Instant Gratification with Ultimate Painting


Remember when Ride lost the plot after Going Blank Again and tried to morph their sound into some neo-psychedlic 60s blend of the Byrds, Velvet Underground and Buffalo Springfield but ended up sounding like the Black Crowes? Tuesday night at Chop Suey the UK’s Ultimate Painting demonstrated the tangent that Ride should have taken. Their set brimmed with paisley tinged psychedelia that trod the fine line of subtle melodic turns, buzzy droning and all out jams.

The group’s self-titled album came out last year on Chicago’s Trouble in Mind. The record has a subdued sound to that features major nods to the Velvet Underground’s prettier side, but live they crank up the danger levels into White Light / White Heat territory. Talking Central Park Blues was a great example of this, with Jack Cooper taking the lead on this New York narrative that is their sister Ray making it sound a lot more energized than the recorded version.  Cooper also plays in Mazes. In Ultimate Painting he shares guitar and vocal duties with James Hoar from Veronica Falls and Proper Ornaments. It seems like a true collaboration, with both contributing to the songs. Cooper may take a lead vocal, while Hoar takes the lead guitar part, and both contributing harmonies to the other’s vocals.

They also included a couple new songs from an album that they said would be coming out in August. One of them showcased the influence of the Grateful Dead (Casey Jones) that I hadn’t noticed before, but is fairly obvious given the group’s twitter icon. The set closed with with Ten Street which they turned into an extended jam. The rhythm section provided a great stage for Cooper and Hoar to get a little crazy playing off of one another, going into a few rabbit holes of guitar goodness. It lasted for about 10 minutes but it could have gone on for 20 and no one would have complained.  Live Ultimate Painting seem to have an innate sense of when to head off on a tangent extending their solid album into something better and much more interesting.

Ultimate Painting’s self-titled album is out on Trouble In Mind.

Ultimate Painting at Chop Suey

Seattle’s Universe People opened the show playing songs from their two albums as well as new one. They were solid as usual. They’re jerky angular songs keep you on your toes. The Modern Girl, Chemistry, Druids and Vampire Prison were all present in their set and demonstrated how great this band is.

universe people at chop suey

Pop Is Dead In This Town…Long Live Pop

Kelley Stoltz @ Chop Suey, Seattle | 7 October 2013


Poor Kelley Stoltz, dropped by Sub Pop after three records, played to a nearly empty Chop Suey last Monday night. I know Seattle is not a pop town and it skews more toward beard and flannel rock, but I really thought that there were more than ten folks in this town that are big enough fans of Stoltz’s near flawless pop to get off of their butts on a Monday night and come down for show. Alas, my faith in the human race and my city’s pop tastes continue to deteriorate. Even though he doesn’t have many fans in Seattle, he is a pillar of the San Francisco scene. Drumming part time for Sonny and Sunsets, producing the latest Mantles album and generally being pillar of the DIY community.

Stoltz had a full band with him (including a saxophone) and was in a gregarious mood despite the turnout. He kicked off the set with Pine Cone, which is his Fred Neil number and his ode to trying to get a pine cone through airport security. He mixed in some other oldies including Every Thought of Coming Back from Below the Branches with songs from his latest album Double Exposure which came out earlier this month on Jack White‘s record label Third Man. Stoltz has been churning out great pop for years and it doesn’t look like his well is running dry yet. The new songs were the highlights. The Johnny Cash bass of Are You My Love, the icy cool Double Exposure and the sweat Marcy all more than filled empty room.  I was hoping to get to hear him play Kim Chee Taco Man the quirky first single from the record and Inside my Head the droney number that ends in something of a glassy Harold Budd/Brian Eno ode, but Stoltz being the showman, knows how to leave them wanting more. He closed his set with an energetic cover of the Compulsive Gamblers girl-group inspired Think It Over which saw him put down his guitar and totally go for it. A real blast!

Near the end of the set  two frizzy haired guys were dancing in front of the stage. They were enthusiastic, but Stoltz deserves more than two geeky guys dancing in front him and a third one writing about the show.
stream: Kelley Stoltz – Are You My Love (from Double Exposure out on Third Man Records)


At the Beach Under the Big Black Sun

Bleached, Ex Cops and Week of Wonders at Chop Suey, Seattle | 1 May 2013

After that last Best Coast album, you probably thought the SoCal girl group beach thing was played out. I did, but then along come former Mika Miko sisters Jessie and Jennifer Calvin with their new band Bleached. Just to get past your initial eye-roll they need to be pretty good. They would have be a little different and bring something new to the game, right? I think Bleached realize this and they justify their sound by infusing it with some twang and dust. Like they’ve lived the seedier side of L.A. and maybe even been to Bakersfield more than a few times.

