In the 1995 film Georgia, Jennifer Jason Leigh plays a character named Sadie Flood, a raucous and desperate punky barroom singer. Sadie is dramatic as well as passionate and out of control. She has a sister named Georgia who is also a singer, but Georgia took a more careful approach to the music industry. She's far more successful and talented but lacks the emotional abandon of Sadie Flood. The viewer is left to decide which character is more important to society. Seattle's Sera Cahoone is the best parts of both of these characters.
Sera Cahoone grew up in Littleton, Colorado, her father was a dynamite salesman. Not meaning that he was a really good salesman, but that he actually sold things that exploded. She attended Columbine High School a few years before the horrible things happened there. She eventually moved to Seattle because the snowboard shop that employed her in Colorado was opening a location in Washington state. Cahoone met people through open mic nights and advertisements looking to start a band. She played drums in Band of Horses and Carissa’s Wierd before striking out on her own in 2006. She was heaped with praise by NPR and KEXP and joined the growing country tinged faction of Sub Pop.
Daytime festival slots can be a curse for those who sing sad songs, but more than once audience members yelled out, "We love you!" to Cahoone during her mid-afternoon set on the Fountain Lawn. She replied that she loved them back and played an hour long set of what Bumbershoot aptly called "Family friendly Americana rock." 75% of the audience was seated, many on blankets with picnic accessories. I noticed that if there weren't parents with a child on the blanket, it was a couple in love and being overly affectionate. Everywhere I looked, people were in love, as if they had found the perfect soundtrack to be with their person.
Cahoone's backing players were polished, and it seemed clear that she allowed them a lot of room for their own style. They played a number of songs from the soon to be released Sub Pop LP, Deer Creek Canyon, including "Worry All Your Life," "Every Little Word," "Nervous Wreck," and the title track, which was my favorite of the set. There's a trailer for the new record right here. Also included were "Last Time" and "Couch Song" from her 2006 self-released record and "Happy When I'm Gone" from 2008's Only As the Day is Long.
When a musician makes their voice and words the focus of the presentation, there is so much that can go wrong. If it's phony, if very easy to spot. If they're trying too hard, it's a disaster. Sera Cahoone has mastered all of the elements of a performer in her genre. The guts, the dedication, the talent, the bashful charisma. It's all there, and it's all pleasing.
Oh, there was a guy dancing near the front of the crowd for most of the set, he completely ruled.