Last summer, Portland band Melville showed up in Bend peddling music from their forthcoming— and now released— EP Maquette. And though I couldn't be at The Horned Hand for that show, local accounts pegged it as a touching rock performance.
Flash forward six months and the likeable five-piece alt-rock band— fronted by the suave-ish troubadour Ryan T. Jacobs— leveraged the earnest music of that EP into two gigs opening for long running alt-country group The Autumn Defense featuring John Stirratt and Pat Sansone of Wilco.
And they took advantage of that opportunity.
Working off a a request by The Autumn Defense for their opening set to be acoustic driven, Melville spent a month and a half (11 to 12 rehearsals according to drummer Tim Skerpon) re-working their songs and preparing for the show; a slight deviation from their typically more electric presence.
The result was a pressingly tender delivery last Thursday at Eugene's Wow Hall.
Jacobs lifting vocals dripped with vulnerability as the set took on a more Southern ballad vibe. Slide guitar and soft keys wrapped charged laments like "Questions" and— most impressively— "The Dead" in supple sounds while Jacobs' voice stood front and center, the key factor in creating a fiercely emotional set.
And though a mere 10 people showed up for Melville's opening act, the innate intimacy of the songs filled in the spaces, warming the room nonetheless.
Shows like that should bode well for Melville's chances to earn more slots accompanying next-level bands or even launching their own tour.
The Main Act
Two days after releasing their fifth studio album as a Wilco side project— fittingly and unimaginatively titled Fifth— guitarist John Stirratt and multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone arrived to Eugene's Wow Hall as laid back as the early 70s vibe of the adult contemporary rock music they record as The Autumn Defense.
They hung around the venue, undeterred by the sparse crowd, casually engaging in conversations with fans and attentively watching the opening band do their thing.
That demeanor continued into their set.
In perfect alignment with some of the more docile tunes that emanated out of the post-Vietnam era (see Fleetwood Mac and Sugarloaf), The Autumn Defense— who weave R&B, country and folk elements into their blend of easy listening rock— turned in a whimsical and light-hearted performance.
Pop ditties like "This Thing That I've Found" and "Back of My Mind" featuring Sansone on vocals were bright spots as were soul-infused songs like "Calling Your Name."
A far cry from the complexities shrouding the music of Wilco, simplistic lyrics and buttery tempered rock dominated The Autumn Defense's performance creating a vortex of lovely accessibility, perfectly echoing the exhale of relief early 70's music was in response to the angst-filled 60s.
The two were very much a harmonizing duo, each with soft voices and gentle smiles who swayed back and forth, as affected by their own music as was the hushed group of listeners. An audience eventually rewarded with a very special and spirited performance of Bob Welch's "Sentimental Lady"— complete with spinning disco ball— for the encore.