Friday
Dec082017

Del the Funky Homosapien and The Grouch

Del the Funky HomosapienAsk any hip hop fan who some of the most legendary indie rap groups of all time are, and Hieroglyphics and The Living Legends would undoubtedly be on every single list. So when Del the Funky Homosapien and The Grouch (of Hiero and Living Legends, respectively) co-headlined the Wild Buffalo in Bellingham for Grouch's 11th annual How the Grouch Stole Christmas tour, it was no surprise the house was at capacity.

Del is a bit of an anomaly in rap, comfortably straddling myriad genres outside of simply hip hop while still being, unequivocally, an emcee. Case in point: he's one of the original members of Gorillaz and Deltron 3030. Pulling from a discography of both legendary groups, Hiero, and his solo career, Del could've just phoned it in and the crowd would've likely eaten it up. But, a true showman, Del put on  quite a set for a solid 45 minutes, before ending with "Clint Eastwood" from his Gorillaz days.

The Grouch has been paying dues for going on two decades which, in hip hop terms, is tantamount to a career several centuries in longevity. Given that, it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect The Grouch, like Del, to just comfortably perform a concise set and bounce. (After all, Bellingham isn't exactly going to pull thousands to a show). Instead, Grouch clearly used those 20 years to continuously hone is stage presence, because his set was nothing short of extraordinarily energetic. In addition to Living Legends tracks, Grouch pulled out hits from his solo and collaborative catalog. A show not to be missed.

Here's to another 20 years of The Grouch "Stealing Christmas."

Del the Funky Homosapien

The Grouch
Photos // Words by Alexander Hallett
Tuesday
Nov072017

Lee "Scratch" Perry at the Wild Buffalo in Bellingham, WA

When you're 81 years old, you've got a career in music that spans nearly 60 years, and you've worked with artists ranging from Bob Marley to the Beastie Boys, and Rolling Stone names you one of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, your musical legacy is beyond reproach. So if you were to tour at this age, you'd be doing it because you want to, not because you have to. Such is the case with the legend Lee "Scratch" Perry, who recently played to a capacity audience at the Wild Buffalo in Bellingham, WA.

With backing from New York's Subatomic Sound System - Lee's go-to band for the last 6 years - Lee played over an hour long set, complete with encore, with more focus and crowd control at 81 than most artists have at 21. It's the product of years of experience, to be sure, but it's also a hallmark of just being really good at what you do and having innate talent down to the bones. It takes a certain level of gumption and confidence to calmly sip tea on stage, immersed in a sea of incense sticks, in between (and sometimes, during) songs, rather than to shotgun a PBR in an effort to curry favor with the audience.

Perhaps there's no greater testament to Perry's legacy than taking a look at the diversity in the audience: twenty-somethings, seventy-somethings, men, women, a cultural melting pot of baby boomers and millenials. Perry's music has been a shining beacon on the mountain of reggae and dub for six decades, and it will radiate forth for generations to come.

For more tour dates, tune into Lee's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/perryscratch/

Photos // Words by Alexander Hallett

Thursday
Nov022017

Brother Ali at The Wild Buffalo in Bellingham 

Brother Ali has been a staple in the hip hop community for over 15 years now. Despite endorsements from rap luminaries like Rakim, having Justin Timberlake fanboy out at one of his shows, and garnering acclaim from artists and fans of all genres, Ali has remained steadfastly independent and tied to Minneapolis mainstay Rhymesayers Entertainment. The fact that he was able to completely sell out the Wild Buffalo in Bellingham, WA on a freakin' Tuesday (Halloween, no less) speaks volumes about his continued staying power and relevance in the scene. And, his 15 years of performance experience culminated in one of the most focused, energetic rap shows I've been to in a long while.

Ali undertook his latest tour, The Own Light Tour, to promote his new album, All the Beauty in This Whole Life. While his 90 minute set included a fair amount of cuts from that effort, Ali also took time to revisit tracks from Shadows on the Sun, The Undisputed Truth, and Us. Seeing a capacity audience of 20 and 30 year-olds, fully decked out in Halloween costumes, rap along to the "You don't gotta love me" chorus of "Forest Whitaker" - one of the greatest musical anthems of embracing imperfections - was truly a sight to behold.

