Capitol Hill Block Party 2019: “So you want to avoid the main stage?”

Capitol Hill Block Party 2019 is next weekend.  What I love about Capitol Hill Block Party is that it’s an opportunity to discover some great talents in the local music scene.  If I were to describe the ratio of local acts to main stage acts I would say it’s a little over 4 to 1.  That would mean for every one main stage act, there’s probably four other great acts performing around the same time at a different stage.  This year’s line up features some of the Seattle’s best performers.

If you want to avoid the crowded craziness of the main stage but have no idea who any of these non main stage performers are, the following are some of the bands I suggest checking out at Capitol Hill Block Party 2019:

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Danny Brown, Capitol Hill Block Party 2017, Main Stage 

Friday

  • MirrorGloss – Neumos Stage, 5:45 to 6:30p – Dance pop meets hip hop duo, MirrorGloss are ready to captivate and get the party started.
  • Actionesse – Cha Cha Stage, 7:45 to 8:15p
  • Little Wins – Barboza Stage, 8:30 to 9:00p – One half of Sisters Andrew Vait’s solo project, Little Wins, is worth checking out.
  • Wimps – Cha Cha Stage, 8:45 to 9:15p
  • Bearaxe – Neumos Stage, 9:30 to 10:15p
  • Black Tones – Neumos Stage, 10:45 to 11:30p – the must see Blues-Punk trio that are always a highlight of festival lineups.

Saturday

  • Wild Powwers – Vera Stage, 4:00 to 4:30p – local Grunge band Wild Powwers, have been described as: “made you feel like you might want to smash some bottles down by the train tracks with your juvenile delinquent friends while skipping 5th period”.
  • OK SWEETHEART – Neumos Stage, 4:00 to 4:30p – Folk pop and soul come together in the music of singer song writer Erin Austin’s band OK SWEETHEART.
  • Reader – Barboza Stage, 4:45 to 5:15p
  • Tres Leches – Neumos Stage, 6:30 to 7:15p
  • Dyed – Cha Cha Stage, 6:45 to 7:15p
  • Scarlet Parke with Jake Crocker – Neumos Stage, 7:45 to 8:30p
  • A Tribe Called Red – Vera Stage, 11:00 to 12:00a – Canadian Dance music collective A Tribe Called Red, blends indigenous cultural influences with modern hip hop and electronic music production styles.

Sunday

  • Left at London – Wildrose Stage, 4:30 to 5:00p
  • Whitney Monge’ – Wildrose Stage, 6:45 to 7:15p – “Alternative Soul” artist Whitney Monge’ blew me away with her performance at Volunteer Park Pride Fest, and I am looking forward to seeing her perform again.
  • Nick Weaver – Neumos Stage, 6:30 to 7:15p – One of my favorite Seattle based hip hop artists who’s lyric style has to be seen to be believed.
  • Marshall Law Band – Barboza Stage, 8:45 to 9:15p
  • Razorclam – Cha Cha Stage, 8:45 to 9:30p – if you like New Wave and 80’s synth pop, femme glam rock band Razorclam is the band for you.

20180721_230452Capitol Hill Block Party 2018, Main Stage

When I go to Capitol Hill Block Party, some years I’ve camped out at the main stage the whole day and watched every main stage act, while other years I’ve avoided the main stage entirely and just hung out at the side stages. I’ll try to take time to catch performers I’ve either never heard of, or have heard of but have never seen perform live.

My biggest piece of advice when going to any music festival is to be open to checking out music you’ve never heard of, and know that if you’re not enjoying what you’re hearing/seeing, there’s probably 4 other acts performing at the same time also worth checking out.

“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.

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.

DEFY Pro Wrestling: 2 Years of Seattle Strong Style

January 13, 2017, DEFY Pro Wrestling (DEFY) changed the landscape of professional wrestling in the Pacific Northwest with the promotion’s landmark event DEFY: Legacy. On that night in the historic Washington Hall, this new promotion began a campaign to turn the Pacific Northwest from the “black hole of professional wrestling” into a territory, nationally recognized talents would be proud to have on their resumes.

20190113_132214(Poster from the first DEFY event, DEFY Legacy, signed by Cody Rhodes, Shane Strickland, Jeff Cobb, and Matt Cross.)

