Papadosio & Cure for the Common 2.23 - 2.28.16 (Pacific Northwest)
Words By Coleman Schwartz
Photos By Coleman Schwartz & Scott Shrader (J. Scott Shrader Photography)
In late February 2016, Papadosio made their long awaited return to the Pacific Northwest with a massive six-night run, supported by Bozeman, MT’s Cure for the Common. Sensing the guarantee of a grand adventure and the chance to explore an unfamiliar part of the country, I made up my mind to follow the band for the entire run, which began in Jackson, WY. Jackson is 860 miles away from my home in Seattle, WA, so I began my adventure several days before the run. On a Saturday evening, I folded down my backseat and packed up my hatchback with skis, warm clothes, and sleeping materials before setting out solo down I-90 Eastbound.
My ski pass also had free days at Bridger Bowl Ski Area, located outside of Bozeman, MT. This made for a perfect stopping point between Sandpoint and Jackson, so after wrapping up my day on the slopes at Schweitzer, I headed in that direction. I stopped to catch a beautiful sunset at Round Lake State Park, before driving late into the night. I arrived at the Bridger parking lot and retreated to my trunk, tuckered out from a full day of skiing and driving. I slept and recovered comfortably until lunchtime, and then enjoyed an awesome half-day of skiing, with the mountain nearly to myself. After this, I got back in the car and drove the rest of the way to Jackson, traveling down U.S. 287 along the beautiful Madison River for much of the way. In total darkness, I finally crested Teton Pass and glimpsed the lights of Jackson. An old friend from high school welcomed me into his home and gave me a couch to sleep on. As I parked my car, I couldn’t help but notice the eight-foot-tall moose chewing on tree branches in his neighbor’s yard.
-Tuesday February 23, 2016-
Pink Garter Theater
We made our way to the Pink Garter Theater, arriving just before the start of Cure for the Common’s opening set. For a small band playing six hours from home, they had an outstanding crowd turn up to catch their set. You can tell that their regional touring is paying dividends. This quintet is comprised of Matt Rogers (guitar), Steve Brown (guitar and vocals), Garrett Rhinard (keys and vocals), Jorden Rodenbiker (bass), and Joe Sheehan (drums and vocals). Their music can generally be characterized as progressive funk-rock, and it got the crowd moving in a hurry. Joe and Jorden anchored a thunderous groove as Matt dazzled the crowd with his virtuosic chops. Garrett and Steve added all kinds of aural textures, giving them a big sound that is outstandingly polished for a young band.
Their songwriting is rock-solid and most of their compositions are groove-based funk tunes with blistering prog-rock peaks. Joe’s electronic drumpad and Garrett’s Moog also give them the ability to push their sound towards live electronica, which is something they excel at. I am a big fan of their ability to fluctuate dynamics in order to build tension and whip the crowd into a frenzy. One great example of this is their track “Digital Blackout,” which closed the set. As soon as this tune begins, I always feel like I am at an Umphrey’s McGee show! Their fiery set commanded the respect of the audience, and did a perfect job of preparing the intimate crowd for Papadosio.
After a brief changeover, Papadosio took the stage to a hearty applause. They started off with the always-uplifting “Cue.” This one ushered smiles onto every face in the room, and the band used the quick jam at the end of the song to get warmed up. Next, they threw out a big curveball by playing a rare track from 2012’s double-album, To End the Illusion of Separation, called “Now That You Know.” This was my first time seeing the song performed live, and it was pretty surreal to get one that I had been chasing as only the second song of a six-night run of shows. This bouncy song features an amazing downtempo section with all kinds of crazy samples and electronic elements, and does a great job of showcasing just how far-out the band can take their music. It transitioned smoothly into the run’s first track from their new album, Extras in a Movie, a subtle, bassy tune called “Out of Hiding.” This song finished with a jam that got really filthy, intense and metal-sounding, with the band keeping the audience on their toes.
The next section of the show saw the band express their distaste with the current state of the radio industry by playing “The Wrong Nostalgia.” This song has a great vocal duet between Rob and Sam, and the improv took on a frantic sense of urgency before moving into “Snorkle,” one of their established jam vehicles off 2009’s Observations. This version was jazzy and concise, with the band definitely saving some of their improv time to flesh out the newer tracks. “2 AM” followed, with its dual acoustic guitars imparting an indie-folk feel to the first part of the song. This was astonishingly juxtaposed against the song’s tripped-out, electronic crunch-fest ending, which left the crowd totally mesmerized.
