Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Brad Kopplin and Shawn Biggs
Coordination and timeliness aren't usually the fortes of rock and roll bands, but this story - which includes a feat of both of those mental secretarial skills - is a doozy. It involves the Oakland, Calif., band Port O'Brien the very same afternoon of its first show on tour with your buds and ours, Delta Spirit, at Noise Pop 2008. It was a hometown gig for the proud fishing kids and yet they had dozens of phone calls to make and some thrifting for old, clangy pots and pans to do for a short, one song afternoon recording session with us in San Francisco on our final day of taping during the fest week.
They turned the cramped studio into a clown car as one person after another filed into the room with their designated piece of tin cookware to bang and bust on, making a sonic clamor that scared every bird out of every tree for miles around. It's the kind of racket that one pictures old ladies in curlers making to scare the rabbits out of the carrot and cabbage patches in her backyard garden, only doing it in perfect or near perfect rhythm so the rabbits have no choice but to pause and enjoy the tune a little bit before scampering off to their burrow with a small snack in their bellies. The effect of having a bulk of friends and passerby all singing (shouting and carrying on) and tap, tap, tapping away to a song about waking up in a similar way to the way that lead singer Van Pierszalowski might normally wake up, to a way that most anyone might normally wake up, without fuss, just rolling out of the sack thinking that nothing could really surprise you even if it tried.
Recently, Pitchfork reviewer Stephen Deusner made mention of the fact that he's previously reviewed three different versions of this song for the site. Add another, completely different take on the ball of fire to the pile here. It's a song that has had and will always have multiple lives to trace, more than nine of them for sure and here it's a celebration of community that has never been rivaled in any of the past Daytrotter sessions and has rarely even been approached in many studio recordings - this mass of people and hot voices, familiar with a song, but in no way experts, laying down a permanent version of it straight to tape. This was learnt and then felt into being, a blind, but very energetic run-through that isn't far from the chaotic swell of emotion that the band tempts out of audiences every single night from the stage. It's the band as they happen to get spotted in their natural habitat, boisterous and beaming, bobbing and leaning back for a load of air just to use it all in one flash flood, making you feel like you've just been hit and the flashbulbs have gone off all around you.
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Port O'Brien Official Site