Aplscruf's Music Blog

Diary of a Married Groupie

Macefield Music Festival October 3-4, 2014

The Swearengens played Conor Byrne Saturday, Oct. 4.

The Swearengens played Conor Byrne Saturday, Oct. 4.

Day 1: Friday, October 3

Massy Ferguson and Star Anna at The Sunset

It was an unusually warm October evening, with temperatures hovering around 70 degrees.  We were excited to get down to Ballard on this first night of the Macefield Music Festival, a two-day celebration of northwest music, art and comedy. Check out their website for more information about the festival, venues, and artist lineup.

The first band on our schedule was Massy Ferguson, playing The Sunset at 7:00. The show time was a bit early, considering it was a Friday.  Lots of people don’t get out of work until at least 6, so I knew the crowd would be a bit thin this first night of the festival. For us old peeps, though, it was like getting the Early Bird Special.

This is how Massy Ferguson got to Macefield:

The Sunset was in the midst of remodeling. I hardly recognized the place.  Instead of the Chinese restaurant red velvet wall paper, the walls were adorned with shiny wood paneling.  A new wall broke up the long, rectangular space, separating the future bar from the stage. A makeshift bar on a folding table held a bucket of bottles, ice and a few hard liquor choices.

Massy Ferguson with Dave Goedde on drums, Ethan Anderson on bass and Adam Monda on guitar

And Then There Were Three: Massy Ferguson with Dave Goedde on drums, Ethan Anderson on bass, and Adam Monda on guitar

The three members of Massy Ferguson (Ethan Anderson, Adam Monda, and Dave Goedde) loaded in while a paucity of people took their places around the stage. Tony Mann, keyboardist, was visibly absent; stage right, where he usually played, was left empty. Tony is currently hanging out in a Costa Rican cantina enjoying a tall cool one, most likely with a little umbrella in it and a wedge of tropical fruit attached to the rim.

Massy Ferguson opened with the rocker “Long Time No See” from Hard Water and hit two songs off their new EP, Backwoods, including the title track “90’s Darlin'” that has some cool Seattle references. They also included a couple of nameless new tunes, which was a pleasant surprise.  More fans arrived as the band moved through the short, 45-minute time slot.

The trio was energized and really upbeat tonight, filling in that empty space with lots of great rock solos from Adam and blasting rock drum beats from Dave.

Ethan and Adam

Ethan and Adam

Ethan’s powerful vocals and bassline punched through the amps, encouraging more people to peek around the wall and join the fun.  His borrowed Rickenbacker bass shone in the blue lights.  Pat asked me if he could have one.  “No.”

Check out the downsized Massy Ferguson at a venue near you and “Like” them on Facebook.

After the show we saw Jay Kardong, pedal steel player for a few local bands, including Massy Ferguson from time to time. We chatted with Jay, Adam and Ethan for a bit before going to dinner. Jay’s grandpa, Dr. Kardong, always comes up in conversation. Dr. K. brought Pat into this world and was their family doctor for years.  Jay has made his own path in music and is famous for a couple of firsts: We are 99.99% certain he is the only person to ever do “The Worm” on the stage of Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, original home of The Grand Ole Opry; He was also part of the first band to ever play the top of The Space Needle (Outside! On top!) with Sera Cahoone for SubPop’s anniversary special.  Yes, Mudhoney played there, too, but Sera and Jay played before them. They also spoke of their adventures touring with their bands and going to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland during a big music festival there a few years ago.  After hearing their stories, I will not be sticking one toe in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland.

Jay also mentioned he’ll play with Ole Tinder Saturday, and things went downhill as we exchanged suggestions for what he might bring or wear to the event in order to really stand out, such as stilts (which would be a true challenge for any pedal steel player) and a kilt, or possibly a more unconventional kilt made of clear plastic wrap.  It’s always a joy spending time chatting with them. 

Pat and I walked back to The Sunset after briefly checking out The Sonics who were killing it on the KEXP mainstage to a packed crowd. Our friend Dean said they had the “same sound and raw energy that  made them the Godfathers of Punk!”

Among the local music and Seattle scene celebs walking around was John Keister of The 206 and Almost Live fame. Pat introduced us and I told Mr. Keister a story of how we’re so old that I remember my grandma making a dry remark after seeing the first episode of Almost Live, back in the mid-80’s: “You know that show, Almost Live? Well, it’s almost funny!”  I think Grandma coined the phrase. We loved that show, and it’s great to see The 206 back on TV with some of the original cast.

Here’s a sketch from The 206:

Jeff Fielder, guitarist extraordinaire walked by (check out this great interview by KEXP’s Jacob Uitti here).  He played a set at Conor Byrne Friday. I wished we had time to see him.  I recognized other artists, including Ryan Granger from The Grizzled Mighty, working the door at The Sunset.

Star Anna in the blue glow of The Sunset

Star Anna in the blue glow of The Sunset

Star Anna, whom we haven’t seen in quite some time, quietly took the stage to a growing crowd.  She played a couple of songs from her recent album entitled I Hate You and others from The Sky Is Falling, a new download-only collection. Star thanked the audience for their hearty applause after each song.  She is a little shy, but has such a powerful energy when she sings. It just crawls right into the soul and lingers well after her performance has ceased.  She asked us if we like Robyn, the Swedish pop diva, who had the big hit “Call Your Girlfriend”.  Although it was originally recorded as a pop/electronica song, Star said the lyrics are so sad; so Star took the pop song with sad lyrics and turned it into a sad song–with sad lyrics. The rest of her band stepped back and let her play it with just an acoustic guitar.  Oh, Star’s voice gave me chills. The crowd hushed up as she pulled them in.

Here is a version of “Call Your Girlfriend” that she performed on KEXP–see what I mean?

Cheers and applause followed after a short pause, akin to a collective gasp.  Her dark humor continued as she thanked the audience and said in a sing-songy voice, “This next song is about dying!”

It was getting hot; the packed room added to the stuffy atmosphere.  I needed some fresh air and water. Star’s so amazing, though, I hated to leave. Check out her website for music, videos, and show dates and GO.  She’s a local gem.

