The very first video from psych-blues trio Whalebones comes courtesy of director Jon Meyer who last year actually made newcomers My Goodness look as badass as they sound in their “I’ve Got a Notion” video. For “I Don’t Wanna Live in The City No More” Meyer does a fair job interpreting “psych” and effectively creating the sensation of visually tripping in the live band shots. 30 seconds in I actually shuddered at the memory of a similarly photo-euphoric night I’d rather not repeat from some years ago. The sunwashed tour shots interspersed gave the video some feel-good balance, but also served as a damned reminder that though spring is upon us, the sun is dragging it’s feet still.
Whalebones at Slack Fest ::: photo by Josh Lovseth
BRB: missing summer something fierce.
Sharon Van Etten ::: photo by Josh Lovseth
It’s hard to believe that Bumbershoot is just next week. Heralding the end of Seattle summer, Bumbershoot 2011 seems to be coming just when summer decided to say “hi” and I’m nowhere near ready to part ways. But if I’m going to have to say farewell, at least I can do so after a festival full of favorites, local and national alike.
You can head to the Bumbershoot site to make your own schedule, but here’s what my personal schedule is going to look like next weekend and the three greatest scheduling dilemmas I faced, with handy resolution.
Pickwick ::: photo by Abbey Simmons
12:00 – Campfire OK (Fountain Lawn Stage) or Shabazz Palaces (KEXP’s Music Lounge) or Tomten (EMP Level 3 Stage) 1:30 – Craft Spells (Fountain Lawn) 2:15 – Champagne Champagne (Fisher Green Stage) 2:45 – Red Fang (Exhibition Hall Stage) 3:00 – Shelby Earl (EMP Level 3 Stage) 5:15 – Why Nerds? Why Old Timey? Why Now? (Words & Ideas Stage) 5:45 – Shabazz Palaces (Fisher Green Stage) 6:00 – Pickwick (EMP Level 3 Stage) or Beat Connection (EMP Decibel Stage) 6:45 – Vetiver (Fountain Lawn Stage) 7:30 – Little Dragon (Fisher Green Stage) 8:30 – Starfucker (Fountain Lawn Stage) 9:30 – Mavis Staples (Mural Amphitheater) 10:00 – Bumbershoot After Dark
The great debate of Saturday: Shabazz vs. Pickwick vs. Beat Connection:
Once you get over the existential debate as to how to start your Bumbershoot (Campfire OK vs. Shabazz Palaces in the KEXP Lounge vs. Tomten), the greatest scheduling dilemma on Saturday comes right around dinner time when you’ll have to choose between three of Seattle’s most buzzed about and beloved bands: Shabazz Palaces (5:45 at the Fisher Green), Pickwick (6:00pm at EMP Level 3 Stage) and Beat Connection (6:00, EMP Decibel Stage). Normally, I’d say catch the first 15 of Shabazz before bee-lining it to the EMP to have whatever dance party you most desire: soul or electro.
Unfortunately, if you want to catch any of Pickwick’s set in one of the smallest stages on the Bumbershoot grounds, you’re gonna have to get there early. So that’s what I recommend you do … if you can’t get in, you can head down stairs and still get your dance on with Beat Connection or head out the The Fisher Green and get elevated with Shabazz.
American Girls at Slack Fest 2011 ::: Photo by Abbey Simmons
How do you get a eight of Seattle’s best rock bands all on the same bill on the same day? You take them to Stanwood. Stanwood? Yes, Stanwood. Far enough from anywhere to trigger a proximity clause problems, but close enough to where it can still be just a day trip.
It’s long after midnight as I stare into a bonfire I’d seen brought to life by an honest-to-god flamethrower. To my right, two fellows are vigorously debating the veracity of ones claim of the largest number of unidentified flying objects to have been seen at a time. “Fifteen?” “Fifteen.” “Fifteen?” “I’m telling you! Fifteen!” Off to my left in the beer garden, the kegs are finally being retired though the music on stage has been done for hours. Just behind me, Moondoggie Jon Pontrello has started up the music again by the bonfire, quietly passing the guitar and banjo around. As he finishes a song, he changes position and loses balance, tumbling backwards into a bed of discarded Rainier cans. Righting himself, he doesn’t miss a beat and immediately begins another song. Now that “Stripper Pole Chris” has given up on his megaphone-led version “Flea Fly Flow Mosquito!” and self-promotional public service announcements about an upcoming race at the mud track, quiet is finally setting in at the Slime Dog Raceway, home to the 5th semi-annual Slack Fest.
