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SHOW REVIEW: Spectator Pump/Jr. High/No. 2
January 16, 1999 -- Portland, Oregon (Berbati's Pan)

By: Alex Steininger

With two of the town's hottest acts playing together, this was surely going to be a grand night. After all, this is one of the last hometown shows No. 2 and Jr. High will have until they each leave (separately) for a four-week tour with Oscar-nominee Elliott Smith. Then there was headliner Spectator Pump, a local three-piece consisting of two guitars and a drummer. Rock was the genre of choice for this show, and the fans were going to get what they came for.

Going on first was No. 2, which features Neil Gust from Heatmiser. Some of you might remember Virgin Records recording artists Heatmiser, which paired up Neil and Elliott as the songwriting team for this dynamic four-piece.

Starting the show late, No. 2 hit the stage a few minutes after 10pm. As they dove right into their poppy brand of rock 'n' roll, the crowd began to pour in. One of the tightest three-pieces you'll ever come across, Neil's words glided nicely over the soaring pop hooks, while Gilly Ann Hanner kept the bass notes thumping. Backing up everything is the always-amazing Paul Pulvirenti, who doubles as the drummer for Jr. High. You'll also be able to catch a glimpse of him behind the kit for Elliott Smith on both legs of the tour. The word "busy" doesn't even begin to describe Paul.

Capturing your ears and your eyes, No. 2's set seemed too short. Of course, when you're that into the music it's going to fly by no matter what. Pulling off the set without a hitch, they got everyone warmed up for the band of the night -- Jr. High.

By the time the guitars starting blasting out of the P.A., the room was pretty much packed and full of eager fans who just can't get enough Jr. High. And, only a few days away from entering the recording studio to work on the follow-up to 1998's KILLER OF FRIENDSHIPS (Empty Records), Jr. High has a chest full of new material to fulfill the fans' demands. Of course, they haven't abandoned KILLER OF FRIENDSHIPS all together. They still mix in tracks off the album here and there -- much to the pleasure of fans.

Blending power-pop, rock 'n' roll, and even some soul, Jr. High's set flew by as well. But, it stayed long enough to make an impact on the crowd. People were dancing, singing along, and smiling all through the set. If this show is any indication of the energy level and intensity they'll be striking listeners with throughout the East Coast Elliott Smith tour, than they should come home with a good-sized group of converted fans.

Topping off the night was Spectator Pump. Very energetic and full of passion for their music, they seem to come alive (especially the front woman) on stage. Their debut CD didn't seem to capture the energy or intensity these three are capable of, but when you see them live you'll know that there is indeed a beating heart to their music.

The one drawback to their live set, though, is the lack of a bass player. It leaves a big whole in their sound -- an emptiness that can't be recovered no matter how much lead-woman Stephanie jumps around on stage and pleases the crowd.

There's just something about a beautiful front woman that really gets me going. No matter what is going on musically, they're always able to keep your eyes focused on them throughout. Of course, this show was no different. Don't get me wrong though, they've got some good songs. Loud and aggressive, the dual guitar attack fills the room, while the drums just keep on going. But the need for a bass player is really felt, which keeps the music from fully living.

All and all a great night. It went by so fast I didn't even believe the clock when it read "1:37," when I got to my car. I would have guessed the night was still very young -- 12:30 am at the latest. But, like the saying goes, "Time flies when you're having fun."

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