Matt Crowley/The AS Review
It will be a big week for the Underground Coffeehouse: as promised, at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 17, the Underground Coffeehouse Concert Series will host Seattle artist Fences, who will be joined by local favorite Austin Jenckes. Following them two days later will be The Cat From Hue and Anacortes-based rockers The Oregon Donor.
Fences, a.k.a. Christopher Mansfield, came to Seattle via Brockton, Mass. Mansfield recently recorded an LP with Sara Quin of Tegan and Sara fame.
Fences is a classic case of “don’t judge a book by its cover.” One look at Mansfield, who sports multiple tattoos and piercings, and one might assume a completely different style of music than what is actually presented: emotional, soulful rock that can be both hard and soft. In “Sadie,” Mansfield plays the rock card, combining light acoustic and electric picking with brooding lyrics before bursting into a chorus heavy in distortion. But he can be a singer-songwriter as well. “The Same Tattoos,” opens with a light acoustic guitar and piano arrangement before the first verse arrives: “I was born in the same town as you / Hell, I even think we have the same tattoos.”
To be honest, it’d be hard to find a better opener for Fences than Austin Jenckes; he too is a singer-songwriter. The first time I saw him play, at an Underground Coffeehouse open-mic, he sang a perfect cover of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love,” a song that is incredibly difficult to perform if you don’t have one hell of a voice, which, thankfully, Jenckes does. His most recent album, “Coming of Age,” was released last year and has since spawned two West coast tours.
At 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 19, The Cat From Hue and The Oregon Donor will join forces for a show with a distinct Pacific Northwest flavor.
The Cat From Hue, who Underground Coffeehouse Assistant Coordinator Lora Mednick describes as “Puget Sound rock,” has been consistently working the local scene. On Saturday, Feb. 20 they will compete in the annual Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum Sound Off! competition, a Seattle battle of the bands that is currently in its ninth year.
“I really like their sound. It can get poppy [and] folky,” said Mednick.
The Cat From Hue is comprised of Nikko Van Wyck, Wes Williams, Jase Ihler, Matt Olsen and Evan Downey. Like Mednick said, their sound is unique; you can’t quite call it pop, rock or folk. They remind me a bit of Tally Hall at times, in that there is so much going on you can’t quite process everything. But all of the commotion is not meant to confuse. The Cat From Hue does an excellent job of bottling all of their sounds and noises into dense packages of pop, rock, folk, psychedelia or whatever you want to call it.
The Oregon Donor, based out of Anacortes, has been a longtime Northwest mainstay and a favorite in Bellingham: their most recent album, “A Pageant’s End,” picked up a glowing review in What’s Up! Magazine.
“Both [The Cat from Hue and The Oregon Donor] seem to be a fusion of what people are listening to these days,” Mednick said.
The Oregon Donor sounds like a number of different bands; at first, one might pick out similarities to bands such as Minus the Bear or Muse. But as you continue to listen, it becomes clear that there are not many other bands who are able to create the fusion of sounds that The Oregon Donor has in their repertoire. In the same way that The Cat From Hue is seemingly immune to any sort of label, The Oregon Donor doesn’t really have a genre. “Indie” has become so diluted it doesn’t mean anything anymore. “Rock” is somewhat the same way. “Alternative?” Please. The best way to describe The Oregon Donor is to point someone to their MySpace page or hand them a CD, because words aren’t going to do it.
Be sure to check the Underground Coffeehouse page for upcoming shows by going to www.as.wwu.edu and clicking on “Underground Coffeehouse.” As always, the shows are free and open to the public.