If you’re a professional wrestler from the Pacific Northwest in order to gain experience, make contacts, and receive valuable feedback from veterans, you have to leave the Pacific Northwest. I believe it was someone on Colt Cabana’s “Art of Wrestling” podcast who said that the Pacific Northwest exists as it’s own kind of microcosm in professional wrestling, in that there are some valuable talents and fans who love the sport in the area, but outside of that area they just aren’t as recognized. In a span of two years, I believe DEFY Pro Wrestling has changed that perception and has sent a message to the professional wrestling community that the Pacific Northwest not only has a viable wrestling community but also the sky is the limit in terms of where it could go.

The promotion has a defined look, (with Steve Migs on the mic) it has a defined sound, and with the level of talent that is brought in monthly from around the country, it has a defined expectation of show quality. Without question I can say this company has been nothing short of impressive and at times surprising. Whether it’s the Lucha Brothers making their “unannounced prior to the show” debut, to a random fire alarm evacuation, DEFY shows always seem to create memorable moments for the fans. I’ve attended every DEFY show at Washington Hall. Here are five of my favorite moments from DEFY Pro Wrestling’s first two years:

5.) Tommy Dreamer’s Post Match Speech from DEFY: Vibes (April 13, 2018)
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In recent years, I feel like major stars and veterans on the independent circuit have shied away from expressing or “taking a side” when it comes to politics. In a profession that is dependent on a person’s marketability to a crowd, it’s probably best if a talent stays indifferent in terms of political leanings, in order to maximize bookings. Some characters like the sexually ambiguous Randy Myers can build a backing by being both talented and outrageous. Randy is a perennial favorite in DEFY.  During this match, after several failed attempts by Randy to make out with Dreamer, many expected Dreamer to have a gimmicky moment with Randy and just leave the ring, however once he got the win, Dreamer took the mic, and began an impassioned speech in which he basically said that he doesn’t care if you’re a homosexual, straight, or whatever Randy is, professional wrestling is a community that accepts you. You’re welcome here, and it’s one of the reason’s he’s proud to be in it. He then made out with Randy, laid one on the referee, and made his way out of the ring to the cheers of the DEFY crowd.

Thank you for letting us know how you feel, Tommy.

4.) When the fans got loud, and threw stuff.
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The atmosphere at a DEFY show in Washington Hall is different. In large part it’s due to the DEFY fanbase, the DEFYance. It’s hard to pick one moment, but I feel like all the moments that created the identity of the DEFY crowd, deserve a spot on this list. Be it the first show when the fan run “Streamer Club” added flair to a wrestler’s entrance by throwing streamers or toilet paper (*Steve West) as they entered the ring, to the two matches (Mexablood and Rey Horus vs British Strong Style, and Artemis Spencer vs Rey Fenix) where the fans showed appreciation by throwing dollars into the ring, to every show where the DEFYance lived up to the slogan “At DEFY, WE GET LOUD!”, the DEFY crowd has built an identity all their own, and it’s these moments among others that helped create that image.

3.) Lio Rush’s run in DEFY.
There have been a number of notable stars that have performed for the DEFY audience. In two years, it’s remarkable how many talents have made their presence felt, only for us to learn that a month or two later they have signed some sort of deal with a major organization and that match they had (or some match set for a later date) was their last performance at DEFY. Brody King, Jeff Cobb, reDRagon, Matt Riddle, etc. It feels like DEFY has become a step, before a major independent star leaves the independents.

Of the “runs” (match series) in DEFY, very few were as memorable as the 4 or 5 matches of Lio Rush. It felt like every match Lio Rush had in DEFY was a contender for the promotion’s match of the year. His style was just perfect for the promotion. He was hard hitting, high flying, and showed a level of perseverance in his matches, that was rarely duplicated. It’s no surprise that he is currently on the WWE main roster. Even if it was short, it’s going to be hard to forget his run of matches in DEFY pro wrestling.

