Bubble Cats “Hiss, Mews, Purr” Review

Editor John Barrios, Music, April 9th, 2013

The sky is an aluminum landscape of purple balloons and streamers...

bubble cats live portland

Bubble Cats Live Portland, OR April 6, 2013

The sky is an aluminum landscape of purple balloons and streamers. We approach the venue and the door was locked. Inside is a room full of sexy 20 and 30 somethings, carefully smiling sideways glances. We are in Portland, Oregon, where there are about ten new bands a day. Maybe one of those bands break out into some sort of local hype machine, most wither away unnoticed. We knocked and could see people notice us, but in an I-don’t-see-you sort of noticing. Finally a group of smokers came out and we shuffled in. I got a green wristband from the merch table with a penis spouting goo drawn on it. This cock doodle granted me access to stand in line for the over-pumped keg of beer. I finally got my cup half full of foam and headed upstairs to see the band. Yes, I am here for music.

The Bubble Cats have been playing shows near weekly, sometimes several nights a week for the last year or so. They rocked house parties, empty venues, packed basement shows, and every outdoor festival that will put their name on the bill. The hard work of building a fan base has paid off on this night. The night they release their 3 EPs CD, Hiss, Mews, Purr. Ten songs for five bucks got me hand-crafted cover art and a sticker.

It’s packed. Wall to wall hotties of both persuasions. I rub my way through the crowd, exchanging sweat and grins and fist pumps and dancing fingertips to the sway of crackling guitar solos. I see a mate and move in his direction. “These guys sound like the Meat Puppets, but current,” he says. I pull off my Adidas sweatshirt and display my pink “Hotness” tee. There is a very tall woman a few feet away dancing in a lovely slither, shimmying her hands above her head in a black sleeveless top. I watch for a side glance at her face. This is commonplace. We have all waited to see how a face matches an ass. She reminds me of a young Isabella Rossellini, and I immediately want to climb her. I catch another friend’s eye. He blows me a kiss and raises his brows. I look around the room and recognize locals poets, members of other bands, journalists. This is an event. This is a happening.

The Bubble Cats are onstage slaying every song like they finally believe in themselves, and they should. Jordan Bocek’s bass playing is fat and smooth and carries every song like a carnival cruise in hyperspace. He keeps a steely gaze from the back of the stage towards his brother Joel, whose fretwork is as smooth as chem-trails across a blue sky. His lanky hair is drenched, glasses hanging on to the tip of his sweaty nose as his large frame swallows his guitar, note by blood thirsty note. He smiles constantly except when he realizes he’s smiling. All he knows is how to make the crowd groan with joy. Someone calls for the band to take off their pants. Anthony Doyle uses the cheesy cue to take off his shirt, never really stopping the beat. He is a true player, a skin thumper, not a masher. He and Jordan have their groove game on tonight. I try to get a little closer to Isabella when Tyler Riggs, songwriter and lead singer, rips into a crunchy solo. His sound is a little bit Crazy Horse, a little bit GnR, raising the band’s sound above the cream of Portland’s beer band scene.

Tyler cuts words between songs, something about loving how many people are here, pouring out honesty with humility. They are a breath of fresh air in a city full of scenester bullshit. Portland has been overrun with bands on a local and national level. The Bubble Cats have put themselves on their own plateau, at least on this night, in this crowd, with these beautiful people, none of which seem to realize they are supposed to be acting cooler than school. The Bubble Cats have raised the bar, not just musically, which they most certainly did, even for themselves, but they did something almost as magical as playing great rock, they crafted a new scene where all are equals, at least while the band is onstage.

+ + +

[Photo Via: Ross Beach]


John Barrios

John Barrios is a poet and musician. He has been part of the band Curious Hands for eight years. He graduated from Buffalo State College and chased his dreams in the Bay Area for a decade before landing on his literary feet in Portland, OR. Barrios was part of the original team at NAILED, and was a Contributing Editor until May 2014.