When M64's Ragen Fykes took the mic at Jimmy Mak's Friday night, she was armed with disclaimers. "I can't rap," she said, (adding that she "could try" with the help of her T-Pain iPhone application). "My throat is all harsh right now, I've got phlegm," she warned. And as for the subject matter of the songs she and MC/ producer Ohmega Watts had set out to perform: "Well, you know, my relationships have not been great." While Fykes may have had her share of rueful romances, she need not have lied to a roomful of strangers. She can rap. And the throat complication? Imagined. With a voice smooth as velvet and supple as voile, Fykes delivered a sweetly seductive performance, evoking Etta James, and by her own admission, the very best of Erykah Badu. With Ohmega's mix of hip-hop beats and old-world samples, the duo ignited the room with a soulful interpretation of "House of the Rising Sun," transitioning into Dolly Parton's "Jolene." More impressive still, Fykes and her co-pilot took on Nancy Sinatra's "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" as a closer-- and it need not be said, but I'll say it anyway: M64 did indeed go out with a bang.
(Above: M64's Regan Fykes)
(Above: Ohmega Watts of M64)
Across town, at Mississippi Studios, Deer Tick put on a no-holds-barred performance, blazing through plenty of fan favorites, and pulling a few pranks along the way. "Do you guys like Townes van Zandt, or do you suck?" lead singer/ guitarist John Joseph McCauley III challenged before launching into a raucous--and inspired--version of "White Freightliner Blues." McCauley then torpedoed off stage, leading the crowd (bartenders included) in an energized a cappella sing-along. One might think that'd be enough, but Deer Tick has a reputation to live up to. It wasn't long before McCauley lifted his man-skirt, ripped off his shirt, and scaled the balcony, where he briefly posed, a la Mr. January. Antics aside, McCauley's stage presence is that of a seasoned veteran, and his boozy, bluesy vocal delivery belies his young age. With surprisingly fluid, and technically solid backing from his fellow bandmates, and an apparently encyclopedic knowledge of American rock, McCauley had no reason to apologize for his performance, but he did--tongue-in-cheek, of course. "Next time we play Portland," he said, "I can guarantee you a good time."
(Above: Deer Tick's John McCauley)
Tagged: MFNW 2009