All hail Hillstomp
At 2009’s Pickathon, an indie roots music festival in Happy Valley, two-man Portland band Hillstomp was in the middle of a set on the Woods Stage when the power suddenly went out.
Without hesitation, Henry Hill Kammerer and John “Lord Buckets” Johnson stepped down from the stage — located in a thickly wooded area with room for a couple hundred spectators — and continued playing sans amplification. With the crowd encircling them, the duo played with even more enthusiasm, feeding off the audience’s reaction to the unexpected turn of events. It was such a cool scene, you would think the band had planned the whole thing.
After a couple of songs, a stagehand found the reason for the power outage: An electrical cord had been kicked out on the side of the stage, right where I had been standing and taking pictures. While I can’t say for sure, I’m almost certain I was the culprit. If given the chance, I’d do it again.
Hillstomp formed in 2002. Their energetic live shows quickly earned them a following. They were the Northwest’s answer to the North Mississippi Allstars, descendants of R.L. Burnside’s hill country blues with punk and trance effects. They also became forerunners in the modern two-piece blues revival.
Kammerer is self-taught on banjo, slide guitar and electric guitar. Johnson, who studied jazz saxophone in school and was playing bass for alternative rock bands before teaming with Kammerer, plays a crude drum set consisting of snares, five-gallon food buckets, drums, pans and a washboard, often held together with duct tape.
They perform with the energy of many men. Their infectious live shows liberate the crowd with music made for dancing.
In 2005, Hillstomp released albums “One Word” and “The Woman That Ended The World.” The latter was named album of the year by Portland alternative weekly Willamette Week. A live album, “After Two But Before Five,” followed, and then the duo released its third studio album, “Darker the Night,” in 2010.
On “Darker the Night,” the band introduced some easygoing, Appalachian front porch vibes on tracks like “Crawdad Hole” and “Old Plank Road.” Those songs fit surprisingly well alongside “Cardiac Arrest in D” and “S.I.R” (“Satin Is Real”), which conjure the spirit of the Bayou.
Kammerer and Johnson took a hiatus from the band in 2012 to work on side projects. They’re back together now, and will return to the Wildwood Hotel on Saturday night. Kammerer said last year it has become one of the Hillstomp’s favorite places to perform.
Portland punk blues one-man band Right On John will open. Music starts at 9 p.m.
There is a $5 cover. For more information, visit www.hillstomp.com or visit the Wildwood Hotel on Facebook.