The Donkeys – Tickets – Mississippi Studios – Portland, OR – January 19th, 2017

The Donkeys

Breezy psychedelic guitar-pop from San Diego on the Easy Sound label

The Donkeys

Dollie Barnes, The Fourth Wall

Thu, January 19, 2017

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

$12 ADV / $14 DOS

This event is 21 and over

Mostly Standing / Limited Balcony Seats 

The Donkeys
The Donkeys
As we watched the Donkeys perform one of the first of their nearly 150 shows in support of 2014’s Ride The Black Wave, on the clattery rooftop stage of the aptly named SXSW venue Cheers Shot Bar, Craig Finn (he of literate-rock luminaries The Hold Steady) turned to me and said something on the order of “you can just feel that they’ve played with each other since high school…they’ve got that thing, and you just can’t get it otherwise.” That thing, an elusive, intuitive musical hive-mindedness informs every note the acclaimed San Diego quartet ever play, live or on record, but is especially present on Midnight Palms, the mini-album due for release February 12th on Easy Sound.

Tracked largely live-in-the-studio with veteran producer, longtime friend, and fellow traveler Thom Monahan (Vetiver, Fruit Bats, Devendra Banhart), Midnight Palms oozes with the sticky, syrupy energy of a band fresh off the road and “in rare form,” as the expression goes. Recorded as it was at the end of one of the bands blitzkrieg road runs (which might see the band playing as many as 28 shows in 29 days), the collection’s lived-in live feel should surprise few.

The core founding trio of Tim Denardo, Anthony Lukens, and Sam Sprague drive the proceedings. Drummer Sprague alternately (and effortlessly) sets a lock-step driving pace, as on album opener “Hurt Somebody,” a bouncy girl-group groove (“Day by Day”), or a lazy gallop, as on the languid “Star Bird,” which the drummer also sings. Meanwhile, bassist Denardo falls easily into any of those pockets, and takes his own lead vocal turn on “Down the Line,” a dusty roots-pop tune as laid back as the men playing it. Lukens, of course, provides the by-turns warm, slippery, punchy and liquid keyboard lines that are the album’s bedrock, while lending his direct, earnest vocals to three of the album’s five tunes.

The fourth Donkey on Midnight Palms is The Hold Steady’s Steve Selvidge, stepping in after the (amiable) departure of long-time guitarist Jesse Gulati. Selvidge hopped on stage with the Donkeys that night at Cheers Shot Bar and would end up joining the band for a fair number of those 150 RTBW shows. His pointed, tasteful leads are peppered throughout Midnight Palms, most notably on the searing “Hold On To You.”

In all, the Donkeys have crafted in the Midnight Palms mini-album a fine, half-sized document of their singular sound. At once accessible, adventurous, nostalgic, and progressive, it can only be the Donkeys.

- Stephen Brower, Easy Sound Recording Co.
Dollie Barnes
Dollie Barnes
Dollie Barnes, hailing from Houston, mixes pop sensibilities with dream like vocals into a pot of 60’s and 70’s inspired writing while still maintaining a sound that is all it’s own, grabbing hold of the listener from the first note. Their debut album, "Caught in a Phase" is set to be released SPRING 2017 - In the meantime, catch their first single "Taking All Day" on Bandcamp, iTunes and Spotify!

Members include: Dollie Barnes, Tom Lynch, Austin Sepulvado, Jason Willis, Marshall Graves and Tank Lisenbe
The Fourth Wall
The Fourth Wall
The Fourth Wall is loud. Frontman Stephen Agustin is, by contrast, reserved and soft spoken in person. He recently finished a degree in Philosophy. He smiles a lot when he’s nervous. He takes writing music incredibly seriously, but he can be hesitant to get into the weeds of talking about his band’s intricate, generous songs. “It’s hard to be articulate about that sort of thing,” he says.
Agustin first started writing music as a teenager in Hawaii, while he was trying to square his newfound love of philosophy with his Christian upbringing. His songs helped him work through the confusion. In 2006, Agustin started a band called Our Distance, which would catch breaks opening for The Kooks and Of Montreal. But Agustin had other ambitions. “I wanted to try and make a record on my own,” he remembers, “Just to see what would come of it.” He spent eighteen months writing and teaching himself to record music, and—encouraged by friends’ responses—formed a new live band for the project he’d dubbed The Fourth Wall. Their first album, Motion and Rest—an intense and searching effort with crisp production and hooks for days—was well-received in the band’s native Hawaii and helped them land opening spots with The Shins, Menomena and Andrew Bird.

In 2012 the band relocated to Portland, Oregon (“an easygoing city; not too crazy or frenetic”), making fast friends with bands like Typhoon and 1939 Ensemble. The band would spend the next three years writing and self-recording their sophomore LP, Lovely Violence, which they released in 2015 on Portland’s Bug Hunt records. The Portland Mercury called the album “something of a wonder: an engrossing, fully realized and vitalized record with no easy musical touchstone.”
New LP Infinite Other is something of a wonder—from the dire, almost Queen-like riffage of “Afterimage” to the soaring and vertigo-inducing structures of “I Saw My Longing” (which recalls irreplicable recordings like The Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream and Sunny Day Real Estate’s How It Feels To Be Something On), the record harbors deep sonic rewards. Drummer Andrew White’s rhythms are instinctual and huge. Bassist Chris Lau is soulful and calm even in the record’s most explosive moments. Agustin and Kasey Shun complement each others chaos with order.

And then the lyrics start to surface. On one level it’s a personal record, the product of Agustin’s breakup with a long-term partner and all the self-questioning that comes along with separation. “It’s an album about otherness,” he says. “I was reading a lot of Foucault and Hegel in school, and thinking about how much of my identity was this reflection of myself through another person.” As he sings about the otherness he experiences in his life—through a breakup, a move from a diverse place to the whitest city in America, a conflicted relationship with technology and social media—there’s a strange synchronicity afoot with the reckonings and the breakdowns happening in the larger society. This record feels like a document of a chaotic and soul-searching time in human history.

The Fourth Wall is loud. But, their explosiveness is just another tool of discovery—it’s a sonic translation of the urgency in Agustin’s writing. This is a brilliant record of ambitious songs from an honest band that is circling ever closer to its own esoteric truth. That, in the era of omnipresent pop royalty, is something of a revelation.