Ryan Chartrand

I feel like I’ve been babbling about Port O’Brien since the first time I saw them perform. It’s hard not to because everyone else is talking about them as well. Not only have they been getting better, they have been getting bigger. A review in the defining independent music blog Pitchfork Media put them in the view of the music hipsters outside of San Luis Obispo and the Bay Area. In addition, they just landed a spot on the revered Folk Yeah festival alongside some great and well-loved folk artists.

This rise in popularity once again packed the Steynberg Gallery withmany more people than I expected as Port O’Brien played their last local show for a while. They played alongside San Diego posters Kite Flying Society and a slimmed-down version of The Finches.

Kite Flying Society opened the show. The band was a rather tearing experience. First, I’m guessing their name is a shout out to the movie “Rushmore,” which already made me want to love them. In addition, they played super cute orchestral pop music which is pretty much my obsession.

However, some weird sound levels threw the whole affair off and didn’t leave the five-piece band sounding as good as they should have. I ended up getting quick glimpses of music that I really liked before weird imbalances in the sound distracted me. Let’s just say they were good because the band shouldn’t be blamed for something that was the sound guy’s fault.

The Finches followed. Apparently, they are usually a larger band but for this performance it was a one-woman show. She explained that some swollen tonsils led to another member of the band having copious amounts of pus extracted from his throat. And she followed that with pretty music that seemed somewhat reminiscent of Rilo Kiley member Jenny Lewis. And she followed that with more gross stories, one of which involved a seedy bar in San Luis Obispo and a man in a green mesh shirt.

Port O’Brien then took the stage in their full band form which features members of the Bloody Heads. Somehow, lead singer Van Pierszalowski got crazier and wilder than ever before. He sped through songs while mixing the whole affair with bizarre, crazed humor that kept the audience engaged. In addition, he enlisted the help of the bass-clarinet player to help flesh out the sound even more. The show definitely changed my perception of the band to some extent. Before, they were a really good local band that I knew some members of. After the show, I realized the band is a lot more and that they definitely have become a unique band I love alongside many other acts. They closed the show with the big cloud pleasers: a cover of Ludacris’ “Move Bitch,” their big song “I Woke Up Today,” and a closing Nirvana cover that was featured on their last album.

I feel bummed that I missed the big musical scene that ended up producing Little Wings and M. Ward a few years back. I’m thinking, though, that maybe I’m seeing a similar event with Port O’Brien.

Show tip: KCPR DJs will be spinning at Urban Outfitters celebration of their first year in San Luis Obispo. Come dance party it with us from 6 to 9 p.m. on Thursday at the store, located at 962 Monterey St.

Graham Culbertson is a journalism sophomore and general manager of KCPR.

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