Last night was the second time I had the pleasure of seeing Portland’s Woolen Men here in Seattle. I didn’t realize until they mentioned it, that I was two for two with them. This being only the second time they’ve made the trip up the Five to play here. The last time being at the Josephine in January of last year with Orca Team and their Australian brethren the Woolen Kits.
I remember remarking at that show how they seemed to have a stash of dB’s records and an innate ability of making killer noisy skewed pop. Those special powers have not been lost in the year and a half since I last saw them. In fact they have been enhanced, they’ve signed with Woodsist, released their ‘debut’ record, and self-released a pre-Woodsist greatest hits record.
Last night at the Comet opening for BOAT, they played a short set that left me wanting much more. Their songs can sound like early REM, Wire, the Clean and the unheralded west coast obscurity 100 Flowers (if unfamiliar seek out this year’s reissue on Superior Viaduct). Woolen Men are only a three piece, but they pack the power of four or five. All three members sing which leads me to believe they all write songs, but they’re all well versed in the same school of rock. You feel like you are in the south in the mid-80’s with Mitch Easter in a garage or in Dunedin in early 80’s with one of the Kilgour brothers by your side. Go see them if they decided to come to your town, there are few bands that pack this kind of power and prowess in one guitar, one bass and drums.
BOAT were fun as usual. I thought that Forever In Armitron was the best BOAT song, but Lately sounded pretty killer last night and they threw in a cover of Lou Reed’s Satellite of Love just for fun. Who knows when they’ll play again as their drummer is moving to New York. I doubt it will keep them down long though. D. Krane tells me that there are plans afoot to release the first two BOAT albums on vinyl and he’s working on something totally new with Charles Bert from Math and Physics Club. The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.
Ringo Deathstarr at the Comet, Seattle | 23 September 2012
One of these days I’m going to see a good Ringo Deathstarr show. Unfortunately last night was not it. On record I love this Austin band’s poppy take on shoegaze. Their second album Mauve which comes out this week is just as good if not better than their debut Colour Trip. These guys write melodies to accompany their guitar miasma, making their songs into more than just the comet trail of My Bloody Valentine. At times they even exceeding their prime influence in the ability to marry god pop with head splitting noise.
So what about Ringo Deathstarr live? I’ve heard reports that they can be good, but the previous time I’d seen them here in Seattle I was underwhelmed. Last night’s show started off on interstellar overdrive. The band sounded great with the right mix of crazy candy coated guitars, fuzzy bass and crashing drums, even the vocal interplay between guitarist Elliott Frazier and bassist Alex Gehring was sounding great. The band blasted through a couple new songs from Mauve and highlights from Colour Trip and guitar induced pop bliss was descending down on the Comet. Then Gehring’s bass amp died and oncoming pop bliss flew out of the window like a balloon that had been untied. From that point Murphy’s Law went into full effect. A new bass amp was procured, but Frazier had turned off one of his guitar amps so that Gehring could use it for her bass, but forgot to turn it back on when they got a real bass amp. This left them sounding like they had lost 60% of their guitars. Then Drummer Daniel Coborn’s bass drum kick pedal broke which brought another break while he MacGyver’d his pedal with some chewing gum and a stapler. Eventually they got back on track but the damage had been done.
In all fairness, last night was beyond their control, and they handled it quite well. Never did they lose their sense of humor or their perseverance. The glimpses of greatness at the beginning and end of the set when everything was working were evidence that they are up to the task of recreating the sonic amazingness of their records live. Hopefully they don’t think that they’re jinxed in Seattle and will return soon.
Young Prisms at the Comet, Seattle | 25 February 2012
According to the how-to book on shoegaze there are a couple things that a band must posses to be considered descent. You must hero worship Dinosaur Jr. The guitar wizardry of J Mascis is well known and many of the early shoegaze bands noted him as influence. Second, you must have great bass player. You might think this to be counter-intuitive, but anyone can buy a bunch of effects pedals and pipe their guitar through them, but you need something solid to drape those washes of guitars over.
Young Prisms can put check marks next to both of those items. Saturday night at the Comet, the quintet crammed themselves onto the Comet stage with the lead guitarist sporting a Dino Jr cow t-shirt. Check. As they began to play the bass is up in the mix, almost too much, giving the twin guitar attack something to hang itself on. Check.
