Would You Tell Me If the Boat Is Sinking?

March 25, 2013 at 9:13 pm | Posted in Gigs, Music, Seattle, Tractor Tavern | 2 Comments
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Veronica Falls, Golden Grrrls and Brilliant Colors at the Tractor, Seattle | 21 March 2013

VeronicaFallsVeronicaFalls2

The Spring-time Slumberland traveling show stopped in Seattle last Thursday night. Veroncia Falls from London were the headliners and for good reason, their second album is no sophomore slump and adds some diversity by varying the tempos and adding a little more nuance in the form of some good old fashioned psychedelia to their jangling flying nun influenced pop. All of the leaves were reading that this would be great fun to see them play again. Too bad that it was kind of a disappointment. If the band would have just played it would have been a great show. They sounded great. The guitar and vocal interplay between Roxanne Clifford and James Hoare appeared to be in top form and everyone at the Tractor was grooving to it. The only thing was, the band weren’t happy with it and quipped to the sound guy between nearly every song that something was wrong. First it was more vocals, then it was less vocals then it was move, then less, then something else. By that time it had became a joke to everyone in the audience and a huge distraction to an otherwise good show. Too bad. I have said this before here, and it applies to not only bands playing but anytime you are speaking, acting, or doing anything in front of an audience: don’t dwell on the bad. Oftentimes you are the only one that notices. When you incessantly bring attention to it then you become the distraction/problem. People are paying to hear you play, you are professionals. If the sound is sub-par in your monitor deal with it and carry on.

stream: Veronica Falls – Teenage (from Waiting For Something to Happen out on Slumberland)

Golden Grrrls

Glasgow’s Golden Grrrls on the other hand were a bundle of wide-eyed fun. They obviously have drank at the K fountain. Beat Happening, Lois and Tiger Trap all are obvious influences, and being Scottish I’m sure they’ve imbibed their fair share of Pastels and Vaselines records. So it was fun seeing them play in the fertile ground of where their indiepop roots were first mixed together (they played Olympia the night prior). The three piece band of two guitars and drums were ramshackle and sweet in their delivery. The sound of Golden Grrrls lo-fi indipop aesthetic is quite prevalent these days, but few do it this well and with this kind of enthusiasm.

stream: Golden Grrrls – We’ve Got… (From their self-titled album on Slumberland)

BrillColors

In the middle of the two British Isles bands was the Bay Area’s Brilliant ColorsI remember the last time I saw them I was kind of impressed by how much they rocked out live. I continue to be impressed. Singer and guitarist Jess Scott has nack for writing noising melodic songs that seem to get new legs when the are played live.

stream: Brilliant Colors – I Was Born a Fantasist

All three bands had excellent merchandise for sale. Veroncia falls had CD versions of their second covers EP that coincided with the release of their album. Golden Grrrls had tour only 7-inch for sale and Brilliant Colors had an exclusive flexi for sale.

Something Neu

July 9, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Posted in Gigs, Neumo's, Seattle | Leave a comment
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Lower Dens & No Joy at Neumo’s, Seattle | 6 July 2012


It wasn’t hot in Neumo’s Friday night, but if it had been Lower Dens could have cooled it off with their Hyberborean hypnotic mix of ethereal and motorik. I will be the first to admit that I wasn’t a fan of the Baltimore band’s first album Twin Hand Movement. It was too uneven to really make an impact, but second album Nootropics is a different story. It isn’t vastly different from their first. Same atmosphere, but they’ve increased their German (and Bowie in Germany) tendencies digesting them to the point where they aren’t always obvious.  This is a band clearly firing on all cylinders: Melodic bass lines, amazing understated guitar and steady 4/4 rhythms gluing everything together.

They played in front of  a screen displaying blurry hallucinogenic imagery which added to the atmosphere created by the music. Androgynous singer Jana Hunter stood behind her keyboard rig, sometimes picking up a guitar but mostly entrancing everyone with her haunting Siouxie-like vocals. The band seemed to stretch everything out and make it more palpable. Many of the version of the songs were more muscular and the material from Twin Hand Movement really benefited from it, but even the Nootropics songs took on a more solid state. The pulsing beats of Brains and Lion In Winter Pt. 2 were easy highlights. The lazy guitar lead of Alphabet Song and the wonderful bass line of A Dog’s Dick were invigorating and the breezy Nova Anthem rejuvenated everyone.

