Seattle Subsonic - Seattle Music Scene
REVERB, the Seattle Weekly’s music blog, has been one of the city’s biggest advocates of local artists for years. At the beginning of this month they gathered samples from 42 local artist and label releases they reviewed and put them in one place for you to get serious earful for the latest sound here in the “City of Music”. It will take the better part of your day to listen to them all but what do you really have better to do.. work?
If you want to save time, here are a few that stuck with me. There’s a link at the bottom for you to enjoy them all. -it’s worth it.
Details. Stephen Tow’s book, The Strangest Tribe: How a Group of Seattle Rock Bands Invented Grunge, has a lot of them, and though there’s a mountain of information, it isn’t overwhelming. It’s scholarly but entertaining, interesting and funny; it’s researched to no end but quite relatable for both musicians and music fans.
The book covers Seattle’s pre-grunge years, the late 70′s through 1991, the time when something rose from nothing, when Seattle went from a few underground bands and clubs to all that would break upon the world with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and more. I was in the Midwest during those years (Detroit and Columbus, Ohio), and as I got into bands in the late 80′s and early 90′s, we all thought there was a scene. We all thought there was something happening, especially after Seattle broke. Folks in Columbus liked to say in the early 90′s that Columbus was the next Seattle. LMFAO. Really? I guess I even thought such, or at least wanted to believe it, because I was in a band, and I believed in that band, but there was no scene, no sound, no new attitude. There were just a lot of random bands making a lot of random music, and though some of them were quite good, and some were even signed to labels major and minor, nothing ever came of it. No one made it. Nothing happened.
But it happened here in Seattle. A community developed, and then a sound, or perhaps attitude, or as Tow puts it, “grunge was more an approach to playing than an actual style of music”, and The Strangest Tribe captures the smallest details of how that happened. There were bands and bands and bands that contributed something but never made it. The Fags. The U-Men, The Young Fresh Fellows and so many more, and all these years later, they have much to say, of course. When you’re in the thick of it, and then a new kid comes along, and then the new kid makes it big while you’re still playing whatever little bars you can, you have something to say. You have an opinion. You have the feeling of being part of something that made it all possible, that “I was there at the beginning” kind of feeling.
And like I said, it’s relatable, Tow spoke to many musicians, and anyone who has ever played in a rock band can relate to things like what Leighton Beezer from the Thrown Ups said, “I remember my budget was $400 a month: $80 for rent, $50 a week for food, and the rest went for beer. It was not a bad life.” I can relate to that life from my own time as a struggling musician, but what I never felt was that kind of burgeoning scene of musicians living together, bonding, supporting each other, creating music in a scene that was all about just that, the music, not the stardom. Tow writes about how the grunge attitude and sound were dying locally and how Nirvana’s success saved it and propelled it out into the world, largely against the wishes of one Kurt Cobain. He mentions the local backlash against Pearl Jam for wanting to be successful. Beezer confirms that, says he ridiculed them back in 1991 and 1992, but he came around, understands how the scene that made Nirvana, that enabled them, did the same for Pearl Jam. He and the other Seattle musicians and bands from that time know they played a part but don’t overstate it. No one in the book takes credit for the artists that came later. They just say, “I was there. I did this. Then this happened, and it was cool!”
And it was.
And all the details are there, the prequel, if you will. And reading it the way Mr. Tow writes about it, I almost feel like I was there drinking a beer with Beezer as Nirvana exploded. And that’s to Tow’s credit. There’s a ton of detail, but it never loses focus, never gets bogged down. He has an instinct for that which really matters to the story and writes it in a memorable way, almost nostalgic even tough he wasn’t there. When I met Tow at his book signing at the Feedback Lounge last October, we signed and exchanged books, had a couple beers and talked about the time and effort of writing, how we both observed the scene from afar back in those days, how we loved Nirvana and Pearl Jam then (no backlash back east), how we both wished we could have been here in those days. It must have been exciting for both musician and music fan, and after reading his book, it makes me wish he’d write the next part of the story, the sequel, the explosion. I want his take on the moment the world stood up and listened to Seattle.
Boy, success didn’t go to this guy’s head at ALL!
