Jangly Good Times with Twerps at the Sunset


I remember seeing the Lucksmiths eight or nine years ago at the Sunset in Ballard and getting into a conversation with someone at the show about how strange it was for a band to travel half way around the world just to play this tiny bygone place in Ballard where the bar was right in front of the stage. A lot has changed in Ballard since then, including the Sunset. It has recently been remodeled so that there is a front room called Betty’s Room that is open to non-ticket holders and then there is a separate back room where you need to pay a cover to get in to see the bands. It’s very similar to places like Piano’s and the Mercury Lounge in Manhattan. They may moved the bar away from the stage, but they left the giant support beam that cuts across the stage make a substantial obstacle for tall bass players who like to jump around. I guess you could say it adds some character to the place. All things considered the remodel is a major improvement.

Now it feels like a destination for bands traveling half way around the world, like the Twerps from Melbourne, Australia. Three years ago when they were in Seattle, they played at Chop Suey to a score of people. This time it was sold out. The Twerps at their core are Marty Frawley and Julia McFarlane, both sing and play guitar. Helping them out this tour is the rhythm section from the Stevens who also share a record label, Chapter Music in Australia. The Twerps new album Range Anxiety features much better production than their debut and quite a few fairly obvious nods to the Go-Betweens. Live the band seemed loose and in good spirits despite a late night drive to make it to Seattle in time for a session at KEXP earlier that day. Marty has a cheeky sense of humor, at one point in the set declaring his preference for Portland over Seattle. He seemed to relish playing to a full room. A couple highlights from the set for me included Jules’s Raft from the Underlay EP. This song doesn’t really sound like a Twerps song, but was pretty great nonetheless sounding part Bats and part Lovelife era Lush. Another highlight was Simple Feelings which really took an Feelies vibe with its swirling guitar and manic beat. The set was packed full of gems like like Dreamin’, Work It Out, I Don’t Mind and Back to You. With  two albums and a handful of EP’s the band had bounty of riches to choose from and they chose wisely, making it a jangly good time for everyone.

Range Anxiety by Twerps is out now on Merge Records.

Zebra Hunt who opened for the Twerps at Chop Suey three years ago also opened Saturday evening. I can’t think of a better match of bands for a bill. If you haven’t checked out Zebra Hunt’s album yet and dig the Twerps, I can guarantee that you will love it.

Plain As Your Eyes Can See

Jessica Pratt at the Sunset Tavern, Seattle | 20 February 2015

Jessica Pratt

The first think you notice about Jessica Pratt is her voice. To some it will be an acquired taste, to others it is unique and disarming. It has a quaint otherworldliness to it. When you hear her, you assume you are hearing some long forgotten folk singer, but when she sits in front of you at the Sunset Tavern in Ballard you have to believe your senses. Her at once world weary and child like voice floated over the full room as she picked her acoustic guitar and her accompanist delicately played an electric guitar. Pratt’s music demands quiet and you could have heard a pin drop during her 40 minute set.

She usually gets compared to well known 60’s female folkies, but I hear so much Jim Sullivan in her songs that all other comparisons pale in, erm comparison. Sullivan’s UFO album was reissued a few years back by Light in the Attic and is lost gem of the early 1970’s. Pratt has a similar quality Sullivan had, before his untimely disappearance, of writing songs that sound impossibly sad while somehow containing a simple radiance in them. She played selections from both of her albums and was at ease talking to the audience between songs, almost like she would come out of character to become her 21st century self to banter and then revert to the 20th century folk singer to sing. She mentioned that she was born in Seattle and lived here until she was eight years old, but this was her first time being back since then. It is somewhat amazing to believe that Pratt was actually born somewhere and lived a life in these times, because her music leads you to believe that she has just been like this forever.

Jessica Pratt’s second album On Your Own Love Again is out on Drag City.

Headliner Kevin Morby put on a good show as well. I was a big fan of his previous band Babies that he formed with former Vivian Girl Cassie Ramone. He has since gone solo and has two albums of durable country influenced pop to date, but they fail to excite me the way that those Babies records did. Still, not bad.

