On their first West Coast tour the Austin, Texas based The Sour Notes played a fiery 10-song set at Valentine’s February 10. The Portland stop was part of a quick 13-date road trip and warm up to their third straight year as SXSW Showcase Artists at the renowned SXSW Festival next month. The band performed as a lean, stripped down four-piece version of itself but certainly didn’t prevent a raucous display of Southwest sizzle.
The Sour Notes showed off their indie-pop punch with abandon. The foursome was led by animated spark plug, singer/guitarist Jared Boulanger, who jumped in place excitedly in the tight confines and played a feverish guitar. Boulanger was backed by equally energetic band mates Jessica June Kim on keyboards, Amarah Ulghani on bass, and anchored by Erin Howell on drums.
The band powered through their set splitting playing time between five songs from their soon to be released fifth album, Do What May, and earlier material. The band kicked off the evening with the title track, What Do May, with its lively dance beat intro. The song quickly shifted into a gritty driven rocker with a camouflaged pop groove.
The Sour Notes continued with a track from What Do May, including Two Hands Wait, with its dark, haunting descending guitar and bass lines and carnival keyboards over top. The focused four-piece gave the song even more urgency and a sinister delivery coinciding with the edgy horror video compliments of band friend and director, Paul Avellino.
Other new tracks performed included Cutthroat. With its slow brewing intro, the hypnotic guitars drifted over a steady drum beat that swelled into a splash of a R&B while Boulanger sang of dirty deeds done with reassurance. The tune wounds down and swirled back into a psychedelic finish. Don’t Listen, and Could Be Worse, provided their own adventure with the former’s sassy rock swing, sounding grittier without the backing horns on the album. The later was a racing romp that ebbed and flowed between Boulanger’s lead guitar and vocals that settled into a contemplative tranquility before shifting back to the robust beginning.
Boulanger then led the group through a number of songs from their previous release, Last Looks, including the big sound of Big Dreams, the distorted retro rocking Hot Pink Flares, and the trippy waltzing adventure of Last Looks.
It was an economically performed set that could have lasted twice as long because of the abundance of smartly crafted songs from their growing catalog, consisting of a cascading, genre-touring soundtrack. The Sour Notes have created an original blend of sounds and styles that contradict the band’s namesake.
It’s not a surprise The Sour Notes were selected as a SXSW Showcase Artist for the third year in a row. Here’s hoping the band gets some deserved attention on their West Coast swing and makes it back to Portland in the very near future.
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