Sunday, December 23, 2012

Advent and Christmas Music

As a Catholic who occasionally sings in the choir, Advent and Christmas are almost as important as Lent and Easter, and the music is better too!

Advent is a sober, quiet time in many ways. The modern focus on getting ready is mostly about getting presents bought, wrapped and shipped, and binges on candy, baked goods, booze, and a good ham.

Advent helps remind me to prepare spiritually, too. In modern America we tend to ignore the spirit, and our lives suffer for it. Fasting, taking time to pray and seek absolution, finding opportunities to volunteer, dropping some of our burden of sin and the elements of this world as we focus on the things that feed our spirit - it all serves to clarify what really matters and to helps us prepare to be the best person we're able to be.

During the Advent season we sing a cappella in the church choir, and songs like "O Come Emmanuel" are lovely. Careful 4 part harmonies, slow stately phrasing, the sound blending and echoing off the walls of the church in the dimness as mass proceeds, it instantly changes my state of mind, pulling me out of my day to day concerns and helping me not just think penitent thoughts, but actually feel sorry for my failings and sins and errors - and I've got plenty. This version is nice, although there's no harmonies.
The vows to do better, to sin no more, are more powerful in that emotionally connected state, and it helps me do a slightly better job living up to my expectations. Like all imperfect humans, I'll miss, but I know I can be forgiven and I have to keep trying and striving to do as well as I can. Anything that helps is appreciated!

We light an additional candle at each of the 4 Advent masses, and the one purple candle is lit for the first time on "Gaudette" Sunday. We sing "Gaudette" at that Advent mass, and that's always fun.
This is a barbershop version, well done with good dynamics, limited to 4 parts and can't quite wail like a full choir but you get the idea.

Advent and Christmas are a bit intense in the St. Marks choir, with pre-mass songs and songs during mass and the recessionals at the end, different songs each week, many in 4 part (and occasionally more) harmony, all a cappella for 4 weeks so errors are very noticeable.

At the same time we have some major long complex numbers to nail down for Christmas mass, which is done with musical instruments - brass. With the Church filled to overflowing and communion taking way longer than normal and instruments added to the mix, we'll be doing 400 year old songs in foreign languages in 4 part harmonies - and loving it. I have many favorites, like "Joy to the World" with brass and hand bells, and more obscure ones like "Wonderful Peace"

It's appreciated if you can sing Midnight mass and one or more of the morning masses so that there's enough voices to pull it all off.

Christmas lasts for 12 days, so we get to sing the joyful Christmas carols beyond Christmas day, too! The joyful carols tend to be the hardest on my throat, they're always forte or louder and the air is filled with smoke from the incense in the censors, and with the pre- and during and post-mass singing we end up singing for well over an hour for each mass. By the end my throat is pretty sore, but it's a good sore.

If I'm lucky I'll also get to sing carols and maybe fake it on the guitar with some family and friends sometime over the holidays, too. I think our culture has largely forgotten how fun it is to get together and perform music, and we've lost something that most don't even notice is missing.

Christmas is the one time of the year when it's not that hard to get people to sing together, and I can pull out the guitar and ask people to sing with me and they don't look at me weird. I appreciate that, and I've always associated Christmas and it's joys with music.

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and a Joyous New Year! May your life be filled with love, family, friends, music, light, health and joy all year.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lavender Diamond and Shelby Earl at the Sunset Tavern

I've been a fan of Shelby Earl since seeing her at West Seattle Summer Fest in 2010, and she sounded great at an early afternoon set at Bumbershoot that I caught for a little bit, so I was looking forward to seeing he in a nice small scale setting at the Sunset Tavern.

Shelby opened for Lavender Diamond, an unknown band for me. Jaime posted about Lavender Diamond on Facebook and was looking forward to seeing her, and Jaime's recommendations have always been solid.

I got there early, took a seat with a good location in the bar and had a beer. The location gave me a good intimate view of the stage. Shelby Earl at the Sunset, December 2012 Shelby and her band came out, fairly classic lineup with Shelby singing leads and playing acoustic guitar, a hollow body electric, a stand-up bass, and a drum kit. They had a back-up vocalist who occasionally sang some leads, and the hollow body electric guitarist and bass player also added tasty backing vocals on occasion. Shelby has some great songs, "Under Evergreen" is already a favorite after a few listens:

She does some down-tempo romantic, sad songs that make my heart ache at the same time as they put a smile on my face, songs like "Everyone Belongs to Someone:"

Lavender Diamond was new to me, she performed with a small group that played a pretty stripped down music and added an occasional tasty backing vocal. Lavender Diamond at the Sunset December 2012 Once the music starts her vocals are the focus. Another example of a fairly slow tempo, unusually slow for modern music, but wonderfully apt for this beautiful, soaring song. As she hits some of the higher notes with those clear clean vowels, just nailing the note no matter where it is - I get goose bumps. I love that - her performance is disarming, communicating directly to my emotions, making it hard to remember to keep the camera framing her properly as I lose myself in aching beauty.

Her patter brings the mood back to Earth, she's a bit of a nut, but so am I and she's mostly my kind of nut. The stuff about holograms is classic, she's on to a solid metaphor: each bit of the hologram encodes part of the whole, so if you remove a bit of the hologram, no single object or detail drops out, instead the overall detail diminishes a bit. The patter is fun if a little scattered, and the songs are wonderful.

She has an amazing voice with a great range and precise control of pitch, tone, and volume. Her microphone control is also impressive as she smoothly moves back away and turns a little while cranking intensity up, wailing away without overwhelming the mic or the sound system, then moves back in for a quieter breathier section, carefully keeping her voice balanced in the mix without overly "playing to the mic" - check the bit around 4:20, for example. Lavender Diamond petty much relies on the frontwoman's voice and personality: she's the show, the other musician's are her backing group. Lavender Diamond at the Sunset December 2012 From where I sat and stood, that works well. Lavender Diamond takes a powerful voice used beautifully and expressively and showcases it in quiet yet emotional songs that sneak up on you and get inside your heart. She takes you on an emotional spiritual journey for 4 minutes or so, then brings you back to what passes for Earth in the Northwest with patter about holograms and rain from hotel windows and creative blockakge, followed by another 4+ minute song soaring off into the ether...
Somehow her songs mend my heart on a level that I hadn't even noticed was hurting.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band and Fresh Espresso at the Vera Project

Marshall has been a member at the Vera Project for a few years, running lights at shows and hanging out with the rest of us volunteers and having fun. Marshal is in high school and enjoys socializing and pretty much always seems to be happy, great kid to hang out with at a show. After knowing him for a year and a half and working with him at any number of shows, he casually mentioned to me that he was in a band.

"Which band?" was the obvious question. "Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band" he replied.

Wow - that's the cool local band I've read about - hadn't managed to see them yet - and they have the complex back story involving Benjamin Verdoes and Marshal Verdoes, adoptive brothers...

I realized he was that Marshal - oh! I had no idea. I'd always wanted to see Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band, now I wanted to see them more than ever.
Seeing Marshall pounding on the drums at a hip hop show whetted my appetite. Marshall joined the DJ and drummed live along with some pre-recorded bits, and the Dj's set got much better while he was playing.

