Scott Pemberton: Doug Fir Lounge, Portland, OR 3/16/12

You don’t often see or hear rock and roll front men singing joyfully about their lovely wife and happy life while sitting on the floor, detonating titanic guitar solos. Maybe that is the result of a near death experience. Two years ago, Oregon native Scott Pemberton was hit by a car while riding his bike and given little chance to live.  A long standing member of the Portland music scene, Scott made a miraculous recovery and committed himself to starting a “solo” career after years of session playing and various bands. This past Friday night at the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, Scott and an expanded band celebrated the release of his debut album, Sugar Mama, with a downright raucous celebration of life, love, and guitar pyrotechnics. 

Shamelessly showcasing his authentic guitar hero skills while seamlessly blending the influences of surf and psychedelic rock, deep funk and a dash of reggae, Pemberton was anchored in his quest for Doug Fir domination by bass, drums, percussion Portland’s do-everything keyboardist Asher Fulero. Local quirky folk duo, The Shook Twins, sang angelic backing vocals and radiated even more joy into the room, making them a perfect pairing for Pemberton in their cheerful and real approach to music. The room was filled with community, joy and fire.

Songs like “Lets Play House” and “Sugar Mama” played as authentic love letters to his wife, children, and the blessings of a cherished life. This sense of gratitude pulsed into the crowd, a sea of writhing bodies. Song arrangements dipped and dove through quirky stop/start changes as Pemberton, somehow, played his guitar without a strap to hold it on his back. Alternating being pressing the axe against his body or standing it on a stool, taking angular, wizard-like swipes, he was able to summon the wicked and the weird. This deft shape shifting of musical styles and six-string creativity formed a bubbling cauldron of Friday night fire. A cover of The Beatles “Dear Prudence” ended the night by highlighting The Shook Twins on lead vocals. The shimmering and slow tempo expanded the band’s dynamic palette and from this laidback place Pemberton unleashed his most ferocious guitar attack of the night. While making music from a tortured place is often given the most “authenticity”, Friday night was a showcase of rock music from a place of contentment. What a novel idea.

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