Radiation City, Wild Ones Bring Portland Electro-Pop To The Crocodile

Radiation City live

Seattle – Two Portland-based bands recently brought stunning, infectious indie electro-pop to The Crocodile, thrilling the crowd with catchy melodies, impressive beats, and strong female vocals.

Headlining the night was Radiation City, a five-piece with Portland origins going back to 2010. Comprised of Cameron Spies (guitar, vocals), Elisabeth Ellison (vocals, keys), Randy Bemrose (drums), Patti King (vocals, keys, bass), and usually Matt Rafferty (bass, vocals), the group instead utilized the talents of Wild Ones’ Nick Vicario on bass for the night (reasons unknown). However, even with the modified line-up, Radiation City was a solid, well-oiled electro-pop machine.

With a Facebook page that lists influences ranging from João Gilberto and Dusty Springfield to the Flaming Lips and Beach House, it comes as no surprise the Portland quintet has a captivating sound that expertly blends old and new – fuzzed-out guitar, surfy melodies, and 60’s girl group harmonies mix with experimental rhythms and song progressions and futuristic instrumentations to create what the Willamette Week dubbed “Jetsons-era doo-wop.”

With strong visual details, like the females mirroring each other and the taped-out “o,” “l,” and “n” on the Roland keyboards, Radiation City demonstrates a tight, professional confidence as performers, which translates well into their cohesive, polished, and wonderfully juxtaposed sound.

Kicking off the set with “Zombies,” the first song off 2013 record Animals in the Median, Radiation City delivered bright keys, well-structured rhythms, surfy guitar, and tight harmonies, all of which hinted at what was to come throughout the night.

Next, “Food” opened with easy “La la’s,” and as Spies’ commanding vocals took the lead, the female echoes of “Oh woah woah” gave it the futuristic doo-wop touch. Subtle electronic sounds added another dimension to the nicely textured track.

New song “Butter,” which has been a crowd favorite since this summer, was filled with eerie keys, nuanced syncopation, and throaty, haunting vocals. Another new track was “Come & Go,” with Spies taking lead again as Ellison and King delivered wailing, powerhouse vocals on the chorus.

Bouncy, minor keys opened “Sugar Brew,” another track to appear on Radiation City’s upcoming album, which they just recorded in San Francisco. Filled with strong composition, this tune highlights the instrumental talents of the musicians, relying less on vocals.

Closing the set was “Find It of Use,” off their 2012 EP Cool Nightmare. Playing with rhythm, Radiation City created a variety of melodic themes that carried incredible momentum throughout the song, and culminated in Ellison’s soaring, spiraling “Ooh’s” that seemed to give the audience chills.

While Radiation City left the stage, the crowd at The Crocodile wanted more. Strong applause and cheers brought the band back onstage, and Spies laughed into the mic, “Well played, Seattle!” He introduced the first song off their first record, and they broke into “Babies,” from 2011’s The Hands that Take You. A solid encore, Radiation City yet again delivered enjoyable retro pop.

Wild One live

Wild Ones’ keyboardist Thomas Himes, bassist Clayton Knapp, drummer Seve Sheldon, and guitarist Nick Vicario assembled onstage, as vocalist Danielle Sullivan walked out to enthusiastic applause. Launching into “Curse Over Me,” off their 2014 debut LP Keep It Safe, Sullivan’s distinctive, pure vocals washed out over the crowd. Her voice is a beautiful, soaring blend of breezy pop tinged lightly with a gentle, almost sultry melancholy, reminiscent of The Sundays’ Harriet Wheeler and CHVRCHES’ Lauren Mayberry. On “Curse Over Me,” her voice floats along with the synth as it ponders, “ If I made it a lie/ Would you forgive me?/ Who do you think you are?/ I find it so easy, oh you make it so hard.”

Transitioning into “Rivals,” another track off Keep It Safe, Wild Ones created bobbing synth, strong high-hat rhythms, and lulling vocals. Sullivan introduced the band, and announced that it was their last show with Radiation City. “It’s been our extreme privilege to play with them every night for a few weeks,” she said. “It’s bittersweet, and we’re very happy to be playing the last show here at The Crocodile.”

On “Golden Twin,” the standout first track from the debut album, Himes’ echoing keys, Sheldon’s solid rhythm, Vicario’s grungy guitar bursts, and backing group “Ooh’s” accompanied Sullivan’s shining vocals. Sullivan is one of the most expressive front women I’ve seen – her face wears authentic emotion, her arms gesture with grace and longing, ranging from pleading with her hands to wrapping them around her chest, her easy talent and likability pull you in with gravitational force. And closing with “Paia,” the group gave off an unassuming sexiness, with the song’s delicious, taunting lyrics, bouncing synth, and natural build. A palpable chemistry onstage, Wild Ones is a wonderful live band.

Opening the night was Timmy Sunshine and Jettie Wilce of Seattle’s four-piece The Comettes, in a new project called Pink Sun. A garage-punk indie rock outfit, the guitar/drum duo impressively delivered a full sound and enjoyable performance.

Caitlin Peterkin

Caitlin Peterkin

Caitlin Peterkin is a Seattle transplant fresh from the Midwest. She owes her passion for music to her parents, who filled the house with artists from The Beatles to The Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel to Carly Simon, and Jackson Browne to Michael Jackson. One of her favorite memories includes being presented with her mom’s original vinyl copy of Sgt. Pepper when she got her first record player.

With degrees in journalism and music, Caitlin’s written for Paste Magazine, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and MajoringinMusic.com. She loves cheese, laughing at GIFs of corgis, road trip sing-alongs, and connecting with people over good beer and good music.
Caitlin Peterkin

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