“More voices mean more expression and for us that can only be a good thing.” 7 Questions with The Brook & The Bluff

From Birmingham, Alabama, Indie folk band The Brook & The Bluff are coming to Seattle Tuesday night (11/5).  The first time I heard The Brook & The Bluff, I had let Youtube go on autoplay while working remote.  The band’s smooth cover of the Childish Gambino song “Redbone” came on and I was impressed.  Listening to the band’s more recent offerings, songs like “Everything is Just a Mess” or “Hallways“, it’s hard not to get drawn in by the vocal magic this band seems to emanate.  With the release of their first full length album “First Place”, I had an opportunity to interview all four members of the band, Guitar player Alex Bolton, drummer John Canada, bassist Fred Lankford (all from Mountain Brook, Alabama), and vocalist/key and guitar player Joseph Settine (from Bluff Park, Alabama).  Here’s my short interview with The Brook & The Bluff:

1.) Most interviews I’ve read, talk about the origins of the band name, The Brook & The Bluff. I think it’s a great name. You’re quoted as saying, “I think we will always claim ourselves as a Birmingham band no matter what, it’s inherent in the name.”  Was that always the intention of the name, The Brook & The Bluff? Were there any rejected names that as a group you thought up, that still stick out today?

The Brook & The Bluff was definitely always intended to call back to where we’re from. When we started performing under that name, it was just Alec and I (Joseph) playing acoustic cover songs in Auburn, and it was actually the first name that we came up with. There had been another band we were in during our first couple years of school that was called The Freewheelers, and we considered that but ultimately wanted to be something new.

2.) I read that each band member has a choir background and in each song, there is an emphasis on the vocals. How does having a band where each member has a choir background affect the songwriting process? Would you say it’s an advantage or at times can it be a hindrance?

It is absolutely an advantage at all times. The voice is our only instrument that’s actually in your body, so we think it’s the most expressive when it comes to all of the different textures in the music. More voices mean more expression and for us that can only be a good thing. It really affects the songwriting process just as far as making sure we always have room within the song for more voices.

3.) I checked out the music videos featured on your YouTube channel. In one sense, some videos are simplistic in that it’s footage of the band performing the songs in what looks like a studio, however, a common trait is the unique filming style which mixes filters and at times a type of pinhole lens. It contributes an almost dreamlike quality to the video and really adds to the song. Where do the concepts for your videos come from? Is there a feeling you’re trying to evoke through these videos?

We originally wanted to try and have some type of performance video for the first three singles with a similar kind of thread visually, but have them shot in different places, so we reached out to our friend Drew Bauml to see if he’d like to shoot them and then gave him the space to create that dreamy aspect that you’re talking about. I really believe in letting people have as much room to create as possible, and we don’t know the ins and outs of filming, so we really let him run with it – sent him the songs and he was off.

These next 3 questions were provided by my last interview subject, Hip Hop artist Nick Weaver. Nick Weaver asks:
4.) Social media is a must for all DIY artists. Do you work to balance how much social media time you have every day? If so, what steps do you take?

Social media definitely is super important, which can sometimes be overwhelming for an artist. Our philosophy is basically not oversharing and staying genuine. People’s feeds are overflowing with so much of that “content” every day, so we don’t want to be part of all that noise and want to focus on the highlights and most important pieces to share.

5.) Name one artist who’s no longer alive that you wish could have seen perform. Why?

Donny Hathaway… and his live record is exactly why.

6.) Favorite pizza spot in your hometown?

Our favorite spot in Nashville, where we currently live, is Five Points Pizza. As for Birmingham that’s probably up for contention… Davenports, Salvatores and Tortugas are all really really great tho.

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7.) As my final question, as a band you folks enjoy trying the local cuisine and beers of each place you stop at while on tour. What city has the best food? What city has the best local beer? (Please include recommendations, if possible)

Our favorite food city is definitely Austin, Tx. Our friend and album art designer/designer for everything we do lives there and he’s taken us to so many places. I think the place we went to with the best pasta I’ve ever had is called Pettrucci’s. We also went to a taco truck out of an old school bus, I don’t remember what that was called. The best local beer city I think has to be Asheville, North Carolina and you could have any beer from there and it will be good.