Fell from a Cloud: Eternal Summers, Bleeding Rainbow & Zebra Hunt at the Sunset

Eternal Summers, Bleeding Rainbow & Zebra Hunt at the Sunset Tavern, Seattle | 8 September 2012

Someone yelled out in between songs of Eternal Summers set Saturday at the Sunset, “I just want to move to Roanoke!”  Nicole Yun deadpanned back, “Be careful what you wish for.” Yun and her band Eternal Summers are from Roanoke, Virginia, so it wasn’t exactly encouragement. Even so I can see the potential attraction. These days southern Virgina is dotted with attention deserving bands like White Laces, Super Vacations, Young Sinclairs and Wild Nothing, but Eternal Summers are my favorite. The bounty in the South right now reminds me of late 80’s when there was a highway of great pop from Mitch Easter‘s Drive-in studio in North Carolina all the way down to REM‘s hometown of Athens, Georgia.

Eternal Summers second album Correct Behavior deftly combines the sweet pop of Belly, moodiness of the Cure, attitude of Smashing Pumpkins and the angular bounce of Pylon. Behavior is a huge leap forward from their debut Silver in both songwriting and production. It’s one of the year’s best records and the trio ably put on a show to rival the record.

Now officially a trio, which according to Mr. Robert Forster (I am in accordance with and Eternal Summers prove),  the purest form of rock and roll expression. They ripped through an hour long set that did not have a single let down. Millions, You Kill, I Love You, Prisoner, Wonder and Disappear all delivered the goods. Drummer Daniel Cundiff even snuck in his ace Girls In the City. Yun’s singing easily rivaled the squall created by the band and she is also no slouch on guitar either. Many of her leads sounded like there were two guitarists. My only complaint about the show was how sparsely attended it was especially for a Saturday night. Has word not gotten out about how great this band is, or has everyone moved to Roanoke?

mp3: Eternal Summers – You Kill (from Correct Behavior on Kanine)

Eternal Summers are on tour with Philadelphia’s Bleeding Rainbow (né Reading Rainbow). Previously a duo they’ve expanded to a four piece and kind of reinvented their sound. I like the new direction, it combines the 60’s Topanga Canyon with effects laden guitars similar to territory that the Telescopes were exploring in shoegaze heyday of the early 90’s. Look for a new album from them early next year on Kanine.

stream: Bleeding Rainbow – Pink Ruff

Seattle’s own Zebra Hunt opened the show. Their Dunedin sound by way of Ballard, which I can’t get enough of at the moment, sounded great. They played all three songs from their darling bandcamp EP and threw in a very appropriate cover of the Clean‘s Oddity. Like I needed another reason to like these guys.

All Corners Are Still

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.

Sunshine or Headlights

Headlights at the Sunset Tavern, Seattle | 8 November 2009

headlights at the sunset tavern

Headlights third album Wildlife, which came out on Polyvinyl last month, is something of a departure from this Champaign, Illinois band’s previous records. For starters it’s a much more confident, relaxed, prettier and not as straightforward as the previous two records. I kind of like the fact that it’s not so obvious.  That’s not to say it doesn’t have pop songs on it, it’s just that the band seems to present them from odd perspectives. One moment embracing Chicago-style post-rock, the next they’re going for the orchestral pop jugular, and then sneaking in some fancy ethereal guitar pop effects.

That’s a lot of stuff to pack in a van and head out on the road with, but Headlights brought all of that and more to the Sunset Tavern in Ballard last night. Besides the harmonies of keyboardist Erin Fein and guitarist Tristan Wraight there was the amazing rhythm section of drummer Brett Sanderson and Nick Sanborn. Watching Sanderson own the drums was easily the highlight of the set and something I hadn’t noticed listing to their records. His drumming had this trashcan staccato sound to it that reminded me of Stephen Morris of New Order, back when he actually played drums.  The Sanderson-Sanborn rhythm section seemed to be mentally joined at the hip and their fluent playing drove the songs into a more immediate and intense directions, but didn’t overpower Fein and Wraight’s bright singing.  Now that winter has decided to set in with its dark skies, rain and general gloom I know I depend more and more on bands being able to bring that summer rush of sunshine back into my life. Sunday night the Headlights did exactly that. An hour long sun-break that provided enough vitamin D to get me through the week.

mp3: Headlights – Get Going (from Wildlife, buy it from Polyvinly)


Boat and the Nightgowns at the Sunset Tavern, Seattle | 7 August 2009

das BOAT!

