Tags: Humphreys By the Bay, Ride, San Diego, Shoegaze
Ride at Humphreys By the Bay, San Diego | 16 April 2015
As luck would have it, I was in San Diego for spring break during the dead week of Coachella to see the recently reformed Ride, OG shoegazers from Oxford. The dead week is the week between the two Coachella weekends where bands if they’re lucky book shows in San Francisco, San Diego, Pamona, or anywhere but Los Angeles due to contractual restrictions of playing that giant festival in the desert. Having lived in San Diego for 11% of my life I wasn’t completely surprised when I arrived to see that the venue was mostly empty. Shows that routinely sell out places like the Showbox or the Neptune here in Seattle barely fill the Casbah in San Diego which is about he size of the Sunset in Seattle. To be fair, there had been problems with buying advanced tickets through Ticketmaster up until a few days before the show. Humphreys By the Bay holds about 1500 and is a place that usually hosts acts like the Steve Miller Band, Chicago and Boz Scaggs. The venue is nestled in palm trees and sail boats on San Diego bay. I don’t think I’ve been to a nicer place to see a show.
Ride, having recently reformed, had only played a handful of shows prior to this one, but they were in top form. Unaffected by the poor turn out, the band still seemed be energized to be playing for the meager crowd that San Diego offered up. They opened the set with a surprise. Nowhere the title track from their 1990 debut album is a meandering song that closes the album and hadn’t been played yet at one of their reunion shows. It was nearly twice as long as its recorded version and acted as warm up for both band and crowd. It ebbed and flowed like the monster wave on the album cover, creating an ominous feel in among the palm trees that surrounded the venue. Andy Bell and Mark Gardner wove their guitars into surges and then let it go all hazy as the song washed over everyone. They quickly followed with Seagull which sent a burst of lightening into everything. Steve Queralt delivered that sinewy bass groove for everything to wrap itself around while Andy Bell playing a twelve string guitar and made everything go hallucinogenic.
The younger me was always enamored by the guitars of Bell and Gardener, but the older me realized that the reason Ride were so good on their first two albums was due to the drumming of Loz Colbert and Queralt’s bass. Loz resembles Stuart Copeland in his look and style. It’s an adrenaline filled delivery that hasn’t lost a step in 20 years. It’s almost like he’s playing to a different song sometimes, and he’ll seemingly pull the band into the breach with him. Queralt often-times was laying down a guitar like riff with his bass that propelled the songs while Bell and Gardener were left free to make their squalls of noise with no concern for melody thanks to him.
The set list was hard to argue with. They only played one post Going Blank Again Song (Black Night Crash) and hit nearly every highlight from Nowhere and Going Blank Again. I only wish they would have included one or two more from Nowhere like Decay, Polar Bear or Kaleidoscope. That’s a minor qualm when you consider that they played Dreams Burn Down, Taste, Vapor Trail, Chrome Waves, Leave Them All Behind, Chelsea Girl and Drive Blind.
I’m a big skeptic when it comes to reunion shows, but Ride were the real deal. Comparing it to when I saw them on the Going Blank Again tour back in 1992, I would say it was even. Sure, they lacked the youthful bravado of those heady days, and Gardener was missing his rock god locks and sported a fedora to hide the fact. I would argue that they are better musicians today with more attention to making the songs really crack. Bell was playing insane riffs that I doubt he was capable of back then. The rhythm section seemed to own every song, and Gardener’s voice was stronger which gave the often obscured melodies to the songs a bit more sheen than they ever had. During the finale of Drive Blind you could make out a giant grin across Mark Gardener fave. It used to be serious noise that Ride made, now it’s just fun, as it always should have been.
Cool Your Boots
Black Nite Crash
Dreams Burn Down
Time of Her Time
Leave Them All Behind
Tags: Australia, Day Ravies, Shoegaze, Strange Pursuits
Sydney’s Day Ravies followup last year’s stellar 7-inch with a four song EP they call Under the Lamp. It’s being released as a cassette and download by Strange Pursuits which is a brand new label started by Sam Wilkinson who sings and plays guitar in the band. The band say this is a teaser for their second album which they are working on. No word on whether any of these four songs will be on their next album, but based on how good they are I wouldn’t be surprised if all four of them make an appearance.
