2 Coffee Show Review: Scarlet Parke (album release), Little Wins, and Jake Crocker (6/14/19)

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the album release show for Scarlet Parke.  Her new album “Flight Risk” was released the same day as the event and the eight song album was receiving positive reviews going into the show.  Scarlet is a regular fixture in the Seattle music scene.  If she isn’t performing, you’ll normally run into her at popular venues and shows in the area.  Her approachable, warm personality translates to her show and was really evident in the crowd that came to support her that evening.

The show opened with DJ producer Jake Crocker.  Jake collaborated with Scarlet on this recent album and would back Scarlet later in the night.  Jake’s DJ set was what I would describe as fun.  There wasn’t too much of a crowd early into the show, and the crowd that did populate the dance floor were mostly Jake’s close friends. At several points Jake invited his friends on stage to either give an impromptu DJ lesson or just to dance.  It wasn’t a great set, but wasn’t a bad set.  Really, it looked like Jake was having fun and his friends were having fun.  If an artist is having fun, then it translates in the show, which is why I would describe this set as “fun”.

The next set was local performer Andrew Vait’s solo act, Little Wins.  Many folks will probably recognize Andrew as a co contributor to the local band, Sisters.  I’ve always enjoyed Andrew.  He’s a solid performer and he knows how to weave through a song.  At first the crowd which had now begun to fill the room were talkative during his set, but mid way he performed a cover of the Cranberries song “Linger” and the room was mesmerized. From that point on, the crowd was respectful of his talent and you could tell, really enjoyed his set.

Finally, Scarlet Parke closed out the night.  I’ve seen Scarlet perform before.  Myself and several others in the audience would describe her performance as having an Amy Winehouse vibe but with a more Latin almost crooner kind of feel to it.  In this set, she performed the full album and also debuted a new song she created in collaboration with Little Wins.  Having never heard the album until this performance, I enjoyed it.  The songs felt like they had a different pop/r&b vibe to them.  Some songs that stood out to me were Moonlight, Distractions, Man Like You, and Never Going Home.  Overall, I enjoyed this performance. Prior Scarlet Parke shows I’ve attended felt more like a jazz r&b show with a multi instrument live band, this felt almost opposite of that.  Her backing accompaniment was minimal (I think it was just Jake Crocker) and the songs were tailored to folks looking to dance.  If you’re looking for an opportunity to dance to some great pop r&b songs with a Latin vibe, definitely check out Scarlet Parke, and pick up her latest album “Flight Risk”.

Outdoor Music Festivals for people who “live near downtown Seattle, don’t have a car, and love local music”.

I haven’t had a car for the past two years.  When it comes to live music choices and not having a vehicle, you’re limited to what you feel comfortable getting to either by foot, rideshare, bus, or bicycle.  Lucky for me, I live on Capitol Hill.  Live music is abundant when you live near downtown Seattle.  It feels like every neighborhood within walking distance, from West Seattle to the Central District, has at least three or more live music venues unique to that neighborhood.

When the “Seattle Summer” hits and we get that two to three month window of nice weather, outdoor music festivals are something you have to take in and enjoy.  Each event not only showcases the diverse neighborhoods around the city, but also it’s a chance to listen to new music and make new friends.  The following are the 5 best free outdoor music festivals, and 3 best ticketed outdoor music festivals, within walking distance of downtown Seattle, worth checking out this Summer.

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Black Pistol Fire, Elysian Search Party 2017

5 Best Free Outdoor Music Festivals
Seattle Pride at Volunteer Park – June 8th – In terms of free “all ages” day music festival lineups, this year’s is one of the best.  Local favorites, Thunderpussy, headline the stacked lineup alongside JGRGRY, Whitney Monge, Sassyblack, and Left at London.  It’s a great chance to experience a piece of Seattle’s Pride festival in one of Seattle’s most iconic parks.

Lindafest at Linda’s Tavern (on Capitol Hill) – late August – If you want an alternative to the mainstream Seattle music scene and want a 21+ event with more of a grunge almost heavy feel, then Lindafest is something you should check out.  Each year, Linda’s Tavern on Capitol Hill hosts a mini festival in the area behind the bar.  The event is free and showcases a local line up.  I usually learn about this event from street posters, so keep an eye out for more information.

