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Up until Friday night's show, my attempts to see the Vancouver-based roots-rock band Indian Wars had always been thwarted by bad news at the Canadian border or my own inability financially to renew a passport. But every dog has its day, or night, rather.
So Pitted opened up the show with some of my favorite heavy, garage goth-y hits as they burned incense out of an incense holder shaped like a unicorn, transporting the audience to a mid-'80s weirdo college-era basement party, everything bathed in red light from the "C" neon sign above the stage. After the drummer and the lead guitarist did an instrument switcheroo, a sneaker was used to strum (read: bash) the guitar strings. I saw So Pitted play at Josephine over a year ago, and maybe it's the introduction of a new (female!) member or some kind of existential enlightenment, but it's very apparent that they are evolving as a band.
Hometown heroes Wimps played a very spirited set laden with short, sweet punk-rock ballads about the mundane: taking naps, quitting your job, etc. Which is really the only thing that could ever be considered mundane about Wimps. Besides, those truly are topics that don't get enough lyrical attention in punk music. It's always refreshing to see bands that actually have fun playing music and sincerely enjoy each other.
Fuzzy Cloaks was in tip-top psychedelic shape. They were sporting long tunics, fittingly, and smoke from a fog machine swirled around them as if they were on some kind of otherworldly altar. They played their haunting cover of "Sea of Love" and even the most stiff-limbed crowd members bobbed their heads and shuffled their feet.
Next, Indian Wars took to the stage supplemented by a special guest tambourine player, changing the vibe of the event from ethereal and hazy to a more slack-jawed, knee-slapping, Americana-esque (Canadiana?) atmosphere complete with a harmonica player and a gaggle of '70s haircuts. Their 2012 album Songs From the North is a summertime staple that'll make you want to take one of those coming-of-age road trips where you're driving around the sprawling Midwest in a dusty pickup truck with someone who loves you and you stop at all the swimming holes along the way but you're both wearing leather jackets. Because you're still tough city kids.
I ended the night by catching a ride home in the Luke Electric van, sitting in the back in a crate full of power drills or something equally as pokey. It felt very appropriate, and rowdy because there were no seatbelts.
I missed my two chances to see Grimes this past year—the first at Capitol Hill Block Party, which I don't attend unless I can bust in for free, the second when she played Neumos in October while I was on tour in Santa Barbara. So when Megan Seling posted about Absolut Vodka's free event, I jumped on the opportunity to attend.
As free RSVP first-come-first-serve events go, I expected to be waiting in a long line, something I had never done before—I avoid that stuff like the plague. And with that, I expected this whole thing to be an uncertain adventure. There was also the language on the RSVP that stated, “Dress To Impress. We love style and we know you do too, so please dress smart.” I was wondering if I would have had to defend myself to some kind of fashion bouncer as to whether or not my Nü-Grunge style was worthy of Absolut's advertisement event.
I showed up and entered a semi-long line (regulated by the police at the intersection of 9th and Pine) at about 7:46pm, which actually wasn't a big deal despite that I was going to be in this line, by myself, for roughly the next hour and a half. As more and more people started joining the line it began to bulge with line cutters. As the one person in front of me was eventually joined by six cheaters, they bore the news that the Grimes line had stretched past the light on Boren Ave. I recall a bird in a tree on Pine that was chirping up a storm, probably because it was also sharing the sentiment of outrage over this dysfunctional line.
Wednesday night was so fun that I am JUST NOW starting to get over my massive hangover. If you missed the Intelligence, La Luz, and Pony Time at Neumos, then you're dead to me. JK, here's how I remember it:
Catchy garage-y duo Pony Time sounded big and perfectly buzzy. Their songs keep evolving and the new batch have a wild edge that's sweaty and terrific—plus you've seen their latest video, right? So good. Bassist/singer Luke Beetham's hair sure is getting long... Drummer Stacy Peck admitted that she told him to grow it out. I envision that by next summer they will both have waist-length hesher manes and will be transitioning into a nü-metal phase.
Up next were La Luz, the dreamiest surf sirens in town. I think lead Luz Shana maybe have been a bit tipsy (her in-between song banter was really funny and almost unintelligible), but she played and sang as well as ever—a superpower I wish my own band could aquire! At one point during a mellow tune, I looked over and saw someone's FEET up in the air on the other side of the crowd. Apparently a Soul Train style space had opened up for people to strut their stuff. I was too terrified to participate for some reason and I will forever regret it.
