Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Mom was admitted to the hospital today with a fever of 103, they're still working on a diagnosis. I wanted to go to the hospital but work got in the way; my sister Juli was handling things and mom was grumpy, sick, but not in crisis. I decided I should focus on work tasks, then head down to the Vera Project for the last Sasquatch Yearbook meeting. It was tough, I wanted to go see Mom, but I didn’t want to let everybody down right before we headed off to Sasqatch.

I donated an old jacket that I've outgrown to the Sasquatch yearbook project during the meeting at the Vera Project at the Seattle Center. Rani checked the pockets (it hadn’t occurred to me) and found Seattle International Film Festival tickets from 1987, a midnight movie, I recall it was "Dead End Drive-In" I saw with Dana while we were dating. That was pretty cool! I think Josh was impressed that I could recall the movie after 24 years. Thinking about being in my twenties, dating my wife before we were married and had children was nice - life was so simple, mom was fine and dad was still around, I still had a grandparent. Nice bit of mental escapism, those tickets were a little nostalgia gold mine, and they indirectly led to an even more physical escape related to SIFF.
After the meeting I went and took pictures and high definition video footage of Dyme Def’s performance.
Dyme Def3 5-19-2011 012
While I was downloading some videos to my laptop my daughter Carina called and said she could come down to Seattle and give me a ride home which was nice. I had more time since I didn’t have to go catch buses, so I went back into the venue and filmed some more of Dyme Def’s show.

Josh found me as I stepped out of the venue and offered me a wrist band good for admission and a free drink at the SIFF Opening Night Gala. I asked him if I could have two so that Carina could get in too and he was happy to give them to me. Hearing my story about the tickets less than an hour before the SIFF party folk dropped a few free tickets off to Josh as the party started inevitibly led to my being offered SIFF Gala passes. Now that's an odd but happy bit of synchronicity.

I picked up my camera and my heavy bag with my laptop and tripod and lugged it out of the venue, down the stairs, around a building or two, past the exhibition hall to McCaw hall where the SIFF opening night film was playing in the basement. I asked the lady at the door about the after party and she pointed me across the plaza to the Exhibition Hall. Picking up my heavy bag again I walked down the stairs to the lower level door on Mercer where they had a small security contingent and I was let in.
The Exhibition Hall was dressed up nicely, with a big bar in the middle and three vendor snack stations surrounding it with a dance floor in the back on the fourth side. The diagonal angles had tables and chairs, and there were lights and bunting around some of the concrete pillars. The doors had just opened and the film playing in the basement of McCaw hall wouldn’t let out or another hour, so the crowd was very light. The bag I was carrying with my equipment and laptop was heavy, so I went up to the first table and set it down to rest my arms and back. I occupied myself by looking at the boxes on the table, perhaps the first “customer” to check it out. Looking carefully (poor eyesight) I caught the attention of the lady running the display and she came over to tell me about it. Each box had 4 consistently themed short films and was a “mini-festival” in a box. You paid your $60 (I think half of that went to the SIFF) and got a DVD with the short films (I saw at least 6 different groups, romance, assorted comedy categories, potty mouth variants, and so on. She described a mini-film festival party – invite your friends, watch the short films, and discuss and rate them. A social networking aspect allows you to post your opinions and results on the web with others who have purchased the mini-film festival in a box.
I fancy this idea! Short films don’t get enough marketing and exposure any more. Fifty years ago when movie theaters were a huge element of popular culture, several shorts (and a newsreel and a serial or two) would be shown before the feature films. Today the multiplexes show film previews and low end local slide show adds, then one film, then repeat. No market for short films there at all. On-line everybody expects to be able to watch short films for free. Having another avenue to get short films out is a great idea, and having a focused session with 4 short films followed by discussions and judging is an attractive idea. I know many of my friends who participate in book reading clubs and/or point each other to interesting intellectual and creative endeavors via Facebook and e-mail would enjoy this sort of social engagement. I hope she figures out how to get the marketing working and it catches some popularity, this could turn into a thriving sub-genre and drive a market for short films that would inevitably enable more short films to get made and bigger budgets would then allow for more ambitious short films. Add in the social media and crowd based ratings an you may have some interesting network effects, too. If a critical mass of income to content purchase to content generation flow feeds back to a growing group of people comparing and rating the more inspiring work will naturally bubble up and provide increased revenue opportunities to the artists who generate the most effective work. I have no idea if this idea will ever pan out enough to reach these sorts of scales and inspire competitors and kick start thriving content markets and review communities, but I really hope it does!
After an enjoyable chat with the lady behind the mini-film festival in a box I wandered on to some of the snack stations. The Exhibition Hall was mostly empty, with fifty or a hundred workers, vendors, bartenders and security staff in position but probably only forty or sixty guests, maybe half of them volunteers.

