The Bad Things and Chervona at Alberta Street Pub
Friday, September 26, 2014
Silent City Productions and Alberta Street Pub
The Bad Things - "After the Inferno" CD Release Party
at Alberta Street Pub
1036 NE Alberta St
Portland, OR 97211
$8 advanced/$10 day-of-show
From the Ashes: The Outsider Cabaret of Seattle's The Bad Things Bursts Back to Life After the Inferno
Seattle. The whole world knows the bands that word conjures. But they only tell one small fragment of the city's musical story. Hidden by the noise of electric guitars and the sweet scents of gentrification, a strong, vital underground scene still flourishes. A junkyard cabaret inhabited by the underdogs and freaks, caught in the sudden glare of burlesques and little jewel box clubs. A place filled with the joyous outcasts, of celebration and commiseration. And that's where The Bad Things live. It's the space they illuminate on their new album, "After the Inferno" (released September 16, 2014 on Silent City Records).
"There's definitely a history of outsiders in Washington State," explains the band's singer and accordionist, Jimmy 'The Pickpocket' Berg. "For over a century, people with radical minds have been coming up here. Seattle had America's only general strike, back in 1919, Woody Guthrie was here writing songs in the '30s, and there's a still this tradition of people who speak out, who aren't happy in the mainstream."
And The Bad Things are happy to continue that tradition. Formed in 2002, they began in the best Seattle way, busking in the city's historic Pike Place Market and letting their sound, a mix of Balkan fire and desert heat, all generously steeped in weirdness of twisted imaginations, slowly take shape. As a six-piece band (instrumentation includes accordion, banjo, guitar, upright bass, trumpet, keys, drums, and mandolin) they performed in the dives and cabarets dotted around town, recording three CDs, culminating in 2008's "It'll All Be Over Soon."
"We'd intended to make this album long before this," Berg recalls. "But in 2012, our practice space burned down. It had been our home for a decade, a lot our equipment was there, our P.A., everything. We had to start over. And just when we were recovering, two good friends of ours were killed in a shooting in town, so all our energies went to their memorials. It's taken us a long time to recover and get back to business."
"Death of the Inferno," the album's title song, is one inhabited by the ghosts of those who've gone. The band had originally recorded it years before on their debut 2004 release, but this new version, performed too often lately at memorials and funerals, has taken on an entirely new, deeper resonance, not only filled with the past, but hope for the future.
"It's now so tied to those difficult times," Berg agrees. "We brought in a lot of people we know people who are part of our musical family to sing on it. We wanted everyone there to add the arms-locked, sing-and-drink-a-long feel that the live version has."
Sorrow is a part of living, but so is joy, and there's plenty of that on the album, too, from the bumpy Southwestern ballad of "Young Emily Rose" to the mandolin-driven "Bonnie To My Clyde" or the Balkan romp of "Grifter's Life." It's a celebration of outsiders, punk rock propelled by a tumult of accordions and banjos.
And The Bad Things' junkyard is a place with ample space for everything, from the tequila desert of "Jalisco Serenade" to the "Green Grass" that covers so much of Washington.
"It's a document," Berg says. "The band's gone through plenty of musical and emotional changes in the last few years. We've ventured into new musical styles, and all our lives have changed we've lost loved ones, some of us have had to quit drinking, I've become a parent. So "After the Inferno" is aptly titled. It's a rebirth for us. We're going into a future that's not easily pigeonholed, and we prefer it that way."
Out in Washington State, lurking in the underground, The Bad Things have found their place in the world. Out of the junkyards, After the Inferno, they've been reborn.
It is impossible to describe Chervona's sound without sounding ridiculous. Vagabonding gypsy folk-punk? Russian fever-folk? Neo-Bohemian dance-rock? Punk/big band fusion?
Regardless, Chervona's musical styling is raucously unique. Formed in Portland in 2006, Chervona's members hail from all around the world in places that even the Lonely Planet series has a hard time getting to. With roots ranging from Russia to Portland's suburbs, Chervona is what happens when you blend Soviet Bloc drinking songs with American punk and throw in an accordion.
Front man Andreyshka Pitersky sings his hearty droll in both Russian and English, which leads to a varied set that includes a mix of vaudevillian choruses, brass-punk versions of traditional Russian folk songs and some of the best covers on the market (their version of Boney M.'s "Ra Ra Rasputin" is particularly great).
What stands out the most about the band is Chervona's lack of reliance on flimsy kitsch. They are adamant about being seen not as another band that uses its Eastern European heritage as a gimmick. Rather, they set out to make the best possible music they know how, regardless of their background. Chervona's songs spill over with a peasant authenticity that bands like The Decemberists can only dream about. Even the most stoic of hipsters will find themselves caught up in the whirling dervish of Chervona's fist-pumpingly fun set.
If you have been bitten by the "everything sounds the same" bug, then you owe it to yourself to grab your best "Ushanka" (or giant furry hat) and see Chervona as soon as possible."
Alberta Street Public House (View)
1036 NE Alberta St
Portland, OR 97211