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SHOW REVIEW: No. 2 CD release party with Braille Stars and Elephant Factory
September 22, 1999 - Portland, Oregon (Tonic Lounge)

By: Alex Steininger

Celebrating the release of No. 2's debut CD, friends and fans gathered to watch as No. 2 warmed up for their impending tour with Quasi. The two other bands on the bill, Elephant Factory and Braille Stars, are not only friends, but both had a hand in creating No. 2's debut CD, NO MEMORY (Chainsaw). The bass player/vocalist for Elephant Factory, Larry Crane, helped engineer and produce the album at his studio, Jackpot! Recordings. Gilly Ann Hanner, Braille Stars' frontwoman, played bass and sang on the album before leaving to concentrate on Braille Stars.

Opening the night was Elephant Factory. Playing indie rock with a pop sensibility, the band truly embraced the "party" title of the night and played not only an invigorating set of rock 'n' roll but also added plenty of humor to keep the momentum up between songs. They kept referencing a live album they have where the music is edited out and the only thing you hear is the between song banter. Poking fun at Venom, a band on the disc, they constantly mimicked them by quoting phrases like "Are there any beer drinkers in the house? Ahhh!" and "This next song is called 'Burning in Hell'," all with that deep growl that has come to symbolize satanic-metal. Of course, that was only a small portion of their show, with the music still taking center stage. Bouncy drum beats, a guitar that goes from roar to soft and drawn out, and plenty of bass, their music rocked the house and got everyone's bodies warmed up.

Then there was Braille Stars, a two-piece female act (drums and guitar) that mesmerizes everyone in attendance each they hit the stage. A hard sound to label, guitarist/vocalist Gilly Ann Hanner's beautiful vocals compliment the rough, but tender drumming and backing vocals of Stef Darensbourg, while her mixture of slide guitar and chords transforms things from pop to a near-psychedelic trip. One minute they're rocking out and the next they're propelling the audience into outer space with kaleidoscopic rock vibrancy. The intensity was magnified as Stef Darensbourg took control of the lead vocals on one of the final tracks, leaving everyone in attendance simply astonished. Both of these gals can play as well as sing, which should really sting hard when their debut release hits and engraves them even deeper into the hearts of Northwest, and hopefully, national fans alike.

Then No. 2 set up and was ready to begin. Quite an imposing figure when on stage, the tall Neil Gust receives the attention when he hits the stage and starts to sing. Leading his band, with temporary bass player Jim Talstra filling in until a permanent bass player can be found, Neil drove through heart-on-the-sleeve pop songs coupled with soaring guitars and an intense rock drive. Whether it be the force of "Nobody's Satisfied," one of the band's fastest, most intense rock cuts or the sobering "Move It Along," a folk-infused pop-rocker, the band has no problem gaining everyone's attention while they sing along in appreciation. Playing virtually every song on their debut, except a few, and some newer material, the crowd gathered around the stage and smiled as Neil hunched around the mic and jumped around with his guitar. The always entertaining Paul Pulvirenti kept the beat with an intensity that looks so simple you can't help but stare and watch. And Jim Talstra proved why he is the hired gun bass player around town to turn to when you're in need.

After finishing their 'final' song, Pauli looked at Neil and reminded him they had one more song they could play. Neil quickly announced, "This is the encore" with a smile on his face. Without even leaving stage and all the other bullshit associated with encores, Neil kept the attitude and music down to earth as they finished off their last song, mentioned they had their just released CD and 7" for sale, and left the stage.

Though the attendance wasn't what I expected for a line-up like this, or the fact that this was No. 2's CD release party (which always seem to draw in more people), everyone who was there witnessed a great show and went away happy. Starting the 29th of October, you can catch No. 2 on tour with another Portland favorite, Quasi, as they tour the nation spreading their infectious pop music to the masses.

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