Day 2: Saturday, October 4

The Swearengens and Ole Tinder at Conor Byrne

Laff Hole Comedy at Hattie’s Back Room

We made the incorrect decision Saturday evening to drive to Ballard, park, and take Uber home at the end of the night. The festival started around noon this day, so we should have known that we would not find a place to park, as people arrived early and stayed for the duration of the festival.  We circled around Ballard Avenue and extended our search several blocks away to no avail. It was approaching 7:00, and I knew The Swearengens were loading in.

Soren Godbersen and Fredd Luongo of The Swearengens

Soren Godbersen and Fredd Luongo of The Swearengens

Forfeiting the show because we couldn’t find a place to park was unacceptable.  Pat sensed my growing anxiety and kicked me to the curb, festival wristband firmly intact.  He would meet up with me much later, after parking about half a mile away. He knew he would never hear the end of it if I missed The Swearengens again. I love this band, but bad timing and Pat’s work/travel schedule prevented us from seeing them for almost two years. Here is a 2012 review I posted for Randomville of The Swearengens at The Tractor.  We made an attempt in August, but the stars were crossed that night, as we already had plans to see Massy Ferguson (see Massy’s review and my run-in with The Swearengens here).

I entered Conor Byrne solo, which felt a little weird, but I immediately saw familiar faces in the audience.  I grabbed a pint of red and snaked my way to the front where I ran into Moe Provencer, and noticed that her Jackrabbit partner Aimee Zoe was setting up her drums. Aimee was drumming for The Swearengens, and both would be playing with Ole Tinder after that. Fantastic! The pair can also be found jamming with Jealous Dogs: Seattle’s Only Pretenders Tribute Band.

Meanwhile, Fredd Luongo, lead singer/songwriter for The Swearengens was onstage plugging in his acoustic guitar. I pointed at him with both hands and exclaimed triumphantly, “I made it!  I made it!”

Fredd smiled and said, “I better not f*ck up!”

He had nothing to fear.  If they played air guitars, covered Swedish rap (yes, it’s a thing), or [reader: please insert optional colorful phrase here], I wouldn’t have cared. I was just happy I finally made it to the show.

Friday’s setlist included songs from their 2012 EP Devil Gets Her Way, their latest album Waiting on the Sunrise, and other songs that I hope will show up on a future album, including this song, “‘Merican Woman”:

Another orphan song,”You Pissed on My Heart” is one of my favorites.  It got my attention the first time I saw them at The High Dive a few years ago.  The bitter song flows with acidic lyrics and splashes of dark humor (groan–sorry, I couldn’t resist).

The Swearengens definitely rocked the country songs tonight and got back to basics with a streamlined, four-person band. Aimee Zoe was smiling and spirited on drums. Soren Godbersen had some searing country-rock guitar solos. Fredd backed him on acoustic and sang his heart out tonight. Bassist Kirsten Ballweg is a former member of The Black Crabs and the founding member of The Dee Dees, an all female Ramones cover band. Kirsten had her Ramones stance going all night. We need to get to a Dee Dees show one of these days.  Check out their website for show times. 

Aimee, Fredd and Kirsten

Aimee, Fredd and Kirsten

Lots of dancing ensued throughout the lively set, and the house was packed.  They finished big with the blues-soaked rocker “Bleeding Blue” from Waiting on the Sunrise.

The Swearengens are back in the studio recording a new EP, due early next year. Catch them at The Green Frog in Bellingham November 8th, and at The Sunset with Massy Ferguson and Deception Past in Ballard November 15th.

Ole Tinder featuring Jay Kardong, Mike Giacolino, Aimee Zoe, and Moe Provencer

Ole Tinder featuring Jay Kardong, Mike Giacolino, Aimee Zoe, and Moe Provencer

Ole Tinder was up next. Aimee, Moe and Jay backed Mike Giacolino, who also played a solo set that afternoon. Ole Tinder has that classic country sound.  People continued to dance as Ole Tinder wound through their set with a couple of songs from Loways and many new ones I hadn’t heard before. I hope a new album will be out soon. Here’s a review of Ole Tinder from 2012, the first time I saw them.

“Labor” was a great song with a powerful message. Mike Giacolino plays a solo version here:

Tony Fulgham, singer/songwriter for Jackrabbit and  wife Daisy joined in on the fun. Wes Amundsen, bass player for The Black Crabs, also showed up and gave support to his musical compadres.

After the show, we said goodbye to the boys and girls and hugged it out, with hopes of seeing them again soon. It felt like a musical family reunion.

John Keister getting some laughs

John Keister getting some laughs

We hoofed it to Hattie’s Hat for the Laff Hole Comedy Night in Hattie’s Back Room.  The lineup included comedy shorts on video screens by Black Daisy, several local comedians, a Last Comic Standing contestant, and headliner John Keister. About 30 people crammed in booths and tables around the makeshift stage (consisting of a piece of rug on the floor and a cardboard sign on the wall).  We enjoyed hearty laughs, knowing smiles, and occasionally suffered a few eye-rolling groans.  It was all good fun, though, and we definitely got our entertainment value this night.

I hope Macefield returns next year.  The lineup was superb; the energy of the artists and crowd was truly invigorating.  We enjoyed the two-day event, and only wish we had time to see more artists.

October 11, 2014 Posted by | Americana, aplscruf, Concert Season 2014, Massy Ferguson, Ole Tinder, Star Anna, The Swearengens | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Best Show of the Year: Southern Culture On The Skids at The Tractor Tavern 08.30.14

Southern Culture on The Skids

Southern Culture on The Skids

I know, I know.  The year ain’t over yet.  When the show ended Saturday, all I could say was, “That was the best show of the year!” I kept repeating it into the wee hours and into the next week.  I guess I should say it was the best show of the year, so far, in a small venue.

