With the big Alice Cooper show at the fair and string of events lined up for the weekend, the Domino Room didn't do too shabby for a Thursday night. Having seen Oberst in Bright Eyes a year prior, Sound Check walked in with an already expected presentation. He's Conor Oberst for Christ's sake, it was obvious what to expect and who you would see there. A mix of out of towners, scene kids and aging hipsters set the tone for a mellow crowd generally interested in what Oberst had up his sleeve with his Mystic Valley Band. Stereotypes aside, Oberst killed it. Bright Eyes seemed like a distant memory to hardcore fans (Sound Check included) and second place to a more maturely polished and truly better musician.
Oberst arrived on stage dressed in a American Apparel fitted orange T-shirt, members only jacket complete with matching orange golfer logo and fitted stretchy Levi's. The band opened with its single "Sausalito" with Oberst Johnny Cash style strummin' the rhythm steady into his torn worn acoustic. The anger and eccentrics of the past were blatantly constrained in his performance style. He let the music take its place now. People shouted out things like "You're My Golden Boy," " Killer boots!" "God Bless the Midwest" and various Bright Eyes titles, and Mr. Oberst played none of these. And why would he? The new material speaks louder than the past and would have set a different tone from the one he's evolved into.
The reverb coating over the amplified tones on the mellower album's tracks "Lenders in the Temple," "Eagle On A Pole" and "Milk Thistle" set a better encapsulating live sound than the album could ever produce. Unfortunately, this one might land in the "you kinda had to be there" bin. So, if you weren't you missed out on a truly awesome performance, the likes of which this town probably won't see again for a while. Sorry, losers.
Still humming Oberst's "Cape Canaveral," Sound Check rode our Huffys to Parrilla Grill for the Show Us Your Spokes Friday night concert featuring Reed Thomas Lawrence, or as one Sound Check hanger on likes to call him, "Reed Thomas Hottie," and his groovingly talented band. RTL played some cuts from his new summertime, feel-good record that had the entire converted parking lot venue moving and joyfully hoisting their PBR tall cans to the sky. While So-Cal flip-flop jams might be his specialty, Lawrence and crew also let the screws loose a few times, firing off heavy instrumentals tied together by guitarist Franchot Tone's (also of Culver City Dub Collective) crispy solos. The show ended with Lawrence extending the invitation to his Thursday, August 7 CD release part at McMenamins to an audience that soon pedaled off into the night.
Sound Check confusedly stood on the side of Oregon Avenue as a hot rod spun its tires, tossing black smoke a plenty into the air before deciding that classic cars just ain't our thing. Which is OK, especially when it's the Saturday of the Elevate Underground Arts Festival. The event ran all day on downtown's Troy Field, featuring artists doing their thing and showing their wares, but the highlight came after dark when the collective that is Person People took the stage to delight an impressively thick crowd of devoted PP Heads (and some new fans) to some high-octane (excuse the hot-rod metaphor, that's probably the result of perhaps a bit too much exhaust inhalation) hip-hop delight. But accompanying the sound were fire breathers, fire dancers, fire Hula Hoopers, and more fire-related artists. Hip-hop, hot-rods and fire...not a bad little Saturday, if we don't say so.
-Tauna Leonardo and Mike Bookey
For video of Oberst delighting the Domino Room as well as Reed Thomas Lawrence's new music video, click on over to the Blender blog on tsweekly.com.