There are few bands that I will drive to Portland for. It means a full tank of gas, taking at least a day off work, and mooching off my friend and her grandmother, because I’m not about to get a hotel down there. Now, this time it was a little different because I was already planning on going to Portland, but I left a day early so that I could see Ramona Falls at the Doug Fir Lounge. Now you’re probably saying, “Abby why didn’t you just see them when they were in Seattle?” Well – they were playing in Seattle the night I was already going to be in Portland, so I had to adjust my plans. It was a very complicated weekend, to say the least.
Can I tell you how happy I am that I did adjust my plans? I love this band a lot, in a strictly platonic way, but still a lot. Seeing the band with new members and new instruments on stage made it a completely different experience from when I saw them play last year. The songs sounded new, and exciting, and refreshing. I usually get mad when bands switch around members all the time, but for Ramona Falls – it works. Brent Knopf is still the mad scientist behind the songs, and that’s really what matters.
Now I’ll stop gushing and talk about the other bands that played that night. The first band – very aptly named – was called the Ecstatics. Seriously, their name could not have fit better. They looked like a young Weezer, but had the performance style of one of those pop punk bands you used to hear on the radio like 6 years ago, when pop punk was still a thing that mattered. They didn’t sound like that – I need to clarify. The Ecstatics’ sound was reminiscent of Pigeon Detectives, Oxford Collapse, or Bishop Allen. They were certainly fun to photograph – the lead singer made some wicked guitar faces.
The second band up – Social Studies – blew me away. I can’t say that I was happy with the lighting setup, but they sounded fantastic. Think Beach House mixed with School of Seven Bells – and you’ve got Social Studies. They were very now, very hip, and very, very good. I’m pissed at myself for not picking up a copy of their album while in Portland though. Stupid me.
And then came the band I assume we all came to see – at least I came to see them.
Ramona Falls is unique in that when playing on stage, not one person is more prominent than another. The drums, synthesizer, guitar, violin – and Brent’s keyboard – are all on the same plane. No one is in front of one another, so they can all interact when they play, making their performance way more intimate, even in a relatively full Doug Fir. I, for one, love it. It’s easier to get photos of each band member that way.
The show was mesmerizing. The last time I saw them, guitarist Brandon Laws had literally just joined the band, but by now they’ve all been playing together for so long that it felt much more organic and less practiced, if you get what I’m saying. The new drummer had all kinds of awesome energy – especially on one of my favorite tracks, “Brevony.” It felt heavy and intense, just like on the record Prophet, and it was perfect. And on “Spore,” rather than having a bunch of synthetic sounds, the violin added this extra layer that wasn’t even present on the record.
Perhaps my favorite moment, however, was when Brent said, “this next one is a cover.” It wasn’t anything specific, but when Brent started the opening riff of “Wet and Rusting” by his old band Menomena, I could feel a grin reaching across my whole face. It made me so inexplicably happy. Well, the entire show made me inexplicably happy, but that “cover” was the secret ingredient that gave it that certain something.