The warm Ballard evening started with an interesting and delicious meal at Stoneburner, conveniently situated across the street from The Tractor. In the summer months, they offer outdoor seating and open-air window tables throughout the restaurant and bar, attracting the sidewalk strollers’ attention. We took the only little table left inside the bar.  Inside, the wood-paneled walls and intricate details and furnishings harkened back to an earlier era. I ordered a cocktail that included suze, a French liqueur infused with a bitter root.  It was…different–not sweet, but a little floral.  We also shared a meat and cheese tray and managed to gobble down almost everything on it: piles of thinly sliced salami and prosciutto; a large strip of soft cheese; little mounds of pickled cucumbers, candied cherries, grapes and baby carrots.  We also shared a nice salad with a champagne vinaigrette.

We took our time with dinner and still had a few minutes to stop by Hattie’s Hat for a gigantic, hot homemade brownie and ice cream for dessert. SO good. I felt like a hedonist.

Inside The Tractor, the crowd pushed forward.  The first band, Johnny 7 and The Black Crabs was ready to go on stage. We eyed our favorite table stage right, but it was full.  We meandered to the other side and found our friend Dean near the backstage gate that led to the loading dock.  We re-introduced ourselves, as we hadn’t seen him since last December at The Big Sandy show. There was also a table on his side, which we found we liked even better this toasty evening because the outdoor breeze coming from the loading dock funneled its way toward us.

The Black Crabs: Johnny 7 Stuart, Brigitt Rains and Wesley Amundsen

The Black Crabs: Johnny 7 Stuart, Brigitt Rains and Wesley Amundsen

The re-invented Black Crabs have a few new members now.  There is a lot of band member swapping and sharing in Seattle.  Johnny Stuart, lead singer and guitarist, now works with a new bass player named Wesley Amundsen and drummer “Crazy Mikey” Daugherty, but occasionally brings in former members as guest musicians.  Brigitt Rains, formerly of The Swearengens, now sings with Johnny on a few songs.

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Johnny and Brigitt

It was a treat to see The Black Crabs again. They played my favorites from their previous albums as well as several new ones. Their rockabilly sound is so appealing and authentic.  The band performs mostly originals and a few covers, including the catchy opener, “Say Mama”.  The trio blasted through 16 danceable numbers, but tonight the crowd was too packed to allow the space needed for two-stepping, Western Swing, or any other kind of twirling ’round.

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The Black Crabs ended their show with “Blast Off” with Johnny edging closer to the crowd, holding guitar above their heads and rockin’ out while Wesley tilted his bass on one side and rode the thing while continuing to slap it and moved the audience into a frenzy.

Johnny teasing the audience

Johnny teasing the audience

Now the audience was well-primed for Southern Culture on the Skids.

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S.C.O.T.S.

We had not seen Southern Culture on The Skids (S.C.O.T.S.) before, but knew they played The Tractor and other venues in Seattle for several years.  Originally from South Carolina, they have been going steady since 1983. They have also played with Los Straitjackets, including their big Halloween party/tour/album last year called Mondo Zombie Boogaloo.  Our friend Dean told us before that this was a must-see band. We were just happy to have another free weekend and time to see some live music.

Mary Huff

Mary Huff

The week before the show, I checked their website and watched some of their crazy videos.  The big wigs and go-go boots worn by bass player Mary Huff immediately reminded me of Kate and Cindy of The B-52’s. Some songs also reminded me of the silliness and party style of The B-52’s with titles like “Double Wide”, “Camel Walk”, and “Daddy Was a Preacher But Mama Was a Go-Go Girl”:

Their music, led by guitarist Rick Miller in a seersucker suit, was a quirky blend of surf, punk, blues, rockabilly, roots rock, and kick-ass rock ‘n’ roll. He had us completely mesmerized as his nimble fingers slid over his fret board delivering scorching solo runs. Drummer Dave Harman stood at the drum kit and pounded away, while keeping up a rapid-fire surf beat. He sported a nice bowling shirt at the beginning of the show.  He quickly removed it as things heated up and exposed his wife-beater t-shirt with the screen-printed phrase, “Free Mustache Rides”.  Even funnier was the fact that he had no mustache. Mary’s turn on bass was seemingly effortless as she thumped out fast, repetitive bass riffs and kept her cool, only showing the heat when powdering her nose and checking her giant bouffant wig on stage between songs.

Rick Miller

Rick Miller

Although the music stood alone and was entertaining in its own right, there are some hilarious traditions that happen at a S.C.O.T.S. show.  One is, if you are dressed in appropriate attire (extravagant and colored wig, go-go boots, 60’s dress or possibly a light blue tux), you may be invited up on stage for a little dancing.

Guest Dancers

Guest Dancers

If you like fried chicken, you might be asked to serve (throw) it to audience members during their song “Eight Piece Box”.

Chicken Throwers

Chicken Throwers

When Rick played “Jack The Ripper” he shredded that guitar in an extended solo and went all Jimi Hendrix on us.  He played his guitar behind his head, held it out over the audience, and eventually laid it down–not to light it afire, but to sit on it and make it scream.  Bizarre, hilarious, and fantastic, but without losing the quality of the blazing solo.

Butt Solo

Butt Solo

We were so engaged in the entire evening, we didn’t realize that it was almost 1 am.  Time had no meaning this night.  After their outrageous performance, we thanked each member and asked them to sign a copy of their latest CD entitled Dig This. Each member was so appreciative and friendly.  We’ll be sure to hit their show next time they come around.  I listened to CD with the ragtop down that next week.  I dug that.

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Check out S.C.O.T.S. tour schedule–mostly Southeast dates the rest of the year.

September 28, 2014 Posted by | aplscruf, Big Sandy, black crabs, Concert Season 2014, southern culture on the skids, The Tractor Tavern | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers at The Gorge 8.15.14

Steve, Mike and Tom

Steve, Mike, Tom and Ron

Tom Petty hasn’t played The Gorge in four long years.  Last time in 2010, we had a pretty negative experience which had nothing to do with Tom’s fantastic show. The disorganized crowd management system sent the entire ticket-holding population through a very narrow funnel of bag checks and scans which delayed entrance at least an hour; hundreds of people missed the opener, Joe Cocker, altogether. We arrived early and were fortunate to get to our seats partway through Cocker’s mind-blowing set.  We also had trouble with drunks that walked on chair seats in front of us, and more than once fell into us. I literally caught guys falling so I didn’t get smashed underneath them. Our view of the stage was also partially obscured by a big curtain, although the ticket info never stated that when I purchased them online.  After seeing Tom in such intimate spaces as The Troubadour and The Fonda Theatre, our expectations were low this time around.  As it turned out, I was pleasantly surprised.