BOAT played the Sunset Tavern last night over in Ballard. They totally rocked it. New songs blowing everybody’s mind, confetti everywhere, and a big I-5 highway shield (but no Wedding Present cover).  They passed out shakers for new song God Save The Man Who Isn’t All That Super, which they wrote special for audience shaker participation. We also found out what Dave Crane has been doing every night for the last month (he’s been in his garage creating stage props for their huge October record release gig).  BOAT are back from their self-imposed hiatus of recording their new record Setting the Paces (out end of October on Magic Marker) and taking no prisoners.   The album is easily the band’s best album yet, and since it doesn’t come out for two months,  get a preview of the new songs by getting yourself out of the house and down to a BOAT gig, no excuses!

The other Tacoma band of the evening, Nightgowns were good as well.  They seemed much more comfortable in the cozy confines of the Sunset versus the gigantic EMP Skychurch where I saw them a few weeks back.  BOAT took a few minutes out of their set to wholeheartedly endorse the Nightgowns album Sing Something, and I couldn’t agree with them more.  It’s a sublime underwater new wave experience.

mp3: BOAT – Name Tossers (from Setting the Paces, coming soon on Magic Marker)

Here’s video I shot of another new song, Prince of Tacoma.

…and the BOAT tour dates.

Aug 8 Backspace (All Ages) – Portland, Oregon
Aug 9 TBA (All Ages!) – Redding, CA
Aug 11 Biko’s Garage – Santa Barbara, CA
Aug 12 Silver Factory – Los Angeles, CA
Aug 13 J Dee’s Landing – Palm Springs, CA
Aug 14 The Tin Can – San Diego, CA
Aug 15 Luigi’s Fun Garden – Sacramento, CA
Aug 16 The Hemlock Tavern – San Francisco, CA

So Cow, So There

SoCow looking for a blurb about his upcoming Seattle gigs.

I’m not usually one to do show previews. I’m more the type to tell you about them after the fact.  But I feel it is my civic duty to tell you about the two upcoming So Cow shows here in Seattle, especially  since both the Seattle Weekly and the Stranger totally missed the boat, or cow as it were on these gigs.  On record So Cow are one guy, Brian Kelly who spent some time in South Korea, but hails from Ireland. Live, he’s got a full band with him to fill out the empty spaces.  He’s put out a bunch of singles and CD-r albums and has kind of flown under a lot of people’s radar, but just a about a month ago Tic Tac Totally put out a very nice 33 and a third that compiles some the older CD-r tracks as well as some new ones and seems to have garnered a bit of attention too.  My friend Bill over at Sound Bites put it succinctly when he said this about So Co:

…owing more than a little to the Pastels, Flying Nun, Calvin Johnson, Jeffrey Lewis… but he’s clearly got his own point of view. Highly recommended.

This is truly grade-A stuff and not to be missed, and since they’re playing two shows here in the delightfully sunny emerald city you really don’t have an excuse to miss them. Sunday night So Cow are at the Funhouse sandwiched in between the Suspicions and the Electric Kisses. Monday night at the Sunset Tavern over in Ballard  looks a little more enticing with the Coconut Coolouts headlining and Oakland’s Dreamdate on the bill as well. I’m so smitten with this Tic Tac Totally album, that I will likely be at both of these gigs.

mp3: So Cow – Casablanca

mp3: So Cow – To Do List

Both songs are from the Tic Tac Totally LP, which you can buy directly from the label.  You can also download a covers ep from the So Cow website (for free) that includes the Who‘s Boris the Spider and Kirsty MacColl‘s They Don’t Know and the Television Personalities‘ This Angry Silence.

Intelligence for Christmas

The Intelligence, Coconut Coolouts and Idle Times at the Sunset | 26 December 2008


The last few weeks the emerald city has been crippled by constant snow. City leaders have considered rechristening Seattle the albino city.  Not only has it been a battle to get to work, but a whole bunch of shows have been canceled because of the white stuff as well.  Finally it has started to melt away, like the novelty it was met with.  So the Sunset was packed last night with people dying for a gig since so many had been canceled in the past week.  People were also there because of the killer bill being headlined by Seattle noiseniks the Intelligence.  Right now, the one record I’m looking forward to the most in 2009  is the new Intelligence album.  After 2006’s quite amazing Deuteronomy, this year’s split 12″ with Thee Oh Sees and their two recent seven inch singles on Platic Idol and April 77 the Intelligence are on a roll.