The final song of the set In the End Is the Beginning ends in a wimper on the record, but this version took the band out in a squall. It went on for at least the twelve minutes that it gets on Nootropics. The band couldn’t quite decide when to end it. Guitarist Will Adams set his guitar feeding back into his amp and walked off stage and then Hunter followed leaving the rhythm section left to motor on. I assumed they would leave one by one, but Hunter came back out, to not play but just check things out, and then Adams came back out to turn his guitar off, and then they all left the stage again leaving drummer to wrap things up. It was quite the post-modern encore, deconstructing the seemingly senseless ritual inside of a single mind-bending song.  They could have called it a night and I think everyone expected them to because the audience didn’t really try, they just kind of milled around unsure if it was over. It wasn’t, they returned for a halfhearted two minute song and then disappeared. I still left impressed, but I would have been more impressed if they hadn’t done an encore. They had nothing left to prove.


mp3: Lower Dens – Brains (from Nootropics)

Listen to all of Nootropics on Spotify.


Canadian band No Joy opened. Having a weak spot for shoegaze I have liked their records, but not loved them. Live they sound nothing like any of their records. No shoegaze here, more like Dinosaur Jr and Husker Du. It was a powerful sound, but they seemed even less sure of themselves than they do on record. Everything sounded the same with the drums overwhelming everything. I though seeing them live would cement my liking them, but it only lead to more uncertainty.

Stream: No Joy – Junior (from the Negaverse EP on Mexican Summer)

Don’t Call Him a Throwback

May 30, 2012 at 10:14 pm | Posted in Gigs, Live Music, Music, Seattle, The Barboza | Leave a comment
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Nick Waterhouse at the Barboza, Seattle | 29 May 2012


Nick Waterhouse doesn’t like it when you call him retro and he doesn’t like it when you say he looks like Buddy Holly. He prefers you reference Bill Evans and doesn’t buy the retro tag.  He does kinda look like Buddy Holly, and I agree with him that he does look like Bill Evans too, but the jazz pianist is a reference many people will not get.  As for the retro thing, bands apeing My Bloody Valentine could be called retro since that was over 20 years ago. He just chooses to go back a little further for inspiration like Stax Records (Booker T!), Jimmy Smith and Them.

Waterhouse who is from southern California, dresses the retro part so it’s no wonder he gets the comparisons. He weighs in at a buck-twenty-five, but the guy’s style and showmanship makes him seem much bigger. Appearing in slacks, dinner jacket, loafers and horned rimmed glasses in Neumo’s basement last night, to the passer-by he looked like Buddy Holly. If you stayed, you quickly found out he sounds nothing like that rock and roller from Lubbock, Texas.  He brought with him a six-piece band, the Tarots which included a saxophone, bongos, keyboard player and girl back-up singer.  All of them looked dapper, which you immediately notice, since most bands these days appear on stage looking like they just got of bed.

The Barboza, the new space under Neumo’s that opened a couple weeks ago, has a cool ‘retro’ ambiance itself (I thought for a moment I was walking onto the set of the Sting when I walked through the door.) and was the perfect place for this gig.  The band was super tight. No weak links at all. Saxophone and girl backing vocals featured prominently in every song and Waterhouse’s vocals were a little smoother, than the slightly blown out takes that appear on the LP. He may disparage the retro tag, but he sure acts like he’s in a time warp. Introducing the band, using period jargon calling the audience ‘fine folks’, and just genuinely being an all around cool cat.

Raina, my favorite song from the record sounded great, but it was Is That Clear (#3 single of 2011) that blew the roof off the place. It was the final song in the set and it rumbled and raged. I would have left totally satisfied, but the audience wanted more and Waterhouse obliged. He and his band came back out and provided the perfect encore. It was Waterhouse doing a narrative over a mean groove. It seemed off the cuff, as he described being obsessed with 45’s, assembling his band, quitting his 46 hour a week job and going for it. Call him retro if you want, but I haven’t seen a show this hot in a while.

Time's All Gone

mp3: Nick Waterhouse – Raina (from Time’s All Gone on Innovative Leisure)

Frankie Rose: The Next Generation

April 27, 2012 at 6:34 am | Posted in Gigs, Music, Neumo's, Seattle | 1 Comment
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Frankie Rose & Dive at Neumo’s, Seattle | 25 April 2012

Many of the reviews of Frankie Rose‘s second album Interstellar have  been about how it was a huge leap from her lo-fi roots. Previously when I saw Frankie Rose a few years ago at SXSW just prior to her releasing her debut album Frankie Rose and the Outs, she was mostly still feedback and distortion. Live she may still have been reveling in reverb, but on record she had already begun to shed a lot of her Shit Storm-Vivian Girls-Crystal Stilts past. On Interstellar she continues on that same trajectory, employing the services of dance producer Le Chev to push her even further into new realms. Interstellar is steeped in 80’s Cure records and current day Swedish pop which itself is heavily influenced by those same Cure records.

