Monthly Archives: October 2009

REVIEW: The Sounds rock The Showbox

Maja Ivarrson by Brittney Bush Bollay


Maja Ivarrson is a star.
The sexy Swede, who fronts The Sounds, strutted her stuff all over the Showbox’s stage Tuesday night with a charismatic presence that demanded your attention not just because of her foxy good looks but because of her impressive pipes and rock star prowess.
The Swedish band has already had success stateside having rocked the main stage of Warped Tour a few years ago and opening for No Doubt this past summer, so it wasn’t surprising to see them draw a big crowd. The Sounds are a sometimes synthesized pop-rock Blondie for the Paramore generation and the kids at last night’s all-ages affair ate up every second of the band’s 75-minute set. It was a performance that showed the Sounds as a band primed to  be rocking arenas on their own headlining tour sometime down the road.

The band’s latest album Crossing The Rubicon expands on its power pop-rock sound and the songs from that record sounded great alongside the band’s older material. “No One Sleeps When I’m Awake” and “Beatbox,” both off Rubicon, were highlights of the set. The piano ballad “Night After Night” had the crowd singing the verses louder than Ivarrson and during “Queen of Apology” and “Hurt You” the kids on the floor pogoed up and down in pop-rock bliss.
As fun as it was to shake and move to the thumping bass and driving guitars, Ivarrson was the show and she knew it. She played to the crowd as she ran the gamut of clichéd rock star emotions ranging from giving the crowd genuine thank yous to shouting out profanities while declaring how hard the band was going to rock. It wasn’t a shtick really; rather it is just how The Sounds are on stage and how Ivarrson expresses herself on stage.  This is after all a band that wrote a song about how much they love rock ‘n’ roll called, appropriately enough, “Rock N Roll” (it’s a lot catchier than it sounds).
Opening the night were Foxy Shazam and Semiprecious Weapons, two acts that also would fit well on the Warped stage. The former are a gruff Cincinnati outfit that looks like what might happen if Monotonix and Shim mated, while the later is a fiery glam-rock foursome. The all-ages crowd packing the Showbox on a school night (the show wasn’t sold out, but the venue was pretty full for a weeknight) for the three-act bill served as a pleasant reminder of how much fun rock ‘n’ roll can be when it is done right.


REVIEW: Blitzen Trapper overcomes adversity at Neumos


Marty Marquis (not a 1970s porn star) at SP 20 :: Travis Hay photo

Sometimes adversity can be an ally. That was the case for Portland sextet Blitzen Trapper Sunday night at Neumos on the final night of their fall tour.
The show started with the group’s singer Eric Earley telling the crowd he was sick and that he was beginning to lose his voice. Things could have gone completely downhill from there, but they didn’t. Instead of succumbing to his illness, Earley and the band stuck to playing songs that didn’t require too much of an effort to sing and for the songs where strong singing was a necessity the crowd pitched in and guitarist/1970s redheaded porn star Marty Marquis helped out with some heavy harmonizing. Okay, so Marquis isn’t actually a redheaded 1970s porn star, but the Yakima native sure looks the part.

Despite the vocal troubles, Blitzen Trapper was the perfect band for a cool autumn evening that foreshadowed the upcoming winter chill that’s creeping its way closer on the calendar. The band’s experimental, backwoodsy, Northwest-Appalachian folk-rock makes me want to cozy up next to a campfire and roast some s’mores while slowly sipping from a bottle of whiskey. The set stuck mostly to material off last year’s Furr, one of the most underrated Northwest rock records of 2008. Hitting it big on the blogosphere the same year Fleet Foxes conquered the world didn’t hurt Blitzen Trapper but given Furr’s excellence and how solid its predecessor Wild Mountain Nation is, you have to wonder how the band would have done without the success of Robin Pecknold and Co. My money is on them succeeding with out without the help of Fleet Foxes.
Speaking of Furr, the record’s title track became a massive singalong and was an early highlight of the night. It was followed by “Black River Killer,” a song that didn’t require much singing. The one-two combo was about as solid as the two-song encore which was another highlight. For the encore, Marquis came to the stage solo and told a quick story about how Washington could have actually become part of Canada instead of the United States. It was a fun history lesson but not as fun as what followed. Marquis said he wanted to play one of his favorite pop songs from childhood and he proceeded to strum and sing a few solo verses of “The Gambler,” which also became a fun singalong. Earley came out during the final verse and the show ended with “Country Caravan,” a great choice for a show closer.
I’ve seen Blitzen Trapper four times previously, three of which were at sunny outdoor festivals and the first time I saw the band was way back in 2007 opening for Modest Mouse at the Naval Ship Hall on South Lake Union, so I was really looking forward to seeing them play a full, headlining set a club. It was as satisfying an experience as expected, although the main set was a mere 45 minutes and there was only a two-song encore. The brevity of the performance is excusable considering the circumstances and how well the songs were executed.
Maryland duo Wye Oak opened the show. The band’s singer, Jenn Wasner, has a sleepily seductive voice and it carried well at Neumos. Unfortunately many of the songs were as sleepy as Wasner’s vocals making it tough to lock into the music without wanting to nod off. Fortunately the group jolted me awake when they picked things up at the end of their set, setting the stage perfectly for Blitzen Trapper.



