Win Tickets ($50): Devendra Banhart w/ Rodrigo Amarante @ Crystal Ballroom | Folk, Latin

We are giving away a pair of tickets to Devendra Banhart w/ Rodrigo Amarante @ Crystal Ballroom on Thursday, May 23. To win, comment on this post why you’d like to attend. Winner will be drawn and emailed Monday, May 20.

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From our sponsors:
Devendra Banhart @ Crystal BallroomDevendra Banhart
with Rodrigo Amarante
May 23, 2013
8 p.m. | $25 | All Ages

Crystal Ballroom
1332 W Burnside St Portland, OR 97209
(503) 225-0047 | More Info: www.mcmenamins.com

For his Nonesuch debut, Devendra Banhart chose the title Mala, literally the Serbian word for “small,” but used colloquially in Eastern Europe as a term of endearment-“like sweetie pie,” Banhart explains. It was a placeholder during most of the recording, a working title offhandedly inspired by a ring his fiancée, the Serbian photographer and artist Ana Kras, had given him with that word on it. But the name stuck, and it proves to an apt one for an album so intimate in scale and open of heart.

Banhart’s previous effort, 2009’s What Will We Be, took him to Northern California where he cut the disc accompanied by a full band and producer Paul Butler behind the board. Conversely, Mala, his eighth studio album, took shape back in his own “tiny, tiny home” in Los Angeles, where Banhart until recently resided. He and longtime cohort Noah Georgeson produced it together, playing most of the instruments themselves, using borrowed equipment and a vintage recorder they’d found in a pawn shop. The recorder is a couple of decades’ old piece of gear “that a lot of early hip-hop had been made on,” says Banhart. “And knowing my songs are not hip-hop whatsoever, we thought it would be interesting to see how these kinds of songs would sound on equipment that was used to record our favorite rap. Let’s see how this technology would work for us.”

The arrangements, beguiling yet relatively unadorned, harken back to Banhart’s earliest recordings, the do-it-yourself tracks that first garnered him acclaim a decade ago. The songs themselves, though, are less fractured fairy tales than real or artfully imagined depictions of the vicissitudes of romance, even if Banhart does lace his often seductive delivery with liberal doses of surreal humor.

These days Banhart appears more suave than shamanistic, though his gently delivered words still have an incantatory quality. His trademark falsetto warble is often supplanted by a lower-registered croon, especially when he vocalizes in Spanish on a track like “Mi Negrita”-a song he conjured up while envisioning himself “in an oversized suit, slightly sweaty” on the set of the Venezuelan variety show Super Sabado Sensacional, a program he’d watch as a child growing up in Caracas in the ’80s.

“In Spanish, I can have a lot more flexibility,” Banhart admits. “I have a limited vocabulary-in English and in Spanish-but with Spanish I can get more into the sound of the words, I can have more fun with it. I can even get more autobiographical in Spanish. I feel comfortable revealing more, expressing something sincere about trauma or pain, which is not really a space I’m comfortable occupying. I can take things further in Spanish.”

Speaking of his native tongue, Banhart acknowledges that “mala” in Spanish is the feminine form of “bad,” and, given the more outré, gender-bending garb he donned earlier in his career-featured most notoriously in a fashion spread for the New York Times’ T style magazine-he jokes, “I could be that bad female.”

A hint of darkness does exist around the periphery of Mala, bracketing the album, in fact. The opening cut, “Golden Girls” is downbeat and bass-heavy, evoking a young man isolated on a dance floor. Closing number “Taurabolium”-named after the altar/structure from ancient pagan ritual upon which a bull was slain, its blood pouring onto a white-robed priest below-is basically a syncopated chant: “I can’t keep myself from evil.” Banhart was thinking West Side Story when he arranged the tune, its finger-snapping rhythm coming from “a switchblade, a chain, a whip, and a box full of glass that we just stomped on.”

Mostly, though, the mood is lighthearted, mischievous, and, on a reverie like “Daniel,” pleasantly nostalgic. On “Für Hildegard von Bingen,” he casts a contemporary life for the 12th-century Catholic mystic and composer: “In my head there was this little movie, an alternative universe, I guess-Hildegard is sequestered in her cloister, and one day she gets a VHS cassette and it’s the prime era of the MTV VJ, and she just goes wild. ‘That’s it for me,’ she says. ‘That’s how I’m going to get my message across.’ So she escapes the cloister…and becomes a VJ.” On “Fine Petting Duck,” he duets with his fiancée Kras or, more precisely, duels with her as they portray ex-lovers with very different perspectives on their relationship. She wants to get back with him; he reminds her, in their wry call-and-response, what a thoughtless boyfriend he actually was. (And somewhere along the way, Banhart and Kras switch-inscrutably, amusingly-from English to German as the arrangement morphs from a ’50s-tinged R&B/Doo-wop/Mickey and Silvia-type vibe to a Teutonic house beat.) The anti-romantic banter is more playful, even more honest, than your average love song; Banhart admits, “It’s so hard for me to write a sincere love song. It’s got to be about what a piece-of-shit relationship we’re in now, always, somehow. But there are some sincere things here obviously-they’re all sincere, really, but you have to keep a sense of humor about it.”

