Thursday, September 18th @ Showbox (Market)
Doors @ 8
$20 ADV/$22 DOS
Remember that catchy Apple iPod Touch commercial, ‘Music is my boyfriend…’? Well, the song’s actually called Musk is my Hot Hot Sex, by Brazilian-signed-Subpop group Cansei de Ser Sexy, or C.S.S. (the Portuguese band name literally means ‘tired of being sexy’). Their second album, Donkey, was released last month and they’re touring all over, including a stop at Subpop headquarters of course. Despite having received mediocre reviews, I think Donkey’s a hit. It’s a catchier and more refined spin-off of their previous self-titled release, which was full to the brim thrashy electro-punk-rock. Heavy synth, raging guitar, unrelenting beat, blunt spoken and conversational vox, poppy undertones, and plenty adolescent attitude. CSS is one example of Subpop’s more recent efforts of dabbling into refreshing new territory.
Panda and Angel (Local)
Kate Tucker & the Sons of Sweden (Local)
The Animals at Night (Local)
Thursday, August 14th @ the Tractor Tavern
Kate Tucker and gang rock out fab live shows. Catchy, heavy, rocking tunes. Tucker’s sweet, tempered, melancholic vocals are accompanied by a dedicated masculine soundscape evoked by her heavy hitting band. Which, I should add, she also contributes. Pretty fucking awesome to watch her more than hold her own on electric guitar. Panda and Angel are also playing tonight, who distill a refreshingly unique cult-band-ish sound. Experimental, electric rock with elements of Queen-meets-Abba. Animals at Night’s groovy, sultry electronica will open the evening.
The Sweet Dominiques (Local)
Chris Koza (Minneapolis)
Mon Marie (Local)
Wednesday, August 13th @ the High Dive
I stumbled upon the Sweet Dominiques when I posted Fences upcoming Tractor show (Sweet Dominiques are one of the three openers at the August 29 show). I’m taken by their mellow, acoustic, down-to-earth feel. Each of their myspace tunes offer lyrical substance, various layering, and a variety of genres from beach, to alt-country, to folk, to blue-grass. And just as I stumbled upon the Sweet Dominiques when posting Fences, I’m now stumbling upon NW band Mon Marie (and out-of-towners Chris Koza). I’m diggin’ what I hear.
Friday, August 15th @ Vera Project
Mount Eerie, formerly The Microphones, is Phil Elverum. An obscure and intriguing artist from Anacortes who has quietly hovered the NW music scene over the last decade. He is a fascinated story in and of himself, a seemingly accidental but well-connected artist in the area. Click here to read Eric Grandy’s engaging Stranger spotlight on Elverum. Seriously, read it -it’s fascinating and you’ll without doubt be drawn to Elverum afterwards. A few curious tidbits to get you to click on that link…he has well-connected ties to Olympia’s K Records – dating way back – and he has close historical ties to the beguiling Khaela Maricich (aka, The Blow).
Friday, August 29th @ Tractor Tavern
If you missed the FENCES at Neumo’s the other week, catch ‘em tonight headlining at the Tractor. Playing alongside are a slew of other fantastic-upon-first-listen Seattle bands (hello Conservative Dad and Sweet Dominiques).
Friday, August 22nd @ Neumo’s
Solid lineup here, from Widower (Seattle) to Martin Moore (visiting from Kentucky) to one of my all-time faves Miss Cahoone (2008 album review here). A warming alt-country theme pervades this evening. Don’t skip out on the openers – in fact I URGE you to come early and see Widower.
Thursday, August 14th @ Neumo’s
This is Nellie McKay’s show, but I’m posting this ‘cuz FENCES is opening. Read why here. Only a matter of time before FENCES become headliners themselves.
I did intend to catch more than four bands at this year’s Cap Hill Block Party, but after 4-5 hours of insanity I felt I’d experienced enough BP action to feel more than fulfilled. It’s true, each of the bands I saw were fantastic and I definitely got plenty utility out of the 20 bones spent on my ticket. I simply bailed early on Saturday evening (around 9:30, eek) because I yearned to regain my small hemisphere of personal space that had been suffocated for 4+ hours. Too many tickets sold? This is an understatement.
