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A Night of Neo-Soul With Brownish Black

While it could be quite the challenge to develop your own sound within the lexicon of classic soul and r&b, Brownish Black seem both worthy and excited about the task at hand. Formed in 2010 the band has been growing in numbers and evolving their neo-soul sound that could easily be found on NYC goldmine label Daptone (home to Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Charles Bradley etc). With a slender and soulful white male leading the raucous r&b they could also be mistaken for pop soul darlings Fitz & the Tantrums. Yet comparisons aside Brownish Black are unique to Portland and are striving to forge their own path.

Given the somewhat challenging position of filling an empty dance floor with Portlanders who just finished a workweek, Brownish Black brought their high energy and infectious rhythms to the opening slot Friday night at the eclectic (read underrated) Star Theater. Seattle based psyche-afro-funk outfit Polyrhythmics were headliners.

Playing a mix of music from their previous EP’s as well new material Brownish Black sounded tight throughout. Performing new single “Life Lessons” lead singer M.D. Sharbatz was vocally strong although slightly distracted by the harsh lighting directed on stage. During a mid-set exit, Sharbatz returned with a black cap covering his eyes, which provided reprieve but perhaps distanced himself from the audience. While a stoic looking horn section successfully focused on taking care of business the bongo/conga player was focused on starting a party. The show continued, the floor filled, and the crowd released their weekday worries. Incorporating a cover of Portland’s very own Exploding Hearts “I’m a Pretender” along with a Brownish original entitled “Rock n Roll” as a tribute to blues legend BB King (who passed away that day) the second half of their set was climatic and cathartic.

It would be difficult not to mention the lack of female lead singer Mz. V (Vicki Porter), a once integral member and wonderful counterpart to Sharbatz’ vocals and energy, who recently left the band for other pursuits. While Porter is featured on the new album she certainly will be missed and the band is planning rotating guest appearances as they move forward with their first full-length release next month under Breakup Records.

With a charismatic, feel-good, neo soul sound Brownish Black have the talent, energy, and possible ambition to grow beyond Portland and the Northwest.

See them for their record release of Life Lessons at the Goodfoot Lounge on June 11.

-Greg LeMieux

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Guantanamo Baywatch defies genre with new album

Portland’s favorite power trio Guantanamo Baywatch has made a big leap since the days of their previous album, Chest Crawl. Most notably, there is an almost complete disappearance of their trademark surf sound. On their new record, Darling…It’s Too Late, the band has made the transition so easily it’s as if this shift of direction was where they have always been headed.

The album is a myriad of varying genres and styles, sounding like a tribute to the golden age of early Rock ‘n’ Roll. There are still quite a few instrumentals here, even the occasional glimpse of their old selves as on “Raunch Stomp” or “Mr. Rebel,” but even then they’re injected with a grittiness closer to country-fried Rockabilly.

The production is bigger and cleaner, and the band sounds more confident than ever, with Jason Powell’s vocals coming to the forefront for the first time where it had previously been buried or served a secondary role to his guitars. The guitars, as always, still play an integral part to their sound as does the thunderous rhythm section, especially shining on “Beat Has Changed” with a solo not unlike something from early Ricky Nelson.

The record feels like a glimpse into the world of pop music and Rock ‘n’ Roll in America during the late 50s and early 60s. The band explores everything from Country gospel à la Don Gibson on “Boy Like Me” to R&B torch songs on “Too Late,” and the Live at The Whiskey a Go Go swing of Johnny Rivers on “Sea of Love.” In fact, it’s like the band’s history lesson ends just before the advent of the British Invasion. The album even closes with what appears to be the sound of the Fab Four on the not-so-distant horizon with “Do What Want You Want.”

While their albums and singles have always been stellar, Guantanamo Baywatch up until now has always been best experienced as a live band. But Darling…It’s Too Late is a statement, proving they can be just as potent of a force in the studio. Every second of the record feels like it was handled with care and made with a deep enthusiasm and love for music. Darling…It’s Too Late is out now on Suicide Squeeze. 

