Entries in visible voice (13)

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

Thursday
Jul272017

Dan Blakeslee - Album review / Song premiere: "A Golden Turn"

Ring Dan Blakeslee and you’ll hit a friendly greeting of Dan singing and playing his guitar, followed by a full mailbox. Maybe this artful dodge is a relic from Dan’s time more than a decade ago in Portsmouth, N.H., when he owed so much artwork to folks around town that he took to walking the alleys to avoid disappointed customers. This time in his life is the impetus for the title of Blakeslee’s latest album, The Alley Walker, and like with most talented artists, he rewards your patience.

Piecing together tunes and stories from as far back as 2005, the album was a long time in the making, but one well worth the time.

“I planned to make it seven years ago,” Blakeslee says via phone when we connect. “I ended up making two others in between. I knew I wanted The Alley Walker to be a little more explosive, take a few more risks.”

Those explosive risks are dutifully explored and artfully executed with the help of producer Chris Chase and the backing talents of the Callabash Club. Longtime Blakeslee listeners will recognize the tunes, but the songs come alive on the record, capturing the band’s propulsive energetic live sound and giving life to Blakeslee’s vivid storytelling.

The songs take seed from Dan’s wanderings, with references to his time in Somerville (“The Somerville Line”), New Hampshire (“Pride of the Picataqua”), and the road (“Lone Star”, written in New Orleans). The album’s title track closes the album, a fitting capstone to complete the album’s journey. But like a record on repeat, Blakeslee recently found himself in a similar mental state as when he first wrote “The Alley Walker” more than 11 years ago. In a scramble to pay for the studio time, Blakeslee again took on more and more art projects, leading to an eerily similar mindset as to his first writing and lending a prescient tone to his work in the studio.

The album now complete, Dan Blakeslee and the Callabash Club no longer need to hide and shirk in alleys. In fact, they sound ready for the spotlight.

We are honored to be the first to share “A Golden Turn” from "The Alley Walker". In Dan's words:

"I have been playing music for over two decades and have known both triumph and struggle alike. I wrote "A Golden Turn" in hopes of seeking a little more balance to finally get to a more fruitful place in my career. Every day I am so grateful to be doing music and art for a living... it's not an easy road but I wouldn't want it any other way!"

 

 

 

Words // Brian Hodge

Wednesday
Jul122017

Murder By Death - Video Session 

I am not going to lie, I've listened to Murder By Death for many years and now I am meeting up with them right before they go on stage at The Showbox in Seattle. So needless to say, I was pretty excited. Adam (lead singer) was kind enough to perform a solo session for us in the green room.

You never really know what your going to get when you try to do a video production behind a stage. The one thing you dont want is for the opening band to start their sound check in the middle of recording. Unfortunately it happened... but like a pro Adam kept it going. We tried to dumb down the background noise as much as possible. Please enjoy!

Thursday
Mar022017

DeVotchKa at The Wild Buffalo - Bellingham, WA

Performing in front of a sold-out crowd on Valentine's Day Eve, Denver-based DeVotchKa's set was pitch-perfect for the date: equal parts celebration of - and longing for - love. Front-man Nick Urata's lyrics, whether upbeat and danceable, downtempo and contemplative, are always pure poetry. The live experience gives an extra appreciation for the richness of the words.
The band's chemistry is second-to-none, a fine-tuned, cohesive machine that leaves room for extensive improvisation. Seeing each member of the band seamlessly transition from one instrument to the next - from sousaphone to upright bass, piano to accordion, drums to trumpet, or theremin to bouzouki - is truly a sight to behold, and only adds excitement to a truly captivating live show. 
"How it Ends", arguably one of the most beautiful songs of the 21st century, served as a perfect coda near the end of an electric, dance-filled set, giving hope to the lovesick and caution to the enamored.

 Photos // Words by Alexander Hallett

Wednesday
Feb222017

Hoot & Holler - V.V. Session

The Hoot & Holler gives me faith in folk musicians who are willing to claw their way through the hipster convolution. This duo plays sweet and unpretentious songs reminiscent of sitting around a camp fire that evokes a good old fashion sing along. We were able to meet up with them on their tour when coming through Seattle before their show. We squeezed in to a 1977 VW Westfalia named Jolene for a video session which seemed to come quite natural for them since they had been living out of the tour van for some time. Please enjoy this session with The Hoot & Holler!

Listen and buy their new album "Reasons to Run" Here!

Words // Video // Photo by Adam Richert

Video Editing by Alexander Hallett

Monday
Dec262016

The Album Leaf w/ Rituals of Mine - at Neumos in Seattle

Rituals of Mine

The Album Leaf visited Seattle for the first time in over 5 years, playing to a capacity show at Neumos. The tour coincides with the release of their first album in 5 years, Between Waves. Touring with, and opening for, The Album Leaf was Rituals of Mine (formerly Sister Crayon).

