The Sea and Cake at the Crocodile
So, we meet again, Crocodile.
After years of not venturing through your Belltown doors, I have found myself admiring the finest bar bathroom in Seattle various sonic offerings over the past few weeks. During Halloween time, it was Glenn or Glennda and their riotous Misfits cover band brew of mayhem. A few weeks ago it was Gauntlet Hair and the worst live music review ever written (I’m too embarrassed to link it. OK, maybe just too lazy…). My 2011 Crocodile experience culminated with an “ol’ faithful” of sorts in the Sea and Cake.
I tried to explain my anticipation to friends but none of them could understand. Perhaps the good folks of Western Washington have forgotten about the Sea and Cake and their legacy of jazz-infused indie rock and roll? Just about all my conversations leading up to last Friday’s show went as following:
Me: I can’t wait to see The Sea and Cake tonight at the Crocodile. It’s been a long time. You should come! Friend X: Who? I think I’m going to get some food with a friend.
Fail. Oh well, more Chicago produced goodness for me. Elba, a Seattle band that has existed since the beginning of mankind (first album actually came out in 2008 but I digress…), started the evening off. I spent the entirety of their set trying to figure out how I could accurately describe their sound to someone that might be unfamiliar with them. It was a task I could not complete. I did not have the vocabulary or the correct point of references to complete the mission. Elba sounds like a million different bands that have come before them (even though they have existed since the dawning days of man) yet they don’t sound like anyone in particular. In the constantly regurgitated songwriting world of indie rock, this is no small feat. I enjoyed Elba’s songs a decent amount (they were energetic, short numbers) but they did not seem to enjoy playing their songs all that much. Maybe they were nervous?
“We’re really excited to be opening up for The Sea and Cake,” was a remark often made to fill the dead-air while band members were tuning between songs. The moment didn’t seem too big for the band. However, it did seem like they were thinking so much about playing before The Sea and Cake that they couldn’t convey the same amount of energy that their songs did. Everyone (with the exception of the drummer who was constantly in an awesome frenzy) was moving in slow motion. I just have trouble watching musicians who appear to be more lethargic during their performance than I am while watching them. Remember, I’m a Seattlite. My arms are crossed. I am judging you. I’m playing words with friends during any and all uninteresting moments. I’m not saying that everyone needs to have a stage show like Kiss Shim but a “Diamond” David Lee Roth mid-air split never hurt anyone…in the audience at least.
Lia Ices songs made me long for Sound on the Sound darling’s Lemolo instead. Ices was missing an additional live instrument element that I think would only further enhance the enjoyment of her compositions. Her songs were pleasant (in a background chamber music kind of way) but I could not get excited about watching her perform. All of the little things seemed a bit off. Ices’ accompanying guitarist used his bridge pickup for the first half of the set, creating the most abrasive soft sounds that I’ve ever heard (the treble must have been turned up to “infinity” on his amp). The only tangible thing I can compare it to is that scene in Full Metal Jacket where the guy is getting pummeled by soap stuffed linens. You see that scene when you’re a child and it’s “Oh, pillowfight!” Then you grow older and realize that’s a cruel form of hazing and the victim is bleeding internally. So, I survived the first half of the set but I loss some blood. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do.
Lia Ices has a very nice voice but she was constantly putting her best instrument through a processor when there was no need to. Let your soul glow Gentle readers, always let your best qualities remain unmanipulated. I realize the purpose, to recreate the sounds you would hear on the record. On the other hand, if you’ve got it (I say she does), there’s no need for aural tomfoolery.
A funny yet kind of unfortunate moment occurred during the end of Lia Ices’ set (although it didn’t involve her directly). I was finishing washing my hands in the men’s bathroom when some guy came in drunken and muttering, “They’re all the same….they’re all the same.”
And then we locked eyes.
It was right then and there that I knew that I was in love exactly what he was talking about. Lia Ices songs were burrowing a hole in this guy’s head and were going straight to the center of his brain stem. Soon his head will explode from the monotonous melodies and it will become one of those “EW, NOBODY CAN MAKE IT 15 SECONDS INTO THIS VIDEO” posts on your Facebook feed. God damnit, someone get me a doctor! We need to save this man’s life! Is there a doctor!?!!?
Then Kool Keith’s “Masters of the Game” began to blare over the Crocodile PA and The Sea and Cake took the stage…
OK, that really didn’t happen but it should have. The Sea and Cake were everything that you’d expect them to be. Smooth, rhythmically dead-eyed, flawless in terms of intonation, highly cerebral in both setlist construction and performance. Any and all positive adjectives or poorly thrown together hyperbole can be applied to their operation.
Playing songs that spanned the entirety of their catalog, the songs off of Nassau sounded just as fresh as the ones off of The Moonlight Butterfly. “Covers” is quickly becoming one of my favorite The Sea and Cake songs despite its relatively brief existence. “Lyric”translated well live despite its soft, delicate appearance on the new record. Old fan favorites “Afternoon Speaker” and “Jacking the Ball” were greeted with great enthusiasm from the initial chords to the final notes.
To my knowledge, The Sea and Cake didn’t perform my favorite song of theirs’ “Parasol” (although they’ve played it quite a bit on this tour from what I’ve read). However, the song the band played right before their encore might soon replace that hidden gem off of Nassau. The only problem is that I have no idea what song it was. Dramatic sigh. Gentle readers, if you have any idea what the last song that the Sea and Cake played before their encore, please let me know. I checked all the Sea and Cake albums that I own, I checked the rest on a friends’ Ipod and Spotify respectively. Based on the description that I wrote down I still can’t figure it out. A friend of mine said it was two seperate songs but I think he belongs in a strait jacket but it sounded like one song to me.
The Sea and Cake’s set can be summed up in one rhetorical exclamation by a grateful fan. After The Sea and Cake played a song off of Everybody, someone yelled “How good was that!?!”
The correct answer, very good.