Portland honky-tonk rascals Denver debuted with a self-titled LP of two-steppin’ accounts of mischief, breakups and the occasional apology, and in the lead single ”The Way It Is” they’ve obviously met their match and put her to music. The video for “The Way It Is” has it’s own account of roadhouse rowdiness and shows members of brother band Blitzen Trapper in some key roles on stage and off. (As we learned this last week, BT drummer Brian Koch is a dedicated thespian.) Building with elements of traditional country and bluegrass without sounding Nashville, Denver fits right in with PDX twang-jammers Quite Life and Dolorean, and with banjo, harmonica and pedal-steel as full time participants I can’t help but think Portland may have a worthy answer to Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys.
Penning odes to a disappearing America, Blitzen Trapper’s Eric Earley writes of open roads and broken barstools, and of the characters drawn to both. Filmed at the intersection of two trails in single takes ”Stolen Shoes and a Rifle” and ”Black River Killer” encompass when the word America had Wild West cachet, with the concomitant hazards of unlimited freedom and the promise of starting over. These bare renditions serve to highlight the very visual nature of Earley’s lyrics and also the subtle intent with which they’re sung in harmony. You could say this session represents a well-developed emotional side to a band best known for macho guitars and macho themes, a side they’ll definitely want to show more of this fall as they hit the road on two long support tours.
Blitzen Trapper just began two months of touring this week supporting label-mates The Head and The Heart. After three weeks with fellow Doe Bay Session alumnus HATH, Bryan John Appleby and Curtains for You, Blitzen Trapper will meet up with Brandi Carlile for another month of shows. Abbey will be slinging t-shirts at the merch table for every single one of these shows, so please come say hi.
I’ve been admiring Pickathon from a far for years. Living vicariously through friends stories of “the perfect festival”, drooling over photos on Flickr and cursing the fact that it is always scheduled the weekend before Doe Bay Fest. This year I decided I wanted to admire all Pickathon has to offer up close, scheduling conflicts and back-to-back music festivals be damned. So next weekend I’ll be making my first trek to Pendarvis Farm for Pickathon and I have to say, its the festival I’ve been most looking forward to all summer.
And that’s not just because it’s the new one, the one I haven’t been to yet, but because the solid line-up featuring diverse genres from hip hop to Americana to zydeco to old-timey string bands to rock and roll, the chance to see artists multiple times in different settings throughout the weekend, to explore the Pickathon ethos of low impact and low stress, and to deduce if I really am burned out on banjos.
Based on the festival’s website and my interactions with the folks running it, it would seem that Pickathon is a festival run right. The site features a streaming playlist of all the artists playing, giving you an easy chance to listen and discover more than the big names on the line-up. Thanks to the playlist, my schedule expanded greatly from seeing the six or seven bands I knew I wanted to see three times during the weekend to a chance to discover all kinds of new favorites. And beyond the music and importantly for a remote music festival, the directions sent to attendees about parking, camping and other random festival details is exhaustive.
I’ve included my full planned schedule below, but wanted to point out a couple of the events I’m most excited to see. Thanks to the Pickathon playlist, I can’t wait to catch a couple sets by The Wood Brothers (Sunday from 5 to 6pm at the Mt. View Stage), Reverend KM Williams (Friday from 2:45-3:30 at Fir Meadows and Saturday from 1 to 2pm at the Galaxy Barn), Lonnie Walker (Friday from 7 to 8pm at the Galaxy Barn and Sunday from 1:30 to 2:30 at the Woods Stage) and Midtown Dickens by starlight on Sunday. I’m eager to check out a couple of Pickathon’s famous barn workshop events and just to see sets at stages with names like The Woods, Starlight Stage, Fir Meadow and Galaxy Barn. Then there’s the chance to see some of the biggest names of the summer festival season in an intimate setting — like Block Party Headliner Neko Case, Sasquatch show-stealers The War on Drugs and non-stop tourers, Dr. Dog. I haven’t even stepped foot on the festival grounds, and I’m already ready to declare Pickathon my new favorite festival. We’ll have to wait and see if it lives up to my high expectations.
