Sun Tiki is my local. It’s close by, within walking distance, which is kind of important when the temperature drops. More importantly, thought, Sun Tiki Studios has emerged as a venue that consistently presents adventurous bills featuring some of the greater Portland area’s best local bands, in intriguing combinations.
So I go to a lot of shows there. This weekend past, I was there both Friday and Saturday nights for two shows that offered a jaw-dropping cross section of the talented musicians that routinely appear in the Portland clubs on any given weekend.
Friday night, four of Portland’s finest bandleaders — Brooke Binion (theWorst), Maximus Hensen (Mouth Washington), Reesa Wood (Cadaverette, Draudiga) and Harry James (FonFon Ru) — took to the stage, playing stripped-down versions of tunes that usually get the full band treatment from each outfit.
The four took turns at the mic, playing four or five tunes each, with each artist doing two sets each.
Wood started things off, delivering material that drew on her Draudiga catalog. She’s a captivating performer, and her low-key stage presence belies a musical ferocity that she seemingly summons at will.
She’s got an amazing voice, with a great range, that was by turns powerful in the lower registers and soaring in the upper.
Of the four, Wood, who accompanied herself on electric guitar, seemed the most comfortable in the solo setting, switching between clean and dirty guitar sounds with precision and using a loop pedal to layer sounds on a couple of tunes.
FonFon Ru’s Harry James followed. I’ve not seen FonFon Ru in full yet, but I’ve listened to their stuff on their Repeating Cloud Records page, and their rep as a hard-rocking outfit is well deserved. James’s solo set re-imagined some of the band’s catalog, as he deftly picked out guitar lines that wound in and around his vocals.
All too soon, he was done, giving way to his Repeating Cloud labelmate, Maximus Henson, who fronts Mouth Washington. Henson, accompanied by a melodica and lead guitar, played a six-string acoustic. Absent the sonic roar that defines his band’s sound, Henson’s set put his vocals right up front, where the vulnerability and anger that fuel his lyrics could not be ignored.
Brooke Binion, who fronts theWorst, took the stage last, playing an acoustic guitar and paired with David Yearwood on stand-up bass for her first set. They were joined later by her bandmate, Will Bradford, who also plays with SeepeopleS and contributed some tasty lead guitar work in her second set.
Binion’s a charismatic performer, with a raw, powerful voice and a commanding stage presence, and on Friday night, while it was clear that she was pretty far out of her comfort zone, she more than rose to the occasion. Her stripped-down version of Jim’s Song worked particularly well — even more so, given that the song itself is all about finding a place to hide for a while, because there was certainly no place to hide on stage that night.
I’m glad I was there to hear it.