Radiation City at Muddy Waters Café

Paul Wellman

Radiation City at Muddy Waters Café

Radiation City at Muddy Waters Café

Portland Harmonizers Packed the House on Sunday, March 25

In keeping with their hometown lineage, Portland’s Radiation City seemed to bring the weather with ’em when they stopped through S.B. for a rainy Sunday-night show. But no matter, because despite the elements, the band managed to draw a near-capacity crowd to Muddy Waters’ cozy little music space. On record, the five-piece resemble a hybridized throwback band, drawing inspiration — and a few vocal tricks — from ’60s girl-group harmonizers like the Crystals and the Shangri-Las. In person, though, the band pulls off a feat far more impressive than simple sonic homage. Frontwomen/keyboardists Patti King and Elisabeth Ellison possess rich, malleable voices that play with and off each other to stunning effect. On Sunday night, Ellison’s low, woozy croon immediately made me think of Beach House’s Victoria Legrand — a mighty compliment in and of itself.

Radiation City at Muddy Waters Café
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Radiation City at Muddy Waters Café

But Radiation City’s sound is more nuanced than Beach House’s moody, organ-driven waltzes. Sunday’s set included the sock-hop–ready “The Color of Industry,” as well as the slow-building “Summer Is Not an Act I,” which highlighted Ellison’s purr nicely.

Sans encore, Radiation City gave the stage over to S.B.’s Ghost Tiger, who provided the perfect complement to the night’s first set. With Alixandra MacMillan-Fiedel at the helm, the band dished up a rousing collection of folk-tinged, harmony-filled numbers. Of extra-special note was “Whiskey Winter,” which simultaneously enraptured the crowd and seemed to warm the space from within with its stark kick drum and luscious four-part harmonies.

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