I’ve liked a lot of the records that Young Prisms have released to date, but I haven’t really loved one. That is all about to change when the band release their second album In Between on Kanine at the end of March. They’ve tempered their noisy side and allowed the dreamier parts of them to take over. In Between has distinct and obvious shoegaze influences, but it also has a more straightforward pop element to it. There are songs like Gone that remind me of Velocity Girl‘s Simpatico album, maybe because when guitarist Matt Allen sings he sounds like Archie Moore. Others have some keyboard flourishes that bring a slight Cure feel to them. So it’s not all Kevin Shields worship in the Young Prisms camp, there’s a diversity of influences evident in their songs.
Live, many of the above nuances weren’t identifiable. Main vocalist Stefanie Hodapp doesn’t have a strong voice and she was often overpowered by the rest of the band. This might not have been a problem in a place with a better sound system that could separate the vocals out from the rest of the mix a bit more. Seeing them live you also realize that nearly all of their songs are about the same tempo. They would benefit greatly by having one or to Twisterella’s , Duel’s or Soft As Snow But Cold Inside’s to liven it up a little more. Those are minor complaints, they generated a formidable maelstrom that more than held my interest. Their new album is a winner and with more touring I bet these new songs will get their show legs. I’m a believer, all I needed was good bass player and a Dino Jr. t-shirt to confirm.
Devon Williams brought his Euphoria tour to the Comet Tavern last night. His new album (his second) just out on Slumberland is full of intricate and lushly textured songs. The guy obviously is a student of the 80’s. Euphoria is an understated winner that I recommend heartily to fans of the Church, Modern English, East River Pipe and the Icicle Works. It’s an easy record to like combining Williams’ big sounding songs with his plaintive delivery that strips them of any pretentiousness.
As I was standing in the somewhat redesigned Comet (the place actually has a stage with space for an entire band can stand) watching them play, a couple things came to mind. I liked the extra muscularity that his five piece band brought to the songs even though some of the instrumental flourishes, had to be given up in the live versions of the songs. The second was how much they reminded me of Prefab Sprout. Not that Mr. Williams sings like Paddy McAloon, but his songs have this undeniable sense of hope and optimism while at that same time sounding sad. Sounds crazy I know, but it’s a great trick if you can pull it off as a songwriter and Devon Williams did exactly that last night. He and his band played a for about half an hour and seemed to enjoy every minute of it and the handful of us in the audience did as well.
Summer Babes appeared this summer seemingly out of nowhere with an EP they put up on bandcamp. I got sucked in by the undeniable pop hypnosis of their song Crack Habit and ponied up the $5 for a download and was not disappointed. The Babes are lead by Jeff Albertson who sings sometimes in the Lights but mostly plays bass in that band. Summer Babes are his outlet for the songs that don’t fit into the Lights’ prickly, sharp edged design. Their EP is full of laid back, wistful and nostalgic songs that are easy to like. They even incorporate some reggae (or is it Pere Ubu‘s version of reggae?) into their sound on the song Bad News. Reggae aside, they’ve got kind of a 90’s thing going on and Albertson’s voice reminds me a little bit of Buffalo Tom‘s Bill Janovitz and he knows how to turn a pop hook which makes this EP pretty easy on the ears.
I can’t help but think seeing them live will put a smile on your face. They’ll be playing at the Comet Tavern this Friday along with the Redwood Plan and Night Train if you are so inclined.
In his book The 10 Rules of Rock and Roll, Robert Forster lists 10 truths of rock. Rule number ten states that the three-piece band is the purest form of rock and roll expression. Oakland, California’s Bare Wires evidently know this. The guitar, bass and drums equaled more than the sum of it’s parts last night, filling the place with sonics that most bands would need a second or third guitar to accomplish . The drums cracked and the bass rumbled while Lead Wire Mathew Melton’s guitar blasted out of a six foot tall amp and created a breeze in the otherwise stuffy Comet Tavern.