But while Ali's a seasoned pro at bringing energy to a raucous crowd, perhaps his greatest strength is being able to parlay that power into moments of quiet introspection, inviting the audience to pause and reflect on the beauty and magic this life has to offer. There aren't many artists, in any genre, who'd be able to unite the audience in reciting a prayer for unity in a foreign language directly on the heels of inciting them to waive their arms back and forth in unison.

That's Ali in a nutshell. That's what makes his music, and his live show, so special.

For remaining dates on Brother Ali's The Own Light tour, check www.rhymesayers.com

Photos // Words by Alexander Hallett

Friday
Oct272017

Nadafest: A Long, Unnecessary Review of a Very Good Festival 

Nadafest. 3 days. 24 bands. Some of whom you've heard. Many you probably haven't.

I am what you'd call a Nadafest professional. I have performed at Nadafest twice. I co-hosted it the first year with organizer Tim Basaraba. When I die tragically young, my body will be displayed on the main stage at Substation before it is burned in tribute. In the three years since its inception I have seen a lot of performances and I can say, without reservation, that this was the best lineup yet.

Nadafest is a product of NadaMucho.com's #41for2017 list. The purpose of the list is to generate interest in artists who aren't receiving widespread coverage in the city, thereby boosting their name value and encouraging them to step up their own promotional game. Artists who made the list in 2017 and in previous years are invited to perform at Nadafest (which is NOT a festival, according to them, even though it is a gathering of musicians and fans taking place over three days, exactly like a music festival).

So there's the setup. What actually happened?

Day 1

I am Tim Basaraba's ride. This is significant because Tim is hosting the event, introducing each band with his friend Zach. I am running late. I am sweating. This entire festival is on my back at the moment, there is no way we can make it exactly at 7:30. I am drowning. I am Drowning. I AM DROWNING.

I pull up to Substation at 7:23. The festival is saved. Tim makes a smartass comment about me being late anyway because that's just how he is. He jumps out of the car. I park. I run in thinking I am about to miss out on the first few minutes of the festival. The Screaming Multitudes, kicking things off in the back room, are not finished sound checking. The venue is far less than full. I have spent 45 minutes freaking out for nothing. My life is a lie.

Once things do kick off, around 8, I quickly come to the conclusion that The Screaming Multitudes are aptly named. They are loud as fuck. There is no bass, two guitars, and drums. I get a Television-meets-Weezer vibe and I mean that as a compliment. Lots of interesting guitar riffage with a distinct punch of power pop. Alliteration. I have to step out toward the end of the set for fear that my ears will literally saw themselves in half.

My ears are already ringing. I smoke a cigarette. I pray.

Killer Ghost are kicking off the main stage and have two drummers. I have loved and hated two-drummer set ups. I like this one. Killer Ghost reminds me a lot of The Velvet Underground. Not like they are a tribute project, they just have a similar aura about them. Their singer also reminds me of Lou Reed but only the Lou Reed who could sing. His voice is better than any era of Lou, to be honest. Great set.

I smoke again. I bullshit with my friends just a bit too long and realize the next act is already performing.

Photo by Jake HansonChristiaan of Hellergrave is performing solo in the back room and I am way into it. The room is dark, the sole ground light is focused on him in his chair. It's like a séance in the middle of a circus. Hellergrave is solemn, cerebral music best reserved for a morning of regret and a bottle of whiskey. I don't drink but I assume that's true. There are mellotron strings accompanying the guitar and vocals. I thought it was a

loop then realize Christiaan is playing it with his fucking feet. I was moved and now started to get the festival feels that I'd been waiting for.

More people are here now. Smoke.

Jake HansonMind Beams are insanely compelling. Describing their sound is stupid because it won't do it justice...but I'll try. They are prog without an ounce of douchebag-ery. They are punk, stoner rock, they are metal...with even a touch of folk every once in a while. Every instrumentalist is a virtuoso without ever being self-indulgent. Front person Meredith Myre's stage presence is spellbinding. Myre also suffers from MS and took the stage with a cane before proceeding to obliterate any doubts one might have about someone in a compromised state of health. They might be the best performance of the whole event.

Smoke.

somesurprises are one of my favorite, somehow-still-not-exactly-well-known bands in Seattle. Theirs is an elegant blend of psych, two guitars interlocking effortlessly while Emma Danner's bass grooves keep the whole thing moving. It's textural, druggy, dreamy, uplifting stuff. Natasha El-Sergany's voice serves as a fifth instrument, draped in reverb and echo to add the final, haunting touch on a masterful performance.

