Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Troika Preview: Portapleasant O'Collar

Back to the insanely great lineup of the Troika Music Festival, which kicks off in Durham tomorrow night. Clearly, the notion of actually writing about each of the fourteen shows was utterly unrealistic. So let's try this: focus on one show each day of the festival, with maybe some other commentary thrown in.

Wednesday's already covered, but I'll note that the other show that night is the one I'm excited about and planning to attend. I've written about each of the bands on the bill previously (Bull City/the Balance here, Maple Stave here, A Rooster for the Masses here, and the Honored Guests here), and had at least some online communication with all of them. So I'm looking forward to seeing their shows, and saying hello as well.

So Thursday night, then. Many worthy candidates, but I'm going to focus on the lineup of Red Collar, Pleasant, Jennifer O'Connor, and Portastatic at the Duke Coffeehouse. Like the Okkervil River show on Wednesday, this is the "big-name" show, but I have been absorbing Portastatic's latest release, Be Still Please, over the past few days, and am generally in awe of the consistent quality of Mac McCaughan's output over such a long period of time. Either Merge Records or Superchunk by themselves would be a pretty impressive achievement, but Portastatic has really flourished as an outlet for his songwriting in a remarkable range of styles. Perhaps I'll come back to a full-blown review of Be Still Please, but in brief: striking a musical middle ground between the fairly rocking Bright Ideas and the string-laden soundtrack album Who Loves the Son, what really strikes me is the compelling package Mac makes by sinking sorrow and regret (and sometimes bitterness) amidst such pleasant music. "Song for a Clock" concludes the album with a welcome bit of everyday grace.
"Sour Shores"
"Song for a Clock"
(from Be Still Please 2006. Buy/download)

I've already written my magnum opus about Red Collar, so not a lot of new commentary now. It's great to see them on this bill -- go early to check them out. (They seem to be waffling over releasing a great EP or a good full-length. I say, "Let's hear some of these new songs already!)
"Used Guitars"
"Why You Knocking (live on WXDU)"

Pleasant is one of the longer-standing entries on my ever-growing list of "I really need to give them listen" bands. Launched in 2000, they are old-timers by most local standards. They strike me as very much a "Chapel Hill band," with a lot of the casual quirkiness that marked the big names of the 90s. In order to give them the fuller consideration they probably deserve, I'll have to actually pick up their album (rather than listen to samples on the website), but they're a nice addition to this bill.
"Welcome Come In"
"You There"
(from Awkward as a Beehive 2005. Buy it here.)

Jennifer O'Connor is new to me. I don't know if the acoustic singer-songwriter "Today" or the more aggressive electric "Exeter, Rhode Island" is more typical of her material. I favor the latter.
"Exeter, Rhode Island"
(from Over the Mountain... 2006. Buy/download)

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