After stopping by Bon Voyage Vintage in Pioneer Square to take in Ten Hundred’s (aka PSmoov) art show I braved the cold to get down to Columbia City Theater for a much anticipated J. Wong show.
The Columbia City Theater (and its surrounding neighborhood) is an old school jewel in South Seattle. Beautiful brick architecture, and a cozy bar and restaurant space open up at show time to the tiered theater area with an gorgeous sound set up just intimate enough for this kind of show.
As usual, J. Wong opened up the show right on time, jumping into tracks from the new album Statue of Corrupted Endeavour. Wong finds a way to make his particular brand of carefully crafted songs look easy to play. Accompanied by only a bass player and drummer, his use of electric guitar more than compensated for the haunting keys and backing vocals that were not present for the live show. With some on time playing and behind the beat singing, and veteran drummer Andrew Rudd—who could clang beer cans together and make it sound like a well running train chugging down the tracks—behind him on rhythm, their songs were at once sad, exciting, and mesmerizing. After a short set of lonesome, densely layered country, J. Wong and crew retired to the bar.
What happened next was hilarious. Matt Hopper, who flew in from Alaska and threw a band of friends together for the evening, jumped on stage and got right into some painfully bad R&B revision work (think the Black Crowes with saxophone). Pandering to the crowd with a “What’s Up Seattle” and singing with a raspy drawl, he began to fight with his Gretsch hollow body through empty soul songs full of endless noodling solos. The band broke into such off key greats as Creedence Clearwater Revival’s "Green River," and had a saxophone player (complete with leather pants) come on stage to compete with Hopper for a few extra sexy riffs. Hopper sings with a boozy, mumbling wail, and he could’ve been singing the words from the label off a Pabst Blue Ribbon can for all I know. The whole thing came to a droll, merciful, halt when they closed with the most forbidden of all Seattle panders: a Nirvana cover ("Something in the Way").
Luckily for Widower, that’s a pretty easy act to follow. I’ve gone on record with my love for Widower’s self-titled, and with rumors of new work on the horizon from the combination of Kaylee Cole and Kevin Large, I was pretty excited. Real life gets in the way though, and while I do think Widower’s latest single "Oh Catherine, My Catherine", is one of the better songs I’ve heard all year, I’d be lying if I said it was a very good show. Maybe it was the drunken between-song banter, or maybe it was because Widower writes perfect songs and I just can’t see any reason why they would play covers of Wham!, Katy Perry, and Blink 182 to a completely captive audience. It wasn’t all bad, though, true to their recordings Kevin and Kaylee’s voices harmonize shockingly, beautifully well. Kaylee did her best to entertain and keep Kevin from rambling, but when he decided to abandon the setlist and play it by ear, time ran away and the set finished before it really got started. That being said, I’m looking very forward to hearing their new album and seeing them again.