Smoke. After three successive transcendent sets I was feeling great but knew it couldn't last. The mood would have to change.

Photo by Jake HansonEnter Tit Nun. Taking the main stage in the kind of costumes you would expect a band called Tit Nun to wear, they launched into a set of silly, enjoyable punk that bounced between abrasive and campy, B52s-ish fair. Stage banter included helpful information about Scientology and STDs.

Another smoke, I'm starting to fade and there are two more bands.

Maklak was clearly motivated by The Screaming Multitudes to be the loudest band of the night. Holy shit. A lot of people call bands that sound like grunge "post-grunge" because music writers love to use the word post in everything. So I guess theirs is a post-grunge kind of sound. I was listening in the hallway because my tinnitus was not going to allow me to be directly devastated by their auditory assault. It was tight, it was well-played. They covered "Angel" by Massive Attack very well.

Toward the end of the set I walked into the main room. Approximately 45 seconds later someone fell face first into the concrete floor and bled everywhere. EMTS came, crowds gathered, guy got up and went to the hospital without the aid of an ambulance. Somehow this all happened before Maklak's set ended.

The Low Hums were sound-checking when the aforementioned face plant occurred. I felt for them because I was sure they were concerned but also hoping the show didn't get delayed or outright canceled. As it happened, the show proceeded in a rather orderly fashion. The Low Hums are pros and they showed it on the main stage. Now a bare bones conventional rock 4-piece, they powered through a fun set with nary a misstep. A fitting conclusion to a wild night.

I smoked too much. Smoke.

Day 2

After working a full day on a few hours sleep, I'm tired and cynical. This better be good. Clearly programmed as the "electro-hip-hop" night, Day 2 didn't disappoint.

I walked in at 8 and Cave Green had just begun their set. They are technically a 2-piece but of the Elton John/Bernie Taupin variety, Eleanor Murray was the sole performer. It was an enjoyable electro pop set that swayed between minimal beats and swirling piano/synth soundscapes. Eleanor's voice was the highlight, her melodies are soaring, kinda heavenly.

This is the part where I review rap. I like rap. I listen to rap. I'm not a connoisseur but I am a fan. Most of Day 2 featured very good rap performances. I will now embarrass myself. Please forgive me.

Astro King Phoenix kicked things off on the main stage by giving the subwoofers a workout. I don't remember the name of his DJ but the beats were hypnotic with some seriously psychedelic sample beds. Astro's flow is offbeat, his stage presence is relaxed and confident and he jumped on to the floor and high-fived people. Anyone who high-fives during the set is fucking amazing. The last 4 songs or so got much harder and he ended with a bang.

Smoke.

Guayaba was in the back room but she may end up on the main stage at a festival near you in the near Photo by Osato Cooleyfuture. That's because she was fucking awesome. Really awesome. She bounced from singing to rap so quickly and so effortlessly I looked down and realized I was pulling all of the money out of my wallet to throw at the stage. She had the entire crowd dancing with slacked jaws. One of the biggest surprises (to me). She was edgy but had a lot of pop crossover hooks that will very likely be on your radio soon. Look her up and bow down.

DoNormaal is probably the most buzzed-about artist playing Nadafest. If you're reading this article, you've probably read about her. If you haven't, read this or this or this. She's abstract, she's on point and her set featured a good mix of her classic cuts with new songs from her recent release "Third Daughter". There were a LOT of people in the room and many of them were singing every word to every song. Also her boots were fucking awesome.Photo by Osato Cooley

I step out to...smoke. Matt Ashworth from NadaMucho will not shut up about Downtown. That's ok though because he's very tall with a pleasant voice and on some level I fear him. So I listen before heading to the back room...

Downtown is, in fact, awesome. To be clear, you have to really like confrontational farce. They are like Suicide and Black Flag if both bands were morons and that is a strong compliment. Andrew, the proud Substation door man of legend, calls them "video game meth punk". They are. Mocking gun culture, bro culture, consumer culture and other cultural stupidity through unflinching deadpan embrace, they were a lot of fun.

Outside, I talked with Raven Matthews, now professionally known as RVN about his new album "GREYNEON" which I hadn't heard yet. It was stylistically different from his preivous offering "Disco Christ" but carried over some themes. "Prove it," I said in my head.

