My Weekend Was Pretty Damn Good. How Was Yours?

Thee Oh Sees at the Funhouse
Thee Oh Sees on the basketball court at the Funhouse

The thing I really wanted to do this weekend was head down to Portland for SMMR BMMR, but since that wasn’t in the cards, sticking around Seattle was the next best thing. I don’t remember a weekend where there were so many bands in town and it wasn’t Bumbershoot or Capitol Hill Block Party.  My weekend started on Thursday night as all good weekends should, at the Funhouse with Thee Oh Sees and Sic Alps.  It had only been a couple months since Thee Oh Sees had been here opening for  Jay Retard a the Crocodile, but any chance you have to see John Dwyer swallow a mic you should take it.  The Funhouse was the most packed I’ve seen it, even if Thee Oh Sees didn’t technically play in the Funhouse.  I was looking forward to seeing Sic Alps for the first time with their new drummer a Mr. Ty Segall.  It’s kinda funny that they call him their drummer as he only sat down and played drums for the last three songs. The trio liked to switch up instruments, with each taking his turn at guitar, bass and drums.  Sic Alps had some big amps and weren’t afraid to use them.  I noticed more than a couple people with fingers in their ears during their set, and the crowd seemed to thin towards the end.  It may not have been the noise that caused people to flee, because almost immediately after Sic Alps ended their set, Thee Oh Sees who had set up their rig out on the patio, ripped into Block of Ice.  The band played their inspired, Oh Sees-style, off the stage and in the middle of crowd set under the basketball hoop outside surrounded by the most rabid fans I’ve yet seen at one of their gig here.  Sic Alps were good in an arty, noisy way, but Thee Oh Sees showed everyone what a party band should be.  They passed around bottle of whiskey, encouraged everyone to throw their beer cans at the basketball hoop and ripped through all the highlights of their last two albums.  The Oh Sees playing on a Thursday night is how every great weekend should be started.
Sic Alps at the Funhouse
Ty Segall of Sic Alps at the Funhouse

dum dum girls 4 KIA
Dum Dum Girls under the big top down in Sodo

After work on Friday I headed down to Sodo on the brand new light rail to see what the hell KIA was doing putting on a gig featuring the Dum Dum Girls and Wavves.  It turned out I was maybe one of 20 other people in Seattle that had the same curiosity or thought that this might be a good idea.  When I got there, there was absolutely no one there, hell not even Wavves could be arsed to show up.  Apparently they had unforeseen travel difficulties and canceled.  Whatever, I was there to see Dum Dum Girls anyway.   It’s probably good that hardly anyone was there, since their set was stiff, very stiff, and felt more like a practice gig.  The band had this kind of a deer in the headlights look throughout their entire set.  Up until about a month ago Dum Dum Girls was the bedroom project of Kristin Gundred (of Grand Ole Party).  The first gig she played was at the Captured Tracks/Woodsist festival in Brooklyn last month with a band of ringers that included Mike Sniper (Blank Dogs) on Bass, Frankie Rose (Crystal Stilts) on Drums and Brandon Welchez (Crocodiles and husband) on guitar.  To no one’s surprise, she’s got a brand new band  and apparently brand new instruments which they took quite a while to get in tune.  Midway through their set they seemed to pick up some steam, but I gotta say even though I like the records, when I left the KIA big top Friday night I was  less than impressed with Sub Pop’s latest signings as a live band.

Graffiti Island at Chop Suey
Graffiti Island at Chop Suey

Saturday night was shaping up to be a logistical challenge.  No Age were playing in Sodo at the afore mentioned car thing, The Box Elders were in town playing over at the Funhouse, while the Art Fag West Coast tour featuring PENS, Graffiti Island and the Crocodiles was stopping by Chop Suey.  Not to mention the Intelligence playing the Comet to kick off their lengthy and all inclusive US tour.  Since I’ve seen No Age and Box Elders a few times already, I chose PENS and Graffiti Island, two UK bands that I figured may not pass through these parts again anytime soon.  There was lots of elbow room in Chop Suey, but Graffiti Island didn’t seem to care.  Graffiti Island are from the UK but singer Pete Donaldson is clearly not with his American accent. The band have a definite cave-like Cramps sound, but live Donaldson came off sounding kinda like Calvin Johnson. Their short set was marred a bit by sound problems but when one of the Crocodiles jumped on stage to play bass they really seemed to click.  I picked up their new 7 inche which is one side genuine fake snake skin and one side Graffiti Island songs.


