Saturday, July 16, 2011

So Much Music

I don't have hard data but it seems like there are an awful lot of venues putting on music in the Seattle area, way more than I can remember for the last 40 years, since I was old enough to notice. Seattle is a little like Nashville, a smaller city that has an outsize music industry, not on the scale of New York or LA but around the 3-5 biggest city range (3. Chicago, 4. Houston, 5. Philadelphia) and certainly way larger than #6 Phoenix with less than half the population.

I blogged about this, there are free shows all over, especially during the Summer.
Kenmore has free concerts Thursday nights, Out to Lunch is every Wednesday and Friday, Bothell has multiple free venues including the Lyon's Den coffee shop and the city's free concerts in the park series. The merchants along the Bothell-Everett Highway throw Friday night/weekend barbecues in some of the strip malls that have room, hiring local bands for free music. Edmonds and Shoreline all have regular free concerts, and you can work your way around Lake Washington with shows in Kirkland, Bellevue, Renton, Kent (oops, veered away from the lake), South Seattle, West Seattle, Downtown Seattle, Capitol Hill and several north end venues and so on towards Everett and Tacoma and beyond. Keep in mind I'm just talking about the free shows here that book assorted local bands, and I'm sure I'm missing many (the venue in Magnuson Park by the community garden that feels sort of hidden away is a personal favorite).

There's also organized musical groups like choirs, instrument themed clubs (horn groups, mostly), orchestras and bands all over. The school system uses bands and orchestras them from grade school up to high school and college, with some like Garfield and Roosevelt high schools known nationally for their jazz bands. My mom took me to a concert by the South Snohomish County Brass Band or Club or something like that and they played a couple hours of large and small ensemble pieces extremely well including the military's signature songs and that piece they use in Monty Python's Flying Circus that ends with a big raspberry - they left the raspberry out, though. The Seattle Symphony and the opera at McCaw hall are probably regional peaks for high brow music.

Many churches put on concerts of one sort or another; even small towns like Kenmore have at least 4 and probably more church based venues that have live performances on occasion. Services use music more often than not and peak services (Easter, Christmas) have elaborate musical productions with paid bands (horn sections, strings) and large choirs.

All of those venues - and I haven't even got to the bars yet.

The smaller towns like Kenmore have 4 or 6 bars with live music and Seattle has a few in every major neighborhood and large numbers in some areas like Capitol Hill and Downtown. There are probably more than two hundred bars with live performances on weekends around here; if you're willing to drive as far as Bellingham or Olympia there are so many it starts getting mind boggling - hundreds of venues, perhaps 800 to 1000 sets a night, 600 to 800 bands, around 2,000 performers and another 1,000+ to do sound, security, collect cover charges and sell drinks and so on.

Finally you get to the destination venues. While they may have a bar (or several) associated with them the bar usually only operates when the venue is in use for a show. There are getting to be a fair number of smaller ones like the Fremont Abbey and multipurpose buildings like the Wade James theater in Edmonds, performance venues at many if not most community colleges in the area, with multiple venues at many of the larger universities in the area. Medium sized regional venues are all over, Edmonds has it's 600 or 800 capacity performing arts center, Lynnwood has space at it's convention center, Everett has one of the larger (holds thousands) and several smaller, Kent has a good regional facility that holds thousands. The Paramount is one of the nicest, large and beautiful. The Moore and the Neptune are also quite nice; the number of options in Seattle alone just for mid sized destination venues is pretty sweet. , At the big end of this list are the 10,000+ venues: the Key Arena, the Tacoma Dome, outdoor venues like Memorial Stadium, Whitewater Amphitheater, The Gorge, sports stadiums, the list is surprisingly long and I'm sure I'm missing plenty.

The Seattle Center contains a cluster of venues (2+ in the EMP, the stage in the Center House, 3 or 4 different playhouses, the opera house, the exhibition hall, the Vera Project, laserium in the PSC, during the summer another 5 or 6 outdoor venues) including the Key and Memorial stadium, both easily able to handle crowds well over 10,000.
Bumbershoot is able to serve hundreds of thousands in 3 days and put on a staggering amount of music in one weekend.

The Seahawks and Mariners stadiums also host shows with 10,000+ attending a single performance. They don't do many shows, but they get a few in every year.

Think about how many slots need to be filled every night, especially on the weekends. Say 300 bands do gigs on a Friday, another 300 on Saturday, maybe 300 for all the rest of the week, we're closing in on 1,000 gigs a week. There are probably a few hundred bands that get work close to every week and a much larger pool that performs at most 1 or 2 times a month, there would have to be more than 1,000 bands in the 1-2/month category to fill the slots if my math is correct. That explains why most of the sets I see are bands I've never seen before: there's just so many local bands that even after 165 sets in 2011 repeats are still rare.