 

I have to thank The Brook & The Bluff for taking the time to answer my questions.  I really hope you enjoy what Seattle has to offer in food (I recommend snacking on stuff at Pike Place Market), and what we have to offer in beer (can’t go wrong checking out the bars and breweries around Capitol Hill).  Check them out tomorrow night at the Columbia City Theater, and check out their album “First Place” wherever you get your music.

 

Tacocat Halloween 2019!

Aside from my 7am to 4pm Monday to Friday day job, last week was busy.  Monday, after work I went boxing, and then I attended Rhein Haus’ Super Meat Raffle Monday where in the span of a 2 hour period, they not only raffled off deli quality meat, but also raffled off high dollar gift cards.  I walked away with $90 in gift cards while a friend walked away with $170 in gift cards.  Tuesday was a family member’s birthday dinner.  Wednesday, after work I went to a pro wrestling screening at Rhein Haus, followed by Disney Villain Trivia at Optimism Brewery (4th Place), left with a friend for Drag Bingo at The Runaway, and closed out the night with a great concert at Barboza featuring Joza, Claire George, and Maiah Manser.

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Maiah Manser (above)/Claire George (below)

As much as I loved that show and would highly recommend all three performers, the highlight of my week was the Tacocat Halloween show on Thursday night.  Thursday was Halloween.  I was running on maybe four hours of sleep from the night before and decided I would go boxing after work.  After boxing I went to Starbucks and the café was rocking with a Halloween soundtrack.  The cashier after ringing up my coffee looked at me and said, “I got Cranberries on the brain.”  I looked at him confused, but it hit me after a few seconds, “Zombie” by the Cranberries was playing over the speakers.  I made my way to Neumos after finishing my coffee, and upon entering the room, I was immediately impressed by the stage set up.  The stage had sparkled cowboy boots with skeleton flamingos, a woman praying with heavy goth style makeup, a sparkly background with Tacocat and a spider on it, multiple cauldrons, tombstones, and an area in front of the stage barricaded off with a kiddie pool and tarp.

20191031_213951“Britney Spears Dance Break”

Dog Sister
Dog Sister took the stage a little after 8:30pm to open the show and provide entertaining vignettes between sets throughout the night.  Sporting several outfit changes, I found Dog Sister charming and her between set vignettes were fun if not a little manic.  The vignettes ranged from performing a spell/dumping leaves on the lead singer of Sundae Crush, to a “Britney Spears Dance Break”.  A more memorable vignette came near the end of the night when a mock Jeff Bezos was introduced, ushered into the kiddie pool where he was showered with garbage and eventually hit with a cream pie.  The cream pie hit so hard, the cream hit a number of the audience members directly behind him.  Dog Sister did a great job as the night’s MC and kept the fun going throughout the show.

Sundae Crush
The first opener of the night was Sundae Crush.  From a visual standpoint the band looked great.  The whole band was dressed in various costumes, my favorite being Britney Spears from “Oops I Did It Again” video.  Of the three acts, Sundae Crush was the act I was the least familiar with, but they definitely made a case to see them perform again.  The songs were fun.  Not to mention the lip creature who couldn’t navigate the stage and was essentially blind, why wouldn’t you want to check that band out again?

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Donormaal (above)/Sundae Crush (below)

Donormaal
I’ll be the first to admit, I was wrong about Donormaal.  I’ve seen Donormaal perform at least seven different times in the past three years.  She was normally the opening act for a headliner I was excited to see, and like I’ve done since the first show I attended, I make an effort to watch every performance on the card.  I always felt Donormaal was a mediocre performer and I didn’t understand why so many publications were giving her so much credit as the future of Northwest hip hop.  I saw her twice in 2019, and have to admit, I was wrong.  She killed it and I can totally see how she could be seen as the future of Northwest Hip Hop.  Donormaal announced she would be leaving Seattle soon, but as long as she performs as well as she did that night, then I know she is going to make splash wherever she ends up.