The snacks caught my attention, I was hungry!
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The bars in the middle already had people getting drinks and the snacks were just starting to get served, so the people coming back from the bar area and more people entering slowly started to fill in the venue.
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I took pictures as I walked around enjoying myself and the buzz of a party getting started. A group of ten or twenty were standing around back towards the dance floor, but nobody was dancing yet and the music wasn’t too loud. The DJ was playing music off of a Mac and running a pretty good light show with LED panels, 6 or 8 robot spotlights, a couple of mirror balls and other assorted lighting devices in front, on and above the stage.
I was mistaken for a photographer working the gala which I found flattering.
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Carina got parked and checked in on her cell phone so I went out and got her, giving her the second bracelet. Carina checked out the mini film festival in a box then we wandered over to the South snack station, eating sliders and pasta pockets with mushrooms and whatever else was offered. The crowds were picking up and there were lines at the free snack booths.
We stopped in at the bar and got a couple of drinks then hit the North snack station for more goodies. The crowd in the hall was picking up an more people were at the tables around the dance floor, with ten or fifteen people standing on the far end of the dance floor, obviously this was a crowd that wanted to dance but wasn’t quite ready yet. I think Seattle’s polite reserved Northern European influenced culture makes us a little slower to get our parties started, nobody wants to go first until they get a good head of alcohol up. I don’t have that problem, though, so I asked Carina if she’d like to go up and dance to some 25 year old dance music I recognized and we got out onto the dance floor and started dancing. It took a couple of songs before somebody else got up enough courage to be the second dancers out on the floor, and within another song or two ten or twelve were dancing and having a good time.

We finally humped my laptop and photo equipment bag out to the trunk of the car, then came back for more dancing. We ended up dancing for well over an hour so I was sore and completely sweaty, soaking through my shirt. Totally fun way to distract ourselves from mom being in the hospital; I slept pretty well, better than expected anyway. Between the dancing and the hike up Mt. Zion two days later I've had lots of physical distractions, anyway.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Dyme Def Education Benefit at the Vera Project 5-19-11.

Ha the last Sasquatch Yearbook committee meeting on Thursday night - it's almost hard to believe Sasquatch is finally just about here!

After the meeting I checked out Dyme Def's benefit show. I was a little late getting there, so I;m not sure who I got on video. The show schedule listed J Pinder, SK, Mr Yukk and Dyme Def so that's who I assume is in the videos.
Dyme Def 5-19-11 001
Brief bit from this dude, I liked what I heard from him.

Dyme Def2 5-9-2011 002
Bigger crew rapping:

Mot of them got on stage for this one:

I enjoyed the beat and the audience participation, good hard working performance, glad I caught it.

As I was wrapping up Josh caught up with me and gave me a couple of passes for the Seattle International Film Festival opening gala later that evening. Carina arrived to give me a ride home so we went and checked out the free food, had a couple drinks, then Carina and I got the dancing started by being the first to start dancing for the DJ. After a song and a half another couple started dancing, then more, and critical mass was achieved: a dance party had started.
Elk 022
We ended up dancing for more than an hour, an unexpected but fun way to end the day.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Seacats CD Release with Aqueduct, Tea Cozies, Seacats and Elk

Excellent Friday night show at the Vera Project with Aqueduct and Tea Cozies putting on great sets with Seacats and Elk opening for them.

First up was Elk, dude use to be in Seacats:
Elk 053
He did a Beattles cover and I enjoyed his version of "Whoa Whoa Whoa Hey Hey Hey" - my son loves that song, so do I.

Next up was Seacats
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I saw them at the Veracity show last year, and Ben saw them do an outdoor show at the center outside the EMP.
Got a fair amount on video, Ben saw more of it and enjoyed the show, I liked the songs I saw.
Guitar oriented up tempo rock, the new stuff sounds good!

