Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Something Great Out of Wasilla

The house lights dim on stage. There are three huge backdrops hanging that look reminiscent of something out of an early 1970’s Fillmore East concert. The images in the dim light on stage are hard to make out clearly. The band then comes out. They are also shrouded in mystery and are hard to visually see. The lead singer and guitarist not only has a hat on, but a hoodie that covers his face. He will spend the rest of the evening facing his band more often than the audience. The stage is dark and the band plugs in. The music starts and the lights are pulsating on the huge backdrops. They change color, and every time the color changes, the images look like they have come to life and are moving. These images are looking at us, as well as the band. The music is also psychedelic and in rhythm with the light show. I am not at a show in the 1970’s but rather mesmerized by the band Portugal the Man in 2010.

The first time I listened to “People Say” I knew I was hooked. “Save me, I can’t be saved” sings John Baldwin Gourley as he opens the bands album The Satanic Satanist. It is a beautiful and chilling anti-war song with a chorus that remarks “May have lost a million men, but we have got a million more”. It was my top album from last year. It moved me personally, the way music is intended to move you. The moment I heard this album I knew I needed to see this band live.

I had my chance visiting a friend in Denver and we got to see Portugal the Man at the beautiful Bluebird Theatre which is one of my favorite places ever to see a show. I came out of the show not only more impressed with the band, but knew I needed to listen to more of Portugal the Man.

The band has its roots coming out of Wasilla, Alaska. It is obviously the best thing to come out of this small town. They now currently reside in Portland, Oregon and have recently signed (June 2010) on to Atlantic Records. They formed in 2004, released their first full length in 2006 and have risen these past few years to high critical acclaim. Alternative Press declared Censored Colors as one of 2008’s essential albums to have. The bands sound comes from many different influences ranging from neo-soul, R&B, avant-garde, 70’s rock and sampling. John Baldwin Gourley’s voice carries the lyrics through with his great phrasing.

The band just released a new CD this year American Ghetto. It continues the growth of Satanic Satanist and if you see it you should get it, for they only released 15,000 copies. I have the fortune of having one. The CD deals a lot with growing up in a small town with all the joys and frustrations that comes with it. The CD also expands to a world view that the band has grown into.

Here is a live video of "People Say" at their breakthrough performance at 2009 Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee. This performance created a lot of national buzz that probably led to their signing to a major label.

The band is not only talented but their CD's may have the best packaging in the music industry. The artwork for The Satanic Satanist is certainly worth the price of the CD without even liking the music. The packaging folds up, out, and up again. It is truly a work of art and adds to the quirkiness of the band. However, the music is excellent, so make sure to give Portugal the Man a serious listen.

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