After a brisk wander around the massive UW campus last night, I finally found the Parnassus Café in the basement of the Art Building (It’s in the “Quad”, duh?!). It’s a square hole about 25x30 with treated cement floors and ceilings open to the piping and ventilation ducts that feed the halls of academia above. It was a little Nightmare On Elm Street for me, but a cozy little rock box surrounded by a labyrinth of random art installations is also just my style.
The college pheromones in the air brought back memories of youth. Like shortly after I was a zygote and couldn’t speak properly or use my limbs, prior to reading Tolstoy, back before SPIN magazine sucked. Hell, I haven’t felt that awkward at a show since I was that awkward. Despite the youthful awkwardness (I know I keep using that word, but let me tell you: AWKWARD) this was a group of 50 or 60 very respectful young men and women, conducting themselves better than most 21 and overs at a weekend show without a responsible adult around for miles—I mean the hell out of that—and was so happy to not have to hear the one drunk guy or gal who absolutely has to tell their story in a voice louder than the whole band. Go Dawgs.
Since my theme this week is failing at every attempt, I thought I’d arrived late, but the show hadn’t even started yet. Around 730 So Pitted picked up and began to play their post-nothing powerful best. So Pitted is loud, post punk music with traces of no wave, and despite some problems with bass guitar cables, they had the audience agog and eyes wide. Nathan Rodriguez did a fine job of punching all the riffs and squeals he could out of his Danelectro while singing both louder and more energetically than on S O, the three song album they have out right now. Rodriguez even swapped places for a song with the drummer to close out the show.
Chastity Belt says "Cut it off, cut if off!"
After a short set change, and about a one minute soundcheck, Chastity Belt was locked down on their brand of pop punk, breaking into Julia Shapiro’s cabinet of curious lyrics on songs like "James Dean", where the act of sex and the tension it creates are perfectly fair game. Part of the appeal of Chastity Belt's music is the selflessness it contains, Shapiro's acerbic writing takes stabs at guilt associated with pleasure, frolics in the senselessness of physical attraction, and makes observatory eyes at strange love affairs that are taking on forms other than just James Dean lately, from aliens ("put your tentacles inside me!") to cadavers ("why do I feel so alive when I sleep with the dead?"). This is the first opportunity I’ve had to see them live, and they looked happy and comfortable playing. Lydia Lund’s lead guitar arpeggios are perfectly delicate anchors to Julia’s wild grinding rhythms and wails. While So Pitted’s work was So Pitted that it got the crowd to back up, Chastity Belt’s show had the crowd right next to the stage area, laughing and dancing.
Dude York wows the crowd with "Jessie's Girl"
Just after Chastity Belt’s set I took a second to talk to Andrew from Dude York, who let me know that it was cool I knew all the words to all the songs, but that Dude York would be playing mostly new songs tonight. I was shocked. Apparently lead guitarist and singer Peter is a composer as prolific as the one and only Based God, writing up to two songs a day. He may be as prodigious too, because they did indeed play 7 or 8 fresh maximum R&B tunes whose riffs and lyrics were as strong or better than anything they’ve put out so far. Word on the street is the Dudes have had some tribulations with the release of their music, warped, misprinted, records, and your typical industry thuggery rights battles, so who knows in what format we’ll hear their latest work, but I assure you it’s great. While Dude York’s performance at Capitol Hill Block party was not all I’d made them up in my head to be, this performance certainly was. With songs about buying drugs on the internet, suicidal thoughts, and misplaced affection, the awkward youthful spirit of their music met with that awkward youthful energy of the kids in the room; people laughed at Dude York’s between song banter ("we’re attempting to not alienate everyone every time we speak") and danced shaky nervous energy youthful dances at every song, even I was sweating and high on rock and roll by the end of the show.
Shouts out to ASUW Arts & Entertainment, Rainy Dawg Radio, and Evangeline Spracklin for putting together a great show!