Photo by Osato CooleyRVN was telling the truth. His new material was gunge-esque at times (, at others it was closer to freak folk with a heavy emphasis on acoustic guitar (standout track for me was "Turkish Royals"). One of RVN's most admirable qualities is his ability to be incredibly off-beat, strange while remaining melodic and

memorable. He is a stage expressionist with no fear of being misunderstood. He never gives the answers to his questions, only provokes more.

Smoke.

Mirror Ferrari was the odd band out on this night. The back room was criminally under-filled for their performance which was a shame because Noel Leaf's passionate performance was incredible. Bare bones indie rock with some tasty RAWK riffs from time to time, they brought a change of vibe and intensity. Leaf used various credit cards for a pick, which never seemed to hamper his playing. He also offered helpful stories about making out at the Outback Steak House. Smart, simple synth chords and excellent drumming rounded out the performance and put Mirror Ferrari's excellent EP "The Pyramid" back on my stereo.Photo by Osato Cooley

By this point I was really tired and left just after Scribemecca's set started. I am a terrible person and deserve to die. I have seen Scribe before and it is well worth the investment in time and money.

Day 3

I am tired. I am withered. I am called by the glow of the Substation to return anyway. I do.

Sleepy Genes kicked the night off in the back room with a set of hard-charging pop punk featuring tight harmonies and smart synth playing. It gave me a Tegan and Sarah vibe. They also boasted a stylish inmate motif with matching striped shirts! Enjoyable.

Smoke. There are a lot more people here tonight than any other night. A LOT MORE.

The main stage came to life with a great set by Oliver Elf Army. Boasting a minimal 3-piece instrumentation, their melodies were impeccable and infectious. It would have been called Alterna-Pop 20 years ago, for the sake of argument I'm just going to call it good.

Smoke. Goddamn there are even more people here now.

By the time I walked back in Zelda Starfire had started in the back room and wasted no time getting everyone's attention. She played some mournful, traditional folk-Americana to start with her violinist but it was nearly impossible not to stare at the two-person, hand-operated lightbox show that was taking place on stage right. It was really cool and kinda hard to describe. Imagine a lightbox with cool shit and you've won the battle. After the lightbox and the violinist exited the stage, Starfire changed the pace and played some Johnny Cash-worthy badass folk punk. She sung out of a megaphone. A standout performance, thank you Zelda.

Crazy Eyes are a really good band that I've seen several times. They are mad, they are off-kilter and yet they are tuneful and catchy. It's contained, cleverly-constructed madness. They had a big crowd who was feeling every note with complete commitment. This is what festivals are about. Another show and Crazy Eyes has yet to disappoint me.Photo by Jake Hanson

I suddenly had a bad headache and went outside for a bit to get some air. I missed Shivertwins' set but heard it was great.

Steal Shit Do Drugs is a band whose name I've seen a lot but hadn't heard. They took the main stage with confidence and launched into a set of filthy, uncompromising punk rock. It felt a little like The

Cramps, a little like Dead Kennedys but more accessible than either. Front man Kennedy Carda in particular seemed to channel Iggy Pop and Jello Biafra.Photo by Jake Hanson

Smoke. By this point my ability to distinguish the finer points of each band has rapidly eroded. The only criticism of this entire festival is that Day 3 featured bands of very similar ilk. It was harder to stand out when so many bands were stylistically similar.

Snuff Redux was the last back room performance of Nadafest and were great. As noted previously, they had the misfortune of playing after several other bands that shared their creative disposition. My head was spinning and I was holding on for dear life. I lasted for about 5 songs and headed to a booth in the hallway to get my fragile bearings back.

Smoke. The crowd has thinned somewhat as it's 12:30 and MONSTERWATCH is still to play. But for about 3 hours, this was the closest I'd seen to Substation being sold out.

As I limped into the main room to watch MONSTERWATCH I am asking myself how I am going to write anything interesting or notable. My brain is overworked and underfed. My feet hurt. I am old and weary. And then...

Power. Youth. Reckless abandon. MONSTERWATCH have studied early 90's Seattle, learned from it and taken it several steps further. It's been a long time since I've heard a band with this much power. Just as I was feeling out of it and ready to sneak out, my pulse is now racing and I kinda wanna punch someone in the face. Not really but really. There are some obvious Nirvana-isms but the sheer force of their will makes me forget about them in a hurry. This was a perfect way to end Nadafest and I am very grateful that I stuck around.Photo by Jake Hanson

In all, Nadafest was exceptional from top to bottom. Substation is a haven for artists outside of the city's more mainstream artists and this was a celebration of their work. I smoked to much, drank too many Red Bulls and will probably require a short-term hospitilization but, to the artists, venue, and organizers, I tip my very large cap (because I have a very large head).