Tea Cozies came on next and kicked ass! The two women are sort of co-lead performers. The one on the left sang and played guitar, the one on the right sang and played keyboard, guitar and tambourine, with a dude on bass and another on drums.
Tea Cozies 020
Excellent performance, the video came out well, capturing the band putting on an energetic show

They took risks musically, and even songs like this one with it's odd repeated nonsense vocal hook that at first I wasn't sure about ended up getting me by the second verse.

Enjoyable upbeat bouncy fast rock sound.

Aqueduct came on for the finale and I was wondering if they'd be up to it after the inspired set by Tea Cozies.
Aqueduct 014

They were more than up to it, putting on a great hour long set of punchy songs with interesting hooks, great vocal and instrumental performances and an attentive audience eating it up. The first song on this video is on fire, the second one kicks too!

Talented vocal performance, well written music gets under your skin immediately, quite a memorable performance.
I got a bit of the end of this song, here it is in HD:

Something about the sound Aqueduct gets, the vocals and instrumentals, the sound they combine to create, was just awesome, buzzing with emotion and engaging our feelings, quite enjoyable.

Excellent show, Tea Cozies and Aqueduct put on as good a show musically as any I've seen all year, and the warm up bands were local favorites that we were glad to see again.

Here's to good sales for the Seacats CD, we got our copy! Ben's got it on heavy rotation and it's holding up well.

Addendum: the POP! Stereo blog from FL or UK has a download of Dead Man's Sister by the Tea Cozies. Several others had it too.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sasquatch Is Coming

I managed to finagle a trip to Sasquatch, admission, camping space and even some food in exchange for participating in the creation of the Sasquatch 10th Anniversary Year Book.

After giving us a class on interviews we were all assigned to do interviews with anybody we wanted. I picked the Knowmads, a young hip hop duo I had just seen and enjoyed who were local, had a good following (they sold the Vera Project out) and only had a few interviews out there.

I have to admit I enjoyed it, so when the Seacats (my then 12 year old son's first local band crush last Summer) got CD release show booked I tracked down an obscure web site and got in touch for an interview with Josh Davis of the Seacats, who are doing a CD release show at the Vera Project on May 20th. This one wasn't tasked or reviewed by the Sasquatch Yearbook committee, hopefully some of them may read it though.

Now I get to go to Sasquatch and if it can be arranged Ranni and I get to interview Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. So another assignment was researching the artists, which was an unexpected pleasure. If you've read enough of my blogs you've seen my rap/hip-hop disclaimer: it came after my time, it doesn't favor guitar, it emphasizes beat and rhythm over melody, it's not really my native style or comfort zone, and my knowledge of the genre is thin to say the least.

All that being said, I keep on running into hip-hop shows that I enjoy immensely. Mad Rad, Das Racist, Dyme Def, Knowmads - I end up having a great time at their shows. The crowd's are into it, rhythm and beat rule during live performances, and I saw a lot of talented performers at a high creative level just killing it. Awesome live shows!

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are the first of the modern local wave (well Das Racist aren't local, so local and national wave) of Hip Hop performers that I got into via their recorded output. Several of their songs just knocked me out, and that arguably cheesy eulogy "My Oh My" made me cry - the bit about listening to the Mariners in the garage with Dad was a direct hit, I still miss my father and lived through exactly that so many times; nothing has evoked him that strongly for me in a long while. Wonderful stuff, very powerful, it connected with my emotions intensely.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis put out interesting stuff when it comes to the backing track too, with more variety in the instrumentation than I'm used to for hip hop - horns, strings, classical sounding piano, quite different from most of what I've heard before.

I read a criticism recently of Macklemore and Head & the Heart, effectively that they're music is too naive, simple, or un-ironic, it just doesn't have the complexity and depth to really be classic stuff. I would argue that what has made them so noticeable is that they are working the emotion side of creativity pretty directly, and the passion is intense, interesting, and exciting. I saw Head & the Heart open for Vampire Weekend last year at the Paramount and they were awesome, and I'm really looking forward to finally seeing Macklemore and Ryan Lewis at Sasquatch too - the youtube footage of his shows looks great! Interviewing will be icing on the cake if that works out.