Here’s my full planned Pickathon schedule and here’s the full festival schedule. And p.s. if you want to attend Pickathon, but don’t yet have tickets, there are still weekend passes available and Sunday day tickets — but they’re only on sale until August 1st. (more…)
Hacienda Hands on the Mainstage ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Saturday’s Sasquatch was marked by both the bigger names and the up-and-comers in our schedule really showing up for the crowd.
Pickwick –> Charles Bradley and the Menahan Street Band on the Sasquatch Mainstage
Pickwick’s selection to open the Saturday mainstage put the band on their biggest stage yet, and they proved their booking wise with one of the more fiery performances I’ve seen from them and with it the biggest showing of Hacienda Hands yet. The “Screaming Eagle of Soul” Charles Bradley and his Menahan Street Band followed them up and with a combination of expert hip shaking and robot moves that never fails to bring a smile. With such a strong showing by both bands my only lament is that this pairing wasn’t on later in the so they could be in front of more people.
This actually from Alabama five-piece is the latest band find a tidal wave of early interest thanks to the magnifying effect ye ole Internet, and yet they actually have the chops to be deserving of those roving eyes and ears. A southern Soul band the likes of which recent generations haven’t seen, lead singer Brittany Howard sings intuitively and full throated over a locked in guitar groove. By contrast to the buttoned up and tightly rehearsed soul of yesteryear putting spit and shine on life with harmonies and a horn section, the Shakes garage gospel is naturally funky and rough, not just “rock” but a true helping of vintage “rock and roll” to stir up the adults as much as the kids.
Shins –> Jack White
The newest iteration of the Shins has James Mercer surrounding himself with a group of ringers to bring life to the latest batch of songs and breathe some into plenty of old ones. The differences caught me off guard at first, but I mostly dug the rhythm changes Mercer thew our way. Jack White’s surrounded himself with his own set of ringers, and too be sure, they are also unfuckwithable. It’s an ultra-competent gospel leaning blues band that White has probably always wanted to assemble as a backing, one where the band stands out as much as the frontman. And as we all know, that is really saying something.
Pickwick ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Pickwick at Sasqatch ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Charles Bradley ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
A Charles Bradley dance circle ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
The Screaming Eagle of Soul ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Blitzen Trapper ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Craft Spells ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Fatal Lucciauno ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Fatal Lucciauno gets into the crowd::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Alabama Shakes ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Kurt Vile and the Violaters ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Dry the River ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
The Shins – Richard Swift ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Shins Crowdsurfer ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
The Shins – James Mercer and a Sasquatch ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Jack White ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Poster by For Young Modern (a site doing some gorgeous graphic design along with show reviews)
November 11th, 2011, (also known as the luckiest day of the millennium for those of you who believe in making wishes) was a very busy night for Seattle music venues. Wild Flag played Neumos alongside Drew Grow and the Pastor’s Wives, Minus the Bear were at the Showbox, Frank Fairfield at the Columbia City Theater, Fly Moon Royalty at the High Dive, Ghosts I’ve Met at the Sunset and I’m not even including some of the great house shows that took place on that Friday night. With all these bands/acts competing for warm bodies to observe their stage show, it was quite impressive for Dawes/Blitzen Trapper to sellout the Neptune Theater date of their co-headlining tour.
I entered the Neptune to what sounded like a hornet’s nest of chatter (more on that later). From what I could gather initially some of the water cooler discussions were about the opening act, The Belle Brigade but the rest of the dialogue was none of your business (none of mine either).
