By all definitions, Viva Voce are a Portland band. They feature at least one member with a beard, and while no one was wearing flannel, it felt like they were one load of laundry away from reaching that point. It is easy to bunch together Portland music as being simple indie rock played by these aforementioned bearded fellows, yet Viva Voce -- bolstered by the brother/sister duo of Kevin and Anita Robinson -- transcend those quick labels that so many are eager to place on Portland's seemingly one-track music scene. What Viva Voce provided for Phoenix Tuesday night, however, was something decidedly un-Portland.
I say this because they harness elements of indie rock often overlooked by Northwest bands -- shoegaze, meandering melodies and female vocals. The biggest I took away from Viva Voce's set was the marvelous guitar playing of Anita Robinson. She is a true talent in the Northwest music scene, and her dedication to her craft -- displayed by her relentless ambition and creative use of different elements -- was on brilliant display Tuesday night. She took the reigns, blasting into songs from the band's most recent album Rose City, hardly taking the time to look back. Sure, she openly complained about the shitty sound at one point in the night, but no one in the audience could blame her. Anita Robinson was the lifeblood of Viva Voce Tuesday night, and we were all at her brilliant guitar-playing mercy.
Songs from Rose City such as "Devotion," "Die A Little" and the wonderful single "Octavio" sounded crisp and polished, just as I imagined they would. Their latest album is truly wonderful, and their mixture of old and new songs worked to the crowd's favor -- even if it was a sparse showing. Viva Voce played a solid 50 minute set, taking the stage just before 10 PM and finishing their brief encore with "Good As Gold," another solid offering from Rose City. For those fans in attendance, Viva Voce played a crisp, rollicking set -- even in spite of some technical difficulties. It's always refreshing to hear a Portland band take that fantastic influence that is the Rose City and give listeners something outside of the all too familiar bearded, flannel indie rock standard that has become so insanely popular these days. Viva Voce dare to be different -- and it works out brilliantly in their favor.
Last Night: Viva Voce at The Rhythym Room
Better Than: Probably any other show on Tuesday night.
Personal Bias: Portland, Oregon is my hometown. Viva Voce is from Portland, and their latest album is called Rose City. What's not to love for me?
Random Fact: Band members Corrina Repp and Evan Railton are relatively new to the band, and their contributions were very evident.
Further Listening: "Devotion," "Die A Little," and "Octavio," the first (and perhaps best) three songs from their latest album Rose City.
By The Way: Anita and Kevin Robinson are initially from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, but Portland is their adopted hometown and Portland is where they have found their career-defining sound.
One More Thing: I will never, ever in my life get sick of hearing a band say "We're from Portland, Oregon." My heart also swelled with pride when Kevin Robinson announced that their new album was called Rose City. Yes, I am biased towards Portland bands, but Viva Voce is the real deal.