That's just one band of a huge number of interesting acts like Das Racist, Death Cab For Cutie, The Decemberists, Deerhunter, The Flaming Lips, Flogging Molly, Foo Fighters, The Globes, Guided By Voices, Iron & Wine, Modest Mouse, MSTRKRFT, Old 97′s, Reggie Watts, Rodrigo Y Gabriela, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Surfer Blood, The Thermals, Tokyo Police Club, Wilco, Wolf Parade and the The Young Evils - and that's just the shorter list of bands I've heard of and/or seen. Half the fun at a show like this is the bands that you;ve never heard of, you see all kinds of cool things that you just wouldn't have made it to otherwise. It's almost an embarrassment of riches!

The real challenge is to figure out how to get pictures and videos from every act I see, if possible. Can I take a laptop so I can download them as I go along and free up room on my Flip? We'll see, I'll blog about it one way or another once I get back after next weekend. It should be awesome!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Interview with Josh Davis of the Seacats

I got a chance to catch up with Josh Davis of Seacats this week. Seacats are playing a CD release show at the Vera on May 20th, next Friday, and we talked about their history and relationship to all ages shows in Seattle, among other things.
Josh tells me that Seacats “started in Summer 2009, didn’t really have intentions of doing much of a band but then we got a show, then we did another show, and we just kept doing it, then the EMP Sound Off made us get really encouraged.”

The EMP Sound Off in February and March in 2010 was a major turning point for the band. Seacats are from Kelso, which is closer to Vancouver WA and Portland than Seattle, just off of the Columbia River. Josh said he read about Sound Off, didn’t know much about it but they applied anyway. They thought it was a minor battle of the teenage bands thing; in fact it has turned into quite an incubator for local performers and bands.

Seacats ended up in 2nd place in their round of the semi-finals. The 1st place bands advance, but only 1 of the 2nd place bands get to advance to the finals. Josh is pretty humble about the band, as he put it “we listened to the other 2nd place bands and thought they’d probably beat us out, but the youth advisory board chose us.” Josh mentions that apparently they appeal to the all-ages crowd, which I can vouch for.
Later in the Summer of 2010 the Seacats played a free Veracity show, which I saw with my 12 year old son. By coincidence my son also saw Seacats playing an outdoor show at the Summer Sound event in front of the EMP later that summer. We bought a CD with a few of their songs and my son really enjoyed it, going around singing “Whoa whoa whoa hey hey hey” for several months there. Seacats ended up being my son’s first local band crush, which is pretty cool. Josh really nailed the youth appeal thing!

I asked Josh about who writes the songs and the answer was that 3 different members all write songs, which is fairly unusual. The rule of thumb is that each member gets to sing lead vocals on the songs they wrote, so they definitely trade lead vocals around. They also swap instruments around – they did that quite a bit when I saw them last Summer, although Josh tells me they don’t trade instruments quite as much now. They worry a little about a lack of a cohesive sound, but they all work on crafting the sound together. Hopefully it increases the variety and appeal – it certainly works for me!

Up until January they actually had 4 members who wrote songs, but in January a guitarist left & a new drummer joined. As I mentioned, they swap instruments around, including drums, so somehow that makes sense.

They use a mild amount of harmony, which I always like – “not as much as some local bands” says Josh, “but as much as we can; wherever we think it fits.”

Tristan (the guy who books shows at the Vera Project) was quite complimentary about the Seacats – coming from Kelso, they don’t have a huge local fan base, so they wouldn’t normally be booked for a main stage show at the Vera. They ended up being “up and coming” local band that the Vera Project’s Programming Committee (I’m on that committee) voted to include on the Bumbershoot stage that Tristan got to book – alongside the Head and The Heart, for example – and had another successful show in front of an even larger all-ages audience.

Still, playing a CD release show at the Vera without a label or much of a local fan base behind them was a stretch. Tristan complimented the band on working within the system, contacting the agents for some touring bands they liked and getting included in a show with Aqueduct and the Tea Cozies, so now they have their main stage show to be their official CD release party – excellent execution, working the business like pros – this Friday’s CD release show should be fun!

Speaking of releases, Josh tells me the Seacats released a couple of previous EPs – I have one of them and quite enjoyed it. The upcoming CD is their first full length release. It includes 12 songs and has a cowboy themed cover – which is about all I know about it so far, by next weekend I’ll see some or all of it played live and buy a copy so I’ll update my blog with a show and CD review shortly after that. Josh is very proud of it, saying it’s the best musical work they’ve done. They are self recorded without the support of a label so far, and he feels each release has seen a major jump in recorded quality each time.

