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The 15 Best Concerts in Portland: December 19-January 1

Ural Thomas! Curren$y! Of Montreal!

by The Mercury Music Experts Dream Team™

FRI DEC 20

Farnell Newton & The Soul of Jazz
Local trumpeter Farnell Newton is one of the Portland jazz scene’s most stalwart musicians, but he’s also revered for being a “dad” to the music scene at large for providing relentless support as a teacher, mentor, and through fluid collaborations with other artists making hip-hop and R&B. If you can catch him on his own, or with his band the Othership Connection, you’ll be sent home with a renewed appreciation for the artform, and the fact that you have so many cheap and casual opportunities to see this guy play. (Fri Dec 20, 7 pm, The 1905) JENNI MOORE

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Schaus, Madie, Desire Boat
Do you like your electronic pop with a little bit of a warp in it? That welcome bit of unsteadiness that feels like you’ve got the perfect buzz on? Then, friends, this is the show for you. Headlined by the dreamboat known as Schaus— whose most recent EP Quite Okay marries his slightly processed vocals and watery keyboard melodies with skip-jump rhythms—the show is rounded out by Desire Boat, a mysterious darkwave assault as heard through faulty speakers, and Madie, the former frontperson for Fringe Class, who decamped to LA. They are making their solo Portland debut tonight in advance of their first album. (Fri Dec 20, 8 pm, Turn! Turn! Turn!, $5) ROBERT HAM

Die Geister Beschwören, Young Hunter, Crowey
An offshoot of the freeform musical collective known as Datura Blues, the Arcata, California-based project Die Geister Beschwören has roots in the folk traditions but clearly enjoys ripping those out of the ground and replanting them at will. Led by multi-instrumentalist Oryan Peterson-Jones, the group (whose name translates to “call up the ghosts”) plays music that, at times, feels held together by rough bits of twine and prayer, and elsewhere feels meticulously constructed with an abundance of horns and strings. It’s anyone’s guess which side of the band we’ll get tonight. Either way, it will be a night of psych bliss. (Fri Dec 20, 9 pm, High Water Mark Lounge, $8) ROBERT HAM


SAT DEC 21

Curren$y, Smokey Charles, Smoke DZA
One of the original members of Lil Wayne’s Cash Money Records, New Orleans rapper Curren$y (née Shante Scott Franklin) later signed to Master P’s No Limit as an addition to the 504 Boyz. Having started his own label, Jet Life Recordings, in 2011, the New Orleans rapper has been in control of his own destiny for a minute now. The artist has certainly put out an ungodly amount of content in his decade-long career—dozens of mixtapes before and after his studio debut This Ain’t No Mixtape, plus a handful of EPs, collaborative projects, like 2009 with Wiz Khalifa and a plethora of full-lengths including his 2019 double dip, Hot August Nights and Hot August Nights Forever—giving him lots to choose from for tonight’s show. (Sat Dec 21, 9 pm, Dante’s, $26-86) JENNI MOORE

Ural Thomas’ 80th Birthday Party
You only turn 80 once. That’s why hometown soul legend Ural Thomas is inviting all of Portland to see him into his eighth decade in style. Thomas, who began his career working alongside icons like Otis Redding and Mary Wells, has spent the past seven years churning out sweet, soulful tracks as the front man for Ural Thomas and the Pain. For his birthday party, Thomas will join the Pain for a hip-shakin’ set alongside performances by local hip hop artist Covi. (who also happens to be Thomas’ nephew), R&B crooner Nick Waterhouse, comedian Adam Pasi, and three pillars of Portland’s soul community, Paul Knauls, Sr., and Calvin Walker. (Sat Dec 21, 8 pm, Revolution Hall, $20, all ages) ALEX ZIELINSKI

