At the Doug Fir Lounge on May 19, it was
like traveling back in time 25 years to the heyday of college rock.
By Tim Hinely
From the way
that the two roadies kept coming out, setting up, steadying mikes, testing
guitars, gently laying out towels and walking back and forth across the stage
you would have thought that the Rolling Stones were coming on stage. Oh, and
the band coming out at 10:30 PM when it was a 10:00 PM start time. Ok, so I’m
being petty here, but hey, I can be old and crochety sometimes, right? Oh yeah,
and it took bassist Chris Colbourn three songs before he stopped giving the
sound guy orders (“Uh, more guitar in my monitor”, “”Wait…..a wee bit less vocals in my
monitor”, etc.). That’s ok, he’s paid
out, about the most normal looking rock musicians you’d ever see, the same three of them that started the band
in 1986, and guitarist/vocalist Bill Janovitz pipes up “Hey guys, here’s a
little history. We’re Buffalo Tom, we’re from Boston, we have been around nearly 25 years
and this song is from our first record.”
With that they
dove right into “Sunflower Suit” and it was indeed a fine opening statement.
Then “Taillights Fade” (I would’ve guessed that would have been an encore) in
which Janovitz drew out the vocal phrasings in the song a bit longer.
Afterwards, we heard plenty more from their plethora of records released in the
90’s. Punchy/ catchy cuts like “Tangerine”,
“Velvet Roof”, “Summer”,
“Sodajerk”, “Tree House” and
plenty more (including Skins tunes
like “”Arise, Watch”, “Down” and the Colbourn-sung “She’s Not Your Thing” and “The Kids Just
They could have
been (and often were) described as the quintessential college rock band for
everything that title implies. Then, after 1998’s Smitten, they were gone, for nearly a decade, and then came back in
2007 with the pretty good Three Easy
Pieces and back this year with the terrific return to form of Skins. And
after all of those years together they know each other’s next move and seem
like they genuinely like each other
(not as common as you think with most bands).
As for the encores, I was hoping for smashers like “Directive” or
“Mountains of Your Head” but they slowed it down and other than “I’m Allowed”
(which sounded great) there were a few others I didn’t recognize and ended it
with a nice rendition of New Order’s
“Age of Consent.”. It was then off into
the crisp Portland evening with Bill Janovitz guaranteeing us that it won’t be
another 11 years before their next visit.
Go here to read the recent BLURT
interview with B.T. frontman Janovitz.