Vundabar, Together Pangea

True West Presents

Vundabar

Together Pangea

DEHD

Sun · June 23, 2019

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

$16 Advance, $18 Day of Show

This event is all ages

Vundabar
Vundabar
From 2014 to 2017, Vundabar's Brandon Hagen cared for a loved one that had fallen into a debilitating state of mental and physical decline. For four years his sickness and the eventual loss that followed became the focal point of Hagen’s life as well as his family’s. It was the bell jar under which they lived. Hagen was fractured into two selves; one, largely insular, racked by grief and loss and the other putting it on, touring relentlessly and hoping to be as affable as possible lest he ruin the opportunities at hand. These were the fencings and borders he made for himself and for a time he let them stand. He presented a shell of charisma and withdrew into isolation and despair, convinced he was doing right by the old dogma of stoicism. He didn’t tell a soul out of shame and embarrassment; whose he didn’t know.

Unsurprisingly these two poles couldn’t stand for long. The tension bore down on Hagen’s skull until it felt something might break. It reared its ugly head from time to time. He became withdrawn, irritable and inactive and suffered more than one nervous break. It came to a point where he had to deal with it or it was going to deal with him.

In reflection Hagen realized the point that had led his loved one to a collapse and subsequent dissolution held parallels to his own. As a child, bereft of stability, he created a larger than life persona to live within. He buried his insecurities and traumas deep and kept them there for most of his adult life, until, unable to maintain the house on stilts he’d built for himself, he collapsed completely. And here Hagen was in the face of this loss, about to repeat the cycle.

Hagen wondered was this stoicism, this shame, this impasse even his own or had it been pressed upon him. From the earliest memories of boyhood he could recall one of the most integral attributes of male-ness being an ability to suppress emotion. Concealment was touted as a point of pride and here he watched as it leveled the one who held it in his hand.

'Smell Smoke', the band's anticipated 2018 follow up to their breakout 2015 album 'Gawk,' is an attempt at openness and vulnerability. It’s an attempt at unlearning. It’s a document of grief; a child crying into the dark.
Together Pangea
Together Pangea
DEHD
DEHD
Love is everyday magic. That’s the impression you get listening to Water, the new album by Chicago trio Dehd. Love rises up into the atmosphere like steam off a summer sidewalk and makes you wild. Love breaks your heart and you consider yourself lucky for it. Like water itself, it surrounds us, it supports us; it’s what we’re made of. It takes the shape of its container.

That’s something Jason Balla, Emily Kempf, and Eric McGrady discovered quickly after forming Dehd in 2014. Balla and Kempf are both veterans of Chicago’s increasingly fruitful DIY scene (Balla with Ne-Hi and Earring, Kempf with Vail and formerly with Lala Lala). When they joined forces with first-time drummer Eric McGrady, they discovered they shared a strange and inexplicable chemistry. The music they make — hazy and reverb-drenched, a scuzzy and hyped-up take on surf rock that could only come from the Third Coast — came so intuitively, it made all three feel like they were stewards of something bigger than themselves, even while that very thing is unmistakably drawn from their own personalities. “There’s always been this easy grace about the band because we purely just love doing it,” Balla says of their immediate coherence.

That easy relatability was tested around the time they began working on Water in August 2017, when Balla and Kempf, who had been dating since the band’s inception, went through an agonizing breakup. “Realistically, when you have a breakup, you want to isolate yourself and cut yourself off from one another,” Balla says. Instead, Dehd went on tour. The time in the van did them good, forcing each of them to come to terms with the way they felt about one another — and about the band.

“We processed our breakup through the scope of the band,” Kempf explains, leading them to realize that the music they were making as Dehd was more important than the dissolution of their romantic relationship — and that the musical connection between the three of them was even deeper than they’d imagined. “Every time we write music together or play shows, the chemistry between the three of us seems rare and worth holding on to,” Balla says.

“I don’t take it for granted,” Kempf adds. “We love each other — in the truest sense of the word ‘love.’”

That might be why Water never comes across as cheap or exploitative, and why it doesn’t rely on any Rumours-esque interband drama for its power. Throughout, both Kempf and Balla — who composed the lion’s share of the material in live improvisation with McGrady in their Chicago practice space — sound fresh and alive, like they’ve each returned from a journey and are here to share what they’ve learned; it’s virtually impossible to imagine them on the opposite sides of a conflict.

In fact, Water finds Dehd’s three members united as they push themselves beyond their natural limits and end up in places they wouldn’t have imagined. Balla’s production incorporates flubbed notes and dropped beats, and it emphasizes he and Kempf’s occasionally strained voices. It’s all animated by the red-lining feel-good spirit of the Velvet Underground’s Loaded and the breezy melodicism of C86-era indie rock, with a dash of the Cramps’ spooky-hop bop courtesy of McGrady’s locomotive drumming.

Which makes Water feel like a different kind of record: It’s at once a mature and grounded look at adult relationships, and a raucous celebration of friendship, and a cracked piece of purely musical bliss. It’s a clear-eyed look at the wild nature of everyday life that’s been spun up in sugary sweet melodies and scratched-crystal sounds. More than anything, it’s the embodiment of Dehd’s m.o. from the start: As Kempf puts it, “Work with what you have and make it magical.”
Venue Information:
Aladdin Theater
3017 SE Milwaukie Ave.
Portland, OR, 97202
http://www.aladdin-theater.com/