R.E.M.'s Peter Buck Heads For Clubland

Peter Buck taking a working holiday.

ATN's Portland correspondent Matthew Amster reports: It's

a holiday tradition in the making. In December of 1994, Portland's Aladdin

Theater--once a porn palace--celebrated its first year of respectable existence

with an all-star jam featuring local boy Pete Droge, Drivin' N' Cryin's Kevin

Kinney, and Peter Buck. (Buck, we trust, needs no introduction.) On Wednesday,

Kinney and Buck hit the Aladdin again, this time with multi-instrumentalist

friends Barrett Martin and Scott McCaughey in tow. As before, a good time was

had by all. Kinney's band has had its ups and downs; they canceled a Portland

date earlier this year. He did his penance and then some this week, however,

playing a litany of Drivin' N' Cryin' faves ("Fly Me Courageous," "Bird") and

some truly old standards, including "Hoochie Coochie Man" and not-so-old

standards like "Leaving On a Jet Plane." His nasal voice adapted well to each

tune as the combo moved from folksy to rockin'. Kinney is also a tremendous

storyteller, and spun tales of his childhood while picking a simple melody on

the guitar. Sure, he knows how to rock, but everyone knows he a folk singer at

heart.

Buck, clearly glad to being playing to 300 people after a year in

arenas, showcased his skills on mandolin, guitar, bass, and dulcimer. He's also

looking about as well as he ever has in his public life, smiling and chatting

with his bandmates. Maybe living in Seattle for a couple of years has

brightened his spirits.

Former Young Fresh Fellow McCaughey (who spent the

past year touring as part of R.E.M.'s expanded stage line-up) is an equally

engaging performer. Finding himself left playing the drums on one tune,

McCaughey--emphatically not a drummer--did his best, and it worked just

fine. The guitarist and keyboardist also sang a couple of songs he and Buck

wrote for the soundtrack to the new film Georgia. When McCaughey

apologized for his voice, a woman in the audience yelled, "I think you've got a

nice voice!" I thought so, too. Barrett Martin is a competent bassist and

occasionally brilliant drummer. He also provided the namesake for the

entertainment: the band was billed as the Barrett Martin Quartet.

Though

not as cozy as last year's show (the lack of hay, perhaps?), the musicians

still managed to capture the feeling of going to hear some old friends play

some music. Not like a Mad Season show, I assure you.

After the show, the

band came out to BS with the remaining fans. Buck reports that R.E.M. is

currently "just goofing around" and have no plans for the immediate future.

Kinney promised they would be back next year for another jam. If you're in the

Northwest (they play Seattle, too), why not celebrate the holidays with this

amiable bunch?