As concerts go, indie pop isn’t necessarily known for its face-melting, rock-your-mother’s-grave shows. But last night, Monday, Aug. 8, WOW Hall could very well have experienced a Shins-induced maple tree cave-in from the newly (re)united indie brainchild.
The show, which sold out in less than 48 hours (complete with what appeared to be a media blackout) marked the first time in nearly three years that band leader James Mercer put out a call to artists to play his melodic, bubbly and tightly structured rock.
The Shins, with a completely new line-up on stage, save Mercer, featured a selection of extraordinary talent from the current pool of Northwest musicians. How they would all come together as a coherent whole was the question on everyone’s minds. Full of cool dads, plaid-donning yuppies, gauged hipsters, and the occasional (out-of-place?) hippy, the WOW Hall crowd watched Mercer and co. wave briefly, then dive headlong into the evocative opening words of “Caring is Creepy,” and there was no doubt the band made a congealed whole.
Often an afterthought along the I-5 corridor, WOW Hall and the McDonald Theatre can sometimes draw bigger artists on their North American tours, though lately these venues have found it more difficult to eke out such artists’ best performances. In their Eugene debut, The Shins defied any apprehension fans may have had (it also didn’t hurt that this show kicked off the band’s summer tour). Although the set list was rather tame — mostly keeping to very familiar territory with the likes of “New Slang,” “Kissing the Lipless,” “Saint Simon,” etc — Mercer did divulge a few new licks. The fresher tracks had a similar feel to Wincing the Night Away and seemed more geared towards the low-tone, ambient sounds of songs like “Black Wave” and “Spilt Needles,” with (of course) a heavy dose of Mercer vocals.
It would have been enticing to see singer-songwriter (also sound engineer and producer) Richard Swift , relegated behind a synth, more involved in the performance. Presumably his presence will be felt more in the studio. Portland-based guitarist Jessica Dobson added an improvisational element that loosened the overall tone of Mercer’s conventional songwriting, while her female vocal dynamic paired aptly with the Shins’ poppy sensibilities.
The Shins played a very technically sound show, with few signs of their short two weeks’ worth of rehearsal time. — Andy Hitz
— FAN PHOTO BY ETHAN OUIMET
Words by Dante Zuñiga-West
Hip hop was honored Wednesday, June 8, at the WOW Hall when Pharoahe Monch stepped to the stage. Smash-mouthed unabashed microphone-murdering lyrics had the crowd jumping (literally, the WOW Hall floor felt like a trampoline) to songs that Monch wrote ten years ago — he is that type of legend in the hip hop world, creating music that has what industry booking agents call “replay value.” The songs off his new album, W.A.R., though not as iconic as his previous work, offer the same reality check that hip hop heads need — and that they were given when Monch first hit the scene. Back then the declaration was one of defiance in the face of mainstream bullshit ghetto-fabulous rap made by studio (wanna-be) gangstas giving suburban white boys who play too much Grand Theft Auto San Andreas wet dreams. Now that same declaration sparked and owned by Monch and his (few) peers is one of pure existence. “Is hip hop in the building?” Monch asked. It was. He was answered by a screaming horde of true underground heads who knew his lyrics and shouted them back to him.
Monch is a throwback, a hip hop dinosaur from a time not long past that seems to be lost and forgotten by everyone who stopped coming out to “conscious” hip hop shows — which is exactly the reason such shows ceased coming around. We were fortunate to have an MC of Monch’s talent come to town, and it was a testament to his stature how off-the-hook his show was.
The self-proclaimed “most obligated“ MC sat in the green room after his killer performance, looking like a man who’d just walked away from an explosion. I told him I got his first album when I was 17 years old, and he told me he’d just spoken to a man who said the same thing, but the age was 14. Monch smiles. “That’s some amazing shit,” he says, then tells me he always wanted to make something people would remember, like the music he grew up on: Coltrane, Zeppelin, Sabbath, Hendrix. His genre is not as all-penetrating, but his influence in that genre is.
Though visibly haggard from a hard tour, the Queens-raised Monch continued to give an enthusiastic interview. He sounds a little like Mike Tyson in cadence and pitch — a far cry from his commanding stage-voice on the mic, which sounds like some big spooky fool that would stomp you out in the parking lot of a Dodger game. Monch’s intellect is sharp, he breaks down the underground hip hop scene (or what is left of it) in succinct language: “The failure to sell records has caused people to revert back to the basics,” those basics being a sick beat and an ill verse. It was Monch’s showmanship that won the crowd; it is this same energy that will continue to carry him into the minds and boomboxes of those who know, remember or just found out.
