Friday, August 16, 2013

Mudhoney plays the KEXP Friday in August Mural Amphitheater show

I managed to wander by and catch Mudhoney rocking out at the Mural Amphitheater. Awesome set, mosh pits breaking out here and there; the Clark bar samples were good too.
Mudhoney was in great form with powerful guitar riffs using distorted sustain to ring and growl, and the rhythm section more than keeping up their end of the sound with the bass frequently anchoring the melodic core of the song and always driving the tempo and the drums consistently playing hard, loud, fast and tight. Mark Arm's vocal's were somewhere between sung and screamed, plenty of attitude and power. Loud thrashy obnoxious feedback filled rock and roll on the Mural lawn on a nice Friday evening in Seattle - buy yourself a few microbrews in the beer garden and you've got the "it doesn't get any better than this" beer commercial. As I wandered off to catch the bus and looked at the sunset over Elliot Bay and the Olympics on the way home, it actually was a little hard to imagine life getting all that much better.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Jeremy Serwer at the Lake Trail Taproom

I saw Jeremy Serwer last year at the Musiquarium Lounge with Abi Grace and Chris Mathews. The Musiquarium is the lounge upstairs from the Triple Door's auditorium.

I ended up friending him on Facebook so I noticed that he was playing the Lake Trail Taproom regularly. I get there every week or two for a nice local/regional micro-brew or to split a hard cherry cider with my daughter, but I never managed to catch his sets there.

This weekend I finally managed to pay enough attention and got down to see him on Saturday. Well, my wife Dana actually paid attention. She looked it up and told me I'd heave to head over if I wanted to see him, otherwise I probably would have gone too late. Thanks, Dana!

The Taproom was busy and pleasant, sunny and nice, and live music is always a bonus. Everything is better with live music!
We walked over from the house and I only brought the flip and my cell phone, so I didn't get any great pictures. Just a couple of videos of Jeremy Serwer playing and singing, entertaining the crowd at the Trailside Taproom. The beer was good as usual, too.
It's nice to see a local business that includes live music doing well. The Trailside Taproom has live music every Friday and Saturday, I believe. It's well worth checking out, especially if you live near the Burke-Gilman trail and like to bike, or live nearby in Kenmore. It's very dog and kid friendly too, and few live venues can say that.

Tiny Bit of Folklife

I still get out and see shows now and then, but not at anywhere near the intensity I used to. Things get busy, I get lazy and depressed and just don't get out as much. I almost skipped Northwest Folklife Fest this year, even though Shelby Earl (one of my favorites!) and many other excellent acts were performing there. Luckily Dana got interested which helped motivate me, so we headed down and checked it out for a bit.
It was raining so we didn't stay long for the outdoor stages even though the bands were good. There was music all over and a light sprinkle of rain.
For the dancing enthusiasts they had live music in the Armory, I'd guess this is salsa dancing but I have no clue. Normal Folklife - buskers all over, you could hear some excellent musicians and performers and often have no idea who they were, they just set up in various nooks and crannies around the Seattle Center and let there muse flow. Some bluegrass with a couple of very young musicians: The marimbas by the key were fun, never seen that many in one place before. We stopped in and listened to an ambient performance at the Vera Project too. It was a busy weekend so we didn't get to see all that much of Folklife, but what we did see certainly covered a wide spectrum.

Synergia NW Orchestra with Walking Papers and Friends at the Moore

I got to see Synergia NW's annual big benefit show with the Synergia NW Orchestra and Walking Papers at the Moore Theater this year and enjoyed it. The special guest was cool and talented and they covered quite a bit of material. Synergia Northwest Orchestra The Synergia Northwest Orchestra has a wide range of strings, some woodwinds, brass and percussion. You can hear the brass in the William Tell Overture, not sure I can see them: Always a favorite classical number for me - heigh ho silver!
W got a nice b-boy breaking exhibition too:

The Synergia NW Orchestra did a fair number of songs with full rock band arrangements, and they did it well. In this one, the orchestral swell of the strings 25 seconds in sounds much better than the typical synthesized variation most bands would have to use; the interplay of the strings and the organ is sweet. The groove they get going in this is fun, simple music in some ways but so well orchestrated that it has an undeniable power. I start imagining an action film with this as the soundtrack:
I have quite a bit more footage of the Synergia NW Orchestra on the youtube channel, it's worth checking out if you enjoy orchestras and rock music.

Walking Papers was the headline act, and I have a slightly odd relationship with that band. I'd never seen them, yet I'd read a fair amount about them due to Duff McKagan's writing for the Seattle Weekly. His engaging stories made me feel like I'd vicariously been along for the trips as Walking Papers toured South America and Europe. In fact, I had no idea what the band was like - and that's cool, more to discover! It turns out the "lead" personality is the vocalist/guitarist Mike Squires - he was in Harvey Danger and Alien Crime Syndicate, so I'd seen him before, I had no idea he was so prominent in the band. Fun band, they sounded great with orchestral backing.
Great intro to a band I'd heard of for over a year, glad I finally got to see them.
There was a surprise guest too: Mike McCready joined Walking Papers for some songs, nice stuff with talented musicians and an orchestral arrangement. Mike's buzzing, swooping, ringing guitar work ornaments the song nicely, drawing you along with the vocals working well against the grinding music.
This was billed as "Synergia NW Orchestra and friends cover the Rolling Stones" and they did finally get around to playing some Rolling Stones songs too. I grew up on the Stones, so I love hearing these songs. The hooks are such classics, and the little touches - a drum roll here, the lead and rhythm interplay there - take me back to the seminal adolescent years of my life.
I particularly love the rhythm guitar part on Gimme Shelter (hearinbg Mike McCready play it was a treat!), and how the drum comes in and propels the song. While I grew up a Led Zeppelin fanatic, a few of the Stones albums - Let It Bleed and Exiles on Main Street - have held up better than most of Zeppelin's catalog, and those songs just cry out for a loud bombastic rendition in a big live venue. Very satisfying experience - I've seen the Stones live, and technically this was a better version of their material than the Stones themselves were able to deliver when I saw them in the Kingdome with The Clash all those years ago.

