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Stayin' Alive 

Portland’s Strength plays disco like it never went out of style.

click to enlarge Strength (L to R): Patrick Morris, Bailey Winters, John Zeigler
  • Strength (L to R): Patrick Morris, Bailey Winters, John Zeigler

History would have it that disco music died in an enormous conflagration on July 12, 1979, in the outfield of Chicago’s Comiskey Park. On that fateful evening — known as “Disco Demolition Night” — thousands of disco records were consumed in a staged explosion in center field, sparking a riot that damaged the stadium.

At that time, six of the top 10 songs in the U.S. were disco songs. Two months later, there wasn’t a single disco tune on the pop-music charts and the entire music industry started a mass exodus away from the genre. It was the end of an era.

Strength, apparently, never got the memo.

And it’s a good thing too. Despite the vapidity and hedonistic excess of ’70s culture oozing from its every pore (Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh once said disco was “like a beautiful woman with a great body and no brains”), there was never any doubt disco got all kinds of people out onto the dance floor. Strength, a three-piece electro-disco outfit from Portland, taps into that booty-shaking allure with abandon.

“I think their music is appealing to everyone,” says Sasha Turner, who booked the band’s first appearance in Spokane a few years ago. “They’re fun to listen to and watch, and they are fantastic human beings. They deliver every time.”

What they deliver are beat-heavy, hook-laden pop songs with panache: not strictly disco in the Donna Summer vein, but disco in the Blondie“Heart of Glass” or Queen“Another One Bites the Dust” way. Guitarist Patrick Morris sculpts angular funk riffs that skitter over the top of the beats and synthesizers while singer Bailey Winters lets fly suggestively sexual lyrics with his trademark nasally vocals — the two of them creating enough tension to make the music consistently interesting.

Anyone who has seen them live, however, will tell you it’s not the recorded output of Strength that draws one in. It’s the live show.

“The first time they played here, no one knew who they were. They went on and killed it,” says Turner. “Bailey was dancing, falling on the ground, wrapping the mic cord around his body, rolling on the floor.”

This time, Strength brings a new album, Mind Reader, along with them. Much more polished than their 2006 release Going Strong, Mind Reader finds the band exploring familiar territory, both lyrically and musically. But they’re doing it with a little more je ne sais quoi; perhaps it’s confidence, perhaps it’s just seasoning. Whatever it is, it works. And Spokane loves it.

“We love playing over there,” says Morris.

“Playing in Spokane is always bananas.”

Strength plays with DJ Peter Parker • Sat., Oct. 9, 10 pm • Tickets: $7 • Mootsy’s • 21 • Call: 838-1570.

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