PENS who’s album is due out on De Stijl next month, were marred by sound problems as well, mainly a guitar that wouldn’t stay tuned. It’s funny how bands get so bummed out when things don’t go perfectly. If they’d just fake it, most of us would never know there was anything wrong. The ladies liked to switch instruments a lot between songs, so they’ve got the playing thing down, but PENS need to take an acting lesson or two because it was written all over their faces how utterly disappointed they were that things weren’t going their way. Like I said, if they would have faked it with a little attitude like the old school riot grrrls, we woulda been none the wiser.

Since there is a thing (marriage) between Dum Dum Girls and the Crocodiles, it wasn’t much of a surprise that the Dum Dum Girls got squeezed into the line-up last minute style. I was hoping that they’d be much better than the night before, but the pessimist in me figured that they wouldn’t be. The pessimist in me is often wrong, and their set this night was way way better than the night before. The band just looked more comfortable in the smaller confines of Chop Suey. They sounded better too, with the reverb of the guitars bouncing off the walls and filling the room. They even looked more confident as if the night before was in fact, just warm-up gig. Gundred’s voice is strong and easily cuts through any racket her band can make. If I was on the fence about Dum Dum Girls after seeing them the previous night, their set a Chop Suey brought me back from the dark side, and their Ronettes cover sealed the deal.

After Dum Dum Girls it was decision time: stay and see the Crocodiles or head down to the Comet for the Intelligence.  Being the smart guy that I am, you can probably guess where I ended up.  I rolled into the Comet expecting it to be either way packed or empty.  My admiration for all things Intelligence has been well documented on these pages, but the rest of Seattle seems to be a bunch of troglodytes in these matters.  I was pleasantly surprised by my perfect timing as the band were just about to start and how full the place was.  The band have just recently returned from a couple months of touring Europa and the effects were immediately noticeable.  No, they weren’t all speaking Italian.  The were so much tighter with the songs just rolling one after the other.  Lars still runs around pushing pedals, pressing amp buttons,  and twisting knobs like a mad scientists, but you can tell this band is a well oiled machine.  And the crowd at the Comet?  They were all pressed up as close as they could get to the band and…dancing.  Yes, dancing!  We all new that you could dance to the Intelligence, but I’d never seen it. Man it was cool to see.  Finberg was in a goofy mood too, introducing every songs with one liner like:  This song’s about what happens when you sign up for one more credit card before Debt & Esp. And:  This song’s for  Nicolas Cage and the Valley Girls before Like, Like, Like.  I cannot emphasize this enough, if they are coming to your town drop everything and go see the Intelligence (dates here)!  It will definitely make your weekend.

D.I.Y. Part II

Vinyl Tsunami

A few months ago I wrote about this do it yourself ethos that has begun to flourish in the indie underground over here in the US. Record Labels popping up like dandelions in the spring and bands jumping from label to label with a 7 inch here, an album there and a cassette on another one. Back in March when I wrote that post it didn’t seem like there was a similar thing happening over in the UK.  Fast forward to now and those dandelion seeds have blown across the Atlantic and are sprouting. Within the last two months I’ve heard so much good stuff originating from the UK that it nearly feels like the early 90’s again.  The only drawback to this nascent UK scene is that a 7 inch single in the UK costs nearly twice what costs in the US, and that’s before you add in shipping.  It’s not the man keeping me down it’s rock n’ roll.

This UK DIY scene is slowly making it’s way over to the States, with records, tours and more records starting to happen.  Coming up later this month, San Diego’s Crocodiles are bringing their UK friends the Pens and Graffiti Island with them on a west coast tour.  The Pens are an all girl three piece outfit from London who as far as I can tell, have yet to release a record that isn’t a split 7 inch.  They’ve done singles with Male Bonding, Graffiti Island, and have a four way split coming on Art Fag that they share with the Crocodiles, Graffiti Island (again) and Dum Dum Girls.  They’ll abandon the split singles (at least for one release) when their album appears on De Stijl next month. It’s called Hey Friend What Are You Doing and promises to be a shambolic, ramshackle affair with lots of noise to bury the melodies. Pens tour mates  Graffiti Island could best be described as cave rock. The vocals are full of reverb and they like to sing about wolf men, and other primitive stuff.  They’ve also had their share of songs on the old 7 inch medium, the latest being the Head Hunters single on House Anxiety.  They have a bunch more on the way including the afore mentioned Art Fag split single, one on Sex Is Disgusting and 12 inch on Capture Tracks later this year.