Not having experienced enough of The Belle Brigade to offer an educated opinion, I decided to focus my analytical efforts on the first of the co-headliners of the evening. Dawes, the quartet from Northern Hills, CA. didn’t seem to be the band that most concert-goers were there to see. I did see a handful of audience members fully engaged in the music, but for the most part this was not an obvious, nor an overwhelming phenomena. If I closed my eyes I could have swore I was in a bigger version of the Tractor, only the band performing was playing too loudly to get Tiny Viper’d. Generally speaking, audience participation was as follows:
Person X: [Charlie Brown school teacher voice-over] Person Y: [Responds to Person X in similar fashion] Person X: [Eventually noticing there is music playing] Who is this? Person Y: It’s Dawes, I’m pretty sure… Person X: I like this.
[Person X and Person Y revert back to their socially mechanical ways]
Besides the beautiful image of one grown man gleefully clapping along to Dawes while sitting on another grown man’s shoulders, the above conversation was pretty much par for the course. I must note that there was an abundance of cheers elicited during the opening riff of The History Channel’s favorite song “When My Time Comes” and Dawes did perform their single quite well on this evening. As the song gracefully filled every crevice of the Neptune Theater, I looked around and wondered how many audience members religiously watched American Pickers and Pawn Stars like I have been known to do.
Overall I thought Dawes sounded good (as I expect most artists that will play the Neptune Theater) but there was no reason to watch them perform. If I had to describe their sound via a good game of barroom darts, your target area would be somewhere between a sincere version of Dewey Cox fronting The Band (for the record, I liked Walk Hard) and a less enthusiastic version of Train. If that sounds like something you might be into, chances are that VH1 facilitated your introduction to this California band. Not that there’s anything with that…(If you’re disappointed that you missed Dawes, just click the link and watch the video. It was basically like that.)
I was thankful when Blitzen Trapper took to the stage because that meant there was finally going to a musical presence with an engaging personality. If the curtains came down on Dawes while they were playing, I’m not sure anyone would have noticed. There was nothing visually appealing about their set (this might explain why so many people were talking). Eric Menteer (guitarist/keyboards for Blitzen Trapper) actually brought life to the stage. I like watching bands that are obviously into what they are doing. While Blitzen Trapper will never be a shining example of a band that “rocks out,” the stage antics of Mr. Menteer would fervently disagree with you.
What made Blitzen Trapper’s set more enjoyable (to me anyway) than Dawes’ was its intentional lack of focus on a particular vibe. As someone who is mostly unfamiliar with the tunes of this Portland band, they never let you get complacent or comfortable (read: bored) as a listener. At the end of their set, when they played a few songs (“Street Fighting Sun,” “Big Black Bird” among others) that reminded me of Lynyrd Skynyrd, I looked around the venue and asked myself the following question:
Does Seattle suffer from region envy? I’m not being completely serious but think about it for a second.
Northwestern folks often lampoon the South (speaking in general terms). On the other hand, here I am, watching a Portland band that may or may not be ripping off Lynyrd Skynrd, playing a sold out show in Seattle. Singer/songwriters in this city are unfortunately always talking about drinking whiskey and moonshine, writing possibly fictional lyrics about trade schools and working with their hands. Guitar players on the porch, singalongs with your friends, fiddles, washboards, romanticizing the beauty of your surroundings, that’s all very Southern to me. So why does this city, that in my eyes wants nothing to do with anything Dixie-related, embrace these indirect cultural allusions in the form of song but are much more likely to dismiss these ideas if they are presented as any other kind of construct?
Am I the only person that finds this kind of goofy?
The Fruit Bats ::: photo by Josh Lovseth
After a stunning case of writer’s block completely and a never-ending food coma derailed my “Day Two” preview, I am back to save the universe. Besides, Day Two featured a handful of acts we never shut up about here at Sound on the Sound. It’s nice to take a step back and let other local media outlets gush over bands on our behalf. There was also a few interesting fireside chats taking place yesterday that I was curious about. Gentle reader, if you attended either one of the fireside chats, please do tell me how that went.
Friday October 22nd
Where I’ll be: Showbox at the Market
What are a few of the best things about Baltimore? Let me tell you:
1) Oriole Park at Camden Yards
2) Heroin (Best on the east coast…from what I’ve heard.)