The math also leads you to conclude that there are something like 10,000 people in bands getting gigs at least every few months in the greater Seattle area. Very sketchy math, so there could be large discrepancies (in other words I could be way off, maybe only 1,000 or maybe 40,000, I'm extrapolating off of local observations) but it's most likely in that ball park.
Another 1,000+ are needed to do sound and lights and load-in & out and sell merch and tickets and book shows and provide security and so on.

You figure there's at least that many in bands that are forming and trying but not getting gigs, and that many again who (like me) maybe play an instrument or sing decently, were once in a band or choir but haven't been for years who play and sing at the occasional Christmas or Birthday party. Oh yeah, I left out house concerts to, there are many of those happening quietly all over the area. And street buskers.

7th Day Fret at Luther's Table in Renton on July 15 2011

Through a friend of a friend of a friend (tack on a couple three more) I heard about a free show at a place called Luther's Table in Renton. I'd never been there but I was told we could get a reasonable dinner and listen to the music, no clue what style of music we'd hear.

The reports were accurate, they serve decent (if not outstanding) food and have some nice beer and wine selections. The band was a rock/country three piece that did several covers and an original tune.

They were well rehearsed and good musicians so they achieved a nice sound, and playing over dinner service (and an older crowd) didn't faze them, they still delivered a fun set.

The covers were OK, Green Day isn't a major favorite but they're workable. I liked the original composition best.

They ditch the slow country groove and the Billy Joe straight forward melodic vocals; his vocals sound a little edgier, different in the way they move between pitches and generally using more vibrato. Faster, a little more punk, still pretty similar to Green Day but I prefer it.

Nice show for not anything and the flat bread (sorta like a pizza) and locally brewed IPA for under $15 was a nice deal too.

Luther's Table turns out to be an interesting place that is run by volunteers and has an odd touchy-feely mission statement involving communication. It came together a little as I read some of the materials and schedules, they have both a worship night and a Theology Pub night every week. I'm pretty sure Luther's Table is an outreach program run by the Lutheran Church and I think it;s a pretty brilliant idea. The younger folk at the church have been hard to hold on to, and without them the church has no future. By providing a cool live music venue and having worship and theology nights they can keep the Lutheran kids engaged and move them forward in understanding their faith while also being able to proselytize to the public and engage people consciously around their faith.

I hope it helps make the Lutheran Church more vital to those kids, that it helps give them a sense of service and connection. A church can help you stay connected to others and offers opportunities to be of service to others. I'm not sure there's a better feeling in the world than providing something to someone who really needs it because it's the right thing to do, not for money, not for publicity, not to feel superior, just to humbly give of yourself and help make someone's life better.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

July Veracity

I missed last month's Veracity, so to make up for it we had 5 bands at the July Veracity show. We mostly do 3 bands per Veracity with an occasional 2 or 4 band show, but we've never put on 5 as far as I know.

There's a bit of a trick involved: several of the bands were duos, so setup and sound check mostly went quick.

First up was Manson Girls, a "power duo" - a crunchy distorted guitar doing power chords with a drummer pounding away, occasional vocals but mostly instrumental.

Great t-shirts, Ramones and Nirvana are both personal favorites. Broken string at the end, this song pretty much had everything other than vocals. Good first act, they had me bouncing around and enjoying myself.

Next was The Trasholes, great name, another power duo, this time with more vocals. Fast songs, good drive and tempo from the drums, interesting vocal performance by the guitarist.

So Pitted played third out of the five bands. Somewhat punk sounding, fast music played pretty simple, this would be fun in a large mosh pit:

The 4th band was The Lindseys. They had if anything a more punk sound than So Pitted.

A couple of songs at least followed this template, starting out with a nice guitar opening then becoming faster and thrashy as it progressed. Fun stuff!

Pocket Panda came on to close out the show.

Quite a bit different direction than the prior bands, softer and more melodic, very nice. I taped several of their songs, I particularly like the male/female vocals and the violin. I had a hard time framing the whole band but you can hear what they're up to pretty clearly. I think I got into a better position on the later videos, at least you can mostly see the violinist. I think this one is a cover but I'm not sure; it sounds familiar, anyway.

I got several songs from Pocket Panda taped.

There's one more Pocket Panda video on my YouTube channel that I didn't end up embedding. Normally I take some pictures with my digital SLR and use 1 video and a photo or two per band in a post, or maybe 2 videos for bands I really like. Unfortunately I got my DSLR to the Vera without any batteries and all I have is videos, so I added a few more to the post.