1) I strolled in around 5:20 or so, and made a break for the Vera Stage to catch Man Plus. I arrived 10 minutes later after squeezing and pushing and squirming past the rest of Seattle compressed within that one block radius separating entrance from Vera Stage.
Now, I’ve seen Man Plus before (read LB’s spot-on post on the band here), as a 2-man, 1-woman show. However, this afternoon Man Plus showed up in its entirety as a full 5-bodied gig. I admit, both shows – the 3-piece set at High Dive’s Audioasis last month and 5-piece set on Saturday – were equally compelling. This goes to show how f’awesome this band is to pull off such outrageous performances with or without all band-members in tow.
Here’s why I’m so high on this band: lead-singer Jared has alluring grunge-era vocals and untamed stage presence. Manat creates magic behind his synth or whatever piece of machinery he stands behind. And Ellen provides a lady-like element on vox that adds just the right measure of innocence to Man Plus’ intense and exacerbated sound. Jared comfortably fits the bill as the band’s alt-grunge-electro-punk-rock frontman (or whatever you want to call them). Hints of Cobain when screaming rage in Smells Like Teen Spirit, seep from the kid. Bleak, unmasked lyrics are delivered via heavy, blunt, manic vocals which he vehemently throws his whole (oh so slim) body into. Man Plus’ sound comes as close as I’ve felt in years to reminiscing back to the early 90′s. I’m sure this is far from MP’s intentions, but I can’t help but feel a twinge of that energy. Jared (first name is all I have to refer to) physically and emotionally launches himself into his music when performing. At both shows I’ve attended he’s jumped offstage to join the crowd – sweat flying, limbs flailing, trusting himself to the ways and whims of the audience. I feel like a giddy teen admitting this, but it was a welcome surprise at both shows and all too exciting! Check out the snapshot of how intimate and interactive a show Man Plus deliver!
2) On to band two of the evening. I have very little to write in review of this band since I could hardly hear them. Granted, I was in the beer garden, just right and perhaps slightly behind the main stage. But this shouldn’t have totally cut me off what was going on up there. Dude, what was up with the sound at the main stage?
Anyhow – the band was Fleet Foxes. Next time I see them live, and there will undoubtedly be a next time, I will make sure to catch them at an indoor venue so as to soak in every inkling of bliss they pulse. Apparently the Fleet Foxes were themselves weary of how they’d sound outdoors vs. indoors.
3) Chromeo. I ditched the beer garden in lieu of getting closer to the main stage so I could fully engage in this gig. WOW did they stun. Chromeo are good friends David 1 (older brother of A-Trak) and P-Thugg – an intriguing east-coast Jewish/Arab duo who played a crowd-pleasing, upbeat, poppy electro/funk/rock set that had us Seattle fans clapping, dancing, and unabashedly bopping our heads. Even after they finished playing their one-song encore -bless ‘em – I left wanting to hear more. They definitely set an uplifting mood to the evening.
4) Last but not least, local crew Velella Velella topped my night at the King Cobra stage. I’d heard VV on JITMAN (read leDoux’s post here if you don’t know what this stands for) some time ago and haven’t forgotten the name since. They’ve got a groovy, sexy, energetic sound happenin’ and they’re a blast live. Fluid, funky, jazzy, and oh so diggable.
There you have it, my humble CHBP adventures of 2008.
Friday, August 1st @ Bob’s Java Jive (Tacoma)
The Cave Singers are fucking awesome. Ooooooh Thinking of Heaven….. A special treat they’re playing such a small and quaint gig at Bob’s, well worth the trek to Tacoma. Seattle’s Whalebones and Port Townsend’s Solvents open.
I confess I’ve been sitting on a particular disc for well over two months now. And I feel quite guilty about it ‘cuz it’s turned out to be one of the most intriguing albums I’ve stumbled upon this year. At long last, I’m hear to spread the word on this lil’ gem of a band, a seemingly unknown local foursome that have literally blown me away over the last few months.