IMG_20170715_002203_435Purple Mane, West Seattle Summer Fest 2017

West Seattle Summer Fest at The Junction – July 12th to 14th – I grew up in West Seattle.  West Seattle Summer Fest to me was always the big street fair that shut down large portions of the Junction every summer.  In recent years, it’s also set itself apart from other street fairs with it’s diverse music lineups.  This year’s Fest includes local favorites Jenn Champion, Razor Clam, Grizzled Mighty, DYED, among others.

South Lake Union Block Party at South Lake Union – August 9th – South Lake Union Block Party definitely feels like a reflection of South Lake Union today.  I remember there’s food trucks and plenty of activities for families, but the beer garden takes up 3/5ths of the whole festival space which shows how much the event tailors to the younger professionals who work in that neighborhood.  The music lineup is made up of local favorites, headlined by The Dandy Warhols, alongside Naked Giants, Polyrythmics, Whitney Monge, and Sisters.

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So Pitted, Mercer X Summit Block Party 2017

Mercer X Summit Block Party at the corner of Mercer and Summit – Mid August – This event is by far my favorite free music festival.  A good number of performers curated to play this event end up on larger festival lineups or on local television shows like Bands in Seattle.  It also feels like a purely neighborhood event.  Most block parties end up feeling bloated with corporate sponsorship, but Mercer X Summit feels like a bunch of local businesses got together and decided to throw a summer party for the neighborhood.  If you want an opportunity to work on your concert photography skills, this one is the perfect festival.

3 Best Ticketed Outdoor Music Festivals
Capitol Hill Block Party – July 19th to 21st – Aside from the major names which pull in the crowds, Capitol Hill Block Party is a great showcase for local talent.  At last year’s Block Party, it felt like every local performer put on some of their best performances.  This year’s lineup features a number of solid local acts including Kung Foo Grip, Wild Powwers, OK Sweetheart, Mirrorgloss, Nick Weaver, among others.

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Lizzo, Capitol Hill Block Party 2017

Elysian Search Party – July 6th – I’m a big fan of the Elysian Search Party.  For a little over $35, you get 4 beer tickets, and access to a great party backed by an action packed music lineup.  This is a great chance to try out nearly all of Elysian’s beer catalogue (40+ beers on tap) and also know that all proceeds (100%) will benefit local organization, The Vera Project.  This year’s lineup features The Darkness, The Murder City Devils, Black Pistol Fire, and local performers, Pink Parts.

Bumbershoot at Seattle Center – August 30th to September 1st – For many, Bumbershoot has become the local “Coachella”, but really I don’t think there’s comparison between the two.  If you approach Bumbershoot as a social media post, then you’re missing out on what a bunch of locals love about the event.  It’s really about the vibe.  If you go in wanting to have a friendly good time, not trying to harsh anyone else’s good time, then the event will be a great experience, but if you go in expecting a “Coachella” style experience, then of course you’ll be disappointed.  I’ve always approached Bumbershoot looking for a good time, hoping to find some great new music, and trying to find chances to experience curated activities outside of the music lineup (catch some movies at SIFF cinema during Bumbershoot).  This year’s lineup features many performers, that are known to put on a great shows including The Lumineers, Rezz, Tyler The Creator, among many others.

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Tyler the Creator, Bumbershoot 2017

Honorable Mentions
Concerts at the Mural at Seattle Center – every Friday in August – Every Friday in the month of August, the mural in Seattle Center hosts a series of free shows featuring three band lineups.  This year’s series includes Cherry Glazerr, Wolf Parade, Weyes Blood, Helado Negro, among others.

Events held by Friends of the Waterfront at the Waterfront – The diverse events held at the Waterfront by Friends of the Waterfront is pretty incredible.  Aside from the Rock the Docks concerts, I remember seeing the Parkour Visions Classic (a national Parkour competition), the 206 Zulu Beat Masters competition (an elite local DJ competition), and a KPOP concert, all hosted by Friend of the Waterfront.  Check their site for future events.

