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Music journalist Travis Hay drops some knowledge and insight about local and national music news, offers reviews and offers a place for conversation on all things music.
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Archive for December, 2009

Introducing Blood Cells: The Schoolyard Heroes spinoff band

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

This weekend will see the end of two of Seattle’s finest horrocore punk bands when Kane Hodder and Schoolyard Heroes perform their swan song sets at El Corazon. Also on the bill are Sirens Sister, These Arms Are Snakes and the mysterious  “Very Special Guest.” If you scope out Schoolyard Heroes’ MySpace page you will find out that the identity of that special guest is a band called Blood Cells.

Who are Blood Cells? Well, if you’ve been to a SYH show and you look at the piercing eyes staring at you in the above logo then you likely already know the band has something to do with the wild and fiery Ryann Donnelly. Once you click on over to the band’s MySpace page you get an audible confirmation of Ryann’s involvement with Blood Cells in the form of the song “I Am Forever, Darling …”  Her voice is unmistakable and the chorus of “Bury me. Bury me” lines up perfectly with her gruesome Schoolyard Heroes past.

As for the song itself, it carries just about every trademark of a Schoolyard Heroes track. There’s the growling bass lines, distinct guitar licks and of course there are Donnelly’s vocals. “I Am Forever, Darling …” sounds like what Schoolyard might sound like if they ditch the zombie and monster fixation and went in a less literal and more mainstream rock direction with their lyrics. There’s no indication of who else aside from Donnelly is a member of Blood Cells, but I’m betting Schoolyard’s Jonah Bergman is in the mix.

You can find out for yourself who exactly is behind Blood Cells when they kickoff the final Home for the Horrordays show Dec. 19 at El Corazon.


Visqueen’s Rachel Flotard on life, death, decking the halls and jicama

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Rachel Flotard by Kristy Cameron
Rachel Flotard :: photo by Kristy Cameron

If Rachel Flotard were a fruit she wouldn’t be a jicama, especially if her tastebuds have any say in the matter. The animated singer for Visqueen jokingly almost gagged after her first bite of the bland, nearly tasteless root fruit and bland and tasteless are definitely not words to use when describing the vivacious Visqueener and her band’s latest record Message to Garcia.

Flotard wrote the album while she was caring for her father who died of cancer and although death loomed over the creation of what turned out to be one of the best local releases of the year, Message to Garcia isn’t a downer of a record. Garcia’s message is as far removed from depression and sadness as the fiery red color of Flotard’s hair is from the pasty white hue of a jicama. It’s an inspiring and uplifting album that packs a mighty musical punch in the form of 11 songs that are as fun and spirited as they are emotional and heartfelt.

Flotard will end her 2009 in Seattle at the WaMu Theatre Tuesday night when Visqueen opens the sold-out Deck The Hall Ball, the annual holiday concert hosted by 107.7 The End (KNDD). Visqueen is the only local band on the six-act bill that features a crop of buzzed groups (Vampire Weekend, Phoenix, Metric, 30 Seconds to Mars) and one big-name headliner in U.K. trio Muse. Previous Decks have seen the likes of Death Cab For Cutie, Modest Mouse and other notable locals grace its holiday stage so playing the commercial radio event could be a pivotal point in the band’s 10-year career.

The concert will be Visqueen’s last of many high-profile local shows this year. The band debuted almost all of Message To Garcia live at Bumbershoot one day before the record was released, played a benefit show for The Service Board at the Crocodile last month and packed The Tractor Tavern opening for Shonen Knife in October. While the exposure from Deck will likely help raise the profile of Visqueen, the band will have to wait until next year to see whether it will find a national audience. This is not due to the concert happening so close to the new year. Ten hours after Visqueen finishes its set Tuesday Flotard will be boarding a plane making its way to Asia. She’s spending two weeks abroad where she will spend time helping install a floor at an elementary school in Laos.

I caught up with Flotard last week and we discussed her band, Message to Garcia, her upcoming tip to Laos and shared our first encounters with jicama. Here’s a snippet of the conversation we had over a lunch that included granola, yogurt and, you guessed it, some jicama.

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Lilith Fair 2010 gets Mary J Blige, Brandi Carlile, Metric and more and it’s coming to Seattle

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Remember Lilith Fair? It was a traveling girl-powered festival curated by Sarah McLachlan that had a respectable run in the 90s. It’s been a decade since the ladies of Lilith took over venues across the country so maybe you forgot about it.

The reason I ask is because next year Lilith Fair will be back and Seattle has been announced as one of its destinations and judging from the initial lineup you won’t want to miss Lilith 2010.

The lineup is a laundry list of just about every important and up-and-coming woman making music today. The lineup could change, or Lilith could have a Warped Tour type of set up where acts join and leave the tour throughout its run, so there’s no telling whether this exact group of women will play the Seattle date (which is TBA).Regardless of the Seattle lineup, in this age of destination festivals I am in full support of having more all-star touring festivals hit the road this summer.

So far the Lilith lineup includes the likes of Metric, Mary J. Blige, Tegan and Sara, Sheryl Crow, Janelle Monae, Ingrid Michaelson, Emmylou Harris, the Indigo Girls, Seattle’s own Brandi Carlile and more. Like I said, the date and full lineup for Seattle’s Lilith date is still TBA but that doesn’t mean you can’t be in awe over the initial listing of Lilith Fair artists below.