The four song EP starts with Sleepwalk which takes up right where Hickford Whizz left off last year and sees the Ravies continuing their more straightforward pop head rush. Perennial features a great chorus and a killer guitar solo that is brief but efficient and keeps with the song’s penny arcade psychedelia. Prior Hour the closer is the comedown from the pop highs of the previous three songs and has a slow burn melancholy to it that has touches of Mazzy Star in it. This EP and the Hickford Whizz single from last year should have folks lining up for the upcoming album number two.
Day Ravies’ Under the Lamp EP is available from Strange Pursuits.
Tags: Chapter Music, Merge Records, Seattle, Sunset Tavern, The Bats, The Clean, The Feelies, The Go-Betweens, Twerps, Yo La Tengo, Zebra Hunt
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.
Tags: Buffalo Springfield, Chop Suey, Dragnet Records, Grateful Dead, Mazes, Proper Ornaments, Seattle, Trouble In Mind, Ultimate Painting, Universe People, Velvet Underground, Veronica Falls
Remember when Ride lost the plot after Going Blank Again and tried to morph their sound into some neo-psychedlic 60s blend of the Byrds, Velvet Underground and Buffalo Springfield but ended up sounding like the Black Crowes? Tuesday night at Chop Suey the UK’s Ultimate Painting demonstrated the tangent that Ride should have taken. Their set brimmed with paisley tinged psychedelia that trod the fine line of subtle melodic turns, buzzy droning and all out jams.
The group’s self-titled album came out last year on Chicago’s Trouble in Mind. The record has a subdued sound to that features major nods to the Velvet Underground’s prettier side, but live they crank up the danger levels into White Light / White Heat territory. Talking Central Park Blues was a great example of this, with Jack Cooper taking the lead on this New York narrative that is their sister Ray making it sound a lot more energized than the recorded version. Cooper also plays in Mazes. In Ultimate Painting he shares guitar and vocal duties with James Hoar from Veronica Falls and Proper Ornaments. It seems like a true collaboration, with both contributing to the songs. Cooper may take a lead vocal, while Hoar takes the lead guitar part, and both contributing harmonies to the other’s vocals.
They also included a couple new songs from an album that they said would be coming out in August. One of them showcased the influence of the Grateful Dead (Casey Jones) that I hadn’t noticed before, but is fairly obvious given the group’s twitter icon. The set closed with with Ten Street which they turned into an extended jam. The rhythm section provided a great stage for Cooper and Hoar to get a little crazy playing off of one another, going into a few rabbit holes of guitar goodness. It lasted for about 10 minutes but it could have gone on for 20 and no one would have complained. Live Ultimate Painting seem to have an innate sense of when to head off on a tangent extending their solid album into something better and much more interesting.
Ultimate Painting’s self-titled album is out on Trouble In Mind.
Seattle’s Universe People opened the show playing songs from their two albums as well as new one. They were solid as usual. They’re jerky angular songs keep you on your toes. The Modern Girl, Chemistry, Druids and Vampire Prison were all present in their set and demonstrated how great this band is.
Tags: A Frames, Castle Face, Chop Suey, Field Music, High Llamas, Male Gaze, Mt. St. Mtn., Seattle, The Tiaras, Trashcan Sinatras
Male Gaze are a group of males made up of former members of other bands: Matt Jones and Adam Finken of Blasted Canyons, Mark Kaiser from Mayyors, and Adam Cimino from The Mall. Jones who sings, plays guitar and runs Castle Face records along with John Dwyer doesn’t have much range in his vocals, but he uses this limitation to good effect. He keeps his dark monotone in the strictly gothic range, while Kaiser’s bass and Cimino drums lay down a pummeling foundation to build up intense, apocalyptic, paranoia songs.
The Male Gaze debut album only came out this week, so maybe that explains why this show was so sparsely attended, or perhaps it was the 70 degree weather causing a bout of spring fever. Too bad for the rest of Seattle I guess, especially those in the population who like the post punk desolation akin to our very own A-Frames. The newly revamped Chop Suey was still sparkling, not yet defiled by rock n’ roll debauchery. The stage even has a red velvet curtain that closes between bands, lending to a sense of drama to each set. The rhythm section was unreal and didn’t really need an curtain to create a sense of drama. Their lights-out playing was the highlight of the night and they made it look way too easy. Songs like Cliffs of Madness, The Shining Paths and Bridge and Tunnel Vision are dark pop masterpieces that ravaged live. Impressive, and my admiration for the band increased knowing that they can bring this sort of intensity even when playing to 20 people.