Personally, I think their schtick sucks, so, whatever. Hope the guy’s neck is ok.
Cairo‘s plans for world domination trudge on, with barely a wince or flinch from the destruction left in its wake.
This Saturday, August 20th, the multi-faceted art & music venue/boutique/label (you might have heard about their first album here) enters into the festival fray with a zero dollar admission concert in one of the country’s most carefully and beautifully designed urban parks, that of Volunteer. (Designed by a pair of bros. who copied their dad’s design of Central Park! Yes, that Central Park! Plus, like, the entire city of Seattle!) Vibrations runs from 2pm to 11pm and is non-ageist in its admittance policy. You can find all the fun at the band stand in the northwest quadrant near the reservoir.
If, as a frequent looker or occasional gazer of SSS, you find your tastes aligning with mine, then we will agree to agree that the lineup is something to behold. Especially for a sunny summer Saturday. If you can’t decide whether the music will be any good or not, I’ve added some mp3′s here for you to peruse and/or sample beforehand. Do yourself a solid:
More on Purple & Green here
More on Metal Chocolates here
Press Release after the jump/cut/fold/whatever:
Prior info on the new record here. East Mercer micro-venue/vintage boutique/workshop/mixtape purveyor Cairo is now in the record label business. Check out their new online store for Golden Fjord, as well as other great local albums such as Lunar from Secret Colors, USF’s Jamaica Plain EP, Flexions’ Leisure Time LP, and Stephanie’s self-titled EP for GGNZLA.
“Her War” is a bouncy, giddy-up tune and the strikingly goofy visuals presented here are a nice match. I’m not really sure why you wouldn’t like this.
Flexions West Coast Tour Dates:
Friday, August 5th – CD Release Party at Chop Suey, 8 PM^*
Saturday, August 13th – Family in Los Angeles
Sunday, August 14th – The Smell, Los Angeles, 8 PM †
Friday, August 19th – K Records Helsing Junction Sleepover
Saturday, August 20th – Cairo presents VIBRATIONS Outdoor Music Festival^
Friday, August 26th – Neumos, Seattle w/ Sleepy Eyes of Death, 8 PM
^with Metal Chocolates
*with Seven Colors
Photos and (pretty lame on-the-go) commentary from Saturday.
Arrived in time to see Lovers at the Vera Stage. So far, the PDX electro-ballad trio has delivered one of the more passionate performances I’ve seen from them. They are, without a doubt, making alliances with their appliances.
The crowd absolutely ate it up!
Next up, Handsome Furs. The duo, during soundcheck, look fierce. They will slay. Not two songs in, Dan Boeckner asked if anyone would sell him mushrooms for his road trip through the Rockies tomorrow. Some kid next to me will apparently oblige (and he was stoked about it).
They indeed slayed. Dan was severely wasted and Alexei did her crazy rock star calisthenics the whole time. They are two crazy kids in love (awwwww).
Teen Daze at the Vera. People are gettin high (seriously, pot smoke everywhere this year) and groovin to the slinky, vintage beats. The bass is a bit much, but set closer “Let’s Rock This Dagobah System” was OUT OF THIS WORLD. LITERALLY.
Consumption so far: Big Mario’s slice (tomato and basil), steak bahn mi and ono taco (Kahlua pork) from Fusion on the Run truck, many Mirror Ponds, Moscow Mule shot from Quinn’s.
Now, LSF. Harrington seems particularly decked out already. Three costume changes in four songs. Crowd surfing, shirtless/superhero hijinx, and now singing from the 2nd story of the building across from the Shell station. Amazing! The band soldiers on, tight and on point as usual. The tarpaulin appears! As does a crazy rainbow shag overcoat thingy.
The Sweat Descends, and an eagle head mascot is donned.
Oh, Les Savy Fav, you make me shake, you make me shiver! (Careful, these pictures really suck!)
(Editor’s Note: I edited this on Monday.)
