Seattle Subsonic - June, 2010
UPDATE: New and much improved photos by Dean Hamack.
A friend of mine named Patrick posted on Facebook that he had an extra ticket and VIP pass for Iron Maiden’s show last week at the White River Amphitheater. Maiden used to be a favorite of mine, an absolute favorite, back in high school and early college, back in the late 80′s and early 90′s. I bought everything they released. I learned much of their work on both guitar and bass. The first moment when I knew I had reached a certain level on the bass, when I knew I had something special, when I knew I could not only play but play well, was when playing an Iron Maiden song. Way back then I played along with various albums and artists in an effort to learn the songs, to develop my chops, to get a sense of playing with a band. One day I put on Piece of Mind and skipped ahead to the second song, Revelations. I had a Fender P-Bass then much like that of Steve Harris, and intentionally so. The song started, I played the big notes, G … A, the little riff in between. The song went on through the heavy chords, the mellow part, picked up during the solo and then back into the heavy chords, and I was right there. Perfectly in tune, perfectly in sync, the volume of my stereo and amp perfectly balanced and loud so that it felt like I was indeed playing with the band, like I would have no problem playing with the band, in the band, in any band. The song ended. I stopped the CD and never played along with another. I played in bands after that, but still of course loved Iron Maiden. And before last week, it had been 23 years since I’d last seen them. It was time again, and I hoped for a bit of Revelations.
We got to White River around 6:30. “VIP is the only way to go, man,” Patrick said. I had to agree. We parked right there in front, strolled easily into the VIP section where we got a table and a couple $9.00 cups of Blue Moon. We skipped the opener, Dream Theater, in favor of the $9.00 beers so that by the time we headed over the to the pit at 8:45 we’d each spent the equivalent of about six six-packs of Blue Moon while only drinking the amount of a single six-pack. We didn’t mind though. We were in good spirits. We were there to see Iron Maiden. We were looking forward to Aces High, Run to the Hills, The Trooper, and Hallowed Be Thy Name among others. We made our way over. The amphitheater was full, or at least looked very much so from where I stood in the pit on the left side of the stage. The lights went down, then up, then the band and the music emerged. The crowd roared.
I am very well versed in everything Iron Maiden released prior to 1990, not so much in what they’ve released since. The first two songs thus I did not recognize. They were good, but unfamiliar. The crowd was appreciative though, and many of those much younger than my middle-aged self knew the tunes, sang along, jumped, raised there arms. The third song was Wrathchild, an old favorite from the Killers album. It was most excellent. Another friend of mine somewhere off in the crowd texted me, “Hell Yeah!!!!” I agreed, replied with the same sentiment, but then Read the rest of this entry »
I wrote a couple weeks ago about how it was a fine thing to see a woman ascend the stage and strap on a Gibson SG so I was excited to see if there was a similar feeling to be had with a woman who strapped on a harp in much the same fashion. The woman was Deborah Henson-Conant, the harp a blue custom made deal that weighs 11 pounds. Looking at the pictures I saw that she straps the harp around her waist and with a wireless hookup gives her the freedom to move about the stage in much the same way that a lead guitar player in a metal band would. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I like my share of metal and am a fan of things done in new ways, fresh ways, heretofore unimagined ways. And I had never before imagined a woman in black leather pants strapped to a harp and hooked into a Rat distortion pedal and a delay unit. So I was curious. I was interested. What would a woman who bills herself as a “hip harpist” be like?
The show was at the Triple Door Sunday June 20th. Before the show I was reading Stephen King’s Cujo at a Starbucks in Queen Anne figuring that a little Stephen King gore might put me in the proper frame of mind as I don’t typically read King. It’s unusual for me so it gets me out of my normal mode, gets my brain to a different place where I’m ready for anything to happen as it can and does in a Stephen King book. I found thus I started to think like the dog Cujo in it’s pre-rabid days. People lost the distinction of names. They were THE MAN or THE WOMAN or THE BOY and such. I communicated with a nudge of the head, a tilt of the head, a look in the eye. I walked up to the counter, to THE BARISTA I know so well since I go there almost daily. She said something (“Would you like a refill?”) and I nodded to my empty coffee mug and then there was more coffee. I went to the Triple Door, nodded at the guest list. THE WOMAN there said something (“And your name is?”). I pointed to the list, “Ah, Mr. O’Leary.” She snapped her fingers to a waiter who then showed me to my seat.
