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Radiation City – Tickets – Revolution Hall – Portland, OR – November 25th, 2016

Radiation City

Revolution Hall Presents

Radiation City

Pure Bathing Culture, Sama Dams

Fri, November 25, 2016

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

$15.50 ADV / $18 DOS

This event is all ages

General Admission / 21+ Floor / All Ages Balcony 

Radiation City
Radiation City
In late 2013, with two well-received full-lengths and an EP under its belt, Radiation City got the itch. The band had built a strong following in its native Portland and connected with fans around the world, and from the outside, the path seemed clear enough: find a great producer to work with and further develop the smooth, space-age doo-wop sound that had put them on the map in the first place.

But on the inside, things weren't so simple. Cameron Spies and Lizzy Ellison, Radiation City's founding couple, were falling apart. Rad City, a tight-as-family band that always seemed to work so effortlessly off- and onstage, was on the verge of calling it quits.

Then a funny thing happened: Spies and Ellison got together to record some new, urgent and semi-spontaneous songs and rediscovered that old magic. "None of it felt rushed, or belabored," Spies says. "It was honest and unafraid."

Of course, it was also the product of just 40 percent of the group. So, in the face of ambivalence and the band's impending implosion, Ellison and Spies decided to do something they'd never done before—they transformed Radiation City from a democracy into a monarchy. They curated a new tracklist for the third full-length (half new songs and half old ones), enlisted Unknown Mortal Orchestra's Riley Geare to be their studio drummer, and found their great producer in John Vanderslice (Spoon, Death Cab For Cutie) of Tiny Telephone Studios.

The band's issues didn't end with these revelations—Spies and Ellison broke up temporarily and called off their wedding, one band member was let go, and only half of the group went to San Francisco to record the tracks for the new album—but the die was cast.

Radiation City was not going to polish up its old style for Synesthetica; it was going to completely overhaul both its process and its sound. After recording with Vanderslice, the band took its new directive back to Portland and turned to Jeremy Sherrer (Modest Mouse, Gossip) at Ice Cream Party to flesh out its studio sessions.

In contrast—or, perhaps, in response—to all the human drama involved in creating Synesthetica, the album itself turned into something otherworldly. "We were trying to get to a place where cultural constructs didn't mean anything," Spies says. "We wanted to destroy the barriers between all the things we keep separate in our daily lives."

Based on the condition known as synesthesia, whereby a person links one sensual experience with another (for Ellison, who experiences it, that means seeing specific colors when she hears different musical sounds), Synesthetica is a place where multi-sensory experience is commonplace; where feelings and definitions blend and melt, and surreality becomes reality.

Synesthetica means a lot of other things for Radiation City, too. The band is sensual and synthetic in equal turns—just check out the Bond-worthy "Butter" or the explosive "Milky White" for proof. Synthesizers comprise a major piece of the band's musical puzzle, especially on the trippy "Juicy" and the minimal "Sugar Broom," which nods toward Portland legends (and Rad City homies), STRFKR. And an interest in retro-futurism, which the title subtly implies, has been a hallmark of its sound and visual aesthetic from the get-go (as the sweeping space-tango, "Futures," reminds us).

The word synesthetica is the summation of a pivotal third album that, from the outside, probably seems as effortless as every other Radiation City release. Synesthetica almost killed this band, but instead, it serves as the opening salvo of a monumental second act, and Radiation City is invincible.
Pure Bathing Culture
Pure Bathing Culture
To hear Sarah Versprille and Daniel Hindman tell it, their Portland, OR-based band Pure Bathing Culture has always evolved naturally and at a steady pace. "That's really the path we've been on as a band, always putting one foot in front of the other as opportunities presented themselves," Versprille said. "The music just revealed itself to us as we kept going."
But for Pure Bathing Culture's second album, Pray for Rain, the band has taken a big leap forward. You can hear it from the opening notes of their anthemic title track: in Hindman's clean yet serpentine guitar lines interacting with the live rhythm section and Versprille's lucid vocals cutting through it all as she asks: "Is it pleasure? Is it pain? Did you pray for rain?" Pray for Rain is the sound of the group confidently taking a step up to the next level and finding their footing as a true band.
"We needed to make a big step and our version of that was to cut the cord from our previous albums," Hindman said of the process, then confesses: "I was nervous all the way through. It was nerve-wracking and almost antagonizing at times."
The roots of Pure Bathing Culture stretch back to 1999, when Versprille and Hindman befriended one another on the first day of freshman orientation at William Patterson University in Wayne, New Jersey. A decade later, they became bandmates when they both joined Vetiver for their Sub-Pop albums Tight Knit and The Errant Charm. It was while playing in Vetiver that Pure Bathing Culture emerged as its own entity.
"Dan was working on some instrumentals that he would make on a looping pedal," Sarah said. "One night he was out and I just listened to this loop and wrote some lyrics to it. He came home and I showed it to him. We laughed at first, as we didn't have some grand plan to start a band. It just happened naturally." That song "Lucky One," wound up in the hands of Richard Swift, who encouraged the duo to keep writing. "Richard pushed us along and became an inspiration," Dan said. Swift wound up producing the band's first EP and dreamy full-length, 2013's Moon Tides at his National Freedom studio.
From there, PBC evolved from simply being the product of Versprille and Hindman writing songs in their own home to hitting the road as a full touring band. "Sarah and I conceptualize music and then write so it's a pretty fragile state," Hindman said. "Playing live was a huge change for us."
When it came time to write and record their follow-up to Moon Tides, the duo knew what they didn't want. "We didn't gravitate towards someone making indie dream-pop records," Dan said. That was when producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, Swans, Angel Olsen, The Walkmen) reached out to the band and invited them to come record with him in his Dallas, TX studio.

