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Damo Suzuki, Master Muscians of Bukkake, Tara Jane O'Neil, Evolutionary Jass Band

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For the second year running, Portland, OR's Halleluwah festival offered a good balance between respected Northwest artists and internationally known music figures. Often, the results were as compelling as anything they've ever done, but the event was not without its disappointments.

 

Due to lack of funds I wasn't able to attend the pervious two nights of the festival, but I was fortunate enough see most of the third. Though events were scheduled to start at 5:45 PM, I arrived in the later in the evening. That was unfortunate, since I missed a film presentation by Sublime Frequencies, a performance by Ilyas Ahmed as well as some literary readings. When I finally turned up, local improvised dance collective Cexfux had just begun. Among eight or so musicians playing were Mark Kaylor of AU and Gabe Saloman of Yellow Swans. Bleating sax and multiple drummers gave the performance a marching band quality, while noise treatments and horse chanting kept it out of white-bread funk territory.

Evolutionary Jass Band continued the energy, playing a hybrid of Balkan Brass Music, Ethiopian Jazz, free-improvisation and cosmic torch songs. I firmly believe they are Portland's best kept musical treasure, and they did not live down that reputation. A passion for the music, evident from their forceful playing and their blissful expressions, was unmistakable. You could tell they really felt it.

Tara Jane O'Neil fallowed up with a much more subdued collection of electric folk jams. Her spare playing style was a good come-down from the cacophony of the last two bands. Occasionally she would loose control of her looper pedal, but it only took a bit of polish off her performance, and did not spoil it significantly.

On the whole Halleluwah was a Portland-centric affair, but there were quite a few Seattle based musicians and performers that night as well. Artists on both Sublime Frequencies and Abduction Records were well represented. The Climax Golden Twins played a set of lean, robust instrumental rock that was unfortunately blotched by cassette tape wankery between songs.

The second highlight of the night was a rare performance by the Master Musicians of Bukkake. Their wacky name and even wackier appearance (their blonde dred-locked singer dressed in a Tyvek clean suit for instance) caused quite a few chuckles in audience. But the majority of the naysayers were silenced immediately once the band got down to business, playing tightly wound eastern tinged psychedelic rock that would've make the late Charles Groucher proud. Midway through their set, Damo Suzuki made an early appearance, sharing vocal duties with the band. The moment seemed spontaneous. The Master Musicians seemed genuinely surprised, and Suzuki was obviously enjoying himself. Appropriately, the band launched into a spot on motorik jam. For a second, I felt closer to what Cologne was like back in the 70's, but I doubt anyone there except Damo would know for sure.

After the Master Musicians finished, I was afraid that the night had peaked. They had been the perfect backing band for Suzuki, even though an all-star team of Portland musicians were set to play with him: Adam Forkner of White Rainbow, Honey Owens of Nudge and Velet, and the Yellow Swans among others. If Suzuki had played with one or two of them, the results could have been spectacular. As it happened though, too many cooks ruined the soup, and the ad hoc group never really reached a satisfying groove. The Yellow Swans' electronics threatened to overwhelm some of the more melodic playing. Suzuki seemed a bit out of game as well. His characteristic vocal riffing drifted into plain mumbling more than a few times. Overall the set felt like encore to Suzuki's first appearance, and ended the night on a somewhat sour note.

http://www.halleluwah.org/

 


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