A Tip of the Hat – our 2010 MVP’s
Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives ::: photo by Josh Lovseth
We had an incredible 2010 here at Sound on the Sound and it was in large part thanks to the following MVPs and, of course, you guys reading this. These were the artists, albums, labels, festivals, bookers and sound guys that inspired and impressed us most and these are the people that remind us every day why we wouldn’t trade our local music scene for anywhere else in the world.
MVP Live Act – Drew Grow & the Pastors Wives
No one impressed us in 2010, from performance one and from living rooms to the Showbox, like Drew Grow and the Pastors Wives have. No one even comes close. Here’s what we had to say about the band’s stirring live shows:
“Inevitably, after Drew sings I am left thinking, “that must be what people who believe in God feel like when they sing and hear hymns.” It is a performance enjoyed with eyes closed tightly, arms raised aloft to the stage, heads thrown back in ecstasy and exultation and a sense you are witnessing something as a collective, not an individual. I don’t attend church anymore and I moved on from believing in God to believing in music and the people who create it, and seeing Drew Grow live is as close to a religious experience as I will ever have.” – abbey
Kelli Schaefer ::: photo by Josh Lovseth
MVP Performer (Female) - Kelli Schaefer
Phil said it best when describing Kelli Schaefer, “This woman right here, she’s a hurricane.” Rarely have seven words so succinctly described a musician and all without an adjective. Kelli is not what she seems as she steps on stage. Soft-spoken and ghostly pale, Schaefer bellows with a voice that spans emotion, time, range, timbre and comprehension. She is none of our preconceived notions about a fragile girl with a guitar and when she belts out that first note and bitter beautiful words, we are astounded. I’ll always remember filming our Doe Bay Session with Kelli this August; standing there with an acoustic guitar, our wonderful sound guy made some assumptions about what would be coming out of Kelli. She peaked out the recording with the first note, nearly blowing out Chris’ ear drums. He threw off his headphones in shock, but with a huge smile. We could have stopped her right then, knowing we’d have to record again, but why would deny ourselves the opportunity to hear that astounding voice one more time? – abbey
Macklemore ::: photo by Josh Lovseth
MVP Performer (Male) – Macklemore
Facing life and his problems head on, for the benefit of all and with the help of friends, Ben Haggerty, AKA Macklemore now lives with his life on his sleeve. Equally a reverent nostalgic and a modern popaholic he’s able to bring us into his world and impart the wisdom of a colorful life with humor and seriousness in equal and complimentary doses. A party MC to the core, when most kids are too cool to jump, Macklemore walks up on stage and people can hardly contain themselves. No other acts entertain like Macklemore does, and that is pretty much the definition of who we should be handing this MVP out to. As far as I’m concerned Haggerty deserves a double MVP for being the top Northwest Rep in all the land. Maybe I’ll save that one for next year… – josh
Bryan John Appleby at Conor Byrne Open Mic ::: photo by Abbey Simmons
MVP Venue – Conor Byrne
Conor Byrne isn’t just where music is played, it’s where music is made. It’s where musicians are made. From the all-in “Old Timey Social” hour to Sunday’s Open Mic often curated by the Head and the Heart’s Josiah Johnson, musicians of all stripes and levels rub elbows, learn from each other, and maintain their own self-supporting community. Worthy as a bar in it’s own right serving the best Jameson Ginger in town, as a comfortable space where some of Seattle best songwriters can try out new songs in front of peers it’s gained status one of Ballard’s hangouts. When on any given Sunday night you might see three or more notable personality’s take the stage doing what they do in a more informal setting, each night ends up a special memory in it’s own right. -josh
Doe Bay Fest ::: photo by Josh Lovseth
MVP Festival – Doe Bay Fest
Josh remarked in his Doe Bay Fest 2010 recap:
“I think we might need to come up with a new word for what Doe Bay Fest is. Sure, it has a few stages, great bands are present, and it is nominally about seeing music. But calling it simply ‘a music festival’ doesn’t communicate the quality of interaction that a gathering in this setting encourages and makes possible. For four solid days I had no want to leave. In actively forgetting our worries and forgetting about clocks, Doe Bay became a real-life Utopia for those present, if only for an instant. And that’s not something that happens at just a ‘music festival.’”