Finally on a Saturday a while back I got a chance to catch the Mt. St Helens Vietnam Band with Fresh Espresso and guests at the Nova Benefit show at the Vera Project. I've seen Fresh Espresso a few times, at a Capitol Hill Block Party After-Party and so on, and P-Smoov is familiar to me for some other stuff as well.
Fresh Espresso does good, fast catchy hip hop music, in this case with a live drummer.
They have a good time rapping, trading leads back and forth, syncing up for some harmony work or at least a little emphasis. Nice sound, Bosanova is pretty cool.
I enjoy the music and the message, Fresh Espresso is a reliably upbeat fun party act.
I also got some footage that I think is "Can the Boy Tell Time" which features Marshall on drums too:
I think "Can the Boy Tell Time" was before Fresh Espresso, but the videos ended up in 1) Fresh Espresso then 2) Can the Boy Tell Time then 3) Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band order on YouTube for some reason. Most likely I was switching cameras and the order taken off the cameras differs from the order recorded onto the cameras, if that makes any sense.

Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band came out for the headline set with a typical rock and roll lineup, 2 guitars, bass, keyboards and drums. DSC01228
Nice sound, I like the way they build this song up from a simple beginning to a nice full song with some complexity and tight control of dynamics and intensity.
They played a nice selection of good, catchy songs. I like the guitar riff that starts about :45 into this one, it's jangly and kinda pulls you along Then when they drop it the feel changes and moves away, circling back eventually, I love the sense of movement and progression. I also enjoy guitar oriented rock, so this is pretty much right up my alley, and parked in my driveway up on blocks, I suppose - almost too comfortable a fit.

The band put on a great show and kept a large benefit crowd happy and entertained, and I'm very happy I finally got to see Mt. St. Helens Vietnam band and found out what all the fuss was about.

It turns out they have an embeddable link for their CD, so here's some of their music if you're looking to pick up a CD.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Kids Music In Shopping Malls and Odds and Ends

Chris Ballew performs kids music as Caspar Babypants and I've seen him a few times at Bumbershoot and so on. Ballew is a great performer and the kids love him so I always enjoy it when I get a chance to see him. I friended him on Facebook and noticed that he was doing a free show at Northgate Mall so I ran by and filmed a bit. The crowd was full of kids and they loved the show. Chris was on as usual, engaging kids and playing his signature odd funny songs.

I enjoy the odd free show, it's nice! Caspar Babypant's CD can be purchased on-line if you're interested, here's an ad for that:

One odd thing happened when I went to upload the videos from Caspar Babypants/Chris Ballew: there were extra videos. The videos are from bands I sort of remember, but not really. No idea who the bands are, but there are an assortment of interesting bits.

This one is from the Tractor Tavern, so there's a good chance it was from Reverb, no idea who it is.The band has a good sound but the camera's mic isn't quite up to the volume level so it distorts a bit. It sounded better live.

Another good band, this time I don't even know what the venue is: Because these last two videos got uploaded one after the other on YouTube there's a mild chance they are both from Reverb Fest.

I also found a bit of Don't Talk to the Cops This is from a show that I wrote about a while back as one of the ones I didn't write about, if that makes any sense.

Two other bits from an unknown Vera Project performance that I can't identify, I think this short bit is the setup for the song: Followed by this heavy/hard core song:

It's odd how lack of attention leads to videos piling up and I can't quite recall the details. I still have interesting videos, but without artist names they don't get as many views. I'll have to pay a little more attention, and if anyone recognizes these bands please let me know. Thanks!

November Veracity

I managed to make it to most of November's Veracity. I didn't book the bands - Andrienne does that, and she does it well. I base my band identifications on the order posted in the show event in Facebook, so if I get the bands mis-identified please let me know.
Leadership By Assault led it off with a brief sound check - vocals were a bit low, they brought them up nicely for the actual set which starts just over 1:00 in. Good beat, good dynamics, nice sound, nice songs, fun opening set.
Next was Creech: More piano oriented, nice song with a fun groove around 1:10 in, interesting transition around 1:50. Nice stuff.
Clubscouts played next: Interesting vocal, teeters from melodic to more punk/shouted, back and forth quite a bit. The sound works well, the song that starts a bit after 1:40 has some nice structure and transitions, building and throbbing, then softening, then bouncing back again.
The final band I recorded was Trees and Stars. I think there was one more band - the headliners - but I wasn't able to stay past Trees and Stars. I did get several songs by them before I left, so I got a fair bit of Trees and Stars, anyway. Attendance was great, over 50, and the number of bands (5) was ambitious. Very nice show with talented bands and lots of music. Another great Veracity in the books!

Silicon Girls last show ever at the Vera Project

Silicon Girl's Last Show Ever had Marvelous Good Fortune opening for them: Synth, guitar, bass and drums, good mid tempo rock sound.
I saw Silicon Girls with Kimya Dawson At the All Ages Movement Project show in January 2011 and also saw them open for Titus Andronicus in April 2011.
I got to know Nikolas, their guitarist, I think he ended up tabling for AMP at Sasquatch when I was there for the Vera Project in 2011 so we hung out and visited a bit. Nice kid, he had some good stories to tell and I followed him on the usual social networks. I saw they were playing their final show and made plans to record it.
I recorded quit a bit of footage. Here the girls have us pretend it's their big climax: There's a bit over 40 minutes of Silicon Girls footage from this show on my YouTube channel if you want to track down a good chunk of the performance. It was a fun, angular, loud show. It was good to see the Silicon Girls go out loud and obnoxious, occasionally thrashy and disjointed, sometimes melodic and always interesting, just like they came in.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Robyn Hitchcock at Cyclops

A relative who's into music FB-friended Robyn Hitchcock & tipped me off that he was doing an impromptu show at the Cyclops in late October. He played the Triple Door late last week and I think Marco Collins interviewed Hitchcock and Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, Minus 5, used to tour w/REM) on Jet City Stream, so he'd been in town for a few days.