The day kicked off at the center of the raceway under sunny skies with part-time Seattlite Jack Wilson sounding as good as I’ve ever heard him. Lately Jack’s been pursuing his craft in Austin, and the town Willie calls home has obviously been sinking in. The Golden Blondes, made up of no actual blondes, launched us into the electric portion of the Fest with some hangover humor, a fitting topic for a Rainier-fueled afternoon. Joined by their band dog, Whalebones stepped on the flatbed stage just as the heat of the day was beginning to make me regret my choice of a black t-shirt (worn in solidarity with Don Slack who seems to have a different black band t-shirt for every day of the year) and making others head for the swimming nook in the shade right alongside the Stilaguamish River. Joseph Giant, now seven men strong, found frontman Joe Syverson at the helm of a group no longer just playing songs, but making music that stands outside of anything else being done in the Northwest. This kind of a mature take on pop that’s both inventive and works simply is hard to find anywhere right now (though Stephen Merritt might have you thinking otherwise).
Wait, let me back up. Yes, you heard me right. Swimming nook. And going back to your tent as you please. Instead of legions of perimeter security with orders to only say “No” to every question, adults were treated as adults. Much like sibling festival Doe Bay Fest (who is put on by the same people, Artist Home Booking), Slack Fest attendees were allowed to come and go as they pleased to a directly adjacent camping area where we had setup a tent less than 100 yards from the stage. With most people were half the distance we were, to take a youngster (or yourself) back for a nap or spot of shade was as trivial as it should always be for an all day event like this. Though we are a sun-starved people in the Northwest, a full day in unsheltered sun is still probably more than most people want or are prepared to endure and the close and open campsite offered much needed shade and respite for Rainier naps.
Though every band played hard, My Goodness was unquestionably the band that turned the most heads. “How can this be just two people?” was the oft repeated question. Still making a name for themselves, Slack Fest was an unusual opportunity for them (and every other band) to do just that in front of some of our area’s current most notable bands, as well as the music fans die-hard enough to make the short trek north. Earlier this year for City Arts Best new Bands Poll, where they were tied for #3 with Ravenna Woods, behind the Head and the Heart (#1) and Campfire OK (#2), I wrote that My Goodness has “become the standard against which I’m measuring everyone else doing rock in Seattle.” Six months into 2011, a stellar debut release, and Slack Fest to influence me has done nothing to change my feeling on that. They’ve set a new pace and are keeping it.
As the light begins to turn golden, American Girls are the next best thing to Tom Petty himself. Overlooking the flatbed truck stage an American Flag unfurls with the wind. Two bald eagles soared overhead. Everything about it screamed ALL-AMERICAN. Surely, Tom Petty songs were made for exactly this moment.
If anywhere was the place to draw out your solo’s Slack Fest is that place, and headliners The Maldives and The Moondoggies obliged that sentiment mightily. Though they’ve got a whole new record practically in the bag, The Maldives pulled out just about every old long-burner they had. “The Time Is Right Now,” “Blood Relations,” and “Blood on the Highway” all got the Slack treatment. The Moondoggies capped the night with a foot-stompin’ dance-party at the foot of the flatbed that would eventually overflow over the fence of the beer garden. As headliners they had the freedom to do as Moondoggies do and play until they get shut down, and starting out with a slew of new songs built with an augmented lineup, they did just that from sunset into the moonlight, the race track and stage lit only by the blinking of the kid controlled stoplight overlooking the starting line. With the aforementioned Pontrello now a capable second on rhythm guitar, birthday boy Kevin Murphy is free to do what he does best. Instead of sneaking in hooks where he has the time, he’s now weaving hook into hook into hook.
It’s not a stretch to say that actually embodied in the laid-back, hard rocking spirit of Slack Fest is it’s namesake, inspiration and MC, Don Slack himself. Aside from his duties at KEXP, Don is a die-hard supporter of local music, so much so that you will see him out until the sun comes up night-after-night. He lives his support for his favorite bands, often making appearances at multiple shows a night to spread his love. Not because he’s obligated to be there by any of the band’s he loves so much, but because among the action is where he wants to be. These are those bands. A band is a moment, and Don Slack lives to appreciate each moment. Slack Fest was the living, breathing, head-banging, dancing, whiskey swilling incarnation of that moment for us all. It might make the next morning a little rough, but it made for one hell of a party.