The Head and The Heart ::: photo by Josh Lovseth
MVP New Band (Local) – The Head and the Heart
From Pike Place to the Paramount, the Head and the Heart have traveled an astonishing road in 2010. Once the ball started rolling for this sextet it just never stopped, from an unusually full High Dive on a Wednesday after Abbey introduced them to the world, to snagging a spot at Capitol Hill Block Party, to supporting the likes of Dave Matthews and Vampire Weekend and selling out a headlining bill at Neumos weeks ahead of time as their first show of 2011, all less than nine months on. It almost defies belief. Had I not seen it with my own eyes I would have said it does defy belief. Yet to see a crowd young and old react to them with equal fervor is to know the power of the smile and the hug, and to believe in it. Maybe that’s sappy, but I mean it. And that’s just what this band brings out in people. – josh
MVP Debut Album (Local) – The Head and the Heart
“The Head and the Heart sing of life’s greatest journeys with uncanny confidence, knowing and a genuine glow. They may be young and the band may be new, but they sing of leaving home, the trials, stumbles and exhilaration of finding yourself, the tumults of love and the inevitability of loss, all with a sage-like comprehension of our humanity. If you love bands drenched in pretense or that keep themselves metaphorically aloof, you’ll hate The Head and The Heart. This band is unadulterated joy and boundless hope for the future laid bare in three-part harmonies, bubbling bass lines and warm pop orchestration that embraces you in a full-on hug. They are a recipe for a palpable rise in your mood, an antidote to counter the poison of our fast-paced days filled with calculated and impersonal interactions.”
Steve Norman with Goldfinch ::: photo by Abbey Simmons
MVP 6th Man (musician who plays around town w/different bands) – Steve Norman
There are a bevy of mighty fine slide-guitar sidemen in this town, but none are quite the character that is Steve Norman. You could be forgiven for wondering where Norman finds the time. He is everywhere doing semi-regular and guest duty in a constantly growing number of bands including but not limited to Goldfinch, Ghost of Kyle Bradford, Big Sur, Friday Mile, John Totten, Carrie Biell, Chris Pureka, Barton Carrol, Other Desert Cities, Husbands Love Your Wives, and Ben Gilmer, Sadie Ava, Greg Paul, Aaron Ebige, Sweet Hearts of the Rodeo, Steve Leslie (Chuckanut Drive), AP Dugas and the Ganges River Band. (His list.) When given the opportunity to conjure something right at that moment in impromptu guest appearances with the likes of Kelli Schaefer and Luke Stevens, he seems to effortlessly find a new texture to add, country or psyche, edgy or ballad. In one go at it he’s the accompaniment you never knew was missing. To invite Steve Norman onstage is, like inviting bikini models to your pool party, a double-edged sword. Yeah, you know pool parties are cool all by themselves, but they are indescribably better with a few models to just do what they do, you know, look good in bikinis and pretty up your party. Only after that first time you invite those models, pool parties won’t ever be the quite the same without them… You get the idea. – josh
Carissa’s Wierd ::: photo by Josh Lovseth
MVP Label – Hardly Art / Sub Pop
Really all I need to say to back up this MVP is: Carissa’s Wierd. The Moondoggies. Shabazz Palaces. The Head and The Heart. AFCGT. In 2010, Sub Pop and Hardly Art put their money where their mouths (and offices) are when it came to signing and supporting local talent.
Hardly Art’s reissued releases and “Best Of” from Carissa’s Wierd were the albums I listened to most in 2010, by a lot. Hardly Art managed to bring me CDs from the band that didn’t cost 100s of dollars on Ebay, first time vinyl presses, and the band on stage and in front of me live … all things I never imagined I, as someone who missed the band the first time around, would ever witness. All the while they faithfully supported my long-time favorite local band, releasing not one but two albums from The Moondoggies. Its the kind of thing that music fans would bequeath their first born to see a label do; but Hardly Art did it all for the right reasons in 2010 — because they’re moved by the music and they know they don’t have to look far outside their front door to find talent. (Though Sub Pop’s non-local releases from 2010: Beach House, No Age, Avi Buffalo are certainly nothing to sneeze at …) Most importantly, I get to keep my first born, my double colored Carissa’s Wierd vinyls and new Moondoggies … and for that, Hardly Art / Sub Pop are most certainly MVP worthy. – abbey
You can read (some of) the Sound on the Sound staff’s personal MVP’s after the jump … a label, a booker and a sound guy!
