I had the pleasure of tagging along with two of my favorite bands, Akimbo and Cicadas, on their trek east for three shows this weekend. The first night was in Spokane, at a coffee shop called the Empyrean. They had a really great stage setup off to the side of the building, the perfect amount of space for smaller-scale rock shows. Spokane also wins big points for having much better liquor laws than Seattle, as the coffee shop sold beer that you could drink wherever you wanted inside.
Cicadas played an amazing set, blowing the minds of several kids in the audience. Their frenzied, crazily technical thrash-prog was in full form, and it was truly a sight to behold. After the show, kids buying their CDs were heard to remark: “I’m gonna go home and throw away my guitar,” and “I’ve never heard anything like that. It was like a perfect mix of everything I like.”
Akimbo’s wall of sound is mighty impressive. It’s not so loud that it gives you a headache or anything, but they’ve done a real good job of filling out the right frequencies so that you feel surrounded by their songs. They mostly played tracks from their new album, Navigating the Bronze, to an overwhelmingly positive response from the crowd.
The next day we made our way across the state and into Missoula, Montana for Wantage Records’ annual Total Fest. Unfortunately, Cicadas’ van crapped out 50 miles shy of Missoula, leaving the boys stranded for seven hours waiting for a tow truck. They had to cancel their show that night, but were offered a slot the following night which they graciously took, as their van wouldn’t be fixed in time to make it to their Saturday gig in Wenatchee. The boys took their misfortune gracefully, and I was bummed I only got to see them for the one show. I could watch them play every night.
Total Fest is one of the best rock festivals I have ever been to. 43 bands from across the country over three nights, with three stages in one giant bar called The Badlander. There were two stages next to each other in the bar area so there was no load times, as well as an all-ages stage in the pool hall in the basement. Every day there were barbeques for the bands, free beer donated by Pabst, river floating, and an afternoon record swap where I picked up some great stuff. I had no idea Missoula was such a cool city.
Old Time Relijun had some seriously intense energy. Their new songs were driving and pulsing, capturing everyone in the room’s full attention. The kids dancing up front seemed to be having some sort of backwoods Pentecostal experience; it reminded me of Ozark snake-handlers dancing and singing in tongues I saw on the discovery channel. I especially enjoyed when the sax player played two saxophones at the same time.
Bellingham’s the Narrows played a good set of their slow and brooding rock, building up into the climaxes they’ve perfected over the years. Denver’s Kingdom of Magic had a lot of people digging their repeating riff metal, but I got bored of it pretty quick.
My favorite band of the night was Spokane’s Belt of Vapor, who have taken all the best parts of These Arms are Snakes and left out the snotty parts. They had winding, mathy riffs and a great combination of dual melodies from the bass and guitar. I eagerly bought their new EP.
The bass player of Fitz of Depression bailed on them the morning of the show, so it was only guitar and drums for most of their set. A local bass player figured out a few of their songs and filled in for the last bit, but their stuff didn’t grab me enough to really pay attention to it.
Fleshies, however, had my full attention. The singer was constantly running out into the crowd, writhing on the beer soaked floor, and jumping onto people’s shoulders. I especially liked when he ran over to the adjoining empty stage and started singing to the few people milling around and chatting over there. The power kept cutting out on stage, ending their first five or so songs early, but they just rolled with it. Why get mad when you can run into the bathroom mid song, grab some toilet paper and roll yourself up in it while singing?
This show was probably the most hyped I’ve ever seen a crowd for Akimbo. The whole audience was screaming like crazy for them before they even started playing. People threw bras at them, there was dancing (which for some reason Akimbo doesn’t usually get a lot of) and people were crying out for more songs at the end of the set. Akimbo was stoked on the output, saying, “That was like Europe in America. We haven’t had that sort of response since we played France.”
The final night of the trip was in Wenatchee, where they played a saloon that was four giant rooms of people eating dinner. One kid specifically came out to see Akimbo; the rest of the bar (which was fairly crowded) just kind of looked at them with a collective “What the fuck?” They blared through their songs anyway, not holding back due to lack of crowd interest. Adding salt to the wound, they had to deal with some jackass journalist in their van all the way home to Seattle, puking his guts out through the four-inch side window opening after taking too much advantage of the saloon’s free drinks for the band. Serious party foul.
Aaron Akimbo: I’m sorry I got barf on your pillow everything.