Kelso is closer to Vancouver & Portland, but they don’t get all that many gigs there. I asked Josh if they prefer Seattle but he rephrased it as “Seattle seems to like us more.” He notes that the Portland scene is more 21+ oriented, all ages venues having a hard time there and rarely lasting more than a year. Seacats play bars on occasion but “we like all ages venues better.” Considering a couple of members are 15 and only 1 of the 5 is over 21, that makes sense.

Josh tells me they feel they are improving: more dynamic in their songs, more depth in general, better studio chops. Looking forward to the new CD so I can see if I agree, I'll blog about that and the Friday night show once I give them a listen.

I'll give Josh the last words: “We enjoy playing live! We haven’t played a show like this one (at the Vera) next Friday in a while now, we’re looking forward to it!”

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tomten, Fox and the Law, The Turpentines, and Ambulance at the Vera Project 5-13-11

Saw an excellent all-local lineup at the Vera Project on Friday the 13th.

First up was Ambulance
Ambulance 002
Classic power trio arrangement playing good guitar oriented rock, good stuff!

Nice dynamics and movement, great way to start off the show.

Next up was The Turpentines.
Tomten 007Power trio lineup again, their sound was heavily electric blues influenced, with some explicit references to early Led Zeppelin (or maybe to the older blues artists that Zeppelin cribbed from).

I really enjoy the music, this reminds me of the blues rock or "heavy metal" I grew up listening to back in the seventies, some of my earliest favorite bands played similar stuff, and the Turpentines played it very well.

Next was Fox and the Law, playing with 2 guitars, bass and drums.
Tomten 016
They had a richer, deeper sound with the 2 guitars, allowing for some additional complexity in the upper registers.

The frequent leads and grinding rhythm guitar along with the solid rhythm section gave them a great sound. The two songs I managed to videotape were both fairly short but wonderfully put together, tight with good dynamics and transitions and tasty leads sprinkled through them.

Finally Tomten took the stage for the headlining set.
Tomten mostly used a power trio plus keyboards lineup, with the keyboard player singing lead vocals.
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On some songs the lead vocalist/keyboard player picked up an acoustic guitar instead:
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Either way they had nice songs with strong lead vocals and catchy hooks; this number with the lead vocalist playing the keyboards was well put together:

This one with the acoustic guitar had a nice sweet intro followed by a harder groove as the song gets going; they switched back to the nicer sound for the vocals and moved back and forth through the song, very interesting composition.

Another great show at the Vera Project, three good guitar oriented bands (probably the approach that I favor the most due to my teen years) and a great hooky pop/rock headliner finishing it off, four bands worth of pure musical pleasure. Glad I made it!

Friday, May 13, 2011

May Veracity

For the first time since I've on the Veracity committee I actually was involved in booking a band. My daughter has a friend in the band Ser.0 (ser punto cero, in English that's version point zero, I think) and I got them in touch with Monica who booked them for this month's show. All 3 of the guys (classic power trio lineup, guitar bass & drums) are from Mexico City originally and they do songs in a mixture of English and Spanish. They were the first band to perform.
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They had a fun upbeat guitar driven sound. This song is about heading out to parties I think (I had to get my daughter to translate and I'm not sure I got the translations vs. the songs straight). On this one the drummer sings lead vocals:

This number was more political, it's about street kids in Mexico City and mixes Spanish and English. I liked the candle, the guitarist lit it for the song and it made me think of praying for the poor kids stuck on the street.

When I commented about it being more political to my daughter she disagreed, saying "What's political about the plight of street kids?" I love that attitude, but in the US political scene today, any kind of concern for the poor seems to be political, and somehow a fringe political thing at that. Definitely a subject worth singing about!

This song is called "Liar Liar" and it has a slower intro, a bit of a Black Sabbath feel with grinding slower guitars and angry lyrics. I enjoy the sound, quite good for a power trio. Some swearing but that feels like an authentic emotion given the topic:

I got some more videos of them performing, check out my YouTube channel if you want to see them or watch them in HD. In case you can't tell I liked these guys and recorded more videos than usual.

Next up was Haystack Charm, an interesting band with some folk influence in their instrumentation.
Spring 2011 261They included an electric and acoustic guitar, bass and drums, and an additional musician who played fiddle, mandolin, banjo, and melodica depending on the song. Interesting sound, some folk elements but with the electric guitar and bass it definitely has a rock and roll flavor too, but the older less guitar pytotechnic oriented rock that I grew up listening to way back when in the early sixties. This song is called "Fireweed":

This one is called "Pier 52" and it has more of a folk/bluegrass feel with the fiddle and acoustic guitar in the intro, before it kicks into a more rock & roll sound:

I enjoy the instrumentation and transitions, the music takes me back to my childhood and listening to my dad's bluegrass and folk music alongside the early rock and roll. Tasty!

