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.

The Ocean Blue bridge generations at The Crocodile

If I were to describe the music of The Ocean Blue, I would say their sound is timeless.  Albums that came out when the band gained acclaim in the early 90s, still sound as fun, light, and relatable today.  Even their most recent albums, sound distinctly Ocean Blue but fresh.  As if to say we’re still the band you fell in love with but we have songs for the another generation of fans to enjoy.  It’s this appeal that really defined the audience who attended the show at the Crocodile that night.

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The National Honor Society
The first band of the night was The National Honor Society (above).  This was great light hearted rock to open the show.  The music felt like pop rock but with a little more of an edge during a handful of songs.  After the show I mentioned to my younger cousin that I had seen this band perform live and her reaction was, “I saw them a few years ago when they opened for the Jonas Brothers.”  I enjoyed their set and the lead singer mentioned the release of a new EP which I might check out.

The Dirty Sidewalks
The second opener was The Dirty Sidewalks.  If the first band was light hearted rock, The Dirty Sidewalks were rock.  I never thought I would have the urge to mosh at an Ocean Blue concert, but this band almost had me looking for a pit.  I was close enough to the stage, that I could barely hear the vocals but if there was anything I would point to as something that stood out to me, the lead guitarist was fabulous.  I felt all four members sounded great, but the lead guitarist was what drew my attention.  In all, the Dirty Sidewalks provided a variation in musical style for this show.

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The Ocean Blue
Having never seen The Ocean Blue (above) perform live but being a fan of their music, watching them perform live you realize very quickly, they sound as great as they do on their albums.  Most impressive was the ease lead vocalist David Schelzel sang each song.  His voice was as soothing as it sounded in their recordings.  The set list included many fan favorites like “Between Something and Nothing” and “Ballerina Out of Control”, alongside songs which showcased their talent like “Sad Night, Where is the Morning?”, “Cerulean”, and “Mercury”, and new favorites like “Kings and Queens” from their latest album.  The performance enthralled the crowd, singing and dancing along with the band.  The visuals added another element to the show.  Displaying behind the band were art pieces, slowed down visuals of clouds, chemicals and other vistas, and also clips of some of their music videos.  I loved the homage to Seventh Seal.  I really was impressed by the performance and would definitely see them again.  I have to give them extra props for the cover of Joy Division’s “Love will Tear Us Apart”.

The Ocean Blue is one of those bands who’s sound I believe could fit in today’s modern dream pop pantheon.  Their body of work and the performance I saw, shows a veteran band that sounds like they could hang with modern dream pop acts like Alvvays or even Beach House.  What I loved about being in the crowd at that show, although it did skew older, there were still a number of younger fans mixed in.  The Ocean Blue feels like a band that has an appreciation for and draws inspiration from art, and they create music that carries those sentiments.  That’s the kind of music I would like to see passed on for other generations to enjoy.  Music that spreads those feelings of inspiration, and that’s what The Ocean Blue accomplishes.

 

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

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

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

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Black Pistol Fire, Elysian Search Party 2017

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

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

IMG_20170715_002203_435Purple Mane, West Seattle Summer Fest 2017

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

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

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So Pitted, Mercer X Summit Block Party 2017

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

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

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Lizzo, Capitol Hill Block Party 2017

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

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

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Tyler the Creator, Bumbershoot 2017

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

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

IMG_20180101_014141_627Kolars, Thunderpussy New Year’s Show 2017

I hope to see you out there this Summer!

“Are you creative?”