Anyway it was good to get back into attending shows again, it's been pretty thin since Sasquatch. I may not attend any more for a bit, but Sasquatch is coming up and I'm attending all 3 days so I should see quite a few more bands before the end of July - and I'm definitely looking forward to it.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Music To Live By

I went with Dana to the Red Cross quarterly pot luck meeting and while the food was good and the meeting was well run, what really struck me was the music. As we walked into the building a lady was standing in the lobby singing some spiritual music. I didn't realize it but she sang with a group that uses a room at the Red Cross building for practice space. As the meeting began one of the executives greeted us, then introduced the ladies and they sang a song for us. It was a beautiful spiritual number done a capela and the ladies nailed it, building gorgeous harmonies and singing passionately about salvation. Very nice way to start the meeting, made it feel special.

Over a late June weekend I caught the train with Heather and Benito, Carina and Ben for Klamath Falls. We took plenty of food and had a few drinks, it was very pleasant. Dana's sister was getting married and much of the family was getting together for the wedding and the party afterwards. At the Rehearsal Dinner the night before the wedding I hung out with the DJ and his wife and we had an interesting conversation about how the DJ looks at the party, what he aspires to in a performance (high energy dancing) and how you sometimes have to read a crowd to figure out what will get the dancing started. I also got to hang out with Dana's immediate family a bit and drank a bot too much, so all in all it was a fun dinner. The wedding went well, it was gorgeous and in honor of the butterfly theme there was a butterfly flitting around above the couple as they spoke their vows. A bridesmaid performed a song she wrote during the ceremony, playing acoustic guitar and singing a pretty song about love. I got a video tape of it and left a copy on Keith's computer so I don't currently have access to it, otherwise I'd post it here. Having a song in honor of the occasion was cool, it added an element to the wedding, something special in honor of the event.

After the wedding my wife and son stated for an extra week to hang out with her folks and the family, which was nice for them but things were awfully quiet at home wothout them. My son runs last-fm on our Linux PC when he's at home, so the back room always has seems to have some tunes cranking out when he's home. He chooses an odd assortment of music - a mild amount of it is my favorite classics from the sixties, seventies and eighties, I played a lot of them for him and some of it stuck. Another chunk is novelty stuff, not my favorite although I'd have loved it when I was his age, I suspect. The rest is odd and unpredictable. He's been playing heavy amounts of Russian rock and roll, assorted styles, with forays into related Slavic language rock from Eastern Europe. I don't understand a word of it, but most of it sounds great and it frequently rocks out like nobodies business. No Slavic rock while Ben's out of town though. You forget that music doesn't just happen, somebody has to choose to turn it on, select some programming, perhaps vary it from time to time. I missed my wife and son but now the weeks up and they're back home. Here's to more music in our lives, it always makes things better!

Friday Carina and I planned to see the Paperboys at the Harbor Steps, one of the free Out To Lunch series at 12. We ran extremely slow and late, then hit major traffic on I-5 into Seattle. We listened to the radio, switching channels in search of good music, as finally got off I-5 downtown. We turned off the radio as we drove by the Harbor Steps with the windows open and you could hear the band playing, but it was 12:56 so they were probably on the last song. We ended up missing the show and driving back up town so I could put in an appearance at work before the long weekend.

I'm still feeling the effects of my Mom passing, barely making it to any shows and posting at a much reduced rate. I'm slowly working back into it, attempting one free show with one band per week (and only making it to 1 out of 2 at that) is a pretty lame pace. On the other hand, next weekend is the West Seattle Summer Fest with plenty of free bands including the Fastbacks so that should help get me back into going to shows and videotaping and blogging about them. Later in July I get to go to all 3 days of the Capitol Hill Block Party so I should be able to see 20 or 30 bands pretty easily, between the two I may be able to see 50 bands in July, and that isn't bad at all.

In early August I'll be off on a business trip to India for a couple of weeks, I've asked some of the Gargaon locals about local shows and music, most direct response was "your hotel is right next to a mall with a nice disco club, so you can go dancing to music most any night." I may check out a show at a club in India, that would be fun. I asked about local live musical performances and the answer was more complicated, they mentioned something about a destination where they did heritage related stuff if I followed them, apparently you can listed to musical performance done live on traditional instruments there. I'll have to pursue that while I'm there, perhaps I can find some music to blog about while I'm on the other side of the world.

Thanks goodness for the summertime musical festivals, they are so easy to plan for and provide so much musical entertainment that I'm able to see plenty of bands without working at it too hard. I've been blessed by the opportunity to see an amazing assortment of bands and it looks like there's plenty more to come - life is just an on-going embarrassment of riches!