The new album Seeking Love hints at glam rock, but live Bare Wires are pure unadulterated 70’s glam from their haircuts, to their silky women’s blouses, to the power chords being dispensed and the poses rendered. Melton and his band look like they just got off the boat from 1974. Melton’s look with his moppy curls and mustache treads a very fine line of cool rock god and creepy guy. The band blasted through most of Seeking Love as well as a couple new songs (apparently they’ve got another album nearly ready to go) and seemed to get caught up in the energy of their own songs. Melton literally threw his guitar aside for another after breaking a string, and bassist Fletcher Johnson somehow lost his shoe midway through the set. The small (It was a Monday and they just played the Funhouse last month) but enthusiastic were got caught up in that same energy, but I couldn’t help but think how much better this show would have been if wild beer swilling moshing crowd of last month’s Ty Segalgig would have shown up for Bare Wires. All in good time, because after the garage overload of the last few years, I’m definitely ready for 70’s glam revival and bands looking to Sweet, Slade, Mott the Hoople and Cheap Trick, and Bare Wires are poised to be leading the pack.
This was the second gig of a lengthy tour that will take the Bare Wires to the East Coast and back. Here are the dates.
Aug 18 – The Aquarium, Fargo, ND
Aug 19 – Triple Rock, Minneapolis, MN
Aug 20 – The Vault w Real Numbers, Ramma Lamma, Milwaukee, WI
Aug 20 – Cactus Club w/ A Frames, Headache City, Milwaukee, WI
Aug 21 – Crown Tap Room w Real Numbers, Chicago, IL
Aug 22 – Landlocked Music, Bloomington, IN
Aug 23 – Black Sparrow w/ The Boy Toys, Lafayette, IN
Aug 24 – The Lager House, Detroit, MI
Aug 25 – Case University w/ Tyvek, Cleveland, OH
Aug 26 – Now Thats Class, Cleveland, OH
Aug 27 – Monster Island Basement, Brooklyn, NY
Aug 28 – Bruar Falls, Brooklyn, NY
Aug 29 – M Room, Philladelphia, PA
Aug 30 – Velvet Lounge w/ Mabye Baby, Washington, DC
Aug 31 – The Station, Carrboro, NC
Sep 1 – Little Kings, Athens, GA
Sep 2 – Star Bar, Atlanta, GA
Sep 3 – Glen Danzig’s House, Nashville, TN
Sep 4 – Murphy’s w/ River City Tanlines + The HUMMS, Memphis, TN
Sep 6 – Ole Tavern, Jackson, MS
Sep 7 – Saturn Bar, New Orleans, LA
Sep 8 – Notsuoh, Houston, TX
Sep 9 – Beerland, Austin, TX
Sep 10 – Beerland, Austin, TX
Sep 14 – RIPS, Phoenix, AZ
Sep 15 – Bar Pink, San Diego, CA
Sep 17 – The Smell, Los Angeles, California
Sep 18 – The Juke Joint, Anaheim, CA
Ty Segall & Idle Times at the Comet Tavern, Seattle | 28 June 2010
Prior to Melted I was on the fence about Ty Segall. After seeing him at the Sunset Tavern a few years back opening for Thee Oh Sees and Intelligence, I was kind of amazed how he played guitar, drums and sang all at once, but I thought the songwriting on his first two albums was monochromatic and sonically they seemed a little flat. It was all three chord jams that pegged the VU meter in the red. Listening to his self-titled debut or Lemons all the way through could be monotonous and a little bit mind numbing. Somewhere along the way Segall eschewed the garage for some acid. Last year’s Reverse Shark Attack record he did with Mikal Cronin and the single on Trouble in Mind (that included a cover Echo and the Bunnymen‘s Do It Clean) hinted at a move toward something a little different. His third album Melted which came out earlier this month on Goner meets those heightened expectations and is leaps and bounds ahead of than anything he’s done to date. It’s got this rich garage-y psychedelic sound, and sees Segall hitting a sweet patch with regards to his songwriting. Melted boasts songs so good they could make you start believing all of the wunderkind accolades this guy was getting early on are valid.
I’m not sure if the packed house at the Comet cared whether or not Segall was branching out as a songwriter or not. They mainly cared about getting their PBR’s and rocking out. The bar seemed a little overwhelmed for the thirsty mass of Ty Segall fans on a Monday night, but Segall was more than obliged to provide the jams for the rocking out part. The set was sprinkled with a couple new songs, some older ones, but mostly concentrated on the new album. He set the bar high early on with the song Imaginary Person. While good on record, this song really shined displaying its huge unabashed pop hooks. Segall looked all California, with his sun bleached Surfer Joe locks and his laid back, rocker attitude. He sweetly dedicated songs to his muses, his home state California and the girl at the merch table, but forcefully delivered the garage jams. The set ended with Caesar, the song from Melted that features piano and Thee Oh Sees’s John Dwyer of going nutty on a flute. There was no piano or flute at the Comet just a killer song with a huge chorus and a room full of sweaty Ty Segall fans wanting more.
