The thing that is awesome about the glut of music festivals on the market (just think of some: Sasquatch, SxSw, CMJ, Coachella, Warped Tour, Burning Man, Capitol Hill Block Party, Bumbershoot, NW Music Fest, Carousel Festival, Georgetown Music Festival, etc. etc. etc.) is that some festivals have to give you something special in order to stand out. Seattle Weekly’s REVERBfest is in it’s second year and is in a great spot in it’s development to do just that. Currently the pricing is $10 and if you’re quick, you can see about 20 out of the 65ish bands. Ballard is a great location for this festival, despite the continued gentrification of the area. The bands played at varied venues such as Hattie’s Hat, Salmon Bay Eagles, The Sunset, and the Tractor, among others. Local comics served as MC’s and reminders of the multitude of sponsors of the event (the only one I’ll mention is Seattle Weekly). In all, the festival seemed very successful and was not horrible like every other festival that crams too many people into a small space. This one was more like a big show that happened to be in 9 different venues at once.
I showed up later than I had hoped to. I forgot to eat lunch and when the time came to leave I decided to do that instead of go to the show and be all grumpy from hunger. It was a good choice.
I love the Portabello Mushroom Burgers at Hattie’s Hat. They used to have little sharks in a big salt water fish tank, too. It’s a pretty awesome place, though I never thought that they would have people play shows there. I couldn’t imagine how this tightly packed restaurant could even find a place for someone to play. Turns out, that weird round booth where that group of Ballard hipsters or kickball team or whatever big group always sit turns into a stage of sorts. Enough room for about one person to stand up and rock out. The MC guy from this free comedy night I went to for Bryan Frasier‘s birthday was there doing the announcing, but he left his voice at home, apparently. He was probably doing permanent damage by even trying to speak, actually.
A while back I was thinking of making a band where I just sung notes into a sampler and then looped them and layered them to make songs. Never forget that everything you think of has been done before. And usually it’s been done better than you could have. Jenny a.k.a. Sweet Potatoes ruled this idea back when it was just a twinkle in my eye. Johana Kunin did this once when I saw her (I think that’s where I stole the idea), but Jenny made a complete band idea out of it. It turned out awesome. A little bit hippie/artsy, but rad as hell. Miranda July could probably have used her songs as the soundtrack to Me, You, and Everyone We Know Talks About Poop When They’re 8 Years Old (working title), and Jenny would have been a cult hero overnight. For now, she’s playing house shows (next at HTFC in November) and being a host on Hollow Earth Radio on Wednesdays. I’m guessing this works out just to her liking. Go to a show and buy a CD, you’ll be amazed that something so simple could be so awesome. What a great start to the festival!
The Monday Mornings
The Eagles Club venue was running behind schedule, so I got to see half of one song from these guys. The kids were into their poppy rock. One of them looked strangely familiar, but I can’t place him.
Salmon Bay Eagles Club
I feel like we’ve been let in on some secret. I know the eagles rent out their club to anyone that can pay, but this room is strange. There is a row of pictures of old white dudes from the 50’s on the left wall and a row of pictures of old white ladies on the right wall. Some weird wall hangings aside, this place is still weird. It’s extraordinarily dark. There’s one strange alien-looking fluorescent lamp of some kind above the very shallow stage (extended using tables to hold the monitors). The sound crew brought in some portable lights to light the stage. One of the sponsors made a video screen where the target market (kids) could send a text or a picture and have it display for everyone to see (and send your number to some service that will undoubtedly spam your phone to death forever). The weirdest thing was the long benches on the sides of the room. They were raised up on a platform about 4 inches off the ground and were eerily comfortable. Like church pews built in to the wall. The place felt like some chamber for ritual sacrifice or the type of ceremony that happened at the start of Animal House when Kevin Bacon gets initiated into the fraternity. Ewww.