The tight trio of Rituals of Mine, headed by Terra Lopez, put on one of the best live sets I've seen all year. It was clear that, judging by the audience, I wasn't the only one in the house who hadn't heard their work at that point. It was also clear, by the line to their merch table, that I wasn't the only one who became a new fan. When you get time, check out "To Show You Violence." The haunting beauty of the track live carries over beautifully to record, and it has quickly earned a place on my personal "favorite songs of 2016" list.

With an abundance of new and old material to draw from, The Album Leaf's 90 minute set flew by. Opening with several cuts from the new album, front man Jimmy LaValle has shifted gears in sound from the earlier releases, ushering in a more electronic, glitchy soundscape punctuated only sparsely with vocals. Having been fairly well acquainted with their catalog up until the newest release, the divergent sound took some getting used to, but by the third track in its beauty was clear. Closer "The Light" brought thunderous applause and an encore from the audience. Their return from an extended touring and recording hiatus was well worth the wait.

See The Album Leaf on tour:

The Album Leaf

Photos // Words by Alexander Hallett

Sunday
Dec112016

Chris Staples: V.V. Sessions & Album Review

Despite, or perhaps in spite of, his plaintive delivery Chris Staples Golden Age is a triumph. Staples crafts simple self-searching songs, free of affectation, and lightly backed with interesting instrumental choices. Staples nearly whispers how secure he is with the insecurity of an accidentally, yet possibly “Relatively Permanent” engagement. "How lucky can two people get / hand in hand, side by side / a coincidence we even met / this could be an accident / or relatiely permenet" It's alluring, and pointed, a song about acceptance of where you've arrived.

On the title track Staples works farfisa organ, reverb electric, and jangling acoustic under a snare beat "yeah, look me in the eye with a straight face on / so what you saved a little money but your youth is gone / and you're dreamin bout your long lost babylon" reminiscing about the decision to just not try so hard anymore. Staples "Missionary" uses clave, and banjo to describe his journey to the realization that he's not changing any minds. "Cheap Shades" is an account of Staples own birth, baptism, and youth reminding us all that "nobody asked me" and "the morning sun is gonna wake me / herbs from the garden gonna bake me / no fast talker gonna take me anymore" with harmonium and a gamelan beat. Like the perfect spice in a recipe, American Folk, West African, and Indonesian sounds lightly adorn the first half of the album. Staples is on a pilgramage towards enlightenment here, treading so gently that you might not notice him, opening to the light at the speed of a flower blossom, slowly, quietly turning up, but growing noticeably.

On "Park Bench" which Staples recorded live for Visible Vocie, the resolution is simple. One man dies on a park bench, the other on a yacht, both (or all) desire the same thing "to live each day like it's my last" because "these moments that we share dissolve into the air / without warning or apology they pass". As on the album Staples is solo with guitar here (with some string backing). A stark departure from the other accompanied songs but a choice in backing nonetheless, a nod to the alone-ness of birth and death.

Chris Staples - "Park Bench" from Kitchen Sessions on Vimeo.

Staples is resolutely uncertain. A man comfortable with not knowing. "Am I Jekyl, Am I Hyde? / Will you ever be satisfied? / I change like any other man" he sings tongue in cheek on "Dog Blowing On A Clarinet". His wit shows on "Times Square" a song referencing everywhere, about not going anywhere at all, instead opting to stay home --but even then leaving the decision to the accompanying singer in the duet. It's a familiar existence. Avoiding responsiblity to the point of declining to make the simplest of decisions for fear of the consequences. Life has to beat you pretty hard to come to that conclusion, and Staples (or the characters in his songs) bear it with grace. On first listen Staples cover of Belle & Sebastian's "Chalet Lines" seems controversial. The original was written and sung by Stuart Murdoch, from a woman's point of view after being raped. Staples uses the song to show mastery of delicacy, as Murdoch did. When Chris sings the lines "She asks me why I don't call the law / Oh, what's the fucking point of it all?" you believe him/her, and better yet start to feel respobsible somehow.

Chris Staples "Chalet Lines" from Kitchen Sessions on Vimeo.

 

I'd love to say Staples has grown into such a good songrwiter, but it seems he's always been so. As exhibited here on his song “Answers, Questions” from 2011. With the same gentle delivery, foreign folk fingerpicking, and devastating word choices “with his one good eye, the moon looked down at me” Staples lets us know “I don't have any of the answers / I don't even know the question anymore.”

Chris Staples "Answers Questions" from Kitchen Sessions on Vimeo.

 

Overall, Staples subtelty could work against him. Plainspoken, balanced people rarely attract attention. But whatever diet of desperation and hope he's on is forming him into a songwriter with the eloquence and chops. His is the tendency towards awkwardness that made Stephen Yerkey, T-Bone Burnett, or dare I say Leonard Cohen, cult heroes: musician's favorite musicians, songwriter's favorite songwriters. 

