Capitol Hill Block Party 2019 was a week ago, here’s my highlights.

If I’m honest, I wasn’t expecting Capitol Hill Block Party to be as awesome as it was this year.  When I think about my approach to Block Party, I picture how most professionals would approach an industry trade show.  Like an industry trade show every company invited is given the opportunity to present a sample of their offerings, some companies are given bigger booths than others, you see some industry regulars, and you make friends/network with people who seem to gravitate to the same booths you do.  The key differences being the “companies” are bands, the “booths” are stages, and the “offerings” are performances from these bands.  What you’re seeing on stage is that band’s best sample of their show, because they want you to follow their product. They want you to be a fan of their work.

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Otter Pop (left), Marshall of Marshall Law Band (right)

This year’s lineup didn’t initially “wow” me but I was more than happy to attend for three days and give each artist I saw as much attention as if I had come to Block Party to see them perform specifically.  Of the 27 performances I saw, here are my top 3 acts from each day:

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JPEGMAFIA

Friday
JPEGMAFIA
– JPEGMAFIA came highly recommended by some of my younger friends. This was my first time seeing/hearing him perform. I had no idea what to expect. Having forgotten his laptop, JPEGMAFIA plugged in his phone, and proceeded to have one of the most high energy sets of the weekend.  His performance was for sure “hip hop”, but this really felt like a manic “hardcore”/”punk” show.  There were mosh pits, stage dives, and moments where JPEG just yelled into the mic.  I decided to get in the mosh pit.  With a big smile, I proceeded to slam dance with people a little over half my age.  After a few kids asked how old I was and I told them I was 30, more than a few lit up and asked if they could square up with me for the next few songs. I happily obliged them, of course. I asked one kid, what does age have to do with this, and he explained, they were just impressed that someone my age was so down to get down to JPEGMAFIA. (haha)

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Mitski

Mitski –Mitski was the performer I was most excited to see at this year’s Capitol Hill Block Party.  I enjoyed her 2018 album “Be the Cowboy” and had posted up at the front against the barrrier to see her perform live.  Once I saw her with a tape measure before her set putting down tape markers I knew we were in for something special.  Her performance was creative, the choreography was compelling, and her voice really drew you into the feelings she was trying to evoke.  More than a few people near the front were tearing up.

Bear Axe – After Mitski, I made my way to the Neumos stage to catch Bear Axe.  I’ve seen Bear Axe on lineups around Seattle but I had never seen them perform.  Bear Axe put on a mind blowing performance.  I would describe their sound as a mix of funk and punk. Shaina Shepherd’s soulful vocals really stood out especially in their cover of “Where did you sleep last night?”. I definitely want to see Bear Axe perform again.

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Tres Leches (Upper Left), Episcool (Upper Right), Perry Porter (Bottom)

Saturday
Perry Porter – If there was any performer that engaged the audience in a memorable way, I would have to give it to local hip hop artist Perry Porter. Perry was one of the early acts of the day.  The stage set up were canvases with his paintings on display, a tarp and several plates with paint and brushes.  Upon taking the stage, he told everyone at random points throughout the show he would invite folks up to paint his all white outfit.  Folks drew in closer just to see his outfit evolve throughout the set, however when he jumped off stage still covered in wet paint and tried to get folks to mosh with him, that’s the only time members of the audience backed away. The performance was one of the more memorable of the weekend for the creative audience engagement Perry had provided.

Tres Leches – I read a Seattle Times article put out a little after Capitol Hill Block Party that described a moment during Tres Leches’ set where they performed a protest song addressing how Block Party had compensated local bands.  If I’m honest, I don’t remember hearing this moment.  Not saying that it didn’t occur, I didn’t hear it because I had initiated a decent sized mosh pit at the end of their set.  This couple had pushed to the front during the last 2 songs of their show.  The male in the couple shoved his girlfriend into me and immediately they began apologized.  I smiled and said, “No need to apologize, I’m down if you’re down.”  The guy smiled, and I shoved him hard into the crowd behind him.  Next thing you know we were slam dancing to close out the Tres Leches set.  I’ve been to around 10 Tres Leches shows and this is the first time I’ve been part of a crowd who wanted to mosh during their set.  This is probably why I missed their protest moment.  The fact I was in attendance for their protest song was pretty ironic.  I had attended their set because a main stage performer, Saba, had effectively squandered half his set.  Saba was scheduled to have an hour slot at the main stage.  I remember when Rolling Stone magazine named Saba one of their artists to watch, so I was excited to see him.  He began his set 15 minutes late, and once his set started the first 15 minutes was his DJ hyping up the audience.  That would mean an hour long set was effectively cut in half.  I bailed after Saba performed 2 songs for the Tres Leches set.  At the time, I thought cutting your set in half felt disrespectful which is why I left, but after reading Tres Leches’ comments in Seattle Times concerning compensation, I feel great about my choice not indulge in his performance.