Blake Lewis interview part 2

Earlier this month I had a conversation with Blake "B Shorty" Lewis on the date his new album, Heartbreak On Vinyl, was released. We chatted about his connection with the local hiphop scene, the making of the album, his tour plans and a few other things. You can check out the first part of the interview here.

In the second part of our conversation (see below) we continue to discuss "Heartbreak On Vinyl," which is hands down the most original record created by an American Idol contestant, as well as Blake’s promising new side project called Orchestral Drive-By. Blake played a bit of the project for me (sorry, it is not a part of the recorded interview) and like Blake himself, it’s truly original and unlike anything currently coming from the Seattle music scene.

The project involves all local musicians, including Blake’s buddy KJ Sawka, and each track brings something different. Of the unmastered tracks he played for me, one had a harder rock edge, another a beautiful orchestral pop sound a la The Beatles and yet another was more up the techno-trance dance alley. Nothing has been mastered yet but as you can tell It is a very diverse set of songs. One of the tracks features a female vocalist with an amazing voice that sounds like an angelic cross between Sia and Dido. Her name escapes me at the moment but she is local and when you hear her I guarantee you will fall in love with her singing ability. Hopefully when Blake finishes (he still has to record and write some songs and is looking to snag some guest artists including possibly RA Scion, the Seattle Symphony and Ben Gibbard) it will get proper distribution and shine a light on a lot of lesser-known local talent.


Blake Lewis interview part 2 by ear_candy

The Saturday Knights call it a career

Saturday Knights

If you were following  my Twitter account Saturday night (you can read it in the box on the right of this page) you already know that The Saturday Knights decided to end their run as Seattle’s premiere party-rap band. This is an unfortunate loss for the local music scene as Spence, Tilson and Barfly released one of the best local rap albums of the decades, "Mingle," last year. One of the great things about TSK is not only were they great on record, they were a great live band too. In memorium of TSK, here is the video for "Count it Off."

The Saturday Knights – "Count It Off" from Lincoln Leopard Films on Vimeo.

Them Crooked Vultures (Homme, Grohl and Jones) coming to Seattle Nov. 21

Exciting news from my inbox this morning. Them Crooked Vultures, the supergroup of Josh Homme, John Paul Jones and Dave Grohl, are playing in Seattle Nov. 21. The press release I received did not have ticket info other than stating tix go on sale this weekend. The release also says the band, whose self-titled debut album will be released Nov. 17, is playing at the Paramount Theatre. The band’s Web site confirms the Seattle date but has The Showbox listed as a venue. I’ve sent an email to the band’s publicist to clear up the details and I will post the correct venue when I hear back from the band’s camp. Until then enjoy "New Fang," the fist single from the new album. (UPDATE: The show is at The Paramount. Tickets cost $41.50)

Attending the Church of The Hold Steady: Where Craig Finn spits the gospel of Gideon and Southern Comfort flows from the taps like dirty holy water

I reviewed The Hold Steady’s free concert at the Crocodile Thursday night for Crosscut. The jump links to the full review.

The Hold Steady mixes well with alcohol — after all they have been labeled “America’s bar band” by critics and fans — so pairing the Brooklyn quintet with Southern Comfort for a free concert at The Crocodile Thursday night was a no-brainer.

The Kentucky-based booze sponsored the invite-only event that was billed as a show where The Hold Steady would play a set filled with covers of songs by their influences. In theory this is a recipe for a great rock cocktail, but instead of getting a musical blend of liquor and a mixer the show was more like a straight shot of The Hold Steady sans chaser. Only four of the 20 or so songs in the band’s set were covers, which was a little disappointing, but it is tough to complain considering the show was free.


Sunny Day on a rainy day: Sunny Day Real Estate triumphantly comes home


The storied Sunny Day Real Estate, a band considered by some to be a contributor to the development of emo music, triumphantly returned to its hometown Friday and it felt like they had never left. Given the group’s association with the heart-on-your-sleeve punk subgenre it was appropriate that it was pouring rain outside of the Paramount Theatre when SDRE took the stage for the last show of their brief reunion tour.
Sunny Day has reunited before and even toured but this incarnation of the band included all four original members – Jeremy Enigk, Nate Mendell, William Goldsmith and Dan Hoerner – and you really couldn’t tell the four men on stage hadn’t played in a touring band together for 15 years. It was great to finally hear songs like “Iscarabaid,” “Guitars & Video Games” and “Seven,” which was the second song of the set, performed live.

