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Hoquiam, PWRFL Power, Johanna Kunin, Husbands Love Your Wives – King Cobra

The King Cobra website said 7PM when I checked as I was eating a permanent bachelor lifestyle dinner of quesadilla and top ramen. So I consumed my meal with a hurried aplomb and made it to the venue by 7:40. Only to find that the show was going to start at 9:30. Curse you! Therefore, I went on adventures of sorts.

First, I decided to stop by Value Village to check out the ever changing trends in 1970’s men’s fashion. Unimpressed with my clothing options, I perused the vinyl. Though I was tempted by some classical and swing offerings, I moved over to the books. The idea dawned in my head that I would quickly pick up a book and go read it at the coffee shop while drinking a fine hot chocolate. “Quickly” meant about 20 minutes, apparently. I ended up picking up an issue of Analog from November 2007 and then I walked over to the local coffee shop and ordered up a 12oz hot chocolate. Thanks to my purchase at the hipster Value Village, I had exact change for my drink. Woo hoo! I read a sci-fi story about Mars moving closer to earth and then being a clever advertisement for aliens to sell us a terraformed planet and then it was time for the show. Sorry to ruin the story for you, but I’m pretty sure no one else in the world will read that story.

King Cobra was playing some good movies. Tank Girl with French subtitles. Another one I can’t think of because it’s 1:20 in the morning. Despite their fine selection of films, the venue was not particularly full. I’m thinking about going back next week for Emerald City Soul Club, I bet it will be packed then. I bet there will be more single ladies, too, not that it matters.

Husbands, Love Your Wives
According to her myspace, she plays Black Metal / Minimalist / Regional Mexican, but it turns out, this is just the cute female version of Damien Jurado. Which is pretty weird since Mr. Jurado was backing her up on second guitar. Perhaps we can say she’s a more serious Rosie Thomas. Or a less serious Tiny Vipers. You get the idea. She plays simple songs with lots of verses and few choruses that would fit perfectly on a sad summer Sunday. Where you’re looking good lying in the sun, but perhaps you’re alone at the beach instead of next to the one you love when she falls asleep and gets a sunburn that doesn’t go away for a year. Like everything might be better, but then again it might not.

Johanna Kunin
Ms. Kunin played solo tonight, which is how I first saw her, so I was pretty excited. Since that first time, she’s been doing a lot of work with loops. Basically, record a short phrase and hit a button that repeats that short phrase until you tell it to stop. Ms. Kunin uses it for vocal layering and to create drum tracks by hitting the mic and clapping and making that tick-tock sound with her mouth and breathing. Similar to Sweet Potatoes, but more… professional. I prefer Johanna Kunin solo to the orchestrated version. I feel like the solo stuff is more real. And it is pretty amazing. Her voice is ridiculous, her piano/keyboard playing is immaculate, and the loops are well done and tasteful. Where HYLW makes you think that you can be a rock star, Johanna Kunin makes you think twice about it. It might not be possible to get that good. It might be one of those things where you just have to be that good in the first place. It would be wonderful to just be that good.

A while later I went to pick up some Ms. Kunin merchandise. She talked me into buying the last handmade book of the sheet music for her latest record (plus one song). However, I was a dollar short. Since it was the last copy in existence, I asked if it was possible to purchase it anyhow. I volunteered to mail the extra dollar at a later time. She said that was not necessary, but made me pinky swear to buy the new record when it came out. Now my low-talent-high-ambition pinky has hopefully gained something from the touch of the pinky that has more talent than most people as a whole.

What’s this? An electric guitar? Standing up? Rocking out? This is a side of PWRFL Power that I have not had the pleasure of experiencing. He spends a lot of time walking around the stage and standing on things. I liked very much that he was wearing all white and playing a white guitar. And his stories between songs are great. “Do you guys ever go to house parties? Do you ever feel wrong?” “I think there is something between Google and drug dealers…” Near the end, he was rocking so hard, he had to jump off his tiny amp. By doing so, he knocked over a mic. I think he’s been watching a lot of Pete Townsend live footage. Luckily nothing was broken.  His set was definitely the most fun set of the evening.  I laughed out loud several times.  However, I think his ridiculous guitar playing is easier to recognize on an acoustic guitar, though he did know a lot of tricks on electric as well.