They’ve got the punk and country influences along with those surf ones we know so well, and they dialed up just the right mix of punk, twang, surf and pop Wednesday night at Chop Suey. They hit the X-Bangles-Breeders highlights of their debut album Ride Your Heart and mixed in songs from their previous singles and covers of the Ramones‘ Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World and the Misfits‘ Hybrid Moments. Fun times. This band knows to rock a road house.

stream: Bleached – Next Stop (from Ride Your Heart out on Dead Oceans)


New York City’s Ex Cops don’t dress in police uniforms (thankfully), and they don’t sound anything like you would expect a band calling themselves Ex Cops to sound like. Well, at least not what I imagine a band of ex cops would sound like. Their debut album True Hallucinations from earlier this year is a very good dreampop/shoegaze record and seemingly overlooked. The band fronted by Brian Harding and Amelie Bruun delivered ample doses of dreampop akin to the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Erik Blood and the Dandy Warhols that filled the room with waves of bliss. Harding’s and Bruun’s voices compliment each other well, in fact they blend into one another that really put the songs over the edge of goodness. Bruun also looks like she came out of the pages of Vogue so this band is easy to watch, but even when I closed my eyes they blissed me out.

Stream: Ex Cops – Ken (from True Hallucinations out on Other Music)


Seattle’s Week of Wonders opened the show. With Orca Team on indefinite hiatus Leif Anders has started up a new band that infuses piña coladas and steel drums into the mix. This was my first time experiencing Week of Wonders in the flesh and they were a good time. Totally fun to see the band just rage full on, and reaffirming to see a trio conjure up this kind of post punk Caribbean racket. I might like them better than Orca Team.

Stream: Week of Wonders – Touch of Pearls (from the Failures EP available on their Bandcamp)

Live in Seattle Last Week: Disappears, Fresh & Onlys, Bleached, Veronica Falls, Cate Le Bon, Charles Leo Gebhardt

The glacially exciting winter touring season started to thaw out and this week and provided an early spring rush of shows that got me out of my winter show-going hibernation.  On Sunday, the Fresh & Onlys were up from San Francisco along with Chicagoians Disappears. Disappears are about to release their third and best record Pre Language. It’s their first with new drummer Steve Shelley who use to be in some other band called Sonic Youth.  Shelley is game for touring with his other band on indefinite hiatus and the Disappears are all the better for it. They played an amazing set of  intense, anxiety fueled post punk. Up until this night I was uncommitted to Disappears, their first two albums didn’t really fully materialize in my mind, but with Shelley on Drums and this new record they’re firing on all cylinders evoking the Fall, Girls Against Boys and even a little Sonic Youth.

Stream: Disappears – Replicate (from Pre Language)

After Disappears I thought that the Fresh & Onlys might have made a mistake in having them as openers. Not many bands could follow the Disappears’ powerful set and not come off sounding pale in comparison.  I shouldn’t have been concerned, because the Fresh & Onlys are a formidable live band themselves. You’d never know it by looking at them, Singer Tim Cohen looks like a mountain man that hasn’t bothered to shave or change out of his PJ’s.  They had a new drummer, Kyle Gibson is on the temporary injured reserve, who more than ably filled in. I should also mention that I think that the F&O’s musical prowess is closely linked to the height of guitarist Wymond Miles’ hair. Every time I see them his hair is taller and every time they’re better than than the last. I have a sneaking suspicion it’s some kind of biblical Samson thing he’s got going on (or he has a secret love for the Alarm). There wasn’t anything new in their set, which as kind of a surprise since we know these guys are prolific. They must have decided to keep the songs from their upcoming album due on Mexican Summer under wraps. They plucked the highlights from their slew of past records, it was especially cool to hear Peacock and Wing which is essentially their theme song with its “You should really be my fresh & only” refrain. It just reinforced my belief that any band worth its salt should have a “theme song” with its name in the chorus.
stream: Fresh & Onlys – Peacock and Wing (from their first self-titled album on Castle Face)

