Noise Pop ’09: Port O’Brien @ Cafe Du Nord

28 02 2009

Ian Ferguson San Francicso, CA
Music critic Carl Wilson sites “class” as the main malady affecting indie rock, its symptoms expressed through a standardization of sound and style. Blame liberal-arts education or expensive American Apparel hipster attire, most indie-rockers have surrendered edge to non-differentiation. Most, but not all: Oakland/Alaska based Port O’Brien retain relevance in style and sound, weaning indie-rock off Daddy’s bank account through an evocative understanding of loneliness and love at the bottom of life’s empty bottles.

click the photo below to watch our interview with Cambria and Van

Where most other indie-rock outfits adopt the too-clean urban cowboy or chromatic hoody look (a stock outfit to match a stock sound), Port O’Brien’s wardrobe reflects the working American roots of their music: lead singer Van Pierszalowski in leather boots, worn baseball cap and graphic tee; guitarist-keyboardist Zebedee Zaitz in leather fedora; bassists Ryan Stively in lumber flannel; drummer Joshua Barnhart in a cowboy’s rodeo shirt; and multi-instrumentalist Cambria Goodwin, the bands one female and founding member, in an elegant black dress.

These five catwalked Cafe du Nord’s stage on Friday. The rowdy crowd found release in Port O’Brien’s audience-engaging arrangements. Pierszalowski directed their stomping, singing, or clapping in certain songs, cueing their entry in spoken asides. For the final song, the band delivered to the crowd a plywood-chest, “Alaska Adventure Group” stenciled onto its side. The pots, pans and cutlerey inside disseminated throughout the venue. Pierszalowski excused the impossibility of an encore, explaining that the band had played all of the songs it knows, before breaking into the anthem “I Woke Up Today”, the audience a clanging choir in voice with the song’s rousing chorus.

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