The last act of the night was Tribe Revive, a duo with a guitarist/singer and a drummer.
Spring 2011 269They had a reasonably good sound - I'm a little prejudiced about bands without a bass or some sort of replacement like a keyboard or bass pedal to fill in the low end, but they got a good full sound, not too tinny, so I enjoyed their performance. I wonder if they aren't interested in including a bass player or just ended up with the current lineup more randomly - I should've thought to ask them.

This tune has an interesting transition from a more melodic sound to a bit of a march, which then mutates further.

Interesting transitions both in the chords and in the beat, the drummer and the guitarist definitely keep each other on their toes!
The guitarist tells me this is their first show, I'll definitely keep an eye out for another chance to see them, or any of the 3 bands for that matter, I enjoyed them all in different ways.

This show had a wider variety of approaches than most, but they all had fun and kept the crowd engaged. I also got some of my coworkers who are visiting from India to see the show which is cool, and my son in law was there too - it's all good!

Friday, May 6, 2011

You Tube Videos: Titus Andronicus, Knowmads, Diamond Rings + PS I Love You, Laura Stevens, Fake Problems, Pmegranates, etc.

I recently started using YouTube for videos rather than flickr, and I'm pretty happy with the results. Flickr limits videos to 90 seconds and I don;t think it plays back in high definition, while YouTube allows videos longer than 15 minutes and supports high def. Since most of my videos were recorded on a Flip in HD 720P and most songs are longer than 90 seconds, the results are much better.

My last few posts like the Interview with the Knowmads and the review of the Japan Stand Up benefit hip hop show used YouTube to embed the video which allows complete songs to be posted. The result is much nicer, in my opinion.

Prior blog posts like the reviews of the Fake Problems, Laura Stevenson & The Pomegranates show and the Titus Andronicus show using flickr only include 90 seconds in the videos, so I've now started posting the videos to YouTube. Now you can see the longer recording of a great Titus Andronicus tune (with lousy camera work, sorry: the better the song, the more I bounce around, the worse the video...)

...and a good Fake Problems song:

...and Laura Stevenson:

...and the Pomegranates for a couple of videos:

I'm slowly working through my videos and posting ones I like to YouTube, so you can consider subscribing to my YouTube channel if you want to keep track of what I'm posting, since the older stuff won't necessarily get blogged about here.

P.S. All the videos above are standard definition, if you have the bandwidth you can view the high definition versions by using these links.
Titus Andronicus
Fake Problems
Laura Stevenson
The Pomegranates
Another Pomegranates video
Unfortunately my blog uses a 640 pixel wide format, so if I embed the HD videos directly the get cut off so you only see the left hand side of the frame; the links open the video in a separate window so you can see the whole thing. To see all of the detail you then need to click the full screen button which is under the video to the right, it shows 4 arrows pointing in out diagonally.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Looking Ahead to May

I won't be attending all that many shows in May, but I'll make up for the lower number of shows by getting into Sasquatch Fest for free (sort of). I should be able to see quite a pile of bands at Sasquatch, and I also get to interview a band.

I'm contributing to the Sasquatch Fest 10th Anniversary Year Book project - a coffee table book that should be available late this year or in time for next year's Sasquatch, anyway. I'm helpimg with a group that is coming up with ideas and some content and interviewing bands at the festival, looking forward to that.

I'll make it to an occasional Vera show, of course, like the upcoming Kina Grannis show on May 14, and the May 20 Aqueduct/Tea Cozies/Sea Cats Album Release show, but I probably won't get to nearly as many Vera shows this month.

In June I'll be spending some weeks in India and also attending a family wedding out of town so the blogging frequency and number of shows will drop off quite a bit.

Hopefully in July it'll pick back up, with a little luck I can make it to the Capitol Hill Block party and there are some free outdoor shows at places like the Mural Amphitheater downtown to watch for.

I hope everybody is enjoying the Spring, hopefully the weather will improve (record cold April here in Seattle, sigh) and by the end of June we get those really long days, leading into the gorgeous July and August weather. We can hope for it, anyway.

