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Lords of the Weird: Bombadil prefers to do things their own way 

probably didn't hang out with the lacrosse team. If anyone went to the trouble of reading all the Lord of the Rings books, and just

click to enlarge probably didn't hang out with the lacrosse team.
  • probably didn't hang out with the lacrosse team.
probably didn't hang out with the lacrosse team. If anyone went to the trouble of reading all the Lord of the Rings books, and just not watching the movies, then you may remember the mysterious and endearing character of Tom Bombadil, who was slighted in the film versions.

If you're into bands that play everything from simple guitar-driven lyrical lullabies to raucous marching band ballads, then the North Carolina-based four-piece band, who goes by the same name as this mythical creature, just might be for you.

The band plays at McMenamins Old St. Francis School on June 4 as part of the Great Northwest Music Tour and will also visit six other McMenamins locations in Oregon and Washington as part of the tour.

The two Bombadils do share the same name by chance, the folk-rock band and Duke University graduates-consisting of Daniel Michalak, Bryan Rahija, Stuart Robinson and James Phillips-chose to take the surname of Tom for the band because of the similarities between the two.

"Everyone else is preoccupied with chasing down this ring that gives everybody this power.... Tom Bombadil just lives off in the woods playing music in the forest... we read this passage about the guy and we were like 'yeah we can identify with that,'" says multi-instrumentalist Bryan Rahija.

After listening to the band's new album, A buzz, A buzz, the connection between the two makes sense. Each song on the album is mysterious in its own way. One song is hastily paced with accordions, trumpets, saxophones and any other type of instrument that can fit on stage and the next song is an airy, simple, pop song. It quickly becomes apparent that Bombadil could care less about sticking to one musical genre. "Instead of going and saying this is our 'sound' and trying to cram the song into our sound hole, we just try to take it song by song - we try to make characters out of our songs," Rahija says.

But one thing is for sure: the band's sound is influenced, not only by its North Carolina blues roots, but also by the time some of the members spent in Bolivia studying abroad. When comparing his band's sound with other past or current bands, Rahija, says, "we sound like bands that have a lot of singers and songwriters that try to create their own mixed tape with their album."

In Bombadil's case, their new album or "mixed tape" includes mountain blues, folk, country and rock songs with some Bolivian waltzes.

A distinct band, like Tom Bombadil, has enough self-assurance to not fall under the spell of the coveted ring, but instead create their own style inspired, Rahija says, more by culture and books than musical styles. In fact, he says, the band spends more time reading books, or "bookworming out" on the road than listening to music.

But once on stage, the self-described bookworms, put on quite the live show with "weird images, weird clothing and weird songs," Rahija says. They seamlessly blend unconventional instruments into their songs, such as the xylophone, organ, charango, glockenspiel, accordion, recorder and the zampona.

Their original sound has caught the ear of many and has them touring across the country, earning them spots this summer at Bonnaroo and Pickathon. Despite their growing popularity and busy summer tour, the band still doesn't know who Bombadil fans are, much like they don't know what musical niche they fit into.

"We've seen a lot of mothers at our shows, some folk fans, some people who love '60s music... at the same time there's high schoolers and you get your occasional hipster," Rahija says with a pause, "we're still figuring out what kind of person that a Bombadil fan is."

7pm Wednesday, June 4. McMenamins Old St. Francis School. 700 NW Bond St. 382-5174. 


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