January 16, 2013

living is a gamble baby / loving’s much the same

Tonight in Portland I had the super-pleasure of seeing Drew Grow and Janet Weiss perform raucous, airtight covers under their new band name Slang. Both taking a night away from their other music (Drew Grow & The Pastors’ Wives are finishing mixing a new album, and Janet is busy kicking ass with Quasi and Wild Flag), Slang just radiated joy and fun – two things that I so love in my music, and often miss.

This song has long been a favorite of mine, and was one of the covers they performed tonight. I bought it on a little $5 CD single, backed with “Handle With Care” (Traveling Wilburys). So good.

Blues Run The Game (Jackson C. Frank) – Slang

February 20, 2012

Some pretty rad Fuel/Friends concerts coming up

The wild, celestial scale of musical largesse has tipped off its fulcrum in my favor, and we are currently splashing around in a sparkly, melodic deluge of fantastic upcoming Fuel/Friends concerts that I am hosting in the coming weeks. I feel truly awed and thrilled; all four of these special headliners have been listed in my year-end tops lists before.

You’re invited to all four warm wonderful nights, or if you have friends in Colorado, please let them know. Whoever comes from the farthest will get a song dedication and a hug.



Next Wed., Feb 29 (LEAP DAY!): CATALDO HOUSE CONCERT

On their way to open for some Blind Pilot tour dates, Cataldo is stopping by my house to fill an evening with music. Eric Anderson crafts plaintive, thoughtful, catchy pop that I have been head-over-heels for since I first heard it. His bio tells you all you need to know, I think: “I want to make beautiful things using people and tools around me. I believe in circuitous, round-about methods, trying as hard as you can, and fucking up as much as is necessary before you get things right. I believe in counter-melodies, gang vocals, and the banjo. Most of all I believe in singing things that are important to me and might be important to you.”

My Heart Is Calling/Following – Cataldo



Next Friday, March 2: DREW GROW AND THE PASTORS’ WIVES
(@ Moe’s BBQ, Fuel/Friends presents)

Drew Grow is a name you’ve heard me talk a lot about, because I believe in their brand of potent musical gospel. DGPW performed at the very first house concert I did, and the four of them have become my good friends, because they have beautiful hearts that create impassioned music. Their songs are soulful, varied, and incendiary live.

I’m presenting their Friday night show at Moe’s BBQ, before they head out for the month of March with The Head and The Heart; come stand underneath their torrent, feel and believe things, oh — and we can bowl and get BBQ. Nothing could go wrong with this plan.

SNAG THEIR CHAPEL SESSION

Bootstraps – Drew Grow & The Pastors’ Wives



Next Saturday, March 3:
TYLER LYLE HOUSE CONCERT
(with John Heart Jackie)

From the first time I clicked play on a Tyler Lyle song, it was musical exhilaration, and I’ve only gotten deeper and deeper into this wonderful record. His debut album was all recorded in one day, just before he moved away from Atlanta for good. Because of that, more than anything this album feels like one exceedingly honest and humble snapshot of a moment of change and loss, without artifice, in the best possible way.

After he plays San Francisco’s Noise Pop this weekend, and after his Daytrotter session recording, Tyler is stopping by to spend the evening with us (joined by Portland’s John Heart Jackie). I can’t wait to see this fresh new voice for myself.

The Golden Age & The Silver Girl – Tyler Lyle
When U Were Mine (Prince cover) – John Heart Jackie



Tuesday, March 20:
TYPHOON GALLERY CONCERT
(with Motopony)

This is a huge one, folks. Typhoon wowed everyone at SXSW last year, with their approximately three hundred members (okay, thirteen) and their heads-thrown-back jubilance and shimmery, multicolored songs.

After their Letterman appearance and before they head out to play some big summer festivals in 2012, I’ve set them up to play a cool art gallery in town for us, all bedecked in twinkly white lights and with a sound system that can do them justice. I am co-presenting this show with our local NPR affiliate/college radio station, KRCC, and we both love Typhoon’s cavalcade of instruments and voices, and the way it feels truly overwhelming. There’s some of the redemptive waves of orchestral joy and colossal thumping force that we find to love in Fanfarlo. When they all throw their heads back and sing “alleluia, it will be gone soon,” I get chills, every time.

I am also thrilled to get to see Seattle’s Motopony, who I hear off-kilter great things about.

TICKETS: on-sale now at the KRCC studios, and at Venue 515 in Manitou Springs for $10.

The Honest Truth – Typhoon
Seer – Motopony



Let’s listen to some good music, drink a good beer, and revel together.

