Sasquatch Road Diary day 2: Jane says…

Jane's Addiction in concert. (Photo by Christopher Nelson)
Jane's Addiction in concert. (Photo by Christopher Nelson)

It took all night, but when Perry Ferrell belted out “Jane says…” for the final song of the night, I felt like all was right in the universe.

Ferrell must have felt the same way, because he reveled in the fact that his band Jane’s Addiction is back together after so much has passed. Performing with the original Jane’s Addiction lineup, including Dave Navarro, Stephen Perkins and Eric Avery, Ferrell hadn’t shared a stage with his band in nearly 17 years. 

Dave Navarro. (Photo by Christopher Nelson)
Dave Navarro. (Photo by Christopher Nelson)

“In this beautiful night of darkness, let us celebrate death,” Ferrell announced. He mentioned that Jane’s Addiction’s first time on stage at the Gorge was 17 years ago, and “It doesn’t seem like we’re going to stop,” he said. 

Ferrell closed the set with “Jane Says,” and though he referenced being enamored with the surrounds, shouted “goodnight Seattle.” 

Fans wait for Trent Reznor to take the stage. (Photo by Christopher Nelson)
Fans wait for Trent Reznor to take the stage. (Photo by Christopher Nelson)
Trent Reznor. (Photo by Christopher Nelson)
Trent Reznor. (Photo by Christopher Nelson)

Nine Inch Nails took the stage before Jane’s Addiction, their set timed with the setting sun. The stage began glowing with late afternoon sun mixed with fog drifting across. Trent Reznor brought the audience to their feet when he began, the only band I’d seen to do so on the main hill.

“This is my favorite place in the world to be,” Reznor said, and given the occasion, he seemed sincere. After an energetic set with Trent running from sound station to sound station, the band closed with what has proved to be their biggest legacy, “Hurt.” Pegged as the last tour for NIN — their “Wave Goodbye” logo for the tour fueling rumors that they’re calling it quits — and the first of many for Jane’s, both bands closed last night with monumental milestones in their careers.

Of Montreal. (Photo by Christopher Nelson)
Of Montreal. (Photo by Christopher Nelson)

Performing at the same time on the secondary stage was Of Montreal, which I am only vaguely aware of from Volkswagen commercials. I had little idea how popular the band was. Their fans are quite wild, and Of Montreal packed plenty of them onstage for one song, and I swore I saw some dancing pink bunnies. Debauchery at it’s finest.

The Airborne Toxic Event. (Photo by Anna Paige)
The Airborne Toxic Event. (Photo by Anna Paige)
Airborne Toxic Event violinist Anna Bullbrook. (Photo by Anna Paige)
Airborne Toxic Event violinist Anna Bullbrook. (Photo by Anna Paige)

The highlight of my day — aside from the headliners — was the Airborne Toxic Event, a relatively unknown band this year. Violinist Anna Bullbrook stole the show with her dramatic moves, arching over speakers while stringing her violin.

The band’s hit “Sometime Around Midnight” was recognized, and lead singer Mikel Jollett admitted they were just a “new band with a homegrown record and we have no idea what’s happening in our fucking lives right now.” His humbleness was charming, the bands talents excellent.

They closed their set with a elongated version of “Innocence.” Chanting “Oh my God, oh my God,” Jollett’s enduring vocals soared through the crowd. 

French rocker Anthony Gonzalez, performing with a few others under the M83 moniker were also an amazing live band. Gonzalez performed with a female vocalist/keyboardist and drummer. Their sensual hypnotic pop was trip the light fantastic and kept people dancing, even in the line for the bathroom. 

Monday brings headliner Ben Harper and the Relentless 7. The campground is clearing but thousands are still milling around, prepping for another day of music.