The Gorge Disciples

The Gorge Disciples

Pat and I always “rough it” in The Gorge campground.  We create a makeshift camp by taking a large tent fly and extend it off the back of our Explorer and set up a small table and camp chairs, protected by sun or rain.We bring a cooler and have snacks before and after the show. A double air mattress fits in the back. It’s fairly comfy, although sleep is minimal due to the loud campers surrounding us that stay up till the wee hours.  Potty time means trudging several yards through rows of campers to the honey bucket zone.  After the show, it doesn’t smell so great. That is to be expected, though, and we deal with it because it beats the nearly three-hour drive home at midnight.

Cave B Inn

Cave B Inn

This show, though, was our best experience so far, surprisingly due to a communication snafu with our friends’ VIP tickets. Our Bellingham buddies L and K had the fortune of staying at Cave B Inn, a beautiful hotel, restaurant and winery with additional cottages nestled into the basalt cliffs, like caves.  As an added bonus, they purchased VIP tickets, which offered early access in a separate entrance and choice, third-row seating.

After we set up camp in the rain (it was predicted to clear up by concert time–rain was another first for us here in the desert), our friends picked us up early so we could grab tickets and head back to Cave B for wine tasting and dinner before the show. We were able to get our general sale Will-Call tickets (10th row) right away. They were not able to pick up their VIP tickets because of a print error between the marketing campaign email and the information received at the ticket window as to the ticket distribution time.  K, who had arranged for the tickets, immediately called the customer service department and left a message after politely arguing with the ticket window agent who insisted they would not be able to pick up their tickets for another two hours, even though he showed the agent the email stating they could pick them up at three o’clock.  The customer service rep called him back within a half hour and asked what it would take to remedy the situation.  K said, “Four passes to the Cliffhouse Lounge should do it.”

View from the Cliffhouse

View from the Cliffside Lounge

After a luxurious time at Cave B where we enjoyed wine tasting and a delicious dinner, we received wristbands for the VIP Cliffhouse Lounge with air conditioning, flush toilets and a screamin’ view of The Gorge and purple sunset. We could only see the back and side of the stage, but the desert view and cool breeze made up for sitting on those metal chairs among the crowd of thousands of “commoners”.  We missed opener Steve Winwood completely, but we saw him here in 2008.  We could hear his music from our perch, though. We cooled off and watched the first half of the Seahawks game, too, before walking down to our assigned seats for Tom Petty’s show. I could get used to this. Thanks, L and K, for letting us tag along in style!

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers (Benmont out of pic, on left at piano)

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers (Benmont out of pic, at grand piano)

Tom’s Gorge show was a sing-along mix of Greatest Hits, threaded with some new songs from Hypnotic Eye, which hit #1 on The Billboard charts and received a 4-star review in Rolling Stone. He also threw in a few rare gems from the past: “Into The Great Wide Open”, “Hard to Find A Friend”, and “Yer So Bad”.

Light Show

Light Show

The light show was fantastic and colorful–I wondered if they purposely lit them in Seahawks colors.  The lights were the best I’ve seen there with any band.  Large viewing screens on each side flashed with lots of close-up shots or interesting graphics throughout the evening.

Showing off another guitar

Showing off another guitar

The boys were energetic and played to the audience.  Each member of the band had their moment to shine. Mike and Tom moved around the whole stage and made sure we all got a good look at both of them. Tom’s vocals were top-notch and never faltered.  His sneering lyrics on the new “American Dream Plan B” brought to mind earlier material from the 1970’s.  His faithful disciples sang along on cue as he raised his arms in triumph.  Tom toned it down a notch for “Rebels” and brought out a beautiful acoustic guitar.  It’s such a lovely song to hear live.  He apologized for not being so talkative this night because he said he had a lot of songs to play for us.  Mike’s guitar solos were phenomenal, especially on Mojo’s bluesy “I Should Have Known It” and a favorite classic, “Refugee”.   Also, Mike and Tom switched out guitars almost every song. We lost track of how many we saw!  Some I recognized from previous shows, but there were quite a few new ones in the stack this time.

Rebels

Rebels

The Gorge crowd was also pleasant.  The people in our row and surrounding us were polite, friendly, and not completely drunk. We all sang along with the boys and batted at balloons and beach balls, adding to the summer fun.  As predicted, the sky cleared and the stars shone brightly above us.

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Guitar Duet

Mike Campbell solo

Mike Campbell solo

Tom

Tom

Here’s a review from Todd Hamm of The Seattle Times and Tom’s setlist as it appears on his website:

http://blogs.seattletimes.com/soundposts/2014/08/16/tom-petty-at-top-of-his-game-at-gorge-concert-review/

http://www.tompetty.com/blog/gorge-recap-setlist-photos-395376

So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n Roll Star (The Byrds cover)
Mary Jane’s Last Dance
American Dream Plan B
Into The Great Wide Open
Forgotten Man
I Won’t Back Down
Free Fallin’
Tweeter and The Monkey Man (Traveling Wilburys cover)
U Get Me High
Rebels
Hard To Find A Friend
Yer So Bad
Learning to Fly
Shadow People
I Should Have Known It
Refugee
Runnin’ Down A Dream

Encore:
You Wreck Me
American Girl

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Taking a Bow

I always get a little misty-eyed during “American Girl”, knowing this is the last song of the evening.  Tom and the band reserve a burst of energy for this song, making it a fantastic, explosive conclusion to the night.  So bittersweet.