October 31, 2011

Fuel/Friends Chapel Session #8 :: Drew Grow & The Pastors’ Wives

So, what’s a girl to do when an immensely talented band of friends is coming to visit and all of your audio recording guys are out of town? Drew Grow & The Pastors’ Wives looped through Colorado last weekend on their western states tour before heading into their current leg with Wild Flag, and we decided to get creative with a guerilla video session on a Sunday morning.

Kevin Ihle has done stunning video work with artists in and around Colorado Springs, filming folks like Damien Jurado, Sera Cahoone, and Bryan John Appleby (during his chapel session), but this is the first time we’ve tried recording a whole chapel session only through a visual lens. And actually — I can’t think of better guinea pigs than DGPW.

Each of the four people in this band is fascinating to watch perform. There is a deep authenticity and soul in their music that works its way out through all of their faces and every fiber of their beings. Heads are thrown back, eyes squinted shut, bodies bent at the waist. You know, for sure, that in the music they mean it.

Their songs also lend themselves extremely well to the sort of collective uprising of the spirit that we typically associate with churches, chapels, and other spaces for the sacred. Buoyed by the incredible acoustics we discovered in a small side-chapel once we wandered from the stage (think: reverberation from every angle, almost overwhelming), this represents a cherry-picking of songs from their catalog perfect for the setting.

Starting with the grand-piano-laced “Bon Voyage Hymn,” Drew & Co sang of a mighty chorus that sets slaves free, then moved to a brand new (heartbreaking) song “Pony” and an vocally-focused older song called “Us,” circling back thematically for a deeply-redemptive closing rendition of “Do You Feel It”: so break into a chorus, maybe a saving melody….

Indeed.

Bon Voyage Hymn

Pony (brand new song)

Us (from 2007′s Next Lips)

October 20, 2011

a potent dash of musical redemption on Saturday: Drew Grow is coming

On Saturday nights, what we really all often need (and should always want) is one of those visceral gutpunches of musical redemption. For my money, the best option you’ve got this weekend is to come see the show Fuel/Friends is presenting with Drew Grow & The Pastors’ Wives at the Hi-Dive:

DREW GROW & THE PASTORS’ WIVES
with Thriftstore Cowboys and The Eye & The Arrow
Doors 9pm / Show 10pm
$8, 21+

TICKETS HERE (or win them below)

Bootstraps – Drew Grow & The Pastors Wives



Drew released one of my favorite albums of 2010, and has soundtracked some of my favorite moments of the last year. I wrote: From those fuzzy, sexy, pleadingly plaintive blues jams like “Company” to the aggressive push-and-tug of the rowdy “Bootstraps” and the dulcet golden ’50s croon of songs like “Hook,” this album has pleased me completely. Every song is a favorite. The opening “Bon Voyage Hymn” sets the tone for this album (if it has one) of a sort of rough-hewn, honest, rock gospel as Drew howls, “Sing a shelter over me / With a mighty chorus, slaves set free.” And by that I mean the oldest spirit of gospel, in community and a shared love of singing, with our heads thrown back and our feet stomping — but while the guitar squalls and the dirty drums crash.

At the house show they played for me last November, it was like the best kind of church, a jaw-dropping explosion of goodness.

After breaking his FEMUR in a van accident earlier this year, and now in the midst of a successful string of shows with the kickass women of Wild Flag, Drew had a gorgeous acoustic EP (“I wanted to see which songs could survive being this naked,” he said) and hung out with me for a few days in San Diego while they were on tour. Their music is just as vibrant as ever.

They are eminently deserving of your listening ear and your presence on Saturday night. See you there?

TICKET GIVEAWAY
I have three pairs of tickets to Saturday night’s show, please email me if you would like a pair. Take my word, and tell a friend!

DREW GROW & THE PASTORS’ WIVES TOUR DATES:
% = headline
* = w/ Wild Flag

October 20th @ Flying M Garage (Nampa, ID) %
October 21st @ Kilby Court (Salt Lake City, UT) %
October 22nd @ Hi Dive (Denver, CO) %
October 24th @ Replay Lounge (Lawrence, KS) %
October 25th @ The Opolis (Norman, OK) %
October 26th @ Lola’s (Ft Worth, TX) %
October 27th @ Fitzgerald’s Downstairs (Houston, TX) *
October 28th @ The Loft (Dallas, TX) *
October 29th @ La Zona Rosa (Austin, TX) *
October 31st @ Rhythm Room (Tempe, AZ) *
November 1st @ The Casbah (San Diego, CA) *
November 2nd @ Troubadour (Los Angeles, CA) *
November 3rd @ Troubadour (Los Angeles, CA) *
November 4th @ Great American Music Hall (San Francisco) *
November 5th @ Great American Music Hall (San Francisco) *
November 7th @ Humboldt State (Arcata, CA) *
November 9th @ Doug Fir Lounge (Portland, OR) *
November 10th @ Doug Fir Lounge (Portland, OR) *
November 11th @ Neumos (Seattle, WA) *
November 12th @ Biltmore Cabaret (Vancouver, BC) *

January 1, 2011

Fuel/Friends favorites of 2010

sound wave

And so, another year marches to a close — another fantastic, adventure-filled, technicolor year. It’s the time when all of us start kicking around our neatly-bulleted lists of bests and worsts. For me, the more I read these lists, the more I feel that I missed more albums and artists than I heard this year.

