The White Buffalo and Israel Nash – Wonder Ballroom, Portland, OR 9/4/15 (SHOW REVIEW/PHOTOS)

On a Friday night in Portland fans were treated to a fine opening set by Israel Nash followed by the Americana rock of White Buffalo. Not very often will you see a house packed in time for the opener, but that’s what happened for Israel Nash and his band, and by the time White Buffalo came on the venue was at sold out capacity.

Israel Nash Gripka hails from Missouri and relocated to a ranch in Dripping Springs, Texas several years ago after a stint in NYC. Nash and his band play an alt-country influenced Southern style rock. The influence of the Texas Hill Country can be heard in the quiet angst of the slide guitar, played by Eric Swanson, and the intense solos of Joey McClellan on guitar. Israel Nash himself has a stage presence that captivates the audience and forces them to hang on every word. His hair and clothes compliment his rock and roll front man persona and his kindness is obvious to anyone who hears him speak. The band played several new songs off their upcoming album, Silver Season, including the single “Stranger.” The new material ventures further down the psychedelic path than Rain Plans, their previous album, paved. The Texas influence might seem esoteric, but rock music has strong roots in the South and no translation is needed to understand the energy of the Texas Hill Country, so close to the Mexican border and just outside weird.

After the opening band the house crammed in front of the stage to see the White Buffalo. The anticipation could be felt in the smiles and shouts of the fans as they weaved their way through the ballroom with drinks in hand. The set saw a band capable of setting themselves apart from genre stereotypes. Yes, they are very alt-country, but they can also play hard hitting rock and roll while showing influences from a wide variety of music. The band is led by Oregon-born Jake Smith, who felt right at home in Portland and was even seen making the rounds on Burnside around closing time. The set saw many hits played to the delight of the fans and a showcase of the band’s ability to play heavy stuff, something you might not expect from listening to the studio material.

The sold out Friday night show at Wonder Ballroom was a fun affair and the quality of music was solid from beginning to end. Jake Smith showed the city some love by playing several encores, one solo and one with the band, and delighted the crowd with the intimacy he showed as well as his strength of performance. Israel Nash obviously loves playing in front of the Portland crowd, mentioning the great time the band had at Pickathon, and revealing a previously unannounced show at the Doug Fir Lounge in December. The city buzzed away into the early hours as concertgoers filled the bars and restaurants while telling tales of the rock and roll they saw on a cool September evening in the great Pacific Northwest.

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