They got most of the artists onstage for the last few number like "Gimme Some Lovin'" which highlights some good saxophone and organ work.
Half the fun at this show is how much the musicians enjoy getting to play these songs, it was a great benefit show with some awesome thirty or forty year old Rock and Roll that really took me back, centuries old favorites, and new (to me) stuff from Walking Papers and many other performers that now are on the "I've got to see those guys again" list.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Music Tapes at the Vera Project

I was excited to see that Music Tapes was playing the Vera Project. I saw them put on a beautifully strange show at the Vera a couple years ago with Olivia Tremor Control and the stories told on stage about Hungarian Gypsy circus performers really stuck with me, and so did the world's largest metronome.

Julian Koster has a different vision of what live performances are, using narratives and props to a much greater degree than any other small venue touring band I've ever seen. If I thought the last show was more narrative and prop driven than most, I had no idea what I was in store for this time - it was the traveling imaginary tour!
Music Tapes at the Vera Project
The band put up a circus tent inside of the Vera Project, and the audience was full of parents with little children. The show takes place in and around the tent, with Julian leading the children and the adults in organized play and contests before the music started.

They brought back the world's tallest metronome and added the drowning sailor and games of skill involving balls and giant snowmen, there were Hungarian Gypsy circus stories - mostly different stories, Julian appears to have quite a few. It was another fun yet totally unexpected and imaginative show.

The first couple of songs were Julian on the musical saw, then on a banjo played with a bow while he sang: Different sounding song, odd and a little small, but it has an undeniable emotional impact as the descending banjo sounding a little like a violin winds through the song.

There was plenty of music on a combination of normal instruments, some used differently (bow on banjo in the above video) and some less usual instruments like musical saws (a saw played with a bow) and the worlds largest metronome and the odd percussion thing to the back a little on the right, I have no idea what they call that. Here's the bit where they introduce the metronome then the giant (drowning?) sailor assembles for an almost indescribable number with the music starting around 2:00 in.
Between the odd rhythms and the horn driven sounds I can sense the circus roots, but the horn break around 2:30 or just after defies easy classification - this stuff is the Music Tapes, and not much else is like it.

I was happy to see that they had several new tricks up their sleeves like the game of skill involving the snowman and throwing balls at the moon until you break it.
Music Tapes at the Vera Project They play more conventionally on some songs like this one, but it still has a musical saw and that odd percussion thing going, so it's only more conventional than the other even odder Music Tapes songs, it's still way out there in unconventional music territory. As a long term novelty seeker, this makes me very happy. They are dedicated to a unique artistic vision, and they pull you into that vision through their artistry and commitment. The odd atmosphere with the occasional barker leading the audience into participating in games (the ladies got be firefly fairies with lights before the show) and play, the high proportion of kids, all of us seated in the circus tent watching the show, it felt like something out of a Ray Bradbury short story - and that's a pretty big compliment, coming from me. Definitely an all out experience, not bombastic or sensory assaulting, just different, like we were slipping into an alternate universe where the old school European Circuses never faded away into something different and they still circle the globe , bringing an evening of alternative reality to those of us lucky enough to find it.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Land of Pines, Special Explosion, Peeping Tomboys and Iji at the Vera Project

Land of Pines put on an EP release show on May 4 and I signed up to steer well ahead of time. I've seen Land of Pines a few times, opening for STRFKR/Champagne Champagne (a pretty epic show) and at the CHBP on the Vera Stage in 2011 and at Reverb Fest later in 2011 as well. They're always fun to watch and listen to, so I signed up as soon as I saw they were doing the show. I bused to the Vera - the weather was nice and hot so I got a little warm lugging the tripod and cameras and laptop and dinner and all, but it was really nice getting some sun and working on that vitamin D deficiency.

We got a good crew of volunteers and they made it easy to steer - all the critical front door posts were filled, and so was concessions and roaming security, so I just had to check in periodically. I was able to get the whole show on video and take lots of pictures. First up is Iji. Iji at Vera Iji is a local Seattle (or nearby) band that I never quite caught. They play local shows, they toured with Megabog and I saw Megabog, but not with Iji. Must have been a different tour. Anyway, I was happy I finally did manage to catch Iji. Guitar, bass, keyboards and drums, with a woman on drums. I'm not sure I'd point that out normally, but we did get a shout out form one of the bands noting that we had many great women performers playing, more than you tend to see at most rock shows.
Iji has a nice guitar driven sound with good dynamics, I enjoy the way the guitar rhythms play against the drums in this one, their final song:
The song has a nice sense of movement and development, pulling us along with it's instrumentals during the break and circling back through the lyrics, with the upper end into the falsetto drifting over lightly, slightly questioning and detached, perhaps. Nice use of song structure and tone to set a mood.