3) Pretending to star in The Wire
4) Wye Oak
I’m going to go as far as to say Wye Oak is the band that I’m most looking forward to performing on the Showbox Market stage. That’s not East Coast biased rearing its ugly head. That’s me using one of my human senses and making a snapshot judgment call based on that fact. Wye Oak is on first so I suggest you get there early. Fruit Bats will also be performing tonight. I have only seen Fruit Bats at this past year’s Capitol Hill Block Party and they were one of the highlights of the festival. Accurately described as a “musical aphrodisiac that invites the most questionable dancing you’ve ever seen.” Fruit Bats means pure joy, it’s that simple. I appreciate the freedom they give themselves during the songwriting process.
As for Seabear, one of their songs was just featured on Grey’s Anatomy. What? That doesn’t suffice for a musical description these days? You don’t need to know anything about Grey’s Anatomy to know what kind of music they play on that crazy prime-time soap opera. Seabear is pleasant folks music with lots of instruments. A great soundtrack for reading a magazine in a hospital room while someone you love slowly dies from [insert terminal illness here]. Don’t worry my dear, Seabear is here. Their name in Icelandic means “we’re really good friends with Sigur Ros and Bjork, who are you again?” Seabear’s song “Teenage Kicks” makes me want to put on a high school varsity jacket and do the twist, very slowly. Excellent.
Last but certainly not least, the headliners of the evening are Portland’s Blitzen Trapper. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but this band sounds familiar. I know “familiar” is not quite a sound or even a decent description of music, but that’s the choice I am making. It’s better than me saying the sound like Portland, right? What the hell does that mean? No, but seriously, if Portland were a sound….
Show starts at 8pm. That means Wye Oak starts at 8pm. That means you’re there at 8pm. Don’t ask questions.
Earlier this week local arts magazine and champion City Arts announced that they’d be hosting the first ever City Arts festival this October at venues around Seattle. But don’t let the word “first” trick you into thinking this is some amateur event, for their inaugural festival City Arts has crafted a line-up filled with national, international and local talent that rivals established festivals like Bumbershoot and Capitol Hill Block Party.
Just take a peek at an abridged list of the line-up:
Belle and Sebastian / Blue Scholars / She and Him / Big Boi / Gogol Bordello / Blitzen Trapper / The Vaselines / Roky Erickson / Brother Ali / Foals / Dum Dum Girls / Macklemore with Ryan Lewis / The Weepies / Fresh Espresso / The Head and The Heart / The Maldives / Sera Cahoone / The Atomic Bombshells / Brent Amaker and The Rodeo / Tilson / Star Anna and Her Laughing Dogs / Head Like A Kite / And Many More …
I chatted with Leigh Sims from the Festival this week and she told me what initially was an idea for a singular event to celebrate the beginning of “the fall indoor arts season,” blossomed into a full-on festival because there were just so many great ideas flowing. Not only does the October date separate this from most of the summer-based Pacific Northwest music festivals, the spirit of collaboration and creating once-in-a-lifetime events is also distinctive. At the fest you’ll have a chance to see Belle & Sebastian at Beanroya Hall with strings, Head Like a Kite with The Atomic Bombshells and Brent Amaker & the Rodeo for a rowdy sexy night and an all-star local hip hop show featuring Blue Scholars, Macklemore, Mash Hall and Fresh Espresso, plus out-of-towner Brother Ali. And that’s just a few … you’ve also got The Weepies with The Head and the Heart, Roky Erickson with The Maldives and a promising event called “Poetry and Hip Hop Church.” Wrist bands go on sale tomorrow for the festival and I’d pay the $125 for VIP Access to guarantee entrance to the big events.
The Moondoggies at the Blue Moon ::: Polaroid by Josh Lovseth
Saturday night at the Blue Moon was a Hardly Art label showcase of sorts, featuring two bands officially on the label, The Moondoggies and Unnatural Helpers, and a third band with an up-in-the-air status at this point. Of course, you would have never known that, because the only band listed on the bill was the fictional Diamond Joe Quimbys.