mp3: Pens – High In the Cinema (pre-order the album from De Stijl)

mp3: Graffiti Island – Wolf  Guy (pre-order the GI/Pens/Crocodiles/Dum Dum Girls 7″ from Art Fag)

Speaking of Sex Is Disgusting (the label), they’ve just released a limited edition (250) by Mazes, a band that answers the question what if the Woods’ Jeremy Earl had fronted Guided by Voices.   Based on the a-side to their single it would have been very good indeed.  Their mySpace is pretty funny, on it they state: “We wanna do rad things like back Mark E Smith and tour with Jonathan Richman… email us if you can facilitate stuff like that.” Mazes apparently have an album in the can, that they “wanna put out”, meanwhile look out for an upcoming split 7 inch with the Pens.

mp3: Mazes – Bowie Knives (get the 7″ from Sex Is Disgusting)

One of the more pretty sounding lo-fi bands of the current crop is Internet Forever who remind me of very underrated It’s Jo and Danny. Their songs are precious sounding but they keep the fidelity at the low end as not to sound to precious.  Their cover of Beat Happening’s Bewitched is a prime example of just that.  No records yet from this three piece, but that won’t be the case for long with releases lined up on Art Fag and Twenty Years of Boredom.

mp3: Internet Forever – Break Bones (7″ coming soon on Art Fag)

The Spectrals could be the UK doppelgangers of the Crystal Stilts except that their a bit more girl-group loving than the darker exploits of their Brooklyn brethren.  The song Leave Me Be which I’ve pretty much killed has been floating around the internet for a good month.  No physical releases yet from this one man band, but he’s promising a single and full album sometime in the near future on Captured Tracks.  The Spectrals and Graffiti Island aren’t the only UK bands that Captured Tracks has signed up.  Veronica Falls have promised a 12 inch record to the label, so I’m assuming that they have more than one great song that has been up on their MySpace for the last month all by itself, but it’s so hauntingly good that I’ve been going back quite often in hopes of some more.  Veronica Falls are made up of former members of the Royal We, so I’m not too worried about them only having one good song.

mp3: Spectrals -Leave Me Be (&” & 12″ coming soon on Captured Tracks)

mp3: Veronica Falls – Found Love In a Graveyard (12″ coming soon on Captured Tracks)

Another London band (they’re all from London except for Mazes) is the duo Swanton Bombs who put out their Mammoth Skull ep at the very beginning of this year.  They also made an album of demos that is available for free over at their MySpace.  They seem to get compared to the White Stripes mostly by people who don’t know what they’re talking about.  Yeah, they’re duo playing guitar and drums but piano plays a large part in their sound.  It’s all very basic and some of the songs remind me of early Billy Bragg, but they also have these little prog-like parts in some of their songs that remind me of what the Mystery Jets were doing on their first record.  They’re kind of a breath of fresh air if you are geting tired of the lo-fi distorted guitar sound that most of the other bands in this post specialize in.

mp3: Swanton Bombs – Dominic The Lilac (download their demos album at their MySpace)

Last but not least and hot off just signing with Sup Pop is Male Bonding who have done split 7 inches with the likes of Graffiti Island, Pens, Cold Pumas and Eat Skull.  Based on all that, they may be the poster children of the entire scene.  If the Spectrals are the bastard sons of Crystal Stilts then Male Bonding are the illegitimate child of No Age and Abe Vigoda.  Abandoned by their parents they were raised by their grandparents Husker Du, or something like that.  The split 7 inch with Eat Skull just came out and is pretty hot, expect an album sometime early next year on Sub Pop.

mp3: Male Bonding – Year’s Not Long (the split 7″ with Eat Skull is still available from Tough Love)

If you’re on the west coast you don’t want to miss the Pens/Graffiti Island/Crocodiles Tour starting next week.  Tour dates after the click. Read More