Tips for a Great Bumbershoot 2019

Bumbershoot is one of my favorite events of the year.  Growing up in Seattle I would always hear about the festival, and since 2012, I haven’t missed a single Bumbershoot Music and Arts Festival.

I always come back from Bumbershoot having met new people, seen some great bands, and overall feeling like I had just been “recharged”.  Friends will ask “do you have any tips to help maximize my Bumbershoot experience?”  Here are my 5 tips to help maximize your Bumbershoot experience:

5.) The best beer prices are at SIFF Cinema.  If you want to beat the heat, and get away from the crowd, go to SIFF Cinema and catch a collection of films.  Cans of Rainier (in years past) are only $3, there’s non port-o-potty restrooms available, and it’s just an opportunity to sit in the dark away from the sun and the overwhelming crowd for a bit.  It’s a just a good way to rest.

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Flume, Bumbershoot 2017

4.) In years past, the best entrance to the festival grounds is adjacent to the Bagley Wright Theater.  It normally features multiple entrance lanes, a separate entrance for VIP/Emerald pass holders, and a separate ADA entrance.

3.) Review the schedule and plan ahead before attending the festival.  If you want to see a particular act up close and they’re performing at the main stage, get there early.  If you aren’t VIP and the performer is later in the day, expect to get there at least a two or three sets early, and be prepared to stand for long hours.  If they’re not at the main stage and are at one of the minor stages, 10 to 15 minutes before the performance should be fine unless they are the headliner of that stage, then you may want to hang out during the prior performer’s set in order to get a great view.

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Cody Jinks, Bumbershoot 2017

2.) Check out the non musical experiences.  The Bumbershoot team always book some great non musical performers throughout the weekend.  I once saw a panel/podcast recording featuring Bill Nye, Eugene Mirman, and Pete Holmes.  I once saw Paul F Tompkins and Matt Gourley do improv.  The food selections at the B-Eats section are amazing as well.

1.) Go to Bumbershoot with friends but don’t go as a group.  I can’t say this enough, go to Bumbershoot alone.  Going alone to Bumbershoot alone, doesn’t mean you’re by yourself.  Everyone there is on the same mission you are, and as long as you understand that you’re there to have a good time and you’re not trying to ruin anyone else’s good time, everyone will want to have a good time with you.  I usually let my friends know what performers I plan to see that day, and wherever our schedules line up we try to meet at those place, but we never let each other fully dictate our day.  If one person wants to leave early to see another performer, more power to them, we’ll meet up later.  Try going to Bumbershoot alone.

20160902_174317Tyler the Creator, Bumbershoot 2016

If I could sum up my advice for Bumbershoot weekend it would be this:
Try something new.  Open your ears to new music.  Dance with strangers.  Wear a funny hat or try an entirely new look.  Catch a play or a clown or a debate or podcast or a comedian.  You’ll never know who you’ll meet, who you’ll see, or what you’ll do.  If anything if you leave yourself open for something new, it’ll be different than what you expected and provide you an experience, you never knew you could have.  Have fun, stay safe, and stay hydrated.

“We all turn to our communities in darker times and making art feels healing and more important than ever.”: 7 Questions with Moon Palace

Shadowcast

Recently, I was given the opportunity to preview the latest album “Shadowcast” from Seattle indie rock band, Moon Palace.  Twin sisters Cat and Carrie Biell alongside bandmates, Jude Miqueli, and Darcey Zoller create a psychedelia tinged, dusky, 41 minute kind of dream landscape that’s simply captivating. 

The album was like the progression of a day in that songs at the beginning of the album like “Bold” and “Gamma Ray” were energetic, but eventually the album faded into this meditative reflection, culminating in more subdued songs like “Embers” which felt like gathering around a fire at night. If there was any other way I would describe “Shadowcast”, it felt like the soundtrack to a long drive outside of the city.  Like I got in my car in the morning, watched my landscape change around me, and eventually, I’m night driving. I started kind of hyped for this drive, but eventually, it’s just me and my thoughts.  That’s what this album does, it provides a space to reflect.

