Review & Photos | Spanish Gold & Clear Plastic Masks | Portland

Words by: Donovan Farley
Images by: Caitlin Webb

Spanish Gold & Clear Plastic Masks :: 6.30.14 :: Doug Fir :: Portland, OR

Read Donovan's review below Caitlin's gallery!

When you're a music journalist you basically spend your every waking minute listening to music, thinking about music and/or seeing music live. Everyday I get several emails from publicists and managers, everyday I write for hours, every night there is a show to cover, and thanks to the Internet the amount of albums and bands is almost endless. The whole thing can become a bit overwhelming, and honestly at times I become a little jaded with the whole operation. Of course I realize I'm insanely lucky to be doing something I truly love (we writers certainly aren't in it for the money), I think it's just human nature to get a little burned out from time to time.

But every so often there are the shows that make me feel the way I felt the first time I left a concert that truly blew my mind and altered the course of my life, like the way I felt as a teenager at my first big shows when the lights slowly went down and the acid started creeping up my spine as the crowd roared with all the expectations of an audience at a bull fight. The beer tastes perfect, the sound is crisp, every man is your friend, every woman loves you and both dance around you like Dionysus himself is pulling the strings. The lights shine perfectly, your legs could stand for another ten hours and the guitars sound like the angels themselves beckoning you to join them for an orgy in the heavens. I am here to testify to you people that seeing Clear Plastic Masks and Spanish Gold on the last date of their tour at Doug Fir Lounge in Portland was one of those rare occurrences.

Nashville-via-NYC classic rock revivalists Clear Plastic Masks started this ridiculous feast for the senses in note-perfect fashion, instantly taking command of the nearly full room. I use the term "classic rock revivalists" in the best sense; Clear Plastic Masks channel the past in the best way, utilizing all the soul, emotion and hunger of those old bands and songs we all love so much and grew up on. In that and other ways, the band often called to mind for me The Strokes, if The Strokes weren't so utterly of New York City and its rock n' roll history and had a bit of a Southern flavor going on.

Lead singer and guitarist Andrew Katz possesses that rarefied air that all great front men have: he seems as completely relaxed onstage in front of a crowd of madly whirling dervishes as I do making a tuna sandwich (but you know, cooler), and yet exudes a quiet intensity that makes you realize this is a life or death matter for he and his band mates. Clear Plastic Masks sound can vary from gorgeous, Stax-influence soul ("Baby Come On") to wild- ass guitar madness that recalls Van Morrison and Them ("So Real"), and sometimes they pull both off in the same song. Charles Garmendia (drums), Matt Menold (guitars, keys) and Eduardo DuQuesne (bass) make the guitar rave ups sound somehow melodic, and can switch moods on a dime, like on the manically fantastic, piano-driven instrumental "Dos Cobras." I saw the band in March at the Savannah Stopover Festival and was impressed, but this was another level. This tour was huge for the young band and they clearly stepped up to the occasion, keep your eyes and ears on Clear Plastic Masks as I'm quite sure they'll be climbing closer to the top of festival posters in the years to come.

Where to begin with the Spanish Gold set? The threesome of Dante Schwebel (guitar, vox), formerly of Hacienda and currently of City and Colour, Adrian Quesada (guitar), most recently of Brownout and Patrick Hallahan (drums) of some band called My Morning Jacket made everyone in that room remember why we love music. In particular rock and roll music.

The band looked and sounded like a rock band called Spanish Gold is supposed to look and sound: like indie rock bandidos driving through town in a classic car with the top down, blaring classic soul, rock and funk music and fully confident in themselves and the fact that senoritas and tequila were in their near future. They didn't just play in unison, they were a single symbiotic organism that quickly enveloped the entire Doug Fir Lounge during burners like "One Track Mind" and "Out In The Street." I'm pretty sure '70s Stevie Nicks and the Laredo version of Helen Of Troy (Elena De Troya?) were the backup singers, and they too moved with the band and the audience in such a fashion that I found myself wondering who the Aztec equivalent of Dionysus was.

Despite how fantastic all three core members of Spanish Gold's "main" bands are, in the days following the show I found myself absolutely hoping the Spanish Gold project continues and is given time to evolve. The level of ease, skill and joy they exuded throughout the evening are rarely combined so effortlessly, and considering the band was ending their first tour in support of a debut album, one would only expect them to get better.

What's great about this evening is I was not alone in my over-exuberance folks. Beyond the constant dancing during both sets there was clear admiration from Katz towards Schwebel ("He's just the coolest dude ever, we've learned a lot") and vice versa ("We love those boys, great band... and they can almost out drink us") and from both bands towards their highly-receptive audience. As Schwebel put it towards the end of his set, "This has been great, all that dancing? Wow. Thanks for coming out and going so crazy on a Monday night, that's rare on a Monday... well Monday's might not mean shit in Portland, but thanks anyway hahaha!"

Schwebel then invited the audience to stick around after and drink celebratory martinis with the two bands (another rare and cool-as-hell move), because what better way to cap off such a joyously-Dionysian evening than drinks with the bands who just blew your mind for three hours? Few are far between are the rock shows of this level, but these are the kind of vivacious evenings that make us remember why we feel in love with live music in the first place: that rare communal night when the stars align and we participate in an artistic celebration bigger than ourselves as individuals. Cheers.

JamBase | Portlandia
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[Published on: 7/9/14]

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