Brittney’s Personal MVP – Arts & Crafts
Constantines. Dan Mangan. Broken Social Scene. Jason Collett. Stars. Timber Timbre. Feist. All these jewels of Canadian indie music rest together in one record label’s treasure chest: Arts & Crafts. With an unerring ear for quality music plus an eye for packaging design, Arts & Crafts has brought many little platters of joy into my home this year. Keep on spinning, AC.
Josh’s Personal MVP – Evan LeSure
Live sound engineers, if they’re considered notable at all, it’s usually to say they were a ham-handed nuisance who ruined everything. It’s no exaggeration to say they are mediating the experience in some way, and though we don’t generally think of them as contributing to the show, somehow the touch of the sound man always ends up heavy-handed. In the case of Evan LeSure, his touch is light and sure, and any comment is to exclaim that you had only hoped this band could sound this good. You’ve probably seen him around Seattle whether you realize it or not. Behind the boards at Neumos, the Showbox and festivals alike, if not in the employ of the venue itself for an event, he’s in the employ of many a local band unwilling to compromise with a sound man who has no idea or investment in what they are supposed to sound like. Under his watch this year I witnessed artists as diverse and dynamic as Shabazz Palaces, the Cave Singers, and Sharon Van Etten in high fidelity, with every instrument attended to and a real ear for the details the each individual artist is trying to accent. When bands know they’re engineer gets it and they’ll sound as they should, they play great, and everybody’s happy. Evan, he gets it. So everybody’s happy.
Abbey’s Personal MVP – Kevin Sur of Artist Home/Doe Bay Fest/Columbia City Theater
Kevin Sur and Artist Home Booking have been behind nearly everything I have loved most in 2010: The Doe Bay Festival, Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives, Columbia City Theater, Kelli Schaefer.
There is a cynical strain in this town and in the comments left on music blogs in particular, that its all about who you know … and that everyone that’s ever made it in Seattle had a friend at The Stranger or KEXP. But that’s not the way Kevin Sur functions, he’s run his business and booking agency strictly on meritocracy, heart and elbow grease. Take how he discovered Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives. Sur saw Grow mid-week in San Francisco with 3 other people, all of whom I believe were his band members. But no matter no one else was there, Sur was so moved by Grow’s performance and convinced in his potential that he began working for Grow and the Pastors’ Wives. When he believes in an artist, which is the only way he does business, Sur often eschews pay for passion and promise. Though even now as the Pastors’ Wives are selling out venues in Seattle and Portland & audiences are seeing what Sur saw and trusted that first night, it is still almost strictly a labor of love.
The same goes for the work Sur does booking and organizing Doe Bay Fest, where he refuses the typical pay to submit structures of many modern festivals. Instead, Sur opens his email for submission and listens to every band that sends him a song and every year he trusts his gut and gives prime slots to bands that are untested but who he believes deserve a stage and a chance. He takes the exact same DIY, personal approach as the talent buyer at Columbia City Theater. He and Artist Home are at the heart of an ever-growing community of like-minded music makers and lovers that are slowly but surely making a name for themselves by doing things their way and on their own terms.
Of course, this MVP is as based on personal respect as it is professional. Sur took the same big-hearted risk on me that he took on Drew Grow and that he takes with new artists at Doe Bay, when he offered me the first Friday of every month to book a 300 person venue. Never mind I’d never booked more than two shows a year or outside a beloved dive bar, Sur trusted my heart, intention and ability and has never shown an inkling of doubt in me. Thanks to his trust we’ve been able to book sold-out shows with The Maldives, The Head and The Heart (months before they’d sold out anywhere), and it looks like tomorrow night with Damien Jurado. I have never had the pleasure of seeing anyone work with so much heart or integrity and I am inspired daily by the amount of love, sweat and trust that Sur gives to music and musicians. He’s entrusted his life life to it. Kevin Sur’s not my MVP, he’s my fucking hero.