all words: Shona Fenner
all photos: Farrah Skeiky
Alberta Cross started us out on Tuesday at 9:30 Club. No one seemed too familiar with their music, however they quickly had the full attention of the audience. These guys have a great array of Appalachian man hairstyles and are very good at giving off emotion simply through bluesy chord progressions.
Alberta Cross has pulled together an incredible amount of influences, but they almost take too much inspiration from other bluesy artists. Their sound hints at Neil Young, Kings of Leon, and My Morning Jacket. Besides sound there was something that I could not get past during their entire set – Alberta Cross performed like, felt like and sorta looked like US Royalty. DC loves our native rockers and Alberta Cross seems to hit so close to home that I bet we will be seeing these guys back here soon. Brooklyn is just close enough for a quick DC jam session. I heard they had a song on that FX show “Sons of Anarchy” which should give you another hint on their folk rock sound and music vibe. The video for “Money For The Weekend” explains them even further.
Alberta Cross’ throbbing bass shook me and kept the crowd swaying forward with each beat. The bass was by far my favorite part. Being unfamiliar with their music the loud, rhythmic bursts through the speakers kept the music energetic and hard-hitting. The slow songs were definitely their strong suit. Try the video for “Lucy Rider”, a song that is fiercely Neil Young. These guys played a good show but I honestly was just anxious to hear our headliner.
Having secured myself a place in the front row Portugal. The Man could not come fast enough! I thanked the gods that the break between sets was a short one or I might have passed out from anticipation.
I have heard great things about their live show from a number of people, but now having personally witnessed the spectacle for myself let me just say: OMG WTF BBQ LOL it was so good, y’all! Both our talented photographer, and yours truly, have already admitted to crying during the show. They can do that to you. If you are unfamiliar with Portugal. The Man then give yourself a musical treat and get to know them. The punctuation should make you curious enough in the first place.
Being all the way up to their sixth studio album Portugal. The Man has evolved with each record (one released every year). Each new course features the same solid psych-rock that only dudes from way up in the northwest give us. They started out in Alaska and are now based in Portland, Oregon. They don’t just wear layers and flannels for fashion. I find it refreshing for a band this cool to NOT be from Brooklyn. You can get a taste of Portugal. The Man and the frozen tundra with two music videos rolled into one from the new album. Watch “Sleep Forever” and “Got It All (This Can’t Be Living Now)” in a 13 minute snowy saga that totally surprises you at the end.
Their newest release, In the Mountain In the Cloud, was played heavily during the set and it sounded life altering but it wasn’t just the new stuff all night. We heard “AKA M80 The Wolf”, the song taught me to love these guys, halfway through and I could have jumped for joy at just not being made to wait until the encore for the hit from 2006. We also heard the covered the classics “All The Young Dudes” and The Beatles “Helter Skelter”. I always love a good cover. The vintage tunes in the mix everything even sounded seamless. Nothing could distract you from the band on stage.
The show grabbed your attention visually during all this auditory love. The stage was decorated with connecting white orbs that cascaded over the drum kit, keyboards, and amps. They gave a slightly futuristic look to the performance as the orbs changed colors and created a mesmerizing light show in combination with the house lights. The color and lights, combined with smoke machines on full blast, hid the band for a minute before clearing, showcasing them once again at the perfect part of a song.
I could not tear my eyes away during each crooned lyric and urgent guitar breakdown. It’s important to mention those breakdowns since you could literally feel the urgency and passion the band felt. When I did look away to the right I saw a tall young fan with his jaw slack staring fixedly in awe. I looked back two songs later and he was doing the same thing, taking it in and forgetting to breathe. I’d wager my face looked the same as his.
Portugal. The Man’s experimental musical approach has earned them some intense fans. The kicker - they don’t just sound badass. They are badass. Being from the frozen north and living off the power of a generator gets you a lot of points, but being humble and knowing what makes a good live experience deems them worthy of my praise. Or perhaps all the smoke and lights put me under a spell of unavoidable good press. Let it be known – Portugal. The Man is awesome!!