The stats are staggering: in 2002, about 33,000 albums were released. In 2006 that number was 75,000. Last year close to 100,000 albums were released, with only roughly 800 of those albums selling more than 5K. It’s tough out there — to be heard, and to feel as a listener that you have adequately given a shot to even a fraction of a representative sample of one year’s offerings. I always feel this keening bittersweet regret at the end of each year, as so much more music was released than any one human woman can possibly digest or invest in.

That being said, I had a fairly simple time picking what my personal favorite albums were for 2010, of the ones I heard. I absolutely loved what Carrie Brownstein wrote on her NPR blog about these year-end lists.

She muses: “So I’ll admit that I’m not quite certain how to sum up an entire year in music anymore; not when music has become so temporal, so specific and personal, as if we each have our own weather system and what we listen to is our individual forecast. I’ve written a lot about music bringing people together, fomenting community, and many albums still did act as bonfires in 2010 . . . but many of us are also walking around with a little lighter in hand, singing along to some small glow that’s stuck around long enough to make us feel excited to be alive.”

That is exactly, precisely what I feel. And really, what is any top ten list but an assessment of those songs, those artists, those albums that have hit us square in the solar plexus exactly where we are sitting?

These are the albums that lodged deep and sharp into my red heart and made this year richer, smarter, harder and easier, sharper, sparklier, and all the more brilliant. And some of them seriously made me dance.



FUEL/FRIENDS FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2010

the-black-keys-brothers

THE BLACK KEYS – BROTHERS
(Nonesuch Records)

This is just one of the coolest albums released all year — maybe all decade. And I mean the kind of cool that is quintessential, untouchable, badass, just strutting down a sunny street with-your-own-theme-song type of cool. It blends their trademark swampy, bluesy, fuzzed-out guitars with crisp sharp beats that sliced right through that weight the first time I put this album in, on my roadtrip to Missouri. I think I listened to it on repeat through at least two (long, loooong) states and it was love at first listen from that point on.

Additionally – if there is a sicker breakdown all year than what happens here at 1:02, I don’t wanna know about it.

The Go Getter – The Black Keys

…Right?!





dan mangan

DAN MANGAN – NICE, NICE, VERY NICE
(Arts & Crafts)

This album from the Canadian side of the verdant Pacific Northwest was an unexpected discovery this year, recommended to me by a friend who helps arrange the Telluride Bluegrass Festival (another favorite thing of this year, but hey we’ll get to that). Dan Mangan has made a dense, thoroughly gorgeous album, heavy on the intelligent lyrics, his oaky-warm voice weaving in amongst a whole orchestra of instruments. This album is beautifully arranged and well-crafted, one you can swim deeply in during rainy days all winter long (although I discovered it in August and it sounded just as good in the sticky warmth).

Basket – Dan Mangan





DGcover_hires
DREW GROW AND THE PASTORS’ WIVES – SELF-TITLED
(Amigo/Amiga Records)

Drew Grow and his band The Pastors’ Wives hail from Portland, making music that easily straddles and jumps across genres to create something marvelously rich and endlessly interesting. The sound production throughout feels like an old, warm, crackly album (tip: get it on white vinyl while you can) with something urgent to say. From those fuzzy, sexy, pleadingly plaintive blues jams like “Company” to the aggressive push-and-tug of the rowdy “Bootstraps” and the dulcet golden ’50s croon of songs like “Hook,” this album has pleased me completely. Every song is a favorite.

The opening “Bon Voyage Hymn” sets the tone for this album (if it has one) of a sort of rough-hewn, honest, rock gospel as Drew howls, “Sing a shelter over me / With a mighty chorus, slaves set free.” And by that I mean the oldest spirit of gospel, in community and a shared love of singing, with our heads thrown back and our feet stomping — but while the guitar squalls and the dirty drums crash. At the house show they played for me in November, it was like the best kind of church, a jaw-dropping explosion of goodness.