Panda and Angel
These guys could have been interesting, maybe. The sound was absolutely horrid, however. Muddy and unintelligible. The speakers were pretty small, of course, but the sound board was massive. You’d think with all those knobs they could figure it out. From what I could tell, Panda and Angel played upbeat, twinkly indie a la Flaming Lips + Talking Heads, but with three girls and one dude. The girl that did the most singing sounded like Canadian singer/songwriter Sarah McLachlan. Take that as you will. Their songs online sound better.
Clearly, this is an adult festival. The all-ages venues have been sparsely populated (but thanks for having them!). The Tractor is packed. I was sort of hoping to be the only person at this thing. Ah well. The tractor is sort of cool. They rarely play music that I enjoy, however. Mostly Country and what-not. One benefit of The Tractor is the free, easily accessible water. I took advantage. Another benefit of the tractor is professional sound engineering! It sounds great!
Kate Tucker and the Sons of Sweden
I was debating whether to walk up to Mr. Spots and check out Husbands, Love Your Wives or to see Kate Tucker. When the MC’s at the Tractor said they sounded like Portishead, I began to think I’d made a mistake. But, I’m too stubborn to change my ways, so I stuck around. The announcers were pretty much right on. Miss Tucker has those cute breathy quiet vocals that all the girls love down pat. It sounded a little too quiet, but that was probably due to some sound mistake, as they warmed up later in the set. As for the rest of the band, I don’t think all of them are from Sweden! One guitarist is clearly from Aberdeen or Tacoma or some place that spawned the tough grunge bands. Essentially the band is Portishead doing country. I seem to remember her solo stuff being more interesting. I headed out to the Lock and Keel.
The Lock and Keel
I’ve never been to the Lock and Keel before REVERBfest. It seems like a bar that fishermen used to come to until the yuppies bought the new condo high rises down the block because they were so cheap. Now the sailors stay on their boats and the old rigging in the rafters and on the walls is their sacrifice to gentrification. Plus, the stage is far too small for anything other than singer/songwriters.
The Braille Tapes
I wasn’t impressed with the two minutes of The Lonely Forest that I heard at The Georgetown Music Festival so I thought I’d check out The Braille Tapes. It turns out that this Bellingham group is awesome. They live in the late-90’s pop-emo legacy with some driving Jade Tree/Revelation melodic post-hardcore stuff. Multiple vocals at full volume, some darker breaks… Like all those bands you liked before they got big on the radio (Thursday, Jimmy Eat World, At The Drive In, etc.) These guys were my second surprise of the festival. I didn’t even mind it when the singer went “Whoo!” Great stuff.
I like The Sunset the best of all the venues in Ballard these days. It feels homey to me, even though the crowds are increasingly dressed in fancier clothes than t-shirts and dingy jeans. The room isn’t the best, since it’s a bit too long for their necessarily short stage, but what it doesn’t have in available space it makes up for in style and spirit. And usually the shows aren’t this packed anyways. But KEXP’s Audioasis is here broadcasting live and there’s some festival going on.
Brothers of the Sonic Cloth
A rumble begins it. So much darkness in the sound, that it’s not even really guitar anymore. It’s more just straight rawr. (Has git-rawr been coined yet?). The band has brought full stacks of amps to play The Sunset, that’s how dedicated to volume they are. The drummer holds his own, as well. Whenever there’s a break between songs to tune guitars, he fills it with more drumming. Essentially, had I not remembered my earplugs, I would be deaf right now. Maybe my head would have exploded. But then again, this band stars Tad Doyle of grunge band TAD fame. TAD (as I will now call him, since he deserves all caps) is no stranger to dark noise, as that band was pretty loud and dark as well. I think, at this point, that Brothers of the Sonic Cloth don’t even need microphones. They just play so loud that they are louder than the PA. TAD might even be singing straight to us without a microphone. Like he’s summoning volume like a demon. I bet there’s a pentagram on the floor of the stage somewhere (if I could just see it!). The set is basically like an area rock show from the inside of the speaker. It shakes your very being and challenges you to decide if you can take it or not. The first song was about 100 minutes of sheer sonic destruction. So much loud. So this is what grunge was like. I’m glad we’re all making no secret that we still love it. I haven’t seen serious “rock on” hand signals in a very long time. There’s one crazy guy jumping around in the gap at the front. The necessary gap that protects your internal organs from being obliterated by soundwaves. If these guys have neighbors near their practice space, those neighbors despise them. That’s pretty rad.
