Guantanamo Baywatch, The Pork Torta, Wooden Indian Burial Ground, Shit Ton at The District Tavern, Monday, March 12

The District Tavern hosts some of the most interesting shows for local and touring bands these days. At worst polarizing, and revelatory nearly every time, I always leave feeling really angry, and that makes me extremely satisfied.

Shit Ton is an exceptionally accomplished local instrumental trio. I will now check my musical preferences at the Tavern's entrance, and offer this disclaimer: I can't think of a subgenre of rock music I find more abhorrent than instrumental progressive rock. So, for fans of Yes and Rush who don't like singing, you have a new favorite band. Each member of Shit Ton is a dazzling virtuoso at their respective instrument, and the ensemble playing was just as impressive, with time-signature changes, modal shifts, and other things I don't want to know about highlighting the performance.

The climax of the night came early, with Portland's Wooden Indian Burial Ground rewriting the history of rock and roll in their own image. They didn't try, and they didn't have to. They weren't filled with angst, just raw power minus the death trip. The closest reference point was James Brown circa Live at the Apollo played in a suicide vest, all rhythmic peaks and valleys, violence and, yes, absolute transcendence.

The Pork Torta effortlessly delivered the rock-influenced experimental music that has made them semi-legendary. All lockstep rhythms, the first song pulsed like NEU!, the second tumbled like Can, the third was Captain Beefheart cubism, and things just got better from there. The Pork Torta are arty, but not elitist, so their music is accessible to any listener — a superficial dance soundtrack, and the highest of art.

Also from Portland, Guantanamo Baywatch stood in stark, bold relief to Wooden Indian Burial Ground, who on the surface appear to sound the same. The bashed out drumbeats and echoed, screeching guitar parts are really the only similarities. Guantanamo Baywatch are simply innocuous entertainment. They came across as careerists; odd, considering there is a very limited market for what they do. Nevertheless, they started grinning non-stop when the amplifiers came on, threw out some "Hello, Tucson!" stage banter, and played prefabricated scuzz-riffs until last call meant it was time to punch out. In a time and place where an artist can do anything they please, it's very sad to see useless audience pandering. So, I left The District, both angry at Guantanamo Baywatch's betrayal, and satisfied with the alternative.


More by Joshua Levine


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