Setlist: Cue, Now That You Know -> Out of Hiding XL, The Wrong Nostalgia -> Snorkle, 2 AM, Utopiate XL, Fuse > Direction Song XL
Encore: Improbablity Blotter
Coleman's Photo Gallery
-Wednesday February 24, 2016-
When I happened upon a spot of cell signal, I got a text from my friend in Jackson, informing me that he had sufficiently enjoyed the show to hop on tour for another night, and would see me in Bozeman! I always get a kick out of watching other people make spontaneous trips to see music, because it's also one of my favorite things to do. I stopped for a long break to watch the sunset outside of Bozeman, then grabbed dinner before meeting him at the show.
Cure for the Common already had the room mostly full when we arrived, which was expected as Bozeman is their hometown. Playing to a room of their good friends and fans, they wasted no time unleashing “This Machine” onto the crowd. This song has a confident, funky strut, and lyrics that straddle the line between poignancy and satire (“This machine kills hippies”). Before launching into one of their catchiest numbers, “Funky Nation,” Matt ditched his trademark hat to reveal a freshly shaven Mohawk just for this tour. This song’s bass intro immediately makes me think of Phish’s “Sand,” with Jorden masterfully applying a thick, syrupy tone to his lines.
Between songs, the band let us know that they were just as excited to see Papadosio as anyone else in the room. Then, they dusted off a cover of the Talking Heads’ “Crosseyed and Painless.” Garrett nailed the David Byrne vocals as the room went crazy to hear their local heroes slaying their opening set in this fashion. The larger venue was able to accommodate Papadosio’s full light rig and Cure for the Common Lighting Designer/Tour Manager/Occasional Vocalist, Frank Douglas. was clearly enjoying taking it for a spin. As he works, his in-depth knowledge of their catalog and deep love for the music are obvious to anyone paying attention. The group is really lucky to have him, because you don’t see a lot of bands their size with a vetted pro LD already on-hand.
During the changeover, the venue was abuzz with fans discussing the possibilities for the impending Papadosio throwdown. They began with a few older tracks; first the airy, organic “All I Knew,” before getting heavier with “Cloud Found” -> “We Are Water.” The latter heavily features Rob’s bass playing, along with samples of Dr. Masaru Emoto’s spoken word, regarding his studies on the effects of human consciousness on the crystallization of water. Although my work as a scientist has left me rather distrusting of his actual results, I absolutely love his hypothesis. One of my favorite things about seeing Papadosio is the unique ways that they have of getting their audience thinking about strange concepts like this one.
The band next played “Hippie Babysitter,” which has a sound akin to poppy, guitar-based jam music. It was really amazing how quickly they turned the mood of the show, and this song developed into a dissonant synthesizer jam. Throughout this dissonant section, you could see them talking a lot onstage, discussing where to take things next. Sam’s keyboard entered to resolve the tension, and ushered on a slow full-band minor jam, which sped up once more before returning to the composed section of “Hippie Babysitter.”
“Epiphany” was the first new song of the evening. This de-facto title track to the Extras album plays outstandingly on a big stage, and the catchy vocals and guitar riffs are both crowd-pleasers. One of the most complex and confusing new tracks, “Ritual,” followed. This song is an utter joy to hear in headphones on the album, but I was really curious to see if they could even come close to reproducing its fidelity in a live setting. As it turned out, they managed it easily. The haunting track features an abundance of outstanding, interlocking synthesizer work from the four-armed monster that is the Brouse brothers, as Anthony utilizes every weapon in his onstage arsenal. This was the perfect backdrop for the band to show off their unique vintage lightbulb setup onstage. After eight minutes of eerie twists and turns, the song inexplicably releases into a smooth, guitar-based groove, rife with extended harmonies and jazzy flavor. Getting the chance to see this up close had my jaw on the floor.
The rest of the set was highlighted by Anthony’s “Unparalyzer” teases during a fun downtempo jam in “Smile and Nod.” Quick runs through “New Love” and “Find Your Cloud” capped things off, before the band retook the stage for a “Glimpse of Light” encore. This song was the perfect way to close out the night on an optimistic note, with its lyrics discussing a shift towards an aggregated human consciousness.
Setlist: All I Knew, Cloud Found -> We Are Water, Dayvan Cowboy -> Hippie Babysitter, Epiphany, Ritual, Smile and Nod XL -> New Love, Find Your Cloud
Encore: Glimpse of Light
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-Thursday February 25, 2016-
Following a relaxing night of sleep, this time on Matt, Joe and Steve from Cure’s pullout couch, I woke up and grabbed a delectable breakfast sandwich at Nova Café before hitting the road. I took I-90 Westbound through Montana and Idaho, enjoying all of the epic mountain scenery in the daylight this time. I stopped in the small city of Coeur d’Alene, ID and spent some time photographing the sunset over the picturesque lake of the same name. I reentered Washington and made my way to Spokane’s beautiful Knitting Factory with sky-high hopes for great sets from both bands.