Hoquiam is Damien and Drake Jurado. Drake, by the way, is an awesome name. Looking up at the Jurado brothers, I imagined them like Christian Bale. Drake is Christian Bale in The Machinist: ridiculously skinny and erratic. Damien is Christian Bale in Batman: beefed up and toned down. Drake wears sunglasses on stage for some reason unbeknownst to me. Damien constantly scrunches up his face in concentration or consternation. Though they appear to be opposites, they are clearly brothers. Between songs, they mumble and talk in hushed tones about what to play next, speaking in a language that is not intelligible by anyone outside of their brotherly bond. Then, they play songs which sound exactly like I imagine the city of Hoquiam must be: full of despair and desperation. I just drove through there last week, so I must be an expert. The songs sound like some of the houses there look: barely hanging on, going two directions at once, urgently asking for some sort of help. The songs also have a lot of Northwest references which make them more personal, perhaps too personal. The songs are great. You can check them out for yourselves at Full-Tilt Ice Cream on March 14th.

It is now about 2:20 and I’m real tired. I hope you’ll forgive any errors I may have made above, but I cannot correct them at this time. I’ll get to them tomorrow after I cook a huge batch of homefries for myself.

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Tumbledown, Joey Cape, Jon Snodgrass, Austin Lucas – King Cobra

I have never been to an all-ages King Cobra show. I was not expecting to attend one tonight, given that the headliner and the first supporting act were mid-90s punks in their retirement years. Nevertheless, the chain link fence was up separating the drunks from the kids and the artists weren’t allowed to have alcohol on stage, which they complained about several times. Life is tough for musicians these days.

Austin Lucas
It would make my mom ecstatic if she ever found out that I liked a country singer. Luckily, she never reads this so I can say things like Austin Lucas rules hard. His bluegrass style creates the perfect tone for songs of heartbreak and longing. The song “Go West” was particularly touching for me. Great set. I saw him on the Revival Tour, which was was awesome, and if I get a chance to see him again, I’ll go. I wish I knew more bluegrass and country artists like him so I could make comparisons, but I did what I could to distance myself from that genre because I only thought it was the country played on the radio. I didn’t know anything about the real passion that could exist in country songs. It is only later in life that I’m realizing I’ve missed a huge chunk of American music that we have good cause to be proud of. It’s almost like rediscovering music all over again. Mr. Lucas does real passion well, and that is why I got into music in the first place. Maybe I’ll invite my mom along to the next show.

Jon Snodgrass
Jon Snodgrass started the rest of my evening of unknowns. Mr. Lucas and him paired up for a couple songs, much to my delight, making for a seamless transition between sets, much like the artists on the Revival Tour. Their voices work well together in the country harmonies, which are awesome. Mr. Snodgrass sounds a bit like Frankie Stubbs doing Springsteen style americana. I’m guessing that folks in the midwest are super stoked on Jon Snodgrass. Live, he has a bit of Blake Schwarzenbach in his voice as well. He had the best quote of the night as well: “I feel like forty dollars today.” I laughed. I also liked how he took requests the whole evening. That’s always a good way for artists to make their sets. With veto power, of course. Near the end of his set, he invited up Joey Cape (and Chad Rex?) to make another nice transition to the next set.

Let us pause here to examine the phenomenon of the punk rock retirement plan. It seems that many punk singers are picking up acoustic guitars and singing country music. It’s gone well for some of them and not so well for others, as will soon be shown. It makes sense, because country songs are simple and somewhat fast, depending on heartfelt singing to make up for the lack of musical technicality (usually). I think it’s generally a good thing.

Joey Cape
Mr. Cape was the lead singer for a mid 90’s pop-punk band called Lag Wagon (or Lagwagon). They were on Fat Wreck Chords with all those types of bands. Now, when I say that Joey Cape was the lead singer for Lagwagon, I mean he *was* Lagwagon. The only identifying feature of that band was the signature vocal style. Now, when I say that he *was* Lagwagon, I mean he *IS* Lagwagon. Tonight’s set was basically Lagwagon songs done acoustic. No country at all. However, this is exactly what everyone wanted. There were tons of people singing along. Now, I liked Lagwagon okay. I think their seven inch was the first one I ever bought (in 1993?). I know a couple songs, but I was never a fanatic. They got lost in the billion other bands that sounded basically the same. I’m a bit surprised that so many people in the crowd were going crazy. If there were drums, there would have been a mosh pit, most likely. I have no idea why tonight’s show was all-ages, though. Someone turning 21 this year would have been 6 when I bought that first seven inch… At any rate, Joey Cape made all kinds of mistakes like forgetting lyrics and flubbing guitar parts. But it’s punk rock (acoustic, but still…) so no one cares. The crowd begged him for an encore even. But he wasn’t headlining.