"John pushed us to not make clichés, to not play into the style of other bands," Dan said. The challenges came right away as Congleton pressed the group into unfamiliar and at times uncomfortable territory in the studio. "He tricked me with the guitars on the album," Dan said. "We got the basic tracks down and he asked me to do scratch guitar and then John wouldn't let me go back and do the guitars again. He refused to do any layering."
As a result, everything on Pray for Rain is pretty much as Pure Bathing Culture actually sounds, all analog gear, with virtually no plug-ins or effects added afterwards, no hiding behind multiple layers. "There aren't a lot of tricks; What you hear is naturally what's there," Dan said.
It was a taxing yet ultimately rewarding experience when the album was completed. "It was shocking to hear what the finished product was," Sarah said. "It was like being in a vortex and then we came out with this record." She adds with a laugh something John Congleton told her when all was said and done: "You were very brave."
Sarah summarizes the Pray for Rain experience as one of "stepping into the realm of discovering who we are as a band and as songwriters," echoing a theme of the album itself, the process of change and transition. "You can find the best version of yourself in those hardest moments," she said. To which Dan adds: "You have to be backed up against the wall in order to really feel those feelings and respond to them." Pray for Rain is the sound of Pure Bathing Culture transforming from who they were to who they will be, of finding their way, ready to take steps both small and momentous on their musical path.
Sama Dams
Comfort in Doubt, the second full-length from Portland avant-garde three-piece Sama Dams, sings with the keen cry of innocence lost. With the first track "My Ears Are Ringing," an impossibly catchy and sparse masterpiece of glitch R&B, the listener embarks on a journey through darkness akin to the trip audiences took with Radiohead's OK, Computer. Striking the fine balance between edgy experimentation and caramel sweet pop, this uncompromising trio drives into the desert with only an unerring musical compass to guide them.

The band is straightforward about the challenges surrounding their sophomore effort. "We were very busy between constant touring schedules and juggling personal lives, which resulted in a lull for writing new material," says drummer Chris Hermsen. And yet, the time scarcity that is a stumbling block for many bands on their second album may have opened the door to creativity from an unforeseen source—Lisa Adams, organist, vocalist, and partner to frontman Sam Adams.

While Lisa had been collaborating musically with Adams since they moved to Portland, Oregon in 2010, the new album marks her first foray into songwriting. After recording and touring the album No Vengeance, she stepped away from a full-time career teaching music to devote more energy to the band. The shift was undoubtedly fruitful for the band—the cutting cynicism of her ingeniously hooky "Dirty Work" belies her inexperience, and the sweetly soaring melody of songs like "Maggie" provide a counterpoint to Sam's angular style.

Whether introducing a song or selling tee shirts after the show, the band shows a good natured and Mid-western charm that rarely accompanies the kind of moody, boundary-pushing rock that Sama Dams makes. Hailing from Indiana, Ohio, and Iowa, the band has been at the forefront of a movement in Portland's music scene away from twee chamber pop and toward something more expressive. What is striking in their music and in their performance is that nothing is added for effect; there is the sense of an exploratory process that is occurring before our eyes and around our ears. And nothing is more exciting than discovery.

"Comfort in Doubt" is available now in many formats - vinyl, CD, and digital download on Bandcamp.