Aan review: Transformation has a shelf-life

The Portland indie band kicks off a new album at Mississippi Studios and the usual crowd is there

Aan, press photo version/Cara Robbins

Aan, press photo version/Cara Robbins


It was Portland at its zenith—a time when the enthusiasts came together for a truly transformational evening. I walked into Mississippi Studios and was immediately surrounded by familiar faces. There is a certain crowd one finds when they find themselves in Mississippi Studios, and the crowd at this show was an amplification of the usual suspects.

I walked through the gaps of what appeared to be lines forming in every direction. One of the bartenders was oddly lonesome, somehow forgotten, so I decided to take advantage of his time. “Whiskey soda with bitters, please.” He smiled and made fun of my friend, who was concerned with someone putting Rohypnol in his drink while he went to the bathroom. The music hadn’t yet begun, so I embarked on the daring journey to find a place that wasn’t completely freezing to smoke in the patio area.

There is something about Mississippi Studios that entices you to get more intoxicated than you usually would, and I could see it in the eyes of those that I passed. The bar swelled with newcomers as people began the process, and bands like Radiation City arrived in swarms to support the event.

I traded places between the patio and the venue as the first band went on. Seeing the band Boys Beach was something akin to spotting Big Foot, after you realize that the lead singer is also the band’s drummer. Their sound was raw and understated, and it was nothing close to what you might expect them to play if their band name had been reversed. It was like listening to a droney rock and roll band that had stripped out all the nonessentials and played their music through a devastated amplifier that somehow complemented the aesthetic.

Between Boys Beach and the following band, Desert Noises, there was the usual lull and conversation. I realized I was running dangerously low on cigarettes and spending far too much money consistently refilling a somehow eternally empty glass.

I watched the first few songs of Desert Noises and missed a good portion of the end of their set. Their music was not what their name would have you believe, and it would be better described as a highway anthem. The band looks like a group of kids that might trim marijuana for extra money. Their music is catchy and accessible, utilizing twangy guitar and comfortable melodies, and they seem to have it practiced.

Let’s cut to the chase: Aan. Aan had a long lead-up to the release of their debut album, and it shows in their seasoned performance. The band took the stage with an ingrained confidence. The crowd went quite silent for a moment, which was followed by shrieks and frenzy. It can be daunting to play songs from an album that was only officially released on the day of the show, but it became clear after seeing them singing along that portions of the audience were already familiar with the set list.

After the initial reaction of the crowd, the band blasted forward with dissonant noise that accompanies emotive, high-pitched choruses. Listening to Aan is akin to being surrounded by hecklers while a fascinating opera takes place on the stage above you. Their sound is large, and their lyrics put a cloak of anguish over an otherwise delicate love letter.

Aan often has lyrics that are reminiscent of a drunk message you might send someone. Other times their lyrics are like a message you would write but never send. Their use of delay and innumerable effects on the heavy guitars and vocals cause an immersing chatter that you’re thrown into.

Their performance was enhanced by Lizzy Ellison’s guest performance with the band. An already full sound took on a more complex divergence and gave the crowd something they couldn’t experience in the recordings they recently purchased. The band finished with as much energy as they started with, and the crowd took with it the depressing notion that their night had climaxed and there was nothing left but the comedown.

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