More Local Tunes – Wampire and Radiation City

Alright, so I’m on a local kick. Judging from the Jackpot Records and Everyday Music Facebook feeds, and the sessions they’ve had around town, these are two of the biggest Portland names right now.

Wampire

Here’s a band that has a trippy synth Billy Idol thing going on, and is Portland to the core. The name comes from a German exchange student friend of the band founder – v’s and w’s are swapped when Germans speak English, so anytime you’re German and talking about a Vampire, you’re actually talking about a Wampire. Boom! Instant band name. In my first assessment over the last couple of weeks they get basically a “Could be Worse” reputation. But check ’em out anyway. Not a waste of time. The album is Curiosity on Polyvinyl.

Radiation City 

So the new release is Animals in the Median (Tender Loving Empire). More synth(what is it with all the indie pop bands these days and their synthesizer?! Are they that easy to get/learn to use? Is it an 80’s throwback? Another blog topic for sure), but here you have a pleasant layering of strings, flute, synth and vocal energy in most of the tracks.  It’s kind of spacey, can be mellow but can also be danceable. So it’s Portland. Hike, bike, drink tea, listen to the rain, drive to the coast on a weekend. Do what we do. This is the music for that.

On the scale of awesome Portland bands (Decemberists, Blitzen Trapper, The Thermals) to not-so-awesome Portland “bands” ( STRFKR, Unknown Mortal Orchestra) these two are right about in the middle. I’m not beating down the pavement to find them at their tour bus or anything, but they’re local and not terrible, so I figured a shout out wouldn’t hurt. And I must be just barely too old to fully “get” what they’re doing, but hey, “think globally, listen locally” right?

Obscure local bands and how I love them so (totally not in a hipster way, kind of in a hipster way)

That feeling when you find an old mix CD, you don’t know what’s on it or when you made it, but you know it’s going to be awesome, and you play it, and it is way more awesome than you imagined. Yeah, I’m in the middle of that right now, and it rules.

Summer of 2004. I had made this CD for…. somebody. On it I wrote … something. It’s all smudged now. All I could make out (snicker) of it was something like “….ic you need to hear.”

Turns out it’s got two super famous, world renown bands called….

The Vanished. And Chomsky. Two bands I was crazy about for a little while. They were as huge as huge gets for me.  And that got me thinking.

I never thought I would be a person to know about all kinds of obscure regional/local bands. I try not to take myself too seriously. But when I really reflect upon what I like, I realize it may appear super pretentious. All I know is, on this CD are two AWESOME old bands from my youth (ten years ago) that I’m pretty sure never made it out of the Dallas scene. Maybe into OKC, but obviously that’s a step down. I don’t like them FOR being local, I just like/d them because they made me happy and were authentic. And now they’re a part of my personal mosaic.

They’re also special to me because they’re like the Grand Street Cryers. They were a band I loved as a 13 year old, were all over the local radio, and playing shows all over Dallas (even free ones at the now defunct downtown Tower Records, as I remember it). Anyway, my point is I got one of their old songs stuck in my head about 3 years ago when I was 25 and *could not find anything on the internet anywhere about them.* Not on Google. Not Youtube. Only Amazon had their two short-lived albums from 1998,  and even they were out of stock I think. I couldn’t even find lyrics. I eventually found through an OLD html message board (pre-myspace, pre-livejournal, pre-blogging altogether) their song title called Push Erase. Yeah! That rocked! Finding that title was like a cup of  cool water (cloud-distilled,  organic, bird-friendly, etc). I still cannot find any videos of that band doing anything. I promise they were huge. Now it’s like they never existed. Anyone who listened to 94.5 KDGE The Edge in 97-98 knows my pain.

Anyway, here’s some more bands like that. Feeling the local flavor this weekend (though I’m  long gone from the Metroplex, there in spirit)  I saw all these kinds at one point or another when I was 18-22 (5-10 years ago). Kind of amazed they never broke out into the mainstream.

The Vanished – Anesthesia Winter

Pretty sure this is the only recording of theirs on YouTube. I do not know what happened to them. All I know is that I saw them open for Chomsky at Trees (also now defunct I think) and they rocked my face. I bought their CD then and there, and I still have the signed copy of it. They had eye make up. Their drummer had a wild mohawk. Their frontman was always up in the crowd. Loved it. They don’t even have a website anymore. You can find them on Myspace however. Myspace.

Chomsky – Fine

I’m not entirely sure what it was that first got me into them, but when I saw them, their frontman had a shirt that said Peak Oil. That was all. He only mentioned it once. It made me research. I learned a lot.  They too no longer have a website of any kind. Though they do have a bare bones write up on allmusic.com and you can listen to 15 sec clips. Like on Amazon in 1998. On the Amazon of 2013 you can buy Let’s Get to Second, the album which contains this great song, brand new for $2.97. Ouch. I’m pretty sure I bought it new in 2004 for $15. Yeah. They were good. This vid is from their summer 2004 performance on Craig Kilborn (remember him?) I think this was their TV debut and finale

The Rocket Summer – Cross My Heart

This guy, Bryce Avary, introduced me to the wonders of a folk singalong. A very youthful emo folk singalong, but still. It counts.His album Calendar Days was everything at this time in my life. So I saw him at the Gypsy Tea Room for my first ever road-trip-with-friends concert. Then at Buzzoven 2003 (which was the last show ever held at the famous Bronco Bowl before they bulldozed it. I still have the Dallas Morning News cutout somewhere). Then at Dan’s Silverleaf in Denton, acoustic show. Then at the Tea Room again, full band, packed from wall to wall. Everyone knew every song and sang every word. One of the most magical experiences of my life. Then and there I fell in love with live music as a community experience. This video kind of captures it. Only kind of. The good news is he’s still doing a lot, though now I’m old and full of years and have moved on, in a way.

South FM – Dear Claudia

These guys were at BuzzOven too. They did this song. It rocked. It made me buy their cd. I think they epitomize the Dallas sound, if there was such a thing in 2004. Also, those light-strands. That’s totally Dallas, totally Texas. Throw up a couple of those babies and you’ve got instant ambiance. Not a great quality video, but hey, this stuff is obscure, remember?

My point is, don’t be ashamed of liking little local bands, even if they have no chance of breaking out. If they do something for you emotionally, that’s all that matters. And don’t get stuck liking only the stuff that gets mainstream airplay. Work hard to find the good stuff. It’s out there, usually not very far away at all.

Ivan and Alyosha – All the Times we Had (Rdio)

Best album I’ve heard in a month! OK, so I haven’t really been doing much musically for the last month other than helping my wife have a kid and attending to a whole new life transition with a new baby and a new house. But this is really great stuff. I’ve known the name for a long time thanks to Acoustic Cafe but they came to my attention today because of this awesome show they’re doing in Wenatchee, WA at the Caffe Mela. I haven’t heard of any artist ever stopping in Wenatchee, so  these guys rock. Our friends just moved there, too, which made available the awesome house we live in now! So I&A are sure to be a big part of our future. And I’m always looking for soothing, singable spiritually centered music to sing to my wonderful 3 week old boy Rainier Lee.

Listen well, friends.