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Aimsel Ponti

Aimsel Ponti is a Content Producer at and a music writer for and the Portland Press Herald. She has been obsessed with - and inspired by - music since she listened to Monkees records borrowed from the town library when she was six years old. She bought her first Rolling Stones record at a flea market when she was in 7th grade and discovered David Bowie a year later. She's a HUGE fan of the local music scene and covers it along with national musical happenings in her "Face the Music" column and with artist interviews that appear in print in the Portland Press Herald and online at You'll also find her out and about absorbing live music like a sponge and roaming around local record shops and flea markets. Aimsel is also the host of Music from 207 on 98.9 WCLZ and appears monthly on the WCHS TV show “207” to talk of course.

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Posted: October 2, 2017

Can’t miss mid-week shows from Japanese Breakfast and Shovels & Rope

Written by: Aimsel Ponti
Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast Photo by Ebru Yildiz

Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast
Photo by Ebru Yildiz

I wish every day of the week was either a Friday or Saturday, but I’m not in charge of those decisions, and so until things change around here, I’ll nap as best as I can and keep going out to weeknight shows. I can’t bear to miss a band I love just because it means I’ll be dragging the next day. That’s what coffee’s for, right?

This brings me to two mid-week shows. First, permit me to rewind to the end of July when Tegan and Sara played at the State Theatre and put on an entirely dandy show. But what was just as thrilling to me was getting introduced to the spectacular opening act, Japanese Breakfast.

At one point, the band mentioned it would be back here in October and, well, here we are. This time, it will be at a much smaller venue, Space Gallery, making it all the more enticing. In July, Japanese Breakfast released “Soft Sounds from Another Planet,” the follow-up to the 2016 debut “Psychopomp.”

I’ve been spending time with the former and plan to dive into the latter ASAP. Japanese Breakfast is essentially the moniker for singer and guitarist Michelle Zauner. She was in the Philly band Little Big League for a handful of years in the early 2010s. After she returned home to Oregon when her late mother was ill, Japanese Breakfast came to be.

As for the “Soft Sounds” album, it’s a lo-fi trip to the far reaches of outer space and back. The very first song, “Diving Woman” clocks in at six and a half minutes and sets the tone for the rest of the album with a full, sweeping sound that’s also intimate and light. Zauner’s voice is chill yet bright and draws you in the moment you hear it. “I want to be a woman of regimen,” she sings, and her voice intertwines with warbly synths and fuzzy guitar. It’s so up my alley I can hardly stand it. I listened to it under the horrible fluorescent lights of my desk and was still transfixed.

“Machinist” opens with spoken word, and I found myself reminded of some ’90s Enigma tunes, which, to be clear, is a compliment. Thirty seconds later the beats start, and the song comes to life. Robotic vocal distortions are part of it, which made more sense when I read that it’s Zauner’s sci-fi narrative of a woman falling in love with a machine. It ends with a saxophone. This song truly has it all. I think it’s my favorite on the album, but there are so many good ones I can’t commit firmly to that.

Here’s “Machinist”

“Planetary Ambience” is a minute and 17 second-long instrumental track, and it makes me feel like I’m floating among the stars. (In a good way, not in a Sandra Bullock in “Gravity” panicked way.) The album’s title track is another high point. “I wish I could keep you  from abusing yourself for no reason at all,” sings Zauner, quietly at first then with growing passion as the song moves along. Both electric and acoustic guitars are gorgeous. And just like that, I’ve got a new favorite.

The last one I’ll mention is “Jimmy Fallon Big!” which may sound like a novelty song with a name like that but is actually a dreamy love song. I fell hard for Japanese Breakfast at the State Theatre and can’t wait for our smaller venue second date.

Japanese Breakfast with Mannequin Pussy and The Spirit of The Beehive

8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 10. Space Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland, $10 in advance, $12 day of show, all ages.

Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst of Shovels & Rope Photo by Leslie Ryan McKellar

Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst of Shovels & Rope
Photo by Leslie Ryan McKellar

Shovels & Rope is one of those bands that I’m annoyed I haven’t seen live yet. Thankfully, that’s about to change with their Wednesday night show at Port City Music Hall. Shovels & Rope is the folk rock duo of Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent. And because love is grand, they’re also married.

They’ve released five albums since 2008, and I’ve got some back catalog listening to get caught up but can tell you that last year’s “Little Seeds” is a righteous album of 13 solid tunes. It busts out of the gate with “I Know.” “I know exactly where you found that sound/See, I was at the same shows that you used to hang around,” they both sing, gloves off and burning the house down.

“Botched Execution” is next, and it’s a lightning quick-paced story of a death row inmate’s short-lived taste of freedom. In stolen women’s clothing, the convict makes a run for it but – spoiler alert – he doesn’t survive the song and not because a U.S. marshal shot him down, but rather by way of stepping in a puddle by a downed power line. Oops. But it makes for a heck of a song.

“St. Anne’s Parade,” takes a turn for the tender with lyrics about life being too good to survive. Hearst and Trent are true storytellers and meeting their many characters is an ongoing pleasure that I can’t wait to finally see performed live.

Here’s St. Anne’s Parade:


Shovels & Rope

8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11.  Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland, $20 in advance, $25 day of show, $40 preferred seating, 18-plus.


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