We said goodbye and trudged along the path for what seemed like an hour, back to our campsite.  We had arrived in the afternoon to a fairly empty field, and now it was completely full. Walls of RV’s, trailers and tents surrounded us.  Where the hell was our truck?  We ended up walking another 20 minutes or so up and down the aisles of vehicles searching for our campsite.  The campground needed some colored flags to mark the rows or something. Finally, Pat’s good sense of direction guided us to the right location.  Exhausted, we slept for a few hours before heading home at sunrise.

September 16, 2014 Posted by | aplscruf, Concert Season 2014, The Gorge Amphitheatre, Tom Petty | , , , | Leave a comment

Supernova: Ray LaMontagne Brings Psychedelic Pop to Marymoor Park 8.13.14

Ray LaMontagne at Marymoor Park

Ray LaMontagne at Marymoor Park

Another beautiful summer sunset at Marymoor Park set the mood for the fans of  Ray LaMontagne. A mixed crowd of young and youthful happily lazed on the grassy field, chatted in the food and drink lines and hung out in the reserved section.  My friend and I were looking forward to a girls’ night out together; the setting and music made for a perfect evening.

We arrived a little late after enjoying a relaxing dinner in Redmond first.  Our 6th-row seats were waiting for us when we strolled into the park and followed the path to the tree-lined venue.

The Belle Brigade

The Belle Brigade

The Belle Brigade were onstage playing their hearts out when we quietly took our seats.  Most prominent was drummer/frontwoman Barbara Gruska, whom we really enjoyed watching.  Her drum style reminded me of the enthusiastic Aimee Zoe of Jackrabbit.  Her brother Ethan Gruska played electric guitar and both also backed Ray LaMontagne later that evening.  They have a new album out called Just Because.  Their poppy music is underscored with beautiful harmonies from the siblings.

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Soon after, Ray LaMontagne entered the stage as the rest of the crew found their places.  The crowd cheered, and stragglers quickly found their seats.

Ray dove right in and hardly spoke to audience during the first half of the set except to say a brief thank you here and there. He might have been quiet, but on this night, he was definitely the frontman.  He gave it all to us, and seemed very focused and intense as he belted out one song after the next. By the end of the night, the sweat was pouring off him.  That voice–so unusual and raspy, high and sensual, just rang out over the rest of the skilled band. His music was a mix of energetic, psychedelic pop and a few low-key beautiful folk songs and some old soul.  Ray played just about every song off his new album, Supernova before exploring the rest of his catalog.

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He finally warmed up to the crowd and asked if they felt alright tonight, and if they wanted to get up and dance.  Loud cheers erupted, followed by a rush of mostly females to the foot of the stage.  The lucky dozens (including my friend and I) that pushed to the front experienced a more intimate show.  Lots of bouncing and dancing ensued.  The faithful fans sang along and cheered.  Ray’s searing vocals gave me goosebumps when he tilted his head back and hit the high notes of the chorus in “Trouble”. Oh, Lord! The audience went crazy during this, his signature song from a decade ago.  Ahh, just perfect.

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September 13, 2014 Posted by | aplscruf, Concert Season 2014, Marymoor Park, Music | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Backwoods” in the Evening: A Rowdy Night with Massy Ferguson and Friends

Massy Ferguson celebrated another EP release on Friday, August 8 at Conor Byrne Pub in Ballard.  

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We began the warm summer night with a special treat: a parking spot directly in front of The Tractor, across the street from Conor Byrne. After all these years, we’ve never parked that close, especially on the first go ’round.

Fredd Luongo, lead singer of The Swearengens, stood in front of the Tractor with his band mates and watched us park the car.  I stayed in the car for a minute and pulled on my boots. I caught Fredd in my peripheral vision, staring me down.  His blue eyes followed me as I stepped onto the sidewalk, and I knew what he was going to say.

“You’re going to the Massy Ferguson show tonight, aren’t you?” A very sober look crossed his face.

“Uh, yes. Yes we are, Fredd,” I said, my voice full of remorse. “I’m so sorry!  We already committed to their show before realizing that you were playing tonight, too.  I’ll tell you what–if there’s time, we’ll run over and catch your show, I promise!”

I felt like some sort of traitor.  I love The Swearengens just as much as I love Massy Ferguson. Lately, for some reason, the timing has been off in our efforts to make it to a Swearengens show. Both bands have played in the Seattle area for years and tour with other local and national bands, too.  And this night, they played across the street from each other.  The stars were crossed tonight, I’m afraid.

With tails between our legs, Pat and I headed down the to Bad Albert’s for a quick and hearty dinner–pulled pork on toasted roll with slaw and fish sandwich and chips.  Great pub food, and inexpensive, too.

Conor Byrne is a long, rectangular brick building with a bar lining the left side and a few benches and tables along the right wall and scattered near the stage.  The triangular stage was ridiculously small for the piles of equipment loaded on and around it.  A low velvet couch against the wall near the side of the stage looked like it was built about the time of the opening of the original structure. We chose to sit on the couch and sunk way down into the worn, threadbare cushions.  That was OK–at least we didn’t have to stand for the show.  It was going to be a long night.

Hook and Anchor

Hook and Anchor

Hook and Anchor, a talented, five-piece, multi-instrumental Americana band opened the show. I liked their bluegrass vibe.  The female lead singer, Kati Claborn, had quite a large vocal range, and hit some beautiful high notes in a song near the end of the set.  She also played banjo and acoustic guitar.  She switched out to upright bass for one song and let the bass player Luke Ydstie lead on banjo.  Fiddler and guitarist Gabrielle Macrae sang her own song and accompanied on others. The band also included collaborator Erik Clampitt on vocals, guitar and steel, and Ryan Dobrowski on drums. They reminded me of The Gourds in the way they democratically let everyone take a turn at different instruments and vocals. The band had a helluva time switching out instruments, positioning amps and monitors, and changing places on the tiny stage.  They really deserve to be on a larger stage to showcase their fine talents without the distraction of trying not to get in each other’s way. 