IMG_20180101_014141_627Kolars, Thunderpussy New Year’s Show 2017

I hope to see you out there this Summer!

“Are you creative?”

It’s been 3 months since I’ve written a blog post.

I got back from vacation in mid February and I just couldn’t get myself to start writing again.

I had built up momentum prior to leaving. I was interviewing bands and writing posts on a consistent basis but when I got back, things at my day job picked up and a post-vacation slump really set in.  In the back of my mind all I could think about was the idea of “delaying a response”.  The idea of “delaying a response” is, if someone means enough to you then you’ll take the time to message them back if they reach out.  The only time you’ll stretch a situation and either not reply or delay a response is if it’s a person that you really don’t care about, or you’re nervous.  For example, if someone wants to set plans, it’s not hard to reply “sounds good”, yet there are people who we hold that two word response for, and assume that’s alright.

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Monsterwatch, Mercer X Summit Block Party 2018

To me, writing a blog was that thing that was reaching out, asking me to give it a shot, but for some reason I found myself “delaying a response”.  I was racking my brain trying to figure out did I just not care about writing posts anymore, or was I nervous to get my ideas out there? I could keep saying my day job was keeping me busy enough, but how long could that excuse hold before I just had to will myself to get back to writing posts?  I had to figure out my motives for beginning a blog in the first place.

I saw a documentary about Studio Ghibli figurehead, Hayao Miyazaki.  I’ve always been fascinated by artists.  Were they just regular dudes who found themselves saying inspiring things like John Lennon, or were they living up their legends like Andy Warhol?  This documentary followed Miyazaki a little over a year after his sudden retirement, when he decided to return to animation.  It’s hard not to be inspired by Miyazaki.  Throughout the film, he wears an artist’s apron, even when the animation team he’s working with is animating almost entirely through CGI. Another scene has Miyazaki putting stuffed goats on his roof, for no other reason then just to entertain a group of pre schoolers who were walking passed his home.

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Flume, Bumbershoot 2017

A quote that stuck with me from this documentary, Miyazaki and the camera guy are talking about children’s movies that were released around that time and the conversation drifts to “Frozen”.  When asked about “Frozen”, Miyazaki said, “That song “Let it Go” is popular now.  It’s all about being yourself, but that’s terrible.  Self satisfied people are boring.  We have to push hard and surpass ourselves.”  That was it.  That’s the reason I started a blog. Writing a blog was a new challenge.

My day job consists of examining and writing contract language.  When you write contract language, you have to be calculated in your ambiguity, and in doing so you tend to be very wordy and at times overly descriptive.  In an age when a four minute YouTube video feels too long, writing a blog forces you to either be more concise or more compelling in your writing in order to keep an audience.  Writing a blog is a great antithesis from what I do for a day job, and what I see as a great way to help develop my writing style.

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Great Grandpa, Upstream 2018

Aside from challenging myself to experiment with my writing style, it also gives me a chance to put a spotlight on some bands and artists that I felt need to get some sort of press.  I’m born and raised in Seattle.  The Seattle music scene is so vibrant and unique right now.  There are times when I would read a best “Seattle bands” list or this “publication” recommends this “concert” this week, and I would have no idea who some of the names were.  I go to two or three concerts a week and I comb through various venue websites and publications all the time, to not recognize band names tells me that the size and quality of the Seattle music scene is at a different level than most other major cities.  I want to contribute to the music scene in some way.  You can’t put a spotlight on everyone, so giving some of the smaller bands an opportunity to get a write up or taking a killer photo at a show, can be my contribution to this diverse music scene.

This is why I want to write a blog.  To work on my writing skills and to put the spotlight on the Seattle music and arts scene as it exists today, vibrant, diverse, and motivating a generation.  I’ll do this by describing my experiences at shows, providing suggestions for shows, and every now and again I’ll just write about Seattle.  With or without this platform, I’ll still be the guy that will go to a show each week and I’ll still talk up the performers that impressed me the most.

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Trash Fire, Cha Cha Lounge 2018

If I’ve learned anything from being around the Seattle arts and music scene the one constant is, like the city, it’s “Come as You Are”. Everyone is welcome but it’s up to you to determine how you want to interact once you’re there.

