- Travis Coster's incredible poster for last night's show. Forgot to buy one. D'oh!
Last night’s Healthy Times show got off to a solid start with sludgy local noise duo U (who prefer not to be thought of as “electronic,” even though they’re possibly the most wired band in the city, and expertly plug and re-plug cables into a smorgasbord of gear throughout their set, moving with the frantic energy of a NASCAR pit team). This was my third time seeing U, and it was no less impressive than previous encounters with their gnarled, bleating sound. While band members Travis Coster and Jeff Johnson set up for U’s blistering five-song set, they pumped Britney Spear’s indelible “Toxic” into their array of amplifiers, adjusting the levels until Britney’s auto-tuned warbles came out as caustic FM crackle.
The U sound is hard to describe, and really needs to be experienced firsthand. Half the fun of the band is in observing the complex instrument cable gymnastics required to produce their otherworldly noise. The inclusion of slide guitar, cymbal crashes, and blown-out beats makes U’s music even harder to typify—but it’s more melodic than you might assume (songs like “My Pet Freak” actually have killer hooks) and about as rhythmically muscular as you’d expect from a band formed by two drummers (Coster pounds skins in the Last Slice of Butter, Johnson used to drum for Championship Belt).
Portland band Sam Humans followed Mountainss with a set that was much less heavy but about as energetic (a guitar string was actually broken during their first song). The guitar playing alternated between looping, hairy-knuckled riffs and caffeinated affrettando melodies, and the bass and drums were super-polished and locked in, with the drummer contributing delay-soaked backing vox. Sam Humans’ frontman introduced himself as “Scott Shower,” and, apart from his epic beard and Bahamas sweatshirt, the dude had a pretty golden voice. It really shined though on their mellow, mid-set number about how you “can’t stop the sun.” Sam Humans’ set impressed, even if it did feel slightly out of place in the lineup, and it was sweet to hear Shower dedicate their closing song to his 2-year-old son.
Masters & Johnson are a really righteous band, and it was a treat to see them up from Olympia for this gig. Unfortunately, they weren’t exactly in top form last night, but they had a pretty chill, self-effacing attitude about the whole thing, and when they were on, they were on. So many of their drum patterns and guitar licks feel so original that I’d rather listen to an awkward Masters & Johnson set than a faultless performance from most any other band.