Sunday, September 11, 2011

Dispatch from MusicfestNW: Centro-matic, The Romany Rye, Charles Bradley

Wednesday through tonight was the big MusicfestNW here in Portland OR, a boutique version of SXSW where a dozen+ clubs put up a different band every hour on the hour from 9:00-1:00. You buy a wristband and make your way through the maze of bands, bars, music and beverages.

There were some larger shows held outdoors downtown in a big public square (Iron and Wine, Band of Horses, etc.).

I saw a dozen plus bands, but rather than review them all, in keeping with our masthead I will just write up a few that I really loved.

Three sets stood out. Soul man Charles Bradley killed me. Bradley's history is a long story and an especially good one, so we'll tell it in this Friday's Soul Corner. But here's a little taste from the "Screaming Eagle of Soul":

And WYMA's old friends Centro-matic lived up to the lofty pedestal we've put them on here. Their set made me think of one of my favorite observations about music, which came from Ian MacKaye of Fugazi who told a buddy of mine that "There are 2 types of music - signals and echoes. And I am interested in the signals." Will Johnson sends out signals. On the surface he might appear a typical son of Neil Young, alt-country rocker. But the compositions, lyrics, musicianship and singing are all so careful, thoughtful and original that every song is a revelation.

Centro-matic is one of the first bands that our fearless leader John Hyland turned me onto when we first connected maybe 10 years ago, and I've enjoyed their recorded output. But this is the first time I've seen them perform and it's just that much better live. Will Johnson has simply got it - magic flows from his guitar and voice. And the band is right with him - as with all great bands, the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Here's some very recent Centro-matic footage from this tour, giving you the flavor of what I experienced:

The other non-NW band that I was really impressed with was The Romany Rye from LA. Another rocking alt-country sort of outfit but with great vocals, big harmonies and a terrific warm vibe. Here's two:

Many Portland and Seattle bands played and I'll write a piece in a day or three on some sets I enjoyed by some local Portland and nearby acts. And please check back in Friday to hear about the great Charles Bradley.

Band web pages:

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