“Happy/Sad Place Somehow”: 7 Questions with Tangerine

Bumbershoot 2014 was the first time I saw Tangerine perform live. I had heard a few songs and wanted to check them out. My initial thoughts from seeing them perform were their sound is a lot of fun, this is a pretty sizeable crowd for a local band at Bumbershoot, and it’s hard not to enjoy this performance. The sound reminded me of pop music you would hear in a sitcom that would air in the post “TGIF” generation. Like a sitcom that would have the Lawrence brothers or a movie with Rachel Leigh Cook.

IMG_4399Tangerine performing at Bumbershoot 2014

In the years that followed, I picked up their EPs “Behemoth!”, “Sugar Teeth” and “Radical Blossom”, and would try to catch one of their shows around town. I remember catching their set at an exclusive Upstream Music Festival and Summit preview party, and also catching the band’s farewell concert when they relocated to Los Angeles. On February 7th, with a brand new EP “White Dove”, Tangerine is set to make their Seattle return. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to ask a few questions to band members, Marika Justad, Miro Justad, and Toby Kuhn.

First and foremost welcome back to Seattle!
I read an interview for Grunge and Art magazine, where as a band you explained that certain bands and genres inspired your sound, but you also mentioned being inspired by movies and television shows, specifically you mentioned the films of Baz Luhrmann (“Romeo + Juliet”). I like the idea of a form of art and entertainment especially one focused on the visual element, inspiring the creation of another form of art and entertainment.
1.) What other films and television shows inspire you currently, and would you mind elaborating how they inspire your sound?

Marika: I’m so glad you picked up on those influences of ours! I have a feeling that a lot of musicians are inspired by so much more than just music. The music you make is sort of like this representation of how you experience the world in all its complexity, so of course all kinds of things find their way into our sound. We’re getting ready to release a new song on February 8th called CHAINS, that has this dark, dreamy, romantic feeling which was inspired by gothic romance novels like Jane Eyre (a favorite of Miro’s and mine that we’ve read many times), plus slightly trashier romance novels we’ve enjoyed that shall remain nameless. We tried to evoke that feeling in the visuals we created to go with the song. That’s just one example but I’m sure there’s more.

In past interviews, you mentioned how as a band you would love to curate the soundtrack for a film or television show, and how some of your songs were made with that possible intention in mind.
2.) Is there a regular storyline that you picture your music being used or you would hope they were used for (for example: A Cosmic Romance, A Modern Day Western, A Teen Road Trip Flick, etc.)?

Marika: One hundred percent we would love for our song Lake City (from our last EP, White Dove) to be in the sequel to Netflix’s “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before”. We’re all suckers for a good classic teen movie- Footloose, Pretty in Pink, Empire Records, Can’t Hardly Wait, 10 Things I Hate About You, etc. (fuck 16 Candles, no matter what anyone says). I think a lot of our songs would be good during like that moment in every TV drama where they do a cheesy montage of all the characters as they wander around pondering the meaning of life. Or maybe our songs would be perfect for the ending of a movie when somebody’s driving off into the sunset, and it’s a little happy and a little sad at the same time. All of our music seems to end up in that happy/sad place somehow.

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3.) Another thing I picked up from reading past interviews was a love for the Sci-Fi genre. What are some must see titles (film, television, teleplay, radio show, podcast, etc.) that you would recommend? (If you name a show, is there a specific episode that is must see?)

Marika: Buffy The Vampire Slayer! The title of our song “Monster Of The Week” comes from the TV concept of the same name and is inspired by Buffy. There’s an episode in season four called “HUSH” that has almost zero dialogue and it’s just weird and fun and completely brilliant.
Miro: The Arrival was one of the more recent science fiction movies that I have seen which really moved me because it teaches about having compassion for the unknown. The soundtrack really beautiful and abstract so I highly recommend checking that out!
Toby: Taken- It’s a miniseries presented by Steven Spielberg that takes place over half a century and focuses on multiple generations of families’ experiences with aliens. Very cool show, the score is awesome too, their theme song has been stuck in my head for years!

