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Review: Ravenna Woods at Neumos

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Photo by Tom Mohrman

Friday May 18th Ravenna Woods played Neumos with Deep Sea Diver and Pure Bathing Culture. It was a packed house enjoying some homegrown Northwest Music. Everyone on stage was having a good time, and that feeling was infectious.

Pure Bathing Culture was the first act. They’re out of Portland. They have a Sugarcubes vibe to them; they’re playful, giddy. It would seem that their drummer is named Roland, and he loves the bossanova. The drum machine downtempo beats had spacey guitars on top, and the singer added a kind-of summer days in the park poppiness to the music. On their Bandcamp page they have live drums. Hopefully their lack of live drums was about being on the road. If not, that would be unfortunate.

Up next was Deep Sea Diver. Their songs were tight, with clean edges like Weezer songs, with a dreaminess like the Shins. Their drummer Peter Mansen has lots of exuberance; he plays with his whole body. Lead singer Jessica Dobson does wonderful things with her vocal range. It’s almost like different characters when she moves up and down the octaves. There are lots of different nods in their music to different genres. When they played ‘Weekend Wars’ there was a decidedly Stray Cats feel in the air. Dobson danced between the keys and guitar, all the while Neumos was in her thrall, dancing along. Keep your eye on Deep Sea Diver.

Ravenna Woods have a new member. Adding a new member to a band is a touchy thing. One way for it to happen is for an existing member to get replaced. Another is for a band to see something they want in a new member, and they join, Borg-style, adding their distinctiveness to the collective. The latter is the case with Sam Miller on the keys. It’s all very new for the band. With the addition of Miller, and occasional electric guitar, the expected fingerpicked guitar sound of Ravenna Woods is turned on its ear. Miller isn’t present on all of the pre-existing material, but when he does play, it’s with pizazz.

Lead singer/guitarist Chris Cunningham has an optimistic zeal on stage that belies the sometimes dark undercurrent of his lyrics. His family was at the show, and when he pointed them out the giant smile on his face was recognizable from the back of the room. This is a good time to be Ravenna Woods. Between their upcoming spot at the Capitol Hill Block Party, and their seemingly universal acclaim by the critics, it will be exciting to see what comes of this threesome turned foursome. Should be a pretty great summer. You’ll want your summer to include one of their shows. When Cunningham goes from screaming to complicated fingerpicking, when everyone on stage is playing floor toms, when the audience knows just how to clap along, well, you just want to be there.