Skip forward to Tuesday night and the Tractor in Ballard where Veronica Falls and Bleached played along with Seapony. Seapony seem to be in between drummers and were using a drum machine again, but sounded ok nonetheless. Bleached, who have a handful of very good singles to date, but no album as of yet consist of two dudes and sisters Jessica and Jennifer Clavin, formerly of LA punkers Mika Miko. Bleached may consist of former punks from LA, but they sound like they now subscribe to more paisley shade of it with a little cow-poke thrown in for good measure.I have a feeling that they have a few Gun Club records in their collection. Their set was full of confident swagger, good songs and even a cover of the Ramones‘ Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World.

stream: Bleached – Searching Through The Past

Headliners, Veronica Falls were in town a little more than three months ago opening for Drums. I’m glad they returned, giving us another chance to hear the great songs from last year’s excellent self-titled album. While their opening slot at the Crocodile last year was good, seeing them at the more intimate Tractor was a whole lot better. Drummer Patrick Doyle seems to be designated guy to talk to the audience between songs. I kept expecting him to pull a Ric Menck and come out from behind his kit to grab the front mic to talk the way the Velvet Crush drummer use to do, but he seemed happy to lob his one-liners from the back of the stage. The rest of the band said little, but let their harmonies and playing do the talking. The sound was great, and the band played like a well oiled machine, making every song sound better than the record if that’s possible. They slipped in a few new ones including My Heart Beats which I assume is going to be an upcoming single. It was great fun, I wish I walked every show I go to feeling this good.

stream: Veronica Falls – My Heart Beats (new song)

The following night Welsh songstress Cate Le Bon played at the Crocodile with her band in support of her second album Cyrk. I wasn’t enamored with her first album, but she has made a huge leap with record number two. It evokes many of her compatriots like Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Super Fury Animals, but isn’t easily pigeonholed as a Welsh record. It’s also easy to compare her voice to that of Nico, though she is less deadpan and on stage she displays an easy sense of humor. She referred to the audience as Seattle-ogians and when her drummer corrected her with Seattleites, she insisted that we should be called Seattle-ogians.
She wore a silvery, cosmic looking cape and switched between playing guitar and keyboard. Besides her voice and fashion standing out, her guitar playing was formidable as well. She demonstrated this during both Fold the Cloth and Cyrk which brought cheers from the audience. She had three guys in her band who switched around on instruments (with the exception of the drummer who stayed put). Her keyboard player did harmony vocals and did an amazing job with an ability to hit some really high notes. The set ended with Ploughing Out Parts I & II after which she returned alone for one final song and then left the stage leaving everyone more than satisfied.

stream Cate Le Bon – Puts Me To Work (from Cyrk)

Charles Leo Gebhardt opened the night with a full band. I’ve seen him before with guitar and drummer but never with a bassist. Tonight he had Ratchel Ratner of the Wimps and Butts playing bass, TV Cohran on a full drum kit and Brian Standeford of Idle Times on second guitar. He played  songs from his two releases on GGNZLA and the full band treatment added another dimension to already quality stuff. Mid-set he broke a string and proceeded to try to tell a story, when that didn’t work out so well, the band played Idle Times’ Prison Mind and Gebhardt sang it as he fixed his string. A consummate entertainer!  Hopefully he gained a few new fans with his lively set, because his Ray Davies-esque pop deserves a larger audience.
stream: Charles Leo Gebhardt – Chapel of Roses

Fanfarlo’s Rushmore

Fanfarlo at Chop Suey, Seattle | 14 September 2009
Fanfarlo at Chop Suey
The stage was set like a Wes Anderson movie. Fanfarlo had criss-crossed the ceiling with ropes holding triangular flags, strings of lights enclosed stage like a picture frame and bagged lights were set around on amps and in between the band. I kind of had a good feeling about Fanfarlo when I saw that they had brought with them a mandolin, violin, trumpet, melodica, clarinet, glockenspiel and a saw. With that diversity of instruments, you know at the very least it will be interesting. The show started with three of the band on stage and an acoustic rendition of Drowning Men. After that introduction, the remaining three members joined the others on stage.  The band were not quite dressed in costume, but they all had the look of just having finished play practice. With all the band on the still dimly lit stage, the drum march of I’m a Pilot started, and when the piano came in, the usually dark and dour Chop Suey stage came to life with the bright strings of lights glowing to match the sound of the band. It was eye popping, you could hear gasps from the audience and feel smiles come across everyone’s face as Fanfarlo and their little Wes Anderson movie set came to life.