At the table I came out of it. People were people, waiters were waiters. “I’ll have a Rogers Pilsner and the Pad Thai noodles with prawns,” I said. The waiter nodded and moved off with out a word. Henson-Conant walked out on stage then with her harp strapped around her just so and went into a beautiful latin number called Cosita Latina. Seeing her thus on stage with the harp playing beautiful music and bending and leaning back and grooving and shuffling and tapping her feet and dangling her hair forward and back and generally not standing still I was reminded of The Witches of Eastwick in which Jack Nicholson had prodded Susan Sarandon to spread her legs and open herself to the vibrations of her cello. Hensen-Conant even commented a little later on the vibrancy of the instrument, how she could really feel and hear the sound in her body and how once a deaf man had done so as he put his arms around her as she played. It reminded me of times when I’ve placed my bass against a piano and played unplugged just letting the sound come from the vibration of wood on wood. It was a soft and subtle sound, and I felt it. Safe to say the first song was good. It drew the audience in.
The show went on like that. She played Read the rest of this entry »
In case you missed it, “Juneuary” has become one of the more popular portmanteaus being bandied amongst all the bitching about this seemingly unseasonable Seattle spring (the last few days notwithstanding). I think it’s a word both depressing and hilarious, and I’ve found myself utilizing it several times. But the reality is that we’d all like the warm summer weather to get its purty little act in gear, and sometimes we need music to be our personal weather balloon.
One album I’ve turned to in defense of my apparent S.A.D. affliction is Ocean Sunbirds by local shoreline soundscapers U.S.F. (aka Universal Studios Florida—I think they agitated the real USF with their name). I profiled the band a few times back in April when they played Chop Suey with the Ruby Suns and have since found myself slipping in their CD more often than I anticipated. Something about it just puts me at ease and gives me a sense of calm, not unlike a gentle surf on a secluded strip of sand.
See, for me, unseasonal weather really chaps my hide; I can handle the shitty four and five month winters around here, because that’s how it’s supposed to be. But once you start fuckin’ with my spring and summer (I’m looking at YOU, Earth’s atmosphere), that’s when I get angry. Ocean Sunbirds‘ diffusive electro-dioramas, subtle loop-iness and watery quilts of appeasing ambiance are the perfect antidote for my lack of Vitamin D (the nutriment, people, not the rapper). The first half of the record is pretty chill, and so is the second half actually, but somewhere in the middle, Jason Baxter and Kyle Hargus decide to get off their beach chairs and lightly toss the frisbee around, oscillating and throbbing with a captivating mid-tempo tenacity. The results are illuminating and refreshing and altogether uplifting.
From a recent review of U.S.F.’s Ocean Sunbirds:
“See, for me, unseasonal weather really chaps my hide; I can handle the shitty four and five month winters around here, because that’s how it’s supposed to be. But once you start fuckin’ with my spring and summer (I’m looking at YOU, Earth’s atmosphere), that’s when I get angry. Ocean Sunbirds‘ diffusive electro-dioramas, subtle loop-iness and watery quilts of ambiance are the perfect antidote for my lack of Vitamin D (the nutriment, people, not the rapper). The first half of the record is pretty chill, and so is the second half actually, but somewhere in the middle, Jason Baxter and Kyle Hargus decide to get off their beach chairs and lightly toss the frisbee around, oscillating and throbbing with a captivating mid-tempo tenacity. The results are illuminating and refreshing and altogether uplifting.”
