Until Charli XCX started crooning and shimmying at Neumo’s, I had no idea what a cult following she has here in Seattle. The moment she cracked open her show with “What I Like,” the men surrounding me in the front row burst out dancing and singing every lyric. Standing in the middle of her band of female instrumentalists, she owned everyone’s attention with her raspy British accent and fervid headbanging. At just twenty-one years old, the English singer-songwriter is not only an international star, but also a fashion icon thanks to her goth-tinged wardrobe and huge, dread-laced hair.
Deer Tick has built a name for themselves by not only pumping out killer tunes, but by pulling out the stops. Just two years removed from the rollicking Divine Providence, the band returns with a clear-eyed, emotionally-charged record, Negativity.
As on Divine Providence, the band benefits from letting Ian O’Neil take a turn behind the mic. His “The Dream’s in the Ditch” is the album’s catchiest tune. Drummer Dennis Michael Ryan’s “Thyme” also acquits itself well.
But ultimately, this is lead singer John McCauley’s show. He addresses his dissolved engagement on album opener “The Rock”, and his father’s prison sentence for tax evasion (“Mr. Sticks”). The result is some of the band’s most autobiographical and affecting tunes to date. His sandpaper croak is still rough, but it’s more pointed than ever; his bloodshot eyes are wide here with a keen clarity, thanks in no small part to shirking at least some of the substances.
McCauley has always had a voice that sounds like he’s seen some hard times. Now he’s got some hard times to sing about.
The Pacific Northwest was lucky enough to get a second helping of The Avett Brothers this year, which included a high-energy show at Seattle's Key Arena on October 18. On the heels of the October 15 release date of their new album Magpie and the Dandelion, the band gave fans a few new gems - including Vanity, Bring Your Love to Me, and the album's first single Another is Waiting. Foot stomping commenced during crowd pleasers such as Laundry Room and The Fall. And die- hard fans would list Salvation Song and Backwards with Time as the highlights of the night.
Recently the Bros & Co teamed up with Seattle's own Chris Cornell to treat television viewers to a special performance of Vanity on adoring fan Jimmy Fallon's late night talk show. On October 30, the North Carolinians will rock the stage for a Live on Letterman webcast, and will do a regular show performance after. With Magpie and the Dandelion debuting at #5 on the Billboard Top 200, and #3 on iTunes top albums, it seems we will be seeing a lot more of the genre-defying brothers in the future.
Photos // Adam Richert
Last Thursday I walked down my street to a neighborhood house, knocked on the door of a person I had never met, and was invited in to listen to David Bazan.
A bar height chair was set in the corner of the living room, between the fireplace filled with votive candles and a warm glow of a lamp on the other side. The host had the vibe just right. Bazan walks in as if he were a friend invited over to play. He begins to tune as the crowd who was once standing awkwardly around the living area of this quaint house, now starts to take their seats. Just watching everyone arrange themselves in such a considerate manor is a testament to the living room session. Absolute respect for the home, the musician, and each other. The kind of respect that can only be derived from understanding and appreciation for what everyone is about to experience.
Bazan begins to play and then answers some questions. This is when the fans, who have been listening with intent silence, show their excitement. This is also when Bazan, becomes more than a musican and reveals all those genuine and sincere parts of his character that are perceived through his music, in the flesh. After answering a questions about religion and raising his children, Bazan asks if anyone else has any questions, then jokes "It doesn't have to be as personal, or it can be." While Bazan is in the living room he is an open book.
Bazan closes with the favorite "Bands With Managers", thanks everyone, and as the crowd shuffles around the living room, he casually exits. I suspected this was more out of respect for the host (as not to create lingering fans inside their living room), because as we walked out, we noticed he hadn't left. Bazan was standing in the front yard. We were able to thank him personally, shook his hand, and as we walked back home I looked back and noticed he was chatting and taking photographs with the little crowd that gathered that night just for him.
Video// By Brad Cordova // Vimeo
Pepper Proud & Friends-The Blackberry Bushes-Weatherside Whiskey Band-Coral Creek String Band at The Nectar Lounge in Seattle
Walking into the Nectar Lounge Thursday night, one sound rose above the buzz of patrons like an echo crossing a glass-still lake. It was flutey, flighty, and filled with misty air. It was the voice of Pepper Proud. Originally from West Virginia and now residing in Washington, Pepper seemed right at home on that Seattle stage. Her humble, sprite-like mannerisms only complemented her surprisingly powerful voice, and everyone watching clearly revered the entire set. Thanks to a Kickstarter fund backing her upcoming sophomore album, “The Water Chapter,” you should catch her live as soon as possible -- she won’t be a Pacific Northwest secret for long.
