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Live Review: Valerie June with Gill Landry at Aladdin Theater, Portland, OR – 9th December 2017

 
By on Thursday, 14th December 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

Tennessee alt-country singer Valerie June recently finished a tour of the American West Coast, rounding things off with a two-night stand at the Aladdin Theater in Portland, Oregon. Forgetting briefly that Portland has real winter, I travelled north from Tucson to take in her final show. Portland natives found some humour in my situation as I shivered in the queue outside the Aladdin. “At least it’s not raining”, they helpfully pointed out. Still, I was glad to get inside and find a nice spot at the front of the stage in plenty of time for the evening’s opening act, singer/songwriter Gill Landry.

Gill Landry internal

Landry has spent the end of 2017 touring his exquisite fourth album ‘Love Rides a Dark Horse’, which came out in October. Having chatted with him shortly after the release, I was mildly surprised that his set list in Portland only included two of those new songs, ‘Denver Girls’ and ‘The Woman I Love’. Among his older tunes, Landry chose to play the title track from each of his first two records. The bright tone and witty lyrics to ‘Between Piety and Desire’ kept the mood in the room light, while ‘The Ballad of Lawless Soirez’ seemed to make a particularly solid impression on the audience. The limitations of playing an abbreviated support slot were apparent in Landry’s set, but his deep baritone and dry humour were more than enough to overcome them on the night.

Valerie June internal

Headliner Valerie June made a sensational entrance to the stage, attired in sparkling sequins and aqua-colored cowgirl boots, leaving no room for doubt about where her audience’s rapt attention would be focused. But her beguiling stage presence went well beyond the initial visual impression, becoming even more captivating as she switched between playing guitar and deftly plucking away at her ‘baby’ banjo. Her singing voice, while not traditionally ‘pretty’, was by turns strident and sweet, dictated by the character of her songs. June’s expressive range proved itself incredibly broad, working as easily in the slow bluesy drawl of ‘Love You Once Made’ as in the sassy, uptempo rock of ‘Shakedown’. Between songs, she waxed both poetic and philosophical, and her speaking voice was equally hypnotic as she weaved a continuous, free-flowing narrative through her set list.

For her part, June was more forthcoming with songs from her own most recent LP, ‘The Order of Time’, which was released in March. Amazingly, she touched on 9 of its 12 tracks from it in her generous set list. The only notable absence was album opener ‘Long Lonely Road’, and I’ll admit here that I was so dazzled by June’s performance that I didn’t actually miss it until I reviewed the set list after the show. About halfway through the set proper, June treated her audience to a couple of novelties. First was a song called ‘Train Fare’, which she penned for the Blind Boys of Alabama and which features on their recent LP ‘Almost Home’. Then she invited Landry back onstage to join her for a deep dive into her back catalogue, in the form of ‘Rain Dance’, pulled from 2010 EP ‘Valerie June and the Tennessee Express’.

Valerie June internal 3

From there, June lingered on tracks from her 2013 debut long player ‘Pushin’ Against a Stone’, with ‘Tennessee Time’ garnering an especially warm reception from longtime fans in the crowd. Perhaps less well-known was her cover of Velvet Underground’s ‘Oh Sweet Nuthin’, which nonetheless won a few hearts after June related her discovery that their songwriter Lou Reed had become a fan of her music in his final days.

Valerie June internal 2

June’s band, including ‘The Order of Time’ producer Matt Marinelli on bass, was in top-notch form through the entire performance, but she gave them particular time to demonstrate their chops during the encore. After slow-burning versions of ‘If And’ and ‘Astral Plane’, they dug into a cheeky soul cover, ‘I’ve Been Lonely for So Long’, before ending with June’s own gospel-style celebration, ‘Got Soul’.