Peeping Tomboys were up next. Funny name, tomboys culturally are "girls who act like boys" and peepers are usually boys or men, so the using that name for an all girl band definitely opens up some thoughts on sexuality and sexual identity. Peeping Tomboys at the Vera Project While looking through my pictures from this show, I noticed that I have photos from Peeping Tomboys playing with Silicon Girls too (Silicon Girls was all men, so the gender identity stuff which was never an explicit topic as far as I noticed was in play there too) but that's another story. They have the same power trio lineup with the guitarist doing most of the vocals, bass and drums. Good mid range guitar sound, nicely built rhythm carrying interesting songs along and supporting the vocals. The drummer does a good job filling some of the transitions and solos too, they never have a weak or anemic sound, it's always working in the context of the song.
This one uses a descending chord progression and some fun backbeats and rhythms to build into a fun song:

Special Explosion had the penultimate slot. Special Explosion at the Vera Project
Lead, rhythm and bass guitar with drums and two vocalists. The guitarist/vocalists did most of the vocals, with the bass player also contributing on occasion.
On thos one they get an angular, jangly opening into a fairly rich, complex instrumental bit before the vocals come in a bt over 90 seconds in. I love the droning sound of the vocals and the transition from the vocals back out to the jangling guitars, and the building leads coming across the vocals around 2:45 to 3:00, then the structure changes and you get some repeated almost paused tempos, the rhythm is quite complicated. I enjoy the song structure and really like the leads and the sense of anticipation as he builds that delay into his licks. Nice stuff. The second song starts about 5:25 in and has dual vocals, also worth checking out.

There are several more tracks from each of the bands on my YouTube channel like this video of Special Explosion closing out their set, so if any of these pique your interest, by all means check out their other tunes on YouTube.

Next up was Land of Pines, the headliners. Land of Pines at the Vera
They roll with 2 guitars, bass, keyboards, and drums. They have a great sound, mixing elements from the different band members as needed, making great use of dynamics. Songs have bits where fewer instruments are playing, then the song intensifies and more instruments join in, with nice rhythm guitar hooks and the rhythm section chugging along until the final climactic breakdown.
Nice song, nice sound. It's good to see Land of Pines headlining a good loud show with some interesting attitudes and themes on display, here's to hearing the new stuff on the radio and more chances to see all of the bands again. Special Explosions in particular look poised to headline their own shows, and Land of Pines should be increasing their draw with some radio airplay and perhaps getting some larger venue gigs. These bands are all working hard and putting on good tight shows - Seattle has an embarrassment of riches with so many solid bands at every level.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ser Punto Cero, Memento Mori and Diztorzion Paranormal at Cheves and Beer - with Mariachi!

My daughters know the guitarist in Ser Punta Cero (which I mangled into Ser.0, oops), so I booked them for a Veracity show and enjoyed getting to see them play. I friended the band members on Facebook and heard they were playing a Spring show locally put on by the Seattle Latin Collective. I've seen some great videos of SLC shows posted by Omar Taboada (they are worth checking out) which made me want to check one out for myself, so I had the perfect opportunity.
Seattle's Latin music scene doesn't get much attention in the press, which is unfortunate. From the videos I've seen there are plenty of talented local Latin bands, and local live talent is one of my favorite things.
The first band up was Diztorzion Paranormal out of Yakima. They had 2 guitarists and a drummer, slightly unusual instrument combination, the vocalist tended to play low end parts on his guitar so he was almost playing bass parts. SP0 127 Fast, slightly thrashy rough rock and roll, nice stuff. The drummer is very active on this song, filling the low end nicely:
I enjoy good rock music, even when I don't understand the language - the emotion still comes through, and the backbeat makes you move.
One of the bands had to cancel, so they had a Mariachi band fill in. One of our friends at the table (they mostly spoke the language, I was the only mono-lingual person at the table) told me they were going to have Mariachi Karaoke and asked me if I was going to go up and sing. That made me laugh, and if I had known just how amazing the actual Mariachi Karaoke performers were going to be, I'd have laughed even harder.
SP0 910
The band had a deep catalog of fast intricate music, with horns and violins/fiddles and guitars and lots of vocals. Several members shared vocals, then they had guest vocalists from the audience sing songs too. This was the Karaoke aspect. The singers from the audience were all impressive, with powerful voices and a good command of vibrato.
Wonderful stuff, and they played a good solid set of moving, powerful songs.
The karaoke wrapped up and Ser Punto Cera took the stage for the headlining set. SP0 749.SP0 767
Ser Punto Cera has a classic power trio lineup and gets a good guitar oriented sound, a little more on the spacey/droney side in this example:
On this one they drive the drone more to an interesting edgy, agitated sound.
For a dive bar rock and roll experience, this one stands out a bit. Notice in the Ser Punto Cera videos they have each of the 3 "home locations" for the musicians covered with bright lights that they switch on and off. They have a fairly careful placement of lights to enhance the stage performance, and they also put some effort into the look and are developing a more consistent sound. Perhaps consistent isn't quite the right word, since they change the sound from song to song. They're developing their own sound, which has an interesting range. SP0 740

Good loud rock music and Mariachi Karaoke - the Seattle Latin Collective delivered a fun Spring experience, with the music in Spanish and the beer in two languages to start the Spring music season off right.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Men, Dude York, CCR Headcleaner and Big Eyes at the Vera Project

After attending the pop conference at the EMP Saturday morning and afternoon I headed over to the Vera Project and set the tripod up for the show. I was there pretty early so I got to listen to the sound checks and hang around a while, then Big Eyes took the stage right on time at 8:30. Big Eyes play the Vera Project Big Eyes has a power trio lineup with the guitarist also singing. Good guitar oriented sound, nicely active high end from the drummer and a good solid low end from the bass, nice guitar riffs driving the songs along, good vocal hook too on the first song here. I also enjoyed the solo about 2:20 in, a good contained solo, old school sort of stuff that stays within the song structure and adds nicely to the song - tasty. Fun set, and we were just getting started.

Next up was CCR Heacleaner. In a musical context, when I see CCR I think of Credence Clearwater Revival. I can't say the music sounded like it was inspired by that CCR or anything along those lines. CCR Headcleaner play the Vera Project They had 3 guitars, bass and drums. They play songs with unconventional structures, sections of slower tempo building and ebbing, multiple vocals on occasion, and fairly complex song structures. They were working out some different sounding approaches, definitely doing and creating their own thing.