Dana and I were happy to get a chance to see him in such an intimate venue. We joined our distant cousin and got to Cyclops early, taking a table next to Hitchcock and a group of recognizable Seattle rock luminaries. Scott McCaughey and Kurt Bloch were talking with Hitchcock, guitars were out and tuned. We got drinks and appetizers - the hummus was very good - and settled in to wait for the show.
Thinking back, (begin flashback) I saw Hitchcock in 2004 at Bumbershoot with McCaughey singing and playing guitar and Sean Nelson doing vocals. I use the term "saw" loosely, we were in nose bleed territory in the McCaw Opera house, and they were a tiny brightly lit distant tableau of 2 or 3 people, most of them with guitars, down in front on the stage. I'm quite near-sighted so I saw very little detail. It didn't matter, I was won over by sound alone. The music was well written, the lyrics witty and complex, Hitchcock's slightly nasal voice and dry British humor totally winning the crowd over. I cringed at some of the lyrics - "viva Tacoma, viva Seattle, viva viva Sea-Tac, they got the best coffee, computers, and smack." Unfortunately it's true on some level, which is why it makes me cringe. From a musical context it felt like an indirect/unnamed Cobain reference, and with my career in software and life long caffeine addiction it resonates in various ways. Irony that hits you like a crowbar, with romping acoustic guitars twanging and ringing away, fast chord changes and odd song subjects. Nice! An instant musical crush, with no idea what he looked like. (end flashback)
The Cyclops show was the opposite scale, intimate and small.
DSC00400 Musically Hitchcock wasn't quite so snarky, at least he didn't do the Viva song. What he did do was a surprisingly large and varied selection of classics from his own and other band's material. My video recorder ran out of juice with an hour recorded, and I'd swear they played and talked for another hour and a half with only a short break.
They did an odd bit where they had a list of 34 or so songs and asked for a number, then they'd do that song. As far as I can tell there was no way to know what it meant, so I asked for and heard 23. It was great, no idea what it's name was though.
They did some great mildly obscure Beatles tunes - "One After 909" was good and "I've Got A Feeling" was unexpected and rocked the room, they were on all night. They occasionally got a little shambolic feeling - like they were working out some bits as they played, without having rehearsed all of the different things they were playing. Their shambolic key changes on the fly and "stealing" the chords by watching each other's left hands came off like nobodies business, these guys have been doing it and doing it well for a ridiculously long time. They threw in all kinds of fun curve balls and off beat bits like "Walk Right In" - you know, "Sit yourself down..." - hooking into it with a fun guitar riff by Kurt Bloch. I loved the Kinks numbers: So Tired with the harmonies working, that flowing background "So tired, tired of waiting, tired of waiting for you" with 3 part harmony and the crowd singing along. I may have kind of ruined some of the audio by singing too loudly, sorry about that. The transitions and chord sequences as the familiar verses and choruses roll out, wonderful songs done well. "Waterloo Sunset" was heartbreaking in the way the lyric circles back to the sunset and the emotion so perfectly counters the references to paradise with loneliness, chill and fear. Haunting song done breathtakingly well, and they kept on playing.
Some Soft Boys stuff, some stuff I didn't recognize, Bowie got some attention with "Jean Genie" and Ziggy Stardust's track #2, Soul Love

The cover of the Byrds' "8 Miles High" was excellent with good vocal harmonies:

I got a large number of good songs recorded, and missed recording an even greater number, definitely a special insider show.

Hitchcock talked a bit about playing as the house band at the "2 Bells" in Belltown, calling the Cyclops show a tryout of the new venue. We got to hang out and visit with the band before the show, between sets and at the end. I told McCaughey I'd seen the Young Fresh Fellows at Bumbershoot in 1977 - the earliest Bumbershoot I ever went to - and he pointed out that I had the date wrong, since they didn't form until 1981. I've conflated the first Bumbershoot I saw with a later one that the Fellows played out, odd how your memory plays tricks on you like that. That plasticity (and in my case, occasional vacuum) of memory is why I write this blog, so that I can keep the details straight as the memories fade. DSC00411
I got a couple of short videos, all their songs were short which can happen with hardcore music.

We also saw a bit of Jay Johnson playing some solo acoustic guitar rock.
Fun fast guitar oriented music, very nice.

We were unable to catch the headlining acts, so we only got these first two acts recorded. It's nice to see a good crowd and a well run show, Adrienne is putting on great Veracity shows, the committee is in good hands!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Reverb Fest 2012

Attended my second annual Reverb Fest in Ballard on Saturday. Got videos of 14 acts out of 60 or so. There were some bands at Reverb that I had seen before like Kithkin, but I missed most of them. 13 of the 14 bands were "new to me" and Sweetwater was the only band we saw that I had seen before. I like that, I got to see a pile of new bands and they were all fun to watch and worth seeing in one way and another.

We started out with Gold Records at the 2 Bit Saloon, it was fun and loud, and the guitarist did some interesting keyboard work too.

Country Lips played a Spanish language tune dedicated to Mexico, catchy and bouncy, nice stuff.

Cristina Bautista carries lead vocals and fronts the band in her new self named outfit. Last time I saw her was with Visqueen, glad to see her putting on a show.

So Pitted at the Eagle was scruffy, loud and fast. Great fun! The guitarist and drummer swapped instruments for their final number.

Sweetwater is a favorite, I like the sound of the vocals and the guitar oriented rock, a solid performance that went over well with the audience.

Whitney Ballen did her beautiful gentle vocal music, I wish the ambient noise were lower. In other words the dude next to me that kept talking - I wish he'd been on the other side of the room. The music was gorgeous mostly due to the emotive voice with a pretty backing guitar part, very nice set.

Cosmic Panther Land Band was great, forging an instant classic - "I feel like going back to the Panther Land" - tight competent well written music with a sense of humor.

OC Notes did a set at the Hilliard Brewery that was interesting. OC Notes got that good hip hop club feel going, more of a dancing focus.

Shivering Denizens put on a muscular set of bluegrassy, hillbilly, rootsie music that was well done, with most songs short and obnoxious the way Rock and Roll was meant to be. There was even a bit of yodeling.

Juli C at the Hilliard Brewery put on an energetic set. Her lyrics were interesting and her flow worked well both solo and with a co-vocalist as she worked through her set and brought a couple of collaborators up. The DJ with Juli C did the best live scratching I've ever heard which added a fun element to the performance.

Lifestyles of the Poor and Unknown played an old school thumping warbling rock with towering simple short guitar riffs, nice stuff.

Naomi Punk had a heavy grinding sound that I quite enjoyed, the distorted vocals lay over that in an interesting combination, well written with complex internal rhythms, I really enjoy this song:

Side Saddle played with the visuals - blond and brunette brides fronting the band, their duet on "When Will I Be Loved" was great: They ranged from pop to country with authority

We finshed up with Mid Day Veil, and I like it! Good spooky sound, By this time the beer was catching up with me, and while I might get the camera turned on I wasn't paying much attention to the camera after that. The sound is still fine, at least.

We finally staggerred out (well, I staggered, Carina was the designated driver so she wasn't staggering) shortly before midnight and headed home, tired, drunk and happy. Another successful Reverb atttended, another 13 new local bands discovered. I knew Whitney Ballen and Juli C before I saw them perform at Reverb so it was cool finally getting to see them live, and seeing Sweetwater again was cool.

Shows I Didn't Blog, with Videos

In 2010 I saw more than 100 bands, but unless I was holding a Bumbershoot schedule I'd have a hard time remembering more than ten of them. For my News Year's Resolution I vowed to record videos and blog about each show, including videos of each band.

It works well as an artificial memory. Search on VirtualSoundNW and the band name, and if I saw them when I was blogging then the blog shows up. Not only did I see them, here's my notes and some video.

I managed to pull off the blogging in 2011, but I knew that eventually I wouldn't be able to keep up. I continued blogging well into 2012, but I've finally hit the wall.

I filmed Knowmads at the Vera in August and was one of a thin staff of volunteers so I just set the video up on the tripod, turned it on, and went to work steering the volunteers. This usually works out fine except that you end up with one big hour long video. Usually I'll go through that and break it up into individual songs. It's time consuming, but it makes the songs available.

When I went to turn off the video camera I noticed it had been bumped and was filming to the side of the stage. Doh! The audio is fine, but the video is lame, half of the stage activity is not visible. I posted the video as one solid 40 minute video and never blogged about it.