Company – Drew Grow & The Pastors’ Wives

N.B.: Drew also has a stunning new acoustic EP.





the-head-and-the-heart-lp

THE HEAD AND THE HEART – SELF-TITLED
(self-released)

From the first evening back in early summer when I streamed this Seattle six-piece’s songs on my tinny computer speakers, I was reeled in hook line and sinker. The song sang about something that sounds like a hallelujah, the sheer delight of embracing with all of your heart and both your dancing shoes, and no band this year has given me more of that musical enjoyment – whether in a parking garage very late at night, or in the living room of an old house. Amidst the warmth, the uncanny wisdom, and undeniably catchy musical & rhythmic foundations of this band, there is magic. We will be hearing a good deal more from them in 2011, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

Sounds Like Hallelujah – The Head and The Heart





jonsigo

JONSI – GO
(XL Recording)

This is, simply put, a kinetic album. Jónsi blends his native Icelandic language with forays into English, creating the dizzying effect of running fast through a dream forest, not exactly understanding what is being said and not needing to. He’s made an intricate, joyful album of grandeur that is uplifting and challenging without being overly twee or silly. It is a delicate balance to strike. The paint-spatter of colors on the album cover precisely depict what this explosive album sounds like – purple, yellow, deep red, shot through with sunlight.

This album was completely unlike anything else that I heard this year, and made me simultaneously smile widely and furrow my brow. It’s the most imaginative album I’ve heard all year, perfect at evoking things like riding the back of a jet-black dragon over canyons. Yes, and yes. Please.

Go Do – Jónsi

Addendum: I also just laughed very loudly for a good minute and a half after I just connected the mental dots to the possible inspiration for this album, or at least this song.





so-runs-the-world-away

JOSH RITTER – SO RUNS THE WORLD AWAY

(Pytheas Records)

I’ve said before that I think Josh Ritter is one of the most important and talented songwriters of our generation; this album is a stellar example of why. Through these thirteen sprawling songs, Josh demonstrates to me again exactly why I love the way that he sees the world. When I interviewed him this summer, he said he admires those who “see what everybody else has seen, think what nobody else has thought.”

Josh pens incisive, piercing, widely-varying folk songs with the comfortable intelligence of one who is in no hurry, yet is passionate in pursuing his muse and getting his stories out into the world. Highlights here like “The Curse,” “Folk Bloodbath,” “Another New World,” and “Lantern” are jaw-dropping. Josh has a remarkable way of teasing out truths about the world (seen and unseen), and poking into the human conditions in my own heart with a greater acuity than most out there.

Lantern – Josh Ritter

That song also contains one of my favorite lyrics of this entire year: “So throw away those lamentations, we both know them all too well / If there’s a book of jubilations, we’ll have to write it for ourselves / So come and lie beside me darlin’ — let’s write it while we still got time.”





lissie

LISSIE – CATCHING A TIGER
(Fat Possum)

From the first time I heard Lissie’s soulful, immensely evocative voice earlier this year on her song “Everywhere I Go,” I was riveted. Who was this slight, freckled blond gal with the echoes of an entire fifty-member church choir in her lungs? Originally from Rock Island, Illinois, Lissie has harnessed both the brilliance of the sunshine of her new California home on her debut album, as well as all the gnarls of her roots. Bluesy, confident melodies and goosebump-inducing howls are here in scads — this is a notably substantial first album from a woman to be reckoned with.

Record Collector – Lissie





the-dark-leaves-mppa

MATT POND PA – THE DARK LEAVES

(Attitude Records)

“We could start tonight, slide back the deadbolts…” Matt Pond suggests at the beginning of this autumnal album with rich hues that gave me endless listening pleasure this year. I was glad I took him up on the invite. I’d admired the work of the Brooklyn songwriter in spurts and starts over the past few years, but this is the first album of his that I have really immersed myself into his uniquely lovely, thrumming view of the world.

There is a sort of expansive, wide-eyed glow in this album that seems to invite transcendent things to happen. From the specks of silver he sings about in the evening sky and the illumination all around us, I love the way things look like an adventure when I am listening. “First hips, then knees, then feet – don’t think anymore,” he sings. Good idea, Matt.

Starting – Matt Pond PA





the-national_high-violet

THE NATIONAL – HIGH VIOLET
(4AD Records)

This is a decimating, gorgeous, elegant album, much like Boxer was but with additional hints of weirdness and unsettled edges that I like. I was ridiculously excited about this album (in a sort of masochistic way, since I know full well what The National are capable of), devouring every word I could read about it before it came out. The single best definition I heard came from Matt Berninger himself when he said they wanted it to sound “like loose wool and hot tar.” In that regard, they completely succeed – their music is dark, burning, sticking to your skin and all your insides.

