ramona falls [2010]

Fox Theater
Oakland, CA
27 May 2010

It was one of those times when everything seemed to work as it should. I had tickets in hand to see The National and noticed that a band I’d never heard of was opening for them. And unlike most instances, I actually got around to listening to the opener’s music before the show.

Not only did I listen to Ramona Falls’ Intuit, but I quickly became enamored with it, buying it that same day and listening to it pretty consistently for the week and half leading up to the show. Meaning that, the night of show, I was excited to hear both bands perform. Quite a treat.

Knowing their music fairly well, but not having seen any photos of the band, I was surprised to see that Ramona Falls is led by Kenneth, the NBC page. Seriously, Brent Knopf (also a member of Menomena) is a dead ringer for Kenneth. It’s scary. Thankfully, Knopf has a bit more of an intellect, writing and performing songs that both entertain and challenge the listener. He plays with key and time signatures in ways that most pop bands do not, yet still remains mostly within the confines of the modern pop song structure.

Much should also be said about guitarist Matt Sheehy: talented musician, perfectly-complementary backup vocalist, fine dresser and owner of the most beautiful collection of guitars I’ve seen on stage from one musician in a long time. The king of them all had to be the very first he played, an exquisitely-smooth all black seamless guitar that appeared to have been carved and cooled from molten lava.

A very likable group until, unfortunately, you arrive at the drummer, Paul Alcott. Calling Alcott an ADHD Sideshow Bob would only be a rough start. He was, quite simply, a huge distraction throughout the entire set, standing when he should have been sitting, and blabbering incessantly between songs. His National-fans pandering banter was pathetic and just plain annoying. We can only hope that Knopf (the band being basically his project) decides to call up a different Portland drummer next tour.

But I tried not to let Alcott ruin what was really a very entertaining set. The highlight came with the closer, “Melectric”: a rhythmically-complex, driving force of a song built around Sheehy’s fierce mandolin (seriously, this guy is fantastic). The final crescendo made for a perfect ending to a great performance and made me look forward to hearing much more from Knopf and Ramona Falls.