Portland Cello Project at High Noon Saloon

  • Post Author
    by Web manager
  • Post Date
    Wed Mar 04 2015
“Why would you go to a cello concert?”
“Won't it just be boring classical music? You'll probably fall asleep.”
“Shouldn't you be studying for midterms?”
Many of my friends reiterated these sentiments to me as I told them I would spending my Thursday evening watching the Portland Cello Project perform at the High Noon Saloon. While they were likely correct about the last statement, they couldn't be more wrong about the first two. Portland Cello Project, or as they affectionately known, PCP, elevates the classical instrument and enables it to play across all sorts of genres. It utilizes the cello's extensive range to create an alluring and seductive new type of music.
The set list for the evening began with a lilting cover of Fleet Foxes ‘White Winter Hymnal'. The Fleet Foxes song is a favorite of mine, and PCP helped it become transcendent. Hearing it play on a cello shaped it into an eclectic sound. The song also utilized the two non-cello instruments in the band (a drum set and a trumpet) to craft a warm and welcoming song. The message? We're here to entertain.
The main emphasis of the evening was a medley of Elliot Smith covers. Smith was a singer/songwriter from Portland who died in the early 2000s. The group's medley, featuring only the cellos, was reflective and kind. A particular highlight was their cover of Smith's “Needle in the Hay”, a song perhaps best known as a staple in Wes Anderson's film The Royal Tenebaums. PCP's lush strains created an emotive, reflective setting.
The whole concert was an exercise is recognizing familiar favorites and discovering new pieces (PCP also performs original compositions). The band didn't just stick with alternative crooning covers. During my time listening, the band shuffled through “Toxic” by Britney Spears, “Halo” by Beyoncé, “All the Lights” by Kanye West (which was interrupted in the middle by a Taylor Swift song), “Take 5” by David Brubeck, and the William Tell Overture. A particular favorite of mine was the group's attempt at heavy M]metal. While not at the levels of a true rock concert, it is always a treat to see seven cellists rock out on classics. It created a fitting space for the drum set.
On the surface, the High Noon Saloon seemed like an odd place for a cello concert. There's no seating, and it primarily functions as a bar with background music. Yet the talent of the musicians controlled the venue from the get-go. The entire population of the bar seemed transfixed by the music, and were as quiet as a concert hall. It takes an extraordinary group to exhibit that type of control, and it was a pleasure to experience on behalf of WSUM.