Cure also played a song, called “The Pinnacle,” which I had never heard before. It featured some of my favorite of Joe’s drumming, along with rapid-fire delivery of the song’s rapped vocals. The cover for this evening was The Clash’s “Rock the Casbah," which played especially well to the older, seated portion of the crowd at the back. My personal highlight of the set was “Thundermoon,” a newer original with a heavy, middle-eastern-inspired guitar tone that reminds me a lot of the song “House of Cards,” by the Mantras (another smaller, regional band opening for Papadosio on this tour). It has a crowd participation section, which was executed admirably given the sparse attendance. I enjoyed seeing them have fun with it and let loose onstage.
Papadosio took the stage to a crowd that was only moderately larger, and seemed poised to deliver a standout show for those that did make it out. They opened with the run’s first repeat, “Out of Hiding,” before turning back the clock with “You and Yourself.” This poppier offering features some of Rob’s bounciest bass work as a canvas for Billy to expound his unique synth textures upon. “Therian” came next, keeping Billy in the spotlight as he sang the evocative lyrics about creatures shown in cave paintings that are half-beast, half-human.
As the opening samples to “Frequence” made their way into the mix, my pulse quickened. This was a song I had yet to see them play live, but I had only heard stellar reviews of it from friends who had. As the trancey groove took over, I was overcome with anticipation for the song’s epic peak. The first section has a relaxed, lounge vibe, with dubbed out bass sections acting as a nice pause in the groove. As it builds, Anthony’s samples oscillate around the mix from side to side, giving the listener a spinning sensation. After a while, the climaxing synth riff finally reared its head. In front of a dizzying blitzkrieg of electronic noise, Billy tore through the riff over and over. The tension mounted, and then easily released into a wompy groove that led into a transcendent electronic jam, which was a nice reminder of just what a freak Mike can turn into when allowed to play unrestrained. He integrates his playing so well with his electronic kit that he might as well have a computer inside of his head controlling an extra pair of arms.
Next, we were treated to a cover of one of the band’s biggest influences, Telefon Tel Aviv. The song, “Fahrenheit Fair Enough,” is a jazzy, atmospheric odyssey that is both relaxing and meditative. The quality of their cover was outstanding, and I could really tell that they had been moved by the song as they reproduced it. Very few bands in this scene would be capable of pulling off a cover with this type of electronic complexity. Every time that I see them perform, I am imparted with a strong desire to explore new, different types of electronic music. The best musicians hook you so hard that you have no choice but to explore their influences thoroughly.
To pull the audience out of their trance, they followed this cover with the joyous “Puddles for Oceans.” This guitar-driven number encourages the listener to reach for the stars and seize their dreams. While some listeners definitely find these types of lyrics to be preachy, I am refreshed by their positivity and totally behind it. “Puddles” made its way into “The Bionic Man Meets His Past,” a diverse tune that builds a smooth, palm-muted opening groove into crunchy, chaotic tension before a climax that is so intense, it regularly elicits impassioned screams from the audience. “Cue” was also repeated to close out the set. Unfortunately, the room was simply too empty to warrant an encore.
Even without one, this was seriously a special performance to witness. Mike said it was “the smallest show we have played in ten years.” There was one gentleman in attendance who claimed to have danced so hard that he broke his ankle. He goes to metal shows all of the time, and said he never expected Papadosio to be the one he got injured at. I was also surprised to hear this, but it just goes to show you how intense of an evening this was!
Setlist: Out of Hiding, You and Yourself, Therian, We Can Always Come Back > Frequence, Farenheit Fair Enough, Puddles for Oceans > The Bionic Man Meets His Past, Cue
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-Friday February 26, 2016-
Inside the venue, which reminds me of a high school gymnasium, Cure took the stage for their opening set. My highlight from their performance was their awesome cover of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.” The other songs were all repeats from the previous shows, but it served as a great opportunity to get more familiar with their music. “Thundermoon” was again outstanding, and the audience participation went over much better with the larger crowd. Having an idea when they were improvising or not helped me to appreciate their stellar communication onstage. Garrett and Matt are particularly keen at interlocking the rhythm of their parts when they are improvising. Joe manages the tempo very tastefully, which gives him a lot of control over what direction things will take. Steve and Jorden feed off each other’s playing and definitely seem to push each other onstage. Also, these two like to actively pump up the crowd to keep the energy high.