In early September we went to Bumbershoot and I got a pile off videos - 85 total, over the three day weekend. I uploaded them all and started figuring out who was on each, laeling and tagging and categorizing them. That was taking a long time, so after I got the first days shows figured out I started the blog for the first day and got that posted.

As I worked through the videos for the next few days, I assembled a blog post that just named the band and included a link to the video. Once I had all the videos for a day sorted in the order I saw them I added text describing the band and it's music, and anything about the experience that caught my attention.

I'm running out of gas and I barely finished Sunday. This blog finally got me motivated enough to get the last bits of that written and posted, but that still leaves Monday, where all I have is band names and videos, no text. I'm burnt out so it's not getting done, and that blocks the blogs for events after Bumbershoot. Maybe I'll get back to it, but for now I'm just posting the Monday video list as a guide to the videos, with no blogging.

That still leaves me backed up, I saw X-15 at one of the Seattle Center Fiftieth Anniversary shows, and Deerhoof, and Don't Talk to the Cops twice, once with Kung Foo Grip, and Reverb.

In order to get caught back up some more, I'm going to throw in the shows I haven't blogged before Reverb here, so the "Shows I Didn't Blog" blog (this post) will have the blog posts for most of the shows I didn't blog.

After Bumbershoot I got to see X-15 with Heather and Greg. I saw was into them when I was a young adult, so it was fun to get a chance to see them after all of this time. "Vaporized was always a favorite: The vocalist looked younger than the other band members, but he had talked about challenges going on with his throat, I hope he does OK. He sounded roughly like he did way back in the day, with that odd voice bouncing around, sounding like nobody else I've heard. One of the defining sounds of my experience in the eighties.

I went to Hawaii for 8 days with my daughters and managed to catch a performance by Mike Love at the Hilo Town Tavern while I was there:

I caught a little bit of Ryan Laplante at Balefire too: Rootsy stuff, I enjoy Ryan's playing.

Deerhoof put on a great show at the Vera Project I enjoy their sound, it's well developed and all their own. Visually they were rewarding in various ways - they had tassels on their outfits, different colors, fun to look at!

I also saw Don't Talk to the Cops twice, at the Vera Project and at Redmond's Old Firehouse. This is their Ronnie Voice guest bit, more or less Mash Hall I think. We saw a couple of the opening acts at the Firehouse, starting with Iska Dhaaf Twangy, angular, the doubled vocals are interesting, the transitions into and out of the faster bit, nice song.
Wimp played next. Fun fast and thrashy, good stuff.

Kung Foo Grip was next up, suffering from my traditional "good shows get crummy videos" rule: I really like Kung Foo Grip so I end up bouncing around and the video is pretty shaky. I'd say sorry, but I had too much fun dancing to really mean it.

Don't Talk to the Cops headlining set was great, djblesOne and emecks danced up a storm and El Mizel bounced around and they had the audience moving and sweating. Carina was dancing and enjoying it even more than I did, she loves a good hip hop vibe in a group with everyone dancing - who doesn't!

That gets me almost caught up, but last night was Reverb Fest so I'm behind by another twenty videos. Good problem to have!

Monday at Bumbershoot: Videos

I haven't blogged about Monday at Bumbershoot, but here's a quick guide to the videos I recorded.


Ghosts I've Met

Jefferson Rose Band


Debo Band

Super Geek League


Passion Pit

Rebirth Brass Band

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Sunday at Bumbershoot

Sunday was another Beautiful day in Seattle and we headed down to Bumbershoot for a day filled with music. First up was Eighteen Individual Eyes playing good mid-tempo guitar oriented rock. Interesting name, no idea what it means. I like the haunting vocals, the way they fit in with the slightly droning guitar sound is nice. They also have a good control of the dynamics, with the instruments pausing here and their while the vocals play off that. Excellent song structure.

Next was Gold Leaves, this one has a beautiful ease about it: The acoustic guitar and quiet synthesizers along with the occasional vocal harmonies give it a wonderful feel. The guitarist on the left is sitting at a pedal steel guitar - an instrument I associate more with country music, but I wouldn't particularly call this country. I've never been that good at figuring out or assigning genres anyway. I like how the instruments blend and the vocals and harmonies all add to a quietly emotional yet stately song. The song I video taped was over 7 minutes long (and I probably missed a little at the start), but it doesn't overstay it's welcome at all; it develops changes and grows, gaining some intensity with the drum solo and the instruments fading into a simpler pattern, very nice.

Next was the Ty Curtis Band with a good chunky guitar oriented rock approach. I've always loved electric guitar and they put some good guitar playing front and center, but don't overwhelm the music or the song with it. I like the way the guitar moves up front, then moves back for the verses, then comes back up front. Good beat, tight band, nice approach. The extended guitar solo around 2:45 in was also quite tasty. So far the early afternoon bands were putting on great shows in the bright sunlight.

Next was Theoretics, a Seattle based "live hip hop" band. Live hip hop refers to using a live band rather than tapes or sequenced music, and I'm a fan of the approach - in case you can't tell, I love live music. The introduce the band and then play "Go" which is a great song. The band is pretty large so I mostly manage to cut the keyboard player out of the video, sorry about that. They had a guest vocals by Camila Recchio a few songs later, she sings beautifully but I didn't manage to get video of that song. Camila also did guest vocals with Knowmads a bit later in the day so you can at least check her out in that video.

The only time I went in to the main stage at the Key Arena all weekend was to see Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. I don't like the "reserved" feel - chairs to sit in, no crowding, nobody really moves much. Personally I like it when there's a crowd, I like it better still when the crowd is into it and the band feeds of that, and best when a mosh pit gets going, but Bumbershoot always has it in for mosh pits. Signs outside the Exhibition Hall (where the more punk bands usually play) explicitly say moshing and crowd surfing is not allowed. Anyway, back to Sharon Jones She's got a great band, tight arrangements, great vocals, very nice set. On the other hand, the seating and lack of crowd intensity led me to head back out to the smaller stages petty quickly.

Back outside at the Sub Pop stage Niki & the Dove were playing spacey slow atmospheric music Different, nice vocals and one dude providing interesting backup sounds between the keys and some sequenced or perhaps recorded instrumentals.

Next over to the TuneIn stage for Eldridge Gravy & The Court Supreme I enjoy the patter - "reminds me of a time in 1926" indeed, even I'm not that old, but it set the stage for the song. I love the horn section and the wailing backing vocals. I ended up recording more than 9 minutes of the performance, I definitely enjoyed their sound. Interesting hat stuff going on with Eldridge, several other bands had hats happening too, seemed like a minor Bumbershoot theme. All the rest of the band had dark glasses too - it might have been a thematic decision, or perhaps just a reaction to playing in the middle of a bright Seattle late Summer day.

Heading back to the Exhibition Hall we stopped for a moment at the YR booth to watch a bit of Deep Sea Diver The Vera Project organized several teens to host these and ask bands a few questions between songs, a nice experience for a bunch of kids I really like, thumbs up to Toyota for sponsoring it, the Vera Project for organizing it, and the kids for getting up on stage and interviewing the bands.

On to the Exhibition Hall for Barcelona I like the songs, the sound was good although my Flip had some problems with the volume so it doesn't sound as good in the video as it did live. I like the way the song loops back to the line "I don't wanna know" and then the guitar echoes the phrase, tasty. I saw a little bit of Barcelona at a previous Bumbershoot, I liked what I heard but I didn't know much about them. Turns out they're local, and I really enjoy their sound - and that's about all I know; that's petty much all I need to know.