So, this little story will likely seem pretty weird to many of you. While I do relish a good local celebrity sighting, I realize an encounter with one may not make for the sexiest story. I’ll see musicians walking around town all the time (my wife claims she almost ran over Fleet Foxes frontman Robin Pecknold with her car once, which would’ve totally ALTERED HISTORY), or, once, I offered my seat in the cramped confines of the Pike St. Fish Fry to Almost Live funnywoman Nancy Guppy. I think we even shared a few laughs (LOL). Mostly though, I’m generally pretty good at leaving the person be, tapping my wife on the shoulder to let her know whose “presence” we’re in and leave it at that. Newscasters, for instance, are not worth accosting for any reason—unless it’s Steve Pool in a convertible. There are times, however, where I really, really regret not having at least said “w’sup”.
This deep regret is what I felt last weekend. Last Saturday, the wife and I took our baby daughter out to Seward Park for a little family fun run. Two and a half miles is about the length of the park’s loop and we made it in pretty good time (we’re pretty good runners, my wife and I). But we decided to go again and really give our glutes a good workout. As my wife returned to the car to fetch some water, I decide to post up near the Audubon building with the stroller. And who, pray tell, is sitting right there on the curb, all by his lonesome save for a one-speed fixie? Mr. Shabazz Palaces himself. Palaceer Lazaro. Digable Planet’s own Ish “Butterfly” Butler. I about burst.
Like I said, many of you might not see this as a big deal, but given SP’s cryptic genesis a few summers ago, the fact that this sighting was happening in such a non-music, non-hip hop locale, and my utter esteem for SP’s bizarro, spaced-out freakness, my pants came about two millimeters from splitting. So I stood there, trying not to look, all the while looking. He had with him a sweet 2-wheeled purple pony– “was it his or his daughter’s?”, I asked myself. “Does he bike a lot?” “Is this how he stays fit?” He looked, as usual, pretty fly with the neck scarf and white hightop Chucks. He had some sort of gold-plated smartphone that he was listening to up close, no doubt some new ish he’s workin’ on. A few minutes later, he quietly mouthed some raps into his phone.
As I argued internally about how, or even if, I should introduce myself (always lead with a greeting and a compliment), I decided I should at least covertly snap a photo or two with my phone to show my buddy. I did this, pretending to be pointing it at the stroller. Good lord, is this stalker material? I dunno, I hope not. I just know that his recent output is some of illest, most ingenious stuff to ever rattle my eardrums, and I was going fanboy all over the place. In my head, anyway. I kept it cool on the outside, knowing Ish would do the same. I then realized him sitting there, rappin’, was like that big blue heron sitting in Andrews Bay that same morning: majestic, idle, and probably not too interested in visitors. It was this metaphor, coupled with a cat-caught tongue, that led me to stay silent. What would I have said? Probably something stupid about how much I dig Shabazz Palaces, and how I just got the awesome gold-flecked black “velvet” CD case in the mail a few days prior. I would’ve kept it short, that’s for sure; dude seemed like he was in a p’zone.
So that’s my story. I regretted not saying anything the minute we left to continue our run, and still do one week later. But it was probably for the best. As for Black Up, I’ve spun it ten times or so and I definitely like it. I don’t think it’s quite as brilliant as Shabazz Palaces or Of Light; perhaps it’s a bit more “difficult” than the first offerings, if you can believe that. Andrew Matson of the Seattle Times called it the “album of the year”. That’s probably a bit much. Seattle Weekly music editor Chris Kornelis called the band “supremely overrated”. That, too, is a bit much. The truth is, is that it’s probably somewhere in the middle, falling differently along the spectrum for each listener. I do know that it will likely make anyone’s head spin, if given the chance to soak in it’s eerie, gothic beat-jazz and black sci-fi introspection—Clear some space out / so we can space out.
So, if by some extremely remote chance you ever read this post, Mr. Shabazz Palaces, please accept my apology for the photo and know that it’s borne strictly out of admiration. My regret lives on, because, as you know: If you talk about it / it’s a show / and if you move about it / it’s a go.
