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Band of the Month Nominee Spotlight: Echo Helstrom

 

Classically trained five-strong group Echo Helstrom is rising into the spotlight of Portland’s eclectic center. This orchestral-driven ensemble is backed by a variety of stringed and melodic instruments, including upright bass, violin and various horns, creating an energy that builds an emotion deeply rooted in a place most musicians never quite reach. Each song seems to unveil a truth that is earnestly stated and summed up from its rising beginning to climactic end.

With lyrics thought to be Bob Dylan-esque, the band's unusual name was actually taken from one of Dylan’s early girlfriends. While front man Ross Seligman holds an aura similar in sound and passion to that of Coldplay’s Chris Martin, he retains a uniqueness found easily relatable, yet peculiarly original. All the while, Seligman sings with spirit in a clear and resonating voice that transcends most pop or emotionally driven artists of similar vocal orientation.

Building off of the rising commercial and ever-spreading success of their full-length album The Veil, Echo Helstrom is gearing up to release the five-song EP Paper Airplane on Saturday, February 13th at the Aladdin Theatre.

Co-headlining the album release will be jazz-pop solo artist Jake Oken-Berg, who will be releasing his own new album Out the Door.

Doors are at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. Get your tickets in advance for $10 and go support the emotional vibrato of Portland’s newest rising act, Echo Helstrom.

- Michael Miller

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The Ascetic Junkies Free February Happy Hour Residency at the Laurelthirst

 

Havin' a hard time making it through Wednesdays? Then the last bastion of bluegrass stompin', country callin', folky strummin', and poppy shoutin' is offering you a remedy.

Yes, ladies and gents, the LaurelThrist Public House is allowing the gal and guys of The Ascetic Junkies to set up shop every Wednesday evening in the month of February for a few rounds of happy drinks for happy hour and a happy time.

But these kids don't play alone, they've brought friends! Each week they’re collaborating with a new artist displaying honeyed originals, twangy, traditional bluegrass, ramblin' covers, and maybe even a testin' the pluckiness of new some material.

The Junkies are joined this Wednesday, February 10th by Sam Cooper of Horse Feathers, with guests The Glyptodons on February 17th, and Leigh Marble and Ezra Carey on February 24th to finish out the month.

These sessions guarantee two hours (6 to 8 p.m.) of dosey-do switching of partners, instruments and banter. And this'll all come to you for free. (Note: The concert is free, not the booze.)

And if that's not enough to get ya in the door, singer/glockenspieler Kali Giaritta is feeling generous and giving away the Junkies' latest EP Don’t Wait for the Rescue Squad on Bandcamp. “These songs are like gifts to friends, so we felt silly charging for them. Enjoy!” says Kali.

Have happy music and happy friends at 6 p.m. every Wednesday in February with the Junkies at the LaurelThirst.

- Chris Young

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Band of the Month Nominee Spotlight: Wampire

 

It took me a long time to warm up to indie music. I am traditionally more of a metal/psychobilly/rock chick than a grandpa’s sweater-wearing/obsessed-with-skinny-boys-in-flannels/indie chick. I like it rough and hard (that’s what she said), and indie music seems to have this reputation among my crowd of being, well, music for pussies.

So what made me come around? Two words: Vampire Weekend. I reviewed Vampire Weekend's debut for the Eugene Weekly a couple years ago, way before they were signed to a record label, and not only was I into their geek-chic look, but I really dug the great twist they put on the traditional indie sound. That's what makes a good band regardless of the genre, their ability to experiment and take a risk with their music.

Take the local band Wampire; they have taken the indie look and sound, thrown in some crazy Afro and Doo-wop beats, and then blended them all together to make one hell of a Wampire cocktail. I don’t really dig a guy that wears a kitten on his sweater and size 25 jeans, but I am down for some catchy beats and a great cover of Kraftwerk’s “Das Modell.”

Wampire is three guys that make sweet sweaty love to their music. These are the type of guys that turn any situation into a jam session and turn any utensil into an instrument. It is obvious that they make the kind of music that they and their friends would want to hear, not what they think is going to be “popular.”

I thank these guys for contributing to my growing belief that indie music isn’t just for whiny ass pussies.

- Deanna Uutela

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Band of the Month Poll BACK UP!!!!!

 

Sorry for the temporary meltdown of the Band of the Month blog. It's working now. VOTE!

Sincerely,

- The Deli Portland Staff

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Band of the Month Nominee Spotlight: Grouper

Grouper is Portland musician Liz Harris. Starting from humble means and a self-release in 2005, Harris has continued to build steam toward lofty heights of creativity and popularity. She now has four full-length albums, as well as a collaboration project with NYC-based group, Xiu Xiu.

I appreciate that Grouper strays away from the stereotypical 10-minute length ambient-dream tracks, and instead bends toward the three-five minute standard that the majority of modern songs in the world tend to curtail themselves at. Even without utilizing lengthy tracks, the heart of Harris' art wells from the pairing of haunting vocals gliding over the calm magic of her chord changes. What she does, she does well.

Grouper's latest release, Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill, received superlative critical reviews, and ranked high on several 2008 blog "end of year" lists, including, Gorilla vs Bear's 2nd best album pick of 2008. After giving the album a once-through-listen, I was impressed with how the mood and musical changes worked to keep the album interesting, while remaining very much the same with regard to style and rhythm tempo. You can stream the album on LaLa.

Harris is also involved, along with Honey Owens, with the vintage clothing shoppe Rad Summer located on Burnside (right in my hood, yo). Design firm Wieden and Kennedy have been releasing an awesome video series entitled, "Don't Move Here," which features music artists from the already robust, yet always growing music scene in Portland. Check out both these musicians (and business women) in the third episode of "Don't Move Here."

With keyboards, guitar and vocals, Grouper paints a string of songs that act as small landscapes for the listener to enjoy. Ambient dream-scapes and steady acoustic strumming steer the listener over an ocean of rolling swells and shrouding fog to arrive at something musically satisfying. Check it out, and then reach out and vote for the next Deli Band of the Month. Perhaps you will do so just a little more calmly than normal.

- Joel Sommer

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