After several well done songs by Barcelona we headed over to the Promenade stage for the Knowmads set, with Camilla Recchio (who was also with Theoretics) adding some vocals. The crowd was larger and active, so the video is from a bit further back. I've seen quite a few Knowmads shows but this was the first time I've seen them with a full band - they had a guitar, bass and drums as well as lead vocals by Camila and I really enjoyed it. The way they use "People Get Ready" with Camila's vocals soaring to intro the song and then return to it repeatedly gives the song a great structure; I've always liked that spiritual so it really worked well for me, one of the best Knowmads performances I've ever seen.

Back to the Sub Pop stage for The Jezabels, a four piece band out of Australia Interesting sound, the song I've posted ranges from a nice grove to a sort of operatic peak based on the lead vocalist's ability to really soar and nail the high notes with a lot of power, very nice effect. Good variety of sound within just the one song, another rewarding set in a day full of them.

Yelawolf was next on the TuneIn stage This is the more traditional hip hop experience, a dude rapping with a DJ running some electronic equipment behind them. Nice flow, fast lyrics with a rapid beat on occasion.

Headed up to the Starbucks stage (the Mural Amphitheater) to see the Harmonica House Party with Lee Oskar and Magic Dick Nice harmonica workout, I enjoy how expressive the harmonica is when played well, and the rhythm fills in nicely.

Next we headed back into the Exhibition Hall to catch Civil Twilight For some reason the high end is too bright in this video; it didn't sound that way live, but I had hearing protection in so who knows what it sounded like unprotected. I enjoyed the song, the way it builds and the backing vocals feeding in, this was better live than the video makes it sound (too much hiss, rats).

The Young Evils played a nice set of their guitar oriented distorted rock with Mackenzie Mercer's vocals hovering over them on this one: More dark glasses - a good bright Seattle summer day can be pretty dazzling, and it's nice when Bumbershoot gets some good weather. I think the bands aren't used to playing outdoors in the sunlight though, especially local bands like the Young Evils. Most of the year we don't get much bright sunlight, and most opportunities to play are indoors in a bar or club. The Young Evils made the most of their opportunity in spite of the sun.

Next the Fruit Bats played a nice set of upbeat songs on the Sub Pop stage:
I've seen Fuit Bats before and they always put on a fun show.
I have to admit my comments are getting shorter as I work through the videos I recorded, I saw so many bands that I'm running out of interesting things to say about them. There are lots of great bands to see, but after seeing 60 in 3 days it's hard to think of something original and interesting to say about each. It's a good problem to have though, too many good bands and not enough imagination to comment usefully...

Next was the The Dirtbombs on the TuneIn stage, I think I filmed this one from the beer garden. I'd never heard the Dirt Bombs before and found them instantly likable, fun beat with a good guitar sound, I enjoy the bit about 2 minutes in where the music drops out, giving the vocals an additional punch.

Next AM and Shawn Lee played an interesting set on the Promenade set. The guitar sounds they incorporated into this song were more varied, swapping back and forth between a slightly muddled echoing rhythm to a more ringing lead approach which sets off the vocals nicely. The rhythm section also provides some great emphasis and transitions and they get the audience participation going a couple minutes in, nice effective set:
I think this one ended up black and white because I used my digital camera and it's settings were wonky. It still works pretty well.

Back inside the Exhibition Hall for The Promise Ring. I know very little about them but I enjoyed their set. Classic dual guitar, bass and drum lineup rocking out on a midtempo rock song, nice stuff.

Mudhoney is a local legend that I missed in the nineties when they played Pioneer Square venue like the Buffalo regularl, I was busy raising babies and toddlers back then so I didn't get out much. I was glad to finally get a chance to see them live! I don't know their catalog, when I searched for "I Like It Small" I found some recent performances and nothing else, so I suspect this may be a new song but I don't really know. I like it, it plays against the traditional simplistic excess in most modern songs. I thought I recorded at least one more by Mudhoney, and I saw them do "Touch Me/I'm Sick" which is one of their legendary tunes, but somehow I didn't manage to get a copy to YouTube. Rats!
This is definitely one of the "bucket list" local bands that I had regretted missing back in the day, I'm glad I got to see them and that they still put on a powerful fun show.

Lee Fields and the Expressions played a good old school love song, great horn section and tight arrangements. I love the staccato lyric over the punchy horn section late in the first minute, the way the transitionin and out of that is nice.

Deep Sea Diver had a great sound. I filed this with my digital point and shoot camera. Somehow it ended up in an odd color mode where it's almost black and white, at least the sound is serviceable. Nice classic reference - Psalm 23 has always been a favorite of mine. I definitely want to see Deep Sea Diver again.

I only got a short bit of Blitzen Trapper, sound is a little ragged in the video, it was quite impressive live. The music sounds like it's from some lost twentieth century decade, I can't quite tell which. Blitzen Trapper Enjoyed this, yet another band that I want to see again.


We finished up with Wanda Jackson at the Mural Amphitheater. Wanda embodies an amazing accumulation of rock and roll history. She was one of the first in so many categories and she has great stories. She was in the studio with Elvis Pesley, and she's coy about it but she may've been into more of his business than that. I saw her and 2003 at Bumbershoot on the same stage. In 2003 she played some guitar and sang, this year she stuck to the vocals, allowing the Dusty 45's to handle the instrumental parts. The Dusty 45s are great - the flaming trumpet bit is awesome all by itself, and the show they put on with Wanda was killer, filled with classics and obscurities, covers and overseas number 1 hits - from Japan.
After a few songs where the energy was moderate, lower than last time, she brought things down for a moment and spoke of her conversion experience and sang "I Saw the Light." A noticeable portion of the audience, probably more than 20%, walked out. it felt disrespectful, they were getting into it until she started speaking of her spirituality, it felt like they wanted a novelty act, not an actual complex person with their own attitudes and beliefs.
Their loss, Wanda singing spirituals is a wonderful thing and it visibly amped her up. As she finished "I Saw the Light" with an intense climax, drawing out the final repetition of the title phrase as the band crescendod I realized that she needed a song like this that spoke to her heart, or I should say from her heart. She took a moment to thank us for allowing her the opportunity to talk to us and her graciousness made me feel like the idiots who bailed on the performance could be forgiven, she didn't mind the disrepect. From then on her intensity increased and the packed in crowd enjoyed classic timeless rock and roll.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Saturday at Bumbershoot

Saturday was a beautiful day in Seattle and a great day to listen to lots of bands at the Seattle Center. Dana and Ben went with me and we got there early enough to catch the early acts. First up was Lights From Space, a local band that I've read interesting things about their influences include some of my favorites from the sixtes like the Beattles and the Kinks. Tough list to live up to, but they were fun and interesting live. 2012 Bumbershoot Saturday 001 Good rhythms, catchy tune, nicely done full sound for a trio.

Next we scored tickets for Serra Cahoone's KEXP indoor set. It's always easier early in the day since the crowds haven't picked up yet. The sound was awesome and the performance was excellent and the audience was very attentive. I like Sera's expressive voice and the tasty backing vocals kicking in, and the pedal steel guitar is wonderful. Talented performer in a setting that really showed her favorably, very nice.