Legendary Oaks

Legendary Oaks

Legendary Oaks, a four-piece rocking alt-country band loaded in after shuffling around the equipment. Pat and I talked to them outside before the show. We saw them back in January at The Sunset Tavern. I remember it well, because there was this strange turn on the dance floor that night.  The boys were up on stage rockin’ out, and these girls that looked like they’d just been to a Bellevue dance club came in wearing pretty dresses and high heels and started raising the roof!  We had a good laugh over that, and frontman Craig Schoen remembered my written account of the crazy evening. We were looking forward to another great show, but with probably a little less disco on the dance floor.

They rocked again with some psychedelic jams. Their lead guitarist Zoran Macesic could be The Edge’s protege, with echoing, haunting, repetitive guitar licks.  Schoen’s vocals turned a dark corner, Dave Grohl-style, and went from a smooth, even tone to a wail.  He jammed on his acoustic like a true rock star, with posturing and angst-riddled facial expressions.  Their sound has a bit of a Tom Petty vibe, too, which makes their songs so addictive.  Bassist Chris Jordan and drummer Justin Ansley kept the tight beat going for their strong set. They left the stage soaked in sweat.  Legendary Oaks also packed the floor, although the dancing was minimal this time around. 

As promised, we trotted across the street to see if The Swearengens were still on, hoping to catch a few songs before Massy Ferguson took the stage.  We just missed them.  Fredd was manning the merch table. We caught his eye and slowly waved goodbye to him with pouting faces.  Sorry, Fredd.

Massy Ferguson

Massy Ferguson L-R: Tony Mann, Dave Goedde, Adam Monda, Ethan Anderson

Massy Ferguson’s new 6-track, mostly acoustic album, entitled Backwoods is just what I would expect from the boys.  It has just the right balance of beer-swillin’ songs and sober, thoughtful tunes. Lead singer and bassist Ethan Anderson shared his thoughts about the new EP: 

An album is a time piece, I’ve always thought. It captures a moment, a snapshot of what an artist or band is or what they are feeling at the time. In that way, albums are bound and chained to the stage of life of the artist. And, honestly, these are more “sober” times for MF. Three of us have had kids with wives/girlfriend, etc., and all the grown-up stuff that comes with that, and Tony is leaving the band for the better part of a year (he’s headed to Costa Rica – hence the song “Last Note”). I think all of us have been feeling a little more worn down by the “business” of music–maybe it’s age, maybe it’s wisdom. Sober is not a bad thing, it gives you ability to better reflect; and I think this album is, at its core, quite reflective. Reflective on individual expectations, on art, on nature, on personal histories, on places and spaces we’ve occupied.

“We’ve proven over the years that we can write songs for the bar-room, but we had this palette of songs that were more pretty, introspective and acoustic – 6 of them to be exact – and they didn’t really fit in with the feel of our other new material. They felt like a break from what we do, and I’m really glad they turned out the way they did sonically.”

Massy Ferguson started off strong with the title track and “90’s Darlin'” from Backwoods.  They squeezed in a couple of female vocalists to the stage, adding to their already-big sound and filling up every square foot of stage space with instruments, pedals, and power cords (and power chords, of course).  The band got the people on their feet and clapping to their energized blend of alt-country, with mostly upbeat songs keeping them engaged throughout the night.  

DSC05956Ethan took a few moments during the set and christened the new EP with a poignant yet humorous speech about where he’s headed musically and where he’s ended up physically with this band.  He paraphrased it later: “…the moment right when you start to wake up in the morning where your brain is cloudy and you realize you are not in your bed at home. As a musician this is something I’ve experienced a lot. I’ve woken up in a bed next to Tony in a Richland, WA motel room, I’ve woken up next to a 68 year old British man named Nick on our recent UK tour, I’ve woken up on the floor of the Brick Tavern in Roslyn...Backwoods in the Morning is probably mostly about waking up (literally and metaphorically) in a better place, a better headspace, in a new recognition of your life and who you are, where you have been.”

Even the bar was a different space for them. “As for the Conor Byrne show, again, even the show was a departure from the usual. That’s not a room we play, but we’d heard it was a good room for acoustic music. The sound for us wasn’t as spectacular as I’d hoped, but the show was definitely fun. Once you’ve been a musician in a town for a long time, you like to shake things up a bit, and I  think we did just that with the Conor Byrne show. It was a bit more of an unknown commodity than, say, the Tractor or Nectar or places we’ve played a lot. And, truthfully, the EP is a bit more of an unknown commodity too, compared to what we usually do.”

Adam Monda on lead guitar decided to go all acoustic tonight and follow the tone for their new EP, which added a rich, subdued sound to some of the more rocking numbers.  It worked on this smaller stage, although as Ethan mentioned above, there were some sound issues and the occasional feedback hum.  Tony Mann had some great solos on keys, including a noticeable turn on “Last Note” from the EP.  Dave Goedde is fun to watch on drums; his long arms pounded out the strong country-rock beat.  He must have felt a little claustrophobic this night, crushed into the very back corner of the miniscule stage. 

Adam Monda (Guitar) and Ethan Anderson (Flute) of Massy Ferguson

Adam Monda (Guitar) and Ethan Anderson (Flute) of Massy Ferguson

Our favorite part of the night is when the flute comes out. We know there is going to be a sing-along to a cover song, and possibly a few extra fans or musicians on stage to help out.  Ethan held the revered flute up high and the audience cheered. The band held nothing back, and several of the other band members joined them until there was absolutely no room for any more people or instruments.  Guest percussionists pounded on pint glasses (more than one broke and ended up on the stage) to add to the wall of sound.  The audience, as instructed, sang and danced, bounced and clapped heartily as they played “Last Note” and “Bum Drunk” to finish off the fabulous night.  

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I enjoy evangelizing when it comes to our favorite Seattle bands.  We try to invite friends every time we go out to a show.  Many get the thrill of experiencing an unknown band for the first time.  It’s so invigorating to watch their eyes light up when a particularly rollicking song catches their attention.  I feel like we’ve done our part to spread the word about the great music that happens every week in Seattle.  This night was no exception.  Pat invited his friend and co-worker Gary, and he was thankful to get out and listen to new music tonight.  His wife and friend came to the show later after attending the Lady Gaga spectacle at Key Arena.  They were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the bands here in this tiny bar.  Quite a bit of a scene change from Lady Gaga.

