Radiation City - Tractor Tavern - Saturday, February 16, 2013

Radiation City
After I left the Stepping Stone, I made the half-mile walk south to the Tractor, and got there right as second act Black Whales took the stage. Greeting the audience with courteous stage banter, they were affable enough to earn quick smiles around the room, but they presented themselves with such little energy that most of the crowd fell into a kind of daze, and they didn't bring too many people back (a few danced, but not many) with their largely inoffensive pop rock, generic lyrics and chord progressions. One guy next to me was super pissed he had to watch them play, and was all yelling about it. I can appreciate a good heckler, but that guy was kind of harshing my vibe. Oh well, I'm over it. Yay!

Radiation City, on the other hand, played with a level of passion that was infectious. The Portland quintet didn't smash either of their keyboards, but you could really feel the energy coming from the stage. At times, the band's outstanding vocalist/keyboardist Lizzy Ellison held the room by herself, cradling softer melodies then charging up the scale -- always crystal clear. She was precise, but projected very powerful, very human emotion. They are doo-wop-influenced, but more rural, like they write their songs in an old abandoned church in the sticks. Their songwriting is inventive, and they turn corners with amazing confidence; their restraint, and control of volume (and in turn mood) being key elements. Each member seems to contribute vital pieces to their collage, from the strong, even backing vocals on their harmonies, to the creative drumming, guitar parts, keys, and occasional electronic whisper.

They played a selection of new songs from their upcoming album Animals in the Median-- which they disclosed will be out toward the end of May -- and some old favorites, even coming back out for an encore at the crowd's request. They were a band on a mission, and a band that's undoubtedly going places.

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