IMG_1598 2

I began 2017 in Portland, hearing Gill Landry open for Bear’s Den shortly after the New Year. I ended the year in the same city, seeing Landry for a second time and discovering a new favourite artist, Valerie June, along the way. The symmetry might be superficial, but it illustrates a general process that has led me to some great music, by artists I might never otherwise have heard. I hope to share many more such happy coincidences in 2018. Stay tuned to TGTF in the New Year!

 

Live Gig Video: Glass Animals perform ‘Pork Soda’ at Portland Crystal Ballroom

 
By on Monday, 13th February 2017 at 4:00 pm
 

Oxford’s wonky pop maestros Glass Animals have become quite the phenomenon in the States. So much that they spend more time over here then they do at home. Before Christmas of last year, they participated in a special local radio station 94.7’s holiday soiree, where the below video was filmed. ‘Pork Soda’ appears on the band’s sophomore effort on Paul Epworth’s Wolf Tone label, Caroline International (UK) and Harvest Records (US), ‘How to Be a Human Being’, which was released last summer. (You can read my review of the long player through here.) Using an actual pineapple for percussion instead of the instrument equivalent provides a surreal moment, but I think the inanity of this got lost on the crowd, who were totally eating up the performance. Watch it below. For more of our coverage of Glass Animals, pretty much before anyone else starting back at SXSW 2014, go here.

 

Live Review: Bear’s Den with Gill Landry at Doug Fir Lounge, Portland – 20th January 2017

 
By on Wednesday, 25th January 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

My first live review of 2017 took me north to Portland, Oregon, where the cold and rainy weather was a shock to my system, coming from the fairly mild winter we’ve had at home in Tucson. However, Portland’s Doug Fir Lounge proved to be a cozy place to catch a show, with a lovely log-cabin themed bar and restaurant upstairs and a small, but sonically spectacular, music venue nestled below. As it turned out, the venue’s crisp, clear sound was perfectly suited to the new FM-radio rock-leaning sound of last Friday evening’s headline act, London alt-folk duo Bear’s Den.

Gill Landry

Bear’s Den were preceded on the Doug Fir Lounge stage by singer/songwriter Gill Landry, with whom they had shared a bond years earlier on Communion Music’s Austin to Boston tour. Formerly a member of the Americana collective Old Crow Medicine Show, Landry also has three solo albums under his belt. The most recent of those is a self-titled LP released in 2015, which, interestingly, includes a duet with Laura Marling called ‘Take This Body’.

Landry started his set with a couple of relatively uptempo numbers, even dedicating one song to the newly inaugurated American president (in a less-than-complimentary fashion, it must be said). But it soon became clear that Landry’s catalogue of bluesy folk rock leans to the self-described “tender” side, and the chatter of the still-gathering Doug Fir Lounge audience became a bit of a distraction from his subdued and somber acoustic balladry. Those of us near the front of the stage, though, got the full effect of Landry’s warm baritone in feminine muse-inspired songs like ‘Emily’ and Old Crow Medicine Show cover ‘Genevieve’.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/dnLlO5NpwhI[/youtube]

The restless crowd had filled to capacity by the time Bear’s Den made their dramatic entrance to the stage, opening with the first two tracks from their recent album ‘Red Earth & Pouring Rain’. Officially pared down from a trio to a duo consisting of Andrew Davie and Kev Jones, the band presented here as a six-piece, and their arrangements of the new songs were immediately lush and full, true to the recorded album versions.

Davie Jones photo
The band made a subtle change of course mid-set with an interlude of older songs, including a pair of tracks from their 2014 album ‘Islands’. ‘Stubborn Beast’ was a particular treat, as it’s been a mainstay of the band’s repertoire for several years now. (We at TGTF featured this live version of it back in 2011.) Also thrown in for good measure was the poignant ‘Don’t Let the Sun Steal You Away’, which I hadn’t heard since the band released it on their EP ‘Without/Within’ back in 2013.

