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Bronze Fawn, You May Die in the Desert, Snowman Plan, The Friendly Skies, Waves and Radiation – Cumulus Festival Day 3: The Vera Project

I have thoroughly enjoyed today.  Started off with a fine brunch and a briskly cold walk at Seward Park with a lovely lady and ended with awesome music.

The Vera Project was less populated than the first two venues, but I was talking with one of the organizers of the festival while I was buying a bunch of loot and it appears that The Cumulus Festival will continue next year sometime as they have done well.  I’m very glad about that and I let Mark, the organizer I was speaking with, know that I was appreciative of his and the other organizer’s efforts.  It was great to see some of the same people at all the shows and to be reminded that our music scene is so diverse and awesome.  Man, what a great day I had today.

Waves and Radiation
I made it in time for the first band today! Possibly because the show started at 4:00. W ‘n’ R are a four piece of standard two guitar, bass and drums configuration. Though, the word is that their drummer played his last show with the band this afternoon. Their set was the soundtrack to an alternate movie version of Moby Dick that I daydreamed about while they played. The whale, swimming for miles looking for food, while, out of nowhere a ship attacks it. An epic battle ensues, but the whale takes many casualties and escapes. He spends time healing in solitude and sending out lonely, plaintive cries. Once he is done healing, he moves to California and holds awesome rock parties with celebrities and loud bands and lives large off all of the movie rights to his story. Eventually, Captain Ahab finds him by reading about his exploits in the tabloids and another epic battle ensues. This time, the victor is the Captain. The world mourns the loss of the great whale and sentences Ahab to death, which he does not accept so gracefully. My theme tonight is soundtracks. They are all going to be this weird.

The Friendly Skies
Finally a two-piece! I was expecting lots more minimalism at the festival, I guess. TFS use a guitar and drums and some keys and loops and some ninja magic to make the guitar half bass and half regular guitar. They are the perfect soundtrack to a leisurely drive down the coast. Wonderful melodies and fantastic drumming make the wind tousle your hair and the sea breezes wash away all the pain of city life. Though your car might break down a few times, you’ll get back on the road and live your life because it feels awesome right now. I bought a record and a CD. The drummer was suffering from a cold and his floor tom kept falling over. The guitarist was having electrical problems with his pedal and tuning problems with his guitar. Despite these equipment difficulties, I was still impressed by the duo. Yay, Portland!

Snowman Plan
I had heard the name Snowman Plan bandied about many times and seen it on quite a few of those DIY shows that I meant to go to but never did. I’m glad I finally got a chance to listen. They were without a drummer: “Our drummer is not here because he was poisoned, but I made a robot drummer for us to play with.” So, it was drum machine, crazy 8-bit sounding samples, bass, violin, and cello for the three people there tonight. The violinist may have been the same one from Beast, Please Be Still but I’m too tired to look it up right now. Snowman Plan played the soundtrack to TRON 2 (which they are actually making? (but not with my awesome plot)) this afternoon. The battle between technology and classical thought. The one where the MCP finds a way to send Sark into the real world even though he was derezzed. Old programs never die. No, nevermind, Snowman Plan is the soundtrack to the SEGA CD game for the movie TRON 2 that I just described. A cool mix of 16-bit music plus actual recorded music. I won’t ruin the movie and tell you who wins.

You May Die in the Desert
YMDITD is a power trio + iPod. They were possibly the mathiest band of the weekend with cool technical lines and tapping guitars and rocking out. A long time ago my band was lucky enough to play two shows with them, one at Ground Zero with Joules and one that I put together at The LAB with Woke Up Falling. They’ve come a good long way in that time. Their shirts are much fancier now. And they sound like the soundtrack to the Godzilla prequel that I’m going to make up right now. Godzilla is in dinosaur love with his beautiful green wife, minding his own business. A Japanese warship glides over their underwater lair and accidentally slices off the head of his wife. Needless to say, he is pissed. The soundtrack to his revenge is a bit weird and destructive at the same time. Yet it’s marginally whimsical as the scientists anxiously discuss their next move. All the while Godzilla is in another scene blasting the hell out of Tokyo. Just you wait, it will decimate the city. You cannot stop him except by killing him. When a dinosaur loses his wife in a tragic boating accident, he throws down hard. Just like YMDITD does when they play. Just like I like it.