Up next was Dude York. I hadn't heard them before, but the bass player was in Natalie Portman's Shaved Head/Brite Futures so I'd seen her quite a few times and was looking forward to seeing her new band. .
Dude York had a power trio lineup as well. The first song on this video has pretty aggressive, driving beat and a more angular sound than Big Eyes, the earlier power trio. They cranked out some edgy tunes, more from the punk side of the spectrum perhaps - powerful fast songs, not too long. I was happy to hear old friends in new sounding bands I've been seeing Dude York getting booked quite bit locally, so it looks like they're doing pretty well which is even better.

The Men took the stage for their headlining set. The Men at the Vera The had 3 guitars, an acoustic and two electric, along with the bass and drums. The acoustic guitar player also played  keyboards on occasion.

I like the way the meld the guitars together in this one. Nice beat and prominent guitar placement in the turnarounds, good vocals that are easy to pick out, nice song structure. Interesting music, fairly uptempo, I even enjoy the "la la la la-la la" bit towards the end of the song. Goof stuff!

The transition from song to song is also reasonably brisk, so they packed quite a bit of music into a moderate sized set. I didn't get to stay to the end of their set, since I had to catch the bus (which got stuck in traffic so I missed the transfer and got stuck downtown, but that's a different story). I enjoyed what I saw, and it was nice seeing Claire's new gig in Dude York and hearing 4 bands that are new to me that all are doing interesting things is always fun.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Defunked, Marina Beat and Junk Drawer at the Vera Project

I signed up to steer the Defunked show at the Vera Project without knowing anything about the bands, pretty much par for the course for me. We had a small volunteer crew but we handled things well enough and Junk Drawer took to the stage to open things up. I enjoyed their set quite a bit. They had guitar, bass, keyboards, drum, and vocals, a nice sound and a good group vibe. Junk Drawer at the Vera Project

Here's a nice number they did: The lead singer said something like "if you don't like this song's genre, just hang on a minute and it'll change with the next song" which was amusing. I got a chance to talk to her a bit between acts and she told me the different interests of the members of the band drove that wide selection of genres - the punk bass player, classic rock guitarist, jazz keyboardist - I'm misquoting her to some degree, I ought to take notes since I know I'm going to be blogging about it. I also thought from her shout-out to Riverside and the headliners that her band was from Riverside, it was more along the lines of several members were from there sometime back, they're a local northwest band.

Next up was Marina Beat
The Marina Beat
Marina Beat has dual guitars (strats), bass and drums, and a nice fast upbeat rock sound:

They played several songs I liked, this one is "Hey Josephine"

Two talented bands already, and the headliners perform with a horn section - I love horn sections!
Defunked took the stage, and they filled it. The horn section with two saxophones and a trumpet along with 2 guitars (1 Strat style and 1 Les Paul style), bass and guitar. Defunked at the Vera They play fast loud rock and roll with a punchy horn section and plenty of noise and pounding to make you want to bounce around and work up a sweat. Nice stuff with that kick-in-the-rear beat that makes you want to move in time with it. Fun rhythm changes, ska sounding guitars, it opens a bit more punk, moves more ska in the middle, then back to that punk fast thrashy beat.

I like the breakdown that leads into this one, and the different paces that rise up, giving it a back and forth feeling. It switches back out to that slower feeling beat, more tentative or pent up, then back to the main beat - and the second horn breakdown around 2:00 in is pretty killer. They also just nail the ending, fun song done extremely well. I like this stuff!

Fun show with three talented bands, I hope these bands are able to connect with the kind of solid fan base they deserve, the music they cranked out was fun and makes you want to bring others to hear it. At it's best, it demands to be danced to, and I just love a good funky band that plays fun music that irresistibly gets you moving.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Internet Memes: Brony

My son turned me on to "My Little Ponies" and the Brony movement. The "My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic" cartoons are watched without irony and the music is listened to obsessively. In addition to the cartoons, there is a whole universe of media - similar to fan fiction, but with music and storyboards and the occasional animated bit. Ben listens to a wide variety of musicians doing an odd assortment of styles - with plenty of dubstep, for some reason.

While attending last month's Steering committee meeting at the Vera Project, Beth mentioned they had a Brony show coming up. I checked with Ben and signed us up for the show. Music about rainbow colored horses with tatooed buts and occasional wings or horns, couldn't be much odder than the wizard rock show we saw.

The show was put on by the Everfree Northwest folk. They run a yearly convention for My Little Pony fans and use this event to build some excitement and sell some convention tickets. I enjoy the brightly colored hair and horse ears.
Early April 100

The show kicked off with Tarby, who played guitar and sang with a saxophone player accompanying him. Tarby at the Vera Project
Interesting sound, I managed to get a bit of video of the performance here:

Next up we had Maestro Scherzo playing something in the alto sax or oboe range, a reed instrument, anyway. Definitely getting plenty of reed instruments!

Speaking of plenty of reed instruments, the Cutie Marks and Donn Devore (I'm torn, the show schedule said Don DeVore, but a YouTube video said Donn DeVore) set had one too. Don DeVore and Cutie Marks at the Vera Project

I enjoy the beat and the sound in this one:

The final act was DJ Everfree. He had some fun laser effects; I didn't video tape his set but I took some pictures.
DJ Everfree at the Vera Project
The audience also put on a show with the wigs, t-shirts, and lots of pony ears sticking out on top of everybody's hair. It was somewhat odd and silly, but earnest and non-ironic, and actually quite fun and different. Just like My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and the Brony movement in general, kind of hard for an old fossil like me to process. My 15 year old who is bigger than me and needs to shave watches juvenile cartoons and appreciates their message, and then he listens to Brony music. Rainbow colored cartoons. With ponies and unicorns and some have wings and many have magic. Then lots of 8 bit music and dubstep and pop and disco all about ponies. The Vera show didn't cover all of those genres, but it gave us some fun music and songs about ponies and friendship and magic. Totally new genre for me, which is all good as far as I'm concerned.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Live Music at the Lake Trail Tap Room

I've wandered past the Lake Trail Tap Room several times in the last year, even went in to the yard and checked it out a little, but I only stuck my head into the bar and didn't order anything. I knew they had live music - I ended up Facebook friending Jeremy Serwer, a local singer/guitarist I saw at the Musiquarium Lounge last year, and later he mentioned playing there.

