Port O’Brien/Delta Spirit @ Pianos, NYC 3/26/08

By Amrit Singh
On record, Port O’Brien shift between two modes: the folk, and the rock. Occasionally, yes, it comes together into the hyphenated hybrid used to describe most bands wielding high BPMs and acoustic guitars, but the band’s finest upbeat excursion — should-be-Hype-Machine-#1 jam “I Woke Up Today” — eschews standard folk-rock for a distinct, ramshackle churn. It’s a career launcher and has been with ‘em for awhile, working a rum-drenched shanty sort of vibe which fits the band’s inherent nautical themes: the outfit’s name (Port, etc.), the songs’ names (“Fisherman’s Son,” “Stuck On A Boat“), the fact that lead man Van Pierszalowski was once a commercial fisherman in Alaska, little things like that. The highly recommended, proper full-length debut LP All We Could Do Was Sing (which follows last year’s out-of-print-EP-collection The Wind And The Swell) is out 5/13 and you should get it from them (it’s self-released, so that’s the only way).

This was my first time seeing them in a live situation, where it seems Van wants more to plug in and scrape than to acoustically serenade. So the violin-laden banjo-folk of “Don’t Take My Advice” retains the banjo but gets a little more muscle: the gentler songs move towards “Pigeonhold”‘s screamy scuzz, which is mostly cool, although I missed some of the record’s slighter gearshifts. And the set ended as it should, with “I Woke Up Today”‘s frenzy and the crowd screaming along, clanging on band-supplied pots and pans. Pretty great. For your pan-banging practice sessions:

Port O’Brien – “I Woke Up Today” (MP3)

I really like that album. Also, this Port O’Brien fan is my favorite guy in a really long time.

One more pic of drumhead, one more MP3, some Delta Spirit, and many more shots of the bands await.

Here’s another good Port tune:

Port O’Brien – “Stuck On A Boat” (MP3)

But here’s the main reason you jumped:

I hadn’t planned on sticking around for Delta Spirit, but their opening tunes were good enough to keep me for a few tunes (until the crowd’s steadily increasing douchey bro-factor of high-fives and muscles forced me towards the back of the room, and then out of it). Matthew Vasquez’s vocals are powerhouse stuff, and his Dylanistic harmonica and melodies worked well over Delta’s roots-rock roots. “Strange Vine” was a standout, riding the sway of old mid-tempo, ’50s-styled r&b rock, with vocal lines ala Alec Ounsworth or Julian Casablancas depending on how the light caught it. (That’s a mouthful but after listening to it again at MySpace, I’m sticking with it. While you’re there, check more of the ’50s in the piano-rolling “Trashcan.”)

Although for me this is music that works in small doses, the impressive contingent of conventionally pretty girls in attendance seemed to be of a different mind. But that’s at least partially because Matthew looks like he unwinds between shows at the Peach Pit.

Oh and I want to say thanks for the shirt compliment, Van, and that you have great taste in No Age tees. Also, I do my best to be respectful when taking photos — little flash, not obstructing peoples’ views, etc. — so I have at least a few inches of moral high ground when I say: skull cap guy with the hand-held flash and the need to practically stand on the stage to take your 3,000 photos that are probably just as shitty as mine … you were the most aggressively obnoxious photog I think I’ve ever seen. Congratulations on that.