Of Montreal's fans. (Photo by Christopher Nelson)
Of Montreal's fans. (Photo by Christopher Nelson)

Sasquatch Road Diary day 1: Kings among us

The sun sets on day one of Sasquatch. (Photo by Christopher Nelson)
The sun sets on day one of Sasquatch. (Photo by Christopher Nelson)
M. Ward performs on the main stage Saturday (Photo by Sean Pecknold)
M. Ward performing on the main stage Saturday (Photo by Sean Pecknold)
Audience members dressed as penguins prepare for Animal Collective. (Photo by Christopher Nelson )

Sweltering temperatures didn’t stop the parades from flocking to the middle of Washington for the first of three days of concerts at The Gorge. Sasquatch, typically the smallest of the summer festivals, has erupted into a full-blown spectacle.

The festival this year seems larger, the sun hotter, and the lines longer. Adding a fourth stage, the dance and comedy tent, has added plenty of diversity to the lineup, and this year the Wookie Stage is larger and has a video monitor suspended above the stage.

The first day featured performances by some excellent musicians leading up to Kings of Leon’s first performance at the Gorge, including Brit gloom pop rockers The Doves, guitarist and musical collaborator M. Ward, “gypsy punk” band Devotchka, and actor/hip hop artist Mos Def.

M. Ward, dressed in all black, must have been roasting onstage, but didn’t display any discomfort. A talented musician that has worked with artists ranging from Conor Oberst to Zooey Deschanel, Ward performed during one of the hottest portions of the day, but rocked his guitar as the sun beat down upon him. He also invited DeVotchKa’s accordionist/violinist Tom Hagerman to strum a tune with him.

Mos Def. (Photo by Sean Pecknold)
Mos Def. (Photo by Sean Pecknold)
Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. (Photo by Christopher Nelson)
Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. (Photo by Christopher Nelson)

The first large act of the day was the highly anticipated band Animal Collective. Blowing trance/electronic pop rock across the Gorge, the band spurred a few impromptu-dance groups, but didn’t appeal to the masses, brushing some concertgoes the wrong way. A hardworking band, their trance noise pop didn’t come without a lot of talent, and I could appreciate the effort the band went to and the surreal aspect of seeing them in such a large venue, though they were probably better suited for a smaller stage.

The Decemberists followed, which I opted out of to catch Mos Def (thankfully missing this). Admittedly, I was star struck, having come to know Mos from his HBO Series, Def Poetry Jam, which he hosted with Russell Simmons. The Ani DiFranco of rap, Mos took the stage in a Mardi Gras-esque mask and launched into an unconventional and socially conscious hip hop set.

Stopping to reflect on the surroundings, Mos asked the audience to turn around and catch the setting sun, putting emphasis on how beautiful the world around us was. Some feedback from the sound system threw him off, but he recovered and wrapped up an engrossing set in time for us to catch the Yeah Yeah Yeahs opening number.

When Karen O sang “Maps,” it was one of those amazing moments at Sasquatch where the sun was just beginning to set, highlighting the river winding through its channel. The wind was blowing slightly, cooling off the skin of 20,000 spectators, and the rosy clouds just below the horizon picked up subtle colors as the night descended.

Bon Iver. (Photo by Sean Pecknold)
Bon Iver. (Photo by Sean Pecknold)

When the Yeah Yeah Yeahs wrapped their set, we caught the last few songs of Bon Iver. The secondary stage, plagued by sound problems all day, proved problamatic for Justin Vernon, who apologized to the crowd for being unable to performs some of his planned set.

Kings of Leon. (Photo by Christopher Nelson)
Kings of Leon. (Photo by Christopher Nelson)

Kings of Leon capped the night, and it was the last show of their current tour. The band rolled into a slew of hits from the latest albums “Because of the Times” and the Grammy-nominated “Only By the Night,” including the fan favorite, “Sex on Fire.” The band’s brawny frontman and rhythm guitarist Caleb Followill, wearing a red flannel and sporting a beard, elicited several squeals from his followers.

Unfortunately, the band was disappointing live. Followill missed some lyrics and the band as a whole stumbled on parts of their songs and had difficulty transitioning from between songs.

Looking out to the audience, Followill expressed his awe with the Gorge, performing for the first time on its stage.