Bronze Fawn
I’ve talked about Bronze Fawn about a million times on here. I really like them a lot. It’s hard to even make a soundtrack metaphor, since they bring their own video guy who makes videos right on the spot for listeners and viewers to enjoy. The only thing I could think of would be the soundtrack to an expedition in Antarctica. That loneliness and little bit of melancholy. That lurking danger of freezing to death and then, occasionally, success in your mission, whatever it may be. And then a Megalodon eats your face off. On an unrelated note, I mentioned that Bronze Fawn might be on my makeout playlist if I had one. It turns out I was 100% correct on that intuition. Not that I was making out with anyone while they were playing, but at least four couples were entwined in a loving embrace during their set. I guess it shows my state of mind when I’m thinking about freezing to death in Antarctica while everyone else is thinking about what their kids will look like or how to show someone they care without showing they care too much and therefore looking needy. Man, Bronze Fawn is good.

What a great festival this was. I’m so glad it went off so well. I learned about some new bands and experienced stuff I never would have checked out otherwise. I didn’t love every band, but I didn’t really hate any of them. Favorites of the weekend were Bronze Fawn, You May Die in the Desert, Beast Please Be Still, and This is a Process of a Still Life. I would have liked to seen Panther Attack, Bird Show of North America, Rooftops, Mikaela’s Fiend, Sweet Potatoes (to mess with the purists, how about a mostly vocal band?) and, screw it, Don Caballero. But I didn’t put this festival together, and it’s entirely likely that no one would go to any show I put together. Hopefully, a ton of people enjoyed the festival. I know I did, but now I’m ridiculously tired and need to sleep in a bad way. I just stared at that sentence for a minute. I just spelled sentence with an i (and then deleted it). I’m done.

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Hypatia Lake, Beast Please Be Still, Deelay Ceelay, The Luna Moth, Unlearn – Cumulus Festival Day 2: King Cobra

I think I like King Cobra.  I like the fancy lighting.  I like the movies that are playing for when the band is not entertaining enough for the hipsters.  The sound is pretty decent too.  Most of all, I like the floor.  It looks like it could tell a million stories.  And it likes gum. However, it was less populated tonight than the festival was last night. Hopefully Day 3 at The Vera Project (at 4PM) tomorrow will be sold out!

Since I waited for my sweatshirt to dry before leaving, I missed the first band.  Standard doors to show time is 30 minutes apparently.  Sorry, Unlearn.  I wanted to hear the Rhodes you were packing up.  I like how you removed the tolex and stained the wood (or built a custom case), I was thinking of doing that to my Rhodes.  It looks cool.

The Luna Moth
Cold moves from North to South and butterflies and geese disappear on the edges. It hunts them like a bad horror movie where the monster can’t run because the costume is simply too heavy. It moves mercilessly and inexorably slow towards the unsuspecting victim. Creeping through the night, the only sound an ominous silence. The prey flees on an imperceptible warning. If they stop now, they will surely perish. The cold marches on, chasing them as they flit randomly through the air or fly in perfect formation. South. Ever southward. And the power trio throws in a little metal influence to make sure you’re listening carefully. I sometimes wonder if the ad on their homepage for a drummer is still active though it’s been years since I played drums.

Deelay Ceelay
What could possibly be created by two drumsets and a bunch of lights? Add a sequencer or prerecorded music and a fancy visualization and you have Deelay Ceelay. Piebald once said, “All you need is drums to start a dance party.” Not even two drum sets, strobe lights, videos, electronic music and confetti could get us stoic Seattlites to dance. It was snowing outside! (I had better be able to get to my date tomorrow morning…) I bet they dance like crazy in Portland, where these two gentlemen hail from. Though I didn’t feel like dancing, I appreciated the fine skill of the two drummers. It takes something special to pull off two drumsets well, and Deelay Ceelay do it exquisitely. They are living proof that playing with metronomes or click tracks makes you an awesome drummer. They could have benefited from better sound, but it’s pretty tough to mic two drumsets. I wanted to hear the cymbals more. They also give their album away for free. There’s some cool stuff going on with these guys. Go check out their website. I wish I liked electronic music more.