 

Friday
Sep292017

Nada Fest 2017 - Preview

In the aftermath of a Seattle summer that found the sky engulfed with smoke, the mayor resigning in disgrace, and something like 400 music festivals, there is only ONE thing this city needs...another music festival. Oops wait...NadaFest, the progeny of Seattle music and culture site NadaMucho.com, does NOT like being called a festival, so much so that the last two years the festival's tag line was "We are not having a festival". Orwellian irony? Perhaps. But, whatever name you give it, Nadafest is a 3-day, 2-stage celebration of soon-to-be-discovered and criminally-underappreciated Seattle bands and artists of all genres.

Hosted again at Substation, itself a refuge for the Seattle arts underground, Nadafest will feature more than 20 bands from NadaMucho's #41for2017 list with 100% of the door profits going directly to the artists. The main and back room stages alternate between performances so attendees never have to choose one artist over the other. Essentially, it's a 3-day, super-sized basement show with real stages, better beer, and no need to worry about your parents coming home early from vacation.

Entirely devoid of corporate sponsors (no free Cliff Bars for you) and with a very modest entry fee of $10/night, NadaFest serves as a genuine alternative to the high-dollar summer blockbuster festivals that have become their own cottage industry in Seattle. At a total cost of $30 for 24 bands, it is a steal.

NadaFest will take place October 19, 20 and 21st at Substation, 645 NW 45th St, Seattle, WA 98107. Admission is $10/night, 21+

100% of door sales will be split evenly between bands.

Don't Miss: Mind Beams, somesurprises, Low Hums, RVN, DoNormaal, Mirror Ferrari, Sleepy Genes, Crazy Eyes, MonsterWatch

THURSDAY 10/19

7:30-8:00 The Screaming Multitudes (BACK ROOM) facebook.com/screamingmultitudes/

8:00-8:30 Killer Ghost (MAIN ROOM) facebook.com/diggitydownandthegraveyards/

8:30-9:00 HellerGrave (BACK ROOM) facebook.com/Hellergrave/

9:00-9:30 Mind Beams (MAIN ROOM) facebook.com/mindbeams/

9:30-10:00 somesurprises (BACK ROOM) facebook.com/somesurprisesmusic/

10:00-10:30 Tit Nun (MAIN ROOM) facebook.com/titnunminion/

10:30-11:15 Maklak (BACK ROOM) facebook.com/themaklakproject/

11:30-12:30 Low Hums (MAIN ROOM) facebook.com/lowhums/

$10. 21+.

FRIDAY 10/20

7:30-8:00 Cavegreen (BACK ROOM) https://www.facebook.com/cavegreen/

8:00-8:30 Astro King Phoenix (MAIN ROOM) https://www.facebook.com/astrokingphoenix/

8:30-9:00 Le Grotto (BACK ROOM) https://www.facebook.com/legrotCHOD3/

9:00-9:30 DoNormaal (MAIN ROOM) https://www.facebook.com/donormaal/

9:30-10:00 Downtown (BACK ROOM) https://www.facebook.com/therealdowntown/

10:00-10:30 RVN (MAIN ROOM) https://www.facebook.com/rvnrecords/

10:30-11:15 Mirror Ferrari (BACK ROOM) https://www.facebook.com/mirrorferrari/

11:30-12:30 Scribemecca (MAIN ROOM) https://www.facebook.com/BAthescribe/

$10. 21+.

SATURDAY 10/21

7:30-8:00 Sleepy Genes (BACK ROOM) www.facebook.com/sleepygenesband/

8:00-8:30 Oliver Elf Army (MAIN ROOM) www.facebook.com/dubstepforpensioners/

8:30-9:00 Zelda Starfire (BACK ROOM) https://www.acebook.com/Zelda-Starfire-1472329643005249/

9:00-9:30 Crazy Eyes (MAIN ROOM) www.facebook.com/crazyeyesarelookingatyou/

9:30-10:00 Shivertwins (BACK ROOM) https://www.facebook.com/shivertwinz/

10:00-10:30 SSDD (MAIN ROOM) https://www.facebook.com/stealshitdodrugs/

10:30-11:15 Snuff Redux (BACK ROOM) https://www.facebook.com/snuffredux/

11:30-12:30 Monsterwatch (MAIN ROOM) https://www.facebook.com/monsterwatch/

 

