Saturday, June 4, 2016

BigBldgBash 2016

The kids and a cousin and I all went to Big Building Bash or Big Bldg Bash 2015 and enjoyed it immensely, enough so that I made a point of getting tickets for 2016. This year I went with my daughter and my other daughter's boyfriend on June 4 and we had a great time.

The bash is held in an odd sorta DIY/industrial building down by where the Spokane St. Viaduct crosses Highway 99. It's surrounded by the 270 degree turn from Eastbound on Alaskan Way to Northbound on Highway 99, a big huge flying concrete monstrosity that circles the block up above. The main parking area is across the street directly under the Spokane St. Viaduct. The surrounding neighborhood and the space itself are quite unique.

You enter the Big Building's lot from the West end, on the North side from the surface street just south of the Spokane St. Viaduct, into the lot next to the Big Building. A couple or three food trucks line the area and there are tables and benches. One of the venues is just inside the building here and usually has the garage door rolled open so you can hear things mildly well.

You can see the "front" side of the Big Building in this photo, it's the blue-greenish building in the middle right, below the Highway 99 Viaduct.
You go in the door and the first space is to the right, the one with the garage door opening to where you just were. They set up 2 stages, one at each end, so the bands can overlap setup and tear down a little more, making for tighter turn-arounds and more bands overall. Further down the hall stairs led up to another performance space, this one is on the North side of the building. The rooms up here look like artists spaces and small dance practice spaces. If you skip the stairs and continue past on the first level you get to the loading bay which is the largest stage, or rather the 2 largest stages. In 2016 they put a big bar area in between the two stages in the loading bay, and also opened up another outdoor space at the East end of the building. They also had another path from the big loading bay to some vendor/artist tables, a bar, and a DJ.

It took some wandering about to figure out where all of the spaces were, it was a bit of a maze of hallways and back areas. This description doesn't do the space justice, it really is a Big Building and this year they had blacklight art installed in the main hall past the stairs up towards the bathrooms that gave the section a surreal dark-and-light-at-the-same-time feel. Suspended geometric structures made of orange and green UV driven pigments that glowed brightly provided most of the light. The occasional white cotton shirt or teeth glowing brightly in the crowd below as they shuffled through the hallway, edging past each other, provided the remaining light. The hallway had a somewhat ethereal feel to it. You could see well enough to get around, but it was dark enough for details to fade in the corners, making everything feel a little vague.

It was a gorgeous hot day and there was a dense selection of great bands playing a wide variety of music. Most of the time 2 or 3 bands were playing at the same time and a wide range of music was available. Soft folky stuff with harmonies, cranky bluesy stuff, thrashy punkish sweaty sets and angry metal head bangers, pop, synths, singer songwriters and the hard to describe in between bits, you could find good music and bands you'd never heard of before kicking ass all over the place. A bit more slide guitar than usual maybe, but that seems like the new norm since we saw the same at Fisherman's Village in Everett.

So many good bands, but I didn't take much in the way of pictures or videos though. I'll go ahead and use whatever I can find off the internet (OK, off of flickr anyway) to illustrate my blog.

High points in no particular order:

  • Black Plastic Clouds played the fest again this year. They were one of my favorite discoveries last year so it was good to see them again, still rocking out and working the crowd into a sweat.
  • Cloud Person (another repeat) put on a great set, and they had a child of a band member join them on-stage, it was just about the cutest most endearing thing I've ever seen.
  • Crazy Eyes loud and swaggering on the back stage, smashing away at the electric piano and rocking out with a good grinding pounding electric sound.
  • Wild Powwers playing fast, tight rock and roll - great vocals, standout drumming, driving bass and a great almost classic guitar-oriented-rock sound
  • Pillar Point's spacey synths and good driving beats and haunting sound, one of the better fits with the venue.
  • & Yet playing a tight set, different sound with the strings, extremely well written songs. Like Pillar Point and Black PLastic Clouds for that matter, Pillar Point also played back to back in festivals, playing both 2015 and 2016. I actually got a video of them last year.
  • The later shows outside when it got dark, especially the ones with the lasers and fog, were outstanding.
  • The back stage, the furthest from the front that was also outdoors, had odd flame towers - 20+ foot tool metal towers that vent flaming propane clouds above us under computer control. They setup a demo where you played a kind of "Simon" like game where you had to repeat a sequence of taps in 1 of 4 colored quadrants on a translucent drum head looking device, each success leading to a repeat of the sequence with another random quadrant selected making it harder and harder to repeat without errors. Eventually the player would botch it, missing a note or playing the wrong one, and the flame towers would erupt with five clouds of furiously burning propane above our heads, rising up towards the level of the nearby Alaskan Way Viaduct, baking us with additional heat fort a few seconds. Basically 5 fireballs would erupt and we'd all break out in sweat, then they'd dissipate in a few seconds and the game would begin again.