Fanfarlo get compared to Arcade Fire quite a lot, but where Arcade Fire are all about pomp and bombast, Fanfarlo soften the corners coming across as a warmer friendlier band.  They can sound big, but they also know how to do quiet.  They all seem to be able to play multiple instruments, and apparently get tired of playing the same thing all the time based on all the switching off they did, and that restlessness spread to audience during the encore, when the band brought out hollow plastic whistling tubes and handed them out to various audience members for the song Ghost.  It was just about perfect (except for ducking a few times)  with the whistling forming and eerie bed of sound over which the band played.  Like the stage set up, it was just another example of the band making a big impact with tiny props.

It was a Monday night, but Chop Suey was pretty full for a UK band touring the US with no album out yet.  The majority of the people there must have been fans, because after the first encore the audience demanded another song.  The house music and lights were coming on but everyone persisted and the band obliged.  I rarely see a genuine encore, but this indeed was one, and the band were a little taken aback.  They weren’t sure that they even knew another song that they could play, but they pulled out the A-side to their second single You Are One Of The Few Outsiders Who Really Understands Us.  It may be the poppiest song they have, and  just like the rush of the opening I’m a Pilot this put a smile on everyone’s face.  In a lot of ways a gig is like a salesman making a sale,  it’s all about the presentation, and Fanfarlo have got it down, visually and sonically.

Sound on the Sound was there too, and they got a review and photos.

mp3: Fanfarlo – You Are One Of The Few Outsiders Who Really Understands Us

mp3: Fanfarlo – I’m a Pilot

buy: Fanfarlo’s Reservoir

Here are the remaining dates of their all too short US tour:

Popscene, San Francisco – September 17
Kungfu Necktie, Philadelphia – September 20
Bowery Ballroom, New York – September 21
Bell House, Brooklyn – September 22

My Weekend Was Pretty Damn Good. How Was Yours?

Thee Oh Sees at the Funhouse
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.
Sic Alps at the Funhouse
Ty Segall of Sic Alps at the Funhouse

dum dum girls 4 KIA
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
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.

Erik Blood One More Time

Erik Blood at Chop Suey, Seattle | 8 May 2009

Ok, I wasn’t going to write anything about this show, because I’ve gone on more than enough about how good Erik Blood‘s record is.  I have certainly seen him enough and written about him enough to point where I don’t have anything new to say, but the gig last night was easily his best yet. Maybe it was the fact that he finally played somewhere that has a decent sound system.  Maybe it was the fact that legendary Crocodile Cafe sound guy Jim Anderson was manning the sound board making the songs really crack.  Maybe it was continuous perfect sound of the three guitar maelstrom, that filled the room.  Maybe it was the three part harmonies on Too Early and Too Late.  Maybe it was the fact that his jaw dropping The Way We Live album is finally getting released, and this was the gig to celebrate it.  Maybe it was that he played the album highlight Better Days which deftly mixes northern soul and shoegaze for the first time ever and totally nailed it.  Maybe it was the hilarious new song Jet Inside You which I can only assume is from his aborted concept album about pornography.  Maybe it was the fact that the songs from this album just don’t get old with me.  Maybe it was the earnestness in which gay rights anthem To Leave America was played,  transcending the words, letting  the music convey the message all by itself.  Maybe it was all of the above, yes of course it was.  Maybe you should buy the record.

mp3: Erik Blood – To Leave America (from the Way We Live, out 12 May digitally)

Greased Lightnin’

Glasvegas and Carl Barat at Chop Suey, Seattle | 10 January 2009

Glasvegas at Chop Suey

Last night while waiting for Glasvegas, the best new band in Britain (man, how many unfortunate bands have been tagged with that line?), I guessed that the band must have hand picked every song played over the PA with the intention of giving us a history lesson, or at least a connect the dots of the many bands, who have influenced Glasvegas.  There were songs by girl groups like the Crystals and Shangri-Las, a few surf instrumentals, the Cocteau Twins‘ Heaven or Las Vegas, House of Love, Slowdive, Raveonettes, Jesus and Mary Chain and Julie Cruise to name but a few.  Conspicuously absent from the mix was any of the ‘big’ music.  Listening to Glasvegas, it’s hard to ignore the big music because it’s what they do. It’s huge in a way that makes you want to run to the top of some Scottish mountain, pump your fist and shout to the gods.  You know, the way that Big Country, Simple Minds, the Waterboys, the Alarm and U2 used to make you want to do.

