Saturday, March 5, 2011

Magma Fest at the Vera Project

Haether and I volunteered at Magma Fest at the Vera Project on Friday. Magma Fest is put on by Hollow Earth Radio, an internet "radio station" - they don't actually broadcast a radio signal, they stream audio over the internet, but they feature a lineup of DJs and show more or less like a regular radio station, except without commercials. They have all kinds of interesting and odd programs and are worth checking out.

Magma Fest is held every March and they kicked this year's fest off with a show at the Vera Project. They frequently table at the Vera, so I've had the opportunity to meet a few of their volunteers and chat during shows.

PWRFL Power kicked off this years show and he was the main reason I wanted to go. I saw a bit about him on the Seattle Channel a couple years back and enjoyed his playing - he plays electric guitar and sings mostly his own songs. I got to see him at the EMP Sky Church during Bumbershoot and really enjoyed his songs and his patter between songs. He hasn't played around town much the last year or two that I've noticed; someone told me he was in Japan for a while, but I'm not sure if that's true. It was good to see him back on stage. I like the way this one starts simpler and then builds:
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Most of his songs back at Bumbershoot were introverted and fairly gentle, but he went a harder and more bluesy at the Magma Fest show this year.

Next up was Spurm with a completely different approach.
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I like the sax, I think it's a great rock and roll instrument, but you don't see very many bands using it.

I got a brief bit of video here, mildly lousy filming on my part but it gives you a taste of their approach. The lead vocalist was interesting to watch - tall and lanky, odd moves, no fear at all - nice combination. Notice the dude on the screen behind him, that's R. Stevie Moore, more on him later.

Next up was R. Stevie Moore doing a "Skype In" - he performed from somewhere else, I suspect it was from his home. He referred to it a couple of times as being from "South by South East" - a play on SXSW and I assume a reference to his performance from the SE US. He was using Skype to make a video call to a laptop at the Vera Project which was hooked up to the new large screen and projector that the Vera Project recently installed. The visual quality was so-so, when he moved quickly it tended to break up, but the audio was pretty good. I wouldn't want to watch whole shows over Skype all that often, but it was an interesting use of the technology. I filmed some here:

Next up was Kristin Allen Zito performing solo with an acoustic guitar. Her guitar playing was nice, and her voice was beautiful.
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I filmed her setting the audience up to do a sing-along, I'm not sure how well the sing along worked but I liked the song. Since I only got 90 seconds it may not show that much of the song, but you get the idea:

I like figuring out the theme, or at least "a" theme for shows I attend, but the Magma Fest acts were all over the place. I suppose that's a theme in a backwards way, and it fits Hollow Earth Radio: radically different types and styles of music, reflecting the variety fo programming on Hollow Earth Radio. The headlining act was Tender Forever, a women performing solo and playing keyboards. She mentioned France and had a bit of an accent, so I assume she's French. THe crowd definitely enjoyed her set, I suspect most of the crowd came out specifically to see her.
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At one point I distinctly heard backing vocals, but there was no backing vocalist - it took me a moment to realize she was playing samples of vocals (it sounded like her voice) on the keyboard. Interesting effect for a solo show, it gave her a more complex sound. In the picture above you can see a plastic device hanging from the keyboard by a wire, there was one of these on each side of the keyboard and eventually she picked them up and shook them - I guess they're electric maraccas, I'd never seen those before. She had a bit to say about some political and gender issues; eventually she took her coat off revealing her "Fuck Justin Beber" t-shirt. She mentioned some issues around Beber but didn't go into detail until the audience egged her on, then she talked about problems she had with Beber. I don't know much about Justin Beber and was unaware of the interview she mentioned, but if she reported it accurately then he at least said some unfortunate things without thinking them through, or perhaps he's just a complete prick. I'm not sure, and I didn't check on her quotes, but I have no reason to doubt what she said. She had an interesting style, using tech (sampled vocals, electric maraccas, drum machine and synth) to get a surprisingly full sound for a solo performance, and her singing style is kind of breathy and very intense. I like her approach and her unapologetic politics, cool stuff.

Interesting combination of performers, quite different in their approaches and music, and all worth seeing. If you can't make it to any of the Magma Fest shows this week then check out Hollow Earth Radio, they have an amaxing variety of shows and music all for free. Check it out!

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