Tacocat
After a brief Raven Hollywood moment, and the Dog Sister vignette featuring the mock Jeff Bezos, Tacocat took the stage.  As they do every year, their costumes were impressive.  It’s hard to pick a standout of the group but I would have to lean towards either Emily as a spirit/ghost, or Bree who was the Space Needle.  It’s one thing to look impressive, but they both seemed like they were having some difficulty performing in their outfits (Emily with the wig and contacts, Bree kept adjusting her hat and the base of the tower kept hitting decorations).  Despite those minor difficulties, if there was a list of currently active Seattle bands that consistently put on solid fun memorable shows, Tacocat has to rank in the top ten, if not top five.  The sold out crowd danced and sang along to all the songs presented from the opening cover of “Zombie” by the Cranberries, to the various hits from their latest album “This Mess is a Place”.  It’s hard to pick single songs that jumped out from this set because the crowd was engaged the entire performance.  The “Zombie” cover was special.  Seeing how hard Lelah would bang on those drums on “New World” was memorable.  During “Bridge to Hawaii” there was an inflatable surf board, crowd surfed around the audience.  Seeing how much the songs from the latest album blended so well with the regular canon was impressive.

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Tacocat

Overall, that night was a lot of fun and energizing.  I did my best to get to sleep but still only got maybe four hours in before I had to get up for work the next morning.  Friday was my rest day.  Other than going to my day job and the gym, I stayed in Friday night and caught up on my sleep.  I feel like I did Halloween week right, and in large part I have to thank Tacocat and the other performers I saw that night.  I may have only gotten eight hours of sleep in two nights, but to see that level of talent two nights in a row, it’s hard to say that it wasn’t worth it.

 

For Photos and Videos of this performance, check out my Instagram: Cakeintherain206

“One fan at a time.” 7 Questions with Nick Weaver

The first time I saw Nick Weaver perform was on a Thursday night at the Vera Project. 

He was the opening act for another local hip hop group, New Track City.  The crowd for Weaver’s set was small at first, but once he got on that mic it quickly grew.  If you ever get the opportunity to see Weaver perform live, be prepared for a level of lyrical fire you rarely hear in hip hop acts today.  Since that initial performance, I’ve seen Weaver kill it at every show of his that I’ve attended.  I’ll usually bring a friend or two to his shows, and Weaver never fails to impress.  I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions.  Here’s my short interview with Nick Weaver:

Lets start with something a little easy.  One of my favorite Northwest Hip Hop songs is Macklemore’s “The Town”. 
1.) The opening line of “The Town”, First memory of Seattle Hip Hop?

Nick Weaver: Not pertaining to Seattle, but first time seeing hip hop in Seattle was Jurassic 5 at Bumbershoot back in 2001. They played in Memorial Stadium, such a great thing to see as a kid.

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I read an older interview of yours from January 2015, where you mentioned that your big four of hip hop were Nas, Biggie, Jay Z, and Eminem. It’s been nearly 5 years since that article was published.
2.) Would you still say those are your big four and would you also say that those artists have had the most influence on your sound?

I definitely still think those 4 artists are the most influential towards my original style. To be honest, these days my sound evolves to something different everyday. The list of artists currently influencing music could be Hot Chip on one day, or Saba on another. Lol. It’s a rollercoaster.

I read one of your artist bios and your experience as a recording artist sounds fascinating. You went from mass producing your own first album onto one of those 100 CD spindles and then selling each one for $2 a CD, to getting millions of plays across streaming sites.
3.) Having experienced the transition from burning your own CDs to Streaming, what advice would you give artists today attempting this similar almost DIY approach?

I hear lots of my peers saying “I just don’t understand why Spotify isn’t giving me love.” It’s no question their music is great. But you absolutely have to have that fanbase that’s LOOKING for your stuff. You do that by playing as many local shows as you can, having engaging social media, and keeping a continuous release stream. Oh, and having money to invest in sponsored ads 🙂

These next 3 questions were provided by my last interview subject, the band Moon Palace. Moon Palace asks:
4.) What is your favorite road snack?

Nutter Butters. It’s not even close. Nutter Butters are the best thing ever. That sugary peanut butter is making my mouth water as I type this.

5.) Favorite venues to play at?

Locally I really love the stage at Neumos, such a great revamp they did a couple years back. The Crocodile’s sound and room layout is heavenly.

