Music Seen: Dead of Winter

SPACE Gallery, January 24, 2009
By CHRISTOPHER GRAY  |  January 28, 2009

Peaks and valleys are the name of the game with any showcase of too many songwriters that too many people attend, but by and large, Dead of Winter retains its status as a premier night of homegrown entertainment. Skipping a few strong acts — things got a little cloudy in an earnest and/or drunken strumathon midway through the night, apologies to Roy Davis and others — here's a highlight reel.

• When you could hear him, MC Josh Loring (of Brenda) was a riot, morbidly slumped in front of a fake cast-iron fireplace and reading apocalyptic quotes from The Road and Kierkegaard.

• All the single ladies were on fire: fine two-song sets from Dilly Dilly and Hot Tart Lana Eddy (bonus points for a Magnetic Fields cover); a surprisingly organic collaboration between Sontiago and Jeremy and Jerusha Robinson of South China, laced with keyboard and MPC beats; Erin Sprinkle of Plains, working with Billy Libby as Seymour, quietly proved why hers is one of Portland's most resonant and soulful voices; ditto young Aly Spaltro of Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, except for the quiet part. Her songs, so simultaneously impassioned and tremulous you feared she might collapse, brought the house down.

• Performing as Ronnie Baitt, Peet Chamberlain (An Evening With) and Oscar Romero (Gully) whipped up an ingenious four-song medley of dad-rock and late '80s/early '90s nostalgia, highlighted by a take on Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me." Wesley Hartley — whom I'm tempted to call Kid AA — ushered them in with his acrobatic Texan howls.

• After many had filed out, Vince Nez and Andrew Frederick (Cerf-Volantes) closed the night out on a high. Frederick offered a stripped-down version of his eloquent, ambient folk, shining a spotlight on his labyrinthine chord progressions and direct, piercing vocals. Nez was at his loosey-goosey, unhinged best with a take on the traditional "Willie the Weeper" and a new collaboration with Frederick, which made a friend "feel like [he] was in a Quentin Tarantino movie."

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