(These next 3 questions were provided by my last interview Alaia from the band Tres Leches.)
4.) From your last live performance, what’s one reaction from the audience that stood out to you and how do you perceive that reaction?

Marika: Our last show was for FOMO FEST at the Echo- there was one guy in particular who was dancing in the front giving it his all the entire set that stood out to all of us!

5.) What’s one thing you want to do that you’re not doing right now and why aren’t you doing it?

Miro: I’ve always wanted to tour Asia with TANGERINE! Marika and I are Korean American so performing in Korea is a shared dream of ours. It’s not in our cards for the immediate future as we are touring the West Coast and writing music in LA but hoping that we can make that work soon!
Toby: I’d love to learn to speak Italian, I’ve got family in Naples and every time I visit I deeply regret not having a greater understanding of the language. There are so many things I like to do when I get a spare moment I just haven’t committed to it yet!
Marika: I want to be able to run 5 miles! I can only run 2 at the moment….but I’m working on it.

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6.) What’s something that’s not tangible that is vital?

Miro: A constant sense of curiosity. I feel like there was a moment in my late teens and early twenties where I stopped questioning everything around me and lost a sense of awe for the natural world. The more curious I am the happier I have found.
Toby: Optimism. I try to be an optimistic person, for myself and the band, but also in terms of giving people the benefit of the doubt- trusting people, maybe too much haha. It’s certainly been vital to my well being.
Marika: There’s a Maya Angelou quote that is something along the lines of “people don’t remember what you said but they’ll remember how you made them feel” that’s always resonated with me. This question brings that to mind!

As a final question, as a band that started in Seattle, developed in this market, and left, do you have any advice for Seattle artists trying to expand beyond the Seattle music scene?

Miro: My advice would be to really take advantage of the supportive scene in Seattle and the surrounding areas because a strong base will carry you further in the long run even if you decide to leave.

(If you thought this band sounded as fun as they were to interview, be sure to support!  Tangerine will be performing live at Chop Suey, Thursday February 7th with Cumulus, and Emma Lee Toyoda, presale $10.  Listen to their music on most platforms, and be sure to check out their latest EP, “White Dove”, available now.)

DEFY Pro Wrestling is Here to Stay: Look back at “DEFY Never Dies”: 2nd Anniversary

On January 19, 2019, DEFY Pro Wrestling celebrated it’s 2nd Anniversary at the event DEFY: Never Dies.  In retrospect, that was the greatest DEFY Pro Wrestling event I’ve ever attended live.  Usually at DEFY (like every other pro wrestling event) there will be a slow or a lull in the action, a “bathroom break match” for example.  Last weekend, it felt like every match just “hit”.

In front of a crowd that would rival the packed house that attended PROGRESS Wrestling weekend, DEFY proved once again why they are the current leader in professional wrestling in the Pacific Northwest.  Here’s some quick notes and observations from last week’s show.

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Match 1: Moose over Big Jack
This match was the first surprise of the night.  As far as match announcements went, both Moose and Big Jack were not announced for the show.  In terms of storyline this match made sense.  At the first DEFY event, Big Jack had begun a campaign to establish himself as the main “big guy” in the DEFY locker room.  Having him take on a well known powerhouse like Moose was a great throwback to that campaign.  The match itself was a great opener.  The crowd was energized and it set the stage for the evening that followed.

Match 2: One Percent over Amerikan Gunz
If there was any tag team that was “DEFY’s tag team” it would have to be the Amerikan Gunz.  This was easily the best Amerikan Gunz match I’ve seen live.  Personally, of the matches the Gunz have contested in Washington Hall, I’ve only really been impressed by 2 or 3.  I felt like the crowd was always really being generous with their love.  This match changed my opinion, and a lot of the credit has to be given to the One Percent.  One Percent brought out an exciting performance for the Gunz that had a lot of the crowd cheering the whole match.  Jorel I’ve seen perform before and knew he was solid, but this was my first time seeing Royce and if there was a standout in this match, it had to be him.  Seeing the One Percent get the win over the Gunz I think is a good thing.  Like Shane Strickland losing the DEFY title at the last show, in a kind of shallow division, it doesn’t place the Gunz as the sole standard bearers and it opens the division to more matchups and pairings.

