Thee Oh Sees on the basketball court at the Funhouse
The thing I really wanted to do this weekend was head down to Portland for SMMR BMMR, but since that wasn’t in the cards, sticking around Seattle was the next best thing. I don’t remember a weekend where there were so many bands in town and it wasn’t Bumbershoot or Capitol Hill Block Party. My weekend started on Thursday night as all good weekends should, at the Funhouse with Thee Oh Sees and Sic Alps. It had only been a couple months since Thee Oh Sees had been here opening for Jay Retard a the Crocodile, but any chance you have to see John Dwyer swallow a mic you should take it. The Funhouse was the most packed I’ve seen it, even if Thee Oh Sees didn’t technically play in the Funhouse. I was looking forward to seeing Sic Alps for the first time with their new drummer a Mr. Ty Segall. It’s kinda funny that they call him their drummer as he only sat down and played drums for the last three songs. The trio liked to switch up instruments, with each taking his turn at guitar, bass and drums. Sic Alps had some big amps and weren’t afraid to use them. I noticed more than a couple people with fingers in their ears during their set, and the crowd seemed to thin towards the end. It may not have been the noise that caused people to flee, because almost immediately after Sic Alps ended their set, Thee Oh Sees who had set up their rig out on the patio, ripped into Block of Ice. The band played their inspired, Oh Sees-style, off the stage and in the middle of crowd set under the basketball hoop outside surrounded by the most rabid fans I’ve yet seen at one of their gig here. Sic Alps were good in an arty, noisy way, but Thee Oh Sees showed everyone what a party band should be. They passed around bottle of whiskey, encouraged everyone to throw their beer cans at the basketball hoop and ripped through all the highlights of their last two albums. The Oh Sees playing on a Thursday night is how every great weekend should be started.
Ty Segall of Sic Alps at the Funhouse
Dum Dum Girls under the big top down in Sodo
After work on Friday I headed down to Sodo on the brand new light rail to see what the hell KIA was doing putting on a gig featuring the Dum Dum Girls and Wavves. It turned out I was maybe one of 20 other people in Seattle that had the same curiosity or thought that this might be a good idea. When I got there, there was absolutely no one there, hell not even Wavves could be arsed to show up. Apparently they had unforeseen travel difficulties and canceled. Whatever, I was there to see Dum Dum Girls anyway. It’s probably good that hardly anyone was there, since their set was stiff, very stiff, and felt more like a practice gig. The band had this kind of a deer in the headlights look throughout their entire set. Up until about a month ago Dum Dum Girls was the bedroom project of Kristin Gundred (of Grand Ole Party). The first gig she played was at the Captured Tracks/Woodsist festival in Brooklyn last month with a band of ringers that included Mike Sniper (Blank Dogs) on Bass, Frankie Rose (Crystal Stilts) on Drums and Brandon Welchez (Crocodiles and husband) on guitar. To no one’s surprise, she’s got a brand new band and apparently brand new instruments which they took quite a while to get in tune. Midway through their set they seemed to pick up some steam, but I gotta say even though I like the records, when I left the KIA big top Friday night I was less than impressed with Sub Pop’s latest signings as a live band.
Graffiti Island at Chop Suey
Saturday night was shaping up to be a logistical challenge. No Age were playing in Sodo at the afore mentioned car thing, The Box Elders were in town playing over at the Funhouse, while the Art Fag West Coast tour featuring PENS, Graffiti Island and the Crocodiles was stopping by Chop Suey. Not to mention the Intelligence playing the Comet to kick off their lengthy and all inclusive US tour. Since I’ve seen No Age and Box Elders a few times already, I chose PENS and Graffiti Island, two UK bands that I figured may not pass through these parts again anytime soon. There was lots of elbow room in Chop Suey, but Graffiti Island didn’t seem to care. Graffiti Island are from the UK but singer Pete Donaldson is clearly not with his American accent. The band have a definite cave-like Cramps sound, but live Donaldson came off sounding kinda like Calvin Johnson. Their short set was marred a bit by sound problems but when one of the Crocodiles jumped on stage to play bass they really seemed to click. I picked up their new 7 inche which is one side genuine fake snake skin and one side Graffiti Island songs.
PENS who’s album is due out on De Stijl next month, were marred by sound problems as well, mainly a guitar that wouldn’t stay tuned. It’s funny how bands get so bummed out when things don’t go perfectly. If they’d just fake it, most of us would never know there was anything wrong. The ladies liked to switch instruments a lot between songs, so they’ve got the playing thing down, but PENS need to take an acting lesson or two because it was written all over their faces how utterly disappointed they were that things weren’t going their way. Like I said, if they would have faked it with a little attitude like the old school riot grrrls, we woulda been none the wiser.
Since there is a thing (marriage) between Dum Dum Girls and the Crocodiles, it wasn’t much of a surprise that the Dum Dum Girls got squeezed into the line-up last minute style. I was hoping that they’d be much better than the night before, but the pessimist in me figured that they wouldn’t be. The pessimist in me is often wrong, and their set this night was way way better than the night before. The band just looked more comfortable in the smaller confines of Chop Suey. They sounded better too, with the reverb of the guitars bouncing off the walls and filling the room. They even looked more confident as if the night before was in fact, just warm-up gig. Gundred’s voice is strong and easily cuts through any racket her band can make. If I was on the fence about Dum Dum Girls after seeing them the previous night, their set a Chop Suey brought me back from the dark side, and their Ronettes cover sealed the deal.
After Dum Dum Girls it was decision time: stay and see the Crocodiles or head down to the Comet for the Intelligence. Being the smart guy that I am, you can probably guess where I ended up. I rolled into the Comet expecting it to be either way packed or empty. My admiration for all things Intelligence has been well documented on these pages, but the rest of Seattle seems to be a bunch of troglodytes in these matters. I was pleasantly surprised by my perfect timing as the band were just about to start and how full the place was. The band have just recently returned from a couple months of touring Europa and the effects were immediately noticeable. No, they weren’t all speaking Italian. The were so much tighter with the songs just rolling one after the other. Lars still runs around pushing pedals, pressing amp buttons, and twisting knobs like a mad scientists, but you can tell this band is a well oiled machine. And the crowd at the Comet? They were all pressed up as close as they could get to the band and…dancing. Yes, dancing! We all new that you could dance to the Intelligence, but I’d never seen it. Man it was cool to see. Finberg was in a goofy mood too, introducing every songs with one liner like: This song’s about what happens when you sign up for one more credit card before Debt & Esp. And: This song’s for Nicolas Cage and the Valley Girls before Like, Like, Like. I cannot emphasize this enough, if they are coming to your town drop everything and go see the Intelligence (dates here)! It will definitely make your weekend.