On first listen to The Head and the Heart‘s self-titled LP, you would never guess that this is their first release. You’d be more apt to think that the songs were old favorites that have somehow drifted out of mind. They teeter somewhere between newness and familiarity and given a few listens they easily nestle themselves into your waking thoughts repeating warm and comforting lyrics over and over.
The Head and the Heart are a 6 piece ensemble composed of transplants all living here in Seattle. Their album contains 9 fully realized arrangements with amazingly rich production. I was literally stunned by the quality of the recordings. Describing the sound must begin with the dancing Beetles-inspired piano that leads the way into most every song followed by textured harmonies of voice and violin weaving through the open spaces like Boston ivy, all backed by solid but subtle rhythm and a guitar that might drip with twang as in “Couer D’Alane” or jangle along as in “Sounds like Hallelujah”. The whole package is bundled tight and under the shadow of the recent folk-revival movement it could be classified as such but I’d be more inclined to place it in a broader space of “Timeless Americana”. (even WITH the Beatles’ influence)
The band rotates the lead vocals between songs and within individual songs giving the album a feeling of progression that unfolds like a movie script, developing all the different characters you’ll eventually fall in love with. The lyrics are heartfelt and original and yet, by the simple act of exposing their roots, they seem instantly familiar. “Down in the Valley” touches on this with what I take as references to well-known songs of Americana found in the refrain:
“Down in the Valley
with Whiskey Rivers
these are the places you will find me hiding.
These are the places I will always go.”
And as they go, they take you happily along.
Live performances from The Head and the Heart are rumored to be dancing, stomping, clapping affairs, rousing the normally silent and pensive listeners into motion. To find out for yourselves, check out their CD release party happening this Friday at the Conor Byrne in Ballard. I’ll be surprised if folks don’t make their way up onto the pool tables and bar in order to get their groove on. At the very least, you’re promised to “remember” how much you love The Head and the Heart.
The Head and the Heart CD Release
Friday, June 25th 9:00
Conor Byrne – Ballard Ave
Have a listen to the first 3 tracks of what Head and the Heart’s new LP has in store! I cannot recommend picking up the full album enough.
(Songs had been removed, so here’s one to tide you over!)
Lost in My Mind
For fans of Andrew Bird, Avette Brothers, early Gomez and good fucking American music.
(yeah, I know there are a lot of British references in here for an “Americana” band review.. but aren’t we all just rebellious Brits at the end of the day? Toodaloo!)
Here’re some crappy phone pics I took of local band Night Beats last Friday night at the Comet. You know what wasn’t crappy? The wry, wailing, classic surf-metal riffage emanating from the titillating triumvirate that night. I’d been wanting to check these guys out for awhile (most recently after a hot, desert-scorched video came out), so I’m glad I was down on Pike St. ready to party right about the time the Tavern started cookin’. As I’ve said before, the band is adept at eliminating any pastiche from their slow-burning 60s psych rock, making the familiar sound entirely original. I’m pretty taken with founder Danny Rajan’s upper register howlin’ and dirty-slick guitar licks.
So, if you see them on a show bill, be stoked, cuz you will get stoked by their tunes. In fact, you can be stoked that the band has a few shows coming up with K Records’ anti-politicized post-funkers Chain & the Gang, as well as the Capitol Hill Block Party. Stoked!
July 3rd – New Frontier (Tacoma) w/ Chain & the Gang and Basemint
July 5th – Black Lodge w/ Chain & the Gang and Basemint
July 23rd – Capitol Hill Block Party
Sarah Jaffe man, what a show. I kid you not, I was so impressed with this singer/songwriter that I absolutely had to just tell her how stellar her set was. It was perfect, touché Tractor Tavern for complimenting her sound so perfectly, it was like the perfect setting, and man was it quiet!! Not many people showed up for it, which was a bummer, and those who did show up must have been so blown away that they didn’t even breath. It was like- I was listening to Sarah Jaffe in the library with my headphones on- so quiet. I dug it.
