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.

Turtle (1)

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!

Danny

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.

Spider M

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.

Noise Man (1)

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.

Eddie (1)

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.

Donation Jar

Flyer courtesy of Danny Cox
Photos courtesy of Brett Sisun

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8 responses to “Eye Level Eye, The Spider Moccasin Folk Ensemble, Very Rare Artifacts, and Turtle @ The Laughing Horse Book and Film Collective 1/25/2014”

  1. Spider Moccasin says :

    Thank you very much for reviewing our performance and for the positive feedback about our topical issue oriented songs. The NY Times called me “Dylanesque… a cross between Rage Against The Machine and Spider Man.” We got a big jolt from the nice comments about photos too. LOL.

    Your blog is great; you might really like art/folk/experimental rock music by Dr. Amazon, a PDX supergroup featuring ex members of Smegma and some frequent 20 Foot Man stalwarts; highly recommended.

    I am a big fan of old school PDX experimental noise acts like Anal Solvent, Daniel Mensche, 20 Foot Man, Smegma, and the Soleil Moon label Charles from the Ooze record store ran because of the Hafler Trio recordings.

    PS: We played only one blues song at the show you reviewed, and it was not “boogie,” which traditionally requires R&B drums and band to “woogie,” as the old saying goes, to make folks dance. Big Brother and the Holding Company, Paul Butterfield Blues band are well known examples from the 60s.

    And sorry, we are not vets of the PDX Blues Scene at all; we announced at Laughing Horse that my guitarist Jimi Haskett was once nominated for the OR Music Hall of Fame because of his work in Theater of Sheep, Portland’s earliest new wave group, which recorded an LP with Greg Sage from the Wipers (the late Kurt Cobain’s hero). We are merely old punks unplugged.

    Here our links to my music vids:

    And here is the movie trailer for the recent NEW punk documentary about Satyricon that both me and my guitarist Jimi Haskett appeared in:

    We play next at Delta Cafe on Tuesday, April Fool’s Day Eve at 7 PM and then at Pioneer Days Festival, Clackamette Park, Oregon City, Friday May 2, 2 PM.

    • mattsween0 says :

      Thanks for your positive feedback and for filling in the gaps about your background: I did not know that you both had roots in punk music. I tried to do a little research on your group before the show but perhaps I should have looked up your individual names. I guess also that i perceived that the music you are playing now is strongly influenced by blues, like John Lee Hooker, and that was why I talked about it as being blues boogies. I more or less just write what I hear in the moment and occasionally there are some slight distortions in the writing from me exaggerating one part of what I’m hearing or seeing. Thank you for the link to the documentary too.

      • Marcus Moseley says :

        Oh sure, I know exactly what ya mean. “Blues” is such a broad category that its easy to sense it without knowing which sub genre, as if anyone but musicians but us playing it might care. But you are right about our recent connection to the tradition, via the folk idiom. Political issues are usually uncommon in blues, but moreso in punk and folk. Take Ani DeFranco, for example.

        I’m sure “experimental” is also a huge category easy to misdiagnose. The old PDX scenesters I recommended are quite different from one another, yet somehow fall under that heading as a shared genre. Dr, Amazon currently sound like electrified Syd Barrett, but backed by Capt. Beefheart instead of old Floyd.

        But the brilliant 20 Foot Man have things in common with Tchkung, Crash Worship, and Blue Man Group’s spectacle. Smegma might be remembered as having the local influence of the Mothers of Invention because of Mike Lastra’s prolific production, ala Frank Zappa. But their experimental noise was far less pop or “rawk.”

        The also prolific Daniel Mensche is HUGE in Japan, and is Portland’s greatest heir to Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music (which is currently being danced to locally on stage). Anal Solvent shared many bills with PDX punk acts, along with Smegma, but were far more abrasive than, say, Poison Idea (can you imagine somehow being heavier than the late Tom Pig Champion?).

        Hafler Trio came from the opposite end of the noise spectrum, with super quiet dynamics at times that reminded me of Eno’s Airport Music. Other locals, like Gone Orchestra were loaded with pop musicians doing improv. and, strangely, E Bow Orchestra even mixed the noise with old timey jazz. King Black Acid, featuring Hitting Birth’s Daniel Riddle, were a pop group that dabbled in experimental tones. And Hitting Birth’s great poet shaman, the late Stephen Spirit, was a brilliant Force of Nature, missed greatly, RIP.

        Speaking of angels, your blog is filling the void left behind in the wake of the death of Richard Francis at Community Radio KBOO 90.7 FM. Dick led the experimental radio genre at the station, and curated the DADA Fest 72 hour broadcast that was nominated for a Golden Reel award by the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. His tradition on air continues with the Outside World program late Fridays with DJ Daniel Flessas (a good man to know), as well as broadcasts featuring host Jennifer Robin.

      • mattsween0 says :

        Marcus,

        Thank you very much for all of this interesting discussion and back-history. I am somewhat familiar with Daniel Menche and Smegma but had not previously heard of 20 foot man. I don’t remember Daniel Menche’s music that well, but I’ll have to look into him again. I will have to look further into them and Dr. Amazon. Also, to me The Wipers are mostly just a name and I’ve never listened to a full album by them. I will have to.

        Looking at all of the references you’ve been making in this post, makes me curious: are you a fan of Van Der Graaf Generator and Peter Hammill, by any chance? Also, do you like the psychedelic drone music that a lot of people have been making around the world? I love to discover new music and you can never know enough about it really.

        If only it were possible to write about music without obligatorily making references to certain idioms.

        I will have to look into all of the information you’ve been giving me and I hope you enjoy reading my future posts.

      • Marcus Moseley says :

        Ooops! I accidentally wrote Gone Orchestra info. and E Bow Orchestra info. kinda’ swapped. Sorry about that! To clarify:

        Gone Orchestra was the ensemble who mixed old timey jazz with experimental elements, whereas E Bow Orchestra had some notable local alt. pop musicians working improv. in a line of their unique noise instruments, creating a sonic maelstrom.

        And Steven Wray Lobdell is yet another local notable PDX experimental musician of prolific merit, whose production credits include work with Faust. But his recent solo recordings are more melodic and have an exotic far Eastern flair, compared to epic swells and distortion in his past releases (which live reminded me of the feedback work on Neil Young’s Arc Weld.

    • mattsween0 says :

      I guess what I mean is that when I referred to your music as “blues boogies” I meant that there was some influence in it there, as I heard your music as being rhythmic and blues/folk-influenced in a way that reminded me of John Lee Hooker, who, even on solo guitar, has a more rhythmic interpretation of the blues

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