A Slice of Fried Gold

Mama, I'm comin' home

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Well, there is someone new at the top of my "most seen bands" list. Over the last two nights I saw Alaska's very own Portugal. the Man twice, as they are visiting home for a little while before starting up a tour with RX Bandits and Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground down in the states (seriously, you would be a damn fool to miss that show - that's a massive amount of talent under one roof), and I've now seen them a total of five times. Sure, one was sort of cheating as it was an acoustic show last night at Humpy's, but I'm going to count it.

No less, as per usual they were exceptionally good. The acoustic set was rather late to start and pretty short when it actually got going, but it was still really cool and provided with a different experience than any of the three times I'd seen them before. Generally their sound is heavily laden with keyboards and segments of jamming, but performing acoustic limited that and pigeonholed them into a far more narrow sound. Not that there is anything wrong with that, because they were very good.

The best part about that set was talking with John Gourley afterwards. John is the lead singer of the band, and I was really curious as to one thing: did he remember Harry Potter from the show at Club Oasis the year before? Hell yes he did! In fact, he was kinda stoked because he said "it's not every day you have someone show up to a show wearing flowing robes and holding a wand." Touche Mr. Gourley, touche. We talked for a bit and I suggested they play "Chicago" off their debut album Waiter! You Vultures at Koots the next night to which he responded with "dude, we haven't played that in a year." I pleaded to him, and he said he'd see what they would do.

They played it.

Ahhhh yeahhhhh.

The Hoons...supposedly

The next night they were playing at the "World Famous Chilkoot Charlie's" with an opener and their full sound opened up. The opener was a local band called the Hoons, whom I saw the previous year either before P.TM or before Scary Kids Scaring Kids. The point? They were terrible last year. I have sat through some crap before, but this took the cake so I just walked out. This year? It was like it was an entirely different band!

Not only was their performance exponentially better, but it was like their sound was entirely replaced. At times they sounded like an S.C.I.E.N.C.E. era Incubus and other times they rocked it like technical rock all stars like Gatsby's American Dream. They'd move seamlessly from sound to sound within songs, and they were pretty awesome.

Fun story: Amy and Hannah (whom I went with, although there were a lot of people I knew there) thought the Hoons lead singer was pretty much the hottest man on the planet. When we were leaving the show, I pointed him out to Amy and Amy's response was to grab his bicep and then stare back at him. I'm fairly certain that guy spent the rest of the night looking for her (at least based off Amy's reasoning...she says it "always" works). Myself? I spent the rest of the night laughing hysterically. That was funny.

Portugal. The Man rocking it on the world's most strangely lighted stage

Shortly thereafter Portugal came on, and let me tell you this: every time I've seen them has been better than the previous time. They are getting progressively better, all culminating with last night's show. It's difficult to describe, because so much of what they did existed in direct opposition of other things they did. Examples? Their sound was as tight as ever, but they also were extremely loose, jamming for five minutes after some songs. They still had the slow burn stage presence that worked so well for them before, but sometimes their bassist and keyboardist would have freak out sessions that would stand out all the more in contrast to Gourley's slow groove.

Sadly the best picture I got of John Gourley

The best example of the night was when they closed with personal favorite "Marching with 6" off Waiter! Of course it didn't have Nic Newsham from Gatsby's in it, but it was a brand new version that managed to be about 8 minutes long with additional jamming time. The band would slip off into jams randomly and use the chorus as an anchor to the rest of the song, and to be honest it was amazing. Maybe not as amazing as their keyboardist (Anakin Skywalker as I like to call him, he looks exactly like Hayden Christensen) flipping his stool over and going absolutely nuts on his bongo drums for a bit, but pretty awesome.

I've watched this band grow together over the past few years from a band who clearly lacked confidence (you literally couldn't see Gourley's face the first time I saw them, it was shrouded in a hood and he looked nervous) to a band that absolutely dominated a notoriously fickle Alaskan audience last night. The growth they've shown was perfectly evidenced in the bevy of new songs they played for the audience last night, all of which stayed true to their sound but at the same time displayed a maturity in song writing and a clear disconnect from where they had been with Church Mouth.

All I know is, I'm counting the days until September 3rd when they drop Censored Colors on us, sure to be one of the best releases of the second half of the year. Welcome back boys, we missed ya.


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