I just thought he played outdoors in the yard. This week I figured out that I was wrong. The weather was nice and Heather wanted to get out of the house, so we took a walk down to the Burke-Gilman trail. We usually go West, towards Lake Washington, but this time we went East a little to the Lake Trail Tap Room and walked in and checked it out more thoroughly. We ordered a nice local microbrew while we were at it. It looked like they were serving tasty pulled pork sandwiches too, but I stuck with the beer.

While we got a table in the small tap room and sipped the beer, a few people came out of a door on the opposite - interior - side of the tap room. I realized that there was a further public space, and the familiar Pink Floyd music I was hearing was being played live. Heather and I picked up the beer and walked into the music area - I had no idea it even existed! It's still a little cool in early Spring, and we noticed a wood stove in the corner that was pumping out some heat and took seats near it. I hadn't come prepared to see live music, so I only got fairly lousy cell phone pictures.
I didn't catch who the performer was, but we had a nice discussion about Pink Floyd - it's the 40th anniversary of "Dark Side of the Moon" and that was a seminal album for me as an adolescent. It also had ridiculous staying power, never dropping off the charts well into my adulthood over a decade later. I mentioned seeing Floyd back in the old Kingdome on the Momentary Lapse of Reason tour and again on the Division Bell tour, he mentioned seeing Nick Mason getting interviewed, and we both silently acknowledged just how important that band was to us. He played Breath, The Dark Side of the Moon, and others, and it was quite pleasant listening to the theme songs of my adolescence and drinking a potent hoppy local microbrew with the wood burning stove warming up my backside.

I'll definitely have to catch some more shows there, and next time be prepared with cameras and take notes on who's playing and such. According to their web site the tap room has free live music every Friday and Saturday. I always figured it was less frequent, and I had no idea it was an indoor venue. I should see more shows now that I realize I'm a 5 minute walk from  free show every Friday and Saturday night. Pretty cool. I recommend you check the Trailside Tap Room out, they allow dogs and kids in the yard and the performance area (not the bar), they have outdoor fire pits once it gets dark, good food and nice drinks, and they are right on the Burke-Gilman trail if you are a biking enthusiast.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Don't Talk to the Cops, Punishment and Everybody Weekend at Heartland

Carina and I loved Don't Talk to the Cops the first time we saw them during Reverb Fest in 2011, so we kept an eye out for them. We got to see them again at Bumbershoot and Ground Zero and the Vera Project too, and every show was a hot dance filled energetic set.

We saw they were playing Heartland (a new venue to me) with some bands that were also new to me and decided to go. In the end Carina dropped out, so Heather and I went to the show.

Heartland Heartland is a mildly small space on Roosevelt in the U-District, just North of 53rd. The "stage" is the far end of the room from the entrance, it's not raised or anything. They have some lights up pointing at it, and a sound system too, which worked fine for the crowd of perhaps 40 or 50 that came to see the show.

First up was Everybody Weekend. We were a little late getting in, so we weren't too close to the performer. Everybody Weekend at Heartland

Everybody Weekend did an intense set of short, emotional tunes. The intensity pulled me out of the dancing some, getting me into more of a spectator mode as I listened to the lyrics. EW wrote complex unexpected lyrics that reward attention. Interesting opening, nice fit for the venue and the evening.

Next up was Punishment.
Punishment at Heartland

Similar to Everybody Weekend in that he sang against pre-sequenced or recorded material, he also sang with some emotional intensity. The crowd enjoyed the beat, dancing and moving some, and his voice carried the song well in this video:

On occasion the performance was low-affect, including a bit where Punishment sang from behind the cloth backdrop, but he milked even those odd bits of "he's not there" performance for an additional odd impact. All in all I enjoyed the opening acts and was curious to hear more from both of them if I ever get the chance, and I was nicely warmed up for Don't Talk to the Cops.
Don't Talk to the Cops at Heartland
Classic hot loud Don't Talk to the Cops, simple loud fun beats with Emecks and Djblesone dancing and singing and rapping and El Mizell rapping and hyping and dancing and the crowd dancing all over and sweating and yelling and having a good time.
Good stuff off their two albums, like this one off of "Let's Quit" They also introduced at least one joint about eighties butt they said would be on their upcoming third release. Kelly Lebrock! DTTTC got a dance circle going with a couple of BBoys for a song about BBoys, so that went well too. DTTTC shows are dance shows. Emecks and DJ Blesone always dance their butts off in some synchronized and choreographed moves, El Mizell works it hard, and the audience always ends up dancing all over to the fun beats and chanting repeating lyrics.

Good fun classic Don't Talk to the Cops show, automatic immediate cure for seasonal afflictive disorder: it may be gloomy out and you can't recall what sunlight really feels like, but you can't stop smiling as you leave the show, wiping the sweat off your brow and letting the rain wash the salt down your cheeks.