Next up was TacocaT at the Sub Pop stage. I enjoy TacocaT's upbeat slightly punky sound, and they're always fun to watch; with the sunlight and bubbles they were even better!

Back over to the TuneIn stage for Don't Talk to the Cops We saw them last fall at Reverb Fest and they were an immediate favorite, and they haven't lost a step. Great fun upbeat show, just as good out in the sun as in a club - or maybe even better!

Next into the concrete box - the Exhibition Hall - for Spittin' Cobras. The sound in the Exhibition Hall can be pretty tough, but if you put in hearing protection and get close it's not bad - the echoes are drowned out by the loud music from a band like Spittin' Cobras. Unfortunately the heavy bass tends to overwhelm my Flip's microphone, so the audio isn't great, which is totally a problem with my equipment, the live sound was actually quite good - and heavy! They ended up with "Criminal Mastermind" as their final song and I quite enjoyed it. Good loud thundering sound, wish my equipment had done a better job though.

Next up was Polecat at the new Promenade stage. The venue was nice - the Promenade between the Opera House and the Exhibition Hall, and the band was excellent. A classic old country sound with a fiddle and a couple of guitars, upright bass and drums and a good dual vocal approach. I grew up listening to a wide variety of my Dad's music and this sounded very familiar - and I mean that as a definite compliment. Good old time sounding music with solos as the vocalist calls out the musicians, this sort of a performance from 60 or 70 years ago was one of the contributing streams that led to modern rock music, and decades later Polecat gave an excellent example of some of the roots of modern rock and roll.

Next was Unnatural Helpers at the Sub Pop stage Another wonderful band that I thought I'd never heard before - but I was wrong! I saw them at Bumbershoot in 2010 and they were memorable enough for me to mention in an old blog. The drummer sings - and sings well - and I love the fast rock sound. As I play the video back my son is humming along within a single repeat while he's reading and not really paying any attention - definitely a catchy hook, fun and fast and well executed.
Seven great bands well worth seeing in the first 3 hours - I was enjoying myself but not pacing myself too well, there were just too many good bands. Hmm, is that a real problem?

Next was Skerik's Bandalabra at the Starbicks stage. Another good show, this band had very talented musicians - the saxophone in particular blew me away (heh heh, but seriously). I actually ran into the sax player later at the Promenade stage watching other bands so I made a point of telling him how much I had enjoyed the show and he seemed to appreciate the compliment. I'm often a little too shy to say anything.

Next up was JC Brown and the Uptown Sound at the TuneIn stage Another excellent performance, JC's vocals are powerful and he's a very charismatic performer, and the band was tight and funky. They play around with timing and vary the beat, and jump in and out of changes as they go, very cool stuff.

Too much good music combined with my lack of pacing caught up with me so I ended up taking a break and not seeing any bands for a while. I'm a little annoyed at myself - I missed Black Breath, Cosmetics, Gotye, Serah Cahoone (at least I caught her KEXP set, so I didn't miss her completely) and Ayron Jones and the Way. Sigh, oh well I've never caught every act on any given day, and if I really tried I'd probably get so burned out that I wouldn't enjoy it all that much. Enough whining, back to music!

After a break and some food we checked out King Khan & the Shrines Good performance, nice horn section and fun visuals, it got me back in the mood to see more of the acts and I needed the energy.

Next was Prong in the Exhibition Hall The sound is rough; heavy metal bands in the Exhibition Hall are always a bit loud for my equipment. Too bad, they were another loud fun loud raucous band and I enjoyed it.

Next was the Barr Brothers at the Promenade stage I love the vocals and the lyrics, and the way music feeds into the song's progression. Enjoyed the show, makes me want to see more of them. I also want to dig through their lyrics more carefully, I like the contrasts and images.
My FLip was out of storage so I switched to my other Flip and got some more footage of the Barr Brothes, nice stuff:

Next it was back to the Sub Pop stage for THEESatisfaction, this one is Bisexual: They have a style of hip-hop different from any other I'm familiar with. I'm not well educated when it comes to hip hop so that doesn't mean too much, but I love the approach, the way the vocals play off each other, the dance moves, and the lyrics are creative and fascinating. Bisexual in particular is quite witty and interesting. I got some more footage including Deeper here: Again, the lyrics are witty and fascinating - "My melanin is relevant."

Next was "The Heavy" on the TuneIn stage, this one's "The Big Bad Wolf": I like the saxophone and the audience participation, they made us work! Fun stuff.

Over to the Promenade stage to listen to Western Haunts Amusing chatter and a very nice sound, I like the vocals in particular and the way the rhythm drives the song around 1:16 in.

EYEHATEGOD played the Exhibition Hall Loud heavy metal show, pretty good "clean" sound for a distorted heavy metal show, if that makes any sense - you can here the different instruments and track the beat and even hear the almost screamed vocals pretty well.

Oberhoffer played the Sub Pop stage 2012 Bumbershoot Saturday 130They play fun upbeat music with some interesting lyrics: I'm pretty sure the "first time playing on this coast" comment was tongue in cheek, they played the Sunset last April and they've almost certainly played LA and so on.

Alela Diane played a nice solo acoustic set on the Promenade stage 2012 Bumbershoot Saturday 139 Nicely evocative song, beautiful performance. I bit of a caveat: I've never seen Alela Diane before, so I'm assuming that's who this is based on the Bumbershoot schedule; if there was a substitution then I could be completely wrong on the singer's name. Hopefuly I'm right, but feel free to comment or send me a message if I misidentify anything. Whether it's Alela Diane or not, she has a beautiful voice and played some gorgeous songs for us.

Next was City and Colour playing some nice tunes at the TuneIn stage You may notice that as the day progresses the videos are taken from further back and to the side - the crowds were picking up, and I was zipping around from one act to another, so unless I wanted to be pretty pushy I ended up with a somewhat poorer spot to record from. That's OK, the sound was generally pretty good and I enjoyed City and Colour even though I wasn't front and center.

Next I caught Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit on the Starbucks stage, this is "Codeine:" Wonderful composition, I love the way the phrases bookend the sections - "one thing I can't stand" and "one thing I can't take" - lovely, definitely sticks in my head. Sad song of loss, it sort of sneaks into your heart, it takes a while to reveal the depth of the loss and what the song is really about, quite effective.

Next was the Helio Sequence on the Sub Pop stage: I often end up with a fragment of a song to start with - the song already playing when I work my way into the crowd. I used to wait until the next song, but a few times when I did that I missed the last song, so now I usually just go ahead and record the song from the middle just in case. This was nice enough that I went ahead and posted it, then recorded another song too: Wonderful sound, quite full for a two piece band, and the songs are powerful.

Back to the Promenade stage to catch Damien Jurado do a powerful version of Nothing is the News: References to ghosts, doors being closed, standing outside, walk upon the clouds in my eyes, the song builds a powerful sense of isolation and alienation, and I love the way the instruments build into the song's emotion. The spacey synthesized accents (some sort of sound like a theremin, others waver in pitch rapidly) also add to the disjoint sense of the song. Wonderful song!
I got Maraqopa on video as well Jurado writes phenomenal songs and listening to them performed live is wonderful.