Banhart emerged seemingly out of nowhere in 2002 with his first CD collection, Oh Me Oh My…The Way the Day Goes By the Sun Is Setting Dogs Are Dreaming Lovesongs of the Christmas Spirit, compiled by Swans frontman Michael Gira for his Young God label from homemade recordings the itinerant Banhart had amassed as he traveled the world. He was born Devendra Obi Banhart in Houston, Texas, but spent his childhood in Caracas, Venezuela; as a teenager, his family returned to the States, relocating in Southern California, where he soon became enamored of skateboard culture. “Ballad of Keenan Milton,” in fact, is an homage to the legendary skateboarder, who died tragically in 2001 in a freak accident.

Music was always a passion for Banhart, and he discovered it in ways both magical and haphazard. As a boy in Caracas, says Banhart,” I was surrounded by salsa, merengue, cumbia, some bossa nova-that was ubiquitous, you’d hear it on any street. But oh my God, at home we had Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction and the Rolling Stones’ Hot Licks. I don’t know what these things are, I don’t know who these artists are, I’m just eight years old, but I know I want to do that, I want to sing like these people.” In what could be an excerpt from a David Sedaris monologue, Banhart claims he found his own voice one day when he was home alone and impetuously donned one of his mother’s dresses, grabbed her hair brush and started to sing. What came out-wobbly, high-pitched-didn’t resemble Axl Rose or Mick Jagger, but it was a prepubescent sound he could call his own, a touchstone, something that echoed, years later, in the falsetto of his early albums. In high school, Banhart became obsessed with rocksteady, bluebeat, and ska, which he’d learned about via skateboarding videos.

Finishing high school, he thought he would pursue a visual arts career so he enrolled at the San Francisco Art Institute, but he soon dropped out in favor of exploring music. He has, however, successfully maintained a parallel career as a painter: Banhart’s distinctive, minutely inked, often enigmatic drawings have appeared in galleries all over the world, including the Art Basel Contemporary Art Fair in Miami; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels; and Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art. He has created the cover art for most of his records, including Mala, and in 2010 his artwork and packaging for What Will We Be was nominated for a Grammy.

San Francisco had an indelible influence on Banhart; the flamboyant dressing he adopted that entranced the fashion crowd (and fueled the “freak folk” and “New Weird America” labels the press attached to him) was inspired in part by the seriously subversive cross-dressing culture of San Francisco’s legendary performance troupe the Cockettes.

Like Nonesuch label-mates Caetano Veloso and David Byrne, with whom he shared a stage at Carnegie Hall, Banhart has embraced an astonishingly wide range of musical ideas, from folk to blues to the avant garde. He extols the late Arthur Russell, a relentlessly eclectic artist who was impossible to pigeonhole in his brief lifetime, and Banhart has brought back into the spotlight forgotten artists like late-’60s singer Vashti Bunyan, whose psychedelic folk he championed. He has collaborated with Brazilian legends Os Mutantes, the Swans, Antony and the Johnsons, and Beck, among others, and has engaged in art projects like conceptualist Doug Aitken’s monumental 2012 Song 1 video installation on the façade of the Hirschhorn Museum in Washington, DC.

For Banhart, his career remains “an adventure and an exploration.” Mala reveals a natural maturation of his style, especially as a singer. Banhart admits, “I don’t really take care of my voice, but, just like with playing guitar, you get more familiar with it, and you get better at it. I’ve always said that I’m very good at not knowing how to play the guitar but, really, it’s just that I’m very comfortable with the utter uncertainty of my approach.”

-Michael Hill

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34 Responses to Win Tickets ($50): Devendra Banhart w/ Rodrigo Amarante @ Crystal Ballroom | Folk, Latin

  1. Sailor Gaines May 13, 2013 at 13:33 #

    Me and my girl friend both love Devendra. He is “our song”, if you will. We met at a Devendra concert back in 2010 in Joshua Tree. We both lived in Portland and rode back together. I hopped in with her and her friends as I had hitched down. We’ve spent almost every waking moment together since and Its time for me to ask her to marry me. I want to do it at this show and have my grandmas ring to give to her. My plans to give it to her on the dance floor, hopefully during “Ribbon” if he plays it, I sing it to her often. Moneys so tight as we both work and go to school we cant afford the concert right now. Help me marry this beautiful women!! Hurry hurry before she gets away.

    • Sarah May 19, 2013 at 13:00 #

      Awesome!!

