Rocky Votolato – Mercury Lounge – September 16, 2016
Perhaps unknown to some, Rocky Votolato has been making music for more than 15 years. He honed his craft in the Pacific Northwest during an era when punk and indie-folk artists collided in a musical hotbed. He found a delicate balance between both, collaborating with the likes of Death Cab for Cutie and Pedro the Lion. His seminal album, Makers, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and fittingly the singer embarked on a tour to perform it in its entirety. Friday night at Mercury Lounge, Votolato’s faithful fans were quickly treated to longtime favorite “Portland Is Leaving” as the flood of nostalgia encased the room.
It’s a different show when everyone comes for an artist who’s left an indelible mark on their memories. A perfect example of this lasting impression was the dedication of “White Daisy Passing” to Tony, a fan who had shared the story of how the song accompanied him while he had been traveling years ago after a loved one had passed. Votolato joked that he wasn’t in the music business for fame or riches. He has neither, but in seriousness, the value was the family and community he has built with his songs.
Formerly a “one-man wolf pack,” Votolato is joined by guitarist and lap-steel player Matt Batey, a drummer and a bassist for this celebratory tour. The normally intimate tracks sounded bigger thanks to the musical additions—and even a sampled drum effect was afforded for “Where We Left Off.” Oh, how times have changed! Votolato remarked on how 10 years ago he had flown to New York City upon Makers’ release to open for Nada Surf at Mercury Lounge. He also added that the title track was written here and was inspired by an Allen Ginsberg poem. After covering the full album, the Left Coaster added older material from Suicide Medicine, plus “Boxcutter,” off his latest, Hospital Handshakes. The cozy venue offered little escape for Votolato, who encored with a pair of songs, including “Montana,” leaving no fan unsatisfied. —Sharlene Chiu