One thing about Melbourne, Australia’s Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever is that I can never seem to get their name right. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, you know. How many bands have four word names these days? People are lucky enough to be able to remember two word band names. It seems that their US label Sub Pop realizes this, shortening the band’s name for their US debut to Rolling Blackouts C.F. I don’t know if this is better though. It isn’t a whole lot easier to remember, and it gives the impression that there is already a band named Coastal Blackouts and these Blackouts are from some country with the initials C.F.
Another thing about Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever is that they jangle. You hear the likely suspects (Bats, Clean, & Feelies) in their sound, but their jangle comes from a more classic rock corner of the universe. Their sound can best be described by the Close Lobsters‘ cover of Neil Young‘s Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black). They sound like they’ve done their time on the bar circuit, and taken their lumps winning over hard drinking, blue collar fellows in dungarees.
One more thing about Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, they’re show this past Tuesday at Barboza here in Seattle was a lot of fun. The five piece band featured three guitarists and singers, but their secret weapon, which all great bands will attest to, was their rhythm section. Every song was anchored by some great bass riffs which was really apparent live. That firm mooring allowed the guitarists to really go into their hyper-manic-riff mode trading licks and often vocal spots. This band seems to be very well oiled machine.
One final thing about Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, they do a mighty fine cover of the Orange Juice classic Blueboy!
Seattle’s designated openers for all Australian jangly type bands, Zebra Hunt did just that. On this night I found out:
- In Australia, zebra is pronounced with a short ‘e’.
- Zebra Hunt’s second LP is coming out May 19.
- The band now seems to be a permanent four piece.
- They have got a brand new set of songs that rivals the ones the made me fan in the first place.
- They just keep getting better!
- They might actually be Australian judging from their ace cover of the Go-Betweens‘ Was There Anything I Could Do?
Taking on America with an extensive 25 date tour is ambitious for any band, but when you’re Chook Race, a little known three piece jangle pop band from Melbourne, Australia it’s downright impressive (and maybe a little insane). The band made its way into Seattle Wednesday night to play the Victory Lounge, a bar with no stage in East Lake. This is one band I thought I would never see in Seattle, but after self-releasing their first album, Chicago label Trouble in Mind signed them making their second LP widely available in the United States as well as this tour a reality.
Singer and guitarist Matthew Liveriadis has a slight monotone delivery, but drummer Carolyn Hawkins provides a beautiful juxtaposition with her backing harmonies. The trio played an energized and jangly set inspired by the Bats and Close Lobsters mixing soon to be jangle pop classics from their first LP with ones of a slightly more classic pop sound from their new second album Around the House. In their short existence the band already have a stash of A-list songs and they didn’t leave any of them out including jangly diamonds like Dentist, Time, Sometimes and Hard to Clean and Older. The band’s tight sound and laid back attitude easily won over the likely already won over folks in attendance and made us all appreciate the long trip they had made to get here.
Like minded Seattlites Zebra Hunt opened for Chook Race with a set that consisted almost entirely of new songs (Half Right was the only old one). Apparently the new album is nearly ready and based on this evidence I would agree. One song really stood out with its Feelies-like crazy rhythm, even slowing down and then rebuilding itself into something quite raucous. Zebra Hunt has still got it!
Field Music at the Crocodile, Seattle | 29 March 2016
After six albums Sunderland, England’s Field Music finally made their Seattle debut Tuesday night at the Crocodile (though David Brewis played the Nectar Lounge back in 2008 with his School of Language). The band are often compared to XTC and Steely Dan, and could be accused of being a musician’s band. Meaning that you need to be a musician to appreciate them, and to be honest as I looked around the room that night it looked like I might be a minor and younger music nerd compared with many in the crowd. So this show was a long time coming for many Field Music fans, but well worth the wait
The Brewis brothers are supporting their latest and possibly best album yet Commontime which contains a new lightness of being that gives a new dimension to the band. They sound like they’re having more fun and of course there’s the added funk element. How much funk you ask, well Prince is a fan and the brothers have admitted to looking to both Beyoncé and Hall and Oats for inspiration. That was evident right from the start as the band blasted into the Noisy Days Are Over with its looping base. It was obvious that Field Music were here to have fun. It featured Peter on guitar and vocals and his brother David on drums. They would take turns on guitar and drums throughout the night. I kept changing my mind about which was the better drummer and which the better guitarist. Both of them seemed to in a jovial mood with lots of banter between songs and encouraging of hecklers. At one point they were invited to karaoke after the show, but declined saying they only did Michael Jackson BAD at karaoke.
Other highlights in the set included Disappointed and It’s a Good Thing from Commontime, Let’s Write a Book from Measure, If Only The Moon Were Up from their debut, and A House Is Not a Home from Tones of Town. It was a perfect combination of old and new in front of a truly appreciative audience. One of the best shows of the year to accompany one of its best albums.
The Quietus has an insightful interview with the Brewis brothers.
The setlist from the show:
The Noisy Days Are Over
Let’s Write A Book
Don’t You Want To Know What’s Wrong?
A House Is Not A Home
It’s A Good Thing
Who’ll Pay the Bills?
Them That Do Nothing
If Only The Moon Were Up
How Many More Times?
Just Like Everyone Else
(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing
Give It Lose It Take It
Versing blasted their way into my life early last summer at the Sunset in Ballard. Their Wire meets Pavement, meets Number One Cup meets Seam meets Swell Maps elixir is a combination often tried but rarely done well enough to actually contribute to the plot line. Right out of the gate Versing have written a new chapter to the story. Protagonists in their story include jagged guitars rumbling bass and choruses that have you hoping for a quick sequel. Nude Descending is their seven song debut EP that blazes a trail through the boredom inducing clutter of today’s new bands who just merely play music.