Words by Patrick Galactic

Wednesday
Sep062017

Bumbershoot 2017: Part Two

It was earlier than I wanted to be off of the couch, but the reason I found myself at Bumbershoot early on Sunday was to see my sis. Stasia Irons, AKA, Stas THEE Boss, current KEXP Street Sounds host, former one half of the prolific ahead-of-the-wave Sub Pop queens THEESatisfaction, one of my favorite people. Weeks ago she dropped her debut solo mixtape’ #SWOMEN, caught love for it in places like Pitchfork, and was asked to open up the main stage on this, the same day as Solange. Pure Black Girl Magic from the feet up. Stas’ lowkey, aqueous vision was slick with one liners and delivered with an icy cool; she was joined by singers Jus Moni and Dee Butler, DJ Kween Kaysh and dancer Takiyah Ward. A mix of women’s Olympic swim meets, surf footage and classic rap and r&b videos spliced together by local hero OCnotes looped behind them, keeping everything topical as THEE Boss ran her laps. My heart was proud.

Now, Atlanta-made rapper Lil Yachty is someone I was once conflicted about. Even though he seemed to be little more than a jokey troll, custom-made to infuriate anyone old enough to have been excited about EPMD, his debut mixtape Lil Boat was an objectively-pretty-good bit of dessert-first Teletubby nursery-trap. He hasn't really done anything that good since, yet his profile has soared—more on strength of his willful “King of Teens” rage-baiting than his art. I stopped being conflicted a long time ago. Going to his mainstage show was an experiment in seeing how he could perform beneath my already-low expectations, and in that sense he didn't disappoint. As a live MC, he's pretty worthless, deigning to rap into the mic for about 20% of his material, letting his hypemen do most of the work—it would seem Lil Boat has as much regard for his work as his own detractors. Did he really make 50-or-so K for that? I would be mad. The kids, raving on, couldn't care less.

Or at least maybe they didn't have any illusions about Yachty’s work ethic—any of them wanting to see some world-class live rapping were surely in Key Arena later for Long Beach MC Vince Staples, who delivered a thrilling clinic in lean bombast, ripping though cuts from Big Fish Theory as well as older favorites “Blue Suede” and “Norf Norf”. Vince is unquestionably at the opposite end of the millenial rapper spectrum from Yachty, in terms of how he carries himself on and off the mic. There was no forced banter, no water-bottle-chucking, nobody but Vince stalking the stage like a black-clad Panther. (His spare aesthetic and athletic rapping very much reminded me of seeing Kendrick Lamar open up the Yeezus tour, also in the Key, back in 2013. Here's to Vince enjoying a similar glow-up in the days to come.)

I was pleasantly surprised by The New Respects while getting drinks by the Mural Amphitheater stage. This Tennessee-bred quartet (three siblings and a cousin) delivered some hard-charging, old school rock & roll with all the bluesy, soulful trimmings. This was no amateur hour bar band—they made it all sound fresh, fierce and free.

What is there to say about Solange? She was a radiant sun, her band a solar system rotating around her in flawless synchronicity. Solo performed some choice songs from earlier in her career but it was the songs from A Seat At The Table, naturally, that made it feel like the rapturous event it was. For being a universally hailed masterwork, you have to be willfully blind to miss the explicit pro-Black intention of that album—and as she sang “F.U.B.U., she actualized those intentions as she crept to the edge of the barrier and sang it directly to a young Black girl, holding her hand the whole time. When the big screens showed this lucky fan’s face, she was in tears, and the crowd lit up with a cheer for her. It was a detail of an arena show that felt intimate, a detail that was quietly revolutionary. Solange’s bar-raising Black love was a singular sight to behold, and one of the best performances I've ever seen at Bumbershoot. Sorry if you missed it.

 

Words by Larry Mizell Jr.

Photos courtesy of Bumbershoot

Tuesday
Sep052017

Bumbershoot 2017: Part One

“Who are these scantily-clad children and where do they get their money?”

-       Inner monologue

Bumbershoot is too expensive. It is not what it used to be (namely, free or at least affordable). It is hard to get as excited about a festival in September after there were 25 other festivals already this summer. Have I covered my bases? It’s hard to argue with any of these points. What was once a city-wide celebration of culture has evolved (devolved?) into a celebration of culture for those with $150/day to celebrate it.