 

Words by Sean Jewell

Video by Maurice Morales & Adam Richert

Video editing by Maurice Morales

Tuesday
Jul262016

Capitol Hill Block Party 2016

DAY ONE

Rumor has it Dilly Dally’s performance at Capitol Hill Block Party’s 20th Year was the show to see by local record A&R’s. Their record Sore has been tearing through my speakers since it came out last year, so it was a good show to kick off this neighborhood’s summer festival with. Katie Monks, Liz Ball, and band wasted no time ripping into their albums worth of songs, which is centered around the idiosyncrasies of Monks painfully beautiful voice and Ball’s head down rockin’ guitar riffs.  

As the sun set over Seattle I made my way into Neumo’s for local hip hop maven Do Normaal’s set of head in the clouds hip hop. With a DJ playing her beats from a laptop and MPC Do Normaal rapped clearly and accurately from her two Eps. She paced the stage bursting with flow of consciousness raps and already had the people dancing before she left the stage herself and entered the crowd for “Let That Thing (Go)”.

Wild Powwers took the stage next, and set up the city’s best drummer Lupe Flores center stage. Bouyed by a thundering rhythm section including Jordan Gomes on bass, singer Lara Hilgemann caused the crowd to gasp audibly as she tore into six and twelve string electric. Her voice now runs the gamut from spirited high harmonies with Flores, to feral growl.  Not even a lengthy break to repair a broken bass string halfway through the set, and the myriad of music in every bar on the street could get the crowd to break their gaze with the stage.

Security had a heavy presence at CHBP, from stage hands, to local police and sheriffs, and entry points blockaded with cop cars. The festival retained a peaceful feeling despite being one of the most heavily gentrified areas in the city. Known as Seattle’s prime gay-borhood, and arts district Capitol Hill has seen homophobic violence rising consistently with rent prices, but aside from a drunk earlier in the day being tossed from Neumo’s for homophobic slurs towards bartenders people seemed to be caring for each other pretty well.

DAY TWO

Day two began for me with a rousing set from Thunderpussy. Their bare bones rock n’ roll had the day crowd rushing towards the main stage. Their cover of early Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well”, and the party starting tom-tom beat of the song “Thunderpussy were crowd pleasers. Thunderpussy has become a formidable live presence with shows full of, dance numbers, badass custom costumes, and power trio rock that recalls classic rock’s riotous inception.

Up and coming local act Carseat Head Rest was already in command of a huge crowd with his full band. Playing from his latest album Teens Of Denial, Will Toledo fit the part, singing confidently, either fooling a crowd into loving experimental rock, or turning them into tasteful fans on the spot. As with Teens Of Denial, the massive sound system and full band helped his music take on a full, loud sound that was pleasing and punishing at once. As I left the show I found myself thinking, “Wilco, with naiveté”. I thought it in the best possible way.

I have to admit when I ditched the building crowd and escaped to Barboza, Nuemo’s basement bar to see Jus Moni, I thought I was catching a show not many people would know about. I was wrong. The place was packed back to the door and as I entered her band included Porter Ray, Taysean (Kingdom Crumbs), and Stas The Boss (Thee Satisfaction). She sang like a bird through her debut EP –mood-setting, uplifting R&B set to afro-futurist beats, to the delight of the entire crowd.

Outside on the mainstage british electronic producer TOURIST had a mass of bodies the size of two city blocks bounding under his earworm hooks, buzzy synths, electronic bloops, and inevitable, hotly anticipated bass drop.  I was surprised to see him playing mini moog and synth keys live.

After an early evening break at the food truck ranch for frybread tacos, I descended once again into Barboza in time to catch the enigmatic Scott Yoder. Yoder’s latest permutation shows off his classic songwriting skills, ranging in sound from doomed love lounge numbers to dusty road folk Another sexy Seattle crooner with songwriting chops.

Upstairs at Neumo’s Grizzled Mighty rocked out a set of distorted, De Stijl blues. Drummer Faustine Hudson and guitarist Ryan Granger whipped the raucous crowd with slide licks into a beer flinging mosh pit.

DAY THREE

Day three saw pop maven Maiah Manser belting out songs from her forthcoming EP to a growing crowd. Backed by a full band that included wildly entertaining electric cello, her crystal clear singing and artistic compositions set the tone for the day: gorgeous vocal vibes.

Up at Vera Stage SassyBlack performed songs from her latest EP No More Weak Dates. Sassyblack’s DIY songs are vocal runs over polyrhythms that fill a void in pop music where young gay women, who maybe like Star Trek and comic books more than you, can express themselves safely.

My Capitol Hill Block Party ended with a vibrant set from The Joy Formidable. They came all the way from Wales and rocked the hell out of the mainstage.

Words and photos by Sean Jewell

Sunday
May152016

Visible Voice Session with Lucius at the Neptune Theater

Anything that I could write here pales in comparison to the intense and chill inducing vocals of these two gals. Lucius graciously met up with us in the green room at the Neptune theater in Seattle for a session. Make sure you watch this video of "Dusty Trails" and catch them on their tour this summer!

Lucius - "Dusty Trails"

Video By Adam Richert

Photos by Alexander Hallett