After a month on the west coast, things are really starting to happen for us here in Portland! Since my last update, I married my girlfriend and RUBY RIDGE bandmate Callan, we bought enough new gear to start playing out and recording again, and she landed a job at Concordia University. I myself am still seeking employment, which comes as no surprise considering that lack of jobs was right up there with rainy weather and ubiquitous food pods on the list of things I was told to expect about Portland.
Something will come up eventually, so in the meantime I’ve been immersing myself in the scene as best a poor man like myself can. I managed to go out to six shows since my last update. I’ll spare you the grimy details on the majority of the acts and get right to the good stuff.
Goth-synth trio VICE DEVICE had a sound so nice I had to see them twice, once at the tres-chic club Rotture opening for my fellow East Coasters COLD CAVE and once at Branx with Portland’s Litanic Mask (more on them momentarily). If I had to describe Vice Device’s sound, its combination of midi drums, synths, sax, bass and dual-sex vocals comes across like a cross between SUICIDE and early-aughts west coast darkwavers THE VANISHING. I look forward to seeing them as frequently as possible. They’re a definite contender for “favorite Portland band” in my book.
LITANIC MASK are another contender for that position. The male-female duo’s songs are a combination of synth, rhodes, beats and sultry female vocals. There are hints of witch house and shoegaze in the sound, and the vocal style calls to mind everything from ZOLA JESUS to STEVIE NICKS to HOPE SANDOVAL. I can definitely see big things in their future if they stick with it.
K Records signees HORNET LEG are, like a few of the bands I covered in my last update, a Portland-based project with strong New England ties, this time in the form of Bob Desaulniers (late of such fondly-remembered projects as DESERT SEA and THE YOUNG IDEA). It seems like everywhere I go out here I’m finding fond reminders of home, and if the energetic set this group recently played to a small crowd at Tonic Lounge is any indication, this can only be a good thing.
Last night was a free show at Mississippi Studios, which is thus far my favorite venue in PDX by a long shot. If I were to describe it for Bostonians, I guess I’d say it’s like a cross between the Paradise and the Coolidge Corner Theater.
We were there to see Thrill Jockey psych jammers ETERNAL TAPESTRY, but it was openers BLOOD BEACH who really stole the show. The meat of their sound is rooted firmly in grungy pacific northwest tropes, with lots of distortion and a screamy, slightly-nasal vocal style lifted straight from the early Sub Pop catalog. However, the group takes the style in some surprising new directions, with some acid-fried jam tendencies, theremin, saxophone and the strangest-sounding mandolin playing I have ever heard. They were a wonderful surprise, and I look forward to seeing them again as soon as possible.
To date, I’ve yet to have the opportunity to see a Boston band here on my new home turf, but by my next installment in this series, I hope to have had the opportunity to check out PRETTY & NICE on their current tour. With any luck, I’ll have an opportunity to sit down with the lads for a few minutes and get their opinions on Portland, Boston, the differences and similarities between Portland and Boston and whatever else comes up.
All that and more next time, as the ongoing HUB CAPPED saga continues...
John Von Bittrich is a lifelong Bostonian chronicling his new adventures in Portland, Oregon, for the Boston Phoenix. He updates the Hub Capped blog bi-weekly.