Wednesday night at Neumo’s Frankie appeared wearing a black puffy pirate shirt that could have been borrowed from one of Prince‘s  Purple Rain entourage. She brought with her a solid band who had no problem recreating the icy sounding pop from Interstellar and slightly transforming the songs from her first album into shimmering celestial bodies similar to their Interstellar brethren. She seemed much more at ease as the frontperson compared to when I saw her a few years ago, talking about inane things like the rain and threatening a Sister of Mercy cover between songs, but doing it in a very likeable way. She’s an expressive singer, you can tell that she believes in her songs and delivers them with an excitement and intensity that is engaging to watch. She had  a bunch of reverb on her vocals, but I don’t think it was there to hide anything, just to make her voice sound bigger which it did quite well. Her encore of Pair of Wings may have been my favorite song of the night. Songs like Know Me  and Had We Had It are the ones that grabbed my attention from listening to the record at home, but Pair of Wings which was written by her former Shit Storm band mate  Wu Li Leung, transcended  those 80’s Cure records and delved into Abba-esque stratospheres and left me with an entirely new perspective on her already stellar Interstellar.

stream: Frankie Rose – Pair of Wings (from Interstellar on Slumberland Records)

Dive who are fronted by Beach Fossils guitarist, Kurt Cobain doppleganger and oversized sweater wearing Cole Smith are on tour with Frankie Rose serving as designated openers. On record so far, Dive sound very similar to Beach Fossils, but live they veer more towards instrumental guitar jams that remind me a little of Mogwai. Smith sings, but it wasn’t the focus. Live, Dive are all about the guitars. The twin attack was good for a few songs, but it seemed like every song went for the same trick which after a few songs, wasn’t so much of surprise. They’ve got something good to build on and I’ve liked their  singles to date. It will be interesting to see if their album due in June on Captured Tracks can sustain the excitement generated from their initial singles.

Stream: Dive – Geist
(from upcoming 7-inch on Captured Tracks)

Young Prisms Almost Nearly There

February 28, 2012 at 10:47 pm | Posted in Comet Tavern, Dreampop, Gigs, Seattle, Shoegaze | 1 Comment
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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.

Stream: Young Prisms – Floating In Blue (from In Between)

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

February 26, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Posted in Chop Suey, Crocodile, Gigs, Music, Seattle, Tractor Tavern | 3 Comments
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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

Full Time Punks: Wax Idols, Terry Malts and Wimps at the Funhouse

November 13, 2011 at 11:10 am | Posted in Funhouse, Gigs, Music, Seattle | 2 Comments
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Funhouse, Seattle, 10 November 2011:

One of the best punk albums to come out this year is Wax Idols‘ No Future.  The Oakland, California band’s debut is influenced by late 70’s early 80’s classic punk period bands like the Buzzcocks, and the Avengers. What makes it so great is that it isn’t just punk by numbers. The record is enhanced with a gothic influence that makes it not only rock, but haunt as well. It’s got punk style anthems with call response choruses, but it also has lighter side that is plain old classic pop. Wax Idols is band in name but really the moniker for the songs of the intense, passionate and always entertaining Heather Fortune.
Live Wax Idols are a four piece band with an all girl front line of guitars and bass and a guy on drums. Fortune demonstrated disaffected confidence as she and her band delivered punk their punk anthems fast and hard with barely a breath or word between songs. Even with a second guitarist, Fortune still played all the lead parts. Only putting down her guitar for their final song when the band was joined by Terry Malts guitarist Corey Cunningham for a cover of Christian Death‘s Romeo’s Distress. This allowed her to become more animated, grabbing a bar across the top of the stage and lean out toward the audience. If there were more people packed close to the stage I bet she would have dove into them. Fortune obviously know her history. She has even taken a punk moniker in changing her last name from the given Fedewa to Fortune the way so many of  the legendary punks of the past. Wax Idols are a product of the rich west coast punk history that remains largely unexplored by today’s current scene and they  give good cause to keep those history books up to date.

stream: Wax Idols – Dead Like You (from No Future on Hozac)

Wax Idols are on tour with fellow Oaklanders the Terry Malts. Prior to becoming a punk trio they were the Magic Bullets. After some kind of catharsis they saw the punk light and haven’t looked back. They crashed through their highly melodic catchy Ramones like set. It was fun, but would have been more fun if there had been a pit of sweaty punks slamming. That goes for the Wax Idols set too. Hopefully if both bands keep at it they’ll start to draw enthusiastic crazy tatood punks the way the Spits and Thee Oh Sees do.