6.) What is your dream band to open for?

Jungle. I absolutely love this band and their live show is so incredibly inspiring. They are a massive influence on where my music is heading.

7.) For my final question, I follow you on Instagram and every now and again you talk about a love for coffee. Where can I find the best latte/cup of coffee in Seattle, and also what was the best cup of caffeine you’ve ever had (be it the beans, the preparation, etc. what made it special)?

Bruh ok, this is my favorite question! In Seattle, it’s Porchlight Coffee and Slate. Those are my top two. My FAVORITE, FAVORITE coffee shop is Pallet Roasters in Vancouver, BC. Their Benchmark espresso roast is perfection. However, the BEST cup of caffeine I ever had? Portland’s Albina Press. I had an almond milk latte. The dude working there pulled an incredible shot of espresso. Crema so thick it looked mud on top. Damn.

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I have to thank Nick Weaver for answering my questions and giving me a new coffee place to try out. Check out his website (thenickweaver.com), and check out his latest singles “Lund” and “Meyers Briggs“.

The Beatles Playlist

Recently I saw the film “Yesterday”.  I enjoyed it.  It was like a reminder to music fans how important The Beatles were not only to music but to the world.  If anything, it kind of downplayed their importance to music and entertainment, and really showed how important The Beatles were to general life and pop culture.  My favorite knock against the film is that it doesn’t demonstrate how the main character ended up being one of the few people who can remember The Beatles.  If this happened in real life to an average joe, the person would either do what the character in “Yesterday” did which was go along with it and hopefully gain from that knowledge, or he could have gone the alternate route and spent his time and limited resources trying to figure out how it happened.  The far more interesting route was what occurred in the film, but I could imagine a storyline where the lead character is going from scientist to scientist or government officials, explaining his story, and being laughed at for believing this alternate reality.  I liked “Yesterday” because it was a fun story, which inspired this “Beatles” playlist.

The Beatles Playlist
1.) Dear Prudence
2.) Free as a Bird
3.) While My Guitar Gently Weeps (LOVE mix)
4.) Yesterday (First performance)
5.) For No One
6.) The Ballad of John and Yoko
7.) I Will
8.) Real Love
9.) Walk With You (by Ringo Starr with Paul McCartney)
10.) Love by John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band

“Is This Disco?” Playlist

Supposedly the date that marks when disco died was July 12, 1979.  At Comiskey Park, as part of a promotional stunt for a radio station, a local radio host had his listeners bring disco records to a double header baseball game with the intent of blowing them up.  The plan was to fill a crate with the records and blow them up between games.  The host followed through with the stunt, and the ensuing explosion was so large it damaged the field.  The crowd was in such a frenzy, they stormed the field and a riot ensued within the stadium.  The crowd had to be dispersed by Chicago PD who arrived in full riot gear.  In all 39 people were arrested for disorderly conduct.

The best part of the story, 30 years later Disco/Dance music is still going strong.

“Is This Disco?” Playlist
1.) “1973” – James Blunt
2.) “Everything Now” – Arcade Fire
3.) “MacArthur Park” – Donna Summer
4.) “Julien” – Carley Rae Jepsen
5.) “Never Can Say Goodbye” – Gloria Gaynor
6.) “More Than A Woman” – The BeeGees
7.) “Kill the Lights” – Alex Newell, Jess Glynne, DJ Cassidy, and Nile Rodgers
8.) “Get Lucky” – Daft Punk, Pharrell, and Nile Rodgers
9.) “Dim All the Lights” – Donna Summer
10.) “Don’t Leave Me This Way” – Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes

 

My Experience at Bumbershoot 49: The Bear Essential Bumbershoot

My favorite set at this year’s Bumbershoot was The Lumineers (above)

One week ago was Bumbershoot 49. The reviews are in.  For every even handed review, you have a review where the reviewer wants you to know Bumbershoot was expensive, different from their favorite Bumbershoot a decade or two ago, and they felt old in the young crowd. I always love reading those reviews. They read like a high school student who was required to go to a play for his art class. The person writes as if they were forced to go, coupled with a lot of padded paragraphs concerning the periphery of the event like history and critiques of transplants, and then like 2 or 3 paragraphs of their experience. They’re pretty funny.