Papadosio opened their set with “The Wrong Nostalgia,” which started things off anxiously. Afterwards, they played “PsyPoly,” an interesting song that is derived from their heavy-hitter, “Polygons.” Basically, it is “Polygons” slowed down and messed with extensively, with odd pitch bends and slightly modified effects. The song’s glorious guitar riff is only played once, and at a drastically reduced tempo. It usually serves two purposes, one being to serve as a short intro for the next song, and the other being that it makes the listener desperately want to hear the full “Polygons.” It filled both role admirably here, leading into a nice rendition of “Dream Estate.” This fun song is about the limitless possibilities available to you in your dreams, and basically just encourages the listener to explore them as well as they can. A Mike-led jam brought them around to playing “Ritual” again, and this time was very nearly as impressive as the first. I was really happy to get another chance to pay close attention to this one.
The set closed out with the band crushing “2 AM” and the amazing sandwich “Find Your Cloud XL” > “Dayvan Cowboy” > “Find Your Cloud.” Although I had seen all of these songs already on the run, it was a treat to hear the creative segues that made this section work out. The encore featured a quick version of “The Sum,” before a rendition of “Snorkle” that I would give a slight edge over the one from Jackson. In the encore closing slot, they were able to build up a higher energy peak to really do the song justice.
Setlist: The Wrong Nostalgia, PsyPoly -> Dream Estate XL -> Ritual, Bypass Default XL -> Anima Mundi, 2 AM, Find Your Cloud XL > Dayvan Cowboy > Find Your Cloud
Encore: The Sum, Snorkle
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-Saturday February 27, 2016-
I woke up on my friend’s couch, a bit later than intended, and set immediately about rallying the troops so that we could head to Seattle. After so many days on the road, I was excited to enjoy a few hours at home and to sleep in my bed for a night. Once I had roosted my two new travel companions, we hit the road for the familiar three-hour rainy slog up I-5 to Seattle. Back at my house, I tried to nap to no avail. I was already too excited for the eminent hometown throwdown.
This Cure set also saw them throw in a couple of recognizable teases, including something by Beethoven and “The Triple Wide,” by Umphrey’s McGee. The teases flowed well within the context of the set, I appreciated them keeping me on my toes. From what I heard here, I have no doubt that the band could destroy a full cover of either artist.
Papadosio began their set with “The Bionic Man,” which is a fantastic way to open a show. From the very start, every fan in the room knew they meant business. This is a song I was all too happy to hear again. I gleefully darted through the venue, making sure that everyone I knew was having a good time and prepared to lose it at the song’s peak. The Seattle version definitely exceeded the energy level of its Spokane counterpart, due largely to the more sizable audience present for the show.
The band briefly paused to acknowledge the crowd, before launching into the most bizarre portion of the setlist, “Monochrome” > “Advocate of Change XL.” “Monochrome” starts out very bleak and minimal, with atmospheric percussion leading into a sparse bassline, and the entrance of a barren-sounding synth part. This continues for a few minutes with lyrics before Anthony’s uplifting guitar line takes over. The guitar briefly leaves again to return to the bleak, atmospheric groove, and then comes back in to build this groove as a full band. This paved the way for a confident, exploratory jam with Sam leading the way and nearly conducting the band at times. Eventually, he guided them into “Advocate,” which was immediately recognizable by its glitchy, syncopated samples that sound vaguely like a chanting monk. Anthony’s soaring guitar riff gives the listener the feeling that they are flying for a few minutes, leading into a lengthy, assertive jam that did an excellent job of preserving this feeling. Out of the jam, the band worked their way through the synth-driven peak and guitar outro to raucous applause from everyone inside of the venue.
After this introspective segment, the band again rocked us with “Glimpse of Light” and “Cloud Found.” The crowd eagerly brought them back to the stage for a “Paradigm Shift” encore. Dynamics are critical to this instrumental tune, which contains many quiet breaks that serve to make the loud sections more meaningful. The quick, circular guitar riffs alternate with Rob’s deep bass bombs during the loud section, only to fade away to nothing, before making their subtle return for the next go-around. This was a stellar way to close a unique performance. Tonight, the band really wrote a setlist that captured a little bit of everything they do, and they earned themselves a lot of new Seattle fans because of it.
