Save every city square

 Wax Tablet
By PORTLAND PHOENIX MUSIC STAFF  |  October 11, 2013

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The song “Understand,” penned by the hardworking Frank Hopkins of Line of Force and the Kenya Hall Band, was recently selected as the entry for this year’s Playing For Change — Playing For Maine songwriting contest. It’ll follow last year’s “Be in Love,” a video that featured dozens of Portland musicians covering Dominic Lavoie’s original song. Look for the video for “Understand,” an inspired little ditty about compassion, empathy, and resisting oppression, by late next summer.

We can hardly get enough of Sterling Black’s new one, Sucker, a long-player of screeching, nihilistic, totally rough-hewn punk rock and roll songs. The formula here is as universal as it is disastrous: ecstatically distorted rock riffs cast in the Johnny Thunders or Greg Sage mold, manic and driving, yet unable to keep themselves from collapsing into destructive bouts of fucked noise tantrums, which Black somehow sells as totally justified given the context. Over 12 tracks there’s bound to be some low threshold of trash and indulgence, but Black rarely lingers there (or anywhere) too long, and just as soon as we might be ready to skip a track after two minutes of goofy noise masturbation, a killer song (or the framework for one) emerges from nothing, and we’re transfixed again. For your own safety, it’s probably best to approach Sucker as a palette of ideas rather than a full album, though “Headless Mary” would be one of the city’s best songs if only more people would be willing to suffer it. Don’t think he plays live in this incarnation, but aspiring suckers should visit sterlingblack.bandcamp.com.

The arts venue One Longfellow Square is running a campaign seeking $40,000 to keep its doors open. The 200-seat listening room has been the city’s premier folk venue for a long time, yet since it finds itself somewhere in-between a fully fledged concert hall and a rock venue with a bar, it seems to face struggles that don’t affect either. OLS turned nonprofit two years ago, and has augmented its diverse calendar of folk, blues, jazz, bluegrass, world music, and rock shows with kids’ open mics, songwriting workshops with the Center for Grieving Children, and claymation workshops with Reiche School students. Even if you’re a twentysomething who doesn’t give a hoot about who plays there, you should check out their pitch at Indiegogo. Venues like OLS are getting incredibly rare in the US, and they mean more to a city than you might understand.

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