Sunday evening at IE. Sunday shows are always interesting. Half of the crowd is hungover, the other half is busy thinking about what they have to do in the next week. To maintain a Sunday crowd’s focus requires a relaxed environment and attention-holding bands. Luckily, Portland’s Honey Bucket and Woolen Men (plus local babes, Tanning Bats), could deliver this delicate balance to the crowd.

The management and organisation over at IE did not have any haste in getting the bands on stage, which kept the mood relaxed and informal. The public slowly wandered in, chit-chatted and generally shot the shit. I saw a number of hugs and smiles throughout the crowd. A few loners stuck to the corners either nursing a hangover or occupying themselves with what they had to do next week. A well-studied ears would notice that the music emitted from the speakers in this time was Portlandian in origin. My ear was not as well-versed, but the Portlandian artists were touched by the effort of the DJ and seemed proud of the music of their city.

The opening band was Tanning Bats, (formerly known, quite humorously, as Ringo Starwars). I can always count on Tanning Bats to slap me awake, something thoroughly needed after a long week of work. Their opening track was new to the public realm, but I’m confident their fans felt right at home. On the drums, Thommy set the tempo with a quick rat-tat-tat-ta on the rims of his snare drums. He’s alert, sharp, and focussed. Assaf does some quirky stuff on the guitar with the assistance some of his homemade pedals to set the mood. Once the tension gets too high, Rob’s funky bass line hits and we’re off. While the band has confided in me prior to the show that they’ve only played this song in full three times before this show, the crowd doesn’t notice at all. The new track comes out surfy, funky, loud and with much gusto. Most of the tracks in the set are familiar, and if you’ve seen the band or bought their limited edition tape (https://tanningbats.bandcamp.com/releases), you’ll notice no dramatic changes to the compositions themselves, but you might have noticed a newfound urgency. Tanning Bats are thirsty and eager to get their music out there. I quite like bands with fires under their asses. If you’re not familiar with them, the last track of their set, Sheva Leilot, is quite indicative of their sound and showcases the talents of each of the musicians well. Keep it up boys.

Honey Bucket (who either stole their name from The Melvin’s song or from the portable toilet company) was the meat to Sunday’s band sandwich. The compositions were, in the best way, spastic and bouncy and somehow rooted in an American post-punk sound, but punchier. There was an occasional peppering of something folky or, dare I say, country-ish, which kept the listener on their toes. The compositions specifically drew me in. They would start with one snappy drumline or twangy guitar riff. This interesting line or melody would be repeated again and again and again, creating a certain sort of expectation that the whole song would continue in in this way. Then, quite suddenly, a rapid interruption to the repetition would break the cycle. Sometimes the drummer would play the drumline in reverse. Sometimes you’d get a new guitar riff. Then the band returns to the originally repeated theme, but often with a twist. With the interruption fresh in your head, your ears would be primed and attentive for the next interruption. I consider this cycle of repetition – expectation – interruption essential to Honey Bucket’s sound. Their songs are quite intelligent and calculated in the musical sense. The drummer was tight as hell. Pay attention to the dynamics when you check out their new album, Furniture Days.

Lastly, Woolen Men took the stage. While our two guests from Portland this evening were playing music which came from different musical backgrounds, the vibe or aura of both bands were quite similar, leading me to believe that the folks or musicians in Portland are pretty cool. Both bands were inviting, warm to the audience, humble, and ever-so-slightly insecure or timid, like they were adolescent teenagers who had woken up this morning to find themselves wearing an adult’s body.  Woolen Men was, in this way, quite nostalgic for me.

The music took the audience to a sunny place where many felt comfortable in the first tracks to smile and dance and let themselves go. The song that demonstrated this most clearly for me was Alien City. This is a very short, catchy song which immediately felt like a classic. My mind’s eye saw skaters doing kick-flips in oversized Vans on a boardwalk near a beach. Each member of this three-piece can sing and the vocal harmonies were well-rehearsed. The bass lines were uplifting. My highlight of the show was when the singer/guitarist from Honey Bucket unassumingly stepped on stage to lift up a solo. The catchy, familiar sound immediately disappeared and was replaced by a controlled, noisy chaos which reminded me of Velvet Underground’s European Son. This band is a lot of fun. Check out their new album here.

If you’re somewhere other than Berlin, the good news is that you still have plenty of time to catch Honey Bucket and Woolen Men on tour. If you’re too lazy to check out the tour booked by Hell Yeah !, here are the dates and locations:

14/09 Nuremberg, DE @ Zwinger Bar w/ SuperPowers

15/09 Ljubljana, SI @ Klub Gromka, AKC Metelkova mesto

19/09 Würzburg, DE CAIRO, Jugendkulturhaus Würzburg w/ Lithics

20/09 Luxembourg, LU @ De Gudde Wëllen

21/09 Antwerp, BE @ Het Bos w/ Ian F Svenonius

22/09 Groningen, NL @ Vera Groningen downstage