Just back from five weeks in Europe, the Intelligence was tour tight and really, really awesome. I'm sorry other adjectives escape me right now, but dang! I think Wednesday's lineup was my favorite I've seen so far—joining le Lars Finberg were Pete Capponi on drums, Dave Hernandez on guitar, and Drew Church on bass. The dudes had an easy energy with each other, effortlessly ripping into song after song, Lars teasing them like a smartass brother. "We're taking a short break so that Drew can make his writst look really cool" he smiled, while Drew tightened a bandanna around the part of his arm that no doubt gets bass burn. Brand new hits sounded great mixed in with older hits, with the addition of "Tequila" as their final song. And encore.
Best fun. Oh! And did you know all of these bands are also playing Capitol Hill Block Party?
But let’s rewind. I love to be proven wrong when it comes to the live acts of my favorite electronic musicians. The old chestnut about dudes just adjusting volumes on their laptops and calling it a show was replaced by actual charisma and genuine technical know-how on the part of the musicians on this bill. Case in point: Holy Other. I was curious how his brand of distressed, melancholy witch-house would translate live, and immediately I was met with the answer: all his songs sound even better with some bad-ass 4/4 drum programming underpinning them, and some creepy imagery of tin foil and hands covered in tar to stare at.
I was genuinely surprised at how many in the crowd seemed to know the songs he played (almost all from his album Held), as each new sample brought appreciative shouts of recognition from the audience. In short, he was everything you could ask for in an opening act: adrenaline-pumping, to-the-point, and emotive.
It's easy to give Sam Amidon's music a cursory listen and imagine him as a purveyor of old-timey bullshit a la Mumford & Sons or whatever. One can see him clad in suspenders as he yells truisms about commitment and plucks what sounds like Rednex's "Cotton-Eye Joe" on his banjo sans unrelenting 4/4 thump. Because he rearranges folk ballads, traditionals, and pop songs, it also seems viable that in another world, Amidon got lost in a void of YouTube cover artists interpreting pop songs on acoustic guitars into infinity. Fortunately, that didn't happen. Amidon's four records to date, each of which takes a different approach to his basic act of reinterpretation, are gorgeously recorded studies in collaboration. He surrounds himself with players like orchestral wunderkind Nico Muhly, composer and multi-instrumentalist Eyvind Kang, trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, and his wife, singer-songwriter Beth Orton. To hear Amidon's work isn't to hear a traditional folk performer but someone who has broken down fragments and melodies and remade them in his own image, presented in a postmodern context and imbued with newfound meaning.
What happened when Seattle's Ronald McFondle went to ICP at El Corazón? Well, this did...
Going into Monday night's Fleetwood Mac show at the Tacoma Dome, I had a very specific plan: I was going to set up a camera in the Dome's parking lot, talk to strangers for a few hours, skip the show, and magically edit my footage into a film as compelling as Jeff Krulik and John Heyn's fantastic Heavy Metal Parking Lot. I was 100% certain that I could do this, despite my dislike of ambush interviews, my last-minute decision to shoot on my phone (where glare made it impossible to see what was in my frame), and the fact that I haven't edited a film since the seventh grade, when I used iMovie to make a music video using three clay penguins, one of which is still sitting in my teenage bedroom in Idaho.
As it turns out, there isn't so much an individual Fleetwood Mac Parking Lot as there are multiple Fleetwood Mac Side Lots, Fleetwood Mac Parking Garages, and occasional stretches of Fleetwood Mac Street Parking (which, unlike the Fleetwood Mac Parking Lot, does not cost $25-30 to try out). And because it isn't the 1980s, not only is tailgating not allowed at the Tacoma Dome, but no one was trying to break that rule—just nice and not-so-nice people either trying to get or get rid of tickets to an undersold Fleetwood Mac show. This led to curiosity getting the better of me and a change of plans. I took the change in my pocket and bought a ticket for significantly less than face value from a couple whose party included a bunch of last-minute no-shows, and went inside.
Barring the 30th anniversary celebration posters hanging up around the entrance, it would be easy to convince someone with no sense of time that the Tacoma Dome exists in 1983. It is a vast beige room-thing designed to be malleable; the floor is full of folding chairs effectively bolted together, with what appears to be an airport bar growing off the side. The concessions stand reads "all natural Painted Hills beef" but the photograph that accompanies the words looks like it was shot decades before "Painted Hills" and "beef" were ever part of the same phrase. By refusing to even try to modernize, it has achieved timelessness—an honest, no-frills place to see arena rock.