This is an incredible album full of terse, razor-sharp observations on the worries that wait in the shadows for me and gnaw when they get a chance: I think the kids are in trouble… you’ll never believe the shitty thoughts I think… I was less than amazing… I tell you terrible things when you’re asleep. But I won’t lie when I say I found some of the strongest redemption of my year in this music as well, with the closing track “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” — singing along with lines “all the very best of us string ourselves up for love / man it’s all been forgiven, swans are a-swimmin…” The honesty of the darkness shot through with these glints is what keeps drawing me back to these guys, fiercely.

Conversation 16 – The National





tallest-man-on-earth-wild-hunt-cover-art

THE TALLEST MAN ON EARTH – THE WILD HUNT
(Dead Oceans)

Kristian Mattson slays me – there are no two ways about it. When he sings on this album, “I plan to be forgotten when I’m gone,” it is almost comical because nothing really seems further from the truth. Mattson’s songs have the kind of heft and intricacy that make me certain his music will be around for a very long time after him. His guitarwork is sparkling, impassioned, and inspired. The words he selects and the way he delivers them are pointed and deliberate. I can’t tell if his lyrics are so sharp in spite of the fact that English is not his first language, or because of it – as if perhaps he can see more clearly through our muddy sea of language to pick out the iridescent rocks from the river.

Also: it’s worth noting that his EP released this year was equally good – serious brilliant work.

King of Spain – The Tallest Man On Earth





BEST ALBUM NOT FROM THIS YEAR THAT I JUST FINALLY DISCOVERED THIS YEAR:

cataldo - signal flareCATALDO – SIGNAL FLARE
(self-released, 2008)

I cannot stop listening to Eric Anderson, as evidenced by the fact that I have put him on just about every mix I made in 2010, and listen to this album most days lately on my walk to work. After a chance encounter with his music on a college radio show of a friend, I’ve been smitten by his earnest, unvarnished, incredibly catchy way of looking at the world that simultaneously makes me smile and breaks my heart. You know me. I like that.

He’s got a new album “Prison Boxing” coming out in 2011, according to Facebook. I plan to be substantially more on top of that one.

Signal Flare – Cataldo





9NINE SUPERB SONGS I COULDN’T GET ENOUGH OF IN 2010:
Burning Stars – Mimicking Birds [link]
Tell ‘Em – Sleigh Bells [link]
Safe and Sound – Electric President [link]
Six O’Clock News (Kathleen Edwards cover) – Paul Jacobsen [link]
If A Song Could Get Me You – Marit Larsen [link]
Second Mind (live at the SF Independent) – Adam H. Stephens [link]
Fuck You – Cee Lo Green [link]
Carry Us Over – Kelli Schaefer [link]
Baby Lee – Teenage Fanclub [link]





interviewsFAVORITE INTERVIEWS:
Bringing Jeff Buckley’s music to a new life through Shakespeare [link]
-and-
Talking to my Italian musical hero on the Santa Monica Pier [link]





shows_ive_seenFAVORITE SHOWS OF THE YEAR:
My forays into presenting house shows:
Drew Grow and The Pastors’ Wives with Kelli Schaefer (Nov 4, 2010)
The Head and The Heart (Nov 9, 2010)

Andy Clockwise at SXSW (March 2010)

Joe Pug house show (February 28, 2010)

Tallest Man On Earth (May 19, 2010)

Megafaun and their in-the-crowd rendition of “Worried Mind” (April 12, 2010)



FAVORITE FESTIVAL:
Telluride Bluegrass Festival, holy mackerel.





thumbnail.aspxAND: FAVORITE NIGHT THAT ONLY TOOK 56 YEARS TO ARRIVE
This one.




*****

I started 2010 with a Polar Bear Plunge and a vow that this year was gonna be ours, a year of intentionally acquiring adventures and memories that would make me smile when I was old and withered.

I think we did it, and these were the things that soundtracked it all.



["Sound Wave" sculpture at top by Jean Shin]

December 4, 2010

Drew Grow’s new EP: The Comfort Feel

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There is an intimate immediacy of music recorded and released in a matter of weeks, as if you are somehow more privy to and connected with what the artist was thinking. Like the brown leaves that wreath bandmate Kris Doty on both sides of the new Comfort Feel EP from Drew Grow (streaming as of this evening), it radiates an autumnal beauty: things dying and drying up, yet golden and striking – with a hint of what may come next spring.

