Tag Archives: vera project

Waxwing, Nazca Lines – The Vera Project

Waxwing has always been a bit of a legend to me. I was away for college during their formative years and somehow missed buying any records or seeing them live for a long time. I guess I just had bad luck. While on a roadtrip in 2000, I remember sitting in a Minneapolis restaurant looking for something to do for the evening. As my girlfriend and I looked through the paper, we ran across their name and I said “I think I’ve heard of them.” However, instead of attending the show, we decided to walk around the city and explore, instead. Quite likely the wrong choice. I didn’t see the band until their “final” show at the Redmond Fire House in 2005. I didn’t buy any records until well after that. However, when I heard the band was reuniting, I bought tickets immediately and started counting down the days.

As the day approached, I found myself searching for someone, anyone, to take my extra ticket. My housemate also bought four tickets and ended up having some strangers use the other three. I was worried that no one remembered this band and the Vera Project show would be just a handful of 30-ish year olds being nostalgic together. Judging by the stage banter, the band was slightly worried about this as well (or just being modest). Our shared fears went unrealized as the room filled up for the headliners. Though there wasn’t as much singing along as I’d imagined, the old folks had a good time.

Waxwing sounded tight, accurate, and enthusiastic. In my relatively short experience with them, I place them as a sort of NW Hot Water Music. That emotional post-hardcore/emo edge is more melodic up here, undoubtedly inspired by emo pioneers Sunny Day Real Estate. Waxwing’s sound is characterized by dramatic dynamic changes and heartfelt lyrics on the edge vocal capabilities. Though I stayed up front, out of the range of the main PA, the band sounded great. They are all talented musicians, of course, who have continued to play in other projects after the end of Waxwing. They’ve honed their skills and really nailed it last night.

It’s no secret I’ve been a fan of Rocky Votolato’s work. It probably helps that Rocky is about a month younger than I am. I admire his idealism and his honesty. I shy away from the sort of X-tian overtones, of course, but the message in his songs are usually ones I can identify with. Waxwing songs have that same inspiration. That feeling of meaning, like the songs speak about your own experiences instead of the experiences of the songwriter. Phrases like “It seems each new day has a job to do, to take its days worth of pain out of me and you” or “All of my prophets are singers of sad songs” make you feel like life is more of a shared joy than a solitary march through time. These sad songs give guys like me some hope, I suppose.

In recent years, my own disillusionment with the music that is being produced has grown. It seems that honesty, idealism, and songs from the heart are on the decline. Yet last night at the Vera Project, an old band brought out the old crowd and showed us that this thing we love will only die if we let it. And now that Waxwing is back together, we just might be able to show the world that music still matters. I’m looking forward to the continuation of the legend.

Singing along with the people singing along.
Waxwing setlist
Nazca Lines

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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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joan of arc, 31 knots, others – vera project

i missed the first two bands because i had to grade quizzes. sorry guys.

the vera project is feeling much less like an institution and much more like a venue these days. they’ve decorated as best as they can and have some cool stuff going on. and at this particular show, i didn’t feel like i was surrounded by kids. in fact, the five or so show going colleagues i recognized from bar shows and other old-people places. probably because it’s Joan of Arc!

31 Knots
i’ve never had the pleasure of seeing these gentlemen live before. they bring two things to the stage that impress me: witty/crazy banter and effective dynamics. the band is crazy to look at. the drummer looks a bit like the kim thayil, krist novoselic, neil from the young ones type, but asian. the bassist should be in Sonic Youth. and the singer/guitarist looks like a preacher or a salesman with his suit, suspenders, and bow tie. but the band is awesome live. the singer’s voice is awesome in a non-pretentious way. and they use actual dynamics! like quiet-loud-silent-quiet-loud-quiet-silent-loud!! their live show outstrips their recorded material, possibly because of modern record mixing/mastering/production values, as the pauses and volume changes really serve to make the already erratic songs that much more jolting and amazing. plus, the witty banter. so great.

side note: hey, bass player from H is for Hellgate: as much as i love your band and have purchased two records and seen you twice and will still go to your shows and tell my friends that you’re great… that hooray! thing is starting to get annoying, don’t you think? it’s funny once or twice, but every song? really?

Joan of Arc
let me admit that i have never seen Joan of Arc before tonight, either. in fact, i own only one Joan of Arc record, and only listened to it once or twice. i listened to OWLS a lot, though. and i have a Cap’n Jazz cd. but i had to go to this show. i’m glad i did.

it took me a couple songs to think what the melodic stylings of kinsella et al. reminded me of. then, on song 3, i had it. when i was a kid, well, when i was at home for the summer after my first or second year of college, i used to sleep in the lower part of the house. the part that was under construction. it had a new roof put on, and in typical fashion, had not had ends installed for the past year or so. birds had made a nest in the warm insulation just above my room. in those warm summer months, as the sun rose past our neighbors house and bathed the ceiling in sunlight, the bird would scratch at the drywall and sing with delight at the warm sun. when Joan of Arc played it was like all that, but the sun was from 1973 record covers, all orange and fuzzy. and as the birds flew out and in and out, they were blurry in the slow camera exposure. it was really amazing.

this feeling lasted for most of the set. they played a song near the end that was probably 15 years long and had three distinct song-parts, and so many repetitions. maybe the lateness of the hour or the 16 hours i spent working on my basement this weekend started to get to me, but they started to lose my interest at that point. despite the prettiness of the guitar and the amazing drums and everything, i found it hard to stay ecstatic. but they one-upped 31 Knots’ witty banter with crazy ramblings from kinsella (who reminded my housemate of michael cera a bit at times) and a random breathing exercise conjured up by kinsella’s consciousness and conducted by a brave member of the audience. i was laughing again. it was okay to be okay for a minute or two. and then they played a couple more songs, equally as rhythmically astounding and melodically amazing as the rest. and then it was done.

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