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

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

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

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Monsterwatch, Mercer X Summit Block Party 2018

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

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

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Flume, Bumbershoot 2017

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

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

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Great Grandpa, Upstream 2018

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

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

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Trash Fire, Cha Cha Lounge 2018

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

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

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

IMG_4399Tangerine performing at Bumbershoot 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greta Van Fleet rock the Paramount (1/10/19)

Thursday night. 6:30pm. The entrance to the Paramount. Greta Van Fleet is set to perform Night 2 of a 2 night sold out engagement at the Paramount. Doors for the show don’t open until 7:00pm, and yet the line was still longer than I’ve seen for any other show I’ve attended at the Paramount. The line stretched from the entrance of the Paramount all the way to “Four Columns” park (roughly three to four blocks). Folks in the line came from Canada, Portland, New Mexico, among other places, and ranged in age from grade schoolers to “experienced” rockers. Walking up and down the line, scalpers and people selling bootleg merch were in full force.

I’ve been to a few concerts, but the atmosphere around this show was different. With good reason. In 2018, I feel like no other hard rock band has been as polarizing as Greta Van Fleet. From selling out multiple venues across the United States to the scathing review for their debut album, “Anthem of the Peaceful Army” in Pitchfork, the young band has been at the forefront of both a love/hate debate about their relevance in the current music landscape. Personally, for artists their age to accomplish what they have is impressive, and you can’t discount their proficiency at the craft. The kids are talented and deserve kudos for that aspect. With that, I was still curious how they would perform live, which brought me to the Paramount on Thursday.

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Ida Mae
The night opened with husband and wife duo, Ida Mae. The band was largely unknown to most of the folks in the crowd, but were quickly captivated by the British couple’s heavily blues inspired sounds. Maybe it was the songs chosen or the sound set up, but it felt like the husband of the group was featured more heavily in the performance. He was playing guitar, providing a beat on a foot pedal on a drum, and also providing a very distinct vocal, while his wife provided back up vocals and support on smaller hand held instruments such as shakers. One person in the crowd even remarked that the husband in the group could even be featured as a solo act. Nonetheless, they drew a very positive response from the audience using old school country licks, and (of course) a “Woody Guthrie” cover.

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Greta Van Fleet
Being able to see Greta Van Fleet perform live is something special. You’re seeing a set of young talents who are great in their roles, and have legions of fans of all age groups who know the lyrics and can sing along to their songs, but also as you see them perform, you have a feeling like they have yet to peak. The set list was a mix of songs that drew heavily from both “From the Fires” and “Anthem of the Peaceful Army”, equally. Being in that crowd singing a long to “You’re the One”, seeing the younger audience members light up when they began performing “Flower Power”, or everyone get on their feet for “Safari Song”, was nothing short of astounding. These are fans from several generations uniting with a love for these songs.

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It’s funny. The easy comparison for this group is Led Zeppelin, but seeing them live I was getting more of a Rush or even Aerosmith vibe. At times, sure the Led Zeppelin vibe was there, but really a lot of the songs had more of a Rush vibe to them in terms of lyricism and musical arrangement, while the performance felt more like Aerosmith. The way Josh Kiszka commanded the mic, felt more like some of the mid to later year work of Aerosmith leader Steven Tyler. His on stage look even was more akin to Steven Tyler’s. I felt like even the way Jake Kiszka performed was more Joe Perry than it was Jimmy Page. Overall, I enjoyed seeing Greta Van Fleet perform live. If there was any knock against their set, I would say the members could do more to command that stage. They were really just moving back and forth, and it felt like they were concentrating, but with good reason as their songs are complex.

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I always loved the reviews that dismiss this band as purely a “Led Zeppelin rip off”. I feel like anytime a band can demonstrate proficiency while also drawing these comparisons, the reviewer comes to the defense of the legendary band as if the younger band were coming for the crown. Really, I think these guys are just having fun, while also paying homage to their heroes. I saw elements of Led Zeppelin, but I also saw elements of Aerosmith, Rush, and a number of other 70’s/80’s rock bands. At some point the comparisons have to end. If a band is creating new music and sounds like an amalgamation of seven or so different bands, then the logical conclusion is they must be unique, and really there aren’t many bands in the current music scene on the same level that are as unique as Greta Van Fleet.