Security was noticeably tighter last night, in the wake of last weekend’s shooting at the club.  Everyone entering was being patted down for weapons.  Last weekend’s violence didn’t seem to keep anyone away though, the place was packed. This was really no surprise because the band have gotten loads of press.  Their debut album was only just released in the states this past Tuesday, though it has been available digitally since last fall.  All that means I guess is that fewer and fewer people buy physical records anymore.  As we waited for the band chants arose of here we, here we, here we fucking go which is the refrain from their song Go Square Go.  As the lights dimmed we all donned our earplugs (and sunglasses) in preparation of the sonic assault and (powerful light show).  Both were needed, but did little good.  The wall of sound created by James Allen and his cousin Rab was truly formidable.  While Allen stayed close to the mic, Rab and bassist Paul Donoghue were whirling around behind him trying not to run into one another amid the chaos of the flashing spotlights and myriad of strobes. Glasvegas have a stand up drummer (this seems to be a growing trend these days) who was barely viewable, tightly wedged in between stacks of amplifiers.  The band create a huge sound that tends to bet a bit too much when listening to the entire album, but it’s James Allen’s high, and highly Scottish accented voice that makes Glasvegas songs so special.  It’s actually quite feminine sounding, hence all the 60’s girl group comparisons.  He sings like he’s constantly and totally heartbroken, lost all his money and his best friend, but the music soars to such great heights that you’re planted firmly in his corner.  They band sounded great easily reproducing the highs from the record, but I thought the overpowering light show distracted from the music at times, they really don’t need it. No one else seemed to be too bothered by it. With crowd firmly in hand, the band left it to the audience to do the chorus of Daddy’s Gone.  Though not quite what U2 induce with 40, punters were pretty into it.  They’ll probably be playing arenas soon enough.

mp3: Glasvegas – Geraldine (buy the record)

Opening the show was a pleasant surprise. Carl Barat of Libertines and Dirty Pretty Things did a solo set of just him and an electric guitar. He played a handful of Libertines songs that a got everybody singing along to him. I think he may have done one or two new songs as well. You would probably get a better review of his set from one of the many women front and center singing along to every one of his songs. I realized this night the women dig Carl Barat. Why not, he’s a good looking dangerous kind of guy in a Jud Nelson, Breakfast Club kind of way. After his set all the women at the front left. I though that Barat might reappear for a song or two in the Glasvegas set like he did a last week in Glasgow, but no such luck.

There more photos and the Glasvegas setlist over at my flickr page.

Sloan at Chop Suey

Sloan at Chop Suey, Seattle | 28 September 2008

Sloan were at the comfortably small  and comfortably full Chop Suey last night.  The Halifax, Nova Scotia band are at the tail end of their North American tour for their ninth album Parallel Play.  These Canadians continue to struggle to break it big in the US, and it remains a mystery as to why they remain relatively unknown here while they enjoy modest success in the great white north.  Frankly it’s amazing how little attention these guys get, leading up to Sunday night’s show there was virtually no press or radio play.  Maybe that would be understandable if the band’s quality control had fallen off and they were putting out really bad records.  That is certainly not the case with Sloan who’s last two records are just as good as anything else in their catalog.  Their newest, Parallel Play is one of my favorites of this year, with all four members of the band contributing three songs with the exception of drummer Andrew who sneaks in an extra one.

So Sloan keep chugging along, flying under the radar of nearly everyone, everyone except those who know.  What do they know? Well they know that Sloan live is guaranteed good. Last night was no exception.  The band played for two solid hours.  They only looked out of breath a couple times from such a lengthy set.  Lucky for them they had some commercial breaks courtesy of the jokey MRCH Radio bit.  While Andrew Scott comes out from behind the drums to do his songs, the guy selling their t-shirts doubled as an MC/morning drive dj, playing goofy commercials for deli’s and Moosehead beer (‘You get more head with Moosehead’).  The last time Sloan were in town, I thought their set kind of slowed down when Andrew came out from behind the drums, but that was not the case this night.  The punk energy of Emergency 911, the Dylan-esque Down in the Basement, and possibly the best, People in the Sky (from their second album Twiced Removed) all were stellar.  Andrew’s great songs aside, Sloan are at their best when he’s behind the drums.  That puts Chris Murphy back on bass, Jay Ferguson back on guitar and Patrick Pentland playing guitar.  Pentland being the only one that doesn’t change instruments when the band play Andrew’s songs.  Once again my hopes were dashed to hear She Says What She Means from Navy Blues but consolations like Penpals, Money City Maniacs, The Good In Everyone, Who Taught You To Live that Way, and Losing California more than made up for it.  Chris Murphy, the prankster in band was pretty restrained.  Though he did put down his bass for I’m Not a Kid Anymore and played lead singer part with his goofy moves, though no kicks as the Chop Suey stage is a bit small for such acrobatics.