Two old songs straddle two brand new ones, with reworked versions of Drew Grow and The Pastors’ Wives songs in between. As much as I love Drew’s full-length from earlier this year, I was extremely keen to hear new creations. He played “Lightning Rod” at my house show in October and I remember it slayed me, so I am thrilled (and cut) to have a version I can listen to over and over: “If I were as brave as a lightning rod / bet you then I’d know for sure… I’d feel the kill, but I’d know for sure.” The older song “The Other Shore” feels like walking heavily through a softly medicinal dream, while “King On Your Throne” is dry and crackling, like a gospel tune on an old-fashioned heavy wax record, hissing and popping.

When I talked to Drew tonight about this EP, he described a night of some musical urgency: him, in a basement, with music that wanted to be heard and played that night, and a bottle of wine. “I wanted to see which songs could survive being this naked,” he said.

STREAM THE WHOLE EP:



The physical CDs will be available this Wednesday at the DGPW show at The Woods the Portland, and also at their holiday fundraiser at the Doug Fir. I know what I want for Christmas.

[album photos by Dylan Priest]

November 7, 2010

carry us over the finish line / we can see the end but our feet are so tired

Northwest-Supernova-100-450x300

Northwest Supernova 057

Northwest Supernova 203

On Friday morning I woke up dazed and residually sparkling from the previous two nights of music. It was as if you had dipped me into a vat of iridescence and it was still clinging all over me the next day, and still.

Wednesday night I finally saw Drew Grow & The Pastors’ Wives at the Larimer Lounge up in Denver (ooh! listen here!), a show and a band I have been looking forward to experiencing live ever since I became addicted to their album in August. The next night they came down to have dinner and play a show at my house, along with the breathtaking Kelli Schaefer.

It was my first experience putting together a house show, and it was every bit as gratifying as I had hoped. I see shows in venues by the scads all throughout the year and have the routine down pat: ID, wristband, stamp, bar, angle by the stage, small talk, lights go down, earplugs come out, rockrockrock, cheer. [end scene]. The things I love most about music are the connective, adhesive, lightning bolts of electricity that sometimes (if you are lucky) come out and zap you as you listen. I don’t know what you’re in it for, but that is what I am in it for. And a house show is the most undiluted way I’ve seen to get there.

On Friday morning I sent DGPW on their way with coffee and dragged myself to work, and tried to string together a few coherent words to friends by email about the musical earthquake I’d just experienced, including Sara Brickner who wrote the first review that caught my attention in the first place. I told her that I was speechless, and then revised that no, I was just reeling. “in the last song, when i was singing along to ‘it all comes right‘ with everything in me and we were all harmonizing with no mics and bending at the waist to get down deep in our souls and stomping our feet and whoa whoa whoaaaaa ing– …i was just happy. ‘frigatebirds, acme anvils, holy fucking shit.’ yes.”

I didn’t know that Drew has been making music for years, and the depths of his songwriting make a bit more sense given that he’s been honing his craft and his words for a while. All of the depth and musical diversity that’s present on the album floored the crowd both nights. I still am not any better at categorizing what it was like, though, what kind of music he makes. All songs share a penchant for incisive, thoughtful lyricism, but those words may be screamed over rowdy feedback in “Bootstraps,” catcalled in a dirty falsetto on bluesy tracks like “Company,” or nearly whispered in the communal pouring-out of spirit on “It All Comes Right.” You’re just gonna have to go see him live to figure him out. Trust me.



Northwest-Supernova-103-450x300

But rewinding to Kelli Schaefer, who opened the set with just herself, her voice, and her bluesy sorrowful electric guitar. One local blogger likened the vibe in that room to Jeff Buckley and Grace, and I was pretty surprised to sit there for a moment and then agree with her. Every song had some bitingly sharp, beautifully conflicted, blindingly rich lyric and chord.

She closed her spellbinding set with a song from her 2008 Lasso The Moon EP, her and her guitar in a big open room:

Carry Us Over – Kelli Schaefer

Something about the first lines gut-punched me with the surprise of identification: “jesus, turn this wine back into water, so we can quench our poor thirsty souls.” It hit me as a rejection of the miraculous in favor of the necessary, a request for a little less magic and, perhaps, a little less grace. It caught my attention immediately and transfixed me into her songs for the hundredth time during her set.

I sat on the floor by the staircase, with Drew and several Pastors’ Wives scattered around me and behind me on the stairs. When she got to the chorus, “so carry us over the finish line, we can see the end but our feet are so tired / it’s obvious we’re useless on our own…” all of their voices picked up easily on the harmonies as if the walls were beginning to seep melody. It was the best kind of surround sound, and it made my heart split wide open. It was a moment I desperately needed, one of those moments of musical communion, redemption, and surprise. I need to be carried through on those waves, often.

