Writing and Photography by Robert Otero
The Mother’s Day RonToms Sunday Session on May 14th was absolutely bristling with energy. The free weekly event was especially packed and the crowd was rearing to unleash it’s energy for the superb line-up prior to the show.
Each band in the line-up could have headlined just about anywhere in Portland that night, but Brooklyn (via Seattle) electro/rock outfit Iska Dhaaf was the first to take the stage. Despite being known for their nuanced and poetic lyricism their live performance was electrifying. Frontman Nathan Quiroga, whose mother watched proudly from the front row, fearlessly traipsed about the stage as he switched between instruments and pushed his voice to extremes. From dulcet falsetto to guttural screaming, Quiroga’s voice showed a Jim James like dynamism. He displayed an astute ability to hype the crowd. Iska Dhaaf perfectly blends electronic instrumentation with elements of rock, folk, and even hip-hop. It is obvious their writing is not tempered by any notion of staying within a particular genre. They are truly an exciting up-and-coming band currently riding off an excellent 2016 full length: The Wanting Creature.
It was no small order to match the explosiveness of the opener and The Velvet Teen did just that. The Sonoma-based outfit came out of a stretch of recent inactivity and treated Portland to their unique brand of rock/pop/noise/punk/bizarro stylings. They masterfully lit up the stage choosing to forego any of the electronic instrumentation and performing with a four man roster of just vocals, guitars, bass, and drums. Their nearly 2 decades as a band is readily showcased in their performance. The Velvet Teen is able to seamlessly incorporate together the high-level talents of all members into a cohesive and powerful sound. They can sweep effortlessly from somber ballad-like dream state to full-on anthemic rock appropriate for an arena in the span of one song. Performance dynamics and tone do not get much more refined from the kind of band which prides itself on exploring unexpected sonic realms. The Velvet Teen boasts several releases since 1999 with their latest being 2015’s, All is Illusory, which is their first in several years.
A Summer Cannibals show has just about anything a show-goer in Portland could ask for: catchy but blistering guitar riffs, both bearded and non-bearded men, women that rock, beer chugging antics, and wise-cracking to boot. It all feels loose and fun without devolving into the overly chaotic. Frontwoman/songwriter Jessica Boudreaux is a spirited ball of energy once she takes the stage and all members are energetic, savvy performers. In particular, the rhythm section comprised of band veterans Devon Shirley (drums) and Jenny Logan (bass) hit as hard as any rock and roll outfit around, allowing space for newcomer Harrison Rapp (guitar) and Boudreaux (guitar/vocal) to elevate their guitar playing into loose, exciting, and sometimes debaucherous territory. Not to mention there are some formidable guitar moves from all the string players. It was the kind of show where the packed crowd could be surfed and that was exactly what Boudreaux did about ¾ into the set as the audience simmered over to a boil and floated the diminutive singer about the venue. Summer Cannibals released their third album, Full Of It, in May of 2016, their first under the umbrella of Portland’s Kill Rock Stars label.