When the Upperhand reached out to us here at SS back in April, I wasn’t yet a minute into “Oceans in Kansas” on their myspace before I called our editor, Mr. leDoux to jump on a review. Sure, whether it be positive or negative, it can be stupefying to judge a band this quickly. But as I continued to listen, the Upperhand kept incrementally astounding me. The more I absorbed, the more gravitating and fascinating they became. Coming from someone who was already taken upon first listen, the Upperhand has not ceased to grow on me.
“Oceans in Kansas” and “Day” were the only two tracks I had access to before I received The Sailing and Sinking of the S.S. Ridiculous in the mail. Little did I know these two tracks would be a mere introduction into the breadth and depth of their music. Yes, the album title is fantastically quirky, and if you’re able to access a physical copy of the album (buy it here), the cover art is as creatively outlandish in nature. This, and the fact that they are for the most part unheard of, speaks to how curious the Upperhand are. They have only 8500 or so hits on their myspace page, and this count includes the significant number I’ve inadvertently contributed thus far. I’m still scratching my head, the Upperhand have serious potential to cause a stirring here in Seattle.
Lead singer Nate Hill’s vocals are brilliantly memorable and one of the main draws to the Upperhand without doubt. The closest comparison that comes to mind is Ryan Adams, inclusive of the interspersing alt-country twang, though all in all more distinctively folk rather than country. Resonating deep from his chest, Hill’s voice also exudes a pleasant nasal quality as well. These attributes, in addition to the peculiarly alluring grumbling of lyrics that pepper his predominantly soothing and fragile vocals, produce a uniquely appealing and versatile sound. This may sound comical, but at times Hill almost sounds like a roaring Oscar the Grouch. Regardless, I’m certainly not doing justice in simply saying his voice is aesthetic and striking. You must take a listen for yourself.
Having soaked in the beauty of Hill’s voice, the underlying instrumental flow is the next equally remarkable feature unique to the Upperhand. Guided by piano-based melodies, alt-country, blues and jazz undertones creep in to form a mesmerizing and fluid soundscape. Drum, bass and keys repeatedly shift in momentum throughout their tracks, creating a rhythmic ebb and flow throughout. Breaks in song are commonly introduced, and always smoothly transition from one to the next. Eight of the Upperhand’s 9 tracks on The Sinking are lyrical, with the final track, “Aggressive Positions”, purely instrumental (well, save for the Aaaaaaaaaah Shit that pops out of someone’s mouth at the end). Plenty buffer time within each of the lyrical tracks amplify instrumental and jamband elements to the quartet. Their music is a melodic adventure led by acoustic keys, a unique rolling beat, and compelling play on guitar and bass that all come together to produce a textured and refreshing sound.
And I’m not done – the Upperhand show plenty girth in the quality of their songwriting. Hill is a talented storyteller and whether his tainted tales are true or fictitious, they are powerful, thematic and metaphorical. Delving into the intricacies of adulthood – family, responsibility, human nature, internal struggle, the search for meaning, and the quest for freedom – one can’t help but relate to and feel compassionate for Hill or whoever the main characters are within the Upperhand’s mortal and lyrical journeys.
In “Oceans In Kansas” and “Mariana”, the following excerpts provide a representative sampling of how introspective and narrative Hill’s songwriting is.
In “Oceans In Kansas”:
I left my wife and kids back in Kansas
Far away from the ocean’s edge
I promised I would be back just as soon as I finished
My descent into the abyss
…Bags packed, the Mrs. admits that she hopes
I come home empty handed
‘Cuz adventuring is not for fathers,
See my place is here with them, back in Kansas
…Get this shit out of your system’ she says
I don’t know what it was I expected
To find here in the darkness…
Dont’ know what it says about me as a man
Leaving my kids so far away back on the land
I dont want to have to tell you just what it is
Its magnificent and i’m never coming back
All in all, the Upperhand cover all their bases. I’m still sitting here, baffled at how they hover completely under the radar. Their sound is unequaled and surely cannot get washed away in the over-saturated realm of music dubbed as indie.
See them live at the Rendezvous (also known as the Jewelbox Theater) on Tuesday, August 5th. I missed them play at the World Famous Bob’s Java Jive in Tacoma last month and will surely not make this mistake again.