Thursday, July 9, 2015

Musical Plans

There are interesting musical options over the next few days. After some thought I'm planning an ambitious weekend, hopefully it'll work.

It starts with Friday's Out To Lunch show by the Maldives, one of my favorite local acts (I've got lots of favorites). I saw them at the first Run Vera Run event at Seward Park, at an Out To Lunch show on Harbor Steps a few years back with my daughter, and at Bumbershoot more than once. Jason Dodson also does an occasional solo bit too. Here's a photo by Joe Mabel of the Maldives at the Ballard Seafood Fest, as you can see they have a fairly large band. Fun band, well rehearsed, alt-country songs, good stuff.The Maldives 05

The weather looks to be hot and sunny, so maybe we'll stop for a beer on the way back to the office since I'm working the regular 9 to 5 gig in the office downtown.

After work I head over to the Vera Project where I'm volunteering - running sound, so I'll plug microphones in for the Youth Speaks event. This will be poetry and spoken word with a DJ so it's probably some music to, but pre-recorded so the microphone setup isn't too complex. No band to mic, just a few mics for spoken word performers.

I'll miss the Friday night West Seattle Summerfest with Pony Time, The Shivas, La Luz, Lance Romance doing a DJ set and the Thermals headlining - solid lineup and a free show so I hate to miss it, but I still have Saturday.

The West Seattle Summerfest lineup on Saturday includes Sisters, Naked Giants, Wimps, Black Whales, S, The Fame Riot, Kithkin, Vox Mod and the Cave Singers and more. It lasts from Noon to late but I don't, so I figure my son Ben and I can go and see 2 or 3 bands. Maybe Naked Giants, Wimps and Black Whales in the late afternoon, for example. Here's a picture of Naked Giants (at least I think it's Naked Giants, it's from the EMP Sound Off! this Spring)

From here the logistics are slightly tricky. My son is 17 which is fine for West Seattle Summerfest, but the Minus 5 are playing the Tractor Tavern (21+) so my son can't go. I'll have to get him home but leave myself in Ballard. If I drive all the way home from West Seattle to drop Ben off I'm probably not going to be energetic and motivated enough to get our of the house and drive back to Seattle in the evening.

Looks like I need to have Ben head home with a sister, or put him on the bus. That way I can see the Minus 5 with McCaughey and whoever - I saw them at Bumbershoot several years back and really don't want to miss the chance to see them again. They already canceled a Tractor show to go play a show with Tweedy (it may have been a Young Fresh Fellows show that was cancelled, my memory is uncertain).

I can't find pictures from Young Fresh Fellows or Minus 5 shows I've been to, so I'll post an odd (crappy) video of Scott McCaughey doing a Minus 5 song called "Oh Sht Man." Great song, lousy video but the audio is OK. This was from a many hours long "show" with Robyn Hitchcock and other local Seattle luminaries at the Cyclops in Belltown. I think it was really more of a rehearsal than a show - they didn't charge anything and just played an insane number of songs. Hitchcock said they were auditioning the place as a hangout to work on their performance to replace an older hangout they used to use in Belltown.

West Seattle Summerfest is a personal favorite - I remember seeing Shelby Earl doing her different songs with a simple stripped down approach, her music that had something - and this was in 2010, before the albums and NPR love and Amazon's "Best Album You Might Have Missed" award. You can see some amazing, memorable bands and it's free

There's a nice circularity here - I led off with the Out To Lunch series, wandered over to Shelby Earl via West Seattle Summerfest, and now of course I can't stop until I also point out that Shelby Earl is playing a free Out To Lunch show on Wednesday August 19 at Two Union Square. It's worth checking out the web site, there are so many good bands playing like Fly Moon Royalty, Naomi Wachira, the Staxx Brothers, Craft Spells, McTuff, The Dusty 45s, Lee Oskar, Tubaluba, Bleach Bear, Vaudeville Etiquette, St. Paul De Vence, Industrial Revelation, Clinton Fearon and the Boogie Brown Band, Eldridge Gravy and the Court Supreme and more.

