Back in August, Glorietta took Portland’s esteemed Pickathon Festival by storm with not one but two triumphant sets. Though most people haven’t heard of them and probably snoozed on their incredible debut album that came out in August, Glorietta is as close as you can get to a supergroup, sort of the Austin equivalent of the Traveling Wilburys. The band features a cast of Austin heavy-hitters including Delta Spirit’s Matthew Logan Vasquez, David Ramirez, Wild Child’s Kelsey Wilson, Noah Gundersen, Adrian Quesada and Jason Robert Blum. Together they make their own style of loose and rowdy Texas music that rocks but also showcases the Americana credentials of the songwriters in the group. On a balmy autumn night on October 8, the band returned to the Rose City to reclaim the rock and roll glory and show this town that you can still throw down on a Monday night.
With Randy Newman’s feel-good classic “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” playing over the sound system, the band made their whole philosophy loud and clear. Friendship is a thing that has become less real in the social media age and sometimes we are lucky enough to experience real human interactions, which is at the core of Glorietta. These friends were in fine spirits as they took the stage at Mississippi Studios, instruments and cocktails in hand. Jason Robert Blum – a criminally underrated songwriter in the Austin scene – jumped right into things with the slacker anthem “Loser’s Lament” that saw the band members harmonizing as one unit.
From that point on the good times rolled as they played the bulk of their album. There were tender moments that showcased the songwriting side of the members, like Noah Gundersen’s twangy, Ryan Adams-esque “Golden Lonesome” with extra emotion added courtesy of Kelsey Wilson’s fiddle, or the airy “Sinking Ship” that saw Wilson in the spotlight with her hushed and dreamy vocals. Blum would charm with his laid back acoustic groover “Easy Come Easy Go” that sounded like kicking back on a porch in Texas with a Mexican Martini. Showing that the chemistry of friends is vital, band members shined on duets, as with David Ramirez and Gundersen harmonizing on the simple and moody Americana tune “Someday”. Chills were felt when Ramirez joined Wilson to sing a downright sexy and sultry duet with “Strangers” that exploded into a huge full band jam awash in reverb and fiddle.
Though the band was noticeably missing ax master Adrian Quesada, there was no shortage of guitars onstage. Ramirez sang the catchy country rocker “Hard Way” and the band unleashed an assault of guitars and harmonies to back him up, while they cranked up 70s style rock with songs like the loose and jammy hoot “Heatstroke”. Matthew Logan Vasquez morphed the band into a trio with the ZZ Top-dedicated solo tune “Same” that felt like the bearded Texans could have written it themselves and unleashed a ripping guitar solo. He would show his teeth literally by playing the guitar with them during the psych tune “Mindy”, one of the heaviest rockers in Glorietta’s repertoire.
Of course, this being a gang of friends, the performance was mostly about throwing a good time party. While passing a tray of tequila shots, the band laid into their own Tex Mex take on Harry Nilsson’s “Coconut”, and later they would cheerfully lock arms for a partially a capella take on their heartfelt folk tune “Friends” before upping the friend ante with a jubilant rendition of Garth Brooks’ country anthem “Friends In Low Places”. Your true friends are with you in the high and the low moments, which are often fleeting just like the pure joy of a rock and roll song. In other words, these are the types of collaborations that don’t happen often (and maybe never again, as the band members joked onstage) so the moments are meant to be savored, which is exactly what Glorietta did in Portland.
All photos by Greg Homolka.