Sunday, May 17, 2015

TacocaT, Chastity Belt, S and Childbirth at the EMP Pop Conference

I've mentioned that I like to take engineers visiting from out of town out to see some local music. Recently the EMP held the annual Pop Conference with the theme "Get UR Freak On: Music, Weirdness and Transgression" and booked TacocaT, Chastity Belt, S and Childbirth for an opening show in the Sky Church.

This is the sort of different musical experience available in Seattle that would be hard to come by in most cities. The top few cities have comparable and better - NY, Chicago, LA, and a few other huge cities have truly varied and huge music scenes, but few cities under 1 million have the variety and depth and deep bench that Seattle has. This is exactly the sort of show I look for to take the visiting engineers - it's even all ages!

There are challenges, though. The Get UR Freak On theme and sexual content and tone are generally not appropriate in a business environment. On the show web page there were links for the bands & one of the links led directly to "I Only Fucked You as a Joke"

From the album it's a girl!
Childbirth album "it's a girl!" on Bandcamp

While this is a valid artistic expression and probably more common than anyone wants to admit (and a great song!), this is inappropriate in a business context.

On the other hand, we're talking a business context in Seattle, after all. And I've had mild problems with boundaries on occasion too, I overshare on occasion and... well, I talked myself into it.

I mitigated the risk of triggering corporate pain and HR investigations (can you tell I work at a large corporation?) by adding a "BTW If you follow the links and listen to the bands, use headphones. Some of this stuff is NSFW - REALLY!" clause to the email and sent it out to 10 coworkers at Cisco. I wouldn't try that with a larger list or a list that included more people that I didn't know well, but I felt safe in forwarding it to my coworkers, we're all adults with reasonable senses of humor.

It was a great call, of course, but that was never in doubt as far as bands go. About the only thing that didn't go well is that we took so long eating dinner before the show that we missed Childbirth - dang, they had songs I wanted to hear live. Better luck next time, I'll have to keep an eye out for them.

We managed to make it for a classic S set: introspective and haunting, guitar driven without wailing, more a reverb and space approach. Sometimes the lyrics were more out front with multiple parts, sometimes the lyrics faded into the songs yet echoed with emotions felt from a distance or remembered with fading intensity. The instruments change up on occasion for some keyboards but the haunting quality and the feeling of remembered emotional intensity remains.

The EMP Sky Church is a great place to see a show, nobody is very far from the performers and the sound is excellent. My cell phone shot above doesn't do it justice, but it gives you some idea of where we are and the scale of the performance space, anyway. I found a nice creative commons photo from Joe Mabel (here's his flickr page)
I enjoyed it but the Indian engineers were subdued - it's kinda subdued music as far as that goes, I suppose. They were looking for more active music, stronger beats and motion and dancing preferred. Dancy pop music would be more up their alley.

Chastity Belt was up next and while they're not poppy, they certainly brought a higher energy level, louder beat and more positive subject matter to the table. Chastity Belt is more guitar oriented rock and roll, loud with backbeat and a full sound - rhythm and lead guitar, bass, drums and solid rock and roll vocals. Not pretty and polished, more powerful and sneering or laughing - sometimes with us, sometimes at us, a committed performance with a fuck you if you don't like it attitude. That very attitude makes it more appealing and evocative. I just convinced myself they're punk rock too (coming from me that's a compliment) but I've never sweated the categories all that much..

Since my cell phone photo is lame as usual I dug up another creative commons photo so you can see what we saw. Heck, with my nearsightedness we're probably seeing more than I saw at the show in this photo, it's got details! (This photo is from Joe Mabel again; his flickr)

Chastity Belt - Pop Conference 2015 - 04 (17239409565)
The vocals in Chastity Belt are classic rock and roll, not pretty but expressive, able to get a bit raw, to surge to a powerful crescendo and wind it back, but used in a pretty aggressive manner. This is not subtle music, this is loud amplified music that knows it's load and amplified and likes it and has a swagger or maybe a strut.

Fun set, talented band worth seeing in a great venue.

Next up was the sheer (surf?) pop sweetness of TacocaT. This was the perfect for the visiting engineers. Well executed songs, guitar driven with a great beat, very dance friendly. Bright and exuberant, TacocaT has so much fun you can't help but have fun too.

I have no idea if the visiting engineers were able to hear the vocals and understand them, they all speak and understand English very well but getting TacocaT's word play and underlying meaning can be challenging. Figuring out cultural references the first time you hear a song in a live setting in a non-native tongue would be challenging.
That's OK, they loved the show based on the music and the beat and the performer's visual appeal and what they got of the word play, it was a wonderful upbeat fun set. TacocaT always puts on a great live show - you should see them outdoors on a sunny day with a bubble machine!

Thanks to three kick ass bands for providing a great show and a different perspective and entertaining some friends who flew pretty much all the way around the world for the privilege. I love showing Seattle's music scene off, especially when the bands are so talented and fun. Another great show!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

2015 EMP Sound Off! Ruled Like It Always Does

I work with engineers from India who visit Seattle for a few months and work on assorted technical issues around our Mediasense media recording server appliance. As a total local music geek, I've taken it upon myself to make sure they get a good introduction to the Seattle music scene before they head back home.

