October 24, 2013

Making Noise: Even with the World Series, there’s music to be seen and heard

Donna the Buffalo and Yamantaka//Sonic Titan promise divergent shows in Portland.

By Aimsel Ponti aponti@pressherald.com
News Assistant

Hi there. Thanks for taking a break from watching replays of the Shane Victorino grand slam to check in about music. I just watched it again myself. It never gets old. Now where was I? Ah yes, music. Now that we have smart phones and DVRs, there’s no need to panic about missing any of the World Series. And while it might feel like nothing else matters right now, I’m here to tell you that live music still does.

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Yamantaka//Sonic Titan, a musical performance group, will play at Space Gallery on Wednesday.

Derrick Belcham photo

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Donna the Buffalo brings its traditional mountain music with notes of Cajun, rock, folk, reggae and country to Port City Music Hall on Thursday.

Courtesy photo

To illustrate this point, I’ve chosen two shows to consider out of dozens that are happening this week. Let me also say that even if you have to be home watching the games live, which I totally get, there are plenty of places, like Gingko Blue in the Old Port and Blue on Congress Street, that offer live local music early enough that you can get your fix and then turn your attention to our beloved Red Sox.

I have a list in my head of bands I need to investigate. They’re bands I’ve heard of but don’t know anything about. They’re bands that I have a sneaking suspicion I’ll like. Do you keep a similar list? Hovering near the top of my current one is a band from New York State with an odd name and what I now know to be a fantastic sound.

I give you roots band Donna the Buffalo. I’m embarrassingly late to this party, because they’ve been around for 20 years and their fans even have a name: “The Herd.” Can I get a membership card?

DtB is a five-piece band and Tara Nevins and Jeb Puryear trade off on lead vocals. Their first album, “The White Tape,” came out in 1989 and their 10th studio album, “Tonight, Tomorrow and Yesterday,” earlier this year.

While their overall sound could be filed under “Americana,” they’re known for their blend of traditional mountain music with notes of Cajun, rock, folk, reggae and country.

Here’s a quick field guide to their music. I chose one song from their last four studio albums, slapped my headphones on and gave a listen.

I started with “Love and Gasoline” from 2005’s “Life’s a Ride.” The first sound to hit my ears was a flute, before the song quickly shifted gears and hit the gas. Nevins has a full-bodied and pretty country kind of voice that made me a believer – and a fan – right out of the gate. The song has a roll down the windows and drive for miles quality to it, and just as you reach the end of the dusty road, flutes bring you and your car to a quiet stop.

Next up was their take on the traditional folk tune “Man of Constant Sorrow” from 2006’s “Positive Friction.” It’s been given a reggae treatment with Jeb Puryear on lead locals. I also heard fiddle and some electric guitar swirling throughout the song. Thumbs up.

“Temporary Misery” lives on 2008’s “Silverlined” and I listened to this one twice. Lots of funky organ and electric guitar light this one up. Nevins picks herself up and dusts herself off, singing “I won’t try, I’ll get by/set my heart and soul both free/I’ll move on from your side and this temporary misery.”

“I Love My Tribe” is a snappy, celebratory and foot-stomping tune about the power of hanging out with good friends. It’s from “Tonight, Tomorrow and Yesterday” released in June and I imagine they’ll be playing plenty of other songs off this record during tonight’s show, which promises to be terrific.

Donna the Buffalo. 9 p.m. Thursday. Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland. $18; 18-plus; portcity musichall.com

AND NOW for something completely, and I do mean completely, different. Canadian performance artists AlaskaB and Ruby Kato Attwood formed Yamantaka//Sonic Titan in 2008. Ready for this? They’re a psychedelic noh-wave opera group that fuses noise, Buddhist ritual punk, metal, prop, pop and folk music together. I know, I know. What? Let me add to the obscurity. They work in multiple mediums including installation, theater, music and design. What does this mean? I ventured to YouTube for an explanation.

I watched the first that came up, the clip for the song “One,” and I suggest you do the same. First I watched and listened and then I just listened. The song starts with a multitude of chant-like sounds before coming apart at the seams with heavy guitar and a get-up-and-dance beat. I have no idea what is being sung, but it hardly matters. If this song came on my iPod on a run, my sudden burst of speed would shock even myself.

After my heart rate leveled off, I listened to “Hoshi Neko” and was right back on the treadmill sprinting, well at least in my head. But it also afforded me several breathers as it headed into slower territory. Then a spoken word part erupted with a scary tale about a spider.

Yamantaka//Sonic Titan are a tough band to describe both aurally and visually and I mean that as a compliment. Expect the unexpected and some really cool face paint.

Yamantaka//Sonic Titan. Wednesday. Space Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland. $8; 18-plus; space538.org

Aimsel Ponti can be contacted at 791-6455or at: aponti@pressherald.comaponti@pressherald.com

LISTEN IN: Turn your radio dial to 102.9 WBLM every Friday at 8:30 a.m. to hear Aimsel Ponti wax poetic about her top live music picks for the week with the Captain and Celeste.

CATCH LOCAL and national acts performing live at the Press Herald on The Newsroom Sessions video page.

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