I'm convinced that the obscure local festivals - Big Bldg Bash, Macefield Fest, Fisherman's Village - provide by far the best value in music. Huge lineups of great local bands in local venues, not like the corporate polished mega-shows at all, very much unique personal efforts that reflect their neighborhoods and the Seattle music scene with opportunities to see more local bands than you even knew existed. I see plenty of shows and these are the ones that stick in my memory and define the year in music for me when I look back after the fact. West Seattle Fest and Timber Fest also fit this mold, Van's Fest is also the sort of thing I'm talking about and I'm sure I'm leaving many equivalents out. I recommend finding the more obscure smaller scale non-corporate festivals and support them with your ticket money and enthusiasm, you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

KEXP: Seattle's Living Room

I needed to settle in with WiFi for a bit to catch up on work so I drove over to the KEXP studio public space.

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Plenty of reasonably comfortable couches and chairs, KEXP playing over the nice sound system, espresso counter, this is Seattle's living room.

I got my usual coffee drink, settled in and took care of the electronic work. The WiFi worked fine, so I was able to get done in time to join the group let into the hall outside the studio to watch an interesting performance.

Gerald Collier, Friselle and John Doe each performed some Woody Guthrie material and spoke about Guthrie's influence.
The performance was mic'ed and produced extremely well, the sound we got through the speakers in the hallway was exceptional. A crew of 3 or 4 cameras operators stood and squatted in the middle of the circle of musicians, filming and taking pohotos. We had been warned not to try to take any photos or they'd remove us, so the photos available from KEXP are all I've got. They took enough footage and I'm sure they recorded the whole thing on multitrack equipment so with any luck they'll provide the performance video at some point. KEXP's videos have wonderful sound and clean clear video.
Not that this video has much to do with the performance we saw, but it's a nice example of KEXP's video ouput. Perhaps 30 of us, from geezers like me to 4 year olds being held by their dad all stood rapt and listened. Then the performance ended and we went back into the public area, Seattle's living room. I pulled the laptop out to get back to work in a better frame of mind than usual, I have to say I enjoy getting to hang out at the KEXP space.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Fisherman's Village 2016

Carina and I made it to all 3 days of Fisherman's Village Music Festival in Everett. I'd missed it previously and regretted it, they had a great lineup of local talent. We made up for it this year, seeing all kinds of new (to me) bands, different styles, great venues, we had a blast.187
I didn't track band names, no notes or anything. That's be too much like work! That means I have tow work out who the bands are by looking at the schedule and relying on my weak memory. I think this is Bear Mountain based on their late Saturday slot in the historic Everett Theater. Probably.

Bands I know more about or have seen before are easier to track. I recognize Julia Massey and the 5 Finger Discount, we saw her/them at the Anchor pub. Great set! 162

Julia Massey had been highly recommended to me and I'd never quite managed to catch a set so it was satisfying to finally catch them. They're great just like my distant cousin told me. Fun local act having a good time performing for an appreciative audience, Fisherman's Village delivered and then some.

Star Anna played an intense, intimate set at the Anchor. I've seen her at Bumbershoot and looked forward to this set, I'm glad we made it. The Anchor is actually several blocks from the rest of the festival, and by this time (Sunday) our feet were getting sore. We drove the car down to the waterfront and back a few times to save our energy and I'm glad we did. We eventually wore out, but not before seeing Star Anna putting on a show and I suspect we might not have made it without the car to save our energy.

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We also got some nice sushi next door at J Ramen and Sushi. That and the tea warmed us up and got us motivated to stay for more music. 

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It was a cold and occasionally wet festival, which is unfortunate when there's an outdoor stage. It's still fun when the band is good, like Fauna Shade, for example.
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But even for local heroes like Fauna Shade, fewer people show up when it's raining and crowd energy tends to be a little more muted. Harder to be hot when you're cold? Great set and the crowd enjoyed it, but if it had been 20 degrees warmer we'd have all been dancing and moshing and there would have been twice as many people. Outdoor Festivals in the greater Puget Sound area face this risk, at least we had some cooperative evening weather, anyway.
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We did get a little bit of action at Zippy's early Saturday, catching Tobias the Owl, a personal favorite, Robert Blake, and Johanna Warren
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The indoor stages were great. The historic Everett Theater is an awesome venue.
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Plenty of room up front for the crowd to get in close and dance. The Ramblin' Years definitely had us packing the aisles and the front area, dancing and having a great time. 118
Grace Love and the True Loves played a spectacular set at the Everett Theater late Friday night.
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They brought down the house, powerful music and powerful vocal performance, tight band with chops, the guitar and horn section are standout and the bass, drums and keys fill in the sound and rive the beat and the whole thing just has us dancing and jumping and yelling, definitely a peak experience.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention all of the great bands we saw at Tony V's Garage.
Many of our favorite new discoveries were here all weekend. Skyemonkey, Sundries, Hollers, Cracker Factory, Campion, Sphyramid and Leava all played great sets.
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Notice the dude playing a slide in this picture. There were more slide players at this festival than any other event I've ever seen.
I've been writing this post by wandering through my pictures to trigger my memory. This has the interesting effect of generating content in backwards order. Sunday bands are first up in my photo stream, then Saturday, and now I'm finishing up with Friday, the first day of the festival. Slightly odd how the minor tech details can dictate how you create something.