2.) Shane Strickland vs Artemis Spencer, DEFY: On Edge (December 14, 2018)
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This match had to be the most important in DEFY history. Not only was the match thrilling but it felt like the culmination of the company’s development. At the first show, Shane Strickland was the main event talent representing the Pacific Northwest. Even if he was a nationally recognized “outsider”, Strickland was from Tacoma and therefore represented our region. It felt like the organization was basically built with him as the main event focal point. Strickland won, lost, and helped develop the heavyweight title picture of the organization into something special. At the same time, Artemis Spencer wasn’t as recognized nationally, but his matches in DEFY (and other local organizations) made him recognized as an emerging star. This match felt like a passing of the torch. It felt like Strickland, this well known star outside of DEFY, by losing the belt was saying “DEFY now has it’s own stars and they can contend with anyone outside of DEFY.” Artemis Spencer winning the belt felt like validation of the talent we had been cheering for. That maybe the homegrown talent like Artemis Spencer, Cody Chuun, The Amerikan Gunz, or even Carl the Catch, could make a play on the national stage.

1.) Progress Wrestling weekend (August 9 and 10, 2018)20180809_212656
One of the biggest validations that not only DEFY, but the Pacific Northwest has now emerged as a viable territory for professional wrestling, had to be the weekend when Progress Wrestling came to Seattle. It was big news in the pro wrestling community when one of the top (if not the top) organizations in the current European professional wrestling scene announced a Summer tour, and Seattle would be the sole West Coast stop on the tour. The prospect that the Seattle pro wrestling community had gained enough of a reputation that a foreign pro wrestling company would want to hold a show here is astounding. We went from the “blackhole of professional wrestling” to the sole West Coast stop for a top European professional wrestling organization. Not to mention the shows were incredible.

Some of the best matches and most unlikely match ups occurred that weekend. For example, in one show we saw Pete Dunne (the defending WWE NXT UK Champion) take on Brody King (currently signed to ROH) with Lucha Underground ring announcer, Melissa Santos, provide an intro for the match. The first time the DEFYance threw money into the ring was after the Mexablood and Rey Horus versus British Strong Style match. Who knew a piece of paper could raw as many cringe moments as it did when Randy Myers took on Jimmy Havoc? The room was packed. The crowd was loud. I think DEFY left a great impression on the Progress Wrestling fanbase.

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In two years, DEFY Pro Wrestling has become the top professional wrestling organization in the Pacific Northwest. DEFY has helped Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, shake the stigma of the professional wrestling community in the area, and helped it emerge as a stop for talents on their way to the top. With as much as the past two years have felt like a rocket ship, I look forward to seeing where DEFY Pro Wrestling will go next. Really the sky is the limit for this fairly new organization.

Thunderpussy, Red Fang, and The Black Tones Slam the Door on 2018

2018 felt contentious.  It’s like the narrative of the whole year was culture clash.  News outlets pushing for unification in the face of some cause that would shift daily if not hourly.  Everything from the presidency, to local issues like the possible closure of the Showbox, it felt like everyone had to take a side this year, and there was no gray area.  You were either one or the other.  It was draining. 

With an eye to tomorrow, I think everyone was ready to leave 2018 behind them.  Put that negativity, that black and white attitude, and any other energy drains in the past, and look towards 2019 with hope and positivity.  Where most would probably want to ease into 2019, I wanted to jump into the year with one of my favorite bands.  A band that wouldn’t simply close the door on 2018, but slam it shut.  A band that didn’t want it’s audience to just chill, but instead wanted us to rock.  I got to watch Thunderpussy.

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I’ve seen Thunderpussy perform live at least 10 times since 2016.  This was my third year in a row bringing in the New Year with Thunderpussy.  I’m a Thunderpussy fan.

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The Black Tones
The first act of the night were The Black Tones.  Seattle Met magazine named the trio one of the “Next Wave” of artists to keep an eye on in the area.  Having seen them perform before, I was interested what they had in store.  To say they left a memorable mark on the audience with this special “stripped down” set, would be an understatement.  “Stripped down” in that upon taking the stage, Cedric (the drummer) looked over to his sister Eva (guitar, vocals), and immediately began to strip to his underwear.  Seeing this, Eva said out loud, “So we’re really doing this.” and she and the bass player began to strip as well.  The Black Tones were now in their underwear playing several of their bluesy grunge songs live on stage.  Being in their underwear, became a running gag for the remainder of the night.  For example, the lead singer of Bear Axe joined them on stage at one point and exclaimed “I didn’t get the memo about dressing down for this performance.” (haha)

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A great (if not slightly awkward) moment was when Eva welcomed their mother and sister to the stage to assist in the remaining few songs.  Once her mother and sister had taken the stage and they performed one song, Eva first apologized to her mother, and then took off her bra revealing pasties, while her mother jokingly covered her eyes. (haha) The set was fun and memorable.  Seattle Met magazine was correct in naming them a “Next Wave” artist/group.

