(May 3, 2023) I wasn’t supposed to go to this show. By the time it was on my radar, the Mississippi Studios show featuring The Bobby Lees, J. Graves, and The Macks was already sold out. Luckily for me, I had a friend with an extra ticket, so I called dibs and hauled ass to Mississippi Street.
I had been eager to see local legends The Macks and J. Graves for a while, and I had never been to Mississippi studios, so this show checked off a lot of boxes for me. Plus, I just had to see what the hilariously named headlining act, The Bobby Lees, was all about.
I walked into what felt like a thunderstorm brought on by bassist Aidan Harrison of The Macks. A lot of bassists prefer to hang back, laying down the groove while carrying a reserved stage presence—Aidan was not that kind of bassist. He put on a show of his own, blasting Muse-like bass lines at a volume that shook my intestines, making me pleasantly nauseous.
The Macks were the perfect opening act for what was to come. They were fun, energetic, and total professionals. I wish I had caught more of their set, but I’ll see them again. They teased that they would be in the studio recording their new album the next day, so I’m expecting no shortage of The Macks in Portland anytime soon.
Jessa Graves, singer of J. Graves, terrified me at first. Her villainous facial expressions and manic energy took me by surprise, but I soon realized that this was just theatrical showmanship. She turned out to be one of the more kind and welcoming souls I’ve met in the Portland music scene.
The three-piece band was incredibly tight and in sync with one another. Drummer Aaron Scott MacDonald masterfully guided the band through several rhythm changes and abrupt stops in almost every track, bassist Kelly Clifton drove each song with her bouncy bass lines, and Jessa’s vocals cut through it all with her powerful, crystal clear voice. If you couldn’t tell they were a cohesive unit by their matching J. Graves branded coveralls, you could tell by the consonance of their performance. They also introduced me to the concept of a “choose your own adventure album,” which is the theme of their latest project, Fortress of Fun.
The Bobby Lees brought a chaotic energy to the stage before they even started playing. As their drummer, Macky Bowman, hyped up the crowd for their set, he stripped down to his tighty whities, signaling to everyone in the room that the night was about to take a turn for the wild. The rest of his band joined him and strummed the first chord of a non-stop powerhouse of a punk rock set.
What started out as a crowd of bobbing heads quickly became a whirlwind of moshing bodies. The turmoil of the crowd was a spectacle, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of frontwoman Sam Quartin. I saw and heard so many rock icons within her, from Henry Rollins and Kurt Cobain, to Jack White and Zack de la Rocha—she was an unstoppable wrecking ball in motion until the very end of their set.
And this was just a Wednesday night in Portland!