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.

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