Here's the overall West Seattle Summerfest schedule, this is a great lineup of local talent for free. I may miss most of it but I encourage anybody who has the time to see as many bands as possible.
BandDay2015 Set time
Evening BellFRIDAY4:00
Pony TimeFRIDAY5:00
Deep CreepFRIDAY6:00
The ShivasFRIDAY7:00
La LuzFRIDAY8:00
DJ Lance RomanceFRIDAY9:00
The ThermalsFRIDAY9:30
Pig SnoutSATURDAY12:00
Timbre BaronsSATURDAY2:00
Naked GiantsSATURDAY3:00
Black WhalesSATURDAY5:00
The Fame RiotSATURDAY7:00
The Cave SingersSATURDAY9:30
The SolventsSUNDAY1:00
Memphis Radio KingsSUNDAY2:00
Stereo EmbersSUNDAY3:00
Sick Sad WorldSUNDAY4:00

Sunday, May 17, 2015

TacocaT, Chastity Belt, S and Childbirth at the EMP Pop Conference

I've mentioned that I like to take engineers visiting from out of town out to see some local music. Recently the EMP held the annual Pop Conference with the theme "Get UR Freak On: Music, Weirdness and Transgression" and booked TacocaT, Chastity Belt, S and Childbirth for an opening show in the Sky Church.

This is the sort of different musical experience available in Seattle that would be hard to come by in most cities. The top few cities have comparable and better - NY, Chicago, LA, and a few other huge cities have truly varied and huge music scenes, but few cities under 1 million have the variety and depth and deep bench that Seattle has. This is exactly the sort of show I look for to take the visiting engineers - it's even all ages!

There are challenges, though. The Get UR Freak On theme and sexual content and tone are generally not appropriate in a business environment. On the show web page there were links for the bands & one of the links led directly to "I Only Fucked You as a Joke"

From the album it's a girl!
Childbirth album "it's a girl!" on Bandcamp

While this is a valid artistic expression and probably more common than anyone wants to admit (and a great song!), this is inappropriate in a business context.

On the other hand, we're talking a business context in Seattle, after all. And I've had mild problems with boundaries on occasion too, I overshare on occasion and... well, I talked myself into it.

I mitigated the risk of triggering corporate pain and HR investigations (can you tell I work at a large corporation?) by adding a "BTW If you follow the links and listen to the bands, use headphones. Some of this stuff is NSFW - REALLY!" clause to the email and sent it out to 10 coworkers at Cisco. I wouldn't try that with a larger list or a list that included more people that I didn't know well, but I felt safe in forwarding it to my coworkers, we're all adults with reasonable senses of humor.

It was a great call, of course, but that was never in doubt as far as bands go. About the only thing that didn't go well is that we took so long eating dinner before the show that we missed Childbirth - dang, they had songs I wanted to hear live. Better luck next time, I'll have to keep an eye out for them.

We managed to make it for a classic S set: introspective and haunting, guitar driven without wailing, more a reverb and space approach. Sometimes the lyrics were more out front with multiple parts, sometimes the lyrics faded into the songs yet echoed with emotions felt from a distance or remembered with fading intensity. The instruments change up on occasion for some keyboards but the haunting quality and the feeling of remembered emotional intensity remains.

The EMP Sky Church is a great place to see a show, nobody is very far from the performers and the sound is excellent. My cell phone shot above doesn't do it justice, but it gives you some idea of where we are and the scale of the performance space, anyway. I found a nice creative commons photo from Joe Mabel (here's his flickr page)
I enjoyed it but the Indian engineers were subdued - it's kinda subdued music as far as that goes, I suppose. They were looking for more active music, stronger beats and motion and dancing preferred. Dancy pop music would be more up their alley.

Chastity Belt was up next and while they're not poppy, they certainly brought a higher energy level, louder beat and more positive subject matter to the table. Chastity Belt is more guitar oriented rock and roll, loud with backbeat and a full sound - rhythm and lead guitar, bass, drums and solid rock and roll vocals. Not pretty and polished, more powerful and sneering or laughing - sometimes with us, sometimes at us, a committed performance with a fuck you if you don't like it attitude. That very attitude makes it more appealing and evocative. I just convinced myself they're punk rock too (coming from me that's a compliment) but I've never sweated the categories all that much..