Who went? How was it? Was it as great as this mini-Facebook-review by my friend Denise?! WITCHY!
I went to the Crocodile on Wednesday with the full intent of seeing the Burger Records garage-y goodness of opener Peach Kelli Pop, and then leaving before headliner Kate Nash took the stage. Someone had told me that Nash was a
Lily Allen-type major label UK pop star that had a few hits a few years ago and, admittedly, I didn't really have any interest. Peach Kelli Pop was lovable as always, and I was happy to find out that her accompaniment for that evening's saccharine-sweet set of songs was the delightful drummer Christopher of Guantanamo Baywatch. After they finished, and changeover between bands happened, the 99% young female audience was buzzing with anticipation. I started noticing that other concert goers around me were wearing homemade hand-sequined and puff-painted vests and jackets reading feminist slogans, "Kate Nash" and "Death-Proof" (the name of one of her new singles). The venue also had a huge display table selling light-up glitter bracelets to benefit Because I Am A Girl, a charity organization that Nash is currently representing as an ambassador.
Guitarist/vocalist Steve Gunn opened for Kurt Vile & the Violators, who packed the fuck out of Neumos last night. (Prediction: Kurt Vile will soon be bigger than Beyoncé and will headline Bumbershoot in 2014.) But Gunn and his steadfast bassist Justin Tripp and drummer John Truscinski were the highlight of the night for me. They do what so many other American bands do, but somehow Gunn and company’s take on folky blues resonates way more strongly than that of their peers.
The songs on Gunn’s new album, Time Off (out June 11 on Paradise of Bachelors) plunge so deeply into that folk-blues vein it becomes a kind of sacred psychedelia. Last night they showed how Americana should sound: raw, fluid, grave, stirring, and rolling on a seemingly eternal ramble. Gunn’s non-histrionic voice is the ideal forlorn, wistful foil to the glistening streams of salubrious, post-Fahey sound.
The half hour on stage that they got was way too short; Gunn's songs needs much more leg room to allow for their stark yet easy-going melodies to properly weave their hypnotic spell. “We tend to jam too much,” Gunn said at one point, realizing they had only eight minutes to squeeze in two more songs. “We need to keep it tight.” But the Gunn trio won over the crowd in their piddling 30 minutes. Let’s hope they come back to town and get more time to unfurl their practically designed freak flag.
Since when did Kurt Vile have enough fans in Seattle to sell out Neumos on a Sunday? The last time I saw him headline a venue, I was in Portland and his first album for Matador, 2009's Childish Prodigy, had been released a few weeks prior. I had read earlier that week that Vile was fairly hit-and-miss, and to that somewhat-interested crowd of onlookers, he and his Violators banged their way through a handful of songs that made far less of an impression than his excellent first two records, Constant Hitmaker and God Is Saying This To You?.
Vile wasn't someone I'd planned to see again, but in the years since, he's all but ditched his lo-fi past in favor of uniquely sprawling, guitar-driven slackerisms that sound like they could've come from any of the last four decades of pop music without sounding out of place. He's written some of the best road songs in recent history on 2011 breakthrough Smoke Ring For My Halo, and on this year's very good Wakin on a Pretty Daze (where Vile uses his songs' lengthy run times to stretch out, take a solo or three if he feels like it, or just play a riff to himself, safe in the knowledge that there will be resolution eventually).
Patience is a virtue; so is punctuality and the radical concept of not making your fans wait an inexcusably long time to see you perform. While I have loads of respect and admiration for Secret Chiefs 3—who played the Crocodile Wednesday night—I have to take issue with how they doled out their music on this occasion.
Doors were at 8:30 and Secret Chiefs 3 were the only act on the bill. They went on at 9:45 and did a great hour-long set. Dressed in white hooded robes (except for the drummer, who was in a black hooded robe), SC3’s five members executed an incomparable mélange of heavy metal, spaghetti Western/Italian horror-film soundtrackage, prog rock, and avant jazz from their Masada and Forms repertoires. It sounded at once bracingly futuristic and enigmatically ancient. Everyone onstage is a virtuoso; their technical proficiency is so dazzling it’s exhausting. Nobody in the band said a damned word to the crowd. (Some jackass shouted “Free Bird!” a crime that should be punishable by death at this late date. SC3 ignored his request.)