DTTTC always puts on a dance party every time they play, and you always leave dance partys happy,.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

2013 Vera Gala

The Vera Project held its annual fundraising gala and auction on Saturday, February 23 in 2013. I volunteered to help with the event this year, so I arrived early to setup, just before 1 on a surprisingly nice Seattle afternoon.
2013 Vera Gala 109 The Triple Door donates the venue, staff, and dinner for the guests. Between the Musicqarium Lounge and the Triple Door Main Stage, it's a wonderful venue and they are incredibly generous to donate so much to the Vera Project.

2013 Vera Gala 121
We held the silent auction as the guests arrived, with appetizers (the shrimp toast was great) and free drinks made with donated hard liquor from Oola. After closing the auction out and finishing the initial portion of the evening in the MusicQarium we encouraged the guest to move to the Main Stage auditorium. The Triple Door venue is dedicated to table seating with views of the show. The house lights are down and the stage lights are up in this photo so the tables are a little hard to see, but the whole auditorium is filled with scalloped tables like this with additional counter seating tucked in here and there. That's John Roderick taking the stage as our Master of Ceremonies. 2013 Vera Gala 164 You can see some of the seat layout better in this photo: 2013 Vera Gala 296 Roderick was great, riffing on the Vera Project and Seattle's variant on "learning it on the hard streets." When there wasn't a safe venue like the Vera Project around to help you channel your creative energies into useful activities, you went and hung out on the Ave in the U-District. I suppose that makes it the mean street of Seattle, singular. I grew up there before the Vera Project too.

The Grizzled Mighty performed on the Main Stage with a drummer and a guitarist/vocalist. Small group but they pumped out the volume and noise so it's all good. 2013 Vera Gala 194 The Grizzled Mighty crank up the guitar and drums and make a great loud racket, grinding and crashing away. Fun loud music!
The auction went well and Andrienne Pilapil's speech about her Vera family was quite powerful and moving. I've known Andrienne for over a year - she took over as the Veracity chair after me - but I learned more about her from this talk than I had in a year of booking shows with her. She got very personal and shared details of her emotional life and the impact was palpable to the 400 guests, staff and volunteers in the venue.

We also got a surprise bit from the mayor as a bonus. Perhaps he was inspired by Roderick and Andrienne, he was mildly funny and interesting. Roderick was having some fun with smartphones while the mayor was talking so he probably got some amusing tweets out. 2013 Vera Gala 321

While the Main Stage events kept the crowd in the auditorium we broke down the silent auction remains, got the paperwork sorted and forwarded and put things in place for the After Party.

The Physics played the After Party back up in the MusicQuarium lounge. Fun hip hop with two lead vocals (and a guest on one cut) plus a couple backing vocalists and a guitar. This picture of their sound check shows most of them, except the guitarist is obscured: 2013 Vera Gala 272 The guitarist is more visible in this one: 2013 Vera Gala 294 The Physics have a great sound and flow, and the multiple vocalist and live guitar in the mix keep the songs moving and evolving. The sound is mildly lousy since my camera ended up just about in the speaker, but you can get an idea what it was like. The live sound was actually quite good, the problem is with my camera's ability to record it.
I enjoyed the Physics, dancing and bouncing a bit to their numbers as the night wound down.
My feet were pretty sore from going up and down the stairs repeatedly, not to mention standing for 11 hours, but it felt nice to be part of a successful team putting on a great event. Anne O'Dowd and Kristina Goetz and Tristan Carasino and Andrienne Pilapil and the whole Vera crew and John Roderick and the bands and the Triple Door staff put on a killer event. There were many generous sponsors and the guests were more than generous, enthusiastically bidding the Macklemore Thrift Shop shopping trip to around $7,000 and donating generously to help a cause that means a lot to me and many youth around the greater Seattle area and beyond. I'm thankful that so many people support the Vera Project so enthusiastically, and that we can have so much fun building on our successes and funding another great year at the Vera Project.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Damien Jurado and Naomi Wachira at a Seattle Living Room Show

I went to my first "Seattle Living Room Shows" event to see Damien Jurado and Naomi Wachira. Damien Jurado has been a local fixture for a while, but somehow I had never managed to see him until last Summer at Bumbershoot, where he totally blew me away. He writes powerful, often bleak songs that just totally hit home with me, and I was looking forward to seeing him in a more intimate setting.

The process of seeing the show is a little secretive - you sign up electronically, then a bit later they give you the details. We got there within a few minutes of the doors opening and already more than half the seats had been claimed, but we got reasonable seats together. That was kind of important because Heather was on crutches, so there's one tip: come quite early if you want to get seats at a Seattle Living Room Show!
Damien Jurado at the Seattle Living Rooms show January 25 2013

It wasn't actually in someone's house, it was in a space near the Seahawk's stadium that I think is a gallery, but it was the intimate setting I was hoping for.
Damien Jurado at the Seattle Living Rooms show January 25 2013

The crowd is seated in front of and to the right of the performers, with around 40 seats, and another 30 or 40 watch while standing behind the seats. The technical crew (audio and video, more on the video later) took the left side space. A small table was laid out with free snacks, bread with a spinach spread and chips, salsa, and multilayer dip (beans, cheese, sour cream, onions, a few peppers) to munch on, and a paid bar with beer, wine and hard liquor.

They had a single bathroom which also made it feel like a house show - standing in line to get into the bathroom took a few minutes.

The show was a benefit for the Melodic Caring Project, and they streamed it live to several hospitalized kids and teens.Damien Jurado at the Seattle Living Rooms show January 25 2013

Both Naomi Wachira and Damien Jurado have kids, and you could tell they took the charity to heart. They spoke to the kids during the show, and they both got choked up doing it. Having your own kids, the thought of kids being deathly ill hits too close to home for comfort. That's OK, the world is full of things that are not comforting, and too often our culture stays in denial on the subject. It's important to acknowledge how tough things are for some, even if it makes me cry in sympathy.