“Shadowcast” by Moon Palace will be released on August 23rd.  In anticipation of the album’s release I was fortunate enough to be given the chance to ask the band a few questions.  Here’s my short interview with Moon Palace.

1.) What was the inspiration for “Shadowcast”? Was there a particular vibe you were trying to create?
Jude: We made it over the course of a year. Each week we would open ourselves up to what sounds were coming through. I think the record evolved with the changing seasons. For much of the year, Seattle is dark and partly cloudy so that may be why there is a bit of an ominous presence. Once summer hit we wanted to make brighter songs and that’s when “Gamma Ray” emerged. On practice days I’d listen to music on the way to work while riding the bus at 6 AM when it was dark out and text the group what I was listening to. They would text tracks back throughout the workday. Later that night we’d get together, talk about the sounds we wanted to make and get creative. “Shadowcast” was Talking Heads influenced, “Stop When It Hurts” was Sonic Youth, “On the Level” was The Cure, “Bold” was influenced by The Gossip. In the end, I don’t think the songs sound like any of those bands because we weren’t trying to replicate what they were doing even though they were heavy influences. With each song, I want to grow as a drummer so I try new styles or techniques and one way of learning those is by listening to other drummers.

I read an interview in City Arts Magazine, that one of the main things that drew members of the group to Seattle was how queer-friendly the city was. A quote in the article said that you like how Seattle is a “sanctuary city” and that the band was making “sanctuary music”. 
2. I like the idea of “sanctuary music”, but would you mind expanding on that? How would you define “sanctuary music”?
Jude: A sanctuary is a place of refuge or safety. It immediately brings up the idea of church which can be triggering for queers due to having been shamed by religion. But a bird sanctuary can also bring up ideas of a nature reserve and I think our band finds solace in nature. I came here in 2006 after researching where there was queer community on the internet. At that time Seattle had anti-discrimination laws protecting workers based on gender and sexual orientation and where I was from didn’t. I think sanctuary music can be anything that makes you feel safe in a space. Growing up as a teenager in the 90’s for me that was Bratmobile, Bikini Kill, Team Dresch, and Sleater-Kinney. Now when I listen to music at home I’m mostly playing jazz.

Carrie: Cat and I lived in more homogenous suburban area like 20 mins outside of Seattle. As out, queer teenagers, we would drive out to Seattle multiple times a week to be with the community we identified with and who supported us the most. Seattle did feel like a sanctuary in that way at the time. Nowadays it feels like making music in our band is a sanctuary from the current climate in America where hate crimes are on the rise and bigots feel more emboldened. We all turn to our communities in darker times and making art feels healing and more important than ever.

The music video for the song “Hunt and Gather” is amazing. Not only because the song is so good, but visually the video watches more like a high production short film with vibrant cuts and great use of light and shadow which really bring more attention to physical elements of the performers.
3. Was the concept for this video inspired by the song, or did you have this idea of what you wanted the visual to be like as this song was being created and then created a video to best reflect that visual?
Cat: The concept for the video was inspired by the song. An epic song deserved an epic video. The video reflects the process of creating peace with the wounded and unintegrated parts of ourselves. By integrating the ego, the wounded child, the wild one in all of us, we each move through our individual journey of reflection and transformation.

(These next 3 questions were provided by my last interview, the band “Tangerine”.)
4. What’s the last book you read?
Jude: Currently Reading Pleasure Activism by Adrienne Maree Brown
Carrie: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

5. What was the most stressed you have been on tour and why?
Jude: When I went on a summer tour with a band called Scarves we were in an overheating van driving down I5 while California was burning. None of us had any mechanic skills which is why it was stressful. After a long drive and a mediocre show, we slept on a concrete floor in some dude’s apartment. In the end, we made it down the coast and back, had fun at the beach, and played better shows so it ended up being a good time!

