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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 May, 2010

Bob Dylan, Hole, Weezer & Mary J Blige to headline Bumbershoot 2010?

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Not much is known about this year’s Bumbershoot Festival other than that it will be happening Labor Day weekend and that EMP Sound Off! winners Great Waves will be performing (I also hear that some Ear Candy’s favorite local bands that weren’t booked last year will be on this year’s bill). However, the new edition of Rolling Stone contains some interesting information about the headliners for the 40th edition of Bumbershoot.

According to page 36 of the magazine, Weezer, Bob Dylan, Hole and Mary J Blige will headline this year’s festival. However, those headliners have not been confirmed by One Reel, the company that organizes Bumbershoot. The lineup for Bumbershoot will be released June 2. I have sent an e-mail to One Reel seeking comment.

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Modern art makes me want to rock out: Seattle Art Museum’s Cobain-themed ‘Kurt’

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Earlier this week I attended a media preview of Seattle Art Museum’s “Kurt” exhibit which focuses on the impact Kurt Cobain’s life had on the lives of others. Below is my unedited take on the exhibit that I wrote for Crosscut.

During “Modern Art,” a song by British rock group Art Brut, Eddie Argos exclaims “Modern art makes me want to rock out.” That statement more or less sums up how I felt after spending nearly two hours viewing Seattle Art Musuem’s “Kurt,” an exhibit that celebrates Kurt Cobain’s worldwide influence on the world of pop culture and art.

Curated by Michael Darling, who will be leaving SAM in July to be the chief curator at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, “Kurt” perfectly bridges the worlds of pop culture, music and art. This is an exhibit not just for fans of fine art. Anyone who has been touched by Nirvana’s music can find something to appreciate here. The installation, which opens today and can be seen until Sept. 6, features nearly 80 works of various mediums ranging from sculptures to paintings to photographs and more, each expressing different aspects of Cobain’s life and how he impacted the lives of others.

“Kurt” isn’t a collection of memorabilia like you might find at the Experience Music Project, (which will have its own Nirvana exhibit in 2011) and it isn’t a display of Cobain’s own artwork. “Kurt” is an exhibit that takes a very public and tragic figure and humanizes him in a way his own music never could and like all good art, almost every piece on display makes you think.

The danger and tragedy of Cobain’s life is represented throughout “Kurt” with two of the more effective pieces being Jordan Kantor’s 2006 painting “Untitled (Forensic Scene)” and Banks Violette’s “Dead Star Memorial Structure (on their hands at last)” from 2003. The former is an oil painting that harkens memories of the infamous photos of Cobain’s dead body inside the greenhouse where he killed himself. The latter is what looks like a devastated drum kit dipped in black tar. Pieces of the kit are deconstructed and strewn across a platform and pointy stalagmites poke through the floor. It conjures feelings of darkness, volatility and despair, all of which can be heard in Nirvana’s music.

There is also a remarkable audio collage that attempts to loosely tie Cobain’s death to the loss of innocence in the 1960s. The work by Sam Durant  is part of a larger piece that includes graphite portraits of Cobain, Robert Smithson and others. Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black),” part which Cobain quoted in his suicide note (“It’s better to burn out than to fade away”), plays from one pair of speakers while “Gimme Shelter” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” play from two other pairs. The speakers are connected to stereos underneath a replica of Smithson’s “Partially Buried Woodshed,” which he built after the Kent State massacre. Initially it is a bit jarring to hear the three songs played simultaneously but once your ears adjust your mind makes the connection between the songs and their separate meanings to different generations it all comes together quite nicely. (more…)


PHOTOS: Paramore @ WaMu Theatre 05.12.10

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Photos by Jason Tang

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A modern day Mudhoney: Unnatural Helpers Cracked Love and Other Drugs

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Forty seconds into “I Don’t Belong to You,” the opening track on Unnatural Helpers’ Cracked Love & Other Drugs, Dean Whitmore declares “My ears have blisters.” That statement more or less sums up how you’ll feel after listening to the band’s 15-track, 26-minute Hardly Art debut and it’s a very, very good feeling.

The record is chock full of short and sweet bursts of rock that feel so vital and visceral that you can practically feel Whitmore’s sweat dripping out of your speakers. Unnatural Helpers play fast, dirty and loose and the result is music with distinct Northwest grit perfect for a punk rock sock hop. The band is the closest thing Seattle has to a modern day Mudhoney other than, well, Mudhoney and that’s not something I’m saying with the typical heavy helping of hyperbole that plagues most music journalism. Actually, the modern day Mudhoney comparison is easy to make considering the band’s connection to Sub Pop Records (Whitmore works there) and the raw power of its music.