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Match 3: 10 Man “DEFY 2 Survive” Elimination Match
Team 1: King Khash, Judas Icarus, Sonico, Leon Negro, and Caden Cassady
Team 2: Guillermo Rosas, Eli Surge, “The Catch” Carl Randers, Guerrero De Neon, and Golden Boy Travis Williams
Winner: King Khash
With how much the show had nailed it so far, I really thought this was going to be the “bathroom break match”, but was I wrong.  This match on paper was a showcase of DEFY talent, and was just that.  What I didn’t expect was the amount of high spots everyone tried to fit in the somewhat short match.  It was fast paced and high risk.  Everyone in the match had moments, but to me the standouts were Judas Icarus (took a crazy spill to the outside in the close of the match), King Khash (always a solid performer, and if you catch him after his matches, you have to appreciate his fashion sense), and Sonico (from when I first saw him perform to now, he’s made huge leaps in ability in the past year or two).  If these guys are the future of DEFY, and we continue to see variations of these ten in match ups at future shows, I believe DEFY Is in good hands.

Run In by the Young Bucks
The big news of the night came when The Pride (King Khash, Guillermo Rosas, and Carl the Catch) attacked Joey Ryan who was acting as the interviewer.  The Young Bucks made an (unpaid) “unannounced” appearance providing back up for Joey Ryan and saving the interviewer.  This moment is huge.  The Young Bucks have set themselves as the top independent talents currently on the market, and for them to make an (unpaid) “unannounced” appearance in Seattle, validates DEFY and the Pacific Northwest as a major stop for performers. I look forward to whatever the Young Bucks will do at a future DEFY event.

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Match 4: “Swerve” Shane Strickland, Schaff, and Randy Myers over SoCal Uncensored (SCU) (Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, and Scorpio Sky)
Nothing against the main event, but this was the match of the night.  Three of the company’s standard bearers taking on three pillars of pro wrestling for the west coast pro wrestling scene.  I can’t tell you how excited I was personally to see Christopher Daniels perform.  When I first started watching independent wrestling, he was always a name I would look for on match listings.  I remember his match specifically from an old DVD I had of the first ROH show where he competed in the main event against Low Ki and Bryan Danielson.  Just being able to see Christopher Daniels perform live, already had me excited for this match.  Each team had moments, but I think the DEFY trio came out more impressive as a whole than SCU.  The combination offense of the DEFY team especially in the close of the match was just more compelling than the offense of the SCU team, who really acted more like three individual talents as opposed to an experienced unit.  Overall, this match was a great way to keep the show momentum going after the intermission.

Match 5: Robbie Eagles over Cody Chhun
This was a great debut for Robbie Eagles.  His style and demeanor just seemed to gel with the DEFY audience.  The crowd seemed to love him almost as much as they did Cody Chhun.  Speaking of Cody, of all the high profile matches he’s been given at DEFY, I felt he really rose to the challenge and knocked this one out.  His clumsy gimmick really gave him an out for his one or two actual botches in the match, but really how could anyone tell?  It’s just “Classic Chhun”.  Cody Chhun is already a hometown favorite, but I think we wouldn’t mind a few more Robbie Eagles matches in the future.

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Match 6: Artemis Spencer over Desmond Xavier
After a crazy night of action that saw some of the best performances from local and out of town talents, the main event closed the show in the perfect way.  This was the first title defense for the new champion Artemis Spencer, and it did not disappoint.  If anything it set the stage for what we can expect from an Artemis Spencer title reign.  If I were to even try to characterize it, I would say Spencer wrestled a style that was more Seattle Strong Style, methodical and hard hitting, than previous title holders before him.  I felt Shane Strickland’s strength was his ability to heighten the pace of a match at the drop of a hat.  Spencer’s strength lies in the drama of his exchanges.  Each time he trades blows with an opponent, you can’t help but think he’s putting everything he can into those shots, and in return his opponent is giving him everything they can muster right back.  At the same time, Desmond Xavier provided a great first time title defense for Spencer, in that he was able to keep up and at times add more danger to the match.  Xavier’s tope from the stage to the floor was something that you had to witness live.  This match was the perfect way to close the night, and also a great preview for what we can expect from future main events from our current heavyweight champion Artemis Spencer.  Excitement.