I’ve considered moving to Ballard a few times. I’m still skeptical, due to the increasing number of yuppies there (see King’s, or that bar on Ballard and Market, or that “sophisticated” italian place, etc. etc. etc.), but there are a few things that tempt me. One of them is Than Brothers’ Pho. I could eat it for every meal except breakfast. I know there’s one only 13 blocks from me, but the one in Ballard seems better, somehow. So, I decided to enjoy some pho soup and a cream puff for dinner. Cream puffs are delectable and veggie pho (pho chay?) is the perfect meal. I was having the best day ever. The only thing that could add to it would be a cupcake. Across the street to Cupcake Royale (temptation #2). ON the way in, an overzealous Real Change salesman had cornered some young girls that were too nice to tell him to go away. So I grabbed him on the shoulder and stepped between him and the girls and engaged him in polite conversation (my forte is talking to crazies). As the girls snuck off behind me they yelled out “Thank you sir!” Good deed done, I walked in and purchased a peppermint cupcake (for fresh breath, just in case I need to save any girls that won’t call me “sir”). It was delicious. I was then ready for three more hours of glorious show going.
Damnit, I was trying to avoid this band and see BOAT instead. The Eagles club was pretty full at this point and getting warm. However, the sun had set and the room was nearly pitch black but for the sound board light, the sponsored spam-attracting video projection and the four gel lights blasting the band in the face. I can’t really review Black Whales, but I can say that they played a sort of poppy version of mid 90’s alternative. I was thinking about Toad the Wet Sprocket. Since BOAT wasn’t up for a while, I went to see if Police Teeth had started at The Sunset. This festival was increasingly running on house show time.
I saw Police Teeth at the Blue Moon once. It was awesome. Police Teeth sound way better live than they do on their CD. The Sunset is an adequate venue for them, I’m glad it was still packed and that Audioasis was broadcasting still. I think their live stuff works better because they have less time to think about what would be cool and instead just focus on blasting the heck out of us with rock and roll. They’re clearly from the Rolling Stones thread of rock, that straight ahead, no-nonsense, get the job done school of thought. The record shows glimpses of this, but the live show shows they mean it. I think the other benefit of the live show is that their lyrics are unintelligible live. On the record, it quickly appears that the entirety of their work is dedicated to the problems with music these days or with scenes these days or similarly uninspiring topics. The tunes are pretty good, though.
If there was ever a band that followed the religion of having a good time every time, it’s BOAT. BOAT is fun. Not in the “roller coasters are fun” sense of the word “is” but in the true, mathematical equivalent form of the word. For example, you can now say “Roller coasters are BOAT.” Or, “I wish you would drink, you’d be way more BOAT.” Or, “I love your outfit, it’s just so BOAT!” See what I mean? Even in the crazy ritual sanctuary of the Eagles Hall, you feel like dancing a little bit. Ba ba ba ba ba ba becomes a litany to elevate your soul to a higher plane of enlightenment and holds serious weight when ensconced in BOAT songs. Before I got there, they handed out confetti and shakers as weapons in their lifelong mission to make everything fun BOAT. It would have been more successful had there been a significant cue for the release of the confetti and/or the use of the shakers, but still, everyone enjoyed their newfound toys. Even disaster does not perturb the populace when BOAT is around. In the middle of a song, the PA sort of went crazy and was blasting strange voices and noises instead of the vocals. It was possibly the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen happen in the middle of a show. (Ritualistic ceremonies in this room, remember…) They stopped, discussed how scary it was, made a few jokes, and then pressed on without delay into a song where you didn’t feel like an asshole if you clapped along. In fact, you might have felt like an asshole if you didn’t. Speaking of audience participation, I was glad to see my airplane-obsessed acquaintance Al up on stage with some other folks singing backups by request of the band. I hope it was fun. I mean, I hope it was BOAT!