“It’s our first time here and I had no idea how beautiful it was,” he told the crowd. It was satisfying to hear the power of “Cold Desert,” the yelping “Charmer,” and the ambiance of “Knocked Up,” but the band seemed dislocated. Perhaps fame came too quick for the gritty southern charmers.

However disappointing one of the headliners was, today is only Sunday, and the weekend’s apex happens tonight when the original lineup of Jane’s Addiction takes the stage.

Hanging with Sasquatch

Crowds dance to Michael Franti and Spearhead during the 2008 Sasquatch Music Festival
Crowds dance to Michael Franti and Spearhead during the 2008 Sasquatch Music Festival, held annually at Washington's Gorge amphitheater.

I can almost feel the sunburn, smell the grass, and am crawling out of my skin to get on the road, which means Memorial Day weekend is imminent, as is Sasquatch, a three-day music festival at The Gorge.

The amphitheater located along the Columbia river in southern Washington has a 20,000 person capacity and is host to a wicked lineup of bands this year, including the gritty southern rock band Kings of Leon headlining the festival Saturday evening. On Sunday the original lineup of Jane’s Addiction, featuring Perry Farrell, Dave Navarro, Stephen Perkins and Eric Avery performing together for the first time in nearly 17 years. On tour with Nine Inch Nails, the band and their touring partners are recreating their final Lollapalooza tour, circa 1991 (NIN performs directly before Jane’s on Sunday).

Performances by the Yeah Yeah Yeas, TV on the RadioThe Decemberists, Silversun Pickups, Girl Talk, Airborne Toxic Event, Mos Def, Animal Collective, among others, will take place during the three-day festival.

The popularity of this music festival has been unprecedented, perhaps because of the consistently excellent lineup or the gorgeous scenery, so unfortunately, tickets are sold out for both Saturday and Sunday. Tickets for Monday are still available, featuring Ben Harper and the Relentless 7

I’m hitting the road with some friends in the morning and plan to drive straight through. Check back this weekend to see updates and photos from the shows.

Sampling The Gourds’ tasty southern fruits

Alt-country group the Gourds in their second Billings performance May 6, 2009.
Alt-country group the Gourds in their second performance in Billings on May 6, 2009.
Gourds lead singer
Singer/songwriter Kevin Russell leads the Austin alt country group the Gourds through their energetic set.

With classic country stylings, folk-inspired songs and a slew of other influences including bluegrass, punk and zydeco, the Austin, Texas-based alt-country band The Gourds defy category, but are perhaps best-known for their eulogy to bitches, hoes, money and indo.

The band may have grown famous from their unique twist on Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice,” but have plenty more songs of substance in their songbook to make the Montana crowds pack in like sardines to see them on Wednesday night.

A lively and dynamic group, The Gourds returned to Billings for a second appearance since last April and brought their good-natured and easy-going jams back to the packed brewery. The line for beer was out the door and crowd members seemed anxious to party.

Thought it was drizzling rain outdoors, the early show was one of the first concerts of the year that it was nice enough to throw open the brewery door, and the patrons spilled outdoors. Lead singer Kevin Russell’s voice, laden with power and a twinge grizzled, propelled the band through a rich and well-received set.

Cloud Cult has animal magnetism

Cloud Cult performs in Bozeman May 5, 2009.
Above, Cloud Cult performs in Bozeman May 5, 2009. Below, Cloud Cult violinist Shannon Frid performs as Connie Minowa paints in the background.
Cloud Cult violinist Shannon Frid performs as painter Connie Minowa creates artwork in the background in Bozeman May 5, 2009.

Chamber pop band Cloud Cult performed Tuesday to an audience at Bozeman’s Emerson Theater following the theatrical premier of the National Geographic series Expedition Grizzly. Cloud Cult’s delicate riffs drifted throughout the piece, as frontman Craig Minowa wrote all the music for series.

Naturalist Casey Anderson introduced the film. Anderson, a Montana native, is featured in the series that chronicles his travels in search of the elusive grizzly bear through Yellowstone National Park. The premier gave an insider’s look at the grizzly culture with the aid of a life-sized model, Anderson’s 800-pound co-star, Brutus. The grizzly bear, raised by Anderson from a cub, was shown in the film demonstrating the immense power and beauty that grizzly bears present, as well as the dangers they face.

