Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fake Problems, Pomegranates, Laura Stevenson and Pretty Old at the Vera Project, 4-26-11

Jaime was raving about Laura Stevenson and the Cans on Facebook, she knew some band members from when she lived in the NE, so at the last minute I talked Dana in to heading down to the Seattle Center with the cameras and headed over to the Vera after work.

Nobody had volunteered to steer, so I ended up steering and helping out a bit after a late start - the doors were already open. Pretty Old took the stage before Dana got there, so my only camera was my cell phone.
They did a short set including a nice cover of something obscure - so I didn't recognize it and don't remember the name. Good sound, interesting songs, unfortunately I didn't get anything recorded.

Laura Stevenson and the Cans was next and Dana showed up in time for me to use the better cameras.
April late 003
Laura Stevenson has an excellent voice, and the band mostly played with 2 guitar, bass, drum and accordion lineup which gave the songs a full sound. She can wail on the vocals and emote strongly so the voice tended to be front and center and with her charisma she carried the songs off and sang beatifully while making it all look easy.

The band was tight and fun, the music and the vocals both had wonderful dynamics and soaring climaxes, excellent set.
Next up was the Pomegranates. Unfortunately I had the camera on the wrong setting so the photos are blurred, this is about as good as the photos get:
April late 007
Fun upbeat rock sound, waves of fuzzing guitars and overlapping vocals giving a wonderful feel to the whole thing in this video:

Pomegranates had quite a few fun upbeat rock numbers in their 40 minute set.

I got a phopto of them with the 2 girls who were up dancing during the Pomegranates set, they dedicated a song to them and posed out in the lobby after their set:
April late 015
Fun band, good audience enthusiasm added to the "glow" of the live performance.

Fake Problems took the stage for the headline set.

Good guitar oriented straight ahead rock and roll, good dual vocal approach, good songs and appealing performances.

Talented band with an interesting vibe, combining an assortment of older American rock music styles into something uniquely their own.
They put on an energetic performance well into the night, bouncing around and kicking out great modern yet timeless sounding rock and roll tunes, keeping the audience engaged and having a good time on a cold Spring night.

Update: a couple of sites like KXRX EXtreme Rock Seattle and Rewrite the Scene provide links to Casey Lee's tumblr site here, explaining that he is Fake Problems, I suppose that means he's the singer songwrite behind them; poking around on his tumplr site, I found a picture; I suppose he could be the singer/guitarist, I can't tell for sure. In the other hand Creative Loafing's Daily Loaf credits Chris Farren as the front man, so I'm probably misinterpreting the reference.

City Beat in Cincinnati has a link to a free Pomegranates tune here, which requires an e-mail address.

There's also a downloadable copy (and an embedded copy, for that matter) of Coriander by Pomegranates at My Spoonful as well.

Laura Stevenson has an album available for free download at Totally Fuzzy.

Monday, April 25, 2011

STRFKR, Champagne Champagne and Land of Pines at the Vera Project 4-23-11

Saw a great Saturday night show at the Vera Project with an interesting variety of local (or nearly local, STRFKR is from Portland) musical approaches and a sell out crowd.

STRFKR has been around for a few years now and went through some attempts to re-name themselves before ending up back roughly where they started, except they removed the vowels from the name. They have been getting a progressively louder buzz with a recent SXSW show and plenty of write ups in the local weeklies.

Their popularity locally is through the roof; the venue could've sold out on pre-sales alone, but they cut off sales in order to leave a few tickets for cash customers. Enough cash customers showed up before 6:30 to sell it out completely; the crowd was early and excited.

I wasn't signed up to volunteer but I ended up helping out a bit as they got the large happy crowd into the venue in time for the first act - Land of Pines.
Land of Pines competed in this years Sound Off at the EMP (I missed it, though) and had an interesting approach with male and female lead vocals swapping off from song to song and some nice backing vocals. Two guitars, keyboards, bass and drums - gave them a reasonably nice full sound, in this video the instruments tend to back off a bit during the vocals which makes it easier to hear - nice dynamic, unfortunately the flickr video cuts off too soon.

Good rock guitar oriented rock approach, well structured songs, I enjoyed Land of Pines and hope to get chances to see them again.

Next up was Champagne Champagne, a hip hop outfit with two vocalists and a multi-instrumentalist providing accompaniment on keyboards and on guitar.
Easter 11 001
They had an interesting sound with some good hooks. I like the repeated bit in this video "Drop down..."