Naturally, Bear’s Den’s newer songs dominated the setlist, with ‘Roses on a Breeze’ and ‘Dew on the Vine’ making an especially strong impact. But Davie and Jones also took full advantage of their four touring members in expansive live orchestrations of ‘The Love that We Stole’ and ‘When You Break’, which fit seamlessly into their recently modernised sonic milieu. Their drummer and keyboard player even pulled double duty on several songs, taking on brass arrangements in addition to their primary instruments.

brass photo

After closing the set proper with a singalong chorus in ‘Above the Clouds of Pompeii’, Bear’s Den played a generous four-song encore, starting with ‘Napoleon’. Davie and Jones briefly descended into the crowd, along with touring bandmate Christof, for a fully acoustic rendering of ‘Gabriel’, then returned to the stage for a well-chosen cover of ‘Paul’s Song’, originally by M. Ward, in reference to the pervasive “Portland rain.” Cementing their warm reception in chilly Portland, the band closed with their instantly recognisable alternative radio hit ‘Agape’.

Friday evening marked Bear’s Den’s third appearance at the Doug Fir Lounge, but their first time selling it out, and they were clearly quite pleased by their audience’s positive response. The attention is well-deserved for a band who have spent most of the past five years on the road, cultivating and evolving their sound, whilst never losing track of the quality musicianship and songwriting that got them started in the first place. Bear’s Den are a band very decisively coming into their own, and this live performance bore full witness to their confidence and capability. A pure joy to behold.

Bear’s Den will be on tour in North America through mid-February. They will play a run of live dates in Ireland and the UK later this spring; you can find the details for those shows right back here. TGTF’s archived past coverage of Bear’s Den is through here.

After the cut: Bear’s Den’s set list.
Continue reading Live Review: Bear’s Den with Gill Landry at Doug Fir Lounge, Portland – 20th January 2017

 

The Joy Formidable / March-April 2010 UK Tour

 
By on Thursday, 4th March 2010 at 2:30 pm
 

North Wales band the Joy Formidable will be logging many miles travelled as they trek across the UK in March and April on tour. Note that four dates in Scotland originally slated for the start of the tour have been rescheduled for early April. Catch the band on the dates below.

Their new single ‘Popinjay’ is now available as a digital download, with a limited run of 500 7″ vinyl singles planned for 5 April.

Sunday 14th March 2010 – Manchester, Ruby Lounge
Monday 15th March 2010 – Liverpool, Korova
Tuesday 16th March 2010 – Nottingham, Bodega
Wednesday 17th March 2010 – Leeds, Cockpit
Friday 19th March 2010 – Cambridge, Portland
Saturday 20th March 2010 – Birmingham, O2 Academy 2
Sunday 21st March 2010 – Oxford, O2 Academy 2
Monday 22nd March 2010 – Brighton, Audio
Wednesday 24th March 2010 – London, Electric Ballroom
Thursday 25th March 2010 – Southampton, Joiners
Friday 26th March 2010 – Bristol, Start the Bus
Saturday 27th March 2010 – Cardiff, Barfly
Monday 29th March 2010 – Northampton, Roadmenders
Tuesday 30th March 2010 – Sheffield, O2 Academy 2
Wednesday 31st March 2010 – Newcastle, O2 Academy 2
Thursday 1st April 2010 – Wrexham, Central Station
Saturday 3rd April 2010 – Glasgow, King Tuts
Sunday 4th April 2010 – Inverness, Madhatters
Monday 5th April 2010 – Aberdeen, Snafu
Tuesday 6th April 2010 – Dundee, Fat Sams

MP3: The Joy Formidable – The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade
MP3: The Joy Formidable – Cradle
MP3: The Joy Formidable – Austere
MP3: The Joy Formidable – While the Flies

 

The Joy Formidable / March 2010 UK Tour

 
By on Tuesday, 5th January 2010 at 9:00 am
 

The wonderful Joy Formidable are cementing their reputation for being one of the hardest working bands by spending just about all of March going around the UK.

Tickets are on sale now for all dates, priced at £7 except for London which is £9 a ticket.

