Friday, July 11, 2008

Side Tracked

For the past couple years I have made it a major priority in my life to go up to Portland and see the Mountain Goats perform at the Doug Fir Lounge. The Mountain Goats are a must see, and the Doug Fir is a hip new spot in the rose city with a cool basement stage area, probably why John decides to play there every year. This year, he is actually coming to Eugene and playing the WOW hall, so I am actually debating seeing both shows this year. I could go on about the Mountain Goats* forever being one of my favorite bands period, but this sojourn has come to serve a different purpose as well.

Back in 06’ I walked about ten minutes late into the opening act for the Mountain Goats, a single woman was on stage with a very small arrangement of piano, keyboard, and iBook. She sang and played the keys behind a computerized percussion track, nothing really jaw-dropping at first listen, but I soon warmed up to something unfamiliar. Her name was Barbara Morgenstern, she’s German, sings in German, and writes some amazingly lush tunes for a living. Her piano and voice stood nicely in contrast to the digital background, partly because she was singing in German, a language that I know exactly kaput. As soon as I got home I looked into her newest release, The Grass is Always Greener (2006), and loved it.

The next year a band named the Pony Up! was rolling out the carpet. While I was less impressed this time around, a couple of songs later had friends and I wandering over to pick up their album, Make Love To The Judges With Your Eyes (2006), and flirt a little with the band. The album has grown on me, despite not having one of their best songs “Wet,” which I got to see live, while it did feature cool song title and single “The Truth About Cats And Dogs (Is That They Die).” If you can’t get enough toe-tapping indie pop, these are your girls.

This year the Goats crew are bringing along fellow North Carolina scenesters, The Moaners. They’re a female duo playing syrupy noise rock and it will be interesting to see an opener with some teeth this time. The band draws from Pavement/Sonic Youth's cluttered distortion and the upbeat, post-punk tempo that almost seems standard in today’s indie world. What makes The Moaners fresh is a grating blues guitar, slathered on top of the familiar mix. The guitar howls, not in a Hendrix kind of way, but like a stray dog at the front door. Similar “duo” bands like the Kills, don’t get this sloppy, who instead scratch at dance rock from the outside looking in, while the Moaners let their hair down and get their hands dirty. There's even a Saw and Harmonica that find time to slide in, adding a little depth beyond the standard guitar/drum uniform. While still a young band, they have captured my attention and got me debating which LP to snatch up when I see them in person, I'm just happy they chose to moan on my front stoop.

*The new Mountain Goats album, Heretic Pride, is out Feb. 19th. He has released one song over the Internet and is soon coming out with a video directed by Ace Norton. Goats rule!

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