Monday, May 28, 2012

Saturday at Folk Life Fest

Dana and I went to Folk Life Fest on Saturday and it was hot, fun, and crowded. We were lucky enough to catch some Shelby Earl, I haven't seen her since West Seattle Fest a couple years ago. I really should pay more attention and catch her full act again, she's got a gorgeous sound and a fun presence and her songs made me happy. We also saw an amazing variety and quantity of pick-up bands busking all over the place, pretty much wall to wall music in little micro-climates.
Kids playing at the Mural Amphitheater:
Buskers! All over the place bands pick out little patches of space and start playing for tips and for the sheer fun of playing in public. Constellations of listeners gather round the better groups and you can hear an amazing variety of music with a different band every 20 or 30 feet.
Shortly after recording this I misplaced my camera, so that's it for video.

I heard some great twangy sounding stuff from bands on the main stage while Dana and I were over in the crowds in the vendor area, great music even though you couldn't see the band.
The Sun got hot and the crowds got larger.
If you stayed away from the food areas it wasn't as crowded, and for all the crowding it was pretty mellow. We took the dog and things were fine.
It got hot and sunny enough that I took the dog down through the fountain, cooling off with a blast of cold water as I ran through the bottom area with all the kids. You can see the damp spots on my clothes, and the pants and shoes were good and wet too. It made me feel much cooler and the dog liked it too.

LateMay 038
There were some human statues and some other odds and ends in terms of street performers sprinkled in here and there too:
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I managed to catch some additional good music, even if I didn't get any video.  NighTraiN at the Vera had an excellent groove going.LateMay 022
I think they played a Veracity gig at the Vera a year or more back, and I saw them at Reverb Fest too, I enjoy their shows.

As I said, there were all kinds of bands and buskers all over the grounds. I liked the drums in this one man band setup, he had one for each foot with a clever mechanism to hold the two drums and play them, one for each foot.
We also checked out many of the vendors which adds a visual element to the afternoon's entertainment. Dana really liked the Faerie wings and had me get a photo, and there many stalls with interesting crafts and arts. 
You know you got lucky on the weather when both fountains are packed and you're glad they're available. LateMay 026 
I was glad to see they had the Broad Street lawn set up as a stage, along with the Mural and the Fountain lawn and the Northwest Courts - 4 stages up there, two outside LateMay 029
...and the EMP Sky Church and the Center House (I didn't actually see any acts at the Sky Church or Center House though) so that's at least 9 official "programmed" stages and 50 or 60 unofficial busker locations all going at the same time. I'm pretty sure I'm leaving out additional programmed stages for dance music in the Exhibition Hall and other events in the various playhouses and stages and performance spaces around the Seattle Center.

It was a smorgasboard of music, walk from live act to live act, drinking in the music and performance, once you're satisfied with enough of this, wander over and get some of that. LateMay 032 Hundreds of buskers going at any one time, perhaps more than a thousand over the 4 days of the festival, and it's mostly spontaneous and self organizing. I wish I had more time and energy, and maybe a team, so we could go in and record 10 or 20 acts at a time and get 100 or more hours of video a day and actually semi-document what is going on in all it's variety and spontaneity. Nice fantasy, mostly caused by a desire to actually get to see more of the performances. At best I'll see a handful and just on the day I go, so inevitably I'll miss all kinds of good live music. At least I didn't miss it all!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

May Veracity with How To Operate Your Brain, Allium and Scinite

Heather helped out at the May Veracity by making the food, so I was able to see the bands a bit more and I appreciate the help. I was able to get all of the sets video taped and get a few photos too.may12 007

First up was Scinite mostly doing covers of heavy metal classics from back in my day.

I love these songs and it was fun to hear them played live. My instant reaction was "crank up those guitars" - this is music that should be painfully loud, it should force you to wear ear protection.

Next up was Allium doing original songs (or possibly obscure covers, new to me anyway). may12 009 Allium is apparently latin for onion and that's an onion on the drum set. Ed the sound guy was enjoying them and so was I, fun upbeat double guitar attack with a good beat. I like the way the beat changes in the bridge maybe 2 minutes in, and the transition back out was nice too.

