I’m Going to Graceland

It's been a long week, for reasons that aren't entirely clear, even to me. Lost track of what day it was by the end of Tuesday, and then the traffic on 520 didn't clear up until around 8 on Friday. That kind of week. After dinner, I dragged my lazy butt (actually, no dragging required, it was downhill all the way) over to Graceland, a club kind of jauntily nestled up against I-5 and all but underneath the Denny overpass. It was so worth it; it was as though I could feel myself flowing back into myself as I took in the music.

I showed up in the middle of Welcome's set, and didn't much care for it. Bad pun omitted. I'll go with the usual complaint of the artistically impaired: I couldn't find anything distinctive about their music, nor do I particularly like their sound. Tellingly, they were the loudest band of the evening by far.

They bopped off the stage pretty quickly, and yielded to Aveo, a local act. Their style was a little hard and driving for my tastes, but for all that, I really liked it. Very complicated guitar lines, in a sort of rocking arpeggiated style, underneath harmonically unstable vocals. If you stepped back from the forward-pulsing beat, the overall effect was comfortably enveloping. Long verses, long choruses, and although the harmonies weren't exactly your garden-variety strong-resolution rock chords, Aveo's songs all had an oddly gripping quality, a feel to them that made you smile and pay attention.

oRSo, out of Chicago and kicking off their current US tour with a new album, were third on the bill. They were listed on the poster as featuring "former members of Red Red Meat," which meant nothing to me, other than sounding ominously like the sort of band that plays loudly and out of tune, on purpose. But when they came out and I saw frontman Phil Spirito tuning a banjo, I knew things were going to be all right. Plunked banjo and tinkly keyboards tended to make for oddly-arranged songs that would start off pretty enough but didn't seem to be going anywhere. And then, four minutes later, you're hoping and praying that the song will never end, because somehow in the interim, that initially off-putting sound has grown on you, and their twisted notions of a tinkly-keyboard music-box "solo" have started to make sense, and you're bought into the logic of the song's sound and within that logic, there's actually a lot of fairly neat development and an accumulated wallop. I chatted for a bit with Phil while buying an album of theirs. Nice guy. Slightly strange but nice music.

The final band on the bill was Portland-based Carissa's Wierd (no, not a typo). What can I say? Soft and moody violin rock, gets me every time. Like every other band on the bill, they're a melody band: their chords and song structure are pretty pedestrian, but their subtle interweaving melodies are dreamlike and haunting. The best of their songs featured two vocal lines in harmony, violin, and quietly picked guitar floating and chanting above a drum-and-strum backdrop. I drifted back and forth between listening to one individual part, usually almost charmingly simple, and the mournful but cleansing pull of the whole. Mmmmm. Music.

And today, I, well, never mind.