Downtown Boys – Tickets – Mississippi Studios – Portland, OR – September 21st, 2017

Downtown Boys

Rightly hyped Rhode Island group playing radical, explosive, bilingual punk rock

Downtown Boys

Lithics, Cool Flowers, Little Star

Thu, September 21, 2017

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

$13 ADV / $15 DOS

This event is 21 and over

Mostly Standing / Limited Balcony Seats 

Downtown Boys
Downtown Boys
The United States’ myriad inequalities, hatreds and phobias are painfully evident in 2017, offering proof that the age-old dichotomy of “political bands” versus “apolitical bands” simply doesn’t exist. Either you are comfortable and unfazed by the current reigning power structures, or you choose (or have no choice but) to use your music as a vehicle for the dismantling of oppression and the creation of something better. No matter what your songs are about, you are choosing a side.
The position of Providence, RI’s Downtown Boys has been clear since they started storming through basements and DIY spaces with their radically-minded, indefatigable rock music: they are here to topple the white-cis-het hegemony and draft a new history. In the words of vocalist and lyricist Victoria Ruiz, they are “five unique and individual people who believe in the spectrum of people, experiences and emotions.” On their self-titled 2014 EP on Sister Polygon Records (run by their like-minded friends in Priests), they offered songs like “Slumlord Sal,” which strikes out against abusive landlords. Its accompanying video relays the idea that cops can be literally smacked out of their oppressive mindsets and into an exuberantly queer dance party. This is how Downtown Boys began, combining revolutionary ideals with boundless energy and contagious, inclusive fun, and their resolve has only strengthened as both their sound and audience have grown.
Cost of Living is their third full-length, following a self-released 2012 debut and 2015’s Full Communism on Don Giovanni Records. They recorded it with Guy Picciotto, one of indie-rock’s most mythological figures, in the producer’s chair. (Although best known for his ability to sing while dangling from a basketball hoop, he’s also produced pivotal albums by The Gossip and Blonde Redhead, among others.) “He very much enabled us to believe in what we were doing enough to get the record done, and get it done well,” says Joey La Neve DeFrancesco, Downtown Boys’ guitarist, vocalist and primary songwriter. Picciotto fostered the band’s improvisational urges while also pulling the root of their music to the forefront: unflinching choruses, fearlessly confrontational vocals, and the sense that each song will incite the room into action, sending bodies into motion that were previously thought to have atrophied.
Downtown Boys are keenly aware of the increased visibility and credibility that comes with signing to a corporate-media conglomerate such as Sub Pop. They’re using this platform as a megaphone for their protest music, amplifying and centering Chicana, queer, and Latino voices in the far-too-whitewashed world of rock. Opener “A Wall” rides the feel-good power that drove so many tunes by The Clash and Wire as it calls out the idea that a wall could ever succeed in snuffing the humanity and spirit of those it’s designed to crush. “Promissory Note” is a bold self-introduction to the exclusive clubs that either ignore Downtown Boys’ existence, or possibly worse, feign appreciation: “So what’s the matter, you don’t like what you see? I can’t believe you’re even talking to me!” Ruiz shouts that she won’t light herself on fire to keep you warm, and, like underground rock pioneer Alice Bag’s vitriolic verse, it’s a claim you wouldn’t dare question. “Tonta,” one of the three songs written and sung primarily in Spanish, is an introspective and emotional portrait of anguish, and it calls to mind the mighty scrum of Huasipungo at an ABC No Rio matinee.
Compared to previous efforts, Downtown Boys have shifted from a once-meaty brass section to the subtler melodic accompaniment of keyboards and a saxophone, coloring their anthems with warm, bright tones while Ruiz spits out her frustrations, passions, and intents. Some might say it shows a sense of maturity, as Downtown Boys have undoubtedly smoothed down some of their earlier edges, but there is no compromise to their righteous assault and captivating presence. Like the socially conscious groups of years past, from Public Enemy to Rage Against the Machine, Downtown Boys harness powerful sloganeering, repetitive grooves, and earworm hooks to create one of the most necessary musical statements of the day. We should all do well to take notice!
Lithics
Lithics is a four person band from Portland, Oregon that makes minimal punk music informed by The Fall, Pylon, Captain Beefheart and Devo, as some main influences. The sound focuses on interlocked bass and drum rhythms paired with shrill guitar counterpoint and female vocals.
Cool Flowers
Little Star
Little Star
Like it or not, the Little Star story is a classic rock one. Born out of a dissolving relationship, baptized in manic bedroom recording sessions, and confirmed under the winking lights of Portland basement venues, Little Star embodies the rock dream of transfiguring sadness into pop gold.

We first heard of Little Star through the Romantic World of Little Star cassette self-release, a map for Daniel Byers’ inner tumult disguised as scrappy dreampop. Big Star’s exuberant melancholy, the Kinks’ crackerjack guitar work and the Cure’s winking macabre all lit the path through Daniel Byers’ little world. Now we have Being Close, an album that finds Byers enlisting the help of bassist, singer and songwriter Julian Morris and drummer John Value, transposing the coy synthesized instrumentation of Romantic World into a true power trio. “It has very aggressive moments, and it has more tender and sweet moments,” than the debut cassette, proclaims Morris. Byers takes care to note the influence of friends and fellow Portlanders Sioux Falls on the album’s brash sound.

Being Close is the sound Little Star “bringing the [Romantic World] out of the bedroom and into the live space,” says Value. The ten-song collection finds Byers and Morris, penning songs about transformation and transcendence—Dan’s songs about processing his breakup, Julian’s songs about his process of gender transition. The album might be about dissolution and finding oneself anew, but Byers carefully notes that the songs are really about “moving apart from people.” Is it a breakup album? “Well maybe it is, on accident.”

Songs like “Cheeseman” and “For Goth Easter” demonstrate the emotional breadth of Little Star. All of the songs are “about moving apart from people,” Byers explains. The rollicking “Cheeseman” details the painful drift between two friends, set over Bolan-esque chugging guitar chords. An honest-to-god guitar solo caps off the song, showcasing Byers’ sage-like (and Sage-like) fret heroics. And then there’s “For Goth Easter.” The Morris-Value-Byers trio have turned Romantic World’s emotional centerpiece into a Being Close’s first act showstopper, a breathless three-minute meditation on the power of rock music. Portland Mercury contributor Cameron Crowell has described seeing entire basements teary-eyed, singing along to every word of the song, and I’ve seen it happen, too, I swear to god.

Little Star recorded the bulk of Being Close live in a single eighteen-hour session at Portland’s Type Foundry Studios and mixed the rest of the album in the same house used to make Romantic World. Portland label Good Cheer Records is proud to release the album on TK FORMATS, available online and in stores on January 8.