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Red Fang
This was my first time seeing Portland favorites Red Fang, and I was impressed.  I had seen videos of their prior sets, and honestly I was itching to get into a good mosh pit.  Right from the beginning, Red Fang delivered head banging tunes that had people dancing. I looked over my shoulder and there was a small pocket of people shoving.  I looked at a friend that came with to the show and gestured that we should get in there.  As we jumped in, the mosh pit started to form.  At first there was maybe 5 people and slowly it ballooned, until there was a fairly large cluster of people slam dancing in the middle of the crowd.  Everyone was fairly respectful (the ones who were trying to be respectful, outnumbered the folks who weren’t).  If someone went down, they were helped back up.  If someone was getting overly aggressive with another, they were split up.  It was just a good pit.  Red Fang did great motivating people to action as well, with their high energy songs.  They’re a band I wouldn’t mind seeing again.

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Thunderpussy
I’ve seen a Thunderpussy perform several times so much so I could kind of predict the song order, or with the first few chords tell what song was coming next.  This set was different.  This performance felt new and fresh.  It felt like the band was so much more seasoned than previous performances.  The songs sounded different.  Like there was just a little more intricate flourishes, or different aspects of the songs were accentuated and it made the songs shine in new ways.  In particular, I liked the renditions of “Badlands” and “Velvet Noose”.  I felt like Shreddy Petty in particular did some different stuff to make those two songs stand out.

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It’s hard to call out who shined more during this performance as it felt like each member’s skills really advanced in this show.  It’s crazy, really.  I liked watching this band because each member was already so proficient.  Seeing Ruby go wild on those drums, Leah grooving on that bass, Shreddy Petty destroying on that guitar, and Molly making singing while dancing look easy, the idea that they are only getting better is almost mind blowing.  Not only getting better but during this set they even showed prowess playing each other’s instruments when, right before midnight, each member swapped instruments.  Molly helming the keyboard, Petty sitting in on drums, Leah strumming the guitar, and Ruby playing bass.  I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised.  They’re just that talented.

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Overall, I was happy to bring in the year with Thunderpussy.  It felt like the Thunderpussy I saw perform was a band ready to grow beyond Seattle, but still carry that Seattle attitude.  The performance solidified my fandom, and also made me look forward to seeing what they might have in store for us next time.

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My New Years was great.  I was there live as The Black Tones performed a memorable “stripped down” set, I got to get out some controlled aggression with Red Fang, and I got to see one of my favorite bands, Thunderpussy, perform a great set.

I don’t know how else to describe the experience other than, we slammed the door on 2018, properly welcomed 2019, and it was a night I was more than happy to talk about at the office. (haha) Happy New Year!

 

 

Sub Pop 30: The Most “Seattle” Event I Ever Attended

I was at Barnes and Noble when the latest copy of Uncut magazine (November 2018) caught my eye. Other than David Bowie on the cover, the magazine included a free Sub Pop mix CD compiled by label head Jonathan Poneman. The mix is a really good blend of what Sub Pop has to offer from the grunge sound that the label had become known for in its early years, to the notable “alternative” artists the label represents today. Whenever someone mentions “alternative” as a genre, it usually means “we couldn’t think of a good label to put this artist in, so because they bridge and blend genres, they are now alternative”.

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The mix CD was great. It motivated me to actually pick up three albums from artists I had heard for the first time on this mix (*LOMA, Mass Gothics, and King Tuff). The label head not only selected great artists to feature but picked some of their best songs. The corresponding article to the album discussed each track, but also talked about Sub Pop Fest 30, one of the most “Seattle” events I attended this past summer.

I’m from Seattle. Born and raised in West Seattle. My experience at Sub Pop Fest 30 (SPF 30) was ultimately positive, but from the weather to the crowd, SPF 30 on Alki had to be the most Seattle music event I ever attended.