Cloud Cult frontman Craig Minows performs acoustically.
Cloud Cult frontman Craig Minows performs acoustically.

When Cloud Cult took the stage, Minowa told the crowd it was the concert he’d been looking forward to most on the band’s current tour because he got to hang with Brutus. In honor of the special screening, the band’s live painters created two separate paintings of bears to auction off at the end of the performance. 

Cloud Cult’s second performance in Bozeman, the band first performed in the tiny dive bar, the Filling Station. This time around they were able to sprawl out on the Emerson Theater’s stage, and it was exciting to see the band in a theatrical setting. The backdrop was more fitting for a band of its complex instrumentation, large lineup (seven people setup onstage) and swooning melodies. 


Continue reading Cloud Cult has animal magnetism

Sera Cahoone, Betsy Olson perform to hometown crowd

Sera Cahoon
Sera Cahoone performed May 4, 2009 in Billings.
Betsy Olson performs with Sera Cahoone
Betsy Olson performed with Sera Cahoone May 4, 2009 in Billings.

Sera Cahoone headlined a reunion of sorts last night with hometown sensation Betsy Olson. The two women, who are roommates in Seattle, performed together: Betsy on guitar, Sera on drums. Betsy was welcomed back to her hometown with great affection and enthusiasm, performing her bluesy tunes for friends, family, and fans. Even Betsy’s grandma got on the dance floor.

Sera then took the stage and fronted her own band, Sera Cahoone. Her acoustic guitar and the pedal steel sweetly sang through the noisy bar as the band launched into their unique brand of alt-country.

Sera Cahoon
Sera Cahoone performed May 4, 2009 in Billings.

The venue was noticeably packed for a Monday and though Betsy kept the audience captivated, Sera serenaded us with her enduring, tender voice. A wonderful melancholy settled across the bar, the music ebbing and flowing around the pedal steel. Betsy joined Sera for “Only As The Day Is Long,” and together they exuded a sense of place, the stage a fitting platform for their multiple talents.

Murder by Death channels ghosts of country music past

Murder by Death
Murder by Death's performance May 1, 2009 in Billings.
Murder by Death cellist Sarah Balliet performs May 1, 2009 in Billings.
Murder by Death cellist Sarah Balliet performed May 1, 2009 in Billings.

When Murder by Death vocalist and guitarist Adam Turla opened Saturday’s concert with “Ball & Chain,” he channeled his inner Cash, sounding at times like the Man in Black himself.

With songs such as “Ball & Chain,” “My Baby Shot Me Down,” and “Sometimes the Line Walks You,” Murder by Death easily elicits comparisons to the country rocker that shaped the musical form the band draws from, but the band has crafted a masterful blend of wailing cello, vintage country, gritty southern rock and Irish-infused punk rock. Subject matter for their songs rarely strayed from whiskey, death and casualties of love. Turla’s despondent lyrics read as a modern “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down,” Kris Kristofferson’s forlorn hangover song covered by Cash. 

A Detroit native with southern Indiana roots, Turla emitted a sultry elusiveness, his grizzled, smoky drawl growing longer with each shot of whiskey. He donned well-used cowboy boots and had slicked back his dark hair. 

Cellist Sarah Balliet wailed on her electric cello, flexing her foot and extending her leg outward, shifting the instrument with her body movements. Injecting the melodious harmonies of the cello, Balliet was also a forceful player, making the instrument bawl, chirp and moan throughout the set.

Bassist Matt Armstrong’s semi-hollow Epiphone bass emitted pure tonal blasts of sound while several songs channeled the Irish roots of drummer Dagan Thogerson.

Turla took the stage solo for an encore performance of “My Baby Shot Me Down” and the band then rejoined him for the epic “Spring Break 1899.” A stranger offered me a shot of whiskey and as we downed the bittersweet liquid to good fortune, the band wailed along.

Of Bloomington, Indiana, Murder by Death is in midst of a national tour promoting its newest release, Red Of Tooth and Claw.