Dream Wulf, Queen Chief, Fire Nuns
What Portland quartet Dream Wulf understands better than much of the psych-rock rabble is that making spacey, freaked out noise doesn’t amount to much if you don’t have good songs to go with it. On the group’s latest album All Things Unconsidered, they bear that out with tunes that are replete with melody and a foundation of gritty blues that still seek to take you to higher planes of reality. The key ingredient to their magical formula is the work of frontwoman Jessica Bahl, who brings a heavy rock grit to her performances, and guitar tone formed for the rain-soaked concrete of city life in the Northwest, rather than the forested paths that many acts of this kind tend to travel. (Sat Dec 21, 9 pm, Alberta Street Pub, $8) ROBERT HAM


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SUN DEC 22

MAE.SUN
Led by soprano saxophonist/flautist/vocalist Hailey Niswanger, jazzy sextet MAE.SUN creates soulful, swirling musical journeys designed to take you out of this world. While one might be tempted to rubber-stamp the style of this New York-based group as flat-out “jazz,” a deeper listen reveals underlying textures of neo-soul and funk, with dashes of electronica thrown in as well. Their improvisations dip and float through the air as if kept aloft by a strong, gusty wind, but at the same time are meditative and emotionally resonant. Lovers of expert musicianship and jazz fusion won’t want to miss it. (Sun Dec 22, 9 pm, Doug Fir Lounge, $12-15) WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY

BRRR! Winter Solstice Celebration PDX
It’s definitely cold out in these streets, so any outing during the week of Christmakwanzakah had better be worth it. This Winter Solstice Celebration in Kelly’s Olympian’s cozy showroom highlights some of the most promising hip-hop artists in the PNW, with a bill showcasing acts from both Seattle and Portland. Portland-based rapper Bocha and producer Sxlxmxn hold up the middle of the lineup, and the headliner is Seattleite/underground rapper Remember Face, who recently released a mesmerizing video for his single “Moon.” Producer/multi-instrumentalist Samurai Del also makes the trip down from the Emerald City. (Sun Dec 22, 9 pm, Kelly’s Olympian, $12-15) JENNI MOORE

Ezza Rose, Sunbathe, Moon Shy
Apple Music categorizes Ezza Rose’s first album, 2014’s Poolside, as “easy listening.” It’s a little too haunting to be labeled with that epithet, but Poolside does have a sense of delicacy, with Rose’s bold, clear voice contrasting with too-gentle guitar. Things picked up a bit the following year with When the Water’s Hot (“Rock,” declares Apple Music), then picked up even more with No Means No, with the band fully embracing a heavier, denser wash of sound—building a sturdy soundscape that’s strong and inventive on its own, and even more so when buttressed by Rose’s vocals. “We’ve gone electric and kind of veered away from the folky stuff,” Rose told the Mercury in 2018, and the decision to amp things up continues to pay off: While No Means No has some slower tracks (“Baby, Come Down” is this close to a song that’d be played for a slow dance at the prom in the 1950s), the best stuff (“No Means No,” “Hands of Gold”) prioritizes dancing over introspection—or at least acknowledges that the two aren’t always mutually exclusive. (Sun Dec 22, 8 pm, Mississippi Studios, $10-12) ERIK HENRIKSEN

Kingsley
Chicago-born Kingsley recently relocated to Portland, and she brought her sumptuous, soulful music with her. There’s a little bit of everything in Kingsley’s repertoire: sexy R&B on tracks like “Vibe,” defiant pop on “You Didn’t,” and introspective songwriting on “I Am Because I Am,” which is also the title of her 2018 EP—a mission statement, perhaps, or a promise. Kingsley’s performance at Rontoms is part of the venue’s Sunday Sessions series, and that’s fitting, as her music is an ideal soundtrack for long, lazy weekend afternoons. (Sun Dec 22, 8 pm, Rontoms, FREE) BLAIR STENVICK