That said, the actual experience once you walk through the gates isn’t all that different. Lots of food, music, visual art, dudes jumping over a line of 4-5 people, statue people, buskers, and retail booths. It’s a little bit of a lot and, with the beautiful weather, there was more than enough to do.

 

The Spider Ferns

Seattle mainstay The Spider Ferns kicked things off on the KEXP stage in style. With live psychedelic visuals by CTPAK Film Crew’s John Theroux and two interpretive dancers, their set offered a preview of their forthcoming album “Blossom”. Already known for their fever dreamy, down-tempo electro grooves, their new songs expand that territory and mine new domains of sonic interest. More guitar-driven than their previous releases with occasional baroque electronic flourishes, The Spider Ferns commanded the stage and the collective imagination of their audience effortlessly.

 

Acapulco Lips

In an industry that celebrates innovation (real or imagined) as its holy grail, there is a lot to be said for a band that does conventional rock really well. Acapulco Lips are just such a band and the packed crowd inside KEXP went along for the ride without reservations. Blistering through a set of catchy psych-surf party rock, the band evoked an image of Link Wray and Dick Dale crashing a Cramps rehearsal that ended with everyone high and happy.  

 

Foster the People

I won’t claim to be a super fan of Foster the People but I will say that I’ve always respected them as dorks with the ability to write a great pop song. At Memorial Stadium, those dorky indie kids were replaced by leather jacket-wearing, paint-by-numbers extras from “Grease” who were out to prove that they were…tough or something? They kicked their set off with some aggressive, undeniably catchy electro pop from their most recent release “Sacred Hearts Club” that had the crowd moving before launching into their hits “Pumped Up Kicks” and “Helena Beat”, among others. Artistic evolution is essential but the tough guy makeover was a little distracting.

 

Moon Duo

If I ever get murdered in the desert, I want Moon Duo to be playing on my killer’s stereo. Dishing out roadhouse guitar riffs with smart synth parts that bound together effortlessly, they played for an intimate, engaged audience. Long psychedelic instrumental passages and haunting, disembodied melodies added another layer of surrealism and escape that I needed after a solid 4 hours of stage-hopping.

 

It was at this point that my photographer Sidney and I were sitting at a fountain when a long line of women, dressed in what looked to be red prison uniforms, marched single-file directly to where we were sitting. They paused for a long time. Then they marched single file into Seattle Center’s big-ass fountain and walked around it for quite a while. It didn’t take long till there was a young man jumping around, acting as though he was leading the march and two teenage-ish girls following them and taking selfies feverishly. I never did find out the purpose of it. But it was worth noting.

 

Broods

Playing to a small but enthusiastic crowd at the Fisher Green Stage, Auckland, New Zealand’s Broods gave a solid performance of their danceable electro pop (how many times do you think I’ll say electro pop before it’s over?) that was pleasant enough, if not terribly distinctive.

 

Watksy

I didn’t know a thing about Watksy and I only caught his set because the grass at the Fisher Green stage was really comfortable. It was a happy accident. With a full live band blasting epic funk rock, blues and jazz, George Watsky commanded the stage and the crowd, at one point leading everyone in a “Fuck Donald Trump” chant. His raps alternated between social consciousness and silliness but were always amusing, at least. Toward the end of the set, his marathon flows did get a bit tedious but overall, this was a stand-out performance that I won’t soon forget. 

Die Antwoord

Nihilism with a budget. Die Antwoord live is everything you’d expect them to be: hilarious, crass, hyper sexual, hyper stylized and…well, hyper. With DJ Hi-Tek perched high atop a glorious LED rave pyramid, Ninja and Yolandi Visser kept the energy high with what may be the loudest sub-bass tones I have ever heard in my life. If you were expecting back-up dancers dressed as sexy ghosts, you were in luck. If you wanted LED animals with gigantic penises and testicles, you were in luck. Even with Key Arena slightly less than half full, the energy was palpable. Bottom line, this was a celebration of righteous excess, the music was secondary, and nobody cared. This was sensory overload and a great way to finish the night.

 

Words by Patrick Galactic

Photos by Sydnie, Deer Creek Media

 

 

Friday
Aug042017

Newport Folk Festival 2017

With political tumult still hanging in the air, and a President in office that is, shall we say, unpredictable, the Newport Folk Festival is a salve. A yearly gathering of like-minded music lovers congregating on the water to speak out, sing loud, and renew our hopes.Angel Olsen

The festival always tends to have a political bend, but this year was particularly sharp. Shirts like “Resist”, “Make America Read Again”, and “Nasty Woman” were commonplace. And if some of this year’s stand-outs are any indication, “the future is female” is much more than a slogan.