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I remember getting to the event site and the first band to open the festival was Jo Passed. Jo Passed impressed and did a great job opening the event. The hair flipping, the running around the stage, the getting tangled in wires, it really painted a picture of what you could expect as the day went on, and really drew the crowd even as it began to rain. Once Jo Passed wrapped, the rain began to pick up. The crowd undeterred still milled around the various stages. I remember catching Moaning and LVL UP, but the next act to really catch my attention was LOMA. I had never heard LOMA before this event but their set was so different from the other sets that were presented that day, that it really stuck. It was a much softer, somber set in comparison to the heavier grunge and hip hop that populated the afternoon.

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I left LOMA close to the end of their set, in order to get a good spot for Bully. I was next to the front of the stage for Bully, when I ran into several people who I had met at other local shows, some as recent as a week or two prior. As Bully began to play, the group of other concert regulars and I tried to start a pit, but the crowd wasn’t into it, so we eventually let it rest. Bully was great. I had seen them perform live for the first time at this past Capitol Hill Block Party, and they played so well there, I had to see them again at this event. As they wrapped, I made sure to get a great spot for Clipping. As I was milling around the crowd I met a group of Canadians who had come down just to see Clipping. We discussed the rest fo the lineup and they had no clue who they were. They were there for Clipping. I hung with them for a while and caught Clipping’s set. They were nothing short of impressive. Aside from whipping the crowd into a frenzy, their talent showed me why these Canadians came down for this set in particular.

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Close to the end of Clipping’s set, I made my way to see Hot Snakes. I had caught Hot Snakes at Upstream and I had to see them again. There set was fun. I read later reviews about how it wasn’t technically proficient, but really it’s grunge/punk music. I think the point is to hear the lyrics, head bang, and mosh if you can. I remember running into a group I had met at the TacocaT show 2 weeks prior. We saw each other, and next thing you know we were moshing. I finally got to get into a pit at a Hot Snakes show! I was tired after the Hot Snakes set, and made my way to Shabazz Palaces. At this point in the afternoon, the clouds had opened up and it was a beautiful afternoon. I don’t know if it was the sudden nice weather, or that more recognizable names were taking the stages, but this is when the crowd began to swell. Up to this point in the afternoon the crowd was also a lot of people I’ve seen around the local concert scene. People you would recognize as faces in the crowd at shows. I would say around 6:15pm in the afternoon, it was less of those familiar faces, and more families, folks who didn’t seem like the regular “stand for hours for your favorite band” concert crowd, and people who were more interested in the spectacle than the music.

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I couldn’t see Shabazz Palaces. The crowd was too large to navigate and was it extended into the beer garden which was a “soccer field” away from the stage. I stood as close as I could get (close to the back but still mid crowd-ish), but everyone in the spot I was standing were talking full volume as the show was going on. It’s as if a concert wasn’t happening. Mid set I decided I would get a good spot for Mudhoney. I got there early and posted up mid crowd. The crowd looked excited. Many of which looked like some of their fans from the 90’s sporting various very worn Mudhoney shirts. As Mudhoney began playing, inevitably a pit formed. As I tried to make my way to it, several crowd members blocked myself and a few others from joining. This ring of dudes had decided no one was going to get past them as they wanted a great view of the show and anyone who would make them shift from their spot, would ruin it. They weren’t dancing, head banging, or smiling, they just watched the show from their spot and talked. Like the whole set they stood and chatted. Eventually it got very contentious. A lot of people got in their faces about preventing people from joining the pit or moving up, and they did things like push people back or put palms in people’s faces when they would try to talk. I felt like they had a point in not wanting others to ruin their view, but it really killed the vibe. Not to mention it didn’t seem like they were having a good time. After seeing a handful of scuffles and someone climb the port-o-pottys, I decided to check out Beach House.

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The crowd for Beach House was just as packed. It was full and people were talking as if a show wasn’t happening. I decided I would let this one coast and met up with a friend in the beer garden. We drank as the sun began to go down, and Beach House played in the background. We ended the night by making our way to Father John Misty. This would be my 5th time seeing Father John perform and I was pretty excited. The crowd seemed good. A lot of families were posted up for this set. There were also a lot of tense looking people. This was evident when Father John began his set, and seconds into the first song, stopped and called for security to take care of some situations that sprang up mid crowd. Father John was as incredible as he always was and as the sun hit that point between day and night where the sky was almost purple and orange, the moment was almost surreal. You had to stop, listen to Father John talk about humanity, take in the setting and Alki, and think this was a perfect ending to the event. As Father John wrapped, I made my way back to the Water Taxi and that was my memory of SPF 30.