Good crowd participation in the clapping rhythm too. The dude with the longer fro pogo-ing in this video definitely got the crowd going too:

Champagne Champagne had good catchy tunes and knew how to keep a capacity audience bouncing, yelling and sweating - fun set!

Next STRFKR took the stage for the headlining set.
Easter 11 007
They took a bit to setup their gear and get the monitor levels set, so they were running about 15 minutes behind schedule. While that's not usually a big deal, I had to catch the last bus home so I ended up only seeing three songs before I had to head out. Too bad, what I saw was fun and had the audience dancing and surging all over the place.

They had a dance oriented groove with audio playing between the songs that they sped up and slowed down, giving things a little bit of a DJ in a dance club feel, and the audience totally ate it up. Lots of vertical motion in the crowd and side to side surges, haven't seen that kind of action in a small club much recently, I associate it more with festival shows at bigger auditoriums.

Fun set for the part I got to see, I wish I could've seen how it progressed and what they chose as their finale or encore. I'm sure they'll be back, but not as sure that they'll play the Vera, they seem to be blowing up big time and easily sell out a smaller club like the Vera. Hopefully I'll get a chance to see them again either at the Vera or at one of the Summer festivals.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

April Veracity

April's Veracity was another in a series of great free shows booked by Monica, the out-going Veracity chair. Monica served as chairperson for a year, and now it's my turn. I'll still be cooking and selling vegan tacos at the shows, and Monica will still be booking them, so it may not change things too much.

The details depend largely on who joins the Veracity committee - The Vera Project has a non-hierarchical culture that promotes self directing, self organizing teams, so it's up to the committee what we do and how we do it. Right now the committee consists of Monica and I, so swapping the chairperson hat doesn't really change things that much. We're having our members meeting today, so if new people decide to join the Veracity committee then things could change, and that would be cool, but we'll still have great free shows either way. But enough about internal/committee stuff, on to the show!

The first band up was Pink Pajamas.
April Veracity 023
The lead vocalist explained that the name came from a dream she had - funny bit of patter explaining it, but I didn't catch all of the details.

They were fun - some odd costumes which gave them some visual interest, but the lighting was very dim. The videos end up being a little hard to see. I liked this song, but it's so dim you can't see much of anything:

This song wasn't quite as nice, but someone turned at least a little light on so you can make out more detail:

The lead vocalist has a good expressive voice and flashed some fun moves - kicks and jumps - and the music had a fairly nice grinding edge to it. Not bad for the intro act at a free show.

Next up was Bourgeois Bulletwound - love that name, it's got it all: alliteration, violence, class references - cool! They used a power trio (bass, drums and guitar) plus a secret weapon: a violinist. I had my usual difficulties framing things, here you can see the guitarist/vocalist and violinist:
April Veracity 026
...while in this one (from the concessions stand) you can sort of see the drummer and the back side of the bassist. Not my best work.
April Veracity 028
The three out front had hats, all different, but the drummer didn't. Not sure if that was a style choice, or just a reaction to the typical cold wet and windy Seattle spring weather. At least the video has better lighting, they must have left a few more lights on:

I'm afraid my video doesn't really do them (or the openers) justice, Loading Video has a video that does them much better justice. They had the audience dancing and enjoying things, as one of the bands mentioned "wow - the crowd is dancing, and there's no booze involved!" I know my tendency to dance (well, pogo and thrash around, that's about as close as I come) increases with alcohol.

The violin fit well with their sound, the vocalist/guitarist did a good job, and the rhythm section held things together nicely. Appealing band, fun to watch and even more fun to bounce around to. Their second to last song was a 10 minute epic that had me jumping around, very nice work.

The final band was E-Clec-Ti-City, a pretty big band with a horn section (is a duo a section?). They had a drummer, bass, guitar, stand-up drummer (is that a conga? not very well informed on drum terminology), an organ player, a trombone and a saxophone.
April Veracity 040
They were a very tight unit with excellent intricate arrangements. Good songs obviously very well practiced - they'd hit a break and suddenly all blast out a note, then a rest, then a different note/chord, then a rest, and play a measure or two with a very choppy on/off sound, then jump right back into the song, all together with no mess or slop. It takes a very confident and well practiced band to pull that off, and they did it on several songs.

They also did some interesting improvisation, and the guitarist could be heard rearranging things on the fly (at least by me, back in the concessions stand). They'd be doing a slower buildup in an intro, and he'd turn and yell "not yet, not yet" off the mic so the PA didn't pick it up, and they'd stretch the intro and perhaps some improv our for a few more measures, then blast on into the song as if it was all routine, changing and extending on the fly was no big deal at all.