Stream: Terry Malts – Something About You (from the 7 inch on Slumberland)

The first band of the night was Seattle’s Wimps. Wimps are pretty new (so new they don’t even have a web site), but the band is made up of veterans. Singer and guitarist Rachel Ratner also fronts the duo Butts and is a member of Partman Parthorse. Bassist Matt Nyce is in Consignment who have just released their first album on GGNZLA. I don’t know if drummer Dave Ramm has another current band but he was a former drummer for the Intelligence, which is kind of like saying he was a former guitarist in the Fall. Wimps kind of sound like Ratner’s other band Butts mainly because she sings and plays guitar in both, but Wimps aren’t as jokey. Super catchy short punk songs with crisp guitar that sounds like it is influenced by early 80’s Dischord records. Good stuff.

I didn’t stick around for all of the final band Dude York. They’re from Seattle too. Their first song was called Fuck City and it occurred to me while they were playing it that Fuck City is a much better name for a band than Dude York.  They kind of reminded me of  Too Much Joy with their jokey banter and revved up power pop.

A House In the Country

November 8, 2011 at 10:44 pm | Posted in Crocodile, Gigs, Music, Seattle | Leave a comment
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Real Estate were solid playing to a comfortably full Crocodile last night. I was standing on the Alex Bleecker side of the stage, which I would recommend. His bass was more audible which added a bit more substance to the songs and kept the lighter airy aspects anchored to solid ground. Real Estate are a suburban New Jersey band that write songs that go perfectly with driving on six lane arterials, waiting at red lights late at night with no one in sight and wandering through office parks. Their edge city rock wandered off into more bucolic places a few times last night. A couple songs midway through their set seemed to float by causing a yawn or two, but for the most part they kept it interesting and chill, focusing on the songs from their much stronger second album Days. After a 40 minute set that left everyone wanting more, they shyly sauntered back on stage for an encore and let Bleecker take the reigns to sing his song Wonder Years. That song momentarily took them out of the suburbs and landed them in a California canyon. It was possibly the best song of the night.

Stream: Real Estate – It’s Real (from Days on Domino)

I saw Big Troubles a few weeks back open for the Pains of Being Pure At Heart and thought they were good. Last night opening for Real Estate they were downright great. Amazing what a few weeks of touring will do for a band. They confidently blasted their songs to an audience waiting for Real Estate. Co-singers/guitarists Ian Drennan and Alex Craig had it down. Perfect timing, nonchalantly delivering killer riffs and just generally doing everything right. These guys seem older and wiser than the young band that they are. From their Boo Radleys (Lazy Day) sounding Freudian Slip to getting the legendary Mitch Easter to produce their new album Romantic Comedy to choosing to cover the Go-Betweens‘ Bachelor Kisses (which they did at the request of some super-geek who tweeted at the band the day of the show asking them to play it). There were no let downs in their 35 minute set. I kept thinking: ok, the next song is going to be a let-down because they can’t have another one that sounds this good, but they kept delivering. This was one of those shows that changes how you feel about a record. Before last night I thought Romantic Comedy was a fine record. After last night, I’m in love with it.

Stream: Big Troubles – Minor Keys (from Romantic Comedy on Slumberland)

Here are the remaining dates for Real Estate/Big Troubles tour:
11/11 San Francisco, CA Slim’s
11/12 Los Angeles, CA Echoplex
11/13 San Diego, CA Sunset Temple
11/14 Tempe, AZ Sail Inn
11/16 Austin, TX The Parish
11/17 Dallas, TX Club Dada
11/18 Memphis, TN Hi Tone Cafe
11/19 Lexington, KY Cosmic Charlie’s
11/20 Pittsburgh, PA Garfield Artworks
11/21 Philadelphia, PA Johnny Brenda’s
11/23 New York, NY Bowery Ballroom

