Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Tree People live at the White Eagle in Portland, Dec. 14, 2007 (photos by Chris Leck)

photos by Chris Leck

  There was a wonderful full house listening audience for
the Tree People at the White Eagle in Portland on December
14th, 2007. Several audience members told us after the
show that they had our original vinyl Tree People album.
We started our set with me and Jeff doing Sliding, then
and Rain, Rain. Our brilliant new double bass
player Rich then joined us on the stage and proved himself,
as he has done in our rehearsals and at our performance the
week before in Seattle, to be a perfect addition to the group.
A new instrumental piece we did that night had no title, so
we asked the audience for their ideas,and they came up with
several good ones during and after the set. We will probably
go with Sunday, the name of an audience member's daughter, for
that piece. We did many songs from the first two Tree People
recordings, and two highlights for me were Pot of Gold (with
its long pauses punctuated each time by a return in unison by
all 3 musicians) from the first, and Grandfather (which is always
a deeply emotional piece for me) from the second. Lyrics which
I wrote so many years ago took on new meanings in performance.

We closed with what I feel is perhaps our best ever performance
of Space Heater, where an extended hold on an open chord in the
middle part (which happily surprised me as much as it did Jeff
and Rich) accentuated the convergence and groove of guitar,
hand drums and percussion, and double bass).
Northwest rock/roots icon Jon Koonce opened the evening with
an acoustic solo set, and after the Tree People's extended set,
my son Abe's great Americana, alt-rock band Maggie's Choice had
people dancing (some very spirited and creative dancers appeared
on the floor!) late into the night.
We are looking forward to many more Tree People performances
over the next few years, but I think I will always remember
this one.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Music Editor Amy McCullough's column about The Tree People this week in Willamette Week

Here Comes Your Fan: Out of the Woods


About a month ago, I received an email that made me think ’90s punk-grunge outfit the Treepeople (featuring Built to Spill’s Doug Martsch) was reuniting. And, based solely on that band’s dirtied-up, angsty cover of the Smiths’ “Bigmouth Strikes Again”—not to mention my immense BTS fanhood—I was pretty excited. Little did I know I’d learn an underground history lesson in Northwest psych folk instead.

See, Martsch’s Treepeople weren’t the first. Back in 1979, a man named Stephen Cohen went into “a studio in the woods near Eugene” (now-defunct Rockin’ A Ranch) and recorded a self-titled album under the Tree People name—an album one fan laid down 150 bucks for at Portland music store Exiled Records. “It didn’t last for very long,” Exiled owner Scott Simmons recalls. Cohen, who continued to play after the Tree People called it quits in 1985, says of the album’s 2006 Japanese reissue: “It is a nice feeling to do something, have it sit for years, and then be around to see it appreciated.” But to some, that original was already sonic gold: “People into psychedelic folk definitely know about it,” says Simmons.

Here in Portland, plenty of music fans are into psychedelic folk, and—whether those fans know it or not—they could lump the Tree People’s spooky, hypnotic forest folk in with that of legendary faves like Texan duo Charalambides or British psych-folkstress Vashti Bunyan. All share a key aesthetic: a sound that’s one with nature, whether it be evoked by cryptic lyrics, sylvan flute, hand percussion or experimental forays into trancelike string noise.

So why did the Tree People vanish? Cohen’s then-young children made touring a non-option, and original bandmate Jeff Stier (recorders, flute, hand drums) eventually moved to Washington, D.C., for work. When the kind-voiced Cohen started hearing from “collectors [and] music fans who all had somehow discovered our first vinyl album,” he contacted Stier only to find that he was moving back to Oregon. “The enthusiasm for our older recorded output [played] a big part in inspiring us to play again,” says Cohen.

The reincarnated band—which is already working on fresh material with new double-bassist Rich Hinrichsen—played a “small, warm-up performance” this past Saturday at a coffee shop in Seattle. “It was great to get our feet wet again,” says Cohen. Simmons’ response when told the Tree People are playing Portland this week? “Oh, weird.” Yup, and pretty awesome, too.

The Tree People play Friday, Dec. 14, with Jon Koonce and Maggie’s Choice at the White Eagle. 9:30 pm. $6. 21+. Photo: The Tree People (circa 1979): Stephen Cohen (far left), Jeff Stier (center) and guest pianist Soria Meadow.

3 Responses to “Here Comes Your Fan: Out of the Woods”

  • Nicole Campbell


    I heartily agree that Stephen’s success is well deserved. Our family LOVES his music and listen to it all the time. I hear they say that each overnight success takes about 20 years - just a couple of go rounds and BAM! Stephen’s commitment to the craft is key.

  • Posted @ December 12th, 2007 at 8:29 pm (1 day, 16 hours ago) | Flag this Comment | permalink
  • Oryx Cohen


    Hey, I guess this is keeping this in the family as one of Stephen’s sons. What a great article! I highly recommend going to the concert on Friday and I’m sorry I can’t make it. It should be noted that the family connection continues, as Maggie’s Choice is playing that night featuring my brother and Stephen’s other son, Abe Cohen. It should be an awesome night. Sing a song for me!!!

    Posted @ December 12th, 2007 at 11:41 am (2 days ago) | Flag this Comment | permalink
  • Jeremy Cohen


    I think it’s great that my brother has become an “overnight success” now that he has been playing music for over forty years.

    He is very deserving of listening to (as he always been) and I wish him continued success.

    Posted @ December 12th, 2007 at 10:51 am (2 days, 1 hour ago) | Flag this Comment | permalink

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Tree People live! (in performance) with a new member on double bass

The Tree People is a live performance group once again! We have added a wonderful double bass player from Seattle, Rich Hinrichsen, to our lineup. He brings new energy to the proceedings, using a palette of deep, melodic, and interesting sounds on his double bass to fit in nicely with our music.
The Tree People performed as a group for the first time in more than 22 years at a small venue, The Hotwire Coffehouse, in Seattle on December 8, 2007. The lineup was myself on guitar and voice, Jeff on recorders, flute, hand drums, orchestra bells and percussion and Rich (who helped set this performance up) on double bass. It was a good way to get our performing feet wet once again. There was a listening audience of about 50 people in attendance. We did songs and pieces from the first two Tree People recordings, as well as some new material that may work its way into a third Tree People recording one day. It was an amazing experience that went even better than expected, and we are excited and ready for a performance this Friday night at the White Eagle here in Portland. I will post photos from the Portland performance soon after it happens.