The rowdy night ended with the setlist, signed CD’s, a drive with the top down, and Dick’s hamburgers at 1 am. 

Massy Ferguson Setlist

Massy Ferguson Setlist

**Catch Massy Ferguson around town over the next few weeks, including The Tractor Sept. 19th with Austin’s Band of Heathens, and Ballard’s Macefield Festival Oct. 3rd, where they will play at The Sunset.**

September 10, 2014 Posted by | Americana, aplscruf, Concert Season 2014, Conor Byrne, Hook and Anchor, Legendary Oaks, Massy Ferguson | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Late Encounter With the Idiot – Reposted from Windup Wire

aplscruf:

Here is a thought-provoking post from one of my favorite bloggers (who also happens to play bass in one of my favorite bands–Shinyribs).

Originally posted on Windup Wire:

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I’ve seen horrors… horrors that you’ve seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that… but you have no right to judge me. It’s impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror… Horror has a face… and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies! I remember when I was with Special Forces… seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate some children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn’t see. We went back there, and they had come and…

View original 2,603 more words

August 28, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On The Road (Again)

My son, now a high school graduate, is doing what all young adults should do after graduating.  He’s hitting the road with his three best friends.  After weeks of planning, changing their minds a hundred times on where to stay, what to bring, when to leave and where to go, they finally piled in a Toyota mini van early this morning.  They’re on their way.  An adventure, says my mom, is something all people should experience.  Take a chance.  Hit the road.  Fly to an unexplored destination.

Of course with this road trip, the boys are bringing their highly organized play lists.  Jacob pored over his iTunes for just the right songs for the journey south.  Unfortunately, it did not include the ultimate road trip song, “On The Road Again” by Willie Nelson.  Cue the video:

The boys, being a bit on the nerdy side, made some rules, which included giving the driver the power to veto any song selection he felt unworthy or annoying.  The three remaining boys can only veto a song the driver chooses by a 3-vote unanimous agreement.  I’m sure there are other rules, but those stuck in my mind as the most important for any road trip with friends.

They’ll make their way from Washington (and enjoy rush-hour traffic on this beautiful Monday morning from Seattle to Portland) to their first overnight stop in Crescent City, CA.  The next day will be spent wandering through the mighty Redwoods before the long haul to Southern Cal, where they’ll spend a few days playing at Magic Mountain, Universal’s City Walk, and gawking in Hollywood.  Then, a weary journey north, back home.

While planning the trip over the last few weeks, we shoveled shitloads of advice at our son, most of it translated through his ears and into his intelligent brain as: “bla-bla bla bla bla bla-bla bla bla bla…”  Yeah, I know he’s a grownup and doesn’t need to hear our advice any longer.  But, we feel, as eternal parents, we must give our unsolicited advice to feel better about ourselves!  Disclaimers, if you will.  We TOLD him not to…so if he does it anyway, we’re off the hook.

We want him to be safe and just have a good time.  We want him to experience all the fun and joy of being free on the road, even just for this one week. Just so long as they don’t go so far as Jack Kerouac. It’s hard to let go.

“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”
Jack Kerouac, On the Road

 

 

 

July 28, 2014 Posted by | aplscruf, Concert Season 2014, Jack Kerouac, Uncategorized, Willie Nelson | , , , | 3 Comments

Weird Al is Taking Over the World with “Mandatory Fun”

Weird Al Yankovic is ordering us to have Mandatory Fun.  The fun has already started this week, with the release of one music video a day to promote his new album.  Here’s the first one, guaranteed to make you happy:

http://www.nerdist.com/vepisode/weird-al-yankovic-gets-tacky-with-pharrells-happy/

July 16, 2014 Posted by | Concert Season 2014, Uncategorized, Weird Al Yankovic | , , | Leave a comment

Heart Heats Up Marymoor Park July 1, 2014

Nancy and Ann Wilson Heating Up the Stage

Nancy and Ann Wilson Heating Up the Stage

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any hotter on this record-breaking scorcher of a Tuesday, Heart lit the stage on fire.

Pat and I have lived near Seattle our entire lives and we’ve never seen Heart in concert. Looking back, it seems like a sin.  Last spring, we witnessed Ann Wilson as a surprise guest at PettyFest. She belted out Tom Petty’s songs with such rockin’ fury, we knew we had to see her with a full band sometime.  We didn’t have to wait long; soon after, Heart tickets for Marymoor Park went on sale.  They were overpriced, but we decided to go for it.

*  *  *   

I knew with the July heat and weekday traffic, that this night would either be hit or miss.  We planned our route, left a little early from work and were surprised at how quickly we entered the park and found good parking.  

Now the wait began.  A huge line was already forming, yards away from the gate.  Of course, the line was situated directly in the 95-degree sun, so we hunkered down as best we could.  I brought an umbrella, but we chose to just bear it and turn away from the sun as long as possible (I know I’ll miss that sun come November).  I finally gave up and found a shady spot while Pat dealt with the heat and the line.  It started moving fairly quickly in about 20 minutes, and I re-joined him when it turned a corner into the shade.  We got in after a quick bag search.

Our eighth-row seats were stage left, just right of center.  Nice.  We could handle this spot.  The seats were at a triangular configuration, so it was easy to get in and out of there without having to crawl over too many people.  We made our way back over to the beer and food trucks. Luckily, we entered the food line fairly quickly because I’m sure the people last in line behind us had an hour wait.  We settled on a Surf Infusion truck and ordered yummy tacos and a pulled pork sandwich.  They held us over for the rest of the night. Alright, the logistical details are finished. All went well, and better than expected. We were looking forward to relaxing and enjoying the show.