Red Jacket Mine
I’m endangering the mission, I shouldn’t have come.
These folks brought a lot of stuff. Among the standards they had a vocoder, pedal steel, a Hammond XB-2, and, most importantly, a Rhodes! I was pretty psyched to hear my future instrument in action. However, all I got was this weird combination of wailing funk bass (through an 8 speaker cabinet?) and generic everything else. I guess this is the music that people who say they “like anything” like. Sort of an alternatived-out 70’s mainstream rock. And everyone around me danced terribly. *This* is why I don’t go to the Tractor that often, I guess. Maybe I’m just too much of a fascist. I wanted to wait for the Rhodes to play, but after the second song it was getting tougher to tolerate. Actually, I think the hippies from my alma mater, UCSC, would be psyched by this band. I’m not. And the incorporation of the disco beat in the third song meant I had to leave. Immediately.
Oh, what’s this? The Globes are playing at Bop Street Records for free this evening? At a time when I don’t have a band to go see? How felicitous! The sound at Bop Street is actually pretty good for being a record store. Much better than when I saw The Globes in the front of Jules Mae’s at the Georgetown Music Fest. Don’t forget that name: “The Globes.” These kids are good. And sometimes great. They have this tricky interpretation of modern indie that’s catchy and interesting at the same time. So interesting that several of the local crazies are in the store rocking out. Most notably, there’s the old guy with black frame glasses, a mohawk, and the moped army patch on his jacket bouncing around and a local street person possibly of Native American and/or Alaskan descent doing the surfer thing at the speaker and giving the moped army guy awkward hand shakes like the kind a father gives to his daughter at her wedding. But the songs! I wanted to leave and go catch Madraso, but I just couldn’t. The music was infectious and wonderful. You can listen to it on Audioasis in November, apparently. Good luck kids! Surprise #3 at the festival wasn’t actually at the festival!
This is the only band at the festival that needed some hardcore dancing or a circle pit. The Sunset just wasn’t going to provide that. They’re also the only one I’ve seen out in the middle of Oregon in someone’s garage very near a swamp and a river. Madraso was the second toughest band I saw (after Brothers of the Sonic Cloth). They’re also the second band that earned sincere “rock on” hand gestures. Madraso is more technical than Brothers of the Sonic Cloth but have a reputation for being loud and punishing as well. More hardcore than the other band, but still grungy and dark. When TAD is yelling at you from the crowd, you’re pretty stoked. The drummer has this weird set up: 3 toms, but two are on the floor. Lots of crash cymbals. Looks fun. The last song they played used some great variations and combinations of those toms. Cool stuff.
The singer decided to wear a pink frilly shirt for the occasion. The Lock and Keel was pretty packed for it’s small stature. I think half of these people showed up here by accident. The Quit was recommended to me by my BFF once, I think. They play dancey American rock. Maybe like John Cougar Mellencamp doing uptempo punk songs. Something late 80’s with a black and white video in grainy super 8 film and cheesy transitions (like “Jack and Diane”). At this point in the evening, The Quit were the 13th band I’d seen. I was starting to get tired and probably not thinking straight. I’m sure they are better than I could comprehend. The atmosphere at the Lock and Keel was starting to bring me out of my euphoric high from all the great bands. Plus, none of the bands after 11:30 seemed interesting (and some of them I even despise: Shim). It was time to meander back to my automobile and take the long 2.5 mile drive home.
In summation: thank you, REVERBfest, for a lovely evening. I was thinking about going to see Mates of State, but seeing 9 bands I’d never head before and 4 I’ve only seen once or twice was probably a better idea. Cheaper, too. Come back soon Mates of State, I’ll catch you then. And REVERBfest, you’ve gained a special place in my heart. See you next year.