The Epoxies picked up precisely where New Wave left off in the early '80s, gathering the shattered, forgotten remnants of that once powerfully manic and entertaining pop force and hit the clubs -- with guitars and synths blazing and enough skinny ties, cellophane and plastic tape to bind up an entire flock of seagulls. But it's not all kitsch. Not all retro wave get-ups, strobe lights and inspired madness (though there's plenty of that). No. The Epoxies spend at least as much time writing, crafting and honing their songs as they do conceptualizing the next all-out assault on the senses of their audience.
Call it high concept knucklehead rock if you must, but don't even begin to underestimate the entertainment potential of this frantic Portland five-piece. Whether you were there for New Wave's original incarnation or are just now discovering what all the hype and fun was about, you owe it to yourself to sign up for the Epoxies' explosive wave-punk revolt. Even if it's only for one night. Like next Tuesday night at the B-Side, where the Epoxies will rip it up with local bands Burns Like Hellfire and CTRL-Z.
Fronted by a female provocateur in thick black eyeliner and horizontal stripes named Roxy Epoxy and supported by the spastic ensemble of F.M. Static (keyboards), Shock Diode (bass), Viz Spectrum (guitars) and Dr. Grip (drums a.k.a. "rhythm prescription"), the band shamelessly careens through upbeat, catchy and danceable material that owes as much to blank generation punk and gender boundary-breakers X-Ray Specs as to wavers like Devo, Missing Persons and Adam and the Ants.
The band formed two years ago but spent months perfecting its sound (and looks) before pouncing on unsuspecting Portland club-goers.
"Originally, Viz and I were kicking around this idea for a robot garage rock band," reveals Static. "As soon as the personnel came together, the music evolved a lot. We didn't know what we would come up with, but as things started to shape up, we decided to buckle down and focus and make it as good as possible. We wanted to hit the stage ready to go. That proved to be a good call because people responded to it right away. We did our learning away from prying eyes."
On the band's new self-titled album on Dirtnap Records, Roxy Epoxy's gutsy, authoritative delivery alternates between cool detachment and slow, smoldering emotion. And the lyrics here are anything but tossed off, revealing emotional depth, gritty, real-word insights and attention to songcraft that is refreshing, though somewhat unexpected, from a group that places such a premium on visual panache. But then again, if the Epoxies were simply a gimmicky one trick pony, they would have been relegated to the "where are they now file" by now. The band's retro looks and frenzied, skin tight live performances may draw people in, but it's the quality of the songwriting that keeps them there -- and coming back for more.
"People come up to me at shows all the time and say, 'As soon as I saw you guys walk out on stage, I was ready to hate you.' But then we win them over. Admittedly, we kind of started out with a novelty band mindset. But what we were producing turned out really well, and we got excited about being musicians. We really try to stay on top of the songwriting. We're constantly rewriting songs, and if the material isn't working, we throw it out. There are a lot of bands out there that have half of it together. But ideally, I'd like to think of ourselves as something like Kiss. We've got lots of schtick, obviously. But people still listen to those songs."
It's all about entertainment, people. If you're too cool for the Epoxies' brand of fun, by all means stay home. For as some English guy once put it, "the play is the thing."
"I'm very much into what we do on stage," Static says. "The stage show is really important. And we try hard. But no matter how far we go, we're always going to wish we could go further. I'd love to be flying around in jetpacks and shooting laser beams al over the place, you know. Why not?"
8/29/02 Music from the Hills
The runaway popularity of the O, Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack did more than make a lot of money for surprised executives over at Mercury Records; it raised public awareness about a form of indigenous American music that, in one way or another, forms the foundation of much of what we call popular music today. But to those with an enduring appreciation for folk music's simple yet sublime pleasures, performers like Utah Phillips and Rosalie Sorrels have always been considered the flame-bearers, for years working and performing on the fringes of popular culture to keep this country's musical legacy vital rather than something future generations might only read about in books. Or hear on records.
