Jacco Gardner @ Mississippi Studios, Portland

IMG_1079Before coming to Portland I had perused the music venues and artists playing here. Despite staying at the Jupiter Hotel, which has a music venue playing Ha Ha Tonka (an unforgivable name, in my book, that I simply cannot get past in their decision to choose it), I decided to go see Jacco Gardner, a band that plays what I’d like to call New-Age Psychedelic Indie Rock. I don’t know, it was something about his face, one of those faces I speak about that is just interesting to me and I like instinctually.

I always think of people’s faces in the manner in which I’d paint them, the color palate, angle, and scope. Well, I’d decided mentally that I’d paint him like a Rembrandt or Vermeer, realistic, with contesting darks and yellow reds. (maybe the fact that he’s from the Netherlands had something to do with this, but once I saw  him in his beige coat and hat after the show, I knew this was definitely a right choice.)

At Mississippi Studios, Portland

Jacco Gardner, at Mississippi Studios, Portland

The throw-back psychedelic tunes reminded me of the music of my father’s years, the ’60’s music I listened to in my late teens and early twenties. Later , Jacco told me that he was influenced by Pink Floyd. Yes, there was that as well as a bit of The Doors, Led Zeppelin, The Velvet Underground, and many other ’60’s greats. And I’m sure that is why there were so many older, ex-hippies at the show. Not dirty or degenerate hippies, but the kind that developed into something more streamlined, or else, still had a hippie flair, just clean and worn more as occasional attire.

Jacco and band are from the Netherlands. And perhaps some of their cultural leanings and laxities influence the manifestation of their trippy sound. The idiosyncrasy I like most  about them is their insistence on incorporating a projector screen playing black and white movies and various other random visuals to accompany the music. It lends a touch of art to what they are doing. And after spending several hours after the show hanging out with the band, I do believe that Jacco is an artist at heart and is doing this out of genuine need for self expression, not for girls, money, or even fame.

The band is Dutch. And thought they all spoke proper English, to each other they spoke mostly Dutch, and somehow it lent a brother camaraderie to their union. They are clearly a band just starting in the industry, especially in the states; and so, you can feel the tense energy, self-consciousness, and awareness of the audience that they possess. On stage, even, you could feel their apprehension, their eyes searching through the crowd to gauge how well they performed. And they seemed genuinely gratified when the crowd cheered or whistled. They are a band waiting for recognition and a big break.

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The audience of older hippies, along with ample young to middle age hipsters, either stood staunchly or swayed gently with the music. There was not much movement or excitement going on in general. The venue, Mississippi Studios, is a rather bohemian palce, which set the ambiance for them nicely. Large Persian rugs haphazardly adorned the floor. Chandeliers and curtains hung to further the bohemian ambiance.

After the show was over, we all clapped and then the band came off the stage, pensively, awkwardly bowing backwards, and moved through the crowd  and settled at the back corner of the room. After a slight hesitation the crowd simply dispersed, meekly eyeing the band as they passed by and out. Though some stood around talking before leaving, most of the crowd simply left; and the lights were risen.

After coming back in from outside, calling a cab to no avail, I decided to look at the wares they were selling at the front, now, near the now-empty ticket stand. Jacco was now standing there behind the table of things, greeting people who came up to buy something, or simply to say that they enjoyed the show.

He is a rather shy, awkward person, which makes him both genuine and interesting. He does not appear to have fun on stage or seem to laugh too easily. I suppose he performs more for his own self-validation than for anything else, to hear his own voice, and see his self, tangibly, in existence. He seemed to have a mind capable of understanding and engaging others around him. In brief, he had a depth if consciousness that was not blatantly apparent, but sensed in his quiet thoughtfulness.

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I came to hang out with the band by way of a girl petting a cat there in the building, who I started talking to about my own cats. She, with her quirky afghan, full-length peasant skirt, and little black hat, had another face I particularly liked, something like Winona Rider, but nicer and more genuine. She was honestly one of the nicest, most gentle people I’ve met.

I thought she just randomly takes her cat around and holds it like some do their toy dogs. I thought that’s just what some Portlanders do (which would be awesome). But the cat lives in the bar/music venue and just travels around, being held and petted by random people.

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So while I was taking to her, a freelance photographer of the band was talking to her boyfriend, a quirky fellow dressed preppily in all black, who also had a gentle, introspective, and appealing face and genuine,self-aware demeanor. So we eventually all started talking, as the photographer was very friendly and talkative, and convinced me to stay around for a bit to hang out because she said after I explained my travel plans: “You’re leaving tomorrow! You have to stay and hang out! It’s your only night here in Portland.”  And that was true. Meeting people is meeting a city. So I stayed, which I’m happy I did because I met some genuinely nice and cool people.