SC3 exited the stage at 10:45 and many punters thought the show was over. It wasn’t. However, the band didn’t announce anything to the effect of “Thanks! We’ll be back for another set in x minutes.” That would’ve been nice. Instead, we had to rely—if we were lucky—on a Crocodile employee telling us that this gap in the evening’s entertainment was merely an "intermission."
Now, an intermission at a concert is a serious momentum killer, and it’s not like SC3 are so old they need to take an extended break. But, hey, they’re eccentric guys and their music’s rare and fantastic, so we can deal. Give ’em 15 minutes to drink/toke/joke/chill backstage and they’ll come back recharged for the second set. But this intermission lasted 45 fucking minutes. On a fucking Wednesday.
Many people bounced during this overlong silence—maybe 25-35 percent of the attendees. I stuck around for two songs after the break and then left, shaking my head at the contempt shown toward the audience. (I was also fatigued and grumpy from being out late five of the last six nights—Masaki Batoh, three nights of Debacle Fest, and Acid Mothers Temple—so I was in no mood for delayed gratification, no matter how dome-cracking.)
Remnants of Bumbershoot's prom-themed announcement shows—a collection of seafoam green, baby blue, and yellow balloons and gold and silver glittery stars—were still hanging from the Crocodile's ceiling as Minneapolis' Now Now played on Saturday night. I felt like I was in a scene from a teen movie. Summer had finally arrived in Seattle, the air was perfectly warm, and a majority of the crowd appeared to be more dressed up than your average Friday night showgoer—colorful fashion inspired by blasts of vitamin D. Now Now's tunes, with soft breathy vocals and shimmery guitar (in this week's paper I compare it to the Jealous Sound and Tegan and Sara), sound like a modernized John Hughes soundtrack. I expected a dork in a tuxedo to jump on the stage and confess his love to the prom queen any minute. Alas, the band played on without interruption (but I did see a young couple making out in the back, as would happen in the movies).
Even though it has 800 years (or so) since the Lonely Forest stepped onto a local stage, the Anacortes-based anthemic rock outfit sounded great. After being holed up in the studio, and then playing nearly every night on tour for the past three weeks, the band was one with their songs—I doubt their instruments have been out of their hands much over the past several months, and it showed, as they took on a setlist comprised of more recent stuff mostly from Arrows and their upcoming album Adding Up the Wasted Hours.
While the songs sound pro, unavoidable tour delirium/goofiness took over during the downtime. As singer John Van Deusen tuned his guitar, guitarist Tony Ruland treated us to a medley of cat meows via his cell phone. Apparently it's what the guys listen to when they're out on the road and they miss their cats. And before the band could hit the loud part in the song "Two Pink Pills" Van Deusen stopped due to a crazy case of the sniffles. After roadie Kevin grabbed a Kleenex box from the green room, Ruland helped Van Deusen blow his nose. It's allergy season. Pollenated boogers are everywhere.While seeing them live for the first time, my date (hi, Robby!) made a connection that I can't believe I've never made in the past—"They kind of sound like if Jeremy Enigk was fronting Death Cab for Cutie." While I don't agree that the Lonely Forest's music can be so unapologetically compared to Death Cab's, he's dead on with the Enigk comparison. Van Deusen's voice is as rich and impassioned as the Sunny Day Real Estate frontman's—and his lyrics are often just as embattled and personal (when they're not being inspired by A Song of Ice and Fire, the Game of Thrones books, as is the case with one of the band's news song called "Firebreather").
If you missed the show, or if you want to see the nose-blowing for yourself, a video and audio-only recording of the performance is available by downloading a new app, Lively, at getlive.ly.
(Most of...) the setlist is after the jump :
It’s always nice when you lavish extravagant praise/prose on an event and the event follows through, often spectacularly. Such was the case with Debacle Fest, which devoured last weekend in a hail of left-of-center sounds. Below are some of the highlights I experienced. Highest accolades to organizer Sam Melancon for manifesting this excellent event.
FRIDAY AT FRED WILDLIFE REFUGE
Total Life: Kevin Doria of the band Growing located the universe’s emergency broadcast signal, which is a glowering, overpowering snarl. His roaring drones were at once ominous and soothing, a trick few can pull off.
Panabrite: Seattle synth magus Norm Chambers bust out the most dance-oriented track I’ve heard from him—a kind of slow-motion, aquatic cha-cha with a majestic, mountain-climbing melody. If you’d told me we were listening to an advance of the new Boards of Canada album, I’d have believed you.