Luckily Sarah Jaffe’s live performance capabilities rival her songwriting capabilities. She was chatty with the crowd, she played perfectly and crisply, and she sang with her eyes closed, a lot- that shows passion. And when you play with passion- psh- everyone can dig it. Big ups to her backing violinist and cellist. I, of course, didn’t get their names but they were perfect. I was stoked when the three songs from her web-site, that I recognized, were played. And if I wasn’t such a GD cheapskate I would have definitely bought her album for ten bucks. But hey- the recession hit us all hard.
So after Sarah Jaffe bounced off stage the Tractor filled up and Lou Barlow took the stage… and I don’t want to talk about it. Lets just say this; those individuals who showed up for Sarah Jaffe’s set got what they paid for, those who didn’t… tough break man.
So anyways, like I said, I chatted at Jaffe for a minute after her set and found out she is very happily placed at Kirtland Records, she says she likes what they stand for. I have never heard of this label before and so I gave it a glance over. It is based in LA and Dallas (Dallas has a music scene?). I didn’t recognize any of the artists on the label, but it was relatively small, and what was cool was that they just started to distribute their music globally digitally through this company called INgrooves. So I checked that business out and found out this was a global independent music community. Holy shit my head just exploded. Think of the possibilities of being able to expand and share music so easily- globally! So naturally I nerded out in the library for a bit then had to go take a nap to calm down.
PS: Go to Sarah Jaffe’s site- check out those three songs she has up. They are really good.
PSS: Sorry about the picture- the camera is shit- I can’t see what its taking, so it’s the best shot I got.
Or, at least she didn’t want the sexed-up funksters in local electro-pop band Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head appropriating her steez anymore. In turn, the former Sound Off! champs have moved in a new direction, changing their name to Brite Futures. I like it, it fits their groove. Luckily, the band was able to—ahem—reconcile with the Hollywood starlet about the whole fiasco, which you can witness below. FWIW, I feel like Natalie comes off a little harsh on the doe-eyed gang, but, hey, this is show business and sometimes things get nasty. You can have a listen to the first new track from Brite Futures, here!
Dog Eared Summer !
If you’re buggin’ on all the craptastic weather we’ve been having, this song’s for YOU.
I actually first heard CocoRosie off of a KEXP Music that Matters podcast. It happened to be that song “Lemonade” and it just struck me immediately. There was this Bjork quality to the voice and its mix of happiness and melancholy was just perfect. For real, I got right into that song for a minute. So I checked out CocoRosie and was even more amazed. These sisters have quite a back-story that goes something like this: They were born in the states and bounced around alot, I think they both dropped out of high school but it was obvious they were more art minded than anything. So one moved to Paris and the other eventually followed and while in Paris they formed CocoRosie (which is their childhood nicknames combined). The sisters are Bianca and Sierra, and they create some amazing music together.
These ladies are totally innovative and new. They create sounds using children’s toys, like imagine those toys that make noise just to make noise, and they use them instrumentally. It totally works. Sierra sings, she studied to be an opera singer while in Paris, and plays a multitude of instruments (including the harp) and Bianca, who also sings, plays the experimental instruments, such as the children’s toys (plus a plethora of other instruments). I have seen a few videos of these ladies live, and the show looks amazing, incorporating so many different genres. Really, CocoRosie does hip-hop, folk, pop, basically anything. And they do in their own way so not to be mistaken for anyone else, and so not to be easily generalized.
So, CocoRosie are coming through on Friday and I would highly suggest checking these ladies out. I have been looking forward to this show since I saw it pop up on the Showbox website man. A must see. Also a little side note that totally caught me by surprise; SubPop picked up CocoRosie this year and put out their latest (and 4th full length) album, Grey Oceans, in May. That blew my mind.
Where: Shobox Market
When: Friday, June 25 @ 8pm (doors open)
How: $20 adv. $22 dos.
Why: All Ages
What: Just do it.