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For me, SPF 30 was great before 6:15pm. I saw a lot of familiar faces, got to see a lot of bands I enjoy seeing perform live, and everyone seemed to understand regular concert etiquette. After 6:15pm, it felt tense and crowded. I felt like it wasn’t a crowd that attended shows regularly, but rather were there to see the spectacle and also catch a lot of the bigger names. This in no way is a negative. It’s good that Sub Pop was able to throw an event that could draw a diverse audience, but when people were willfully getting into fights at the drop of a hat over positions in an audience, or talking full volume during a concert not close to the back of the crowd, it makes you wonder what shows has this person attended where that was normal/acceptable behaviour? Overall, I’ll remember SPF 30 as one of the most Seattle events I’ve ever attended. On Alki, in the rain and the sun, we danced, moshed, head banged, and had a great time until it got too crowded, then those of us who were already there from the beginning made the best of the situation (haha). It was very Seattle.

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(All photos were taken by me. I have a bunch more from the day. The one of the sun finally coming out of the clouds, I call “My view of Shabazz Palaces from SPF 30”)

Last Minute List: 10 Acts Bumbershoot 2018

(I wrote this blog post 45 minutes before the gates opened on Day 1 of Bumbershoot.)

Bumbershoot has always been my favorite local music festival. Ever since the Experience Music Project gave me a free ticket back in 2012, I haven’t missed a year. It feels like a “reset” or a “recharge”. Sure the price has fluctuated like crazy and sometimes the crowd can get overwhelming, but it seems like it’s still a point of pride for a local performer to take part in the event and on more than one occasion acts have built their popularity in the local scene from an amazing set at Bumbershoot.

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Other than the major names on this year’s lineup (Blondie, Illenium, Lil Wayne, SZA, etc.) here are ten (“other”) acts I’m looking forward to this year in no particular order:
RL Grime – a solid debut EP, this EDM artist will definitely excite this year’s crowd with his raucous beats and bass drops.
Travis Thompson – this kid is amazing. From being featured on a track with Macklemore and Dave B to his Friday Fire Cypher on Sway’s show, this MC is making West Seattle proud.
Cherry Glazerr – Sounding sweet while having a sound that remains totally grungy, Cherry Glazerr fits perfectly with the “Seattle Sound”.
Great Grandpa – Ever since the release of their debut album, Great Grandpa has become a staple in the local music scene.
Elohim – A description of Elohim I read once said she’s a performer with a great message, great transitions within her songs, and a voice that’s fluid and able to glide throughout the melody.
Wimps – I just like watching Wimps. (haha)
Jo Passed – Jo Passed stood out to me at Sub Pop 30 earlier this month. From the hair flips to the other stage antics, Jo Passed are a band that look like they’re having fun on stage and it translates well into their sound.
The Regrettes – I saw the Regrettes at Chop Suey and these young punks really impressed me. I’m sure they’ll do the same at this year’s festival.
Black Pistol Fire – One of the most manic stage shows by a rock duo. The lead guitarist is a site to see as he runs around the stage, jumping, while also maintaining impressive skill on instrument.
Offbook! The Improvised Musical Podcast – If you’ve never heard about this podcast be prepared to be impressed. The premise, two improvisers welcome a guest and in the course of an hour they improvise a 45 minute long musical.

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Of course there are many acts that will entertain at this year’s Bumbershoot, but these ten are my picks for acts you might not have heard of that I think you should make time for. This is why I like Bumbershoot. It’s a chance to hear new music, watch a clown, or see a comedian you’ve only seen on television. Anytime I see people complain about the lineup, I always think to myself venting about it won’t change it, so you have two options in this situation you could either buy a pass or not. If you do, then keep an open mind. If you don’t, then the party’s still going to happen. (haha) I hope I see you there!

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(All photos were taken by me at Bumbershoot 2017)