Just after that act, a mutual friend introduced me to Paisley and Todd Gray, two of the musicians who’d performed with Pepper. While the Grays primarily make up half of the unbeatably catchy Pickled Okra, their abundant talent runs over into a handful of local collaborations. As if their finger-snapping tunes weren’t catchy enough, this couple has big ol’ genuine grins and cornfields worth of jokes. Catching them playing in any of their ensembles is a treat.
Next up on the night’s bill were the Blackberry Bushes Stringband. Call their toe-tapping twist on bluegrass whatever you want; they’re simply fun as hell. Lead singer Jes Raymond explained to the audience, “There are two things a folk band always writes about: freight trains and the highway.” About to take off on tour through the Midwest, she promised they’d try to not let all their new songs be about the road -- but couldn’t promise they’d be successful. Each one of their jovial jams soaked the room with sugary violin hums and beats that got couples in the crowd swaying.
Following the Blackberry Bushes’ sweetness, the Weatherside Whiskey Band promptly erupted the room with flying feet and dosey-does. They were not without a few slower, soul-stirring numbers either, showing the spectrum of talent within this five-person set. You just knew that, deep down in his gut, Jacob Yackshaw truly believed in his Czechoslovakian double bass playing. And when Amy Meyer sang, she had all the energy and precision of a hummingbird. It was pure joy to watch them help the crowd unwind together.
Headlining this hoot-n-holler type of night was the Coral Creek String Band, a Colorado ensemble with some serious touring chops. Their strings unleashed jams that spun like tight tornadoes and earned plenty of whoops along the way. Following three folky, fun acts couldn’t be an easy feat, but they proved themselves the perfect culmination to the evening.
Pepper Proud & Friends
Sophomore albums can be fraught with peril as artists strive to thread the needle between replicating past successes and redundancy. For the Head and the Heart, following a whirlwind unknown-to-indie-darlings debut, their next step would be examined especially closely.
Recorded in their hometown Seattle, Let’s Be Still accomplishes the rare feat of recapturing what made their self-titled debut memorable, while still moving the band forward in interesting directions.
Let’s Be Still opens strongly with “Homecoming Heroes” and “Another Story” capably striking the sweet spot between folksy and familiar. The band sounds full, polished and ready to take their folk-pop sound to huge stages.
The bright, flowery “Springtime” smartly transitions into the lovelorn “Summertime” before the live-show staple “Josh McBride” kicks things up again. The album’s back-half is a bit slower, with the title track and somewhat-psychedelic “10,000 Weight in Gold” leaving enough space for both sweet harmonies and wistful reflection. The record closes with “Gone”, a resolute (and knowing) number that leaves the listener confident in the band’s next step - whatever that may sound like, wherever that may be.
Overall, the record is perfectly pleasant upon initial listening, but its when you let the sounds sink in, the storytelling and nuance fully come to life and you are left with another great record. Let’s be still and enjoy.
Let's Be still is on itunes and in stores everywhere!
Please enjoy our exclusive photos taken in the recording studio during the making of "Let's Be Still"
Words // Brian Hodge
Photos // Adam Richert
In it's 43rd year, Bumbershoot is a Seattle institution! Every year Seattleites and beyond come out for diverse live music, comedy shows, and pretty much every other form of entertainment that you may desire.
Bumbershoot was full of highlights but a personal favorite is Charles Bradley aka "The Screaming Eagle of Soul". Mr. Bradley has an inspiring story featured in a documentary called "Soul of America" proving that your never too old for a record deal and a second chance in life.
Bumbershoot is a festival where you cannot set up camp at any one stage or you might just miss out on an epic performance! Ultimately, you must go to the festival with the mentality that "you can sleep when your dead!"
Make sure to check out featured artists below!
CHK CHK CHK - !!!
Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside
Mates of State
Patton Oswalt, Marc Maron, Morgan Murphy (Stand-up Comedy)
Justin Townes Earle
Trampled By Turtles
The Newport Folk Festival does a great job of recognizing its illustrious history without being burdened by it. The times are always a-changing, and the festival has done a masterful job of adapting along with it.
In fact, some of the weekend’s best attended and most memorable acts hardly belong within the folk genre. Like Bombino, whose guitar playing wizardry conjures up sandstorms of hypnotic grooves; or the UK-punk rock of Frank Turner; or Trombone Shorty, who has successfully weaponized jazz and funk for mass consumption.
The festival has broken new wave artists and expanded bands’ audiences, audiences that now stretch multiple generations. And each year sell-out crowds come to experience music that push buttons, blur borders and even inspire change - and that’s what folk music, and the Festival, is all about.
Enjoy some memorable moments from NFF 2013 in this slide show!
Photos // Adam Richert
Words // Photos // Brian Hodge