Add to that list the husband and wife team of Jody Stecher and Kate Brislin who perform at the Met next Thursday night. The legendary folk duo have twice been nominated for Grammy Awards and have, over the past 20 years, left both audiences and music critics speechless with their sensitive and soulful traditional bluegrass and Appalachian music. They've recorded four albums together (typically with Stecher on guitar and fiddle and Brislin on banjo and vocals). They are widely appreciated as one of the greatest performing duets in folk, praised for their dedication to keeping the music of the Carter Family, Bill Monroe, the Stanley Brothers and many more pioneers of old-time country and bluegrass vibrant and alive. Though they have played and lived all over the country (and currently reside in San Francisco), they met in, of all places, Spokane during Expo '74.
"This was in October 1974, and we were both playing in bands performing at the folklife area of Expo," says Stecher. "Hers, from California, was called the Arkansas Sheiks, and mine, from Western Washington, was called House Boat Music. We hit it off."
As it turned out, they "hit it off" personally as well. "She sang so well. No one ever sang so well with me before or since," he continues. "I imagined travelling with her. I'd visit her any time I visited California, and eventually it came to pass. We married and formed a performing duet."
The couple's Spokane gig marks the beginning of a new season of top-shelf performances for Mother Goose Coffeehouse, a music-loving local nonprofit group dedicated to the presentation of progressive artists. Though next Thursday night's show will be held at the Met, Mother Goose has taken up more or less permanent residence this season within Auntie's Bookstore. Look for more intriguing artists to show up on the schedule there in the coming weeks and months.
Reggae at the Panida
Reggae will take over the mainstage at the historic Panida Theatre in Sandpoint this Saturday and Sunday evening as the annual Labor Day reggae celebration commences with a bevy of local and regional performers including the Reggae Angels, Trolls Cottage and the legendary Clinton Fearon and Boogie Brown Band.
Reggae aficionados know Clinton "Basie" Fearon primarily as the bassist (and sometimes vocalist) of the internationally renowned Jamaican group, the Gladiators. But after 18 years with that band, he left, came to the States, co-founded the Defenders and since 1993 has been the leader of his own Seattle-based group. With Fearon at the helm, the Boogie Brown Band has become known as the Northwest's premier roots reggae outfit, helping to re-establish Fearon -- this time as an ace songwriter, percussionist and vocalist.
Consisting of Fearon (lead vocals, guitar, percussion), Barbara Kennedy (harmony vocals, keyboards), Jeff DeMelle (bass), David Carpenter (drums), Jonathan Cuenca (trombone) and Izaak Mills (tenor sax), the Boogie Brown Band creates suitably danceable rhythms and spreads infectious, positive vibes -- all with an intrinsic spiritualism that lies at the heart of traditional reggae music. They will be headlining the show both Saturday and Sunday nights.
Easy Come, Easy Go
Boy, things happen pretty fast out there on the mean streets of Spokane's volatile, sputtering, occasionally lunging forward original live music scene. And if the scene as a whole is in a constant state of impending falter, the all-ages component is really tenuous and frail. Case in point: the continuing saga of club owner Derek Almond of Caf & eacute; Sol & eacute; and his quest to establish an all-ages venue in Spokane.
A mere two weeks ago, I was using this very platform to trumpet the apparent return (compliments to Almond) of full-time all-ages shows at the Big Dipper. As it turns out, the rumors of the Dipper's re-ignition as a shining star on the local live music scene were greatly exaggerated. Not by Almond, but by your humble reporter who -- in his drive for that elusive, timely and significant story -- was burned by the constantly changing winds of fortune and the influence of unpredictable, unforeseen forces. In a nutshell, Almond and Big Dipper owner Steve Spickard didn't exactly see eye to eye, and the agreement between them (wherein Almond would lease the Dipper for shows) evaporated. The details of their falling out are relatively unimportant. And the last thing this scene needs is more drama. Stability, consistency and quality -- that's the ticket.
According to Almond, Sol & eacute; shows at the Big Dipper will continue through the middle of September. After that, the action will resume (we've got our fingers crossed here) at a newer, better Sol & eacute;. That's right, as you read this report, Almond and his associates are preparing to turn yet another downtown space into a new home for Sol & eacute;'s nosh-ables and live music offerings. And as the details emerge concerning this burgeoning new venue, you'll hear about it here, hyperbole-free and with an air of cautious optimism. Stay tuned.