-Cody Alexander

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PDX Weekend: Whiskeytown, Catherine Feeny, Roselit Bone

Today marks the beginning of WhiskeyFest NW's Whiskeytown USA festival--which pairs whiskey with a natural friend: music. Tonight catch Jackson Boone for a hot, psychadelic mixer. Tomorrow, Blitzen Trapper brings their seasoned folk rock to the stage, a perfect soundtrack to your sippin'. Check out the full schedule and band lineup here.
NW 17th & Front Ave, doors at 4 p.m. Friday and 12 p.m. Saturday, 21+, tickets

Start your Saturday night early with Catherine Feeny, Chris Johnedis, and Big Haunt at Tender Loving Empire. Catherine Feeny and Chris Johnedis will cool you down with their soulful, compelling tunes. Feeny and Johnedis are celebrating their new release with airy, dark-pop outfit Big Haunt.
Tender Loving Empire (3541 SE Hawthorne), 5:15 p.m., all-ages, free

 

If you're in the mood for something a bit more bloodthirsty, head to Double Barrel on Saturday to catch a free show from Roselit Bone. Their haunting, chaotic Western music will leave you with whiplash--and they've added an accordian player to the lineup. The band embarks on a West Coast tour this month, and won't be playing in Portland again until June.
Double Barrel (2002 SE Division), 5:30 p.m., 21+, free


Wishyunu Single Release: A Sampler of Psych

Walking in to Mississippi Studios last Sunday, it felt like the three band pairing of Cambrian Explosion, Jackson Boone and Wishyunu would be a strange one. Based on their recordings, it appeared that there was very little to tie all the music together aside from the fact that each band identified with psych music in some way. What seemed to be an evening of mismatched artists turned out to be an ideal sampler of all the variations that psych-rock can take. 

Cambrian Explosion played first, their set a dark dreamscape. Members of Cambrian Explosion appeared introspective on stage, incredibly invested in the music, which didn’t leave the audience with much to look at. However, the intricacy and unpredictability of the music gave the audience plenty to focus on: songs exploding surprisingly into sound, heavy distortion, and instruments blended so expertly it was difficult to decipher who was playing which part.  

Playing second was Jackson Boone whose take on psych is both dreamy and jazzy. Their set seemed like a fitting middle-ground between the dark vibes of Cambrian Explosion and the more pop-centric focus of Wishyunu. Jackson Boone’s specialty seems to be creating psych-pop lullabies that develop quietly into full psych-rock cacophony. “Open” was decidedly the most experimental song they played, straying away from the easy rhythms and soft melodies comprising most of their set. The crowd was receptive and seemed more willing to nod their heads along as the night progressed.

Wishyunu’s set started with some technical difficulty, probably in part because the duo is so busy on stage, with Bei Yan filling the role of guitarist, synth-player, and vocalist. As Yan sorted out her issues on stage, dropping in an out of sound, drummer Tony Bertaccini remained solid on the drums, helping the audience stay engaged as they waited. Wishyunu’s songs are progressive, layering beat on top of beat and then dreamily disintegrating melodies into new ones, catchy hooks giving way to unexpected drum fills. The energy of their set was frenetic, unlike Cambrian Explosion or Jackson Boone, their music made your blood move faster, catapulting you forward with them as they played.

Their new single “Photoplay” is a dark electro-pop song that seemed to show a new direction for the band, less ambient than their older songs and more driven. The other song off of their 7-inch, “Summer Suit” was ethereal and focused, especially compared to the older songs they played surrounding their new releases, again proving that Wishyunu has started refining their vision and sound. You can catch them next in Portland on June 21st at the Holocene. 

-Sarah Eaton

Photos by Lena Knofler


Joel Magid: A Welcome Spring Anthem

Some songs effortlessly capture a moment in time. For late spring’s warmth and slower, sunny days comes Joel Magid’s “Since You Went Away.” The sugary-sweet psych pop track captures a mood: one of longing, looking, and desire while remaining upbeat, catchy, and fun. Magid debuted the video for his song on Alt Citizen last week.

Magid’s debut album Pyramids is out this summer. Catch Magid at The Liquor Store on April 29.

Listen to Magid on bandcamp.

-Zibby Pillote, photo by Tom Chamberlain

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