June 22, 2008

Port O’Brien: All we could do was sing

Port O’Brien is a nautically-named collective of five musicians based out of the California port city of Oakland, the neighbor across the bay from San Francisco. Their songs are mostly written by lady baker Cambria Goodwin and her commercial salmon-fisherman boyfriend Van Pierszalowski. Their self-released 2008 album All We Could Do Was Sing contains one of the most vibrant tunes of this year (and hey, M. Ward agrees):

I Woke Up Today – Port O’Brien

Part of the reason this song hit me so viscerally is due to the first time I saw it performed live. This February I was out in San Francisco to cover the Noise Pop Festival. Every event all weekend long had about twelve good artists on the bill, including a happy hour at the Diesel Store on Post Street.

So maybe we can call it the four free vodka/fruity concoction dealies that the excellent amateur bartender made for me amidst the overpriced denim, but the spirit in the air when Port O’Brien kicked into their free set was nothing less than jubilant. I would even call it riotous as people sang along, the percussion beat at full-force, and the vocals keeled into an almost war chant.

That mood of spur-of-the-moment explosion served the song better than cutesy sailing videos, in my opinion, because it’s a song that feels chaotic and wonderful – akin to this session that my Blogotheque peeps captured a few weeks after I caught the Port O’Brien set in SF:

Check out All We Could Do Was Sing, which was recorded at John Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone Studios — the same ground where folks like Sun Kil Moon, the Mountain Goats, and Death Cab for Cutie have also done their musical thing. The band describes their album as “lush string arrangements, raw electric guitar, percussive banjo, pots + pans, a tight rhythm section, group chants and screaming . . . with a diverse, but cohesive feel.”

They’re playing tomorrow night (June 23) in Boulder Creek, California, with none other than Black Francis of the Pixies (who has that new EP). Folks closer to these Rocky Mountain climes can catch Port O’Brien on Saturday afternoon at Monolith this September.


  • Not commenting on this particular post, just picked the latest. Hello, I know you most likely have it all but sone Pearl Jam stuff has been posted at http://the-roadhouse-viander.blogspot.com/
    So check it out….keep up the great blog

    LI Steve

    Long Island Steve — June 23, 2008 @ 8:59 am

  • This song is great. Frenetic is the only word I can think of to describe it. Thanks for posting it.

    Anonymous — June 23, 2008 @ 1:45 pm

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
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