Download the EP at Versing’s Bandcamp or get the vinyl from Youth Riot Records.
Wildhoney at the Neptune Theatre, Seattle | 17 November 2015
I always wonder if a band that makes great records can deliver them live, especially today in today’s world full of bands making albums in their bedroom on their laptop. Wildhoney proved that they are the real deal opening for a couple hard core bands La Dispute and Envy at the Neptune Theatre in Seattle’s University District. The audience was predominately young hardcore fans, but the Baltimore band seemed to win them over with their infectious blend of ethereal noisepop and shoegaze.
Singer Lauren Shusterich’s voice easily danced over the tremolo laden wall of guitars. Mid-set a girl behind me yelled out to the band “You’re sooo cute!” I think they may have momentarily blushed, but then they tore into another one of their seemingly endless supply of killer songs. The night before OG shoegazers Ride had played the same stage. I didn’t go and after seeing Wildhoney I don’t think I missed anything.
Don’t miss their latest EP Your Face Sideways (recorded by Gary Olson of the Ladybug Transistor) which evokes some serious Velocity Girl vibes.
The Intelligence at the Frye Art Museum, Seattle | 15 November 2015
Why are rock shows always at night and in some beer soaked hall filled with annoying inebriated people? Why can’t they be on sunny Sunday afternoons in a friendly warm room with works of art hanging on the walls and children running around instead? The fine folks at the Frye Art Museum must have wondered this as well and they decided to do something about it by inviting the Intelligence to play their Museum. The Frye is one of the few museums in Seattle to allow free admittance and they extended their gratis support of the arts by putting on this free afternoon show as part of their ongoing Genius / 21 Century / Seattle exhibition. Apparently quite a few other folks are down with this idea too, because the show’s pre-registration was full and there was quite a lengthy stand-by line of people hoping to get in. I was one of them on line and luckily I think we all made it in.
If you haven’t heard, the Intelligence have a new album called Vintage Future. It’s their eighth LP and is easily their best sounding and best recorded one. The band have been increasing their sonic fidelity with each release, though they seem to maintain the same bent humor and attitude that front-man Lars Finberg exhibited since the very first Intelligence 7-inch Boyfriends and Girlfriends back in 2000. Fifteen years is a long time to try and hold your interest, but the intelligence have continued to metamorphosize into a better and better band. As they state on the new record, they refuse to pay the dues, but they also refuse to stay the same which makes a new Intelligence album something I always look forward to.
You may also know that the band no longer call Seattle home since front man Lars Finberg moved down to Los Angeles so this show was something of a homecoming for the band. In their best museum attire (Finberg was sporting some leopard print shades and smart blue blazer that gave him the air of a Hollywood mogul), the Intelligence ripped through about 15 songs that featured many highlights from the new album as well as few classics like Dating Cops, Estate Sales and Back of the Galaxy. The set started with the moody Cleaning Lady that allowed the band to warm up the room with it’s obsessive compulsive refrain of “It’s clean, but it’s not that clean to me.” Parents immediately grabbed their kids to insert earplugs into their little ears.
The new album has a sort of morbid jauntiness to it that is interspersed with aggressive forays of punk rock. Finberg continues his deliver from his deep well of sharp self-deprecating one liners and observations of the absurd (“I’m tired of people who like me”, “I want true love that I can step out on and that I can still count on while she waits with a warm plate”, “Shitty guitars, touring in cars”). Closing the set with Romans another song from the new album, the song’s sinewy guitar rif and patience was the Intelligence at full power. It’s one of those songs that could double in length and continue to please, but they kept to its abridged form. I wonder what the people who were at he Frye to take in the art on the walls thought while the cacophony of the Intelligence bounced into them from around an unseen corner? At least the the band and its audience enjoyed this afternoon dalliance in the museum.
Vintage Future is out now on In the Red Records.
Downtown Boys at Black Lodge, Seattle | 7 July 2015
Providence, Rhode Island’s Downtown Boys rolled through town last night with their white hot dual saxophone hardcore. This band has a two pronged agenda and it is to bring their political message and to get down and make some noise. I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge hardcore fan. I was intrigued when Fucked Up covered twee pop songs and teenage me owned a Cro-Mags cassette, but that’s about it. Two things set Downtown Boys apart from rest of the hardcore masses. Two saxophones that recall Dexy’s Geno but sometimes feel like they could venture into Coletrane’s Meditations and front woman Victoria Ruiz who is both a teacher and a rager.
Live, each song has a prologue in which she passionately teaches and informs about social injustice, police brutality, misogyny and racism. Previously I had wondered why they covered Bruce Springsteen‘s Dancing In the Dark besides the obvious saxophone connection. Last night, in a matter of 60 seconds she redefined that song on her terms talking about how the word dark is equated to evil, bad and mal-intentioned in so much of today’s journalism and literature and how difficult it is to overcome those kinds of connotations of when you are dark skinned.
The room was packed and sweaty and Downtown Boys were on fire which of course increased the temperature of the room. The saxophone players Adrienne Berry and Emmett Fitzgerald stoked the fires continuously during the set. Both wielding their big tenor saxophones like weapons of peace and justice. Future Police raged bigger and louder than the recorded version and Monstro was anthemic, but the highlight of the set was Poder Eligir. Ruiz sang in Spanish while the band created a cacophony that surged and surged and continued to surge. It was fucking amazing! It was one of those out of body moments when you feel like the whole room is on the same existential plane and all is right with the world. And it was for one brief moment.
Downtown Boys debut album Full Communism is out now on Don Giovanni Records.
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.
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.
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.
stream: Male Gaze – The Shining Path (from Gale Maze on Castle Face)
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.
stream: Tiaras – Thought I Could Know (from Tiaras on Mt. St. Mtn.)