Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Sama Dams, Catherine Feeny, Judson Claiborne and the Boise Cello Collective @ the Crux (6/22/13)
This night offered cello enthusiasts a couple of options: they could've checked out this Crux show, which featured the Boise Cello Collective, or the Portland Cello Project at the VaC. I chose the Crux, but not so much because of cellos. Instead, I'd listened to a couple of songs by Sama Dams and grown intrigued.
There were over fifty people at the Crux when I arrived. That number would drop by the time that Sama Dams played--that was around 11:30--but about thirty folks still stuck around to see them. Overall, a good turnout.
I showed up late but got there in time to catch about half of the Boise Cello Collective's set. I'll admit that this music made a bit nervous at first. I ain't no classical musics expert, I thought. How'm I s'posed to write about this? Thankfully, a few pop song covers helped me find my bearings. Danika McClure may have leaned a little too hard into an Elliot Smith song, but her high, fluttery voice was quite pleasant nonetheless. Besides, the other cellists' playing and arrangements were as smart and sensitive as you could've wanted. It may not have been much of a trick to make the Beatles' "Yesterday" sound pretty, but their Vivaldi-esque retooling of the Who's "Baba O'Riley" impressed me greatly. Also impressive were a pair of originals by cellist Mark Doubleday that ended the set. The first was a mellow, swooning number that made me think of a warm autumn day. The second, which was tenser and more slashing, rubbed the Bernard Herrmann fan in me the right way.
Up next was Chicago/Olympia musician Judson Claiborne. I couldn't figure out exactly whose voice Claiborne's warm, sturdy tenor reminded me of (Bono without the preening melodrama, maybe?). In any case, his occasionally cryptic lyrics and his serene yet somehow disquieting tunes made me think a little of Nick Drake. Claiborne was a good deal tougher, however; I can't picture Nick Drake singing lines like "I been walkin' down the road, / I got piss all over my clothes." (I think that's what he said, anyway.)
Catherine Feeny played next. I imagine that Suzanne Vega might sound like this if she hooked up with Joe Strummer. Feeny's high, eerie wail and spare, tense ukulele lines kicked any hint of twee to the curb, and her Occupy-inspired lyrics drove a stake through its heart ("Calling all souls / Before it's too late / Lie in the way of the police state."). Her three-piece band backed her up with bright, misty keyboard, funky guitar and delicate, jazzy, propulsive drumming. The audience applauded Feeny so loudly that they managed to squeeze an encore out of her.
Sama Dams finished the show. Catherine Feeny was an awfully tough act to follow, but this Portland band managed just fine with their subdued, Thom Yorke-ish wails, hazy guitar, glowing keyboard and supple, jagged beats. The lyrics that I caught weren't as pointed as Feeny's, but I still found their ominousness plenty agreeable. A cameo from Sun Blood Stories' Andy Rayborn didn't hurt either. The crowd stayed in their seats but applauded warmly throughout.
You can find info on these acts on Facebook and elsewhere online. Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Duck Club Presents. If you like what you've read and would like to help keep it going, click the yellow "Give" button and donate whatever you can. Even $5 would help.