They did some rock-n-roll sounding stuff, a little reggae and ska sounding stuff, yet they also made me think of jazz bands with their improv approach and some fairly intricate rhythmic progressions. My daughter (who was selling tacos at the show) disagreed with me when I said it made me think of jazz, so maybe I'm way off base, but that's how I reacted to it.

The crowd ate it up, dancing and applauding to every number and enjoying the heck out of an excellent show. When the show ended we had lots of the audience hanging around to visit the bands and bask in the glow of an excellent show, and some of the musicians ended up jamming and playing around in the show room for a while after the show. It took a while to clean up and get out of the venue, but it was well worth it. You don't put on a show like that unless you really love performing music and all of the interpersonal work it takes to get that tight, and that informs your attitude. These guys loved playing music, and it showed, and we loved listening to it.

Another awesome free (free!) Veracity show, I don't know how Monica keeps coming up with such great lineups, she always tells me "it's easy, just ask" - yeah, it's easy if you know a whole pile of good bands who are willing to play for free if you ask. I'm pretty sure the shows wouldn't be nearly as cool if I was booking them, but at least now I know another 3 cool bands that are willing to put on a free show and kick some ass while doing it!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Titus Andronicus, Mansions and Silicon Girls at the Vera Project, 4-10-11

I finished up the weekend working Lead Front Door (selling tickets) at the Titus Andronicus show at the Vera. It was an excellent weekend for music at the Vera with Brite Futures headlining a great show on Friday and Titus Andronicus rocking out for an extra long set - 80 minutes or so - on Sunday night.

First up was Silicon Girls, who I saw earlier this year opening for Kimya Dawson at the All Ages Music Project (AMP) show in January.

I only got a photo for the January show, this time in addition to the photos:
Titus 004
I also got some video, a brief bit from the start of a song:

Two guitars and drums, interesting sound, the drummer's active so he fills the bottom end pretty well. I'm more used to having a bass help fill the bottom end of the sound out, but unlike some other "no bass" bands like Mon Frere they were able to avoid sounding too shrill. I think Mon Frere broke up a while back, but I saw them at Sound Off a few years back and I really missed the bass. Kind of off topic there...

Silicon Girls kept the crowd involved with an interesting dual guitar attack with good drums and solid songs as the crowd filtered in.

Next up was Mansions with an even more stripped down approach. The first song had the lead vocalist singing and playing an acoustic guitar (didn't get that filmed, I was selling tickets), then the bassist joined him for the rest of the set.
Titus 012
No drummer, mostly rhythm guitar work, bass and vocals. Nice compact sound, pretty clean playing without much distortion, vocals were clear - made it easier to understand and appreciate the songs, although it also gave them a bit less punch.

I enjoy the song lyrics - "I burned up your letters, my memory suits me better" - I found the songs instantly appealing, some bands take multiple listens for the songs to really grow on you, but the clarity of the presentations by Mansions got me pretty much in the first verse, or by the chorus at the latest.

Titus Andronicus took the stage a bit early. They asked if they could start a bit early and do a longer set - and we were all agreeable with that idea. They ended up doing an 80 minute set, 20 minutes longer than most headliners, and they crammed it full of interesting stuff.
Titus 015
They were pretty flexible about instruments, with the lead vocalist playing guitar (and some very nice leads) and the rhythm guitarist (the cute redhead on the right) also switching over to violin/fiddle, often switching back and forth within a song. The guy on the far left usually played keyboards but also occasionally played rhythm guitar, and the had a bass and drums. Flexible and dynamic approach, I enjoyed that.

They did a suite of songs from Monitor, their latest album, that were brilliant. Songs transitioned from one to the next without a break, and they did some fascinating things with rhythms - not varying the tempo, but changing the emphasis every few bars so that even though the chords and sound were similar it changed in an interesting way. More backbeat for a while, then more syncopation, and so on on; I'm not sure I have the terminology right, but the variety within some of the songs added an interesting element. They had the audience thrashing out, with around 100 people up front moshing away in one of the better mosh pits I've ever seen at the Vera.

The patter between songs was interesting and informed - they gave the All Ages Movement Project a good detailed shout out and had a fun rapport with the audience. I don't know if I can explain exactly why I enjoyed the show so much - the music was great, the songs were great, the energy was great, the audience was sweating through their clothes and so were the performers, and yet it was even better than that makes it sound. They put on an excellent extended show, worked their butts off, and everything worked amazingly well.