Seattle’s own Idle Times opened as a three piece and sported a new drummer. Leo Gephardt who is usually in the band only stepped out of the crowd and played guitar for one song, leaving Brian Standeford to handle all the guitar and vocals the rest of the time. This downsizing didn’t seem to alter Idle Times’ ability to rock out. In fact, I think every time I see Idle Times I’m more impressed by them than the last. To me, their songs evoke Led Zepplin and Bad Company without being too obvious. Their first full length is due soon from Hozac and is something you should keep your eye out for.
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.
Erik Blood and Magic Bullets at the Comet, Seattle | 22 January 2009
If you don’t live in Seattle, you might think all we listen to up here in the upper left hand corner of the United States is garage, grunge, and pastoral folk. Actually, the music scene offers much, much more than that, and one part of the scene that doesn’t get a lot of exposure, and really should, is all of the dream-pop and shoegaze influenced bands in this town. The Turn-Ons were one of the first bands in Seattle to really gain some attention while sounding very British. The Turn-Ons have recently gone on a short hiatus after releasing their fourth album early last year. The hiatus has given each of the band members an opportunity to record solo records (kind of like Kiss did back in the 70’s). Drummer Will Hallauer has put out two records with his band the Little Penguins, singer Travis Devries has a record in the works, and Erik Blood is releasing his first solo record imminently.
Thursday night at the Comet was something something like a pre-release show for Blood’s album. It officially hits the streets on 3 March, but he had copies available on this night. The album is called The Way We Live, and is just about perfect. If I had a ratings system it would get lots of stars. The album is a blissful mix of shoegaze, dream pop, blue-eyed soul, but above all pure pop genius. Every song on it is so immediate, incorporating stuff from the 80’s like the guitar pop of the first two Wire Train albums, shoegaze from the 90’s like Chapterhouse or the poppier side of Swervedriver and on into the 00’s nu-gaze scene like Deerhunter and Brother Kite. If you liked the more structured pop songs off the Deerhunter’s Microcastle, or the Beach Boys harmonies mixed with shoegaze of Brother Kite, this album will hit you in just the right spot. My favorite song on the record is the blue eyed soul of Better Days. Blood’s smooth croon floats over top of a beautiful sting arrangement, that turns into a bit of blue eyed shoegaze for the chorus. I like to call it soulgaze (go ahead, roll your eyes). On paper you might not think this would work, but the results will have you reaching for the repeat button. It’s the perfect end to what is nearly a perfect album.
Better Days was egregiously left off the set, but with the pop dynamite of songs like The Way We Live, To Leave America, She’s Your Everything, Broken Glass, hell any other song on the album were more than enough to pacify its conspicuous absense. I nor anyone in the Comet was disappointed from his set. His band, with two guitarists (three when Blood picks his guitar up), one of which is Corey Gutch of the Turn-Ons, ably creates a wall of sound as well as two and three part harmonies. The place was full for his set and noticeably cleared out after it, giving me hope that people in this town are slowly catching on to how great these songs are. With an album this great, let’s hope Erik Blood doesn’t remain a secret of the Pacific Northwest for much longer.
As I said, the place kind of cleared out after Blood’s set, but it was their loss, because San Francisco’s Magic Bullets are pretty damn good themselves. If I didn’t know any better they I might accuse them of being English or Swedish, because their pop sensibilities obviously lie in countries across the Atlantic Ocean. The obvious comparison for the Magic Bullets is the Smiths but so many bands get that get comparison for either the voice or the music, but with Magic Bullets it’s both. Singer Phil Benson has a noticeable Morrissey affectation. He bounded around the room with aplomb, genuine enthusiasm and flailing arms while belting out the songs. Only once did he bound into someone, for which he sincerely apologized at the end of the song. The rest of the band are quite competent as well, with the guitars evoking an intricate jazz-like style that reminded me of, not only, of that Smiths guitarist but Max Eider (of Jazz Butcher fame). Add to that potent singer-guitarist combination, one excellent drummer, and some a handful of adoring female fans and you have yourself quite a delightful set.