Mike Herrera of MxPx has a new band. I will admit that I liked MxPx (or Magnified Plaid, which is their original name) after Teenage Politics and through Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo. Let’s see, 1996 to 1998 or so. It’s okay to like MxPx before you turn 21. Tumbledown is the grown up’s version of MxPx. Mr. Herrera even called their music drinking songs. It’s weird to think that Mr. Herrera is only about four months older than me. It’s weird because I would not be making the same music I was making in high school today. Yet, Mr. Herrera basically is. Tumbledown is more MxPx than country. And that’s what makes it pretty bad. It’s like a caricature of country just like MxPx was a caricature of punk. Like Xtian music is a caricature of real music. And I think that’s where I hold my grudge against Mr. Herrera, the dang religousness. Call me a bigot, but if any band plays a song that goes “Jesus, yes I do!” they should immediately have their hands removed. Tumbledown look like a Xtian band. You know, how Xtians look like real people but there’s always something fundamentally flawed with them? Like they try too hard to look normal. At any rate, the kitsch factor of having a stand up bass was too much. The silly guitar solos were too ridiculous. The nasally 15 year old punk vocals singing about san antone were exactly the wrong match. Everything seemed so false. The “rock persona” and the “don’t worry we’ll play again later in a hotel, you can drink there” were just stupid. Man, I’m getting bitter in my old age. I shouldn’t talk trash about a band just because they believe that they’re going to spend eternity singing the praises of a dude with a beard. I should just not go to their shows. Okay, 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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bronze fawn, panther attack — King Cobra

reason #4,000,000 why this is the best city in the world: rock and roll will never die here.

king cobra is a relatively new bar/venue and, as such, is pretty fancy. but fancy in that “we’re right next to the comet” kind of way. the scene in there was very diverse. a guy in a spiked jean/leather jacket with a Filth patch on the back. some girl doing the mary katherine gallagher salute. some dude with 80’s hair metal hair that he must work on for hours. and a bunch of others. definitely my scene. i think i like it.

Panther Attack
the thing about math rock is that it’s so tightly controlled. you want to rock the hell out to it, but you have to concentrate to stay in time. even the band has to constrain itself to keep it in line. and at this point, i’m totally okay with that. the Panther Attack guitar sound reminds me of The Advantage and dave knudson and all those guys. which is also perfectly awesome. in general, i rocked my head in acceptable seattle dancing style for a large portion of the set. i’m a fan, even though they set up two drumsets and only used the second one twice. that goes against my punk rock upbringing of course, but i’ve been doing that a lot anyhow.

Lords of the North
i refuse to acknowledge the existence of a third band on the bill. take the lights out of your drums, get rid of the $20 puppet head and do something i care about and then we’ll talk.

Bronze Fawn
Bronze Fawn were like ice cream in winter time. not in the summer, when you’ve taken for granted how awesome ice cream is, but in the winter. when you’ve forgotten how great it can be and one tiny sample reminds you that there is good in the world still. they have this effortless musicianship that is thrown about with reckless abandon. the kind i dream about achieving but simply do not have the dedication to ever accomplish. there’s something about their triplets that warms my heart. i was worried that the visuals and the electronic drum triggers and the crazy effects would let me down, but i think i’m somewhat over that phase of my life. i mean, i have been playing midi keyboard for a couple months now. at any rate, Bronze Fawn, you’re my hero.

i had a hard time getting to this show. not because i couldn’t find parking or because my car wouldn’t start or whatever. it was for the same reason i hate getting up in the morning sometimes. because i often don’t want to do the things i want to do. i have to force myself to do things that i know i love (go to shows, go to work, etc.). like some sort of extra gravity weighs down on my soul that i have to lift weights to overcome. but i did so tonight. and i’m mostly glad. i feel like something is still missing, though.

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