punk rock records in its grit, economy, and black-and-white packaging. Cheap Trick represented a warped version of the power-pop ideal established years earlier by groups like Badfinger and the Raspberries, but bubbling under the record's tuneful refulgence is an eerie, iconoclastic sense of Midwestern anguish and isolation that distinguishes them from every Fab Four idolater they both followed and inspired. "Daddy Should Have Stayed in High School" is a downright disgusting vignette that describes a Matthew McConaughey-in-Dazed-and-Confused-esque sex raptor, and "Oh, Candy" is dedicated to a friend of the band's who committed suicide—this is not light shit.
Cheap Trick were never able to recapture the energy and audacity of their first record, and in later efforts they seemed to play dumb in order to sustain the relative modicum of commercial success they had attained by the early '80s. On the album art for records In Color, Heaven Tonight, and Live at Budokon, man/brainchild Rick Nielsen and Bun E. "Have You Seen My Stapler" Carlos were calculatedly relegated to the back cover, while dreamy frontman Robin Zander and poodle-haired bassist Tom Petersson (no relation to the local legend) were featured prominently on the front. And "Dream Police"—the song, the record, and the concept—almost feel like a subtle admission of creative acquiescence on Nielsen's part.
Regardless, unlike virtually all of their peers, in their nearly 40-year existence Cheap Trick have never released a record that was horrible—which I guess is a roundabout way of saying that I think "The Flame" is pretty fucking sick.
Dowager w/Helens, Radler, Loser Boyfriend; SMART Collective, 6923 SE Foster
Up until recently, Ben Relampagos was a vital member of Our First Brains, writing at least a third of the songs that appear on the band's debut full-length (which—full disclosure—I released on cassette this spring through my label, Good Cheer Records). Following a slightly hurried exit from the group he helped form, Relampagos started his new project, Dowager, with coveted Portland drummer du jour Ben Scott.
With Dowager, Relampagos shifts his focus from throaty pop-punk, honing a more aggressive and technical sensibility reminiscent of classic scream-derived "skram." Scott performs double duty tonight, drumming for both Dowager and Helens, whose latest EP, Teeth, is a terrific if too-short collection of smoky, emotional, and thoughtfully orchestrated indie rock.