The Magic Bullets have just released a four song 12 inch. Their 2007 album A Child But in Life Yet a Doctor in Love was good, but this new puts it to shame. Get the vinyl while you can, which currently is only available by actually showing up to one of their gigs. Here are the remaining ones:
Jan 24 Nick’s – Chico, CA
Jan 25 Muddy Waters – Santa Barbara, CA
Jan 26 The Echo – Los Angeles, CA
Jan 27 Soda Bar – San Diego, CA
Jan 28 Modified – Phoenix, AZ
Jan 29 Zeppelins – El Paso, TX
Jan 30 Mohawk – Austin, TX
Jan 31 VZDs – Oklahoma City, OK
Pica Beats and Little Penguins at the Comet Tavern, Seattle | 28 November 2008
The Comet Tavern on Capitol Hill was not really built for music, its stage is a little triangle step in the corner that is big enough for the drummer. The rest of the band is left to fend for themselves pushing out into the audience. This makes for intimate shows if you’re close enough to actually see the band. Actually the Comet was probably built to tie one on. It’s one of Seattle’s oldest bars dating back to the 1930’s, and much of it looks like it hasn’t been touched since then. It’s got character in spades, and that goes a long way as long as you don’t have to use the restrooms. The beer is cheap and booking is excellent. You can go there on most nights of the week and you’re guaranteed to hear something good. On more than one occasion, after leaving a show at Neumo’s across the street, I have gone by and heard a band playing that sounded good enough to get me pay my $6 to get in. Friday night I knew who was playing before arriving but when I got to the door I found out that the place was packed and they weren’t letting anyone else in. I hung out outside and waited. It must have been my sad puppy dog eyes, because after a few minutes the guy at the door waved me on through. I squeezed my way through the door and to the bar and watched the backs of people’s heads for the Exploding High Fives‘ set. I saw glimpses of a girl playing keyboards and every now and then a guy playing guitar. Their songs were good concise power pop and more than enough to hold my attention without even seeing them. I hope to get to a show of theirs where I can actually see them while they play.
After the the Exploding High Fives I nudged my way up the step to the stage area with the hopes of actually being able to see the Little Penguins play. It was the release party for their second cd entitled Offer You This Cape. I caught the Little Penguins a few months back at the Reverb fest in Ballard and thought they were good, but they were much, much better this night. The new songs have a darker feel that evokes, in my mind, a little of Nick Cave or Gallon Drunk but with a softer pop edge employed by the likes of Pulp. Singer Will Hallauer was all made up for the celebration sporting nice black eyeliner, adding visually to his slightly deep voice that takes on a sense of melodrama on songs like Bus Stop and Streets. He’s got something that reminds me of Davey Woodward of the Brilliant Corners and the Experimental Pop Band or even Edwyn Collins. I like the way the band employed a minimalism to the songs allowing the piano to shine through like they did on Streets and the Celebration. Popping up in the set also was their spot on cover of Joy Division’s Isolation, it nearly was the highlight of their set, but Get On the Phone Louise took that honor with it’s slow spooky start, that eventually builds to a wall of noise with the band refraining “Get on the phone Louise, the water’s rising fast” in three part harmony. Both Little Penguins are well worth getting, and at eight songs each, the two together make an excellent double album.
The Pica Beats didn’t come on until about 12:45, but the Comet was still nearly full. And for good reason, their album Beating Back the Claws of the Cold on Hardly Art is quality antique pop that combines Neutral Milk Hotel, Will Oldham and even bits of Decemberists. The band left their sitar at home which meant it was a more classic sound we got from the them, and we didn’t get the vibey instrumental Martine, as Heavy Lifter. Live, the songs kind of shed the slightly precise, processed feel that they have on record and really open up. Singer Ryan Barrett sounded great, with his warbly Appalachian voice prominent in the mix. A welcome addition to their sound was the prominent backing vocals from Alice Sandahls. The Pica Beats live are not markedly different from their album persona, there are slight differences, but they definitely create a more organic sound in the live. Now if they only would have brought that sitar, it might have been just about perfect.