I enjoy the songs, they do a nice job with the intros and get quite a few different tones out of the 2 guitar approach. The double lead hook on this one is fun:
I got a couple of songs in this video including one about Bjork, apparently. I ended up with recording the whole show so there are more songs to check out on my YouTube channel.

may12 021 How to Operate Your Brain played next, with a 2 guitar, bass and drums lineup. Their songs had good movement, changing quite a bit in some cases yet maintaining a good coherence in spite of the different sections. Well rehearsed, good sound:

Fun reasonably fast guitar oriented music, good stuff. The songs are dynamic, changing from section to section, and the band makes is tight on the transitions - well rehearsed, right on it, on the more complex end of the song structure approaches. I like the result, good songs with movement and an arc to them.

They also had some merchandise, and so did Allium. I picked up ab "EP" - a 4 song CD - and so did Heather. Another good song, another good set, and another good Veracity. Props to Allium and H2OYB for having merchandise, they're a step further on executing on the business end than many of the Veracity bands. Props to all 3 bands for putting on a fun show for us. It'll be interesting keeping an eye to out see where these guys get booked - I friend all the Veracity bands on Facebook and bands are pretty good at posting their gigs on Facebook so I'll get to vicariously watch the band's progress and see where they play and who they play with. I wish them all well, anybody who's willing to put on a free show for us and do it well is great in my book!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Bottom Feeding and Jet City Stream

I work at getting to see a ridiculous number of free shows, nowadays I book a free show with 3 or 4 bands every month
and also continue to go see the occasional free show at the Vera Project,
which isn't quite free because I volunteer to help running the venue so I have to work to see the show, I just don't have to spend any cash. I'm a Vera member so in theory I can watch any show for free without volunteering, but in practice I always end up helping out since they can just about always use a hand.

The Vera is a small venue, and I help out more on the shows that they have a harder time staffing - the smaller shows, the ones that are more obscure or in an odd genre.
The more mainstream shows that are going to sell out will get plenty of volunteers so I don't need to help with those as much, so I miss many of the more successful acts that play the Vera.

This makes me a bottom feeder, and I say that with affection. I grew up on the Puget Sound, my grandpa was a commercial fisherman and my dad worked on tugboats so nautical imagery comes naturally. I mostly graze along the bottom of the market in terms of draw, not talent or desire or anything like that. Clearly the best local talent moves on to bigger venues over time and I no longer get to see them live for free, but that's OK - at least I've heard them live and I enjoy the "I knew them when" feeling - and I can always go and pay to see the bands I really love. The problem is that I only see a small fraction of all the bands out there, and there ends up being a pile of cool local talent that I never saw that now I probably won't hear. Bumbershoot takes care of some of that, but still I'm missing a fair amount of local talent. The Seattle music scenes is amazingly active with a large number off venues of various sizes putting on shows all over the place, even with a local focus I'm not close to keeping up; maybe if it was my full time job I could come close, but that isn't going to happen.

I've found a partial solution, though. Jet City Stream is a fairly new local web cast - what an odd concept! The whole point of a web cast is that it's an inexpensive way to put up the rough equivalent of a radio show or even a radio station with a world wide reach, so a local podcast sounds a bit like an oxymoron - but it isn't really. It's a very focused concept (Seattle music and Seattle bound bands) that may have some global appeal and surely serves the local Seattle/Western Washington market well.

I've been listening to it for several hours today and I'm recognizing maybe half the local bands, which mostly means I've read about them or seen them listed on a bill, more like 1 in 10 are bands I've actually seen live, and even many of the songs from bands I've seen are new to me - a very good sign, they're not going back to the same favorites over and over. I'm a variety and novelty freak with a local focus, and this stream is just about perfect for me.
I love the funding model too: no commercials in the live audio stream (other than plugs for the station) and plenty on the web site that are mostly related to local music like Sasquatch, the Triple Door, and a show at the Paramount. They also aim to help fund local music in schools according to one plug, and that's a cause I admire so I hope they succeed at it.

A Fox and the Law song called "Feel So Blue" just started playing, perfect example: I've seen Fox and the Law
and I don't particularly recall this one, it may be new or maybe I was working and missed this song live or my memory is just weak (did I mention I see lots of shows?) - but it kicks some ass! I'm really enjoying having a stream that covers the same exact little slice of the music world that I obsess over. I've gotta give this 3 or 4 thumbs way up or 7 out of 5 stars or basically off the scale on whatever rating system you like: highly recommended. Check it out!