It's tricky - finding a good show that fits 4 or 5 schedules, making sure we have some way to get there and back, making sure it's not too weird or offbeat (I like that stuff but many don't), the venue's not too dive-ish, etc. All ages shows tend to be a good bet, less drinking and more focus on the music

Every Spring the all-ages EMP Sound Off! shows happen in February with the Finals in March (more or less). This is reliably one of my favorite sets of shows every year. I love getting to know new bands and I'll get to see 12 bands I've never heard of (well, this year I'd heard of 2 but that's an outlier, never happened before). The EMP chooses great bands from a variety of genres out of a large number of applicants and the talent is always amazing.

Each of the 3 semifinal shows has 4 bands, for example we saw Bleachbear, Supersoaked, Champagne Babylon and Night Space. The bands go on in a random order and play for about 40 minutes each.

Bleachbear winning their Semifinal round

Champagne Babylon got the Wild Card runner up spot

Super Soaked rocking out
The judges gather after the show and award a winner and a runner up. There's also an audience participation award; we (the audience) scream for each band and the band with the loudest fans gets some additional prizes. The winner of each of the 3 semifinals goes to the finals. One band from the 3 wild card (runner up) teams is also selected bringing the total to 4 bands.

Once again the 4 bands play in random order and the judges award the title and we all cheer and head home happy and sweaty after another great night of music.

The winner gets studio time and equipment and a performance slot at Bumbershoot. There were a couple of additional festivals with buyers in attendance signing up bands for the year's regional festivals.

This year the energy was very positive and we had a wide range of acts and styles of music. I enjoyed the heck out of it and every single band I saw is worth keeping an eye on. Bleachbear, Naked Giants, Emma Lee Toyoda and One Above None Below have all been getting gigs around town & that's just the shows I noticed.

In the finals One Above and None Below came from the Wild Card slot to win it all with an electric performance against intense competition - intensely happy and upbeat competition, every single act seemed to be having the time of their life and obviously enjoyed getting to play for us.

The peak acts got us dancing and sweating and having a great time, and every act was interesting and different and unique. It was  a memorable introduction to the all-ages Seattle music scene for the engineers who'd flown around the globe from almost the exact opposite side.

Shane Diamanti: Upcoming EP Release Show at El Corazon

Shane Diamanti has a sold out EP Release show this Friday May 22 at El Corazón.

I interviewed Shane two years ago and figured it was time to check back in.

It’s been a couple of years, what've you been up to?
Shane: I did “Dictionary Freestyle” on Facebook and that blew me up (over 1,000 likes & 100 shares, feel free to check it out and give it some love), I got tons of messages, I walked around my city and people knew who I was. That was crazy.

I went and saw Sam Lachow, he came up to was like “I’m a fan of you man” “What?” “Yeah, your dictionary free style!” what the heck, and Raz Simone came up to me “I know who you are.” I look up to these guys, it was cool.

I wrote a lot but I wasn't recording for a while.

Shane “worked” the Sam Lachow w/Gifted Gab & BFA show at the Neptune in November of 2014 from the audience
Shane: I met people that night, when Sam called for people to get on stage they yelled “pick Shane” and Sam said “I know Shane, get up here Shane” and people might’ve been rapping and having fun, but I was talking to everyone on stage so I could get the connections. I already knew Ariana DeBoo and I was talking to Sam’s saxophone player and we’re cool now, I was just talking to him today. I talked to Raz that day, Sam, to all of them.

That inspired me – damn, I could be on that stage again! The last time I did shows was in High School and only 30 people came, it wasn't that cool.

I’m going to book a show, I booked it at El Corazón lounge – when I messaged them first they were like “you want a weekday?” and I said “you want it to sell out?” and they said “all right, you can have a Friday.” 

It’s about to sell out. (It sold out weeks ago now.)

I’m excited for that, I’ve never headlined before, this is my first headline.

Who are you playing with? 

Shane: Ronnie Dylan & Dyllyn Greenwood, my DJ Jay Battle & Ronnie Dylan’s DJ is Jake Crocker

Release show? 

Shane: Yes, my EP release, my first professional recorded EP. I always recorded in my room but now I’m recording down at Jay Battle place. It’s called “Changed My Mind.” Over time I changed my mind about what style I should have, so I was like I should just have an EP with every style, trying something out.

I’m still going to do stuff off my album, I’m working on getting that out next year in December. I’m working on a mixtape that IS my style so people know what my style is like. I’ve been trying to get a whole bunch of music written. I’ve been working for this for six years.

I always dreamt this stuff – one day I’m going to be on the radio, I’m about to be on the radio. One day I’m going to sell out a show, I’m going to sell out a show! (Sure enough, he sold out the show).

I always dreamt this stuff, but now I’m about to do it so now I gotta make dreams that are even higher. Next year I want to have an album release in December and I want to sell out the Neptune. That’s my goal.

I want this show to be for the fans. They’re not really my fans, I call them friends. I took the bus to Olympia, Lacey, Everett, Arlington, Marysville, I’m going to Wenatchee taking the train this weekend, to meet everybody. It’s one thing to send someone a link “yeah, come to my show” but it’s another thing to meet them in person, hand them their ticket and see their face. They’re happy to meet me and I’m like “I’m happy to meet you!” it goes both ways.

 It’s going to be crazy!