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Chase Pagan Pursues the Rock’n’Roll Muse

Far from his native Arkansas, the shaggy, bearded balladeer Chase Pagan won over a small but appreciative cross-section of Portland indie kids — skaters and strippers, bartenders and baristas — during an impassioned, if rather succinct, 30-minute set at Portland’s cavernous Hawthorne Theater last evening (Sept. 24). Composed largely of tracks drawn from his forthcoming debut long-player, the arch and faintly vaudevillian Oh, Musica!, the show was highlighted by a pair of mid-tempo numbers, “Waltzing in the Sky” and “Push My Buttons,” that deftly showcased Pagan’s flair for the dramatic and prodigious musical talents.

By the end of his mini performance, it was evident that Pagan is a study in contrasts, his dueling personas occupying two sides of the same coin. On stage, he’s an animated, engaging and flamboyant showman, a talented multi-instrumentalist equally adept at handling the guitar and keyboards. He’s also quite capable of carrying a tune with his soaring falsetto. The latter, in fact, has become one of Pagan’s calling cards, helping him garner repeated comparisons to rock greats as varied as Freddie Mercury, Jeff Buckley and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. Away from the stage, though, he’s low-key, amicable and self-deprecating (“I lose everything,” he murmured to, which made this writer’s job much easier. Thanks again, Chase.

We asked: On his new disc Oh, Musica!, Chase Pagan features a track entitled “Push My Buttons.” What pushes your buttons?”