Tour mates the Tiaras share a guitarist in Adam Finken and feature former Ganglians Ryan Grubbs and Kyle Hoover. Their self-titled debut album came out earlier this year on Mt. St. Mtn. It’s probably not what you would expect if you remember the lo-fi stoner rock of the Ganglians. The Tiaras are all shimmering pop with a few angles in the vein of Field Music, High Llamas, and the Trashcan Sinatras. Their lush stylized pop is sometimes hard to translate into a live setting. At first I thought that they sounded much too murky, but when lead guitarist Kyle Hoover switched from his twelve string guitar to his trusted 6 string Rickenbacker everything came together and their emotive pop set won out.
Tags: Drag City, Jessica Pratt, Jim Sullivan, Joanna Newsome, Kevin Morby, Nick Drake, Seattle, Sunset Tavern
Jessica Pratt at the Sunset Tavern, Seattle | 20 February 2015
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.
Tags: Buzzcocks, Flatemates, Pocketbooks, Popguns, Razorcuts, Shelflife Records, Shop Assistants, The Fireworks, The Primitives, Wedding Present
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to waste my time. So many bands these days go two or three songs into their albums before actually delivering a decent hook. There is no such problem with the Fireworks. The London band do not dillydally. Buzzy guitars blast out as soon as you hit play. Sharp pop inspired by the Buzzcocks and the Shop Assistants jumps out and swiftly grabs you and pulls you out of the dull world and into something kaleidoscopic and exciting.
The record opens with With My Heart and Runaround, the best one-two punch of any record in recent memory. With My Heart starts with a Mary Chain cacophony and then Emma Hall launches in with her cool delivery. Runaround quickly follows with its clamoring guitars and undeniable chorus, and it doesn’t let up. You might think that they couldn’t sustain this shockingly good barrage of great songs, but they do. Hall trades vocal duties with guitarist Matthew Rimmell to keep you on your toes and his Corner of My Mind and Let You Know offer up a more autumnal sound to even out the pace of the album
The Fireworks may sound like a throwback to the late 80’s UK underground and the C-86 scene to some, but a record this good never goes out of style.
Tags: Apples In Stereo, Boat, Guided By Voices, Jigsaw Records, Left Banke, Math & Physics Club, Mirror Universe Tapes, New Pornographers, The Who, Unlikely Friends
With Boat on somewhat of a hiatus and Math and Physics Club in the middle of their standard four or so years between albums what is a guy to do in the green and mossy Pacific Northwest? Well, in the case of Boat’s Dave Crane you round up a new bunch of friends, call yourselves Unlikely Friends and cook up a new batch of killer pop pop songs. You will undoubtedly recognize the voice of Charles “Chaz” Bert from Math & Physics Club and you may know Chris Mac (the Indiepop King of Seattle) who runs the Jigsaw record label and mail order and is at least in three bands around town at any given time.
Solid Gold Cowboys will be easy to like if you are already a Boat fan because Crane’s voice and his penchant for writing hooky pop songs. The gunslinger in this game is Bert who usually keeps things pretty mellow when singing in MAPC, but really lets loose on many of these songs adding an quantifiable effervescence into them.
The album is a combination of precise pop hooks akin to Guided By Voices and the sunny sweet bubblegum psychedelia of the Apples in Stereo. Soft Reputation and Satellite Station are the best of examples of this great combination, but that doesn’t really cover it. Ride Off Into the Sunset chugs along like Love and Rockets, Gold Hills Theme nods to the dusty spaghetti western soundtrack music of Ennio Morricone and Gold Coast Marauders has the delicacy of a Left Banke song. Crane usually takes the lead vocal with Bert coming in on the chorus to put the song into the stratosphere.
Considering the backgrounds of these three (Un)likely friends it’s not surprising that they got together to make a record. The unlikely part is that the peanut butter and chocolate combination of the heart on your sleeve style of Boat juxtaposed with the sweetness of Math and Physics Club is satisfying winner.
If you are in Seattle, you won’t want to miss Unlikely Friends record release show at the Rendezvous in Belltown, Saturday, February 21 with Ruler and Oh! Pears.