To say that the Intelligence are big Fall fans might be an understatement.  Head Intelligence guy Lars Finberg was previously in the A-Frames who initially called themselves Bend Sinister.  The A-Frames  started their own  label called Dragnet to put out records, and then there’s the fact that the Intelligence have opened for the Fall.  They may be influenced by the Fall, but they take things in their own unique direction.  The band’s angular sound incorporates early Cabaret Voltaire, Echo and the Bunnymen and Public Image Limited, but shapes these influences into to something that sounds foreign and fresh. They started their set with four or five brand new songs that will likely be showing up on the new record due sometime in the spring.  Every single one of the new songs was a warped masterpiece, and only made me more impatient for that new record.  They also hit heavily on Deuteronomy including their cover of Thee Oh Sees‘ Block of Ice.  At one point, before diving into a Urinals cover Lars incorrectly said that the best songs in their set were all covers.  I couldn’t disagree more, the Intelligence are one of the best bands in Seattle right now!

mp3: Intelligence – Sixteen and Seventeen (buy the April 77 single)

mp3: Intelligence – Fido (buy the Plastic Idol single)

mp3: Magnetic Fields – Fido, Your Leash Is Too Long (from 69 Love Songs)

mp3: Cabaret Voltaire – Nag Nag Nag (from Original Sound of Sheffield 78/82)


Both the Coconut Coolouts and Idle Times hail from Seattle garages also.  The Coconut Coolouts not only sported two drummers, but they also both were stand-up drummers.  They had me at two drummers but two standup drummers?  It was almost impossible to not like them.  The Coconut Coolouts remind me of the Nuggets box set, where there are so many great bands with seminal songs on those cd’s that I had never heard, it’s hard to believe that the bands weren’t bigger than their regional popularity .   The Coconut Coolouts will likely be on on a Nuggets comp sometime in the year 2040 and people will be wondering why they had never heard of these guys with classics like Spinaround, Coconut Weekend, Party Jail and Stickup.   Apparently they sometimes dress in banana costumes for gigs, no bananas were on stage but they were throwing out lifesavers saying they were acid.  No-one believed them and earnestly responded to the band’s suggestion of pelting the lifesavers back at the band.  Even without the banana costumes their set was a blast.  They also  do a mean Skankin Pickles cover.
mp3: Coconut Coolouts – (Please Don’t Break Me Out Of) Party Jail (from Party Time Machine)

idle times

Idle Times, are pretty new having just put out their first seven inch on Woodsist and have another one due on HoZac early next year.  Idle Times are the remnants of the short-lived Tall Birds who put out a couple singles before calling it a day.  Their blissed out set was full of hooks obscured by sludgy noise.  I was impressed enough to pick up the band’s Woodsist single, hot off the press.  Let’s hope Idle Times last a bit longer than Tall Birds.

Here are the remaining West Coast dates for the Intelligence tour:

Dec 29 – luigi’s fun garden, Sacramento
Dec 30 – the redwood, Los Angeles
Dec 31 – show cave, Los Angeles
Jan 1  – bar pink elephant, San Diego
Jan 2  – the hemlock, San Francisco
Jan 3  – the stork club, Oakland

Bringing the Noise

Thee Oh Sees and the Intelligence at the Sunset Tavern, Seattle | 9 October 2008

Not having seen Thee Oh Sees or the Intelligencebefore I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Well I sorta new what to expect, lots of white noise drenched pop songs.  The Intelligence’s new album Deuteronomy is leaps and bounds ahead of their previous two with clearer production and better songs, but the band stick with their noisy punk rock roots only delivering them more effectively.  The Oh Sees new album, the lengthy titled The Master’s Bedroom Is Worth Spending a Night In is sonic trip drenched in loads of echo and reverb with songs that are part Brian Jonestown Masacre, part Raveonettes and but mostly Cramps.

So when I saw two drum sets being set up for what I thought was to be Intelligence I was intrigued.  In my world, two drummers is almost always a cool thing.  Then I saw John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees setting up his amps and tuning his twelve string guitar so I figured that the schedule had been switched up to let the hometown Intelligence headline.  Then I saw Lars Finberg of the Intelligence on the other side of the stage with his twelve string.  Not knowing what to think at this point, I figured that since these two guys are friends and their bands having just put out a split 12″ (on mtn st mtnand it’s sold out already), that Dwyer was maybe going to play with Intelligence for their set.  I was totally wrong, and actually a little confused when both Thee Oh Sees and Intelligence bounded on the tiny Sunset Tavern stage.  What exactly did Thee Oh Sees and the Intelligence have in store? 