The first Hardly Art band to take the stage were the Unnatural Helpers, who have a new record in the pipeline and who had me wishing I could have caught the whole set instead of sneaking in for the last two songs. Billed as the Diamond Joe Quimby’s the Moondoggies served as the night’s headliners. The band took the stage at midnight and played to an effusive crowd who knew every word to ever song until last call. The Moondoggies are the closest thing the Blue Moon has to a house band and even though they can barely still play there even when it’s a secret, seeing them on the stage that all but bore them just never gets old.
That third band of unknown status (who played second), referred to themselves as “White Lightning.” Formerly they were “Magic Mountain,” or maybe “Magic Mtn,” but I guess that didn’t go over too well with the trademark police, so now they have a new name. (Which may not be the name they end up with.) The now known as “White Lightning” is a collaboration of Arthur & Yu’s Grant Olsen and The Moondoggies. Kevin Murphy, lead singer of The Moondoggies, told me that a summer White Lightning tour may happen, and a recording may even follow. But no promises. You can already hear the collaboration in action on one live track included on the free 2009 Hardly Art label sampler, a track recorded during the course of playing just a few select dates last summer.
With all that possibly in the works, it’s looking like it’s going to be a busy year for the Moondoggies. In addition to setting a September release date for their next Hardly Art LP, Tthe band has just returned from a month long tour with the Cave Singers and the Dutchess and the Duke and the band has already confirmed an early summer tour with fellow Northwest roots rockers Blitzen Trapper. Those dates are below the fold.
White Lightning? ::: Polaroid by Josh Lovseth
The Mural ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
It was packed by the time the TMTS went on at 6pm last Friday, but it was good to see so many people out to enjoy the rock on a nice day. Blitzen Trapper attracted a mass of dancers toward the foot of the stage once the shade had set in on the super hot concrete.
This weekend the free fun continues with some Friday evening hip-hop from Dyme Def and Fresh Espresso, and the all Saturday afternoon KEXP BBQ with Japandroids, Viva Voce, Dinosaur Jr. and more.
Throw Me The Statue ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Blitzen Trapper ::: Photo by Abbey Simmons
Blitzen Trapper ::: Photo by Abbey Simmons
Lounging in the Beer Garden ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Grizzly Bear ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
Some notable calendar listings have appeared in the past week or so we thought you might want to be aware of:
Grizzly Bear coming to the Moore Theater, Friday October 16th $23 – presale starts Thursday July 16 through the Moore. PW: KEXP.
Monotonix coming to Neumos September 19th $13 – 21+ – Tickets available at Ticketswest
Pearl Jam coming to Key Arena September 21st and 22nd $68 – Tickets go on sale to the General Public, Saturday July 18 at Ticketmaster.
The Dirty Three coming to the Crocodile September 18th $15 – 21+ – Get tickets from the Crocodile
Fruit Bats coming to the Crocodile August 20th $12 – 21+ – Get tickets from the Crocodile
MP3 – “Ruminant Band” by the Fruit Bats courtesy of Sub Pop
KEXP Summer Mural Concert Series at the Seattle Center Mural Amphitheater All these shows are free and all-ages, including the BBQ. Food and beverages will be available for purchase.
Friday 7/31, 5-8pm Blitzen Trapper Throw Me the Statue This week daytrotter posted their session with Blitzen Trapper.
Friday 8/7, 5-8pm Dyme Def Fresh Espresso
Saturday 8/8, 7th Annual KEXP BBQ! 2-9pm Dinosaur Jr Viva Voce Cymbals Eat Guitars Japandroids Born Anchors Champagne Champagne
Friday 8/14, 5-8pm The Dodos Army Navy We highly recommend streaming the Dodo’s new album Time to Die at timetodie.net.
Friday 8/21, 5-8pm Fruit Bats Johnny and the Moon