Carrie: I did a west coast tour with my solo project joined by my backing band. We had great shows throughout the tour, but our show in Eugene ended up being really strange. The venue didn’t provide a PA that night and there was very little sound equipment ready even though there were four bands on this bill. One of the local bands ended up running around piecing together a sound system, which I was grateful for. After the show, some of the band members from the other bands invited all of us to some big mansion to party at because somebody was house sitting there. We wanted to take them up on the offer at first because it was a free spot to crash for the night. I felt somewhat reluctant because I was the only woman on the whole lineup of musicians that night and I didn’t see many other women around. We were about to go to the mansion, but then it turned out to be a bunch of drunk dudes all wanting us to get in a hot tub with them. Luckily the guys in my band always looked out for me and we all ended up sort of sneaking away and getting a hotel room for the night instead. I’m grateful to be playing music with more women and genderqueer folks these days 🙂

6. What were some rejected band names you almost had?
Carrie:
Desert Hearts
Wild Embers
Twin Shadow (Already Taken)
Carpet Ride (Too punk rock LOL)

7.) As a final question, I read that each of you are from other parts of the country and have performed in other groups, do you have any advice for other transplants trying to enter the Seattle music scene?
Carrie: I always think it’s a good idea to attend lots of shows and get a feel for the kind of bands and venues that our out here. Try to make friends with other bands and musicians and build a network of supportive fellow musicians who either want to play with you or book shows together. Bookers at venues don’t do as much building of bills anymore so it helps to approach some of the venues with a complete lineup or at least one other band that will bring out people. There are so many musicians and bands here so it can feel daunting to try and get out here, but if you have a few other bands or artists in your corner it really helps.

I also think it’s a great idea to make a professional recording and press them in a professional way so you have a better chance of getting on radio stations like KEXP. KEXP is awesome at supporting local bands and their reach is far and wide. It can be hard to get on their airways since they get tons of submissions, but showing up to the station or mailing an actual professional hard copy of the songs with a radio one-sheet really helps the chances of getting airplay.

 

I have to thank Moon Palace for providing such great answers.  Check out “Shadowcast” available August 23rd, and catch Moon Palace at Clock-Out Lounge on Friday, September 20th.

5 Tips for People who “want to attend a lot of concerts and other events, while maintaining a professional career”

2017 was the first year I decided I would try to attend a live show, concert, festival, or event every single week.  I attended 102 shows that year.  It was so much fun, I decided to keep it going.  2018 I attended 84 shows.  It’s 2019, and as of this writing I’ve attended at least 36 shows.  A handful of folks at my day job know I do this, and the first question they usually ask is “How are you able to do this?”.  I usually interpret that question as, how do you have the energy to keep a professional (enough) demeanor to perform at your day job, but also stay out late at these concerts and events?

The following are my 5 pieces of advice for people who “want to attend a lot of concerts and other events, while maintaining a professional career”:

5.) Plan ahead, Research, and Maintain a calendar. Maintaining a calendar is one of the best things you can do for yourself. On a weekly basis, I’ll check venue websites for shows I’d be interested in. I’ll purchase tickets months in advance and document everything in a calendar that way I know if plans conflict. If you’re trying to be professional at a job, it’s good to think ahead. I always request PTO, the Monday after a 3 day music festival because I know I’ll be exhausted and I won’t be able to perform. Make it fun for yourself (my calendar is a Thomas Kinkaide Disney Dreams calendar).

4.) Brag but don’t be a jerk about it. I think letting others know about the great show you attended the night before or letting them know about your excitement for an upcoming festival is perfectly fine, but know not everyone is having as much fun as you are. If you’re telling someone about how much fun you had or are looking forward to having and the person doesn’t seem receptive, then it’s not the worse thing in the world to not talk about it either. Brag but keep your audience in mind.