Tuesday 9th March 2010 – Glasgow, King Tuts
Wednesday 10th March 2010 – Aberdeen, Snafu
Thursday 11th March 2010 – Inverness, Madhatters
Friday 12th March 2010 – Dundee, Fat Sams
Sunday 14th March 2010 – Manchester, Ruby Lounge
Monday 15th March 2010 – Liverpool, Korova
Tuesday 16th March 2010 – Nottingham, Bodega
Wednesday 17th March 2010 – Leeds, Cockpit
Friday 19th March 2010 – Cambridge, Portland
Saturday 20th March 2010 – Birmingham, O2 Academy 2
Sunday 21st March 2010 – Oxford, O2 Academy 2
Monday 22nd March 2010 – Brighton, Audio
Wednesday 24th March 2010 – London, Electric Ballroom
Thursday 25th March 2010 – Southampton, Joiners
Friday 26th March 2010 – Bristol, Start the Bus
Saturday 27th March 2010 – Cardiff, Barfly
Monday 29th March 2010 – Northampton, Roadmenders
Tuesday 30th March 2010 – Sheffield, O2 Academy 2
Wednesday 31st March 2010 – Newcastle, O2 Academy 2
Thursday 1st April 2010 – Wrexham, Central Station

MP3: The Joy Formidable – The greatest light is the greatest shade
MP3: The Joy Formidable – Cradle
MP3: The Joy Formidable – Austere
MP3: The Joy Formidable – While the Flies

 

Live Review: Jose Gonzalez @ Aladdin’s Theatre, Portland

 
By on Saturday, 6th October 2007 at 8:43 am
 

Going to a gig in a new city is always fun – different crowds, different venue policies. In a different country is even more fun.

Tonight I went to see José González at Aladdin’s theatre, Portland, a former burlesque theatre in a shady part of town. Full of character, the venue was one of the best I’ve had the pleasure of visiting in recent years. Clean, tidy, simple and yet still having that air of mystery that all former theatres of ill repute have, it has great acoustics and friendly staff.

Tiny VipersSoon after taking my seat, Tiny Vipers came on. The Seattle rising star slowly worked her way through a reasonable back catalogue, sounding like a poor man’s Trespasser’s William. Backed up by an electric guitar, Jesy Fortino’s strumming becomes easy to get lost in. Many people have tipped her for big things, but whilst she was very good and skilled, I personally found the lack of other instrumentation rather boring.

A short break before the houselights goes down again and José ambles on stage. Warming up, he worked his way through some of the stuff from his new second album, In Our Nature. Slowly building the crowd up, the quiet Swede got a tad flustered when a guy yelled out “I love you José!” to which José replies “I love you too… actually, not really, I’m not into that sort of thing!”. Banter was distinctly thin on the ground, but to be honest this was to be expected: José is the sort of guy who lets his music do the work, his mesmerizingly beautiful songs.

Jose GonzalezSlowly things build, and before we know it we’re at the closing three numbers: The infamous “Heartbeats” – the song that perhaps launched him to the big time, thanks to the Sony Bravia advert featuring the thousands of bouncy balls hurtling through San Francisco. “Crosses” followed, sounding even better live than on record, before finishing off with a duo of stunningly beautiful covers, of Kylie’s “Hand On Your Heart” and Massive Attack’s “Teardrop”. Both of these were every bit as good as the original, though remarkably different.

Coming back for an encore, we were treated to another re-working of a modern classic, a formidable cover of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” that would have had Ian Curtis jumping for joy no doubt at the simplicity yet inherent quality of it.

And with that José quietly leaves the stage, ready to continue his way around the US before jetting over to the UK on 17th October for a full UK Tour. Make sure you catch him – it’s sure to be a good evening.

Photos are after the jump. Enjoy. Sorry they’re a bit rubbish – e weren’t supposed to take pictures so I didn’t experiment much.
Continue reading Live Review: Jose Gonzalez @ Aladdin’s Theatre, Portland

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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