Beast, Please Be Still
Remember when Igor Stravinsky wrote “Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring)” and then it got played live and people rioted? Well, there were no riots tonight (hey, we have a new president, everything is great!), but the performance of BPBS was basically just as envelope-pushing as that magnificent piece of work (not the ballet part, apparently that sucked. just the music.). The five gentlemen (plus two guest musicians) in BPBS played guitar, violin, bass, drums, yelling, baritone sax, soprano sax, electric melodica-looking thing (electric sax???), trombone, maybe a baritone horn and some weird percussion like a hunk of metal bashed on with a metal rod wrapped with fifteen rolls of electrical tape (give or take 14 rolls). The whole time they were playing, my forehead was all scrunched up. Just like Le Sacre du Printemps, you wonder if they are just tuning up and testing out their instruments or if these are actual songs. I didn’t even recognize when they started playing. Their music is some sort of tribal chaos with tendencies toward funk and avant jazz. How do they remember how the songs go? How do these songs make sense? The saxophone player had a wonderful jumpsuit on. If they all had the same outfit, they would make the perfect replacement for the Star Wars Cantina Band. So ahead of it’s time that it might have come from the future. In the chaos, the drummer was slapping his drums with his hands, the violinist shredded half of his bow up, and the whole place felt confused. This is what I expected from the Cumulus Festival! Awesome!

Hypatia Lake
Hypatia is a greek mathematician, possibly the first recorded woman mathematician of note. A lake is a body of water, inferior to both a sea and an ocean. Put them together and you have something you know about and something you don’t. There’s the familiar sounds of rock and roll emanating from the band, but the guitars are simply too crazy with effects and what not to be familiar. It’s like some foreign language. Like mathematics. In Latin. This four piece band uses 2 guitars, bass, drums and occasionally a Kaoss pad, I think. Hypatia Lake is the first band of the festival to use microphones to sing. (Beast Please Be Still did some great yelling into the air.) Though, half of the time, the vocals are merely notes and not so much perceivable words. Their sound is grungy and spacey. Like kids from Aberdeen figured out how to reach escape velocity. Like hippies started wearing flannel. Hypatia Lake used a projector as their only source of light, just like all those concerts from the 60’s I’ve seen in documentaries. These guys have been the least “post rock” band of the festival. They even used the “big rock ending.” I stuck around for most of the set, but then started thinking about the snow and how I have to write this thing and how I have to wake up at 9, which is only 6.5 hours away and how I haven’t slept well all week and how I need to be on my “A” game tomorrow. So I walked two blocks to my VIP parking spot and drove away.

Tomorrow: my favorite northwest instrumental band (still currently playing often).

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Earth, Joy Wants Eternity, Corespondents, This is a Process of a Still Life, Perish the Island – Cumulus Festival Day 1: Chop Suey

I have been looking forward to the Cumulus Festival ever since I discovered it on Bronze Fawn’s upcoming show list. Almost all instrumental “post-rock” series of shows? Yes, please! I bought a pass, even.

Day 1 was at Chop Suey. The venue was moderately full, not sold out, but not empty as I feared it might have been. I hope the organizers are making a decent profit so that the festival can continue next year. Maybe I should have donated more by buying individual tickets instead. Maybe they should sell the posters… At any rate, the last show I attended at Chop Suey started one hour after doors opened. Making the assumption that things would be the same this time, I showed up too late to catch Perish the Island. Maybe I shouldn’t have taken a shower. I only talked to two random dudes anyways…

This is a Process of a Still Life
Have you ever been driving the long way through Kansas on a rainy and lonely night and needed a soundtrack? TiaPoaSL could replace the sound of the rain against the thin roof of your old car harmonizing with the thrum of the engines and the roar of the grooves in your tires as the travel through the darkness. Occasionally you pass some city and the lights provide a respite from the grey and black that surround the pale yellow of your headlights against the road and the prairie grasses. Every so often, songs wander in and out of the white noise like matching headlights that appear in the distance and grow larger and brighter but after a red flash in your mirror they are replaced once again with the soothing hiss and hum of the sounds of going somewhere in a place that seems like it is full of nowhere. Five-person This is a Process of a Still Life have mastered all the possible dynamics: from whisper quiet to deafeningly loud. They do so with a plethora of instruments: drums, tambourine, sleigh bells, up to three guitars, bass, sampler, drum machine, two keyboards, pedal steel, and the requisite visual accompaniment of the night. TiaPoaSL were a great way to start the first night!