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As she and Jacco skateboarded through empty streets as we were leaving, it felt as if the city were ours, or else we had some secret knowledge about the place or about people in general. Yet, it was late on a Monday night, when normal people are sleeping and prepared to go to work in the morning, so perhaps simply that societal abnormality, along with openness to experience, led an unlikely mix of people to share a random Monday night in Portland.

Tom Odell @ The Crocodile Seattle

The Crocodile is a cool little venue in the Belltown area of Seattle, an area with a slight yuppie vibe and much less bums than the rest of the city. The venue was a nice alternative environment, with a good mix of people. You’d see older preppy looking folks, hipsters, and younger looking kids just there for the show. I entered behind an interesting group of young people from some city I’d never heard of in Russia. The vibe was not pretentious as it so often is in trendy or hipster joints, making one feel that if you’re not 22 or on the cutting edge of the hipster scene, replete with biting, sardonic condescension that you have no business being there. No, this place is not one of those places and so it is alright in my book. However, as it nears the concert time, more young folks and staunch hipsters flooded in, encroaching on what was a chill, varied bar scene.

On an eventful note, I had brief encounters with Tom Odell’s drummer, Matt, and then later with their manager, Stuart. Matt, a proper punk British fellow, was quite nice. Tall and lanky, with aquiline nose and eyes slightly squinted, he was unique looking. For me, he did not scream Brit, but was something like Jack White, clothed in a typical throw-back look of punk rock 90s. Like me, dressed in all black, he wore a cool black leather jacket, an overcompensation that I’m not sure made him look older or younger. With ear length curly brown hair, he was a bit older than 22 year old Tom. Yet had one of those faces that I immediately like, and a nervous demeanor that was both honest and revealing of from where he comes. He was not a insensitive musician with overblown ego because of tasting fame. Both he and Stuart seemed surprisingly genuine. We talked mostly about travel and acquiring a global perspective about life. They’d just circumnavigated on tour from Europe to Asia to here. They’ll continue abroad in Australia next year.

Like the music itself, the whole band seemed rather honest and perhaps sensitive, like young people grasping at poetry and art, yet wanting to have fun and see the world while doing so. Tom’s lyrics and compositions lend an emotional indie vibe, while maintaining touches of upbeat pop in the melodies. It was all-in-all a solid show. They looked as if they were truly having fun, which I do not often see of musicians in concert while touring. Despite that they just arrived from Portland and were leaving directly after the show to drive to San Francisco, they did not appear lackluster, world-weary, or burnt out -except perhaps Stuart, who seemed a bit tired of the road, though, after-all, he is the one doing the running of the business.

“Another Love,” their most popular track, was a good live showing. The piano on stage shook as Tom got into the music, stood up at points, and bleated into the microphone as his shaggy blonde hair shrugged forward over his face. His lithe body gesticulated through his faded maroon plaid shirt, of a thin fabric that stuck to his body as the set progressed and the room heated. Online someone likened his stage presence to David Bowie. Now I’ve never seen David Bowie live, but I don’t think I’d make that reference. Maintaining the Britishness of his voice amidst interesting high, flat tones, he really sings as if he were laying out his self to the the listener and merely hoping we’d care, though it’s all really performed for himself. What I think is most appealing about both Tom and his music, is it’s simple honesty – of look, lyric, and sound. It seems to flow effortlessly and is what I think resonates with people.

I’m not exactly sure into what the band, and Tom Odell individually, will evolve with added fame. He/they could become many different things -think David Gray, Coldplay, or Nirvana, perhaps even Arcade Fire. I think they’re at the cusp of being truly big in the industry. It seems like they already have a devoted following and some critical praise. I was even chastised jokingly by some girls at the bar for explaining his music as indie pop, rather than singer-songwriter!  I’m redeemed, though, because wikipedia lists their genre as indie pop! So I was spot on.

As Matt left to take his to-go vegetarian pizza back to the tour bus, he said “it was a pleasure to meet you, Gina, I’ll see you later, perhaps.”  And perhaps I will. Stuart did put me on the guest list for their Los Angeles show on Wednesday at the El Rey Theatre. And since a friend I’d not seen in years was talking to me the whole show, I might like to see them with more attention. But even if I don’t see them there, it was interesting to have met Matt and Stuart, and I enjoyed the show.

Tom Odell and band will be on Jay Leno and Perez Hilton this week, if anyone wants to check them out.

Tom Odell – Another Love – Video