April Retrospective

Finally had a nice weekend and a really nice Sunday, after taking a car load of teens and working the Knowmads show on the last day of April it was nice to take a few walks with the kids and the dog and get the lawn mowed on Sunday. Coldest April on record, and lots of odd late snow, not too sorry to see the weather go, but I'm a little sorry to see all the good shows I managed to catch fading into the rear view mirror!

I saw 29 bands, interviewed a band, and also attended a dance party with the 2 DJs from Lick spinning disks, 4 DJs or more once you add in the Knowmads show. That's the most bands in a month so far this year. In May I'll see way fewer shows, but one of the shows is Sasquatch Fest, so I'll probably set a new personal best for bands seen in a month, at least for 2011. I never kept all that close count for all those old Bumbershoot weekend passes, so there's some doubt, but I should definitely document more than I ever have before.

Of the 29 bands and acts and 4+ DJs, I'd seen 4 bands (Brite Futures, Silicon Girls, Knowmads and Real Rogers) and 1 DJ (the Knowmad's show DJ, I think he said he's from Trinidad at a prior show).

Highlights of the month:
Hanging out with my son Ben at the Craft Spells show early in the month

The immense variety of musical approaches, from the non-stop party central dancing of Brite Futures

...to the thoughtful offbeat hard rocking Titus Andronicus set

to Danielson and Karl Blau to the multiple sold out shows like Brite Futures and STRFKR with the packed in energetic audiences.

Knowmads coming back for a benefit and also giving me an interview.

The sheer quantity and variety of music has been amazing, so many hard working talented charismatic bands and performers - April was a great month for local music!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Interview with Knowmads MCs Tom Wilson and Tom Pepe

I really enjoyed the Knowmads show on March 12 at the Vera Project. They sold the venue out and it was electric, an excellent night of local hip hop magic.

I read The Production Venue's rise of knowmads by J. M. Galindo (which I mangled by repeately posting and deleting comments, dang) and got inspired to interview Knowmads, so I followed up via their Faceook page, got in touch with their manager, and arranged an interview with Tom Wilson and Tom Pepe.
I was curious if they had new material coming out, how they were able to sell out the Vera so quickly, and how they created their material. I also wanted to know if they'd disclose a little about their personal lives and the hints of ethics and spirituality that shine through the party songs and slice of life joints.
I interviewed Tom Wilson at his place first for a bit. Some of the details of how they handle headlining and how they draw a good crowd without a record label (hint: viral...) are interesting. It's kind of surprising to find he's twenty, but considering they dropped a couple albums while he was in high school apparently he's already been at this for years. Tom W. talks about where the Knowmads are and how they got there, and where they are going through this summer with new material and tours, interesting conversation.
Next Tom Pepe arrives and Tom W. fills him in, then I switch to interviewing Tom P. then both Toms. Tom P. gives a shout out to the political consciousness of the Seattle hip hop bands he listened to like Blue Scholars, Common Market and Maklemore for helping form his approach and talks about where he came from. Social media comes up again and he talks about how the approach has changed from their earlier work to the more recent stuff. Some criticism is addressed and the songs reflect their changing world, and some reflection on weed and drugs, I also draw him out on writing "River Runs Deep" - I really liked it, which I can't help but tell him (fan-boy moment!). He talks about it and mentions a possible video. Benefit shows for good causes: Trackademics, Japan Relief, and Human Trafficking. Tom W. comes back 12 minutes into it. We manage to hit additional topics like some shout outs to producers, how the violin accompaniment at the 3-12 Vera show came about (outstanding effort, the violin added a cool element to the performance), and even a brief discussion of faith; brief and oblique, but for not wanting to say much about faith they end up having something to say on the topic.
I enjoyed getting to interview both Toms and look forward to hearing what they have coming out of the studio as well as the Vera Project Japan Benefit coming up on April 30.
Being generous with the gate from their shows and giving back, giving their songs away to reach a wider audience rather than limit it to the ones who can pay, and sneaking those ethical and moral bits into their raps, credit to the Seattle hip hop scene for helping them form their conscious approach and hints of faith behind it all - nice overall approach, some fairly deep elements even if we didn;t go into them in details, it's sort of the opposite of the whole bling worship that you sometimes see in hip hop.
I hope their West coast tour goes well, and that they get the opportunity to expand the scope of their touring and get some attention from the new releases. Should be a fun ride!