THURS DEC 26

DâM-FunK, Nosaj Thing, Machinedrum
In case it wasn’t apparent from his moniker, Los Angeles-raised artist Damon “Dâm-Funk” Riddick (pronounced “dame funk”) takes funk very seriously, and can slay a project without having to even open his mouth. Come see him live to support one of the rare modern artists keeping funk alive and innovative, and also catch a performance from Nosaj Thing, (another LA native who’s produced tracks for Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar), and a DJ set from Machinedrum, an electronic producer specializing in glitchy hip-hop and house music. (Thurs Dec 26, 9 pm, Holocene, $25-30) JENNI MOORE


FRI DEC 27

Orquestra Pacifico Tropical, Tribe Mars, Tres Leches, DJ Timothy Bee
Led by drummer Papi Fimbres (Portland’s busiest musician), Orquestra Pacifico Tropical (OPT) includes members of Máscaras, Dreckig, Bitch’n, And And And, Eagle Sun King, Point Juncture WA, Modernstate, Jippedo, and Quiet Countries. Last year the 11-piece band released El Tren to positive reception. Having become famous (at least locally) for their lively performances that get everybody on their feet, OPT is now one of the hottest tickets in town. Also on the bill is soul/hip-hop fusion band Tribe Mars, whose sizeable lineup includes an MC, three vocalists, a drummer, keyboardist, guitarist, bassist, and a saxophonist. The group came into their own with the addition of vocalist Vaughn Kimmons and Andre Burgos on keys, and are now one of the town’s greatest treasures. Their impressive self-titled debut from 2018 plays around at the intersection of psychedelic soul, hip-hop, and jazz. Songs like the subdued “Sun Raisin,” or the funkified “Best Fishes” are just two highlights from the band’s beautifully complex catalog. (Fri Dec 27, 9 pm, Mississippi Studios, $12-15) JENNI MOORE


SUN DEC 29

Dirty Princess, Time Rift, The Sadists
After a local publication compared Portland rockers Dirty Princess to the Sanderson Sisters, I knew it was in my best interest to check them out. They’ve only got a handful of singles out, but some folks may remember their daring and righteous blend of fuzz-and-glam punk from a set at Girl Fest 2019. It’s the right kind of protest music: witchy, feminist, and completely necessary for our current era. (Sun Dec 29, 8 pm, Mississippi Studios, $5, w/Time Rift & the Sadists) (Sun Dec 29, 8 pm, Mississippi Studios, $5) JENNI MOORE


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TUES DEC 31

Dirty Revival, The Quick & Easy Boys
If an intimate-but-lively night of groovy, genre-bending live music is on your mind for NYE 2019, Dirty Revival’s show at Mississippi Studios—opened by psychedelic rock outfit The Quick & Easy Boys—just might be the move. Dirty Revival are a soul/hip-hop fusion band that are revered for their electrifying live performances and the band’s refusal to stick to any one genre. At the helm of the seven-piece is Sarah Clarke, a powerhouse singer with choral roots, who lists Charles Bradley as one of her biggest inspirations. Anyone attending this should be advised to bring your dancin’ shoes. (Tues Dec 31, 9 pm, Mississippi Studios, $25) JENNI MOORE

Of Montreal, Aan
Of Montreal have been out-“of Montreal”ing all of you quirky jerks for years, so listen up. With a catalog that stretches back more than 20 years, and spawned from the sweet, chiming bosom of the Elephant 6 collective, Of Montreal, anchored by songwriter and mystical thesaurus Kevin Barnes, has been shapeshifting for years without missing a beat. He’s mined influences like Sylvia Plath and the psychedelic movement of the ’60s for past records, and with the upcoming 2020 studio release of UR FUN, this seminal band shows no signs of stoppage. Live shows with Barnes dolled up like David Bowie and bacchanalian onstage dance-offs promise to leave you wondering where the hell you are and why the hell you would ever want to leave. In other words, this special New Year’s Eve performance is the perfect way to welcome in a wonderfully weird 2020. (Tues Dec 31, 9 pm, Wonder Ballroom, $25-30) KATHLEEN TARRANT

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