    • keith May 20, 2013 at 11:10 #

      cute

  2. Mark Levine May 13, 2013 at 14:19 #

    I’ve loved Devendra’s music for a long time and I’d love the chance to go see him! Pick me! Pick me! Thanks!

  3. Christine May 13, 2013 at 14:54 #

    I love Devendra!!!!! Please pick me!

  4. todd May 13, 2013 at 19:50 #

    I’ve been a fan since Crippled Cow. Thanks!

  5. Leslie Van May 13, 2013 at 20:57 #

    I need to get out more, and I can’ t think of a better reason (Devendra! ) or a better venue (love the Crystal Ballroom!) For a much needed break.

  6. kristiana May 13, 2013 at 22:53 #

    I love Devendra! I’m a working student, a mother of a toddler and have two dogs. I feel like I don’t get out enough. I need a reason to put on pants — other then to go to work.

  7. Ana Meier May 14, 2013 at 11:31 #

    Holy Efffing Shit I wanna go so bad. Long time fan and lust-er for Devendra.

  8. Katie May 14, 2013 at 16:37 #

    He’s the BEST! And I’m too broke to go to shows these days

  9. Mathew May 14, 2013 at 16:59 #

    Devendra makes me weak in the knees. Please help me out?

  10. Ben May 14, 2013 at 19:43 #

    I still have yet to see a show at the Crystal Ballroom. This is fun music.

  11. Heather May 16, 2013 at 15:46 #

    ooh, ooh, pick me. I’m a fan, and I’ve never been to the crystal ballroom (new to town).

  12. Nate May 16, 2013 at 15:54 #

    This guy is good!

  13. Lauren May 16, 2013 at 15:56 #

    Hell yes!

  14. Johnny Skeptic May 16, 2013 at 16:41 #

    I’m convinced nobody ever wins these “comment for a chance” shenanigan ploys. We’re all gettin’ duped into posting hard wit and commentary freshness only to be drowned out by hundreds of “pick me’s,” “I’m poor’s,” and “I walked down the aisle to’s.” Just say there’s no giveaway so we can stop reading your weekly propaganda–cherry on top.

  15. Sam Gomz May 16, 2013 at 16:45 #

    Devendra is the Man. PDX Pipeline is the best for giving away some of these fine tickets. Thank You.

  16. Warren May 16, 2013 at 17:52 #

    Seeing Devendra would make my month

  17. Miranda T. May 16, 2013 at 18:11 #

    A couple years ago, a total stranger told me I “look like a Devendra Banhart fan.” I never really got over it. If I see him live will I finally make some friends?

  18. Eric May 16, 2013 at 18:57 #

    A most romantic adventure… please oh please, this heart needs such stirring.

  19. lilms May 16, 2013 at 20:03 #

    A show to please, in the lovely, lovely month of May…

  20. Dana May 16, 2013 at 21:07 #

    because when i have kids, im gonna want that child to be a long haired child

  21. Allie May 16, 2013 at 21:41 #

    Because LOOK AT HIS HAIR!!! LOOK AT IT!! DON KING IS GOING TO SUE HIM FOR HAIR INFRINGMENT!!!

    I would like to get his autograph BEFORE he becomes the most googled person on earth WHEN HE GETS SUED FOR THAT ASTRONOMICAL HAIR!

  22. Kelly May 17, 2013 at 08:03 #

    i love you :o)

  23. Buster May 17, 2013 at 09:01 #

    This looks like a hoot of a show…would love to float while dancing to Devendra.

  24. Dan May 17, 2013 at 12:44 #

    Holy moley, I hope I win.

  25. Jeff May 17, 2013 at 13:31 #

    The first time I got to see Devendra live was on the day of my 21st Birthday. This story is no joke! They were touring Cripple Crow and I can’t think of a better way to have spent it. A couple years later they came to town so I got tickets to take my girlfriend (who was also a big fan but never saw them live). On the day of the show, a few hours before they went on, Devendra broke his leg skateboarding and they had to cancel. We were so bummed! It is now a few years later, living in Portland, and we finally get the chance to see them again! We should win the tickets mainly for my girlfriend who has waited a long time to see them live.

  26. d@Ve May 17, 2013 at 13:32 #

    sounds like my kinda thing. in my backyard. yippee.

  27. Alaina May 18, 2013 at 11:07 #

    I’m dying to see Devendra. I’ve always wanted to see him play and what a perfect opportunity! I’ve been a fan for years. This would make me SO happy!

  28. Joshua Jabbour May 18, 2013 at 16:50 #

    I want these tickets because I love great music! Gimme gimme gimme :)

  29. Anne West May 19, 2013 at 01:02 #

    Why not?!

  30. Leonard May 19, 2013 at 08:59 #

    Wow sounds like a great show at the crystal.

  31. Christie May 20, 2013 at 08:58 #

    This guy is my hero.

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