Richmond Fontaine and Hamell on Trial, presented by Sings Like

At the Lobero Theatre, Saturday, July 8.

Reviewed by Felicia M. Tomasko

Peggie Jones’s sequined attire was not nearly the brightest spot
in an evening of contrasting music. The crowd that descended into
hell at the Lobero Theatre Saturday night was whisked through a
program by Hamell on Trial vocally decrying the loss of values in
the current administration along with a hidden treasure of a
Portland band, Richmond Fontaine, whose alt/country/rock beguiled
the audience.

Hamell on Trial described himself as being “like
the Beastie Boys, except I’m only one.” His bald head and
black-rimmed glasses belied the fact that he was like the Tasmanian
Devil on speed, or as he described it, manic on caffeine. Hamell on
Trial’s set was a nonstop riff, alternating from explosive guitar
to equally explosive ramblings about grabbing the dick of his
19-year-old, pimply-faced pizza delivery job boss and successfully
alienating the entire Republican contingent of a small, upstate New
York town. He was nearly too funny to be offensive, although he
tried with songs ragging on the physiology of political pundit Ann
Coulter and insisting he would lie when questioned by his child
about sex, drugs, and stealing cars. A testament to his angst and
fury, Hamell had the crowd at the Lobero screaming “Fuck It” in
unison, insisting it would make everyone feel better. His newest
album is Songs for Parents Who Enjoy Drugs, produced by
Ani Difranco’s Righteous Babe records.

Headliner Richmond Fontaine is perhaps one of the
best bands we haven’t heard of, even though the quartet has been
recording albums for 10 years. This Saturday, they played a number
of tunes from their latest, The Fitzgerald, which featured
sparse and simple lyrics evoking the often desperate, lonely byways
and back roads of the West. Lyricist and singer Willy Vlautin
frequently spoke of the dusty side of his hometown of Reno. But
more than the lyrics, it was their richly layered music that was
the most compelling part of their performance.

The chemistry among the musicians and their enthusiasm for being
onstage was palpable, particularly by guitarist Paul Brainard,
although there were times when the musicians’ protracted solos
failed to keep the audience’s attention. Live, the band revealed
texture not immediately apparent in their recordings, particularly
on disparaging — but not depressing — songs like “Black Road.”
Richmond Fontaine is a band to watch, and listen to, proving that
Hell’s magic is unfailing.


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