All Corners Are Still

November 3, 2011 at 10:50 pm | Posted in Gigs, Music, Seattle, Sunset Tavern | Leave a comment
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Still Corners, Ganglians and Witch Gardens at the Sunset Tavern, Seattle | 1 November 2011


The record that got Still Corners noticed was their Don’t Fall In Love 7-inch on the Great Pop Supplement from last year. It was stark, icy and sounded like it came from a band wise beyond its years. Singer Tessa Murray had a haunting voice that sounded like Julie Cruise and the band sounded like they existed on a diet of Broadcast, Ennio Morricone and Peter Thomas. That record got bought up as fast as they were snatched up by Sub Pop after its release.  Fast forward a year and Still Corners have released their first album Creatures of an Hour on Sub Pop and are in the United States for their first big tour.

The band ably replicated the rich sound of their studio creations at the Sunset Tavern in Ballard Tuesday night. Tessa Murray spent part of her time behind a small keyboard and the rest to the side with just a microphone. Guitarist, main songwriter and sound architect Greg Hughes was off to her right coaxing all kinds of ethereal sounds from his guitar and effects pedals. The highlights of their set were the afore mentioned Don’t Fall In Love and Cuckoo which was another 7-inch single. Both of those songs generate a haunting cacophony that hits just the right nerve in me to generate a wave of euphoria. During those two songs it was as close to as good as Broadcast were when I saw them for the Noise Made By People tour. Broadcast kept it going for their entire show, Still Corners still have a little ways to go. They played a cover of Bruce Springsteen‘s I’m On Fire which was ok, but didn’t seem to quite fit and then played a couple other songs without any drums that veered too close to Cowboy Junkies territory for my taste.
Neither of those two things were showstoppers. Murray is easy on the eyes and commands attention. The band were addept and excelled at making the most of their somewhat quiet songs. Hopefully this is the Still Corners laying the groundwork for a run of impressive future records and shows. They’re off to a good start for this only being their first album.

mp3: Still Corners – Cuckoo (from Creatures of an Hour on Sub Pop)

I thought I like openers the Ganglians, but like Brian Eno thinking about his laundry when he was on stage with Roxy Music, I found myself thinking during their set about how I need to insulate my attic before winter arrives. I also waxed nostalgic about the Alarm. When I was a kid use to hate how they always were dismissed as a lesser U2. I also did some math, calculating that by the 2060’s the Ganglians would be in their 70’s, the 1960’s would be a hundred years in the past and would people still remember what hippies look like in the future.

mp3: Ganglians – Jungle (from Still Living on Lefse)

Seattle’s Witch Gardens played a short set with limited commentary from guitarist Casey Catherwood. It had been a few months since I last saw them, but time has been kind. They still posses ramshackle K-like qualities, but they seemed like they knew what they were doing this time, in a vague sort of way.

Yang Yang: Anika At the Crocodile

October 18, 2011 at 9:35 pm | Posted in Crocodile, Dub, Gigs, Ice Queens, Seattle | 2 Comments
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Anika played the Crocodile Sunday night. She looked and sounded like Nico fronting Metal Box era Public Image Limited. Actually she was fronting BEAK>,Geoff Barrow of Portishead‘s other band. His body double was behind the drums somehow making them sound as if they were being recorded by Martin Hannett.

Anika has the stage presence of an icicle, but it works. The songs have a steely isolating feel to them and her icy demeanor perfectly compliments them. When listening to desolate, dark dub music, I don’t want jokes and “Hello Seattle” in between songs. I want to feel on edge and slightly uncomfortable and that is what I felt as she awkwardly looked at the floor and moved her mic stand from one side of the stage to the other between songs, not speaking a word.

The set was heavy on the covers, but with a band that has such a strong aesthetic, they could cover just about anything and make it interesting and their own. The set included covers of Twinkle‘s Terry, Dylan‘s Masters of War, the Kinks‘ I Go To Sleep, and Yoko Ono‘s Yang Yang all of which appeared on the Stones Throw album. There were new ones too. The Crystals‘ He Hit Me and the Chromatics‘ In the City were both highlights. The set ended with a version of the Talking Heads‘ Once In a Lifetime which seemed so new to them that Anika pulled out a little black book for the lyrics. The setlist had one more song on it that they didn’t play, another cover, He Needs Me from the Popeye soundtrack. I’m sure it would have been sublimely weird, but Anika turned and left the stage after Once In a Lifetime with nary a goodbye.

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