Naomi Wachira took the stage first, she's bee n in Seattle for some time and is originally from Kenya. She told us that she was going back home in the next couple days and would get to see her child, who is being raised by her grandparents. It was interesting how personal the stage chatter was, I think that was the influence of the charity and knowing that kids in an extremely tough situation were watching.

Some of her songs were personal, about lessons learned, songs of strength and self determination like this one:

She had some tasty backing vocals on this and some of the songs, the backing vocals were from another band, but I promptly forgot the name of the band. Sorry about that, I'll edit this and add the name back in if I ever track it down.

Simple, heartfelt, fairly stripped down with guitar and vocal and tasty backing vocals, very nice for the intimate setting.

She finished up with "African Girl" which is also the title track on the CD they had on the merch table. A beautiful song that looks back on her roots and her life, a song of faith and identity. I like how it frames things and lays out what matters to her. Lovely voice, complex lyrics that avoid the endless repetition so common in most modern music, definitely packed full of more ideas in one song than most bands manage to get in a full album. Great match for Damien Jurado, who has similarly dense and meaningful, if challenging, songs.

Damien Jurado took the stage for his headline set next. Jurado is an interesting performer; when I saw him at Bumbershoot he really didn't have much in the way of patter. He often looked down while singing and playing, or looked straight out, above the heads of the audience. He doesn't get much if any eye contact - I can't tell off hand if he doesn't like it, or just isn't concerned, but either way it makes for a slightly introverted yet powerful experience.

As Damien sat down he laid out various sheets of paper on a seat near him and mostly looked at them while playing.
Damien Jurado at the Seattle Living Rooms show January 25 2013
After his first song he said "I'm not going to do these songs, I'm tired of them" and he shuffled through and skipped down the stack to some new songs. He told us he was working on a new album, and that he was going to do new songs. As a result I didn't recognize most of the set, but that's OK since the songs were consistently excellent
I noticed that Damien also was talking a bit between songs, which was a new experience for me. He mentioned his two kids, and told us the story of how "Museum Of Flight" came to be. It was a very personal story involving his adolescent child, and once he told us the story he said "I never explain my songs, so now you're the only group who knows where it came from" or something like that. I think the fact that he had an audience of terribly sick children watching streaming video of the performance was what pushed him into opening up. The audience is there to hear his songs, but those kids deserved more communication from him, somehow, and I really respect that artistic choice.

He continued opening up in ways I suspect he never had before on stage. If you notice in the first picture of him above, his shoes are off. He mentioned that, saying something like "this is a living room show, so I'm getting comfortable like I would in my own living room." Then he paused, and said "Well, if it was my living room, I'd be in my long underwear, which I'm wearing under my pants." After that it didn't take much encouragement before he ended up - after saying "this is entirely age appropriate, I'm not stripping!" which he emphasized by repeating - then he took his pants off. As you can see in the intro to this song, he riffed on that and turned it into a wonderful moment of solidarity with the kids watching from their hospital rooms.

If you look closely, you can see that sure enough, he's playing in his long underwear.

Here's a picture so you can see it more clearly:
Damien Jurado at the Seattle Living Rooms show January 25 2013

As he wound down his set and got to the final two numbers, he gave a sweet testimonial that made us all choke up and made me cry. I caught it on video here:
The other thing I notice about it: he never looks at directly at the audience as far as I can tell, but he insisted on tracking down which camera was operating and looked directly at it, directly at the kids in the hospital watching the show, and spoke to them, thanking them and expressing his love. Mortality hitting the young is one of the toughest things there is to process, and something we strenuously avoid talking about. I feel uniquely privileged to have been there for this, to have experienced the love and pain and emotion in a simple 40 minute set with Damien Jurado opening up on stage in a way I've never seen before, and I suspect in a way he never has before. Wonderful dedication, a compelling example of a show dedicated to those who weren't there, who were watching from their hospital beds.

As if that wasn't enough crying and snuffling, he topped that with his final song, "Cloudy Shoes."

The chorus breaks my heart and makes me cry, even now just listening to the video:
"One day you will be taller, taller than the sky,
Til that day, you will be, here with us, below.

Such a beautiful heart-breakingly appropriate song for this benefit show, and a perfect downbeat ending for a "depressive songwriter" (to use Damien's term) to end the show on.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Eternal Fair at the Anchor Pub

I won free tickets to see Motopony, Hot Bodies In Motion and Eternal Fair at the Anchor Pub up in Everett. I'd been to the pub before a few years back, and I'd seen and enjoyed both Motopony and Hot Bodies in Motion too, so I was looking forward to it. Eternal Fair was new to me, and that's a bonus, I like seeing new (to me, anyway) bands.

The blurb for the show said it was at 8, but I was somewhat suspicious, frequently that means "doors open at 8, bands are at 9" but we hustled up to get there close to 8 anyway. If nothing else, we could stake out one of the tables up near the band so at least we'd have seats.

While I was right about the timing - at 8 they were just beginning to set things up -the area up near the band no longer had any tables or chairs, so there were only a few seats to be had, and each time we went to claim a seat somebody sitting near by would always say "We're reserving that seat for a friend who isn't here yet."

While I understand that, it's annoying not being able to sit down so that somebody else who may or may not even show up has seats and doesn't need to come early. So we stood around for an hour - and I was already a bit sore from sitting on a bench seat in a bar for many hours the night before. The result of all that was that I had to bail after seeing a little bit of the first band, so I ended up missing Motopony and Hot Bodies in Motion. Dang!

Anyway, I can't complain too much, it was free and sitting at a show isn't really the point.

