April 13, 2011

Ravishers – 04/07/2011

The Ravishers
The Doug Fir
Portland, Oregon
Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Guest Contributor: Michael Dallas Miller

Editor’s Note: Michael wrote a review of the new self-titled record by Ravishers. I posted it yesterday. You should read it.

Dominic Castillo has control of his eyebrows. He plays them like an instrument and makes lines like, “Do not want to beg, you already know, I’ll get you back just like before, I guess that I might just keep you around,” believable and cool, even innocent. His delivery, along with Jonathon “Hound Dog” Barker’s controlled guitar chaos, makes me think that, when Ravishers say that the chase is their favorite part, they only mean that falling in love can be more fun than being in love, and nothing about chasing tail or following anyone down any dark alley.

Outside the Doug Fir, Burnside Street is dry and cool, almost warm. Down a set of steep stairs and past five forms of t-shirt-and-jeans club security, Castillo is working the crowd with his dry humor. “It is a CD release party tonight,” the Ravishers frontman says. “And my mother really likes it. She’s usually right about that kind of thing.” Since it really is a CD release show, the band plays their self-titled, self-released album from start to finish. Through each uptempo-but-downplayed tune, Castillo’s vocals never venture past more-than-sleepy and for the whole set, he never asks for harmonies. Yet, he grabs the attention of the whole chatty Doug Fir basement–a room with its cartoonish log walls and illuminated floors looks like a mix between a sixties sex lounge and Wilsonville’s Bullwinkle’s Family Fun Center.

The other central half of the hometown band, Jonathan Barker, stands to the right of Castillo and doesn’t say a word, even though someone has placed a microphone in front of him. He plays his intricate and accessible hooks, lines, and sinkers like a Jazz Guy; his guitar is high to his chest, his eyes are closed, he fills in musical spaces with such precision it almost seems accidental (but it isn’t).

Even though the show has the all the trappings of a straight-forward pop gig (one piano playing solid chords, intro licks, a verse and a chorus and a bridge, pressed sweaters and combed hair), the Ravishers have put together something beyond its obvious parts. “Keep You Around” reaches a near-disco groove, “Underachievers” has Barker cracking a smile and the coolest cool kids dancing. Even the slowest tune – “Nobody Falls In Love Anymore” – has me swaying and paying special attention to the horn section and to the way Castillo sings and exists just outside his bold sentiments, making them seem even more true.

There is no new music, only a beautiful surplus of people willing to make it. Ravishers seem like a very serious band in the most nonchalant way possible. For the entire set, Barker does not try to express himself to the crowd by using the microphone in front of him. He pours his personality into his guitar, making a familiar genre sound brand-new. He knows what the diverse (diverse in age more than anything else, but diverse nevertheless) concert-goers find entertaining about music, and it is not banter. Castillo knows, for him, the hard work is over–he has put his humor and wit into his songwriting. Now, as he plays at dressing like Perry Como, Camillo is more than comfortable to stand aside and let good rock-and-roll be center stage, right in front of the felt-covered wall that changes from a hot red to a fluoride blue.

The set ends with the last song on the album – the fluid and crashing “Happening,” including one of the best percussion arrangements I’ve heard in a live rock show all year – but the crowd is not done. Camillo claims the band does not know anymore songs, but then immediately plays another song just before the house lights come up and everyone bounces and sways up the steep stairs into the near-warmth of the near-Spring.

We go and do just as Ravishers tell us to. We keep the music happening.

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