The Home Crowd
After blazing a five-week tour trail across the US, Portland’s Dandy Warhols arrived home in top form Saturday to play a high-energy sold-out show at the Doug Fir. The indefatigable psych-rockers performed a generous two-hour-long set, bursting with the heady harmonies and hooky licks that initially earned them international fame some (Can you believe it?) 18 years ago. The sold-out audience was fairly diverse, from hometown denizens of the retro psychedelic music scene (aka Portland’s “East Enders”) who knew every word and sang along, to a newer generation you might call “Digsters,” those turned on to the band since 2004 thanks to the Sundance-award winning film Dig!
The New Sound
Interspersed with crowd favorites like “We Used To Be Friends,” “Get Off” and “Horse Pills," the Dandies played tunes from their riskier new album, This Machine. The loyal audience cheered at some new instrumentation, especially electronica beats formed from organic sounds (hand-claps, beat-boxing) and Zia McCabe’s melodica (for the uninitiated, that’s an unholy hybrid of a synthesizer and a hookah). But it was the band’s much beloved radio hits—especially “Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth” set to a pulsing light show—that got even the most stoically underwhelmed hipster types enthusiastically dancing.
Despite an early aversion to being a vocalist, drummer Brent DeBoer, aka “Fathead,” continues to prove his skills indispensable, filling out the band’s poppy “bop bop bahs” and “a, ah-ahh-ahh-ahhs," on par both musically and spatially with the other players when they line up across the stage with the drum kit front and center. Zia McCabe, meanwhile, has consistently upped the ante as a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist—probably thanks in part to her many recent gigs as DJ Rescue and her frontwoman status in side project Brush Prairie.
Trademark Razorsharp Wit
Between songs, the band made regional pride their latest premise for rabble-rousing, DeBoer sporting a t-shirt emblazoned with a jolly roger and the wordplay “The Dalles Coyboys" while McCabe and frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor stirred up competition with the Emerald City. “What does Seattle have?” goaded Taylor-Taylor, eyes twinkling as he held a long, loaded pause. “Nothing!” Noting that the Dandies were scheduled to play Seattle’s Showbox the next day, he eventually acknowledged that the band has many friends in our rival town. Still, the message was clear: These road-weary warriors are glad to call Oregon home.
The Dandies’ supporting act and little-brother band 1776, hailing from Longview, Washington, seems to be maturing nicely. Toned up from the rigors of touring their self-titled debut album, 1776 cranked out an effortless set of hard driving, straightforward rock a la The Rolling Stones, with references to local players Paul Revere and the Raiders. Anglophile “scarf band” no longer, they’ve begun to stride toward American rock, combining influences from both sides of the pond to great effect while their newly streamlined look (ultra-tight t-shirts and skinny jeans as opposed to the former glam pomp) roots them firmly as rockers of the Pacific Northwest.
Bohemian Bike Queue
Between sets, the Doug Fir’s smoke break crowd enjoyed a rare eye-full: 8,000 or so cycling nudists (along with a few roller skaters, skateboarders and joggers) coasting across the bridge toward them in the Naked Bike Ride. An ideal, surreal visual accompaniment to songs like “Bohemian Like You,” the freewheeling side-show invigorated sweaty, dazed Dandies’ fans into a flurry of catcalls and high-fives.