The Weird Weeds
Berbati's Pan; Portland, Oregon

[01-12-06]

This
write-up was going to be about a Sleater-Kinney show. Instead, on a whim, I
went and saw the Weird Weeds a day before I left to go back to college, and
sometime during a set punctuated by the nervous, half-yelled conversation
between act and audience that always seems to accompany the genuine thrill of
seeing a new band, they charmed me completely.

Strolling through what I am sure was most of their recorded output, from songs
that sounded like the earliest experiments of a newly formed band to the
polished and quiet weirdness of the material on their downloadable EP Hold
Me
, the Weird Weeds played songs whose subtle charms took hold of you like
a vice and then departed swiftly before you could think about them too long.
Like Deerhoof (one of the highest compliments I can think of), the Weird Weeds
write songs that lurch in directions that seem at first inexplicable and then
slowly obvious, mixing left turn time changes and song lengths that, stopping
just short of being too short, leave you both satisfied and enticed.

With all of fifteen people there (afterwards I learned that it had been the
best attended show of their tour), the whole thing had the air of a secret
meeting, a feeling that was only underscored by the initial wariness of a band
placed in a venue much bigger than they were used to. Unsigned, with only an
EP to their name, the only mention that I had ever heard of them before this
had been from an article of praise written by Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart, a
notoriously picky critic. Armed with only two guitarists and a drummer, they
managed to continually surprise the jaded audience with the terrific insight
and humor of their playing. It helps that the two guitars had such different
personalities: If Aaron Russell (on the right) seemed the more accomplished,
picking and strumming his way through the material with ease, it was only
because the more experimental/unusual slide guitar of Sandy Ewan was giving
him such a warm backdrop through which to move.

Especially in the case of Ewan, seeing such unusual instrumentation used in
such a genuine way is a real treat. The bows, bells, and drums littered about
the stage were gradually employed to their various effects, yet at no point
did anything feel unnecessary. Instead it felt like the joy of experimentation
tempered by the hard-headed realism of musical invention. A friend I ran into
there who swore he saw her employ an E-bow found out after the show that it
was actually a piece of chalk used as a slide; Nick Hennies (the drummer)
rarely kept a regular beat, instead punctuating the songs with staccato bursts
of his snare.

Droning through the fits and starts of their strange songs, the Weird Weeds
proved themselves. Sitting in the audience, it was hard not to feel as if you
were there at the beginning of something truly rewarding. The Weird Weeds were
fantastic and won me over completely. If you get the chance, see them and
decide for yourself. Sleater- Kinney doesn't really need any more publicity
anyway. -Notwal 

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