Slack and his Truck with the Moondoggies ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
To see lots more Slack Fest photos … (more…)
The Maldives at Slack Fest ::: photo by Abbey Simmons
[COI alert: Slack Fest has paid me to help with press, but as you can tell by the line-up I'd be excited for and writing about Slack Fest were that not the case.]
Rock’n'Roll festivals and racetracks don’t have the best, um, track record.
But unlike Altamont, which Jerry Garcia described as “a nice day in hell,” Slack Fest promises to be 100% less stabby and it has all the makings for the party of the summer. With a forecast of 70 degrees and sunny, eight of the best local rock bands scheduled to take the flatbed truck stage, the promise of after-hours bonfire jams and a few kegs of Vitamin R — Slack Fest is worth taking the rock’n'roll on a race track risk. Featuring sets from local favorites The Moondoggies, The Maldives, My Goodness, Joseph Giant, Whalebones, Golden Blondes, Jack Wilson and a sure to be raucous sing along to American Girls, all in a way you’ve never seen them before (unless you caught The ‘Doggies and the ‘Dives at the last Slack Fest) — this is a day you’ll be spending all summer trying to remember.
Two lucky readers and their friends will be catching Slack Fest this Saturday for free. Just leave a comment and we’ll pick a lucky winner at noon on Thursday.
Since the weather’s not cooperating, we’re going to have to take cues from other places to remind us it is, in fact, summer. Things like a partial peek at KEXP’s always excellent free summer concert series at the Mural Amphitheater during the month of August.
There’s lots of Sound on the Sound favorites on the list – Pickwick, The Maldives, Ravenna Woods, Drew Grow & the Pastors’ Wives – but its the August 19th, all rock line-up that has me most excited. Headlining will be my favorite discovery of Sasquatch, Vancouver BC’s Black Mountain with two of the most solid rock bands in town, My Goodness and Whalebones, lending their support. Whether you’re in the front row (fingers crossed for a mosh pit) with me or in the very back of the beer garden, that’s a bill you’ll want to bring your ear plugs for.
August 5 – The Maldives, Hey Marseilles, Black Whales
August 6 – KEXP’s Summer BBQ: Fool’s Gold, Capsula, Virgin Islands, Mad Rad
August 12 – Seapony, Gold Leaves, Math and Physics Club
August 19 – Black Mountain, My Goodness, Whalebones
August 26 – No Depression Presents: Shane Tutmarc, Pickwick, Drew Grow & The Pastors’ Wives, Ravenna Woods
Tip of the Hat to SSG Music for the line-up.
Bumbershoot ::: photo by Josh Lovseth
After a band a day in May, Bumbershoot has burst with its full day-by-day line-up. We’re loving the local selection including: Shabazz Palaces, Grand Hallway, Lemolo, Pickwick, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, My Goodness, Ravenna Woods, Curtains for You, Whalebones, Allen Stone, Kaylee Cole, The Lonely Forest and lots more. Though it’s soul singer Charles Bradley and Brooklyn’s Sharon Van Etten who I’m most delighted to see make the line-up, their inclusion make Monday the Fest’s unmissable day for me.