I did get to see Eternal Fair, and that was interesting. They had a traditional power trio lineup with a guitar, bass and drums, and had a nice distorted guitar oriented sound that I enjoy.
Eternal Fair at the Anchor
The vocalist had an interesting way of ending phrases with a little additional vowel sound on a rising inflection, it caught my attention and he used the technique repeatedly. It fit into the rhythm well and grew on me as they cranked out their interesting rocking tunes. They also had all three members with microphones and did a nice job both with backing vocals and three part harmonies on occasion - I love vocal harmonies and complex (or even simple) multi-part vocal arrangements, and most bands don't bother nowadays, so props to Eternal Fair for getting 3 good vocal parts out of a band with 3 members. Nice!

I ended up recording a couple of songs in a single take before bailing, so this is what I got for the music at the Anchor:

I'm complaining more than I should, I like the venue and if I'd known I wasn't get a table or chair (or just didn't try) I could've shown up around 9 and avoided all the standing around waiting for the show to begin which would've saved my back some pain. Once the music starts I don't notice the pain as much anyway.

I also like the bands that were playing, and Jet City Radio (who gave me the free tickets)  was sponsoring the event along with an Everett city music initiative, so overall I really have to come down on the side of supporting the whole thing. Adra Boo (vocalist in Fly Moon Royalty, a local favorite) was in attendance, and I think Marco Collins was too, so there was all kinds of things to like and interesting people to talk to.

More shows with fun local bands in venues all around the region is a good thing, and Jet City Radio (which isn't a radio station in the traditional sense, it's a streaming internet service) is also pretty cool. I'll keep an eye out for more of these, and next time try to make sure I'm in better shape to start with, and also plan/time things better so I can get all of the fun out of the evening that's available, rather than wimping out and heading home early.

I'm not terribly well educated on venues in Everett, I don't get up there all that often, but I do like the Anchor, and I also enjoy seeing Ryan Laplante do regular gigs at the Balefire. I'm glad to see Everett's live music scene getting promoted and good crowds turning out, the more venues in the region the better the bands do and the larger the audience, all good things.

Thanks to Jet City Radio for the free tickets, and the city of Everett for it's music initiative. Nice stuff!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Missing Yo La Tengo, Seeing Funk Til Death

My daughter is back in town from Mexico and we wanted to go see some live music. We decided to catch Yo La Tengo at the last in-store performance at Easy Street Records on lower Queen Anne before it closed, but that didn't work out. We weren't early enough to get inside, and didn't feel like hanging out with the crowd on the sidewalk watching through the fogged up windows.Mid Jan 005
We grabbed a Seattle Weekly and a Stranger and looked through the music listings to see if there was a free alternative and noticed that Funky To Death was doing a free show at the Seamonster Lounge in Wallingford. My daughter has a friend that lives nearby she hadn't seen in a while, so we invited them over and got a nice table in the lounge an hour before the music started.

This was a new venue for me and it's pretty nice. In keeping with the Seamonster theme, they have a mild variety of sushi on the menu, and also inexpensive cups of miso soup which is nice on a cold January Seattle evening; I can't vouch for the sushi, but it looked good when other nearby tables had it. The venue is a little small with an odd layout for the band, but our table in front by the window was a nice place to watch the foot traffic go by and catch up with each other.
Funky To Death at the Sea Monster Lounge
The foot traffic was light due to the cold weather, everybody was bundled and nobody was lingering; getting one of the front window tables during the Summer would probably be even better for people watching.

The band loaded some equipment in, setup and did their sound check, then started playing.
It was a fairly large band with guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, and a horn section - a trombone, saxophone, and a flute. A flute is a woodwind, not a horn, so I may have the wrong term for it, but it added that punch and funk to the music the way a good horn section does so I'll go with that.

The performance space is long and narrow, and the audience ends up kinds of intermixed with the band. This leads to a cool intimate vibe, you're right in the middle of the performance, but it also makes for poor sight lines when it comes to pictures. Funky To Death at the Sea Monster Lounge
This view from the back of the venue shows off the drums and the guitar and bass, with the horns and flute mostly visible, but the keyboard player is obscured. It was interesting watching from next to the drummer, he did some fast cymbal footwork/drum stick stuff I'd never seen up close before that sounded cool, and as they jammed along he would occasionally hold up one of more fingers for a measure, I think he was signalling chord changes but I'm not sure. If that was chord or key changes, and they were messing with it on the fly then I'm impressed, you'd have to be very practiced and aware to change things around that dynamically in the middle of a song. They also did a fair amount of improv, with the first song (which I didn't get recorded, dang) including trombone, sax, flute, guitar and keyboard solos. It probably also had drum and bass solos too - basically a solo for each musician - but I lost track by the end of the song.

The reverse view misses the keyboard player too, so I don't think I ended up with a picture of her. Anyway, here's the reverse view:

Funky To Death at the Sea Monster Lounge
They played a set of fun, tight, bouncy funk with lots of old classics and some interesting choices. The band was totally together even as the improvised and messed around, giving it both an improvisational feel and at the same time a highly polished together vibe that I liked.

I only recorded one song, then it started getting much more crowded.

Here's a view from our table back to where the band was playing, I'll use the flash photo - colors aren't as good, but you can see the crowd better: Funky To Death at the Sea Monster Lounge
They did several other interesting things including something by Common and a Michael Jackson tune - the keyboard player did a great Michael vocal.
The other thing I enjoyed was that a different voice was singing a song and somebody pointed out it was the bartender, who had a microphone behind the bar and was singing lead vocals for a song or two. Funky To Death at the Sea Monster Lounge
Somebody in the crowd explained that he was the owner of the venue, and that he was in a different band with several of the members of Funky Til Death. It also looks like Funky To Death is a house band, playing the Seamonster at least monthly and probably more frequently.

The locals have obviously figured out that the house band with no cover is a great way to spend a Friday evening in Wallingford, and I have to agree. Keep an eye out for them, they were a lot of fun and I'm pretty sure the'll be back regularly.