What a difference $8 makes.
I saw the fine Portland band Weinland at McMenamins Old St. Francis School several weeks ago, and Father Luke’s Room was packed. No, overflowing.
That was a free Wednesday show, so the fact that those nights are established, inexpensive entertainment options in Bend almost certainly added to the throng.
Still, I was shocked when I paid my $8 cover and walked into the same spot for the same band Saturday night. There were a few dozen people in the crowd, sparse compared to the previous show.
That’s too bad, because Weinland was as great last weekend as they were in April. These five guys recently quit their day jobs to try to make music a full-time thing, and I hope they’re successful, because they’re awfully good at what they do.
What they do is craft and play really nice, folky, poppy, twangy songs. If you worship at the altar of Joe Strummer or Kurt Cobain, Weinland principal Adam Shearer’s songs might be a tad mellow for you.
But if you like to hear a terrific songwriter playing his songs backed by an airtight band, you should catch Weinland next time you have the chance, no matter the price.
Shearer and his mates loaded their first set with their slower tunes. The singsong melody of “The Devil In Me” and the downcast shuffle of “People Like You” were highlights, even if they did have to compete with a table of loudly giggling women. When Shearer introduced “Sunken Eyes” as “awesome to the max,” it was an odd juxtaposition with the song’s first verse: “A sense of heartbreak all around/ I can see it in this house/ How can I always let you down/ I can taste it in my mouth.”
That’s typical Weinland: melancholy to the max, one might say. But endlessly pretty, too. When the giggling subsided and the band played a murder ballad called “God Here I Come,” Shearer’s pillow-soft voice blended perfectly with the warm sound of his strummed guitar strings. It was a golden moment.
Along the way, the other guys in the band played their roles with equal parts skill and restraint. The bass and drums were solid all evening. Paul Christensen tastefully sprinkled in piano here and there, and piano suddenly seemed necessary. And utility man Aaron Pomerantz may be the MVP of this unit, adding slide guitar, accordion, backing vocals and other noises to each song.
Despite Shearer’s lyrical themes — hurt and heartbreak permeate these stories — Weinland is a fun band to see live, quirky in all the right ways. The drums are held together in parts with duct tape. Shearer calls the pint-glass holder on his microphone stand his “little buddy.” The band sells Christensen’s hand-crafted “Weinland” whiskey glasses at its merch table. There was at least one keyboard-powered techno improv on Saturday night, too.
And Shearer is genuinely funny in between his haunting songs. Last time he was in town, he bragged that the band is “huge in Redmond.” This time, it was “huge in Germany.” And his interaction with the other four guys is a joy to watch. All five players sing, even though only three have microphones. I always think it’s endearing when a band member is singing out into the ether, sans mic.
That spirit was even more prevalent in the second set, which Shearer characterized as louder, heavier, faster. And that was true, but not by much. The songs still generally started off gently, the difference here was most grew to a (relatively) thunderous crescendo.
“Gold,” in particular, truly rocked. And the nearly-one-note chorus of “Sick As A Gun” floated like a cloud out over those of us who did make it to the show.
There weren’t as many of us as last time Weinland was in town, but that’s OK, I think. In April, seeing Weinland meant dealing with a few shouters and stumblers.
This time, it felt like we were in on a wonderful secret.