Deep Heaven Portland, Night 1
Friday, June 11
The first night of Deep Heaven Portland, a two-day festival at SPACE Gallery, was a gala of psychedelic New England alt-rock. The $10 cover charge and crowded bill — six bands, four of them relatively unknown to local music fans — may have kept the turnout low, but those who attended experienced five hours of auditory bliss. Curated by departing SPACE events planner Ian Paige (of the psych groups Planets Around the Sun and Herbcraft; the latter played on the festival’s second day) and Jinsen Liu (of the Allston psych trio 28 Degree Taurus), the line-up presented a cohesive group of musicians performing in front of trippy projections (’90s computer animation, video game sequences and, naturally, swirling shapes and colors).
Openers Mr. Chris and the Instant Animals are a young Portland band that serves as the musical vehicle for former Modern Syndrome/Turn Down Day frontman Chris DiRocco’s muse. The music was similar to DiRocco’s other groups’, but Mr. Chris showed improved versatility by introducing tape loops and a spacier groove into his mopey, lo-fi riffing.
Quilt, a trio comprised of players from Boston, New York and New Jersey, played next and fit in nicely with their chanted group vocals and guitar-driven melody lines. The looping and winding rhythms that dominated their sound bordered on drone at times, but managed to keep the audience captivated.
Following Quilt, their soon-to-be tour mates Mmoss took the stage. Their set had a classic-rock vibe, with ’70s pop structures and singing duties shared among all four members. The shrieking organ and prog-rock flute played by Rachel Neveu were especially interesting elements of their sound, but hardly the only ones. Guitarist Doug Tuttle announced a new song and revealed a reverb-drenched psych side complete with a punk breakdown and Tame Impala–gone-wild guitar solo that gave me a whole new appreciation for this Dover-based foursome.
Portland’s Foam Castles were up next. The first tune, “Horticulture Friends” (from their recently released EP Come Over to My House), felt like the theme song to some generation-defining summer movie. The band’s rock hooks (courtesy of singer/guitarist Tyler Jackson) and hyper-pop energy (via drummer D.J. Moore and bassist Mandy Wheeler) never seemed forced. Foam Castles’ sound is thick and complex, not unlike that of groups like Cut Copy and Panda Bear. During the jams, it was often difficult to tell where one instrument left off and another began in the gorgeous mix of two guitars, keyboard, bass and drums.
28 Degrees Taurus teased us with some bass/drum jams before guitarist and sequencer Jinsen Liu entered and the audience realized there was an actual performance going on. If their set had a theme, it was indiscernible. Chiming guitar and swallowed-up bass etched out a melodic no-wave sound, coupled with mumbled/incoherent vocals by Liu and bassist Karina Dacosta. A recording of submarine sonar echoed the murky underwater atmospherics that separated the band’s instruments from our ears. Somewhere in those lines of cable and effect pedals and amps and microphones, they lost me.
Local headliners Metal Feathers appropriately kicked off their set with “Fuzzy,” the first track on their new album, Contrast Eats The Slimey Green. Among other selections from their sophomore release, the crashing “NLTL” sounded great; “City Hall” was even faster and more furious; and the intro to “Hideous Eclipse” is a clarion call to the righteous beast of a song that follows. In addition to a couple tunes from their first album (most notably, “Roll of the Dice”), MF unleashed some mind-fucking new songs. Their third album is supposedly in the works. Sweet Jesus, I can’t wait.
— Anders J. Nielsen