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Jai Wolf at the main stage, Day 3

I attended Bumbershoot 49. I grew up in Seattle and this was my 8th consecutive Bumbershoot. I did what I try to do every year at Bumbershoot. I tried to have a great time. I went out and met people. If I ran into artists, I complimented them on their sets. I danced. I drank. I tried to hear new music objectively. I tried to put out a positive vibe and hoped I would get that energy back.

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ReignWolf, Day 3

Speaking from experience this year’s Bumbershoot felt “less”. There were at least 3 less stages. With less stages, there were less slots for performers, so there was less performances to check out. There was no “Flatstock”. There was no dance arts stage. There was no KEXP presence. There was no Sub Pop or other branded pop up shop. The ticket price remained as high as ever. The film selection at SIFF cinema was lacking. The SIFF programming was 2 documentaries about the space needle that took up a one hour block, followed by a 4 hour block of music videos. The whole festival on paper felt like a group got together, decided to throw a “Bumbershoot”, and the first thought at the pitch meeting was, “We don’t want to spend too much money but we also want to give people the “Bumbershoot experience”, what’re the bear essentials of Bumbershoot?”.

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Posters for Bumbershoot 2019 (left) and Bumbershoot 2012 (right). The reductions are pretty obvious.

As harsh as that critique may seem, that was all information that could have been gleaned from one review of the schedule, map, or lineup prior to the event. I usually purchase my tickets before they announce the lineup because I expect Bumbershoot to be Bumbershoot. It’s a local tradition. If you still bought tickets even after researching that information, then it’s on you for purchasing tickets for an obviously reduced event.  Despite all of this, the actual mood of the event was positive. It felt like more people had attended this year’s Bumbershoot, than last year’s Bumbershoot. Maybe the reduced experiences, caused more people to congregate at stages in heavier volumes, but it definitely felt like the crowds were heavier than they were in 2018. Folks were lined up for laser light shows at Pacific Science Center, half an hour before the show, only to fill the room to capacity. Every stage had pretty sizeable audience turnouts. I hate to bring this up, but the Jai Wolf crowd, broke the barrier on Saturday night and other than being emblematic of an enthusiastic crowd it’s also emblematic of a well attended set.

20190901_153945Longtime Bumbershoot fans getting things started on Day 1

Chatting with folks around the festival, everyone seemed to be excited. One of the first bands I saw on Day 1 were the School of Rock kids. Prior to their set, a group of long time Bumbershoot fans had congregated at the Fischer Green stage (where they would be most of the weekend), and had already begun dancing even before the band took the stage. One of the couples told me about how they were in their 70’s and had been to every Bumbershoot except for one. When asked who they were looking forward to seeing that weekend, the gentleman in the couple said, “The Dip and Rezz.” I went to see The Dip later that night. I stacked up as close as I could to the barricade. A younger fan and her dad stood next to me. I asked the younger fan if she was enjoying her day? She told me about how she was 12, this was her first Bumbershoot, and she was having a great time. I told her about how I was impressed that she would get this close to the stage to see The Dip. It’s stuff like that that makes me happy. It’s reminiscent of the family heavy crowd that attended Reignwolf on Day 2 (the following day). I didn’t think it would be appropriate to mosh at Reignwolf seeing how many children were with their parents in the audience. Those kids are going to go to their first days of school and be able to brag to the other kids how they went to a music festival and were front row for The Dip, or were on their dad’s shoulders for Reignwolf. It’s just so cool.