A Fine Frenzy, Ann Atomic, Ash Koley, Brandi Carlile, Butterfly Boucher, Chairlift, Chantal Kreviazuk, Colbie Caillat, Corinne Bailey Rae, Donna Delory, Emmylou Harris, Erykah Badu, Grace Potter and The Nocturnals, Ima, Indigo Girls, Ingrid Michaelson, Janelle Monae, Jennifer Knapp, Jill Hennessy, Jill Scott, Katzenjammer, Ke$ha, Mary J. Blige, Meaghan Smith, Metric, Miranda Lambert, Nneka, Sara Bareilles, Sarah McLachlan, Serena Ryder, Sheryl Crow, Sugarland, Susan Justice, Tara MacLean, Tegan and Sara, Vedera, Vita Chambers, The Submarines, The Weepies, Ximena Sarinana, Zee Avi


Go! Go! Go!: Go! Machine is going to be one big local hip hop party

Friday, December 4th, 2009

I wrote the below preview of this weekend’s Go! Machine shows at the Crocodile for Crosscut. Click the jump for the full article.

When it comes to music, Seattle is best known for its rock exports. But this weekend’s Go! Machine shows at The Crocodile could be the tipping point that reshapes the city’s musical landscape. The two-night affair, which begins tonight and continues Saturday, features just about every local hip-hopper who made a splash in 2009 and it and has the potential to ignite an already explosive hip-hop scene filled with diverse styles, talents, and sounds.

That’s right, in case you haven’t been paying attention, Seattle has a hip-hop scene and it had a breakthrough year. In fact, hip hop took the spotlight away from the boring bearded folk that reigned supreme before it and shifted the musical focus to party-popping beats and high-energy rhymes performed with passion and flair. If you’ve seen a set by any of the current wave of Seattle hip-hop acts that are a part of Go! Machine you know that it’s that very same passion, flair and showmanship that sells the music.

At the center of this mini-festival is the Out For Stardom gang. Between its viral marketing of Go! Machine, landing spots at local festivals and participating in events like last summer’s Beard Off, Out For Stardom has made itself known while doing something the bearded rockers before them didn’t seem to do at the pinnacle of their popularity: They are having fun. The groups Fresh Espresso and Mad Rad are the parties responsible for Out For Stardom (both are performing Go! Machine sets) and each quickly evolved from rising star status to unavoidable epicenter of the scene this year.

Packing a cache full of party raps, Mad Rad could be considered Seattle’s equivalent to the bratty version of the Beastie Boys. How bratty are they? The group got banned from several Capitol Hill clubs in January after allegedly getting into a tussle with a bouncer. (The group was later found not guilty of assault charges filed against them stemming from the incident and the ban has been lifted). The brief ban from The Hill didn’t stop Mad Rad from making a name for itself as the foursome delivered one of the most memorable Sasquatch! performances ever this year and landed itself on the cover of The Seattle Weekly, which is a tough thing for a musical act to do nowadays. The group’s set Saturday closes down Go! Machine so look forward to plenty of musical debauchery.

Equally as popular and on the other end of the rhyming spectrum is Fresh Espresso. While Mad Rad have the bad-boy image, Fresh Espresso is the exact opposite. Rik Rude and P Smoov (who is also a member of Mad Rad) come across as sophisticated players sharing tales of their glamorous lifestyles. That approach, combined with some very slick production, earned Fresh Espresso heavy airplay on KEXP and lots of critical acclaim. You can expect the group to grace many local critics’ “best-of” lists in the coming weeks (including yours truly).

But Fresh Espresso and Mad Rad aren’t the only reasons to hit up Go! Machine. With a lineup that includes 14 performers total and several surprises in the form of collaborations and potential unannounced guests, Go! Machine is a massive celebration of hip hop’s mammoth 12 months in the 206. To help prep for the party that will be Go! Machine, here is a quick look at some of the other performers slated to take the stage this weekend.

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French kissing French girls: Japandroids @ Chop Suey 12.01.09

Friday, December 4th, 2009

They do rock ‘n’ roll a little differently in Canada.

That’s the thought I walked away with after watching Vancouver, B.C. duo Japandroids at Chop Suey Tuesday night. The group made about as much noise as two people can during their 60-minute set, but don’t go mistaking their post-punk sounds for your typical unintelligible noise rock. As far as twosomes are concerned Japandroids’ brand of noise isn’t as polished as The White Stripes nor does it carry as much of a low-end thump as Local H. Guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse’s (aka Japandroids) garage rock sounds like some of the most awesome power rock you’ve heard disguised in the body of a Pitchfork-approved indie group.

Things started slow and the band was playing a little loose, which could be racked up to the show being the group’s last U.S. date on its three-month fall tour, but it was clear Prowse and King were having a blast. As the set progressed Japandroids became more and more of a two-headed beast of guitar and drums one song at a time. When the band reached “Heart Sweats,” the second to last song of the night, they had been firing on all cylinders for quite a while and the sweaty moshed-out all-ages crowd were eating up every drum hit, guitar squeal and sccream-along chorus. Before leaving the stage King let slip the group’s next stop in the Evergreen state. He told the crowd he’d be returning with Prowse to play a festival in the spring. Can you say Sasquatch!?

Surfer Blood, another band favored by the Pitchfork crowd, took the stage before our friends to the great white north. The members of the quintet looked like they were straight out of junior college. The band featured a percussionist who wasn’t shy with his cowbells. He played his instruments like a crazy, hairy Muppet hopped up on a case of Red Bull and was extremely mesmerizing to watch. If the indie rock gods were just they would give him his own solo project stat.

Portland five-piece World’s Greatest Ghost opened the show. They showed plenty of potential with cute and catchy pop songs.The group’s adorable set-closing song about being chased by monster sounded like a musical chase scene. They were a perfect fit for the bill, unfortunately there wasn’t all that big of a crowd to witness their charming indie pop.


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Music journalist Travis Hay drops some knowledge and insight about local and national music news, offers reviews and offers a place for conversation on all things music.