I'd have to call them a very talented band that knows exactly what they are doing, and they are right at the peak of their abilities - they just knocked me out. I suspect they'll be touring for years to come, so I'm looking forward to more chances to see them. I won't be surprised if they get too popular for the Vera Project and move on to the larger venues around town next time they hit Seattle. They deserve the success and I expect they'll get it, so I'm happy I got to see them in an intimate setting before they totally blow up.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Brite Futures, Los Gentlemen and Unibroz at the Vera Project 4-8-11

After yet another Vera Project meeting on Friday (getting ready for next week's member meeting) I stayed late and caught another excellent show headlined by Brite Futures. I saw them perform as Natalie Portman's Shaved Head (love the name!) in 2007 at the EMP's Sound Off battle of the bands contest and they were instantly likeable - bouncy dance pop, cute young kids having a great time on stage, I still remember that show fondly. Here's their video for Sophisticated Side Ponytail - pure pop genius! They did this song back in 2007 an dI swear none of them could've been older than 17. Since then they've renamed themselves Brite Futures and now they're playing SXSW and headlining packed shows at the Vera Project - it's nice to see talent get rewarded!

The first band to take the stage was a hip-hop outfit called Unibroz - a funny play on bros as in brothers and uni-brows as in needing to pluck your eye brows. This photo is pretty good except that I managed to leave one of the members out of the frame:
April 113
You can see all three members in this photo, although I don't like the picture as well:
April 110
Some day I'll get better at framing my shots, meanwhile you'll just have to muddle along with my best efforts...

I managed to get most of their title song - Unibroz (they were helpful enough to spell it out for me), it opens with "Thought you could pluck it but it just grows back..."

Hilarious overloading of terms and concepts in this one, witty stuff, quite amusing.

Next up was Los Gentlemen, three young dudes in a power trio lineup (guitar, bass and drums). I recognized several covers from the Cure and REM, not sure if they did originals or just some obscure covers mixed in. They obviously liked the material and did a good job with it, I particularly enjoyed the bassist, although maybe that's just because I was closer to him.
April 122

They did fun fast covers of alternative songs from the nineties which is a good source from my point of view, so I quite enjoyed it. Here's a cover of REM's Radio Free Europe:

Talented performers, although they'll most likely need to move to either their own material or more obscure covers if they want to get very far in today's music business. Strange how a few bands like the Beattles being so good at writing their own material caused things to change so much that the majority of rock musicians play their own material, and almost every rock performer aspires to doing so. It wasn't always that way!

Finally Brite Futures took the stage and the crowd just ate it up.
April 125

Song after song worked well with the crowd dancing and bouncing to the beat, wonderful positive energy and the band clearly getting off on the audience.

Just one big happy rocking out dance party.

Brite Futures is brilliantly fun and they have amazing pop chops. Their song "Sophisticated Side Ponytail" is an all-time classic, and their video for it is wonderful too. The bit with Shamu rising up from a google earth looking back drop to swallow the band - wow!

Unfortunately I had to leave early to catch the last bus home or I would've filmed more of the show. Too bad! A great way to spend a Friday night, Brite Futures always puts on a show worth seeing.

Danielson, Karl Blau and Shannon Stephens at the Vera Project 4-7-11

I had a meeting Thursday at the Vera Project (related to getting into Sasquatch Fest free, but that's another story) and I was able to stay afterward to check out the show and saw some fascinating performances.

First up was Shannon Stephens singing and playing acoustic guitar with a bass and drums.
April 074
She had a sweet beautiful voice and a fairly direct and simple approach in her songs, very appealing.

I guess I'd call this pop music, but I'm not that good at categories and I don't really care much either, good music is appealing and the labels don't matter. Nice opening act, the audience was appreciative.

Next up was Karl Blau and he had a much more wacky approach. He brought up a fairly large group with multiple odd one of a kind stringed instruments, mostly or all single strings as far as I could tell. He asked if someone wanted to do interpretive dance and a young woman volunteered and jumped up on stage, she's the one in the orange shirt towards the middle in the video.

The vocal approach was different, it looks like someone is reading lyrics off of a smart phone and whispering the to the vocalist (who was someone other than Karl) who then sings it. Odd approach, but it had it's charms.

After a few numbers like this he switched to a solo approach with an electric guitar.