At this point in their career, in an alternate universe would be playing Paramount or Moore Theatres.  As it is in this cold cruel world, a couple hundred people got to see Sloan in small club.   Sloan played it like could have been a big theater venue and we new how lucky we were to be seeing such a great band in such a setting.

There are more photos and the setlist over at my Flickr page.

The Chronicles of Lightspeed Champion

Lightspeed Champion @ Chop Suey, Seattle | 17 June 2008

I walked into Chop Suey last night expecting to hear the summery beach (boys) sounds of South Carolina’s Explorers Club, but instead it was the unknown sounds of the Train Chronicles. Apparently the Explorers Club were exploring Billings, Montana where they were awaiting the repair of their van after hitting a deer. The Train Chronicles is the endeavor of Lightspeed Champion bassist Martin and he was accompanied by Lightspeed violinist Mike Siddell. He only played a very short 15 minutes, but it was one of those times where you walk into a place and even though you have no idea who’s up on stage playing, you stop in your tracks because it’s so good. His songs reminded me a little of the Wave Pictures but Martin’s voice is not as reedy as David Tattersall’s. In talking to him in between sets I found out he plans on recording some songs with a full band and putting out an ep when he gets back from touring with Lightspeed Champion. It’s not often that I’m so blown away by the random opening act, what a pleasant surprise.

mySpace: Train Chronicles
mp3: Lightspeed Champion – Devil Inside Your Soul (Train Chronicles cover)

Dev Hynes, who is the mastermind behind Lightspeed Champion, is an interesting character, with his big black rimmed glasses, furry Russian hats, and love of Star Wars. He’s come up with a winner of album in his debut Falling Off the Lavender Bridge. It’s got gorgeous country-esque pedal steel guitar, beautiful harmonies from Emmy the Great and best of all, songs that are tinged in country and folk styles meshed with a theatrical flair. The album is subtle and often sublime, so I was curious how the sound would get rendered in a live setting. For starters there was no Emmy the Great, no surprise there, but drummer Anna Prior ably provided backing vocals. Vocals aside, this incarnation Lightspeed Champion is much different from the album, it rocks out a bit more with a more straightforward guitar-bass-drums complemented by violin. So I was a tad disappointed by the delivery, but the songs and Dev’s gregariousness more than made up for it.

A talkative fellow, he had something to say between each song, covering the Euro football tournament, and asking where the ‘original’ Starbuck’s was and then telling everyone to meet him there in the morning. Humor wasn’t only in his stage banter, the Star Wars theme was tacked on to the beginning of No Surprise/Midnight Surprise as kind of a send up. Though with the Star Wars sticker on his acoustic it could have been serious. He also played a handfull of new songs which sounded just as good as the stuff they did from Lavender Bridge, but like everything else a bit more rocking. The highlight of the set for me was the the rendition of Devil Tricks for a Bitch, with it’s plucked guitar and violin accompaniement. It started out with just Dev and his acoustic guitar, but built up with the violin and then slowly adding bass and finally the full ensemble for the finale. It was the perfect combination of the subtle that is indicative of the record and the more rock direction he seems to be taking on this tour.

mp3: Lightspeed Champion – Devil Tricks for a Bitch (from Falling Off Lavender Bridge)

And because I need very little excuse to bring up Jason Falkner, how much does Devil Tricks sound like this Jason Falkner song from his first album Author Unknown?
mp3: Jason Falkner – Before My Heart Attacks (from Author Unknown)

As for Flowers Forever, the second band of the night, I endured their set. I’m not a Bright Eyes fan to begin with, and so their unimaginative immitation of that band didn’t do much for me.