Kelli has a voice that needs to be heard, broadly. She is one of the most immediately arresting, intelligent women I have seen perform in a very long time. Sharing the same Amigo/Amiga label with Drew Grow & The Pastors’ Wives, she is endeavoring to fund her debut full-length through the Kickstarter project, just as Crooked Fingers and many other worthy artists have. She is trying to raise the requisite $4000 by November 18th. Please check it out if you would like to pledge to her full album by buying it in advance (with some super cool extra perks). I just did.

It is true, as the Sound on the Sound blog says, that “this woman right here, she’s a hurricane.”

The Doe Bay Sessions – Kelli Schaefer

Northwest Supernova 010

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[all photos from both shows at the Fuel/Friends Facebook Page]

October 21, 2010

Pacific Northwest invasion coming

Seattle Portland 2010 004

It may be Rocktober here in Denver, what with all sorts of marvelous shows rolling through here this month. But in a few weeks, forget Rocktober because Fuel/Friends is presenting three absolutely fantastic shows coming through Colorado in the first week of November, with bands from the fertile loamy shores of the Pacific Northwest.

We’ll call it Rockvember, which really doesn’t have nearly the same snappy effect as Rocktober, but it will have to do.

Seattle’s The Head and The Heart and Portland’s Drew Grow and The Pastors’ Wives — both bands are becoming addictions of the most socially acceptable kind, meaning that I pretty much just rotate between their two albums in recent weeks but maintain my hygiene and there’s no lying or drug-seeking behavior.



First off, Drew Grow and The Pastors’ Wives are playing the Larimer Lounge on Wednesday, November 3rd (with Kelli Schaefer, the girl joining in for a show-stopping duet on the last lines of the song in the video below). The next night, Thursday the 4th, they are playing a Fuel/Friends house show down in Colorado Springs and I think you should come. It’s $5 and you can BYOB and rock out in my ‘hood.

Every last thing that you need to know about why you should come see Drew Grow & The Pastors’ Wives for one of those two shows can be gleaned from this post here, and from this video here. Wait until three minutes in, when the best kind of musical cataclysm starts to occur:

Their album is one of my favorites of the year, easy. Recently at the Doe Bay Festival in Washington, the Seattle Weekly reviewer wrote, “Two weekends ago, I had one of those rare, game-changing live music experiences, the kind when you’re watching a band and your chest swells up big and red and raw like a great frigatebird during mating season and there’s a lump in your throat and an ACME anvil could fall on the person next to you and you probably wouldn’t even notice the blood spatter because HOLY FUCKING SHIT this band is amazing.”

So, yeah — there’s that.

Bootstraps – Drew Grow and the Pastors Wives



Then on Friday, November 5th –if we survive the two nights with Drew Grow, maybe rehydrate our electrolytes– Seattle supernovas The Head And The Heart are playing their first show in Colorado at Moe’s (next door to the Gothic), co-headlining with local favorite Ian Cooke, with support by The Lumineers.

Sounds Like Hallelujah – The Head and The Heart

Guys, I can’t even tell you how blindingly quick things are exploding for this likeable, insanely catchy band right now, and deservedly so. They just toured through my home state of California, and I had friends at each stop along the way either texting me effusive praise from stageside, or stuck outside in the rain (like in LA, where apparently many folks couldn’t get in, despite the band adding a late show the same night). I have never seen them perform live yet, just pretty much watched the bejesus out of youtube videos.

This is a new song, “Gone,” they have been performing, with a bridge that I just can’t get out of my head. I’m trying here…



shows_ive_seenBIG OLE’ TICKET GIVEAWAY!
I have five pairs of tickets to give away to both of these Fuel/Friends presented shows (11/3 with Drew Grow and 11/5 with The Head And The Heart) to folks who email me. You can go to both, I’d absolutely love to share these bands with you.

September 8, 2010

Short-order music

pret-a-manger

Philadelphia band Dr Dog announced today that they would be making a handful of new tracks (written since Shame, Shame) available for free download to their fans via their Facebook page over the next few weeks. The first offering, “Take Me Into Town” is an unhurried bluesy treat:

STREAM: “Take Me Into Town”
(download)

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Scott Hutchison from Scotland’s Frightened Rabbit blogged Monday about how he recorded a cool, collaborative EP of songs with folks from Twilight Sad, Idlewild, and others in a remote house in Perthshire (with “plenty of fruit wine”) and lickety-split, two songs were available now for free download (quite good ones, all broguey and anthemic). The Music Like A Vitamin supergroup is raising money for Scottish mental health, which of course you need after you submerge yourself in the marvelous misery of Frightened Rabbit for too long.