As we were finishing our food, Michael Grimm took the stage.  He was the winner on Season 5 (2010) of “America’s Got Talent” and played a nice solo acoustic set.  His smooth voice had just a touch of grit.  Grimm and Ann Wilson sang a duet for his debut, self-titled album, but we weren’t blessed with a duet tonight.

 

Michael Grimm opens the Heart show at Marymoor Park, Redmond, WA

Michael Grimm opens the Heart show on the massive stage at Marymoor Park, Redmond, WA

We found our seats as he finished up his last two songs.  We gave him a hearty applause, but there were still rows of people who hadn’t shown up yet.  Lots of them were stuck in the enormous food lines. I don’t think the show was sold out, either, which surprised me.  

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I was always a Heart fan, but in a “Well, they’re from Seattle, so of course I like them,” sort of way. I listened to Heart throughout my adolescence, but only own one vinyl album (Dog and Butterfly) and a more recent Greatest Hits CD.  They made an hourly appearance on our classic rock radio stations for decades.  I guess I took them for granted, even though they’ve sold over 35 million albums and keep making more, including the most recent album, Fanatic.

What I didn’t expect is to be completely blown away by Heart. I knew it would be a good show, but I was kind of expecting to just hang out in the summer heat and enjoy the music.  I did not realize the magnitude of their talents and the impact they would have on me.

Nancy Wilson starts off the rockin' night with "Crazy on You"

Nancy Wilson starts off the rockin’ night with “Crazy on You”

Nancy Wilson entered the stage to growing cheers as the crowd hurriedly found their seats.  We all stood and hushed up as Ms. Wilson strapped on a gorgeous acoustic guitar and played the intro to “Crazy On You”  with such power and emotion. Oh, I had chills on this 90-degree evening! I showed Pat my goose-pimpled arm.  She threw her golden tresses around with a toss of her head, posed, postured, and thrust the guitar up and down as she worked her magic on the strings with ease.  She is truly a guitar goddess; and I must admit, by the end of the night, I had a serious girl-crush on her. Pat didn’t seem to mind that one bit. Her lacy leg kicked high as she finished the intro, and Ann Wilson joined her on stage with a roar from the crowd.  

Ann Wilson, the raven-haired rock diva, hasn’t lost her vocal prowess. Her legendary female Voice of Rock is known throughout the world.  She belted out “Crazy On You” with the same gusto as she did in the 1970’s, and nailed the high notes in the chorus.

Ann Wilson, Queen of Heart

Ann Wilson, Queen of Heart

The 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees worked the entire stage, moved close to the edge and bent down for a closer view of their audience, waved to the crowd, smiled, grimaced and used their entire bodies to convey the music.  Their stage presence was one of the best I’ve seen in years.  Their backing band was great, too, but they held back and let Ann and Nancy shine. Current members include: Ben Smith, Debbie Shair, Craig Bartock, and Dan Rothchild.

The Setlist:

  • Crazy On You
  • Heartless
  • What About Love  – After this massive hit, Nancy exclaimed that Marymoor Park is very special to them because back in the day, they used to come to the Park with a 6-pack and a guitar and hang out.
  • Dreamboat Annie  – featured Ann on flute
  • Straight On
  • Little Queen
  • Let Me Roll It – Ann wanted to dedicate this Wings cover to Sir Paul McCartney, since he was sick recently.  They held nothing back, and I stomped along to the intro, in total heaven.
  • Heaven – a psychedelic tune, not quite accepted by the Music Industry execs, but one of their favorites.  Nancy played her guitar like a cello, upright and with a bow.
  • These Dreams  – Dedicated to Marymoor Park
  • Alone
  • Mashallah – from their new Fanatic album
  • Magic Man
  • Barracuda
  • Encore:
  • No Quarter
    (Led Zeppelin cover)
  • The Ocean
    (Led Zeppelin cover)
  • Immigrant Song
    (Led Zeppelin cover)
  • Kashmir
    (Led Zeppelin cover)
  • The Rain Song
    (Led Zeppelin cover)
  • Stairway to Heaven – Ann was a little raspy near the end of the long set, but was forgiven as she belted out Robert Plant’s falsetto vocals on “Stairway to Heaven” The Total Experience Gospel Choir joined them on stage for a couple of the Zeppelin tunes!  Amazing.

The crowd was super-polite, which was yet another treat for this fantastic night.  We didn’t see any drunks or rude behavior, other than a few people trying to work their way to the large gap between the front row and tall stage. We actually ended up at the front during the encore, due to ‘blind’ security officials. They just smiled and gave up trying to stop people; everyone was so well-behaved, it wasn’t a problem.  I actually rested my arm on the stage!  It was fantastic.  I was in heaven.  My soul smiled once again, and I turned back to show Pat—he smiled back.  He knew!

*Note: My pictures are horrible due to lighting and using my phone as a shabby excuse for a camera.  See Heart’s Facebook page for some incredible shots of the band from some amazing local photographers!

 

July 10, 2014 Posted by | Ann Wilson, Concert Season 2014, Heart, Marymoor Park, Music, Nancy Wilson | 1 Comment

Will Kimbrough, Rodney Crowell and Jedd Hughes Toured The West

Jedd Hughes, Rodney Crowell and Will Kimbrough played a specacular show at The Triple Door - Seattle. Photo Credits: Jacob Knight

Jedd Hughes, Rodney Crowell and Will Kimbrough played a spectacular show at The Triple Door – Seattle. Photo Credits: Jacob Knight

 

I just finished a blog for No Depression regarding our fantastic trip to California which ended with a fabulous show at Slim’s in San Francisco to see Will Kimbrough, Rodney Crowell and Jedd Hughes.  We then followed the boys to Seattle where they tore it up at The Triple Door.  Spectacular.  Here’s the link to my blog:

http://www.nodepression.com/live-review/will-kimbrough-rodney-crowell-and-jedd-hughes-gain-new-fans-san-francisco-and-seattle

June 29, 2014 Posted by | Americana, aplscruf, Concert Season 2014, Jedd Hughes, Music, Rodney Crowell, Seattle, Slim's San Francisco, The Triple Door, Will Kimbrough | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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