DJ Boogie Blind of The X-Ecutioners
Eugene is known for its big, leafy urban forest as well as for the brouhahas that arise when the trees begin to fall. Recently, two bigleaf maple trees, planted in the early 20th century on Lincoln Street near the WOW Hall were placed on the chopping block.
Jon Pincus of the WOW Hall Facilities Committee said in an email to EW, “Many people in Eugene have been uncomfortable with the rate at which large street trees have been cut down by the urban forester in the last few years, and some feel that the matrix used for evaluation is extreme.”
City staff inspector, Matt Rivers conducted a study Feb. 9 on the trees that shade the almost 100 year old WOW Hall. Each tree is approximately 40 inches in diameter and 70 feet tall. According to his report, Rivers found several signs of death and decay, open cavities, small depressions, several dead branches in the upper canopy as well as two different kinds of fungus.
The report said the trees had fruiting bodies of Ganodderma Spp., a wood decaying fungus, and mushrooms of the Armillaria shoestring root rot fungus on and near the base of the trees. According to Mark Snyder, Eugene’s urban forester, the evidence of both of these fungus types is of concern because both funguses eat away at the heartwood, sapwood and roots of the tree, compromising the structural integrity of the tree.
Rivers took resistograph samples from the main trunk of the trees at 16 to18 inches above ground level. Resistographs are used by foresters to probe questionable trees. The recorded levels of resistance on the trees revealed that only about half of the wood on both trees is structurally sound.
One of the trees (the fourth tree north of the intersection at west 8th avenue on Lincoln Street) earned a rating of nine on the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) scale of 3-12, 12 being the most hazardous. The other tree (fifth tree north of the intersection), earned a rating of 10 on the ISA scale.
Pincus said that several independent analyses on trees have proposed treatment strategies resulting in prolonged life for trees previously condemned as needing immediate removal.
Currently, the WOW Hall committee is taking quotes for a consulting certified arborist in order to gain a second opinion on the trees within the next few days. Pincus is hoping to prolong the date of removal in order to gain this additional expert opinion.
“We won’t know if the trees are unsafe and irreparable until we have an independent assessment done,” Pincus said.
Snyder, who approved the report of the WOW Hall trees on April 20, 2011, said that the main issue is safety. Although it is difficult to predict where the trees may fall (if they do), according to Snyder, there are possible targets in almost every direction, including the WOW Hall, buildings across the street, the parking lot, streets and sidewalks.
“We recently gained an opportunity to witness a test of the trees' strength during the recent very strong wind storm here in Eugene. During that event, the trees in question showed no signs of stress and did not drop any branches,” Pincus said.
Plans for replacing the trees are in the making, “However, these trees will start at 2 to 3 inches in width and require special protective measures installed to give them an opportunity to survive. It will be several decades before they provide significant shading for the W.O.W. Hall,” Pincus said.
For background info on urban tree removal in Eugene, check out the previous story at eugeneweekly.com/2007/11/21/coverstory.html. — Chelsea Fryhoff and Heather Cyrus
Click any image for more photos
Interview by Kai Hayashi | Photos by Todd Cooper
If you haven’t heard Macklemore (aka Ben Haggerty) yet, this may be the year he finally rolls through your playlist. The Seattle-based hip-hop artist created quite a stir in 2010, and has watched his popularity and fan base grow substantially over the year. The hard work he and his producer Ryan Lewis have put in has paid off, spreading their music though word of mouth and the Internet minus the help of a major recording deal. The duo performed March 1 to a sold out crowd at Eugene’s Historic WOW Hall, and prior to the show Macklemore graciously spoke to me about his life, music and the direction he sees his life going.
Blue Scholars returned to Eugene last week for back to back dates at the WOW (& sold out their second night!)
Here's a vid from the Scholars' last visit to Eugene (this summer opening for Kid Cudi). Cameos by Cuthbert staff, concert-goers & Cudi himself.
Cally, you will be satisfied to see that Sabzi successfully delivered "Kid Cubi" duct tape wallet to Mr. Rager.
The Hood Internet's STV SLV held it down solo since his partner, ABX, couldn't make this tour.
Tobacco's visual show was a hodgepodge of hypnotizing weirdness (in the best possible sense). It was hard to remember to take pictures with Chatroulette on one screen and F'd Up Friends 2 on the other.
Oh ... and there was music too. ; )
MP3: "Sweatmother" from his new album Maniac Meat due out May 25
PLEASE NOTE: Eugene Weekly does not condone images of extraterrestrial porn. But if you are some sort of a sicko and like looking at filth flarn filth such as this, then click here to see more photos from the show.