Hockey -- Portland's favorite new wave band -- headlined Neumos last night; they were ultra-cute and ultra-catchy. The setlist included fan favorites from Mind Chaos, the band's excellent 2009 full-length, but also a good amount of brand new songs from a forthcoming record set for a fall release (including one brilliant song with a chorus about Matthew McConaughey). Hockey probably needs to smooth out their stage presence - last night they seemed either uncomfortable, drunk, or both - but they have some of the most likeable, irresistible dance tracks I've heard. Hockey has one random, rambling, harmonica-driven song that sounds uncannily like Bob Dylan, but they're at their best with cheeky, exuberant pop songs like "Work," "Too Fake" (which appeared on the Billboard charts last year), and my favorite, the bluesy shuffle "Learn To Lose," which was last night's encore. I do have a complaint though - Hockey has a couple songs where frontman Benjamin Grubin breaks out into a rap. It's pretty cringe-worthy -- Grubin is a skinny white kid who last night was wearing a backwards baseball cap and a dangling feather earring; he's adorable but just can't flow -- and also unnecessary. Grubin has an awesome voice -- kind of reminds me of a lighter, more soulful Julian Casablancas -- it bounces, rolls, and snaps across the music's groovy melodies. I loved hearing him sing and wish he would just stick to that.
All photos by Levin Samuel.