The thing about good festivals is that you get to listen to a bunch of stuff you normally wouldn’t seek out. You get to watch them play for 30-45 minutes and then, at the end, say “Well, that was interesting.” The award for strangest instrumentation of the night goes to three-piece Corespondents: acoustic guitar, up to 2 electric guitars, snare drum, high hat with attached cowbell, bell and splash mounted upside down together, tambourines and t-shirt that reads something like “Do you have tickets to the gun show?” for damping, some sort of electrified one-stringed eastern instrument, some sort of midi drums, and a lute, I think. Take all of these instruments and the only thing you can possibly create with them is an electrified take on middle eastern folk music. I felt a little like I should be in Krygyztan or something. The bearded gentleman in front of me called them “Post-Polka,” which I thought was pretty fitting. Their chosen visualization for the evening was a sped up conglomeration of Yoga, Tai-Chi and other eastern exercise videos. They were pretty hilarious, actually. In the midst of one of their songs, a couple started waltzing. Another of their songs sounded strangely like a Beatles cover, but not enough that I could wrap my mind around which song it might be. Well, that was interesting

Joy Wants Eternity
The five gentlemen from Joy Wants Eternity were the crowd favorite of the evening, clearly. They also won the award for bring the most guitar pedals. Too many for me to count, even. They employ drums, three guitars, glockenspiel and a Rhodes electric awesomeness. Naturally my inclination was to intently watch the Rhodes player for some sort of education. However, he was situated so that I couldn’t see his hands. He was playing a MkII with the flat top and had shiny legs for the piano and had a tall milk crate as a seat. That was about all I could learn from the night. Maybe a couple ideas about style. He also had an overdrive or distortion pedal that I couldn’t read the name of. However, it solidified my idea that distorted Rhodes sounds awesome. Okay, enough geeking out over the instrument I want to learn. Joy Wants Eternity is built entirely out of feedback and delays and loops and effects. They sound a bit like what I imagine being haunted by a ghost would be like. A ghost that you can’t decide whether to get angry at, dance with, or simply marvel the beauty of it’s wispy, ectoplasmic form. They include ethereal beauty (Rhodes) over a wailing stampede of feedback and noise over some solid rock rhythms. I feel like the drums were included to give Joy Wants Eternity a way to reach out to people. Everybody likes rock drums. If the drummer did more rolls and arrhythmic stuff, people would have nothing to grasp on to. If I ran JWE, my drummer would be just as feedback-laden as everyone else. Noise and sounds, not so much rhythms. But JWE is a fine band nonetheless.

At this point, I was starting to get tired. This is only show 3 of my 5 show marathon, but I’m old. Earth went on at about 1 AM. The four piece abuses drums, bass, guitar, and an Wurlitzer electric pretty awesome piano + effects pedals. When I say abuse, I mean they conjure out the loudest, yet slowest, possible sound from their poor instruments. Like BLLLLLLLAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRR! Earth is a very appropriate name. Their songs work on geologic time. Painfully slow repetitions of the same theme with minor variations for what seems like millennia. Intense pressures, unimaginable except at the core of the Earth, paired with seemingly infinite patience combine to form these huge sounds that I could hear about two blocks away as I was walking to my car in a half-asleep daze despite the near-freezing temperature. As I sped home, I imagined that the vibrations of the band’s immense sound were shaking the very foundations of the Ship Canal Bridge and at any moment or perhaps in a million years, it would crumble to dust. I hope the Chop Suey survived the onslaught. I think I sustained some hearing damage even with my earplugs in…

It is unfortunate that I only got about 5 hours of sleep, because I’m ready to go to King Cobra tonight and watch day 2! Yeah!

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