3.) You know your limits. Other than attending these events, I also go to a gym, in order to stay as physically fit as I can. In order to engage in a show properly, cheering, dancing, singing along, or even getting to the venue, it does take a level of physical fitness. I feel like people underestimate the amount of energy they use at a live event if they’re engaged the entire time. You probably blew a bunch of energy at your day job and going to a live show will only continue that energy burn. If you need to sit down at a show, leave early, or head to the back for water, you know your limits. These things are supposed to be fun, not a “Double Dare” style physical challenge.

2.) Be Nice, even if you’re tired. Speaks for itself.

1.) Set Time for yourself. You’re trying to balance a day job where you’re expected to arrive early and perform your function, with late nights having fun. The most important thing you can do for yourself is set time for yourself. Time to do nothing. Time to sleep in. Time to read. Time to be away from people. Take time to just pursue something for yourself. I usually set aside a few hours (or even a day or two) during the week where I don’t set any plans and just have alone time. I might go to one of my regular haunts (like MOHAI (above)) or I’ll just hang around my condo. Having a “reset” is never a bad thing, and setting time for yourself is always a great way to do that.

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.

 

“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.

XYLO and Corey Harper: An Eclectic Combo

I was in line for the bathroom at Barboza. Corey Harper had just wrapped his set. There was no other way to describe the night’s lineup than eclectic. The two acts who just performed, Gavin Haley and Corey Harper, were what I would describe as kind of an alternative style that leans a little towards R&B, while I knew the night’s co headliner, XYLO, had more of a dance music lean. As I stood in line, a cute blonde girl came up and stood next to me. She leaned in and said, “I hope you don’t mind, but could I cut in front of you?” The folks in the restroom before us were taking a while, but I replied, “Sure, but if these folks don’t hurry up, I may just use the upstairs restroom.” She smiled and said, “Thanks! I’m getting nervous. I’m performing next and I’m nervous they might go on without me.” I paused and said, “Hold on. Are you XYLO?” She smiled again and said, “Yeah.”

Of all the chance encounters I’ve had at concerts, this one was one of the more unique. Barboza is such an intimate venue that having the opportunity to meet a performer isn’t out of the question, but the headliner asking if she could cut in front of you to use the restroom because she is nervous her band will take the stage without her, now that’s a story.

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Gavin Haley
The first performer of the night was Gavin Haley. I found out afterward, this was his first tour. For someone I had never heard of prior to performing, I felt like his set had a lot of depth. Hearing his stories about his background, and how his first exposure to a wide range of music was through XM Radio was interesting. His voice sounded great, and the acoustic guitar and piano combo lent well to his performance. A song that stood out from his set was “Better Off”. I kind of regret not getting one of his long sleeve t shirts, that he was selling with the choice of an apple or banana included with each purchase.

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Corey Harper
The first headliner of the night was Corey Harper from Vancouver, Washington. As a Washington native, if not most, then a good portion of the crowd was there to see Harper perform. Harper mentioned it was his third time as a headliner and all three times the shows had sold out, so he was very happy for the support. His set was not quite country and not quite R&B, but felt like music you could go on a road trip to. The crowd was silent as Harper performed songs like “On the Run”, “California”, “I Fall Apart”, and a unique cover of Coldplay’s “Yellow”, among others. You could say his set was mesmerizing.

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XYLO
In a continuation from the story in the intro, XYLO’s band did not take the stage without her (haha). I enjoyed her set. She did her best to engage the crowd and bring the energy to the Monday night audience. Her hair started in braids, but with all the jumping and dancing by the end of her set it did not remain that way. Songs like “Don’t Panic” and “I Still Wait For You” sounded great live. It was my first time hearing the song “America”. After the show, I downloaded it. The story it tells is compelling (to say the least). In the end, the crowd was already dancing, but the song that had us jumping was her collaboration with The Chainsmokers, “Setting Fires”. Overall, seeing XYLO perform live on a Monday was a great way to energize for the week ahead.

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As the show wrapped, I made my way to the merch table. All three performers were milling around, meeting fans, and hanging out. As I walked up to XYLO, the first thing she said was, “We met at the bathroom, right?” (Haha!)

That reaction alone made my week.