The Candy’s Brent Stecker tackled Bumbershoot 2010 and here is the final installment of his Bumberdiary.
|Moondoggies guitars :: by Brent Stecker
People Eating People: Somebody from The Candy had to go support PEP drummer and one-time contributor Brian Turner, former skinsman of Schoolyard Heroes, and I was glad to do it because PEP is super good. The group has expanded to four members, bringing in an ace bassist and a second keyboardist/singer, but it’s still all about Nouela Johnston’s songwriting, clever keyboard playing, and astounding vocals. The first song was an exercise in heart-tugging epicness, and it only got better from there.
Trampled By Turtles: Like Old Crow Medicine show? Here’s your new second favorite band.
The Whigs: I latched onto these Athens, Ga., natives at Bumbershoot ’08, and they’ve only gotten better in the meantime. Whereas before they were more in the vein of Kings of Leon, they’ve since added a serious heft to their sound and weren’t completely out of place on a stage that closed with a pair of metal acts. The sound was total rock, but so was the show — frontman Parker Gispert, a total dead-ringer for 1969 Neil Young, is something to behold live, shaking every ounce of sustain out of his guitar, hopping around on one leg, climbing on amps, screaming … it’s as entertaining as a guitar-playing singer can get.
Meat Puppets: A seminal band that’s best known for not being members of Pearl Jam when they guested during Nirvana’s Unplugged in 1994; it turns out these guys are way different than I thought they were. Their set was heavy on the jam band style, but more like Ween or Dinosaur Jr. than Widespread Panic. Curt Kirkwood is one hell of a guitar player, by the way, and he has one of the most hilarious guitar faces I’ve even seen. I mean, we’re talking John Mayer guitar face gone old and slightly bitter.
Brent Amaker & the Rodeo: No local band mixes show and song quite as well as the half-dozen certified badasses in BAR. It was great to see Tiny Dancer troop it out, broken leg and all, to play Luther Perkins to Amaker’s Johnny Cash. And it was also super to see a caped Amaker escorted to and from the stage by a sexy nurse and a lackey holding a pink umbrella to shield him from the non-existent rain. The group was highly entertaining throughout the set — I mean, how good is the line “Girls are good for lots of things but loving is the best thing I can think of”? — and they easily win the award for Most Random Cover for turning Kraftwerk’s “Pocket Calculator” into a robotic honky-tonk shuffle. Apparently rapper extraordinaire Tillson made an appearance mid-set, but I missed it. I can only handle so much badassery at one time.
Baroness: I have found the heir to Mastodon’s throne as metal’s next big thing. Heavy, loud, frantic, and with a perfect push-pull between dissonance and melody.
The Moondoggies: Alright, these boys have been my favorite band for the past two years, and it’s about time their style gets a name, so I’m naming it right now: bootgrass boogie. It’s not really folk, it’s not bluegrass, it doesn’t rock that hard, but it’s catchy, groovy, earthy, and honestly it’s a travesty they haven’t quite found the masses yet. They played a good chunk of new stuff from the upcoming Tidelands LP both in the early afternoon during a lovely KEXP acoustic set and later plugged in at the Mural, and it all held up, especially “What Took So Long,” a live staple for some time now. Still, nothing could match the already-timeless “Changing,” “Make It Easy,” and the forlorn quiet-loud masterpiece “Night and Day.” If The Moondoggies aren’t playing every major festival next summer, I riot.
Loch Lomond: Another solid Bumbershoot discovery for me. Unlike Horse Feathers, Loch Lomond is a Portland folk troupe that makes the most of its myriad of instruments. The eclectic group stuck mostly to up-beat folk-pop, recalling at times Belle & Sebastian and Sufjan Stevens. Not a bad way to go. Not a bad way to go at all.
Jenny & Johnny: Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice are both successful, good-looking singer-songwriters who just happen to be sleeping together, so it was only natural that they pooled their resources together. The set at the Mural was mostly dedicated to the new stuff that makes up their just-released LP I’m Having Fun Now, and it was California pop-rock full-on, all the way. It was nice for a few songs, but it all started to blend together as the set wore on. Luckily they pulled out the spectacular three-part 60s-style story song “Next Messiah,” off Lewis’ Acid Tongue record, to give the crowd something familiar to sing along to. They finished off on another high note, a particularly spare and earnest take on Nazareth’s “Love Hurts,” that was completely entrancing. Oh, and Jenny Lewis is real purty. Just thought I’d add that.
Surfer Blood: You know when you see a young band having fun and it just makes you have fun whether you wanted to or not? Totally happened here. Sure, there’s a bit of Vampire Weekend influence, but Surfer Blood is much deeper than that. They’ve got a style of their own that is just a bit off-kilter and darkly fun, and also marvelously danceable. If you haven’t heard “Floating Vibes” or “Swim,” go take care of that. Right now. I’ll wait.
Wild Orchid Children: It killed me to leave Surfer Blood, but another one of my favorite local bands was killing it at EMP. Wild Orchid Children is, dare I say, a side project for members of Kay Kay & His Weathered Underground, but its unbelievably chaotic psych-punk-prog-jungle-metal-beat style is so incredible I don’t think there’s a way WOC can take a backseat to any other project. It was loud and sweaty and singer Kirk Huffman was screaming incoherently and guitarist Thomas Hunter (he of the most fantastic mustache in town) was shredding and reaching for the sky with searing notes and oh my God it was so awesome you had to be there. The debut album hits in November and I can’t freakin’ wait.
Laura Veirs & The Hall of Flames: And now for something completely different. I left WOC to catch the adorable Veirs do some darkly entrancing minor-key folk rock that was great and reminded me slightly of Sub Pop gem Tiny Vipers. It was nice to see Veirs had no problem sharing the spotlight with her band, letting her bassist take lead vocals on a country cover and letting another member take a lengthy viola solo.
Booker T.: Definitely one of the highlights of the entire festivals. Booker T whipped through a laundry list of blues and R&B classics he had a hand in recording at Stax Records, including “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Dock of the Bay,” “Hold On, I’m Coming,” and Al Green’s “Take Me to the River.” But it got real good when he dropped the guitar and sat down at the Hammond Organ for his work from Booker T. and the MGs. The only problem I had was when he let his drummer freestyle rap over the classics in lieu of bridges. That bugged me, but it was a small price to pay to see a legend do his thing — and not in a “I’m Bob Dylan so you’re taking what I’m giving” way.
The Thermals: Portland’s power-punk-pop stars closed out my weekend on the Broad Street stage with a fiery set in the rain that prompted a tiny dance party in which I totally partook. I’ve never been impressed with The Thermals, but they changed my entire perception with their Bumbershoot set, which was chock full of songs I could totally see myself get into. Plus they started their encore with “My Name Is Jonas,” a nice little nod to the headliner the night before, before sending the crowd home happy a song later.