There were still many interesting acts I'd like to see Saturday night - Pezzner, The Jayhawks, M. Ward and more - but I was out of energy and still had two more days to make it through. Jurado was a great act to end the day on, though.
I'm going to have to be a bit smarter the next couple of days, take painkillers in the early evening, watch the alcohol intake, or probably both; I always regret missing acts at Bumbershoot.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Saturday at Bumbershoot

I've been looking forward to Bumbershoot all year, it's the first festival I budget for: buy the Bumbershoot tickets, then think about what (if anything) else I want to see and can afford. I've been going since I was a teenager in the seventies and it was free for 4 days. I especially loved it because I got to see all of the bands that normally only played bars and were thus usually unavailable. I take my kids as much as they can stand it, and they're good sports so the girsl go all 3 days with me. Ben just hit 13 (teenager!) so he went one day with us this year too.

Logistics always have to be dealt with. Get your supplies, sun block (if you're lucky and the weather calls for it) or rain gear as needed, some food and water, and make sure all of the cameras are charged and cleared of old pictures or videos. I always try to get there at 11AM so I can check out the arts and so on, but always run late so I'm lucky if I get there at 12 when the bands start.

Once again we arranged to pick up my daughter early and get to Bumbershoot as it opened so we could check out the visual arts for an hour before the bands start - always the optimists! I ran late enough getting out of the house that we were down to 30 minutes before the bands if things went well. Things did not go well.

As we got my daughter we noticed that I failed to get all of the correct tickets for the festival (I inadvertently swapped a Sunday ticket in for a Saturday. Doh!) We headed back towards home, losing more time, only to find that my car wasn't going to be able to complete the trip. We had to get a ride back to my daughters after picking up the correct ticket so that we could have her drive us, losing even more time. Sigh. Ended up missing the first few bands. Rats.

On the other hand, the weather was gorgeous and there were lots of bands! We made it to the Key Arena to see Brite Futures, kicking off this years Bumbershoot with fun dancy party music, nice way to start!

The girls and I saw Brite Futures perform as Natalie Portman's Shaved Head four and a half years ago at the EMP Sound Off and I've seen them several times since and each time is a bigger party. Hair is a recurring Brite Futures subject:

We stopped in and listened to a bit of the Great Mundane, the Sky Church is an excellent venue for any kind of music.

We didn't stay to dance much since there were more bands to see like Kris Orlofski and the Passenger String Quartet:

The strings and rich deep multipart vocals give the music an almost orchestral feeling, much more layered than typical rock or pop, very nice:

Back outside for an excellent Champagne Champagne set

Champagne Champagne puts on reliably fun shows, they're getting to be one of my favorite local hip hop groups.

Wagon put on a fun set of guitar oriented classic rock to western influenced sounding numbers that had a good chunk of the early crowd dancing, the song "Keep It On the Down Low" builds to a nice climax that had the audience moving and applauding:

Next it was back to the Key Arena for a family favorite: The Presidents of the USA!
We've all seen the Presidents multiple times at Bumbershoot, Presidents Day shows, even a secret Microsoft show and they always deliver. Speaking of delivering, here's a mailman themed song in honor (sort of) of my dad:

So many Presidents songs are silly and insane and just fun as hell to rock out to. Spiders driving dune buggies gets me very time:

Spiders fat ass abdomen stuck in the bucket seat - who else but the PUSA could've written that?
The Presidents also have an excellent sense of movement and their rocking out transitions kick ass. A song about peaches that gets us all jumping then singing along, then moving to the harder guitar in the verse repeatedly, classic Presidents and really nobody else does anything quite like this:

I got several other good songs by the Presidents like Love Everybody, Old Man On the Back Porch, I Will Survive and Kick Out The Jams/Shout was killer, you can track those down on my youtube channel.
They ended like they usually do with "Video Killed the Radio Star" and nailed it:

It's always interesting coming out of a dim indoor venue to the bright sunlight, somehow it feels like coming back to reality; maybe I'm just flashing back to the seventies concert experience. I was able to catch Yuni In Taxco even though I had missed their set earlier, since they did a YR Radio tent interview and performance I was able to catch - kind of a make-up, which was cool!

I only managed to catch a bit of The Nortec Collective: Bostich and Fussible on video:

The sun washes it out, and it's too short to do them justice. Describing them doesn't really do them justice either but I'll try. They had a tuba player and an accordian player playing against some sequenced tracks, quite different but quick and uptempo, talented musicians having a good time, definitely fun.

We also caught Vasen, they use an instrument I'm unfamiliar with, it's a string instrument played with a bow and it has keys that change the pitch of the string, quite different. Fascinating classical sound to my ear with the way the melodies, themes, and timing intertwine.

Valient Thorr in the Exhibition Hall with lasers! Fun show, amusing band name and the facial hair seemed to follow Brite Future's theme of the day.

P.S. I Love You put on a great set on the Fountain Stage, I saw P.S. I Love You earlier this year at the Vera with Diamond Rings and they get a very full sound for just 2 people. The drummer plays a loud thrashy fast style and the guitarist plays a bass pedal and sings with the result being surprisingly musical and full sounding, not what i would've anticipated, but they put on consistently excellent shows with fun fast songs every time.

I only managed to catch a bit of Shabazz Palaces, I've heard they've played some shows with Thee Satisfaction lately but there was no sign of Thee Satisfaction in the bit I saw:

We caught the MarchFourth Marching Band, not a great angle visually but the music is amazing for a marching band. The dudes dancing on stilts were fun too!

Pentagram put on a hard powerful set in the Exhibition Hall, I caught the laser effect spelling the band name at the beginning of this bit:

As a technical geek I love the laser effects. I got a more complete song by Pentagram too, the sound isn't great (too much volume overwhelms my Flip) but it started out pretty distorted so it isn't changed that much:

Vetiver was quite a contrast, lighter and calmer, well constructed songs, very nice:

I had never heard of Little Dragon (not that unusual, perhaps 1/3 of the acts were unfamiliar to me) but they quickly won me over with their upbeat catchy pop tunes.

Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue had a nice horn oriented groove, very fun to listen to:

We caught a little of the Lawnchair Generals, as usual the lights/visual effects in the EMP Sky Church were great:

STRFKR put on a good set too. When I saw them at the Vera Project they were kind of crowded together and some musicians were facing each other rather than the audience. Perhaps the Fountain Stage is larger or maybe they just decided to face the audience, but I aplaud the choice. Facing the audience makes the performance more immediate and engaging.

I saw one song by Craft Spells but I didn't get it recorded.

I'm sad to say that I wimped out by 9PM and ended up missing Minus the Bear and Ray LaMontagne and Mavis Staples, too sore and tired. Dang. I did catch a street musician on the way back to the car,

but that was the end of the evening as far as music went.

