Live music is good.
Free live music is gooder.
Free live music that doesn’t suck is most goodest.
Late afternoon Friday 7/27/07:
On the hottest day ever in the history of the world, a mob gathered on a cobblestone plaza in the shadow of Bank of America. A cool, merciful ocean breeze made its way through the canyons of downtown Portland’s corporate high-rises and charming old mercantile buildings, bringing relief to my bad sweaty self.
Homeless guys wandered through the crowd, scooping up discarded returnable bottles and ogling the many nubile, tank-topped young women.
Rustic Overtones, apparently once the Kings of the “local music scene” (I feel pretentious just typing that), have reunited, and played a free show in Monument Square, kicking off their first tour in five years .
As a transplant to Maine, I have no personal history with the band, but they clearly still have a lot of loyal fans who came out to celebrate the reunion. I’ve heard some of their music since I’ve been here– “Modern Rock” station WCYY still plays them somewhat regularly– and have been digging it.
Their music style– a soulful, jazzy rock/funk vibe– is rooted in the mid-late 90’s trend that popularized the combining of disparate styles to create a murky Genre Soup.
Sometimes the Genre Alchemy worked, but more often than not it resulted in, like, Afro-Klezmer-Celtic-Hip-Hop-Jazz-Gospel-Ska Fusion, played by a tuba-sitar-didgeridoo trio. (“You guys will just slay them at the Knitting Factory!”)
The genre mixing, however, does work for Rustic Overtones, for reasons I cannot explain because I am not a musician and lack the necessary vocabulary and pretentiousness to express it.
I do, however, excel at observing stuff and making snarky comments about it. So back to Monument Square.
Alongside the plaza is a little shop called “SOAK: Foot Sanctuary and Teahouse”. Hmmm. Now how does that work? Do you soak your feet in hot relaxing oolong tea, and then drink it with crumpets? Fascinating. I spent some time wondering what goes on inside that little storefront. SOAK
I love people-watching, and I was a little disappointed in the overall Freak Quotient. The freaky underbelly of Portland did come out to show support for the hometown heroes, notably in the form of a man wearing a kilt, as well as a woman who looked like the reanimated corpse of Joey Ramone.
For the record, I hate aviator-CHiPs style sunglassses and those really-really-huge sunglasses that the kids are wearing these days.
Add a “popped” collar, and I will choke someone.
The tiny eardrums of several dehydrated infants were perforated by the decibels during the show. Now, I have no problem with Cool Parents bringing their kid to a show… just give him some dang earplugs! Parent that child!
The opening band, De Sol, didn’t do much for me. Some of their songs had a very Latin, Santana kind of feel, which was tolerable-to-decent, although it got some of the more annoying ladies dancing provocatively and waving their cigarettes around. Please.
One very disappointed man in the crowd, wearing a De La Soul t-shirt, must have misheard the radio announcement.
They played for what felt like eight years, teasing us several times with what sounded like an ending:
“THANK YOU [INSERT CITY HERE]! WE LOVE YOU, [INSERT CITY HERE]!”
And then they’d launch into more boring songs.
Rustic Overtones’ set, by comparison, flew by in seconds because it was so good, and the crowd was so excited about them. They made me forget all about those guys who opened.
Free is good.