Red Light Rabbit
The Quick & Easy Boys
Per Capita Records
Since the late 60s, when Portland first allowed live music in local clubs, the city has always been fortunate to play host to some of the best “bar bands” to be found in any city, anywhere. There used to be more bar bands in Portland than there are today. The probable cause for that is the advent of the computer generated home recording studio.
Bands used to make a name for themselves by playing their music in the clubs and then, eventually, perhaps, releasing a recording. Presently, a band is just as likely to stake it’s claim on a good recording. Some bands now find their way into the clubs via their recording, totally reversing the whole process.
To be successful in the clubs, it was once necessary for most bands to play an entertaining form of music- more approachable maybe, certainly more lyrically light, though not always entirely vapid. Alcohol played an important role in the process. The debauched revel was once far more popular than it is today.
At present, there are so many more mind-altering agents from which to choose, that one is not solely confined to the big three (alcohol, pot and coke) anymore. The certitude of the experience of the popular drugs of the past, helped to assure a reliable expectation as to how the entertainment might unfold on stage. Things were simple then.
Today’s club bands are no less entertaining, nor are the agents of highdom. But, the public is more discerning than they used to be. Though still vastly popular, and rightly so, getting drunk and possibly laid, does not have the cache that it once held. All things must pass, one would suppose.
Among examples of the finest bar bands to grace Portland stages over the years, to name but a few, were Sleezy Pieces in the ‘70s, along with numerous Blues bands. Good God a’mighty, Portland loves their Blues. Billy Rancher and the Unreal Gods were exciting in the early ‘80s. The funk band Cool’r and the ska-informed Crazy 8s in the mid ‘80s, were popular- along with sloppy funkers Slack in the late ‘80s.
There were the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies and Drunk at Abi’s in the early ‘90s, later Sweaty Nipples and the Dandy Warhols sprung up. But, with the advent of the new millennium, the local club scene began to change- as the national music industry itself was undergoing drastic alterations, the reverberations of which are still to be felt today, never again to return to its former, “glory.” Thankfully.
Still, the bar band abides. One look at the monumental success of Blitzen Trapper gives support to that assertion. Blitzen Trapper embody all the crucial attributes necessary to attain greatness in the clubs.
The first identifying feature of a top-rate bar band is that they are entertaining. It is imperative that the band be fun. Their music must be approachable, friendly- not requiring a great deal of reflection. And they have to be talented. Without talent, a bar band never gets out of the bar.
That being said, it is wonderful news to report that the Quick & Easy Boys are a fucking great bar band. Mixing the sort of rock/funk fusion- which Joe Walsh’s James Gang were purveying in Cleveland in the late ‘60s- with a faint country element and an undercurrent of sweet soul music- the Boys celebrate the glory of the power trio: the compact majesty of over-the-top understatement.
Formed in Eugene in 2005, the Q&EBs eventually made their way North to the big city: um, Portland: to seek their fame and fortune. Snap guitarist Jimmy Russell, is nicely paired with the satisfying bass work of Sean Badders and the sinewy drums of Michael Goetz.
The release of their first CD in 2008, Bad Decisions With Good People, was met with a reasonably warm response among the local constituency; such that the band took off on a US tour to buttress the visibility of the album. More touring is anticipated in support of this new album. One would think that playing in the clubs is what this band was meant to do. The bigger stages? Sure. But in a hot, sweaty bar is where this band would shine.
In the intro, Russell kicks off “ Foster, I…“ with a great guitar tone, similar in texture and context to Jeff Tepper’s intro on Captain Beefheart’s “Ashtray Heart” from his groundbreaking 1980 album Doc at the Radar Station. But from there the Q&EB’s song heads toward a sort of funky rock sound, mixing in a reference to the Knack’s “My Sharona” along the way.
“Take Your Medicine” is straight out of the Funk/Soul/R&B songbook, recalling JJ Jackson’s hit from ‘68, “But It’s Alright.” Slippery rhythm guitar and falsetto vocals, like that on the Ohio Players’ 1975 hit “Love Roller Coaster,” propel the song. Slick.
A touch of swamp seeps through ”Black Panther,” which also seems to resemble the Presidents’ “Dune Buggy,” although I am at a loss to explain how, exactly. It’s just got a similar, loosy-goosy feel, I guess. Drummer Goetz lays down a syncopated beat for “7 Ways,” a song which seems to call upon James Brown’s “Sex Machine” for inspiration (except the Q&EBs’ exhortation is to “Get on down,” as opposed to the Godfathers’ “Get on up”), with more funk than Brown soul.
The title track runs wide open, with Badders providing a rolling bassline foundation for Russell’s high-speed guitar acrobatics. Whereas “Senorita” twists upon the gnarled funk of Russell’s guitar and his staccato vocal delivery. “Sweet Anticipation,” is closer to straight ahead rock, with sort of a Lenny Kravitz attitude. How else to describe?
“Spicy Paella” resembles “Black Panther,” for its chunky Dead-like feel, though, perhaps, even more reminiscent of the Band’s lurching “Cripple Creek,” maybe as if played by an early 70s funk band. Finally, Daggers” is a real change of pace, circling around the blues without ever actually landing, before soaring off in a completely different direction at about the four minute mark. The song affords Russell the opportunity to showcase his virtuosity on guitar. Hot, without being flashy.
In a former era, the Quick & Easy Boys would have made for a great bar band. They are entertaining and a lot of fun. Their music is accessible, but not real deep. And they are quite talented. Especially Jimmy Russell who obviously spent a lot of time listening to his parents’ record collection. Russell can really play the guitar, though by his understated manner, you might not think so at first. Give him and the Boys a listen. They are a first-rate bar band.