In our continuing series of PDX correspondent Ryan Prado’s live reports from the thriving underbelly of the Portland music scene, we bring you this brief report of the live antics of one Cage the Elephant.
Lo, the pressure! O, expectation! Egads, sales, merch, touring, follow-ups, press! So goes the minutiae of a band locked in the vibrations of the buzz bin. There’s never any perfect direction to take, never a handout, never even a goddamn break. Somehow Kentucky’s Cage the Elephant are enduring the shockwaves afforded them by way of their mega-huge UK charter â€œAin’t No Rest for the Wicked,â€ having wowed the freely drunken masses at this year’s South By Southwest, and embarking on a huge North American tour that included a slot at Coachella. The band has already been bequeathed a coveted myth in so much as vocalist Matt Schultz is being regarded as Iggy Pop incarnate in the live setting. Would that it were true, but the simple fact is that Cage the Elephant just so happens to be a lethal dose of pop-garage hitting the cerebral cortex of the pseudo-mainstream at the most opportune time: Summer! But even then, there’s more to it.
And all this praise is coming before last week’s release of their self-titled debut, on the strength of which they’ll also be expected to prove themselves at Bonnaroo, All Points West and Lollapalooza. I’d feel terrible for them, if they weren’t so goddamn good (and if I didn’t secretly wish I were in the band).
A packed Berbati’s crowd was probably ill-prepared for the sassy, chitlin’-finger pinch of CTE’s set (as the band was opening for such far-reaching whippersnappers as The Heartless Bastards and The Gaslight Anthem), but despite the tepid audience interaction in the onset of the group’s performance, the inclusive energy blasting from Schultz and Company made it hard not to forego the libation line.
Schultz’s onstage antics, contrary to mediators of hyperbole in the industry (or maybe he just wasn’t drunk enough), better suited the fiddling imagination of an A.D.D. spastic being suddenly thrust a microphone; luckily, the punctuating combo of southern charm and boyish good looks (okay, FINE, and a great snout for sniffing out uber-catchy melodies) spoke volumes on how much fun CTE must be having. Parlaying the pop with an uncomfortably even-keeled base of garage-punk and â€˜60s classic rock (don’t get the wrong idea: The band is, in fact, more Stooges than Stones), tracks like the aforementioned â€œAin’t No Restâ€¦â€ and â€œIn One Earâ€ are almost painfully good. â€œIn One Earâ€ captures the perceived buzz of the group with regard to exactly what I’m doing right now: pontificating upon the band’s importance, pedigree, resonance, impact on whatever kind of wintry musical landscape we’re forced to conjure in order to crown the new kings. The saviors. The liberators. To take offense would be to buy into the hype through osmosis, to fuel the fire; and anyway, however you slice the cerebrum, you’re gonna end up sounding lame.
This is music to enjoy summer with, and if you’re lucky enough, to see live. Make your own assessments, and prepare for failure, because as hard as it is for me to understand why I like this band so much, it’s gonna be much harder for them to care what you think.
Words by Ryan J. Prado
Tags: audience interaction, buzz bin, cerebral cortex, chitlin, cte, follow ups, gaslight anthem, Heartless Bastards, hyperbole, lethal dose, lollapalooza, matt schultz, minutiae, opportune time, portland music, s south, shockwaves, south by southwest, time summer, whippersnappers