Setlist: The Bionic Man Meets His Past XL, We Choose -> New Love, Monochrome > Advocate of Change XL, Epiphany, Gazing The Great Oscillator > Moon Entendre, Glimpse of Light, Cloud Found
Encore: Paradigm Shift
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-Sunday February 28, 2016-
I began singing loudly in an attempt to wake up my friends, who were only able to resist my dulcet tones for a few minutes before angrily getting out of bed. We were running a bit late, so I hurried us into the car. Once on the road, they all promptly returned to sleep and left me in charge of getting us down to Eugene safely. At this point, I was so used to driving that it really didn’t turn out to be a big deal. I got a bit sleepy about halfway through, so I stopped at a gas station and broke my usual no-caffeine rule. Since I don’t usually drink caffeine, I was consequently wired for the rest of the day. We made it down to Eugene with plenty of time to grab a sandwich for dinner and get into the show before the final Cure set of the run.
As I watched Cure play for the last time, I enjoyed my newfound familiarity with their music, which greatly aided my dancing. Frank was crushing the lights particularly hard this evening, and I was able to gain access to the closed balcony to get a few shots to prove it. The band’s treat for me this evening was a cover of Michael Jackson’s famous “Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough,” dedicated to their friends in Papadosio. This song was Dosio’s load-in music during the tour, and the majority of the band was side-stage gettin’ down and singing along loudly, prompting laughter from the audience members close enough to see what was going on.
Now it was time for one final Papadosio set to close things out. The band took the stage with a “The Lack of Everything” opener. This opening track to Observations served as a warning that tonight would be a very different show than any other on the run. The lyrics are about finding a place inside of your mind where you can block out the distractions of the outside world and just enjoy being happy. “Epiphany” was played for the third time on this run, and it was just as well received by the crowd as the previous two occasions. Lighting Designer, Daniel Hiudt, mirrored the song’s synth line with his light bars, something I had not noticed previously in this song.
“How Not to Float” features some cool delayed vocals from Anthony, and it was jammed into “Direction Song.” After this, they busted out “Geoglyph,” a non-album track that I had never seen before. This song uses a cool flute voice on the synthesizer, and it kicked off a massive dance party. They gave it some nice improv treatment to extend the dancing, but eventually it came to an end, and the spotlight turned to Billy for another take on “Therian.”
During “We Are Water,” Jorden turned to me and asked if Papadosio had played any songs I had trouble recognizing yet on the run. I told him honestly that they had not yet, but there was still time for that to change. Sure enough, the very next song began, and for the first time in six nights, I was clueless. What they were playing was far too polished and intricate to be just a jam, and it sounded vaguely familiar. I sat back and let it unfold into my ears, a spellbinding, downtempo-ambient groove with jazz sensibilities running over on all sides. It turns out that this track was called “Obove,” and it is the quick, two-minute interlude that preceeds “Gazing” > “Moon Entendre” to conclude Extras. The live version was significantly extended, and after relistening to the studio cut I believe that it actually sounds much more impressive in a live setting than it does on the album. This was only its third time being performed live, so I would anticipate that it should still improve quite a lot. The title is a word the band made up, meaning “an over arcing emotion.”
To follow this special track, the band dug deep and started playing the heavy hitters. A standout version of “Curve” had us all dancing like crazy as the samples boomed “ditch this square world and blast off for kicksville!” This has always been among my favorite Papadosio songs for two reasons. First, the lyrics are about looking into a microscope and being unsure of exactly what is going on, but thinking that whatever you see looks like it’s having a good time. The scientist in me gets a kick out of the laughable oversimplification, but the rest of me sees their point, that we ought to have a good time on the macro scale as well. Second, this tune gets stellar improv treatment, time in and time out. Tonight, of course, was no exception. Another rendition of “Utopiate” closed the set, but the crowd would not be satisfied so easily.
Setlist: The Lack of Everything, Epiphany, How Not to Float > Direction Song -> Geoglyph, Therian, We Are Water, Obove, Curve, Utopiate
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After the end of the show, I got the chance to hang around backstage with the bands for a few minutes to say my goodbyes. As I thanked them wholeheartedly for their wonderful performances, they thanked me for my support and long hours on the road. My friends and I drove back to Portland for free lodging, and then the next morning I made the trek back to Seattle to complete the craziest road trip I have ever been on. I drove almost exactly 3000 miles in roughly 48 hours of road time over nine days, and I was behind the wheel for every second of it. Not only was it a good idea, but it turned out to be one of the most fun experiences I have ever had. It was a great networking experience, both personally and professionally, and I got to explore a beautiful part of the country and reconnect with nature as I did all of this.
Six nights is the most extensive run I have ever done with any band, and I was very impressed with Papadosio’s ability to hold my interest throughout the experience. I’ve now seen them a total of fifteen times, and I still have plenty of songs left to chase. This tour has demonstrated to me that the band is absolutely worth following on extended runs, and I’m sure this will not be my last time doing so. I am eager to see what direction their music takes in the future, because they have secured my complete trust at this point.