I had huge expectations entering the Lombard Pub on Dec 23rd, (which allbeit may be the first time anyone’s ever said that in a sentence before, only kidding of course) and yet I was thrilled with how all three sets turned out. Being that Scott Hammond, A.K.A Scotty from Radio Hot Tub, was celebrating his birthday and Sorta Ultra was sadly playing their “farewell set” I figured I couldn’t miss it. I also was extremely excited to see both New Not Normals and When We Met who were headlining.
I walked into Lombard after a quick bowl and got in right on time as New Not Normals was just about to begin. Grabbed a $2 beer and headed for the music like a squirrel in search of it’s final nuts before winter hits home. Wormed through a dozen people and made my way to the front.
New Not Normals we’re getting ready to be unveiled from behind the curtain and boy were they ready. With influences ranging from Dead Moon to Devo they certainly share a love of music that is expressed in their own all encompassing style. At times they feel edgy and punk and other times psychedelic, surfy, and bluesy. They certainly can play, this 3 piece, that is arguably headed by both Cyndy Chan and Joshua Boyd, is unstoppable if let loose as they should soon be into Portland with a vengeance of variable time changes and an assortment of styles blended together to form something new that is certainly not normal.
Their unforgettable musical talent is not shy of a wonderful bass and vocals by Cyndy Chan (of Trick Sensei & Avalanche Lily) and unique guitar, Theremin, & vocals from Joshua Boyd (also from Trick Sensei). Some may think I made a typo but a Theremin is quite real and quite incredible when used correctly. It is one of the only instruments that truly is never touched when played. It works based on the Thereminist moving their hands closer to the device to create waves of frequencies. It bodes well with a band like this and I hope to see more turn up in bands around town as they can sound so good when done well. Boyd certainly has had his time messing around with one as was apparent in this show_ Very cool to see. They also had a new drummer, Dan Kopton, who faired well especially when realizing it was merely his 3rd gig with them ever.
Sorta Ultra was up next after smoke break number two and they began as any pop punk band in my eyes_then blew me away by half way through the first song and by their song “Hippie Speedball”. They then went on to play a Harry Nielsen cover in the middle of a wonderfully energetic and passionate set from guitarist and vocalist Jake Pettit who takes on a new form of pop punk I’d almost like to call post pop punk or PPP because it’s so much better than usual pop punk but resides in the same home. I can certainly hear influences of The Replacements and The Pixies as well as Queens of the Stone age and others but they had their own style. Notice I’m already speaking of them in the past tense which saddens me as that was my first opportunity to see them live.
Duncan McFarlane is a steady upbeat drummer that fills time and space very well and has a decent voice as well shown in their Harry Nielsen cover when he took over on vocals. Chris Sprenger on Bass rounds it all out and was even sporting a Christmas sweater that had “Merry Christmas ya filthy animals” (the famous line from the movie Home Alone) sewn into it. They ended their set with Scotty proclaiming that they should think about at least getting back together in the future, as the crowd agreed, they played their farewell song and parted ways with the seed hopefully planted for future Sorta Ultra spinoffs at least. These guys can certainly play well. And will be missed.
I strolled to the 3rd smoke break one last time or so I thought as I walked in I ran into Cyndy who was heading for the door with Andrés Caputo (also in Trick Sensei & Star’s End) who hopped up to help on tambourine, maracas, and vocals for a song. She asked if I wanted to take a walk and I know what that means, I was just walking, I told her. We smoked a J behind the billboard and spoke about old cartoons but soon headed back in to see the headliner of the night; When We Met.
When We Met is easily one of the most fitting names I’ve ever come across as they exude that feeling of when you met the love of your life. They often start soft with a drum machine and a two piece and climb very slowly to suddenly but flowingly break out of their pop shells like popcorn out of a kernel. These two have undeniable chemistry together! Lyrically they blew me away and had me beginning to think someone must’ve dosed my drink while out smoking. I’m the type to dance or rage depending on the show and I very well could have to this but as I stood there all I could do was prop myself up on the wall next to the stage in awe of how perfect their sound truly was. Melissa Dorres is another favorite Bassist/vocalist in town for me. With a beautifully accessible and relatable voice she is an essential aspect to their overall sound and style and makes an awesome team with Bryan Casey, the guitarist who is a king of the high end of a guitar.
Usually, to be honest, I hate drum machines. I think they sound overly fake and I’m a drummer lover myself so I tend to like the real deal. That said, I told Bryan later that evening that they should stick with it because it works so well and gives them more freedoms to merely go off without the worry of beat timings and synthesizers as well. Bryan will be the first to tell you he wishes they didn’t put in as much effort as they truly do into what are actually not drum machines at all, they are back tracks of drums, synth, piano, alien pads, and midi programming Bryan has played and recorded himself. I highly recommend these balls of fun as I do the other two bands. I was sorry to have to leave early to pick Rachel up but Ill definitely be dragging her out to many more to come.
PS: When We Met created a condom promo. Very clever with regards to their band name. Had to pick one up.