Adding to the album’s Northwest flavoring is the mostly invisible hand of former Fastback Kurt Bloch who handled producing duties. I say mostly invisible because Bloch chips in near the end of the album with a guitar fueled by feedback and fuzz on the 90-second “Tell Me That You Wanna.” Elsewhere on Cracked Love & Other Drugs Kinski’s Chris Martin plays guitar and helps out on the keys. Also of note is Whitmore’s Hardly Art labelmate Kimberly Morrison from the Dutchess & the Duke. Her sweet vocals on tracks like “Sunshine/Pretty Girls,” which is perhaps the best song on the album (download it for free here), is the honey to Whitmore’s vinegar and her bass chops throughout the record give the group a formidable rhythm section.

Whitmore, the primary creative force behind Unnatural Helpers, is of the rare breed of musicians known as the singing drummer. Knowing this you can’t help but wonder if his ear blisters are a nod to the “Helter Skelter” blisters on the fingers of the world’s most famous drummer. In the fashion of the hardest and heaviest song in The Beatles catalog, all the record’s songs are of quick and catchy and therein lies one of the album’s few flaws. You almost feel cheated as listener when such great down and dirty gems like “Head Collector” and “She Was your Girlfriend” and tracks with singalong choruses like “Wayward Eye” and “Vox Humana” clock in at less than three minutes. It would be great to hear what Whitmore and the rest of the Helpers would fare creating something in the four-minute range.

However, in the end the less-is-more approach serves Unnatural Helpers well. That quick-hitting, rapid-fire assault of rock is part of what makes this record so great. By the time you think to yourself ‘Hey that was a really short song,’ you’re too busy rocking out to the next track on the record to even care. Unnatural Helpers play rock music for the kids who forgot to take their Ritalin and this fast and furious approach provides a great soundtrack for the ADD-riddled youth of America.

In a city where bearded folk rock has made its way to the forefront of the music scene, Unnatural Helpers is a refreshing jolt of loud, raucous, good old fashion rock ‘n’ roll. The fact the band is on Hardly Art(one of the most bearded labels in town) is an added bonus which shows that music from Seattle still has some cojones . Cracked Love & Other Drugs is an album that will make your head want to bang, your toes want to tap and your ears want to slamdance, which is likely the source Whitmore’s blisters.


Start planning: Sasquatch! schedule, iPhone app released

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Everyone knows the worst part about Sasquatch! isn’t the occasional freak weather, the remote location of the Gorge which can sometimes make you feel like you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere, or having to deal with sweaty,  drunken frat boys. The worst part about Sasquatch! year in and year out is always the schedule conflicts. Unfortunately this year’s Sasquatch!, which is perhaps the most talent-rich lineup to date, is no different than the eight Sasquatch!es that came before it as there are conflicts aplenty on this year’s bill.

The schedule for the festival was released earlier today (full schedule after the jump) so now you can start planning whether to see Vampire Weekend or Nada Surf, The Hold Steady or The National, MGMT or the New Pornographers, OK Go or Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes … you get the idea.

So what took so long to get the schedule out to the public? I spoke with Adam Zacks, the curator and creator of Sasquatch! on Tuesday (more about that conversation to come) and he said changes with the comedy schedule (Aziz Ansari had to bail b/c he’s hosting the MTV Movie Awards) was one reason fans have yet to get a schedule. He also said a Sasquatch! app was waiting approval from the Droid and iPhone folks which contributed to the delay. For those iPhone users who know all to well that AT&T service at the Gorge more or less turns your iPhone into a fancy clock, Zacks said the app will include lots of GPS-based features that will make it a very useful tool to have at the festival.

As of right now the schedule is not on Sasquatch!’s website but you can download the schedule to your phone as a handy iPhone app or search for it on the Driod marketplace. Here’s the schedule:

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Carissa’s Wierd to reunite, play the Showbox July 9

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Carissa’s Wierd, the band that helped launch the careers of Grand Archies, S, Sera Cahoone and Band of Horses, is reuniting for what for now is looking like a one-off show at the Showbox at the Market July 9.

I’m not going to be Mr. Cool blogger here and say I knew about these guys back in the early aughts when they were performing and recording music together because they were nowhere on my radar back then, but after listening to a few of their songs I will say I am excited for this reunion. The reunited Carissa’s Wierd will feature Mat Brooke (Band of Horses/Grand Archives), Jenn Ghetto (S), Sarah Standard, Robin Peringer, and Sera Cahoone. Band of Horses’ Ben Bridwell was also a member of the band but he will not be at the Showbox gig. The show is in celebration of Hardly Art reissuing the band’s three albums, which are out of print, as well as a greatest hits album titled They’ll Only Miss You When You Leave: Songs 1996-2003.

Tickets for the reunion show can be purchased here.


Dead Weather to headline Capitol Hill Block Party 2010?

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Not much is known about this year’s Capitol Hill Block Party aside from the dates (July 23& 24), location (Capitol Hill, duh) and the day the lineup announcement will be made (June 1), however that didn’t stop 107.7 The End jock Andrew Harms from starting a bit of a buzz on his blog last week.

