Music Seen: Neko Case + Haru Bangs

Neko Case and Haru Bangs last weekend
By CHRISTOPHER GRAY  |  August 12, 2009

First things first: Neko Case is the complete package, an unmitigated bombshell (gorgeous, wry, self-effacing) with a singular artistic vision (country/folk songs so heavy on metaphor and animistic and obscure mythological references that you could — and should — unpack them for months) and a voice like an air-raid siren. It is a distinct pleasure to watch and hear her sing and wonder just what she's thinking but not saying (surely, it's something).

That said, it's frustrating to hear Case's voice and ideas somewhat hampered by the perks of her neo-adult contemporary stardom: the backup singer (best friend Kelly Hogan), the band of road-tested Americana pros. These cushions leave little room for dynamism, which is Case's strong suit. The first half of her set — which allowed for a welcome amount of older material, where her revisionist-country torch-singer stylings charmed and stirred — was the weaker end: a wildly passionate and empathetic voice caged into rote recitations, the sound well-mixed but weirdly distant. The latter portion, heavier on both spare ballads and roots arrangements, allowed Case's charisma to shine, and her band to find some too, but rarely have I seen a crowd so consistently pleased yet noticeably unmoved. Let that tornado rage, Neko.

And a brief note on's OFFStage series at SPACE Gallery. These 7 pm, all-ages shows on Wednesday nights through August are scuzzy in a pretty awesome and unique (to Portland) way. SPACE looks dark and dank; the bands are frontlit with halogen lights, heavy shadows behind them; the sound is moody and gauzy. Haru Bangs, the new duo of Noah Defilippis and Derek Gierhan of Cougars kill Cobras, made the most out of the setting. When I entered, Defilippis had just run away from his guitar, gulped some water, and ran back to spit it on drummer Gierhan's face. Abrasive and aggressive, Haru Bangs have snatched the best things about CkC (pummeling punk energy) and tossed aside the glam-rock theatricality. Those who could handle the assault — which proved to be most of us — rejoiced. 

  Topics: New England Music News , Entertainment, Music, Neko Case,  More more >
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