ALO, on their way from their California home to Washington’s Summer Meltdown festival, stopped by Portland, Oregon’s Wonder Ballroom for a little Friday night dance party.
Polecat, a five-piece band from Bellingham, was on hand to get the crowd properly warmed up. With drums, stand-up bass, electric guitar, fiddle, and one musician switching between 12-string acoustic guitar and keyboards, they have a full sound and blend genres from bluegrass to Celtic to rock to reggae. Their wide-ranging styles and high-energy live performances have garnered them quite a bit of attention recently throughout the Northwest. They invited Kat Fountain for a song during their set to play harmonica.
ALO entered the room wearing the signature smiles that always seem to accompany them to the stage. The room wasn’t entirely full, but those that were there seemed to know exactly what they were getting into, anticipating the feel-good jams and solid musicianship the band is known for, and taking advantage of the ample dance space.
ALO got into some of their popular compositions right off the bat, with an early “Walls of Jericho” from 2004 release Fly Between Falls and then new dance groove “The Ticket” from 2015’s Tangle Of Time. ALO’s style might best be summed up with a song like “Barbeque.” Backed by a solid, danceable groove, lyrics such as “The road is long and windy, full of twists and turns, but before you can rise from the ashes, you’ve got to burn, baby, burn” offer an uplifting message without any pretense. Their songs are mostly upbeat and positive while remaining playful. They leave plenty of room for improvisation, and on Friday even treated fans to a “1999” Prince jam.
Midway through their set, ALO invited Portland rock ‘n roll linchpin Lewi Longmire out to lead the band through a rollicking version of Tom Wait’s “Jesus Gonna Be Here.” Longmire is a Portland music stalwart who’s involved in performing with and promoting any number of Portland bands when he’s not playing high-energy rock shows with his own band, The Left Coast Roasters. Local fans are always happy to see him grace the stage with touring acts.
More popular ALO songs followed, including “Plastic Bubble,” and the band also treated us to new song “Summer Dream (We Got The Time)” that they wrote for an Amazon Music summer song playlist. ALO closed the set with “Maria” from 2007 album Roses And Clover. The extended encore saw the band deviate from the stage setlist and offer up “Hot Tub” to the delight of the crowd.
ALO is another band touring today that has stood the test of time, in this case more than two decades. Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz (guitar/vocals), Zach Gill (keys/vocals), Steve Adams (bass/vocals) and Dave Brogan (drums/vocals) have all put in time with other bands and projects that have only made them, individually and collectively, stronger musicians and entertainers.