Since my cell phone photo is lame as usual I dug up another creative commons photo so you can see what we saw. Heck, with my nearsightedness we're probably seeing more than I saw at the show in this photo, it's got details! (This photo is from Joe Mabel again; his flickr)

Chastity Belt - Pop Conference 2015 - 04 (17239409565)
The vocals in Chastity Belt are classic rock and roll, not pretty but expressive, able to get a bit raw, to surge to a powerful crescendo and wind it back, but used in a pretty aggressive manner. This is not subtle music, this is loud amplified music that knows it's load and amplified and likes it and has a swagger or maybe a strut.

Fun set, talented band worth seeing in a great venue.

Next up was the sheer (surf?) pop sweetness of TacocaT. This was the perfect for the visiting engineers. Well executed songs, guitar driven with a great beat, very dance friendly. Bright and exuberant, TacocaT has so much fun you can't help but have fun too.

I have no idea if the visiting engineers were able to hear the vocals and understand them, they all speak and understand English very well but getting TacocaT's word play and underlying meaning can be challenging. Figuring out cultural references the first time you hear a song in a live setting in a non-native tongue would be challenging.
That's OK, they loved the show based on the music and the beat and the performer's visual appeal and what they got of the word play, it was a wonderful upbeat fun set. TacocaT always puts on a great live show - you should see them outdoors on a sunny day with a bubble machine!

Thanks to three kick ass bands for providing a great show and a different perspective and entertaining some friends who flew pretty much all the way around the world for the privilege. I love showing Seattle's music scene off, especially when the bands are so talented and fun. Another great show!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

2015 EMP Sound Off! Ruled Like It Always Does

I work with engineers from India who visit Seattle for a few months and work on assorted technical issues around our Mediasense media recording server appliance. As a total local music geek, I've taken it upon myself to make sure they get a good introduction to the Seattle music scene before they head back home.

It's tricky - finding a good show that fits 4 or 5 schedules, making sure we have some way to get there and back, making sure it's not too weird or offbeat (I like that stuff but many don't), the venue's not too dive-ish, etc. All ages shows tend to be a good bet, less drinking and more focus on the music

Every Spring the all-ages EMP Sound Off! shows happen in February with the Finals in March (more or less). This is reliably one of my favorite sets of shows every year. I love getting to know new bands and I'll get to see 12 bands I've never heard of (well, this year I'd heard of 2 but that's an outlier, never happened before). The EMP chooses great bands from a variety of genres out of a large number of applicants and the talent is always amazing.

Each of the 3 semifinal shows has 4 bands, for example we saw Bleachbear, Supersoaked, Champagne Babylon and Night Space. The bands go on in a random order and play for about 40 minutes each.

Bleachbear winning their Semifinal round

Champagne Babylon got the Wild Card runner up spot

Super Soaked rocking out
The judges gather after the show and award a winner and a runner up. There's also an audience participation award; we (the audience) scream for each band and the band with the loudest fans gets some additional prizes. The winner of each of the 3 semifinals goes to the finals. One band from the 3 wild card (runner up) teams is also selected bringing the total to 4 bands.

Once again the 4 bands play in random order and the judges award the title and we all cheer and head home happy and sweaty after another great night of music.

The winner gets studio time and equipment and a performance slot at Bumbershoot. There were a couple of additional festivals with buyers in attendance signing up bands for the year's regional festivals.

This year the energy was very positive and we had a wide range of acts and styles of music. I enjoyed the heck out of it and every single band I saw is worth keeping an eye on. Bleachbear, Naked Giants, Emma Lee Toyoda and One Above None Below have all been getting gigs around town & that's just the shows I noticed.

In the finals One Above and None Below came from the Wild Card slot to win it all with an electric performance against intense competition - intensely happy and upbeat competition, every single act seemed to be having the time of their life and obviously enjoyed getting to play for us.

The peak acts got us dancing and sweating and having a great time, and every act was interesting and different and unique. It was  a memorable introduction to the all-ages Seattle music scene for the engineers who'd flown around the globe from almost the exact opposite side.