By Jeremy Hallock
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By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
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The Pinehurst Kids' drummer, Marnie Martin, has a metaphysical theory that explains how the four current members of Portland's Pinehurst Kids survived individual near-death experiences: "It's kind of like God let us come back, but only if we played together and really kicked ass!" All kidding aside, Martin was nearly electrocuted, guitarist Devin Morrow accidentally got a face full of chlorine gas, bassist Cal Gates had meningitis, and singer-guitarist Joe Davis lost the use of his limbs for three days after a chicken-pox vaccine injection. It's only natural that they would eventually became bandmates in a group that seems to thrive in the face of challenge -- physical, mental, logistical, you name it.
It also seems natural that the band takes its name from the town of Pinehurst, Idaho, whence sprang bandleader Joe Davis nearly three decades ago. The nearby operations of the Sunshine Mining Company allegedly poisoned the water table with dangerous levels of lead, and now everyone who ever lived in Pinehurst is on medic alert and subject to a variety of illnesses. (Davis blames his asthma and poor circulation on the now-bankrupt company's environmental negligence.) One might think that Davis, with such a profound injustice inflicted on him, would have a bottomless reservoir of rage from which to draw. Indeed, in Kids' songs like "Pretty Whistle" or "Johnny Mercer," Davis is howling like his soul has been set ablaze and intermittently stoked with high-octane gas.
Back in 1995, the Kids were a paltry two-piece combo, with Davis and drummer Robler Kind (since replaced by Martin) squeezing out combustible volleys of punk-pop gumballs to the Pacific Northwest's hard-drinking hipster crowd. The songs concocted by Davis for his minimalist combo were just fine (many of them ended up on the band's first record). But a punky duo commands little attention or respect (unless you're the Spinanes), so bassist Cal Gates (whose sister Rebecca is in the Spinanes) bullied his way into the mix, and suddenly the goofy little pair became a "for real" band.
On the strength of their impressive 1997 self-released debut, Minnesota Hotel, the Kids were signed to 4-Alarm Records in Chicago, which bought their album and rereleased it. In early 1999, the Kids recorded Viewmaster, their follow-up to Minnesota Hotel, which finally made it into stores a little over a month ago. Since that recording, the Kids added another guitarist (Morrow) and a new drummer (Martin), resulting in the best lineup yet. Martin, with her flailing punk and metal background (the Delinquents, All Out), has added a visceral percussive brutality that's boosted the Kids' already raging pop several intensity levels. Martin's full-bore tempo mauling leaves her comrades shaking and racing to stay ahead of her, while most recent addition Morrow -- from Portland punkabilly rebels the Dirty Lowdowns -- anchors the guitar section.
Davis used to joke that he preferred having a second guitarist because it afforded him more opportunities to drink onstage, but now he seems to have "serioused up" in that regard. The Kids can still kick up their heels and party with the best of them, but the prospect of forging an actual career out of music has proved sufficient to getting band priorities in order. With the personnel firmly in place, the Pinehurst Kids can turn their collective talent to casting their imprint on two albums' worth of songs, with more on the way. —John Chandler