Local Wire

Portland Cello Project @ Crescent Ballroom

If you're bored and have access to the Interwebs, go to Amazon and type "string tribute to" in the search field and prepare to be blown away. Did you know there's a string version of James Blunt's "You're Beautiful" (because the original is too threatening)? How about Tool? How about Sum-freaking- 41? And that's just the first page. Turns out the process of reducing pop and rock tunes to classical versions of pop and rock tunes is a lucrative business, if not a particularly exciting one. Enter the Portland Cello Project, a group of cellists, percussionists, and horn players who take the whole thing to a much more exciting, enjoyable conclusion by tackling such works as OutKast's "Hey Ya," Pantera's "Mouth for War," Britney Spears' "Toxic," and, most impressively, Kanye West and Jay-Z's "That's My Bitch." The latter sounds not like a novelty but a subtle, incisive examination of Q-Tip's original beat and curiously complex melodic structure. The Project teams up with vocalists, too, like Thao of the Get Down Stay Down, and hasn't shied away from difficult crowds, supporting Buckethead on his first tour and winning over skeptics. Even IFC's Portlandia blog crowned them winners (and who skewers the Pacific Northwest's penchant for absurdity better than those folks?). The band's latest, Homage, ends up being a rare thing — a "string tribute" that isn't insipid. Of course, we don't blame you for checking out "A String Tribute to Incubus." Someone has to.

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.