Tuesday, August 14, 2012

AU, Tu Fawning and Point Break 2 @ the Red Room (8/11/12)

This show caught my attention because it featured yet another Treefort alumnus whose set I'd missed, the Portland experimental group AU.  It helped also that its bill included Point Break 2, a local group whom I like well enough but hadn't seen in a while, and Tu Fawning, another Portland band I'd never encountered before.

I headed down to the Red Room fairly early, anticipating a substantial crowd for this show.  I was proven right: I counted about twenty people there already when I arrived.  That number would at least triple by the time that Tu Fawning played.  It would also include quite a few familiar faces from Boise's hipster contingent (oh, the mustaches...).

I got a stool at the end of the bar and read a few columns from 1 Dead in Attic.  One told the story of a man who returned to New Orleans after Katrina and eventually killed himself in despair.  A couple of others detailed the author's first time in N.O. and the (pre-Katrina) moment he resolved to stay and raise his kids there.

This is what I occupy myself with on a Saturday night.

Point Break 2 started off the night's music.  This set featured the drummer using both his arms (he'd used only one during the Vanity Theft show back in May because he'd broken the other) and a new vocalist.  A couple of people told me that this group reminded them a little of Big Black, but personally, I thought they sounded a bit more like the Doors gone art-punk/metal.  This was due largely to the singer's Morrison-esque stage presence, baritone moan and verbose, pretentious lyrics.  As awful as lines like "From the abyss I pulled the gospel of your perfection" read, however, they didn't sound all that bad.  It may have helped that the words felt made to fit the intriguingly dissonant riffs, steady basslines and sharp drumming rather than the other way around.  I'm not sold on this group (some of those lyrics... oy), but I'm curious to see how they'll develop from here.

After Point Break 2 came Tu Fawning, whose moody take on art-rock was much more to my liking.  If Nico and Tom Waits spent a couple of months together getting high and listening to trip-hop, post-punk and African music, they might come up with something like this.  Corinne Rapp sang the cryptic lyrics and dreamy tunes in a low, throaty voice over ambient noises, hazily harsh guitar, jazzy trumpet, eerie keyboard and violin and stomping, tribal drums.  Their self-proclaimed "stoner jam" sounded more like a demented '20s jazz-blues number, and I coulda sworn that this one song was a PJ Harvey cover (that's a compliment).  The crowd pressed in close and swayed and bounced on their feet, making way for Rapp and the trumpet player to weave among them occasionally.  Mesmerizing.  Not humorless, though: one number late in their set featured not one, not two but three cowbells.

AU closed out the night.  As with Buster Blue at the VAC back in late June, this set drove the crowd wild (people danced, cheered, rode on each other's backs) but left me feeling a great big meh.  The strong African influence on AU's peppery drums, bubbling keyboard and loopy clarinet invited unfavorable comparison with my third favorite Treefort act, Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang.  While Nabay's music signified community and outreach, AU's music suggested privilege and, perhaps unavoidably, exclusivity: only reasonably well-off, unreasonably well-educated people could make music like this.  As the set wore on, this group's penchant for melodrama seemed to win out over their grooves.  Their head-scratching lyrics and mannered vocals (lotsa draaaaawn ooouuut voooowwwels) didn't win me over either.

Of course, all this comes from a guy who spends his Saturday night reading post-Katrina ruminations.  You might bear that in mind.

You can find info on Tu Fawning and AU on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Duck Club Presents.

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