Eye Level Eye, The Spider Moccasin Folk Ensemble, Very Rare Artifacts, and Turtle @ The Laughing Horse Book and Film Collective 1/25/2014
Last Saturday my friend Danny texted me to let me know about a show he would be opening at the Laughing Horse Book and Film Collective. We had been scheming about how to promote him with a write-up for his solo project Eye Level Eye, so I was excited to take the opportunity to plug for him. The show in question was a benefit put on by the Portland Rising Tide for a project to combat and hopefully halt the environmentally destructive consequences of extracting energy from tar sands (petroleum waste). In December, protesters in Eastern Oregon confronted Megaload trucks bound for an oil patch in Canada, and there may be some more conflict over this issue on the horizon. In keeping with the anarchist sympathies of the show-organizers and audience, the benefit showcased several wildly different genres of music presented alongside one another in a spirit of equal receptiveness. As a result, this was one of the most interesting shows I’ve been at in a long time, a truly eye-opening glimpse of the diversity of talent this city has to offer.
Eye Level Eye (my friend Danny Cox) got the show off to an awesome start. Eye Level Eye is stylistically kind of a throwback to the 60’s– psychedelic folk with poetic lyrics. Danny once mentioned to me that Syd Barrett is one of his biggest musical influences. Eye Level Eye is an intense trip: the chord progressions can be very dramatic and abrupt, the lyrics are haunting fragments culled from dreams. Danny’s voice is passionate and cuttingly beautiful. Just about every performance from this guy feels special. His performance of his song “Quiet” was one of the high points of the night. He hasn’t been able to put a release together yet, though he does have a soundcloud with some nice acoustic jamming from him and some of our friends. Check it out and here’s hoping he can get back into the studio soon!
The second act was The Spider Moccasin Folk Ensemble, a blues-rock guitar-bassist duo. They delivered a short set of blues-influenced tunes with environmental themes that tied in references to Chinook folklore. The two were veterans of the Oregon rock scene and were polite, funny, and apparently pretty photogenic as well.
My biggest surprise of the show was the third act, a one-man noise project called Very Rare Artifacts. I was completely blown away by this performance. With a laptop and a formidable array of pedals he delivered about twenty-minutes of brutal, intricately textured, occasionally-rhythmic noise– there was none of the pretentious nonsense that can often be expected from noise acts coming from this guy. When I approached him after he had finished his set, he told me that he had only just begin performing live. I was shocked; from the quality of his set, I had assumed that he was at the forefront of Portland noise. The one big regret I have from this show (aside from the fact that I didn’t buy any of the Laughing Horse’s $1 books on political theory, history, and philosophy) is that I don’t remember Very Rare Artifacts’s name, even though we shook hands and introduced ourselves. I couldn’t find a soundcloud or bandcamp for him online. In any case, Very Rare Artifacts will be an artist for fans of Portland experimental music to keep their eyes peeled for.
The fourth and final act up was Turtle, a free music trio made up of a trumpeter, a drummer, and a guitarist. This band too, gave off a similar impression to Very Rare Artifacts– they were playing perhaps one of their first shows, but they killed it with sheer self-assurance. This was a, I’m assuming, mostly improvised set with scratching figures and scurrying percussion overturing jagged punk violence. After about three improvised pieces, the spoken-word artist Sherpa joined them with some vitriolic improvised poetry. They went well with each other, and I suppose that this part of Turtle’s set sort of encapsulated much of the spirit of this night: experimentalists and anarcho-activists teaming up for something worth believing in. After Sherpa bowed out, Turtle played two more pieces for an admiring audience.
I’d like to remind my readers to support grassroots organizations that value direct political action, awareness of the real political issues of our time, and exercising one’s freedom of speech to the fullest extent possible like Portland Rising Tide and Laughing Horse Book and Film Collective. I don’t know when our bureaucracies and billionaires will steer us away from this paradigm of avoiding the inevitable and start to transition away from fossil fuel dependency, but I do know that you should make your voice heard, if not join in the fight. It was a great night for a cause we all need to know about.
Flyer courtesy of Danny Cox
Photos courtesy of Brett Sisun