With Thee Oh Sees on the A-side and Intelligence on the B-side, the bands ended up playing the entire show like the split release they just put out.   Thee Oh Sees would do a song and then the Intelligence’s, and that’s how it went for the whole set back and forth with various members of each band joining in the other’s song here and there.  At one point after Thee Oh Sees one of their songs, Finberg says, I hope you liked that song and then the Intelligence proceed to play the same song.  That song, Block of Ice, was written by Dwyer and is on both Thee Oh Sees record as the new Intelligence record.  You might think delivering a set like this would feel a little disjointed, but these two bands have such similar sounds that it really worked.  First there are the obvious similarities like Dwyer and Finberg’s twelve string guitars and apparent disdain for the bass guitar.  Both bass players (I shouldn’t call them that, they were really guitarists)  were playing bass lines on regular guitars.  Though they do have a similar sound aesthetic, the bands are easily distinguishable from one another.  Thee Oh Sees have with their Cramps fetish and psychedelic garage rockabilly tempered with sunny west coast melodies courtesy Brigid Dawson. The Intelligence verge more towards a Dragnet and Grotesque era Fallschool of angular garage rock with a heavy dose the weirdness exhibited Ohio noiseniks Braniac.  Both bands looked like they were having a blast doing their ping pong set.  Dwyer was always making weird facial expressions, and manhandling his guitar with Chuck Berry poses.  Finberg, when he sings has this infectious grin his face that belies the artiness of their sound. There was also some lite hearted jabbing at one another with Finberg flipping his guitar over displaying the words ‘Fuck You’ and gesturing at Thee Oh Sees.   The double decker set really worked, with the Sunset crowd totally digging both bands, cheering them on as if they were in a race.

I got there early enough to catch the openers.  The first band was Love Tan which is another project of Craig Chambers of the Lights. Love Tan is Chambers on guitar and vocals accompanied by drummer Matthew Ford who use to be in the Intelligence. It was a perfect fit for this treble heavy bill. Also caught Ty Segal who is a one man band from San Francisco.  He played drums, guitar and sang all at once. I’m amazed by anyone that can do two things at once, Ty can do at least three.

mp3: Thee Oh Sees – Block of Ice (from The Master’s Bedroom Is Worth Spending a Night)

mp3: The Intelligence – Block of Ice (from Deuteronomy)

mp3: The Intelligence – Moon Beams (also from Deuteronomy)

Back to The Twentieth Century

The 1900’s at the Sunset Tavern, Seattle | 2 September 2008

Chicago’s 1900’s are out on the West Coast for a short tour to bring their baroque pop sounds to the Pacific Northwest. Over the weekend they were up in Vancouver, BC to play the Malkin Bowl mini-festival in Stanely Park. I was surprised they didn’t also play this past weekend’s Bumbershoot festival here in Seattle. I suppose blame with the anomalies of booking. I’m sure the band would have rather played a jam packed venue at the Seattle Center instead of a spacious Sunset Tavern on Tuesday night. In any event, they played, and the small group of people at the Sunset were not disappointed.

The band number seven, crammed themselves onto the small stage which didn’t leave very much room for movement, but they seemed to create a lot of heat nonetheless.  They seem to get a lot of comparisons to Fleetwood Mac and guitarist Ed Anderson, brought this up saying the main difference between them and the Mac was that the 1900’s do more coke.  The band’s alleged romantic entanglements aside, their amped up version of baroque pop does at times sound like Fleetwood Mac, but their sound also brings to mind bands like the Essex Green and Ladybug Transistor.  Playing stuff from both their first ep Plume Delivery and album Cold and Kind and leaving out all of their slower songs, the band kept the energy high and the harmonies tight throughout the set.  They sounded not as polished as their records, but that added to their charm and showed a more rock side of the band. Singers Jeannie O’Toole and Caroline Donovan harmonies were a highlight, but the entire band seemed to play the songs with a comfortable ease and enthusiasm that was infectious.

Cold and Kind came out last year, so the band have recently put out a 7 inch single containing a couple out takes from Cold and Kind as a stop gap between albums.  Neither one of the songs from the new single were played Tuesday night, so here’s one ’em.

mp3: The 1900’s – Everybody’s Got a Collection (buy the single)

Set list: Bring The Good Boys Home | Georgia | When I Say Go | Babies | Painted White | Acutiplantar Dude | The Medium Way | Not Wrong | Two Ways