According to Harms, one of the more reputable DJs in town, rumor has it Jack White and his psychedelic-freak-goth-blues band Dead Weather will be one of the festival’s headliners. If this is true then CHBP will be a can’t-miss festival. (UPDATE: According to Dead Weather’s tour dates they are in San Francisco July 22 and Portland July 24 so it looks like a July 23 Seattle date is going to happen. Whether or not that show will be at CHBP, which is also on July 23, is still unknown.)

I caught Dead Weather at the Paramount during their sole Seattle performance last year and I was blown away  not only by Jack White’s amazing skills behind the skins but also by Allison Mosshart’s captivating stage presence. She is a serious frontwoman force to be reckoned with that in my humble opinion puts Karen O to shame. That’s right YYY fans, I just said Moshart > Karen O.

While we’ll have to wait until June 1 to find out if this rumor is true, you can get your Dead Weather fix today at 3 p.m. when the band performs all of its new album Sea of Cowards today at 3 p.m. on MySpace.

h/t to Matson on Music for the 411 on CHBP deets.


SIFF + Maldives = Country Western film score at the Triple Door

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

The Seattle International Film Festival has always had its share of music-related films and events. This year one of the festival’s must-see musical offerings involves a silent film, the Triple Door and Ballard’s own country cowboys The Maldives.

The nine-piece group will be performing a live score to the 1925 film Riders of the Purple Storm during two live sets on May 25. According to t he Maldives’ Jason Dodson, the band chose the film in part because Mayor Mike McGinn compared the band to the 1960s group New Riders of the Purple Sage. The film is based on the 1912 novel by Zane Grey. Here’s a plot summary from good ol Wikipedia in case you aren’t familiar:

Riders of the Purple Sage tells the story of Jane Withersteen and her battle to overcome her persecution by members of her Mormon church. Jane Withersteen does this with the help of several of her Gentile friends, Bern Venters and Lassiter, and in the end, through the help of Balancing Rock and her Gentile friends, finds herself, a child who needs her, her true beliefs, and her true love. The events depicted in Riders of the Purple Sage occur between the mid-spring and the late summer of 1871.

Tickets for SIFF Presents the Maldives are on sale now and cost $16 advance and $18 the day of the show. The showings/performances are at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.


Hear it here: Lisa Dank’s “Cookies!”

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Sometimes you can immediately tell when a song is going to be a hit. That was the case back in March when Ear Candy threw itself a birthday soiree featuring the Emerald City’s underground pop princess Lisa Dank. During her set she debuted “Cookies!” a song I knew was destine for radioplay the minute I heard it.

I haven’t heard all of Lisa Dank’s upcoming debut album, but I’m pretty sure “Cookies!” will be her trademark song. The track brings back memories of the days of jelly bracelts, Care Bears and Rainbow Brite by giving a modern twist to a vintage Madonna sound. Trying to pull of something like this could have been a disastrous experiment but Lisa Dank does Madge proud while singing about her childhood dream of hustling enough cookies to make it to Space Camp. It’s tough not to get the song’s chorus (“Girl Scout cookies. Hustle. Hustle. Make that money. You’ve got dough. We’ve got the cookies. Stay on that grind”) stuck in your head, which is the sign of a winning single. The “Space Camp!” shout out at the song’s end is pretty sweet too.

Given its subject matter and the addictive nature of its sound rooted deeply in the Material Girl’s back catalog, it’s appropriate “Cookies!” has received airplay on C89.5FM, a station run by high school students who are growing up on a pop diva diet of Lady Gaga and Beyonce. Lisa Dank has a golden opportunity here to not only become Seattle’s sole pop diva but also introduce a generation of kids to the pop music their parents grew up with. Give “Cookies!” a listen and grab a your free download above.


Breathe: Repeat win Hard Rock Seattle’s battle of the bands, could open for Pearl Jam in London

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Last month the folks at Hard Rock Seattle put together a weekly battle of the bands competition, called Ambassadors of Rock, that featured 12 local groups competing for a chance to represent Seattle in a national contest sponsored by the restaurant chain. The winner of the national contest gets a trip to London for the Hard Rock Calling concert at Hyde Park where they will open for Pearl Jam, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder.

The final round of the battle of the bands was held Saturday night and Breathe: Repeat took home the top honor beating out Eighteen Individual Eyes and Alabaster. Don’t worry if you’re thinking “Breathe who?” They took me by surprise too, but trust me they are the real deal and very much worthy of  the title of battle of the band champs.
In full disclosure I was a judge during one of the rounds of Hard Rock Seattle’s battle of the bands and I’m proud to report that Breathe: Repeat won the round I helped judge. Actually, that night myself and the other two judges were in unanimous consent which might have been an indicator they would win the whole shebang. The band’s warm harmonies and pop-driven songwriting make them easy on the ears and should help them standout in a music scene filled with amazing talent. So now not only is Breathe: Repeat a good thing to do in order to live, Breathe: Repeat is a band to watch in Seattle. (more…)


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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.