Monopoly Child Star Searchers: Portland keyboard trickster Spencer Clark was wearing shorts, flip-flops, and a spring jacket with the sleeves rolled up: NAGL. Fortunately, he overcame those sartorial blunders with a set of spaced-out, ornery Yamaha(haha) exhalations and sporadic splatters of bamboo percussion. Toward the end, things morphed into a bizarre, rococo, avian keyboard odyssey that warmed my prog-loving heart.
Brain Fruit: Cosmically minded Seattle trio brought the krautrock locomotion and radiant synth spray straight into the clear light, as Garrett Moore drummed up a storm in heaven. If Debacle were SXSW, Brain Fruit would have a contract with Thrill Jockey or Bureau B right now.
For a 70-year-old man, Rodriguez was looking pretty spry in his leather pants at his sold-out show at the Neptune last night. Like the rest of the crowd, I've been listening to Rodriguez since I saw the wildly popular documentary Searching for Sugarman, and we all went crazy for his hits "I Wonder" and "Crucify Your Mind," which he played along with a string of classic rock n' roll covers ("Lucille," etc.) Unfortunately, his vocals felt really low and almost even hard to hear at times—maybe that was because I was way in the back and had a really hard time seeing the show behind this lady filming the show on her Ipad:
Photos by Michael Holden
As a veteran of British space rockers Spiritualized’s live spectacles, I’ll always be that despicable guy who says, “You know, their best shows happened in the ’90s.” Still, Jason Pierce and company’s recent dates supporting 2012’s Sweet Heart Sweet Light have sporadic shafts of brilliance that flash me back to those lysergic highs of those Clinton years gigs. Last night’s performance at Neptune Theatre is a case in point—even if they didn’t do godhead cuts like “Electric Mainline,” Cop Shoot Cop,” “Medication,” “Anyway That You Want Me,” and other favorites of die-hard fans.
Pierce sat in a chair on the far left side of the stage in a white MC5 T-shirt and shades, stoic as ever. (He’s never been a great showman, and after enduring two bouts of serious illnesses, Pierce is even less mobile now.) His two female backing vocalists stood behind him, like guardian angels. A keyboardist working four instruments, a bassist (Brad Truax, I believe), a guitarist, and Kid Millions (Oneida, Man Forever) on drums formed a tight unit who could move from delicate beauty to catastrophic power with ease and finesse.
Give Pierce credit for a somewhat unpredictable setlist, which included some unreleased songs and less emphasis on Sweet Heart than one would expect. The opener, “Here It Comes (The Road, Let’s Go),” started out with those familiar “Walking With Jesus” strums, but it eventually morphed and set the scene with a special sense of wonder and spectral beauty. Sweet Heart highlight “Hey Jane” followed, but it sounded rushed and the backing divas were barely audible—a major problem, as they’re crucial to the song’s sublime glide. Millions’ Keith Moon-like splatter during the Parable of Arable Land-style freakout amazed, and the way the band shifted into a massive, buzzing motorik cruise after it was breathtaking.
Malitia Malimob caused the danciest moshpit of local support I've ever seen at the Crocodile last night. The duo flexed their lyrical creativity between sets from Dutty Artz composer/DJs Chief Boima and Matt Shadetek. Chief Boima opened the show, mixing for us his intimate musical knowledge of African and American hip hop, then stayed on stage to work the decks for Malitia Malimob, who had a small but very loyal contingent of locals present to watch their show.
Hands were either raised to twist fingers into "m" shapes or hold out cell phones to video for what seemed like the entire show.
Saturday's Magma Festival finale at the Vera Project was fantastic! Unfortunately I missed Body Betrayal, but I did catch a few songs by Olympia hardcore band Hysterics which were brutal as fuck and had me emptying out my purse in a scramble to find ear plugs. After a break between bands that seemed like two hours in stoned time, '90s queercore band the Need started. I didn't know what was happening. I was not prepared. The last time I took a listen to the Need—their self-titled album I think—it sounded synthy/poppy and with interesting vocals... what was happening on stage seemed to be more like fantasy metal and maybe Rush. Rachel Carns wore a headset mic. It was epic. Toward the end of the set, Corey Brewer was called to the stage to sing "O Sally How's it Feel With a Fake Hand?"—apparently he had no idea this was going to happen, which seems terrifying (What if you had a horrible cold? What if you had to pee really bad? What if you got wasted in the alley before the show and didn't know what the song was?), but Corey marched right up there and slayed it, monster voice and all.
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