Ah, the good old Pacific Northwest basement rock show: a chance to drink free beer, snoop in someone else's medicine cabinet while supposedly looking for toilet paper, and -- every once in a great while -- a chance to see a great band in its embryonic stages. I was dragged to a certain house show in 2004 hoping for nothing more than a few PBRs and the opportunity to scope out some cute indie boys, but my attention was immediately diverted to the three dudes and one girl jamming out pretty, melodic pop in the corner. Regretfully, I downed a few too many drinks and ended up leaving to chase some dude before I managed to catch the band's name, and short of making every group in town try on a glass amp in hope of finding one that fit, I resigned myself to the fact that they were lost to history. Luckily for both the listening public and myself, the band I saw that fateful night went on to become Point Juncture, WA -- and they continued to spread their infectious indie-rock joy across the land.
First things first: Point Juncture, Washington, is not an actual place. It exists only in the minds of band members and their growing number of fans. The band formed when multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Paul Nash and drummer Amanda Spring moved to Portland from Ashland, Oregon, and began playing music together. In a musical story older than time itself, they met bassist Jesse Studenburg while working as baristas, and then quickly added guitarist Wilson Vediner to round out the lineup. After their basement show debut, they became the house band for the now-defunct all-ages spot Nocturnal and began recording their first EP, Juxtapony. During the recording process, the band so loved producer Skyler Norwood that they invited him to play cello, guitar and vibraphone, becoming the group's fifth member.
While the band continued to play, the Portland scene began to sit up and take notice. After the local weekly named them one of the top 10 bands in the city (no easy feat, considering you can't swing a cat without hitting a bassist in the Rose City), their cred increased exponentially, and they headed back into the studio to put together their debut full-length, Mama Auto Boss, released on the respected local label Lucky Madison.
With Mama, the band cemented their status as a band to watch. The album's overall vibe is one of sweetness and unpretentiousness; the band has a giddy joy that infuses every track with a sense of levity. It starts off slowly with "Duodecimo," a semi-instrumental track that builds gradually to a full-blown roar. The third song, "Cardboard Box," clearly belongs to Amanda; her sweet vocals rise far above the shuffling, lo-fi music. The record is mostly a fairly mellow affair, with the notable exception of "Chlorine," a fast, guitar-based rocker. The band drew comparisons to Yo La Tengo and Broken Social Scene, but it was clear they owed a large debt of gratitude to the original dream-poppers, My Bloody Valentine.
After the release of Mama Auto Boss, the band has been laying low for a while, opening for Stereolab and playing around Portland and up and down the West Coast. They seem to have hit a rather critical decision point in their career: They have a solid album under their belts, a moderate amount of buzz, and the chops to back it up. Still, the same can be said for many indie rock acts schlepping around this fine land of ours, and the members of Point Juncture, WA are in danger of becoming part of the faceless pack of kids with cute haircuts who grace the stages of local dives. In a way, the tour they are about to launch seems to be a make-or-break venture: To get to the next level of success, they need to do some serious rockin' 'n' rollin'. Let's hope that the crowds who see them -- at Whitworth's HUB Wednesday, down in Moscow Thursday or a day later at the Blue Spark -- will be able to say "I saw them when ..." and not just have another unmemorable, beer-fueled evening ... or Bible study, or whatever.
Point Juncture, WA with Velella Velella at Whitworth's HUB on Wednesday, Oct. 25, at 9:30 pm. Free. Call 777-1000. Additional performance at UI's SUB Ballroom on Thursday, Oct. 26, at 8 pm. Free. Call (208) 885-6485. Also at the Blue Spark on Friday, Oct. 27. at 9 pm. Tickets: TBA. Call 838-5787.