One day of Bumbershoot complete, 22 performances watched, 2 more days to go.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Maktub with Shawn Smith, Allen Stone and The Silent Comedy play the Face in the Mirror show

A friend on the Esat coast that I've never met (don't you just love social media?) pointed out that there was a free show at the Moore Theater in Seattle with Maktub and Allan Stone, two local acts that I've wanted to see but never had the chance. The show included a screening of Boyd Tinsley's film "Faces in the Mirror" and live performances, sounded like my kind of deal, so I filled out the web form and got a couple of tickets for Dana and myself and planned to go later Thursday evening.
Turns out my plan was a little messed up. The show was being simulcast to several theaters across the US, including the East coast, and the show started at 8 PM EST. I failed to notice the EST, we run on PST in Seattle of course. So the show was at 5 PM PST, and we were late getting there. I figured out the actual timing a few hours ahead of time, but by the time Dana could get down to the office to pick me up and we made it to the theater the film was almost over. I'll have to watch it later when it's more widely available, the bit I saw was interesting and the music was cool, but it was opaque - we had no idea what was going on.

We were in time for the music, though. They had Allen Stone come out to play a couple of songs while the streaming version of the music - seen at the other theaters - finished up. Apparently only those of us in the Moore theater got to see this bit - you really did have to be there! Allen Stone has a powerful expressive voice, and nice acoustic guitar technique. I can see why he's getting a fair amount of attention, his songs were great.

After a couple of songs the live stream had caught up and the Silent Comedy came out to do a live streamed performance for us and the audiences at the other theaters. Nice sound, guitar, bass, drums and a banjo - you don't see or hear banjos a whole lot outside of folky/blue grass settings, I like a variety and difference so I enjoyed it. On the next song the banjo player swapped to a mandolin, if my eyes weren't fooling me. We were up in the balcony and my vision isn't great so, they may have been fooled; I din't video tape that song so I can't check.
For the Silent Comedy's final number Boyd Tinsely joined them: They did a cover of Neil Young's "Tonight's the Night" - it was a good week for Neil Young covers.

Next Allen Stone came out for the official "streamed live" performance. After a few songs as he was unplugging the MC came out and said "Don't unplug that guitar" and spoke to him for a moment, then Boyd Tinsley came out and they talked for a few seconds and I started up the video camera, catching them doing a cover of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" Another impressive song, I really like Stone's vocals and Boyd's violin worked well; based on Allen Stone's comment I don't think they got to rehearse, which makes it more impressive still.

Next up was Maktub with Shawn Smith. Reggie Watts sang with Maktub a while back, and the Thaddeus, Maktub's guitarist has released some material as "Thaddillac." The Maktub lineup with Shawn Smith singing and playing keys was impressive.The songs were quite long, this one is 11:30 or so, and they were symphonic in the sense that they had different movements, sections that changed yet repeated themese - not so much just verse/chorus/verse, actual progressions and changes in dynamics that stood out - I liked the approach, it's unusual today. The instrumentals from Maktub were carefully structured, they felt well rehearsed and very tasty. Thaddeus' lead guitars with that trademark stratocaster sound, crunchy yet ringing with infinite sustain also contributed hugely to my enjoyment. With the long songs they only did a few and my video recorder quickly ran out of storage. I got one more song, and then the first 3 minutes or so of the final number where Boyd Tinsley and the Silent Comedy also came out to join them: It was a great show and I caught performers I'd never seen before which I always like. Talented musicians in a great venue with both good sight lines and excellent sound, I'm not sure my video does them justice but I sure enjoyed it!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Way Finders, Absolute Monarchs and Love Battery at the KEXP Mural Amphitheater show

Stopped by the Mural Amphitheater to see another fun free show put on by KEXP. I was slightly sloshed and enjoying the music, so the videos were mildly unsteady. That's what happens when I try to video tape and dance at the same time. Love Battery was up first.Fun up tempo guitar rock, this is the sort of music I grew up loving way back when, and I still love it when it's done well - and Love Battery does it well.

The second band was Absolute Monarchs, a band I saw earlier this Summer at the Capitol Hill Block Party. They have a good heavy guitar oriented sound, perhaps a little slower than Love Battery, more screamish vocals, also a very nice approach. I was having fun dancing and drinking the occasional beer in the beer garden, I really enjoy these free KEXP Mural Amphitheater shows when the weather is so nice. Sadly enough, I think they're done for the year.

The final act was Way Finders, a band I'd never heard before. They immediately won me over with fast, intricate guitar oriented music - and I love the good wah-wah pedal. Fun show, great way to end the KEXP Mural Amphitheater series. They had one more KEXP free show the next Friday with Fresh Espresso and I like them quite a bit, but I was unable to make it to that show, so the penultimate show ended up being my final one for the season. It was a great night of hard rocking bands to end with and I'm glad I made it.

Chris Mathews Jr., Abi Grace and Jeremy Serwer at the Triple Door Musiquarium Lounge

Dawn (a newly found semi-distant relative) got in touch and pointed out that a friend of hers was playing a free set at the Musiquarium lounge at the Triple Door in Seattle. Dana and I headed down to Seattle and made an evening of it with dinner at the Mecca Cafe and stopped by the Queen Anne Easy Street Records store to listen to Minus the Bear do an in-store set, then headed to the Triple Door.

The Musiquarium Lounge is the bar at the entry to the Triple Door, it's "upstairs" from the auditorium. The Musiquarium Lounge hosts free music several times a week. Chris Mathews Jr. came out and played a solo set first. This one's a cover of "Mr Soul" by Neal Young. Nice song done well, good sight lines for the video, but the venue is slightly noisy. not too bad for a bar, I suppose. While he's singing and playing it mostly drowns out the noise.
Mathews did several covers including another Neil Young tune "Hey Hey, My My" that I enjoyed. I linked to my video of "Hey Hey My My" but I recorded it form the table we were sitting at, so the crowd noise is much more prominent. Chris also did this nice cover of My Morning Jackets "I Will Be There When You Die" In his intro he says "I should've brought a band" but I think he does fine doing a solo set. The material he chose to play helps, and his voice is clear and carries the songs along nicely.

Mathews runs Joonior Studios which is also worth checking out.

Next up was Abi Grace also doing a solo set, singing and playing acoustic guitar. I think this is her own composition, but I'm not sure; in any event it was unfamiliar to me. Nice, slightly sad song, her voice is quite expressive in this one, very well done.
This next song was introduced as her Dad's favorite song: Given the theme of empowerment and growth in spite of life's challenges, I can see why it would be her Dad's favorite. I enjoyed Abi's set, she writes nice songs and mostly avoids repetition - somewhat unusual nowadays, makes them worth a very careful listen.

Jeremy Serwer was the final performer of the evening and he stuck to the pattern of solo singer with an acoustic guitar. Nice song, different approach but I'm not sure I have the vocabulary to describe exactly what is different. I suppose this song is more direct, like he's singing it directly to you, and the guitar playing is a little more varied, less chords/rhythm, more a slightly lead approach.
In this next song I enjoy one little detail: he taps his foot in time to the song, giving it a bit more rhythm. Nice little touch, adds quite a bit to the song for me. I enjoy the chord transitions and how it plays off of his voice, too. Tasty stuff, having live music played for you always makes things better, and the intimate singer/songwriter performances enhanced the experience at the Musiquarium - heck, they made the experience.

I enjoyed all three performers, and the conversation and socializing with my wife and our newly found distant relative and even newer friend introduced to us at the show was great. The szechuan bean side was also very tasty, all in all it was a great evening of music and company.