I signed up to do lead front door (sell tickets) at the Vera for the Ex show and I also had a Veracity committee meeting to attend, so I headed over at 6 for the meeting. Show volunteers need to be at the venue at 6:30 except for steering which needs to get there at 5:30, so I had plenty of time, I thought. On arriving I found that nobody had signed up to steer, so I volunteered to do that as well.
After meeting with the Veracity chair I headed downstairs to organize the volunteers. We actually had most of the same crew from the night before, so everybody already knew what they were doing and putting on the show was pretty simple - especially since others handled the sound and the bands, we just ran the venue.
The first band up was My Parade, a local act that Dustin (who works at the Vera) plays keyboards for. I saw them before at the All Ages Movement Project show in January opening for Kimya Dawson and enjoyed getting another chance to see them.
They set their equipment up on the floor of the venue, rather than the stage.
I saw Monomen at the Exhibition Hall during Bumbershoot do the same thing a few years ago, and I think it was a good call in both cases. It brings the audience right up on top of the band, making the performance more immediate and engaging. Of course, the Monomen show is the only show I ever saw get shut down in the middle at Bumbershoot, apparently security felt it was getting too violent or risky or something, they always hate it when the crowds start moshing (which I think makes for a much better show) and always wondered if the vocalist mooning the crowd might have figured into their decision to stop the show, but that's a different story.
For My Parade it worked well, the crowd was still a little light as people trickled in and the energy level was much better with the lack of separation between the performers and the crowd. My Parade is very political, into inclusiveness and against prejudice and hierarchy, with the vocalist spending a fair amount of between songs patter on the topic and the songs also reflecting their concerns. I had to stay near the front door so I only got some mildly poor video (the band being on the floor makes it hard to see them through the crowd and my camera work sucks, as usual) but you can get a feel for their performance anyway:
The video stops right as the vocalist is singing "freedom and liberty" - good note to end on for the band, that's what they're all about as far as I can tell.
Next up was the Ex. The Ex have been around for more than 20 years and have many long term fans, so we got a much older crowd than is typical for the Vera Project - for once I didn't feel like I was selling tickets to my kids, this was more like a crowd of my peers. The younger crowds are more energetic but the older crowds are more calm and controlled - no puke to deal with at this show, that's for sure!
The Ex perform with a drummer, 2 guitars and what I would've called a 5 string bass but another blog I looked at called it a baritone guitar, either way it was a deeper pitched instrument than a normal guitar, so it added a solid bottom end to the sound. The guy on the left playing left handed has the baritone guitar, and given the way he played it (plenty of chord strumming, more so than single note sequences) he was pretty much playing it as a baritone guitar.
They played fast and loud tunes, but they weren't your typical short completely simple punk tunes, they had more internal structure and dynamics, and songs usually lasted six to eight minutes. They often got into interesting grooves and added some solos and a bit of intricate rhythmic play on occasion.
They also mixed up the instrumentation a bit here and there, with one of the guitarists playing a keyboard for a song, mostly playing left hand single note runs on the bottom keys - basically a bass fill, making up for lack of a bass player on the song I suspect - and another song where the drummer came out front and sang a folk song (rocked out a bit, though) and played a cowbell during it.
The beat was fast and catchy, and the grooves and rhythms kept me bouncing around - probably the most pogo-ing I've done all year, and that's about as close to dancing as I ever get at a show. By the end of the show I was sweating and my feet were hurting, which is definitely a sign of a kick-ass live show.
The band was fun to watch, they definitely loved performing, and the crowd was very appreciative in it's quiet way, bouncing around very politely (no real mosh pit, but plenty of sweat and motion).
I'd never heard any of their music before and that didn't matter at all, it was all great fun even when they sang in a language or languages that I didn't understand - the beat and the joy in the moment of performance kept that buzz going for the whole 90 minute set and left us all sweaty and out of breath, wishing they could continue playing for another hour. Like all good things that must come to an end, we wish they could've squeezed out a few more songs - we're always greedy for more of what we love!