 For the most part the bandmembers were quiet and didn’t have much banter between songs. But it was apparent they all enjoyed being on stage together given the massive smiles they flashed between songs, and when Hoerner told the crowd he had been waiting the entire tour for the homecoming show you could tell he meant it. The love in the room from the crowd was nearly palpable too and the band reciprocated by playing favorites like “In Circles,” “48” and “J’Nuh,” and that was just the encore.
The only knock on the show (and this is a knock on the show itself, not the band) was that at times it was difficult to hear Enigk’s whispery vocals. The band rectified the situation when it cranked up the volume and rocked out during the louder parts of their dynamic quiet-loud-quiet-loud songs. Speaking of dynamic, the rhythm section of Goldsmith and Mendell was very impressive. Goldsmith is a beast behind the kit and he hit the drums with, ahem, Grohl-ian force. I hope your tenure in Foo Fighters is not a sore subject William.
As good as it was to finally hear the songs from Diary and the rest of Sunny Day’s catalog live, it was even better to hear them break out a new song. Tentatively titled “10,” the song still has the feel of old SDRE but updates it with a bit of a harder edge. It shows progressive growth from their older material and what sounds like a renewed interest in making music together. Hopefully this means there is a new Sunny Day Real Estate record on the horizon considering Mendell’s band Foo Fighters are on hiatus and Enigk looks to be finished with his touring obligation behind his latest solo effort OK Bear. Welcome back guys, you were missed but not forgotten.


REVIEW: Seattle City of Music Awards

A few weeks ago the city of Seattle celebrated its music scene during the first Seattle City of Music Awards. The night honored Fleet Foxes, KEXP and Quincy Jones. There were performances by the Maldives, Pearly Gates Music, the Seattle Rep Jazz Orchestra and the Tea Cozies, who rocked the afterparty. I wrote some words about the evening over at Crosscut and you can go here to give it a read.


REVIEW: Roger Daltrey (with Eddie Vedder) and Paper Zoo at Showbox SoDo

(Editor’s note: I wrote a little more extensively about Eddie Vedder’s role at Roger Daltrey’s show over on the Crosscut blog. You can read it by clicking here.)

Roger Daltrey’s named his first solo tour since 1985 “Use It Or Lose It,” a reference to his voice, and the 65-year-old Who frontman definitely did use it Monday night at Showbox SoDo.

Daltrey played a set of classic Who material along with a few songs from his solo catalog and some choice covers (including “Better Man” which was one of three songs featuring a cameo by Eddie Vedder) to a packed crowd at the cavernous venue. On the tour Daltrey is rearranging Who songs and playing lesser-known tracks from the band’s catalog. Monday’s show started off on the rearrangement note with a slightly acoustic arrangement of “Who Are You.” The set also included a harmonica-heavy “Going Mobile,” Daltrey’s “Walk On Water” and a goosebump-inducing “Baba O’Riley.”

Also making an appearance was “Squeezebox,” which is perhaps the worst rock song ever written. Unfortunately immediately upon its first notes all the liquored-up fifty-somethings in the crowd proceeded to awkwardly dance which was equally entertaining and slightly scary. Although I suppose I’m being a little harsh considering when I’m in my 50s I will probably be drunkenly dancing around in a similar fashion to The Hold Steady, Pearl Jam and other bands I love so dearly.

Daltrey’s five-piece band was more than serviceable as a Who replacement crew. Simon Townshend is the most notable member of the group as he is Pete’s brother and he sang a few of Pete’s vocal parts throughout the show. But while the band was tight they were definitely not The Who (or The Two as sometimes called by curmudgeons now that there are only two surviving original members of the four-piece). It was an amped-down show without the trappings of a The Who arena rock show.

Almost as impressive as the set list was the sound itself as SoDo is not known for having great sound. The barn-like warehouse of a venue can swallow a band’s sound and I have witnessed many top-tier modern rock acts (My Chemical Romance, Coheed and Cambria, Placebo) fall prey to its murderous sound-stealing demons. But that was not the case Monday as Daltrey’s voice soared through the club and when Vedder came out to help close the night by screaming the louder parts of “Bargain” he almost sounded better than he did at KeyArena a few weeks prior.

Paper Zoo, a youthful four-piece, opened the show with a five-song set. They are a little difficult to pigeonhole into one classification of rock, but I’ll give it a try (isn’t that my duty as a rock writer?). Put it this way, if Wolfmother had taken more acid and smoked less weed and listened to Pink Floyd instead of Black Sabbath they might come close to sounding like Paper Zoo.

The highlight of the group’s set was “Paper Zoo,” a deliciously demented Sgt. Pepper’s-esque trip of a song that acts as both a proper theme song and proper introduction to the band. Upon first glance the Paper Zooers, wearing tattered clothes and looking the role of children of ZoSo, seemed like an odd choice to open for a rock legend. But upon first listen, the band’s psychedelic sound rooted in classic rock made them a perfect fit for Daltrey’s power rock end of the musical spectrum.

Free fresh Fresh Espresso

Fresh Espresso, the hip hop duo of Rik Rude and P Smoov who both as of late seem intent on dominating the local hip hop scene, released a remix of "Something New" off the group’s excellent Glamour record along with a new track called "Bedroom." The remix features Macklemore, Gatsby and Grynch and it’s pretty dope. The video for the remix along with the two tracks (which you can download for free) are below.

Something New REMIX feat. Grynch, Macklemore, and Gatsby by FreshEspresso

Bedroom by FreshEspresso