When people look back at this event, I want it to be remembered for more than just when the Young Bucks made their first appearance for a Seattle/Northwest based pro wrestling promotion.  I want people to remember that at this point this was the greatest pro wrestling event from the top pro wrestling promotion in the Pacific Northwest.

You really set the bar high with that one DEFY.

Thanks for the Spontaneous Fun, Spontaneanation: The 10 Best Spontaneanation Episodes.

Today, one of my favorite podcasts released it’s final episode.  With episode number 200, Spontaneanation from comedian host Paul F Tompkins (PFT) comes to a close.  

For the past four years (since 2015), this show has been a regular “must listen” for me after their release each Monday. In the catalogue of Earwolf shows, Spontaneanation stood alone in format and content. Spontaneation is a podcast that normally involves an opening monologue from host Paul F Tompkins, introduction of musical accompaniment Eban Schletter, an interview of a special guest, followed by an improvised scene using elements of the monologue and interview segment by a collective of improvisers, and the show is closed out by plugs and promotions by everyone involved.

The following are my top ten favorite episodes of this amazing podcast.  When I was deciding on this list, I thought about “which episodes were the essential episodes?”.  Some episodes featured incredible interviews (listen to any of the appearances of Nathan Lee Graham) or had amazing improv segments (Summer Theater Camp), but what it came down to was which episodes were the total package of great interview along with great scene.  Without discounting how amazing the other episodes were, here are my top ten episodes of Spontaneation:

10.) (TIE) Episode 63: “A Coffee Plantation in Bali” – Special Guest: Kulap Vilaysack – 6/6/2016 and Episode 164: “The Price is Right” – Special Guest Allen Maldonado – 5/14/18

9.) Episode 37: “Saltwater Tuffy Shoppe” – Special Guest: Andy Daly – 12/7/2015
Look this episode up on YouTube.  This live episode was filmed in it’s entirety, and features not only a great show, but also PFT falling off the stage and Andy Daly’s memorable reaction.

8.) Episode 121: “Karaoke Night at a Small Logging Town Tavern” – Special Guest: Scott Aukermann – 7/17/2017

7.) Episode 6: “Dracula’s Bedroom” – Special Guest: Maria Thayer – 5/4/2015

6.) Episode 75: “Aquarium” – Special Guests: Sean Clements and Hayes Davenport – 8/29/2016

5.) Episode 4: “Savannah, Georgia” – Special Guest: Melanie Lynskey – 4/20/2015
This early episode set the tone for the episodes that followed.  The first ten episodes are some of the best of the whole series, but this one in particular stands out as the best of that first batch.  Not only was the interview charming, but the improv that followed provided the inspiration for a character that would be carried over to the Comedy Bang Bang podcast in the years to follow.

4.) Episode 36: “A Dinner Theater” – Special Guest: Ben Garant – 11/30/2015
Ben Garant gave the ideal Spontaneanation interview.  It was insightful, you learned new things about the guest, he had fascinating stories, and elements of the interview provided a great framework for the improv that followed.  The improv that followed was also notable as it had some of the most improvised music in a single episode.

3.) Episode 30: “Vent Haven Ventriloquist Museum” – Special Guest: Laraine Newman – 10/19/2015
Not only was a Laraine Newman a great interview guest, but this had to be one of the funniest improv narratives I’ve ever heard.  Jeremy Carter and Marc Evan Jackson provide some of the most memorable single lines in the podcast’s history, and Maria Balssucci’s absent minded young character provided awesome opportunities for improv for the rest of the group.  Easily the best improv segment of the series.

2.) Episode 99: “Ice Cream Parlor” – Special Guest: Craig Cackowski – 2/13/2017
Craig Cackowski pulls double duty in this episode as both the interview guest as well as the one man improv cast (alongside PFT).  As a podcast regular and friend of PFT, the chemistry between Cackowski and PFT is palpable.  The interview was fun, and the improv about a retired baseball player at the ice cream parlor was wildly entertaining.

