Ahh, Boise. The wild, unfettered land of outdoor sports, clean air and, according to Ralf Youtz, frontman of the eclectic Portland band Ape Shape, "a lot of guitar solos." He speaks from experience. Youtz is originally from Boise, but eventually made the trek to Portland (a smart move for any ambitious musician) several years ago. Since then he's been involved in a slew of various musical projects in that area such as The No No's, The Feelings and The Halo Benders-one of the first things he noticed about the Portland music scene was the lack of noodly, freewheeling guitar solos so commonly heard in Boise. "There's a lot of wankers in Boise, but in Portland I think there was maybe one band that really wailed on the guitar, and they were just kind of a straight-forward rock band. It wasn't like anything I'd hear back home."
Youtz prefers the loud, amped-out, effects-laden guitar, and this aesthetic choice is apparent on Ape Shape's self-titled debut album. Every song has a tripped out wah pedal vibe, as funk, reggae, pop and brash '80s punk sensibilities collide wildly into each other. At some point during the fray, these sounds all shake hands, exchange hugs and throw a dance party as big as the band itself. The nine members of Ape Shape skillfully attack their instruments (which include guitar, drums, bass, keyboards, two backup vocalists, trumpet, sax and the trombone), and the result is astounding. Youtz soars gracefully over the top of the tightly orchestrated group as he croons and shouts earnestly in a voice that is half love punk pioneer Jad Fair, and half local post punk legend Doug Martsch.
But subjective comparisons aside, the most poignant aspect of Youtz's voice is the message it delivers. He refers to himself as being "further left than far left." His strong left-wing political views and keen observations of the state of this world find their way into every hook- and funk-driven song, creating a fresh, endearing juxtaposition that is often attempted but rarely ever successful. Yet Youtz pulls it off without a hitch, almost forcing the listener to obey as he makes the call to spend less time on the couch and "get out and start some shit, get out get into it" and to "get crazy and rock that vote." Sentiments that hopefully make the listener pause in the midst of their running man session to give serious thought to getting more politically active.
Surprisingly enough, raising political awareness isn't necessarily the first item on Youtz's to-do list. "At the live show, I just want to make people dance. Most of the time, the message isn't even heard," he claims. But after listening to Ape Shape's album, it becomes clear that he places a lot of importance on sharing ideas with his audience that truly matter. His unabashed political yearnings and straightforward delivery almost convince the listener that not only will Youtz change the world, but his back-up band will provide the soundtrack to the revolution.
This weekend, you'll have the chance to own the music for yourself. Ape Shape will be opening up for Built to Spill this Saturday, June 4, at The Big Easy, and their CDs will be available for sale. The concert is a charity benefit for local public access television station TVTV, so buying a ticket will definitely give you the street cred of a bona-fide patron of free speech in Boise. Or you can just come and dance the night away, but make sure you bring some dancing shoes-the running man doesn't fair well in a pair of high heels.
Saturday, 8 p.m., $15, all Ticketweb outlets, 466-TIXX,