Sera Cahoone takes her time through Montana

Sera Cahoone performs at the KEXP Studios (Photo by Kyle Johnson)
Sera Cahoone performs at the KEXP Studios in Seattle. (Photo by Kyle Johnson)

From drumming with bar bands at a young age to the studio with Band of Horses, Sera Cahoone already had a respectable indie career before picking up a guitar and fronting her own band in 2006. With stripped-down sincerity, Cahoone’s peaceful voice matched with her acoustic strumming bestowed an honest, tastefully countrified folk, putting forth her roots as just the beginning.

The acoustic Americana singer/songwriter brings her country-noir sound to Billings, headlining an alt-country evening of music at the Railyard on Monday.

Cahoone, vocalist and guitarist for her self-titled band, is on an abbreviated tour of the west with three scheduled Montana dates, including Billings. Her band features Cahoone on vocals, acoustic guitar and harmonica and the talents of four others. The band creates a rich tapestry of sound with the electrified teardrop of the pedal steel and the gorgeous, resonating sounds of the dobro guitar, as well as the alt twang of banjo.

Cahoone’s musical roots are tangled in the northwestern Sub Pop family. She drummed with Carissa’s Wierd, and after the clutishly-popular Seattle “sadcore” band split, she moved on to form a solo career. Former bandmates Ben Bridwell and Mat Brooke formed Band of Horses, though Brooke split after the band’s first album to form the indie rock band Grand Archives.

While focusing on her soloist career, Cahoone came together with Bridwell and Brooke to drum on the Band of Horses’ 2006 debut full-length release, Everything All The Time. Cahoone self-released her first album, filled with thought-provoking country songs, that same year. The album gained the attention of Seattle’s KEXP and other media outlets such as National Public Radio.

Cahoone released her second country-noir album, Only As the Day Is Long, on Sub Pop Records in March 2008.

Cahoone is scheduled to play Missoula Saturday at the Badlander, Bozeman’s Filling Station on Sunday and at the Railyard in Billings Monday. Cahoone will perform on drums with opening act Betsy Olson. Olson, originally of Billings, moved to Seattle in 2001 to launch her music career.

Tickets for the Billings are $7, available at the door only.

Murder by Death make second Montana appearance on spring tour

Murder by Death
Murder by Death is currently headlining a tour through Canada and the U.S.

Indie punk rock band Murder by Death, of Bloomington, Indiana, headlines a concert at the Railyard tomorrow. 

A band with nearly 10 years of history, Murder by Death released its fourth full-length album and Vagrant Records debut, Red of Tooth and Claw in March 2008. The band derived its name from the 1976 comedic movie of the same name, but is a serious fusing of Americana post-punk and alt-country rock with cello.

Murder by Death has been headlining venues across the country, and performed in Missoula in February. A second Montana date was announced in Billings shortly after.

They appear with local band 1090 Club and Missoula’s Fiancée. Doors are at 8 p.m. and the show is 18+.

Cloud Cult screens National Geographic series

Cloud Cult
Cloud Cult, currently on a national tour, stops in Bozeman for a special screening of a National Geographic series scored by frontman Craig Minowa.

Cloud Cult is hosting a special screening of the National Geographic series Expedition Grizzly, which features an original music score composed by Cloud Cult frontman Craig Minowa May 5 at Emerson Cultural Center in Bozeman. Following the screening the band will perform.

The event will feature an appearance by Brutus, an 800-pound grizzly bear, and renowned naturalist Casey Anderson, who has raised the bear since birth. The unusual duo are the center of the National Geographic series, which chronicles of the lives of Yellowstone’s grizzly bears.

Currently on a national tour, Cloud Cult has followed their acclaimed 2008 release Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes), with a full-length DVD documentary, No One Said It Would Be Easy, to be released in April with downloads of live and previously unreleased songs.

The band heads to Missoula to perform at The Other Side with Ice Palace May 6.

Tickets for the Bozeman screening are available at Cactus Records or Borders for $20 in advance or $25 at the door.