It’s been a while since my last post but my old friends in Summer Babes just released their first full length album “Open Swim” and I had to give them a plug. You’ll recognize some of the members from groups like The Lights and Man The Guns, but this album is a different direction. Very refreshing, eclectic, smartly written, solid hooks and a tangible vernacular that moves back to a almost post punk style vocals (male, female and harmonies) with indie guitar. There are brush strokes of rock, blues, indie and maybe even jazzy licks. Definitely worth listening to. If this is what their writing now I can’t wait to hear more. Nicely done. Next show is at the Blue Moon Tavern July 8th.
The day-by-day schedule for this summer’s Capitol Hill Block Party was released yesterday, and in this dude’s less-than-humble opinion, Saturday is the muthafuckin’ day. A main stage trifecta of Handsome Furs, Les Savy Fav, and TV on the Radio? Yes, please. Three-day passes have been on sale for awhile now (and methinks not quite sold out yet), but single-day tickets go on sale tomorrow (Friday 6/3), for $27.50 a pop.
The headliners are noticeably dumbed down from years past (Ghostland Observatory? Really? Blech.) when bands like the Jesus Lizard, Sonic Youth, and the Dead Weather choked the Pike St. corridor. TVOTR is a respectable band—and one whose albums I all own—but I don’t think they’re nearly the draw of other outfits (ditto Explosions in the Sky). Plus Kevin ceremoniously turned his back on them back in ’08, so there’s that.
As usual, I will have to force myself to not just camp out at the Vera Stage all day Saturday. Yuni in Taxco, Witch Gardens, LOVERS, Seapony, Teen Daze, and Beat Connection: damn if I haven’t BLOGGED LIKE CRAZY about all of those great bands in the past year (‘cept for Teen Daze, but I can assure you his last LP My Bedroom Floor is the Real Fucking Deal). LOOK IT UP.
Also, after years of back-dooring the reach-around, the Cha Cha is now an “official” CHBP stage. Congratulations guys!
You can get advanced tickets in person this year at Caffe Vita, btw Nope. Below is the full list of acts:
THE HEAD AND THE HEART, BEST COAST, SHAD, KUNG FOO GRIP, BFA, BATHS, DUNES, COLD SHOWERS, GRAND HALLWAY, TV ON THE RADIO, EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY, GHOSTLAND OBSERVATORY, THURSTON MOORE, THE CAVE SINGERS, BATTLES, RA RA RIOT, LES SAVY FAV, HANDSOME FURS, THE POSIES, KURT VILE AND THE VIOLATORS, YUCK, FUCKED UP, TELEKINESIS, CULTS, COLD CAVE, WOODS, FENCES, PINK MOUNTAINTOPS, MY GOODNESS, PAPERCUTS, AUSTRA, THE FRESH AND ONLYS, MAD RAD, FRESH ESPRESSO, CHAMPAGNE CHAMPAGNE, FEDERATION X, THEESATISFACTION, RAVENNA WOODS, AKIMBO, THE YOUNG EVILS, BLACK BREATH, GRYNCH, ABSOLUTE MONARCHS, ELEANOR FRIEDBERGER, GRAVEBABIES, BEAT CONNECTION, GRAND HALLWAY, CAMPFIRE OK, LOCH LOMOND, SKARP, LISA DANK, SOL, PAINTED PALMS, MASH HALL, METAL CHOCOLATES, UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA, SPORTS, TEEN DAZE, CRAFT SPELLS, BOAT, LAKE, VIRGIN ISLANDS, SPURM, ELEPHANT RIDER, THE PHARMACY, LOVESICK EMPIRE, CONSTANT LOVERS, SLOW DANCE, DON’T TALK TO THE COPS, NAZCA LINES, THOMAS WRIGHT TRIO, LOVERS, YARN OWL, THE FIRST TIMES, REPORTER, LUMERIANS, SEAPONY, WHEELIES, SLOW DANCE, THE LUMINEERS, WITCH GARDEN, HE WHOSE OX IS GORED, LAND OF PINES, BUSTER BLUE, THE FIRST TIMES, “THE ROLLINGSTONES”, HAUSU, YUNI IN TAXCO, SPACENEEDLES, COMEBACK! WITH COLBY B AND DJ PORQFEAT FEAT: ONONOS, HOLLYHOOD! DJ SETS BY FOURCOLOR ZACK, TIGERBEAT, SEAN CEE DJ N8