A Tribe Called Red – This will probably go down as the year of Lizzo.  Lizzo was the reason a ton of my friends had attended Block Party.  That was by far one of the most densely packed, long stretching crowds I’ve ever seen for a headliner.  I made it as far as the Sushi restaurant. After about fifteen minutes of being pushed and being packed against other people, I decided to bail and go watch A Tribe Called Red.  The crowd didn’t thin out until “Out of the Closet”  Thrift Shop.  That was one of the best decisions I made all weekend.  A Tribe Called Red put on one of my favorite sets all weekend.  The crowd was happy and dancing.  The imagery they used during their set was powerful.  It was native imagery.  Not just native Americans, but native peoples from around the world.  A friend pointed out to me, the images were not about glorifying the stereotype in the images but instead reclaiming it.  Taking the image back, and using it as a way to teach and grow.  To me, that was impressive.  We can all dance, have fun, and hopefully learn, and that’s what A Tribe Called Red presented to the crowd.

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A Tribe Called Red

Sunday
Actors – What’s Capitol Hill Block Party without taking in a good “goth band”?  From the first song, I knew I was going to enjoy this group.  I loved it when the lead singer said after asking the crowd if anyone knew who they were and they were answered with a one person cheer, “Just wondered cause there’s an absence of black t-shirts in the audience.  We’re just a buncha goths out in the Summer.”  Dude.  The fact the group was wearing all black in direct sunlight in upper 80 degree weather was impressive (haha). I would describe their sound as danceable goth music.  It felt like late 80’s New Wave with an edge.  I’m sure I wasn’t the only one loving what I was seeing on stage.  After Block Party I bought their album “It Will Come to You” and their EP “Reanimated”.  I recommend checking these folks out.

Episcool – When I was deciding who to write about,  I really wanted to keep my list to three acts per day.  Deciding who I wanted to feature between Episcool and Nick Weaver was a pretty big decision for me.  Nick Weaver is one of Seattle’s best currently active hip hop artists.  I could have easily wrote about his performance, but instead I decided to focus on a performer I’ve never seen until I saw her performance at Block Party.  Episcool came totally out of left field for me.  She performed probably one of the most crowd energizing sets I saw that weekend.  I just happened to be wandering into Barboza, noticed the room was packed, everyone was dancing hard, and there were no camera people covering the action.  I feel like this set flew totally under the radar from the press covering the event. I made my way to the front, snagged some photos and videos, but the drops were just infectious.  I found myself dancing alongside the rest of the crowd to this mix of dubstep and a kind of trance electronic beat.  It was great and it truly felt like the energy of the crowd was fueling the set, despite Episcool being so focused on her craft.

20190724_121914(Upper left) Nick Weaver, (Upper right) Bear Axe, (Bottom) Actors

Razor Clam – The 9:00 to 10:00pm slot on Sunday was one of the tougher choices of the weekend.  Within the same time slot you had Razor Clam, Cuco, Kung Foo Grip, and Marshall Law Band.  With his awesome hairstyle, I figured Marshall Law Band would have drawn a large crowd to the Barboza basement.  Cuco in particular was a performer some of the younger crowd had bought tickets to see.  It came down to Kung Foo Grip and Razor Clam.  I had seen both bands perform one other time before and even if Kung Foo Grip had a memorable show (I saw them perform at Bumbershoot in the KEXP open space), I hadn’t seen a performance at the Cha Cha stage during this Block Party, so I decided to see Razor Clam.  I posted up next to one of the speakers and even if it was hot in that basement, once I saw lead singer Aya being carried to the front (which I think was improvised) I knew I made the right choice.  There performance was a mix of femme glam rock and soft goth sentiments.  I was dancing and just admiring the amount of confidence on display in their set.  I do have to apologize to the lead singer.  At one point, she asked the audience if she could get a sip of anyone’s drink. I let her have some of mine, but honestly I was hesitant to give her some as it was a cheap beer that had basically gotten warm in that hot basement, and probably did not taste great (haha).  Otherwise, Razor Clam put on a fun memorable set, that I would recommend others check out live.  Also, check out their EP.  I’ve seen them twice and loved their song “ITB”.  It wasn’t until I heard their EP, that I realized what that song is about (haha).

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Razor Clam

This year’s Capitol Hill Block Party will go down for most as the year of Lizzo, but for me, I got to see a lot of performers who I would love to see perform again.  I bought a lot of albums based on the performances I saw, and will keep an eye out for future line ups featuring those acts.  Some performers did let me down, but the ones who shined, really shined.  In a lot of cases, folks really exceeded expectations.  With what was on display, I would be surprised if the stock of these performers didn’t go up after their sets at this year’s Capitol Hill Block Party.

For more videos and pictures from Capitol Hill Block Party weekend including moments I described here, check out my Instagram: Cakeintherain206

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.

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.

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.