Twin Bill

Songwriters Jake Oken-Berg and Jeff Stanley share the bill Saturday night at Alex's Plaza Restaurant and Bar, 35 N. Main St., Ashland.

The Portland-based Oken-Berg brings his full band, featuring drummer Brud Giles, guitarist Jeff Koch and new bassist Arcellus Sykes, to the show.

"We always play a mix of styles," says keyboard player and vocalist Oken-Berg. "I don't stick to my set list when I'm in Ashland. If people want to dance, we'll play our more upbeat tunes, such as 'This Is Love' and 'Out the Door.' I love nothing more than a three-minute song that is easy to dance and sing along to."

The music starts at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, June 23, at Alex's.

Oken-Berg's full length CD, "It's Me," was released last year. He has two EPs, "Find Love" (2009) and "Out the Door" (2010). One of his songs, "This Is Love," is about, well, being happy and in love.

"The chorus is elongated and syncopated, like 'This is Luh-uh-uh-love.' It's a quick and upbeat single, as opposed to an eight-minute, self-indulgent opus," Oken-Berg says.

He's had two loves in his life: music and politics. When he was 19, he says, he was one of 17 candidates to challenge the incumbent mayor of Portland, garnering 27 percent votes and coming in second.

Back at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., he earned a bachelor of arts in politics.

"The best part of college for me was starting a band with great musicians and singing in a cappella groups," Oken-Berg says. "I'd been writing songs and singing since I was young. Honing those talents in college made music transition from a hobby to something that I want to do for as long as possible."

Stanley closes the show at Alex's with his new project, featuring bassist Jacob Ackerman and drummer Noa Bragga.

The songwriter and guitarist writes songs in the style of George Benson, Dave Mathews, Jack Johnson and Ben Harper.

"For the most part, my songs are upbeat," Stanley says. "I get off on the energy when I get in front of a crowd."

Stanley has three CDs to his credit: "32,000 Chances" (2006), "Inside Effects" (2003) and "Peroxide" (2001).

Looking for a fuller sound for his original tunes, the singer and songwriter put together his new trio with Ackerman of LOVEBITE and Bragga. Bragga is new to Ashland, having moved from Las Vegas just a month ago. Stanley and Bragga met when the drummer sat in with LOVEBITE for Matthew Kriemelman.

Bragga studied at the Berklee School of Music in Boston, working with a Russian master, Stanley says.

The new trio will perform eclectic pieces of music Stanley's written over the past 15 years, such as "Life is Up," a song about having a positive outlook on life.

Stanley's parents raised him in Africa, where they worked for the United Nations.

"That influenced my music a lot, along with living in the San Francisco Bay Area," he says. "I enjoyed listening to live jazz in the clubs there.

"Our music is full of danceable beats and heartfelt melodies. I like to write music that makes people feel better."

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