SHOW REVIEW: Pete Krebs and the Gossamer Wings/Richmond Fontaine/The Maroons
April 27, 1999 -- Portland, Oregon (La Luna's Balcony)
By: Alex Steininger
La Luna made its name in the early 90's by hosting Northwest chart-toppers such as Hazel, Heatmiser, Crackerbash, and an array of other bands that helped the nation realize there was more than rain coming down in cities like Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. But, like many figures of your past, all good things come to an end. And that seems to be the case with La Luna, who ended the Balcony's run on Tuesday the 27th, and the main stage on May 1st.
Hazel was one of the bands that helped establish La Luna as a nationally-recognized hot spot in the Northwest that touring bands fought so hard to grace the stage of. So it seems only fitting to close out the balcony with Pete Krebs' new band, Pete Krebs and the Gossamer Wings. Backing them on the bill is none other than Portland's hottest rock-gone-country and country-gone-rock outfit Richmond Fontaine and the pretty, sweet pop melodies of The Maroons.
With a line-up this strong, everyone knew this was going to be a memorable night, so it wasn't the least bit surprising when all three bands gave stellar performances and left the audiences holding their beers in sheer amazement. On top of all that, the great sound engineer Tom Robinson (engineer to such influential bands as The Wipers, The Obituaries, Dharma Bums, and other Northwest legends) was handling the P.A. to ensure the sound would be just right, making the night near perfection.
Starting the evening off was The Maroons, who hit the stage while people were still slowly pouring in. Tuesday nights aren't always the best nights to bring in the drinking crowd, but since this was the final balcony show, the people were coming, but taking their dear time.
The Maroons had technical difficulties along the way, but Tom Robinson was quick to fix them, and things, although problems seemed to pop up here and there, were under control. John Moen led the five-piece through blistering pop joy, serving up the highly melodic, innocent pop beauty that has become the trademark for The Maroons. John's voice is as pure and sweet as a bird, calling through the air with a perfect ring, while the rest of the band capitalizes on this and dishes out delicious pop hooks sure to bring even the hardest of people down to their knees. If ever there were a time to call rock music beautiful, this would be the time. On their CD they might be a bit dreamy, but live they capture all the energy they're capable of and pack it into tight rock songs that are both beautiful and bold.
Next up was Richmond Fontaine, fronted by Willy Vlautin, a man with a skill for writing depressing lyrics and introspective words that put the spotlight on all the bad things that happen to people. But then the band pulls everything together with a hearty rock beat to back the words and comes out getting their audiences dancing and singing along. With slide guitar player Paul Brainard also in the line-up tonight, Richmond Fontaine pulled off fast rock 'n' roll that took you to the edge before slipping into some country notes to bring you back down to earth. Then they went full-blast again, cranking the volume and speeding up, serving the audience some powerful rock music that came to life wrapped around Willy's sincere voice.
Now, I had never seen Richmond Fontaine live before, but am a big fan of their recorded material. On disc they're able to rock out on one number and go completely soft the next. When I witnessed them live though, Willy and company made the recorded music come to life and provided me with ever more reasons to enjoy them. Willy once again proved to me why he's one of the hottest up-and-coming songwriters in town.
But up next was the band the majority of the crowd has come to see, the man that helped establish La Luna in their prime, and the one that was giving the balcony a proper farewell. By now the crowd had pretty much grown to capacity (as it was getting their by the time Richmond Fontaine was in the middle of their set), and everyone was excited to see Pete Krebs and the Gossamer Wings perform material off their newly released CD, SWEET ONA ROSE (Cavity Search Records).
Right from the get go, the band poured out tremendously powerful rock that made your knees shake due to the volume and intensity of the music. Sure, it was a bit loud, but with some earplugs in, it seemed such a fitting end to a venue that has housed so many great rock shows.
Playing songs from SWEET ONA ROSA, the band took the versions on the disc and turned things up a few notches. Songs like "Thunderstorms and Alcohol," soft in nature on the album, turned into full-on mayhem as Pete played his Gibson with excitement and energy unsurpassed by anyone. The backing band helped push the songs that much further, and rock numbers like "Johnny Come Lately" and "Analog," which are filled with pop hooks and ample rock on the record, surged even more with rock blood and became fast-paced, wild numbers so vigorous you couldn't help but feed off their energy.
Then, pulling Jr. High, No. 2, and Elliott Smith's drummer out of the crowd, Paul Pulverinti stepped up and helped add more fire to the coals on a Clash cover song. Of course, John Moen, lead singer for The Maroons, and the Gossamer Wings' drummer, took back the hot seat and kept the backbone fierce from song to song.
Simply put, it was a night of rock 'n' roll that helped put La Luna's balcony to rest. Those in attendance will never forget it; those who missed it will be kicking themselves. All three bands seemed to be at the top of their game (despite the technical problems for The Maroons), and not a single soar note was heard.