This Sunday past, a mighty tonal clash between Rose City instrument-jockeys such as The Dings, Perfume, Another Cynthia and crowd-favorite Samantha’s Grace flooded the Meow Meow (themeowmeow.com) with glorious rock ‘n’ roll music. Unfortunately, I was one of only about 20 people there, including band members and Meow Meow personnel.
Needless to say, Sunday night probably isn’t the most likely night for a packed-house show. But for the scheduleless slackers such as myself, the battle was a treat as the bands competed to out-rock each other, with spectacular results. Highlights of the evening were the flared jeans and fuzzed-out guitar of Another Cynthia, whose energetic performance and emotive stage presence invoked the spirit of the late-’60s psych/garage sound. Plus, I’m a sucker for guitar bands that have keyboards. It just seems somehow right that a rock ‘n’ roll band should have someone pounding the ivories. It didn’t hurt, either, that their sound check was a brief jam on Day Tripper. After hearing its unmistakable bass line fill the small room, I was convinced that this band would be my choice for the winner, and since I am holding the pen here, that would have meant that you would be reading about Another Cynthia for the next two minutes or so. Unfortunately for them, they were followed by the majestic performance of Samantha’s Grace, whose guitar wizardry and vocal stylings left me convinced that this band was among the best Portland groups I had seen in a very long time, and enormously disappointed that my digital camera had chosen to crap out on me at this point in the concert.
That aside, their set was a blissful storm of those things I yearn for when I hear a band that is so close to the essence of true rock ‘n’ roll but falls short, leaving me awash in a sea of unfulfilled expectation and disappointment. Grace’s lead guitarist was liberal with the solos, quenching my thirst for Jimmy Page-ery with flying fingers in the upper registry of his Fender Mustang’s neck. But a virtuoso guitarist can’t carry a band alone, and Samantha’s Grace had the other key ingredients necessary for a serious blowing of my mind.
The handkerchiefed lead vocalist shredded his throat to deliver the kind of soulful, raw and incredibly powerful singing that makes seeing a band an emotionally enthralling experience. Not only that, but on some songs he traded off rhythm duties with the guitarist, flexing his own solo muscles in a unique demonstration of proficiency. Their set included a cover of The Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil,” executed with true rock panache and style necessary for a quality Stones cover. A solid rhythm section gave the wicked riffage and awesome verbiage an excellent cohesion, but the true highlights were located in the front of the stage.
Sadly, a most excellent guitar solo was cut short by time constraints, and the popular request for an encore was similarly denied, but by that time the voting Meow Meow populace had made its decision and voted Samantha’s Grace winner of the competition and ensured their place in the upcoming finals, taking place on Oct. 26. Be sure to catch them as they battle for sonic supremacy of Stumptown. Judging from their set on Sunday, their chances look good.