Update: Free Knowmads show May 27 2011 at 12PM. Free with ice cream.
Rudeboy Reggae gives Knowmads a shout out and notices some of the same "super conscious, truthful lyrics" (in Rudeboy's words), and include a couple of embedded songs and a downloadable song, although the downloadable song requires an .exe download, so I can't recommend hat, but the embedded songs are nice - just turn down the download request and they should play fine, Wildflower was a standout song both times I've seen Knowmads, definitely a highlight with that powerful chorus amping up the audience participation and the band feeding on that energy...

Japan Benefit With Knowmads, Real Rogers and Friends at the Vera Project

I steered the Japan benefit show at the Vera, putting my 13 year old son and his 3 buddies along with 6 or 7 other volunteers to work running a hip hop show.

The headliners were the Knowmads, and the previous Knowmads show was somewhat controversial. The Vera is an all ages venue, and the sold out mostly white North end and East side hip hop crowd loves it's booze and weed. We had 3 pukes in the venue to deal with (they probably binged on the booze before coming in), I confiscated some booze from an audience member, and any number of bozos felt compelled to light up joints or pipes or whatever pot smoking devices they smuggled in.

We run an all ages venue partially on the basis of being drug and alcohol free, so the controversy is real and important. We bring youth into the venue, and their parents are OK with them being at our shows because we won't expose them to pot smoke and drunken boorish adult behavior, so attention must be paid to living up to our end of the bargain for all shows.

For this show we brought on a crew of 3 paid security staff, along with the regular front door security checking bags, packs and pockets (we don't normally check pockets), and 3 additional volunteer (unpaid) security staff. We put 3 into concessions, a couple of people selling tickets at the front door, and opened the venue up to the crowd.

We got a reasonable crowd, close to the 140 we hope to average but not sold out. One thing I love about the hip hop shows: the crowd gets up close to the performers, crowding up around the stage. The energy level goes way up and the performers thrive on it, giving better performances, which inspires the crowd to amp up the energy in a joyous sweaty dancing feedback loop.

The security was overkill and we didn't get any pukers, so it was a much nicer as far as that goes.

This is probably the best video footage I've ever seen from my Flip camera, the volunteer videographer got right up front and made an intimate fun video of the performance, here's Knowmad's "The Boat Can Leave Now," my current favorite clip:

Better yet, if you got the fat internet pipes play the HD version:

I did a terrible job of keeping track of who performed at the show. There was an earlier act with a man and a woman vocalist that I liked, but I didn't catch the performer's names, here are photos of them:
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Rawlo was one of 3 or 4 acts listed ahead of time, so perhaps one of these is Rawlo.
We had short sets from several performers including K $neaky here:

Warm Gun did a short set with some nice numbers:

Warm Gun also played some guitar, I managed to miss it but the photographer didn't:
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I think these 2 might have been the last act that performed after Knowmads, but I'm not sure:
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Based on the chant it sounds like G-lite, he has some nice backing vocals from the woman who sang with an earlier act. He got a bit longer and rocked the Vera out for several good tunes:

Real Rogers and (from the chant) ICMB (?) did a great set, keeping the crowd jumping and dancing and yelling and waving those arms:

Next up were the headlining Knowmads
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Knowmads performed a great set, I already included What We Do To Survive earlier, here's "Wildflower"

Keep 'em High was another standout track:

Good group dynamics, fast and disciplined multi-person rapping, good rhythms and intricate switching and combining of vocals, with some pounding climaxes - very nice stuff, I love me some bouncing around to a good Knowmads show, wearing my arms out lifting them over my head, and sweating through my clothes as I grin like a happy idiot at all the happy people bouncing around me.

P.S. The Vera Videographer was also the Photographer, I simply have to track down her name so I can give her the credit she is due. She gave me her e-mail address but I promptly lost it. Doh! Gonna have to track back through the volunteer sign up sheet next time I'm at the Vera, I suppose. The pictures were taken with my cheap digital camera (not even an SLR) and they were pretty blurry - fast action, weak flash and slow camera combine to mke it difficult to avoid the blurring. In many cases the blurring gave the picture an interesting dynamic quality, and I;ve included a few in this blog post.

Given the number of unknown performers, in general comment away if you know who somebody is or what song is being performed.

...and as always, comment for any reason you like, I always feel flattered whenever somebody comments.