1.) Episode 18: “A Theme Park Break Room” – Special Guest: Raphael Bob-Waksberg – 7/27/2015
If there was any must hear episode of the Spontaneanation podcast, this is the one.  Raphael Bob-Waksberg is a great interviewee whose stories are perfect for this show. The improv that ensues is hilarious.  Who knew the idea of a break room for costume characters and ride operators at a theme park could provide such a perfect back drop for an improv scene?

Spontaneanation has to be one the greatest improvised podcasts in the past 5 years.  The interviews provided were memorable and also framed guests in ways we would probably never hear otherwise.  For a show where spontaneity reigned, PFT provided an atmosphere where performers interacted as friends.  Whether you were Lavar Burton, Karthik Nemani, or Nicole Parker, the show was eclectic and had a feeling of normalcy within it’s randomness.  In the end, I think the only thing that can sum up the 200 episodes of this amazing show is the show’s central catchphrase, “Semper en Presente”.

Thank you, Paul F Tompkins.

2 Coffee Show Review: Richie Dagger’s Crime, Eastern Souvenirs, and Katie Kuffel at Barboza (1/17/19)

A new feature for this blog will be what I call a “2 Coffee Show Review”.  A “2 Coffee Show” is a show whose ticket costs as much as the cost of two coffees or specialty drinks at Starbucks.  Usually this means the price of a single ticket cost me less than $10.  This is no way is an indicator of the quality of the show.  I’ve been to a lot of incredible “2 Coffee Shows”.  It usually means the bands are young or still trying to gain a foothold in the local market.  Characteristically the crowds are normally small and it’s a great opportunity to meet and hang out with the talents before or after their sets.  For these reviews, I’ll provide an introduction, at least a paragraph on each performer, and a conclusion about whether or not the show was worth more than the two coffees I gave up by going to the show.

Last week I attended a show at Barboza which featured Katie Kuffel, Eastern Souvenirs, and Richie Dagger’s Crime.  I decided to attend this show kind of spur of the moment.  I was looking for a show in the area that was reasonably priced but featured acts that I knew would deliver, and then I saw the lineup for this show and was a little taken aback that these performers were all on the same $8 lineup.  I happily paid my fee and made my way to Barboza.  In terms of crowd size, I would say it never got past 20 people at one time.  Still I was excited for what I was going to see. (Photos and videos below)

Katie Kuffel
I’ve seen Katie Kuffel perform a number of times.  She has one of the most unique powerful voices in the current Seattle music scene, and when you see her perform, she seems very nonchalant, like what she’s doing just comes naturally.  Having recently released an album, I was excited to see her perform some of these songs live.  There wasn’t much of an audience when she began, but by the end, everyone in the room was standing in attention.  She tried out a new song at the end of her set, that if I’m honest needs more ironing out (all I remember was she said the word “swallow” a lot in the early portion of the song).  Otherwise, a fantastic opener, and I’ll personally never get tired of hearing the song “Fault Lines” performed live.

Eastern Souvenirs
I’ve never seen Eastern Souvenirs perform live but in research for this show I found out they were set to headline a show the following week at Chop Suey.  This felt like a warm up for that set.  I found the trio entertaining.  The vocals performed over synths and fast paced drums motivated the audience that was present to dance.  In a room of less than 20 people, if you could get folks to dance and move without embarrassment, that’s a great sign of talent, or at least good songs.  From what I saw, I wouldn’t mind seeing Eastern Souvenirs perform again.

Richie Dagger’s Crime
This was my first time seeing Richie Dagger’s Crime perform.  I had heard the album “Sea of Dysfunction” and was curious how these songs would be performed, because it featured multiple layered instrumentation and when I was there, the band consisted of just three people.  It was either the set was quick paced or it felt short, but he did perform the songs I was hoping to hear,” Absence” (Part 1 and 2) and “I Bleed the Future Seeds”.  Other than the feeling that the set was short, I thought it was a good show.  I thought the band were fun performers, and it was interesting seeing those songs performed live.

Overall for a 2 Coffee show I felt the price was justified, if not undervalued.  None of the performers were bad, two of the performers put out albums recently that drew positive reception, and one of the performers are set to headline a show in the upcoming week.  For $8, this was a great show.