Ray LaMontagne & the Pariah Dogs with Vusi Mahlasela / Minus the Bear / Mavis Staples / Little Dragon / Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue / STRFKR / Shabazz Palaces / Warpaint / MarchFourth Marching Band / Nortec Collective Presents: Bostich + Fussible / Eyehategod / Väsen / Champagne Champagne / Astronautalis / PS I Love You / Yuni in Taxco / Campfire Ok / Meklit Hadero / Caleb Klauder Country Band / Craft Spells / Valient Thorr / Jayme Stone: Room of Wonders / Pickwick / Red Fang / Scribes / Wagons / Shelby Earl / Free the Robots / Witchburn / Nice Nice / Kris Orlowski & The Passenger String Quartet / Emancipator / Tomten / Pezzner / LawnChair Generals / The Great Mundane / Natasha Kmeto / DJ Nordic Soul
Wiz Khalifa with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis / Broken Social Scene with The Lonely Forest / The Kills / Butthole Surfers / Carbon Leaf / Leon Russell / Toro Y Moi / Anti-Flag / Das Racist / Vetiver / Jessica Lea Mayfield / Dam-Funk / Atari Teenage Riot / NoMeansNo / Tennis / Thee Oh Sees / Mad Rad / The Jim Jones Revue / School of Seven Bells / Joe Pug and the Hundred Mile Band / Davila 666 / AgesandAges / Wayne Horvitz Café Paloma Band / Kore Ionz / Sol / Whalebones / Allen Stone / Massy Ferguson / Tycho / Thomas Marriott’s Human Spirit / Kaylee Cole / Com Truise / HTRK / Lusine / Gail Pettis Quartet / Kasey Anderson and The Honkies / Shigeto / The Sight Below / DJ Justin Timbreline
Daryl Hall & John Oates with Fitz and The Tantrums / The Reverend Horton Heat / Over the Rhine / Phantogram / Grant Lee Buffalo / Urge Overkill / Charles Bradley / Vendetta Red / Sharon Van Etten / Dennis Coffey / Head Like a Kite / YACHT / Greensky Bluegrass / Quadron / Ian Moore and the Lossy Coils / Grand Hallway / You Am I / Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside / My Goodness / LAKE / Beat Connection / Purity Ring / Truckasaurus / Ravenna Woods / Curtains For You / Lemolo / SPLATINUM / Legendary Oaks / Mash Hall / The Horde and The Harem / 214 / WD4D / Ill Cosby / DJ Introcut
Fleet Foxes- Helplessness Blues Quiet Life – Big Green Grand Hallway – Winter Creatures Stephen Nielsen – Four Songs Gold Leaves Curtains For You – “What Good Am I To You Now?” Mavis Staples with Jeff Tweedy – “You Are Not Alone” Zoe Muth and The Lost High Rollers – Starlight Hotel My Goodness – My Goodness Damien Jurado – Live From Landlocked Jerry Garcia – Garcia (Side A) Sister Rosetta Tharpe – “Up Above My Head” (and every YouTube video I could find) Le Sang Song - Le Sang Song Nirvana – Hormoaning Posse Neil Young and Crazy Horse – Everyone Knows This is Nowhere Whalebones – Whalebones Pickwick – Myths Vol I, II & III The Rain Don’t Fall On Me – Country Blues (1927-1952) Joseph Giant – Joseph Giant
My life changed in December when I got my first functioning record player since I lived with my parents. And in the past month I’ve turned into the vinyl equivalent of Jon Stewart’s character in Half Baked. “Yeah, but have you done it ON VINYL?” I know, its annoying and I’m sure the obsession will fade. Well, at least my wallet hopes it will … during the month of January I tripled my record collection. At least twice. So, while you’ll see some new tunes here in my “Most Played” January countdown, a lot of them are oldies but goodies from the dollar bin. (To help with confusion I’ve *’d the vinyl … )
Field Recordings from Alan Lomax’s “Southern Journey” – I’ll Meet You on That Other Shore * Karen Dalton – Its So Hard To Tell Who’s Going to Love You The Best * Kelli Schaefer – Ghost of the Beast Joshua Morrison – Builder Pickwick – Myths Vol I and II * Carissa’s Wierd – Ugly But Honest * Cahalen Morrison and Eli West – The Holy Coming of the Storm Whalebones – s/t The Doe Bay Sessions Audio and B-Sides George Harrison – All Things Must Pass * The Moondoggies – The Terreberry EP and Live Set From The Earl The Jackson 5 – Anthology * Sharon Van Etten – Tour 7” * Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Greatest Hits (Blame/thank the Petty Party) Shelby Earl – Burn the Boats AgesandAges (playing our SOTS Presents show, March 4th)
The headline says it all: this Saturday January 15th a special quadruple rock bill at the Columbia City Theater has the makings of 2011′s most earth-shaking night yet. The ground trembled when Marshawn Lynch took it all the way last Saturday, and I think we might be in for a repeat event this Saturday. SHIM and Pipsisewah deliver some of the Northwest’s best classic rock that’s not actually old, while Whalebones and Hobosexual deliver such potently dirty blues you feel like you need to take a shower after a single song.
We’ve got a pair of list spots for a random commenter who says they most certainly do want to peel the remains of their melted face from the floor when the night is over. We’ll let the winner know 5pm Wednesday.
Secure your tickets now via BrownPaperTickets for $8.
Remember your earplugs.