He played quite a few songs, talented guy. Check out the size of his hands on the guitar - he has quite a reach, makes it easy to bar chords and so on. Fun set, the odd earlier approach and then his solo stuff made for an interesting contrast.

Next up was Danielson, the headliner. The band had an interesting visual approach, wearing some sort of uniforms with various odds and ends stitched on, triangular flags with eyes on them - different and appealing in an odd way, not sure what it meant but it caught your eye.
April 094
They also had music stands with music for several band members. Given the fairly complex parts, interwoven beats, and multiple vocal parts it's not surprising, this is a sort of effortlessly intricate musical approach.

Here's some video from one of their songs:

So we had an interesting range from a fairly simple stripped down singer songwriter approach to an odd set of wacky instruments and the strangest vocal delivery method I've ever seen, then a single electric guitar with singing approach from the second performer, to an oddly visualized and realized set that was quite different yet consistent to some internal vision that I can only barely grasp - and the music was really fascinating throughout.

Cool stuff, definitely need to keep an eye out for more of these bands, I don't think any are local (not sure) so I may not get too many opportunities to catch them again, but you never know with the bigger festivals like Bumbershoot, maybe I'll get lucky...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Craft Spells, Soft Moon and Witch Gardens at the Vera Project 4-3-11

I ended up steering and lead front door at this show since we were a little short on volunteers, which made it a little challenging to get into the venue and take pictures and videos - too much work to do. I managed to get a few, though.

I dragged my 13 year old son along to help out, he sold concessions and was a good sport about it. He's on spring break, so he probably enjoyed the diversion, but it can get a little boring having to stay behind the concessions counter for several hours.
Early April 056

Pre-sales were low, but plenty of people showed up once the door was open, so we ended up with a reasonable crowd.

First up was Witch Gardens. Somewhat unusual instrumentation - they used a bass, guitar, zither/autoharp, and a stand-up drummer.
Early April 047
They got a good rollicking sound, pretty full, and they did interesting things with tempo. The first video I recorded includes a section where they slow it way down:

...and this other video includes a section where they speed it up quite a bit:

The first one was good, the second was even better, the increasing rhythm was fun. I generally enjoy good tempo changes when they work out, they add quite a bit of interest to the songs for me. The band has to be on their toes, but Witch Gardens handled it well.

Next up was Soft Moon. Soft Moon used some interesting black and white video projections over the band and the walls as they played. That combined with their distorted and atmospheric sound gave them an excellent spacey feel, sort of a miniature Pink Floyd effect (coming from me that's a compliment, I love Pink Floyd).
The pictures don't really do justice to the show, for example this one is interesting:
Early April 052
...but the videos are way better, you can see the moving effects:

Soft Moon used a guitar, bass, keyboards, and a sequenced drum, no live drummer. This video is a little rougher, but I like the effects and the sound. The video is too short to get to any more normal song structure, but most of their songs did resolve to a slightly more conventional approach eventually. Slightly.

The headliners were Craft Spells. They played with a more common double guitar, bass and drummer lineup and were a lot of fun. I took pictures from the balcony, which was problematic. Either I used the flash and got dim pictures with the demon eyes effect like this:
Early April 061
...or I left the flash off and got brighter, more colorful pictures that were blurred like this:
Early April 064
Unfortunately my better digital SLR (which does this way better) was out of commission. The videos worked out OK, though.

They played pretty accessible upbeat rock, and they got the audience into it a bit.

That's actually a pretty lively crowd for an indie band at the Vera Project. I wish I had time to record more songs and longer chunks of songs, but at least you can get a bit of a feel for their performance from the short videos.

I just noticed that Brooklyn Vegan has links to several of Craft Spells songs posted, check that out if you want to hear them. Even better, bookmat has a way to embed some of them on my blog:
Read full review of Idle Labor - CRAFT SPELLS on © Oh, I see, clicking on it just takes you back to bookmat's blog, where you can listen to them.

All three bands had names that made me think of withcraff/wiccan themes, especially when you look at them together. I didn't really notice if they echoed those themes in their music and lyrics, as I didn't get to listen and watch to all that much of their performances so I'm not sure if it was that much of a theme overall.

The variety of approaches and sounds was interesting, from the different approach of Witch Gardens with their slightly different instrumentation and tempo changes to the spacey music and cool effects of Soft Moon to the more straightforward well crafted rock of Craft Spells - an interesting variety of approaches and another fun evening listening to music at the Vera Project. Not bad for a cold wet and windy Sunday early Spring evening in Seattle.