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Sol, Day 1

As great as it was to meet an experienced Bumbershoot couple and a first time fest fan, I think getting to interact with artists is one of the bigger appeals of Bumbershoot. Other than nodding up to Sol when I would run into him at random stages, or standing next to Nestra for a song or two as he yelled at Pink Sweat$ (who was wearing literal pink sweats in direct sunlight), “Isn’t it hot?!”, my favorite Bumbershoot 49 artist run in was during the Kolars set on Day 3. I had stacked up at the front of the stage. Yogashoot hadn’t wrapped yet, but Kolars had already took the stage and were ready to begin their set. A dad and his kids had posted up right next to me. I chatted with this couple on my other side, but I glanced over at this dad every now and again and mentioned how great this next band was and how we were all looking forward to this set. As Kolars began to perform, two songs in, the lead singer dedicated a song to that dad next to us, “This next song is for Mike.” It didn’t take me too long to realize, Oh wow, that’s Mike McCready from Pearl Jam. The dead giveaway was when he took out his Polaroid camera and began taking shots of the band. All I could think was I have his book “Of Potato Heads and Polaroids” at home, how cool is it that he still takes Polaroids at shows? haha. Realizing he was on family time, I didn’t ask him for a photo, I just thought it was a cool Bumbershoot moment. I got to watch Kolars next to Mike McCready.

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Kolars, Day 3

The performances I saw were fabulous. After seeing their sets at Bumbershoot, I immediately went out and downloaded albums from both Donna Missal and Bryce Vine. Their sets had me chanting as if I were at a pro wrestling show, “Please come back!”. Carly Rae Jepsen proved why her latest album “Dedicated” should be up their as one of the top releases of 2019. LP delivered a memorable set. The Lumineers’ performance on Day 2 made me put away my camera and just be there in the moment. Something about hearing the song “Cleopatra” and dancing and singing with the strangers around me, made me realize I want to just be “here” now.  Taking Back Sunday on Day 3 brought me back to high school. It was a special performance for a number of reasons, but the lead singer being unable to climb back on stage mid set and making the executive decision to just wander the crowd while singing, hugging and dancing with everyone was something myself and fans who were there won’t forget.

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Taking Back Sunday, Day 3

Finally, Rezz closing out the festival was just fun. I normally go to festivals alone and just meet up with freinds at sets we all mutually want to see. Rezz was a performer all my friends who attended Bumbershoot wanted to see. Being able to spend time dancing with them in that crowd felt special. At one point I disappeared for a bit, in order to eat a lobster sushi burrito.  I got closer to one side of the stage so I could dance and chow down.  Randomly a member of one of the bands (no joke, I think it was one of the DJs from Louis the Child) tried chatting with me about how he had eaten a lot of food at catering and how I, dancing while eating during Rezz, was “Living the best life”. All I could think of while dancing, eating, and chatting to this musician was, no one else is probably having a Bumbershoot experience like mine.

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Rezz, Day 3

On paper, this will probably go down as one of the most lackluster Bumbershoots, but for me and a lot of those who attended I can’t say it was a negative experience. I felt like I had a great time, met some awesome people, danced, heard some great artists, and made some great memories. Where it stacks against my prior Bumbershoot experiences, I can’t say it was one of the best, but no where near my worst. I feel like everyone I spoke to after the event have had similar opinions as well. It wasn’t a terrible Bumbershoot, but also was no where near noteworthy. If I were to give a straight no non sense opinion about Bumbershoot 49, it made me excited for next year.  =)

20190903_223727Carly Rae Jepsen, Day 2

See ya next year, Bumbershoot!  I hope Bumbershoot 50 is something special.

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(All photos were taken by me.  Check out my Instagram at: Cakeintherain206)

“Fantasy Love” Playlist

This week’s playlist is a meditation on my favorite quote from artist Andy Warhol:

“Fantasy Love is much better than Reality Love.  Never doing it is very exciting.  The most exciting attractions are between two opposites that never meet.”

This playlist is dedicated the Fantasy Love.

(Answer to last week’s playlist, the non Disney song was: 6.) “Pretend” – Scott Porter and the Glory Dogs)

“Fantasy Love” Playlist
1.) “Black Sheep” – The Evil Exes
2.) “Life in Technicolor II” – Coldplay
3.) “Sahara Love” – Above and Beyond feat. Zoe Johnson
4.) “Late Night Feelings” – Mark Ronson feat. Lykke Li
5.) “Love you Lately” – Daniel Powter
6.) “Macy’s Day Parade” – Green Day
7.) “Cleopatra” – The Lumineers
8.) “It’s Too Late” – Carole King
9.) “You Let Me Down” – OK SWEETHEART
10.) “I Love You Always Forever” – Betty Who