Portland indie rock faves Radiation City popped in to Bottom of the Hill Tuesday night on their weeklong West Coast tour, playing tracks from their debut album The Hands That Take You.

I decided to check out the show with little to no prior knowledge of the band, except for a brief listen to their songs “Park” and “The Color of Industry.”  The only thing I’d read was to expect “60’s girl group-influenced pop.”

Instead, the quartet — led by bf/gf duo Cameron Spies and Lizzy Ellison, founders of Portland-based DIY cassette label Apes Tapes — played moody, subdued songs mixed with biting, edgier tunes that felt like they’d finally been let out of their cage after chomping at the bit for days.

Drummer Randy Bemrose and (strikingly lanky, well-dressed) bassist Matt Rafferty rounded out the rhythm section, often doubled up with an electronic backing track. Though Spies and Ellison took main vocal duties for the majority of the set, all  four members are extremely capable singers and their three- and four-part harmonies were spot-on.

The aforementioned “Park” was the highlight of the set, a poppier, loud-quiet-loud-dynamic tune with Spies on lead vocals, a catchy-as-fuck synth line and “ooh-ooh-ooh”s galore.

In a live setting, Radiation City are blessed with the rare ability to hold back when a song calls for it (and many of their songs do) and not play an entire set at the same volume with identical intensities.

But by the same token, there were a few times when it seemed they really wanted to let go and just rip (especially Rafferty and Ellison, who have a hidden rock star somewhere inside them), but they only took it halfway and held back some pent-up energy that could’ve woken up the weeknight crowd just a little bit more.


Radiation City, “Park”