Female voices rang out from all three stages this year, including Margaret Glaspy breezing through the Quad stage with her assured singing style, Angel Olsen gripping Fort stage listeners by the collar with songs like “Shut Up and Kiss Me”, and the over-the-top Vaudevillian action of Nancy and Beth at the jam-packed Harbor stage.
Nancy and Beth

New acts helmed by female lead singers stole the show all weekend. Expectations were high for Big Thief, and the Brooklyn-based band delivered. Singer Adrianne Lenker alternated between ripping extended guitar solos like on “Real Love”, and bringing the house down with a show-stopping turn of “Mary.”

The Wild ReedsThe Seratones, from Shreveport, La., showcased the festival’s penchant for genre-defying acts as their blend of rock, soul, and punk invigorated the festival. Singer A.J. Hayne’s voice was like a scythe cutting through the crowd, clearing the way for an unforgettable performance.

One of the weekend’s most memorable acts was the Wild Reeds. Their sharp songs and rich tones lingered in this writer’s head long after the festival came to its sonorous sunset. The song

“Capable” will undoubtedly help the band reach scores of new listeners, with its prescient lyrics of “You’re capable of so much more/ than these people give you credit for. /And you just need to show it.” We have been huge fans of these ladies for quite some time now and are so elated that they were able to kill it on a Newport Folk Festival Stage.

 

The Newport Folk Festival boasts an illustrious history, a potent present, and with an eye for spotting up-and-coming acts, the future is in good hands, female and otherwise.

Here are are a few more of our favorite sets:

Regina Spekto

Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats

 L.A Salami

 

Fleet Foxes

Wilco

 

Robert Ellis

Words // Photos by Brian Hodge

Photo // by Bethany Hodge

Tuesday
Aug012017

Capitol Hill Block Party 2017: A Fresh Take 

Sometimes when you go to a festival year after year you get a bit jaded; you know the pace and exactly where to go for who you want to see (which is not a bad thing...) But, there is something about the feeling of not knowing what to expect; taking the time to figure things out and enjoying the initial moment when you walk through the gates that resonates with us all. I think we all chase that feeling of novelty at one point or another. So we decided to send fresh eyes to cover the festival to get a vantage point from a young and less experienced photo journalist who had never been to the Capitol Hill Block Party. We all envy this person…

 

Being a Capitol Hill Block Party virgin, as I entered the festival I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I had heard rumors of its wild and reckless nature, but it wasn’t until I walked through the gates that I realized the glory that is Block Party. Music and of course the "faint" smell of weed and sweat filled the air. Immediately, I knew I wasn't in Kansas anymore!

This siren of a three-day festival erects in the heart of Seattle and it's the best kind of pandemonium. Seattleites from all walks of life congregate in the streets of Capitol Hill, forget all their worries, and let loose to the rhythm of fantastic live music.

From the start, the mainstage was an absolute party. Performances from Danny Brown, Snakehips, and Angel Olsen kept the crowd roaring. Onlookers enjoyed the show from their third story apartment windows and seemed like angels when they tossed popsicles at overheated festival attendees below.

Even security was getting in on the fun, nodding along to the music and keeping the crowd cool between sets. My camera did take an unexpected shower - but hey, that buff hose-wielding security guy was just doing his job.

The Vera Stage kept things fresh, with appearances from the likes of Knowmads, Torres, and Perfume Genius. My favorite performance came from the fabulous Mykki Blanco. Her far from conventional 45 minute set kept the crowd bumping. Things got real when she tore off her wig, jumped offstage, and pranced around the crowd spitting rhymes and grinding on fans. As one does...

As the day progressed and the sun fell, tensions and expectations were higher than ever for the festival's headliner: a little DJ by the name of Diplo. The moment he took the stage, everyone’s inner party animal came out. The crowd turned into an absolute mosh pit. It was impossible not to join in on the party. I’d like to thank the kind fellow who helped me change lenses in the midst of the flailing bodies, I’d be lost without you man.

All in all, Capitol Hill Block party was pure fun, though I am thankful to have made it out in one piece. ‘Till next year!

 Words // Photo by Peter Sullivan