The intimate Doug Fir Lounge hosted Portland-based The Weather Machine on Saturday, August 12. The band’s singer, Slater Smith, had just returned from the Oregon coast. There, he wrote most of the bands to-be album. The album is a tribute to the 1967 Oregon Beach Bill which established public ownership of land along the Oregon coast.
The band will release the album in a matter of weeks, and it boasts some catchy and some funny tracks. My early favorite was “Not Everyone Ends Up in California,” a relaxing tune with Tim Karplus playing guitar riffs every few notes. Before he began, Smith announced, “Sorry to all the Californians out there.”
The band played “The Pelican Song” next, which Smith announced “I knew I’d have to write a song about the actual Beach Bill legislation. So to keep it light, I wrote it… from a pelican’s view.” He laughed at the remark. The song was fun and folky. One audience member continued the enthusiasm afterwards, yelling “For the pelican!”
Soon after, saxophonist Noah Bernstein played an ominous, low pulse. Smith announced, “Just so you know, there’s an earthquake coming.” What followed was a growing, energetic song led by Bernstein’s saxophone and capped with Luke Murray-Hoffman’s drumming and harmony. Murray-Hoffman was a tremendous drummer and his drum solo later in the night was intense and masterful.
If not for the band’s obvious charisma and talent, go see The Weather Machine for their stage presence. Between Smith’s vocal ability and Murray-Hoffman’s energy, this band really sells themselves on stage. The audience’s engagement was unfaltering.
Near the end of the show, Smith announced that he’d received a message from an old friend. He asked their old cello player, Matthew Cartmill, to come out on stage. Cartmill strode on stage with his cello and plugged into the amplifier. Having just returned from his home in Spain, he was excited they were reunited. The Weather Machine played a dark song titled, “Act I Skeleton Jack.” Bouncing and strumming, the band told the story of Skeleton Jack, buoyed by the cello’s humming.
To wrap up a terrific show, Smith strummed his acoustic guitar for the “Breakup Song.” He began, “My friends never really liked you, but your friends didn’t like me either. So can I come over? No, it’s probably not a good idea.” The song is one of The Weather Machine’s most popular for good reason: it perfectly captures a difficult emotion. Any writer will tell you that’s easier said than done. Smith finished by yelling the first verse again. When the lights finally turned on, the audience faces beamed with amazement.
Needless to say, I forecast more great music and success to come for this talented group. If you haven’t treated yourself to a show for The Weather Machine, add it to your list.