On Thursday, June 8th Portland’s Mississippi Studios played host to a local-centric bill from some of this city’s finest acts. The occasion for such a gathering was the release of a new album, Blurred Harmony, from The Parson Redheads. Joining the venerable folk rockers were The Reverberations and The Minus 5.
Following an impressive opening set by local psych rockers The Reverberations – complete with vintage Rickenbackers and plenty of pop-laden rock that sounded straight out of the 60s – The Minus 5 took the stage. Wearing his trademark ball cap and raising a shot of tequila, Scott McCaughey cheerfully lead the band through one song after another while joking about how many in a row they could play and be able to nail a “tight ending”. Minus 5 member and sometime Portland resident Peter Buck did not make an appearance, but the audience hardly noticed as they bobbed their heads along to the band’s playful garage rock. Much of the set focused on songs from the most recent release, Of Monkees and Men, a loving tribute to the Monkees where each song is about a member. McCaughey and co. delivered a set that was fun and rambunctious, offering up a jolly mood before the seriousness and focus of The Parson Red Heads.
This being an album release show, it was only natural that the band would want to show off their new material. That is exactly what they did, playing all of “Side A”, breaking with a few older tunes, and then playing all of “Side B”. Nobody in the audience seemed to have an issue with this as the album may be their strongest to date. The set kicked off with the soothing bass line of “Come Save Me”, a twangy power pop number that establishes the mostly mellow mood of the rest of the album. “Coming Down” – a faster Paisley Pop tune reminiscent of The Creation – came next and was quickly followed by the groovy infectiously harmonized “Time After Time”. Other highlights of the night included the cosmically twangified and Pink Floyd-esque “Sunday Song”, the soaring and catchy “Time Is A Wheel”, the riff-driven euphoria of “Waiting For The Call”, and the punchy upbeat rocker “Out of Range”.
As a whole, Blurred Harmony is one of the finest efforts yet from The Parson Red Heads. It’s also a reminder that – though they have a small following beyond Portland – this band remains a hidden gem. Though the group is anchored by the soft-spoken vocals of front man Evan Way and his dynamic with wife and drummer Brette Marie Way, there is a communal spirit to the way this band sounds. At Mississippi Studios, this spirit was on full display as each band member seemed to be perfectly tuned in, focused not on standing out but rather playing an equal role in building the textural folk sounds within each song. The band seemed a bit nervous to be sharing the new album in front of an audience for the first time, yet their performance was flawless, as if they had been playing these songs for years.
All photos by Chad Lanning.