STREAM: I Forgot The Fall – Music Like A Vitamin (download two songs here)

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And then of course Tallest Man on Earth and Sufjan both dropped EPs on us from out of the blue (bam! available now!), Josh Rouse put together a free EP of live cuts and remixes from El Turista last month, and current Fuel/Friends favorite Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives made a name for themselves by releasing a steady stream of 7″ singles in the Portland music community over the past year, coming out in advance of their full-length, as they wrote and recorded them.

This trend I see gaining steam among indie musicians this summer is one that I love. I call it “short-order music” — not to imply a lack of quality (some of those diner omelettes whipped up in three minutes can be the best thing you eat all week) but rather a visceral, vibrant, of-the-moment transmission direct from the artists you love into your eardrums.

Arguably, we are becoming an impatient, on-demand culture whose attention span is brief and flickering. Nowhere is this more true than in the music community. One is reminded of Veruca Salt (who wants it NOW, Daddy) in our insistence to be constantly sated and titillated, and I am no different. But perhaps musicians can also harness this constant hunger to work in their favor.

In an age where the anticipation of a full album (and the inevitable leaks) can severely quell a musician’s financial gain from new music, this seems like a possible temperance. The guerrilla approach to releasing new songs via digital EP seems to encourage the immediate, bite-sized purchase of new music. At a few bucks per pop (or as Scott Hutchison blogged, “only six fucking quid!!”), it is more financially palatable for fans who are often used to getting, well, everything for free. There also is the perception of less risk – with only five songs, it’s less likely you’ll be getting that 12-minute art rock jam instrumental at the end of the disc. Unless you like 12-minute art rock jams.

While of course there will always be a place for us to fall in love with the well-crafted, cohesive, full album, I also welcome the willingness to mix things up a bit during the in-between days. Let me see what you’ve been up to since the tour ended. Surprise me with four new songs from the summer when I wake up tomorrow. Yeah?

September 2, 2010

til kingdom come get a buzz on, singing in tongues

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Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives make their home in Portland, and meld together a scuzzy, squally blend of rebellious gospel/folk that at times possesses the radiant buoyancy of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, and in quieter moments the seeping warmth of M Ward or intelligent, lovely meanderings of Elvis Perkins. It’s wild and sharp and smart. Their album is so unrelentingly good, top to bottom, that I feel like it holds me down with no air from the time it cues up until it fades out and I restart it. I must have listened to it at least ten times through in the last week.

First garnering notice around the Pacific Northwest for the series of 7″ singles they released on the Amigo/Amiga label, they’ve gathered those songs together finally onto one ace album. Every song is so different, but this one immediately grabbed me:

Bootstraps – Drew Grow and the Pastors Wives



Before I even listened to the album, I read this marvelously visceral review in the Seattle Weekly, and I instantly wanted in on this action. I even wrote the reviewer a fan email. She says:

Two weekends ago, I had one of those rare, game-changing live music experiences, the kind when you’re watching a band and your chest swells up big and red and raw like a great frigatebird during mating season and there’s a lump in your throat and an ACME anvil could fall on the person next to you and you probably wouldn’t even notice the blood spatter because HOLY FUCKING SHIT this band is amazing.

These are the sorts of experiences that turn people from casual listeners into lifelong music fans. But as you get older and rack up thousands of shows in your mental music arsenal, these moments become increasingly rare. And in 13 years of show-going, I’ve never felt this way about a performance from a band I wasn’t familiar with until I saw Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives at [the] Doe Bay [Music Fest].”

drew grow doe bay
Drew Grow & The Pastors’ Wives @ Doe Bay 2010 (photo credit Hilary Harris)

After listening to this album enough times to see the sterling streak of quality all the way through, the wild weirdness of it, all laced with the smart, smart songwriting, I think I need to see these guys live. They are touring this fall – more dates as I have them.



For now, stream the whole self-titled debut album here (out on vinyl LP and mp3 download, Sept 14 on Amigo/Amiga Recordings), and since you know I am a lyrics gal, I recommend reading all the lyrics they have posted on their Bandcamp page as you listen.

The first three songs are all completely different, but this track 1-2-3 sequencing here is the most solid I’ve heard in a good while.



Finally, from that same festival, I just came across this breathtaking live video via from the Seattle blog Sound On The Sound. In the middle of the forest rife with twilight mosquitoes (bastards), this is a rousing acoustic version of the final song on the album — the anthemic and heartening “It All Comes Right.”

The communal pouring-out of spirit from about 3:30 onwards reminds me of The Head And The Heart video that I posted last week, which is somewhat fitting because both bands played the festival, and The Head And The Heart told me to listen to Drew Grow in the first place.

I think we got ourselves a solid musical brethrenhood here.

The Doe Bay Sessions – Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives
from Sound on the Sound on Vimeo.

[top photo credit Aya Sato]

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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..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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