Concert Season 2013 is winding down. I thought I’d get a head start and list some highlights of the year in music. I still have a few shows I’m hoping to see before the year is up, but my busy schedule might prevent me from posting anything until 2014. I went to a few shows in the spring and summer that I never blogged about but deserve some mention here. There are also a few bands mentioned below that I didn’t get to see this year, but I’m hoping will show up in 2014. Some have new albums out, too. I’ll keep it short and will give you the basic information. It will be up to you, dear reader, to click on the links and look up these terrific bands, explore their music and purchase some CD’s for the gift-giving season. Most importantly, GET OUT THERE AND SEE A SHOW!
Local Seattle-Area Bands: (Mind you, this is an incomplete list of the enormously talented bands in Seattle)
Jackrabbit – One of our favorite little bands in Seattle. We kicked off the year seeing them at The Tractor in January. The threesome kicks ass on stage. Never a disappointment. They add new songs to the setlist quite frequently.
Massy Ferguson – A Seattle Rock-n-Roll/Country Rock Darling. We went to their CD Release Party for Victory and Ruins at The Triple Door. My Plus 1 and I had a fantastic time sitting in the front row for this performance which was also broadcast live for kids struggling with various illnesses in a local hospital. Frontman Ethan Anderson gave his all, as usual. It was the best performance by the band so far, in my opinion, and I’ve seen them play many shows over the years. We also saw them on a rainy summer evening in Duvall at an outdoor performance. They jinxed our perfect rain-free summer! A hearty group of fans braved the showers and were treated with another fine show by the boys. We picked up a cool t-shirt after the show. Massy Ferguson also frequent some of the wineries in Eastern Washington, so check ‘em out in Wenatchee, Tri-Cities and Walla Walla sometime. Here’s a blog I wrote last year for No Depression.
The Swearengens – Their motto is “The Seattle alt-country band your mama warned you about.” We try to see this band as often as possible. I love their big sound. You never know what will happen at one of their shows: dancing, drinking, special guests and lots of friends joining in on the fun. Oh, and never have a whiskey drinkin’ contest with frontman Fredd Luongo. You will lose. Their latest album, Waiting on the Sunrise is a treat. Check out their link and listen or purchase some merch.
Davidson Hart Kingsbery - His self-titled new album is getting some positive, nation-wide press. We saw part of his show in January, and dug it.
The Rainieros - Another tight country band with a Western swing kicker. Their latest album, Last Call received critical acclaim and was one of the top Americana albums of 2012. We saw them open for Big Sandy in August.
The Ganges River Band – We saw them for the first time at The Sunset this summer. They opened for Shinyribs and blasted through a clean set of country. Country Dave Harmonson helped out on pedal steel and electric guitar. Always a treat.
Ole Tinder – Ole timey country. We saw them open for Massy Ferguson at Barboza and at The Tractor with Jackrabbit. Mike Giacolino also has a solo project while Nils Peterson plays in another band called Rose Windows. JB Kardong also sits in with other bands including Jackrabbit and Sera Cahoone.
The Dusty 45′s - I’ll try to finish up a blog I started of this energetic show. Billy Joe Huels is THE Frontman. No one can light a trumpet ablaze, stand on a bass and blow the way he can! We went to a benefit concert supporting the DESC and were thoroughly entertained.
Star Anna – Opened solo for The Dusty 45′s. We’ve seen her shows several times. Her voice will grab your heart and rip it out. She has a new album out right now called Go To Hell, so pick it up and prepare to be mesmerized by her haunting vocals.
The Gourds - If Tom Petty is my musical Jesus, then The Gourds are my Church. Always a religious experience. My soul runneth over at every show, including the latest in August at The Tractor. One of my Best Weekends Ever.
Shinyribs - Kevin Russell’s solo project. He has so much creative energy that one band (The Gourds) isn’t enough for him. If you’re lucky, he’ll open for The Gourds and you’ll get double the fun. Check out his bandcamp site for a little booty shakin’ music. We saw him again just two weeks after his stint at The Tractor. He came back and played at The Sunset!
The Wild Feathers - This big band opened for Willie Nelson at Marymoor and we fell in love with them. Besides their original tunes, they managed to cover Tom Petty’s “Listen To Her Heart” with my approval.
Big Sandy – Roots rock, rockabilly and Western swing. Big Sandy’s a ball of energy and the king of smooth. He plays in Southern Cal most of the year, but tours around the country and Europe, too. If he shows up with Los Straitjackets (see below), it’s a Must-See show. We saw him in August at The Tractor.
Los Straitjackets – Eddie Angel’s lucha libre mask-wearing band of psycho surf musicians and one of Marshall Chapman’s (see Marshall below) favorite bands. Angel was actually the guitarist in Marshall’s band back in the 80′s. They’re known world-wide for their onstage antics and surf guitar mastery. I had the pleasure of meeting them at a local show a couple of years ago. They’re currently touring the East Coast. Hoping to see them again in 2014.
Greg Townson - Solo artist, Hi-Riser (Meet the Hi-Risers Here!) and Gregorio El Grande of Los Straitjackets. He can sing a swoon-worthy love song (buy his latest album, On Your Side) or perform a face-melting guitar solo. Check him out in Rochester, NY or on the current Los Straitjackets tour. He also joins the bands overseas to Italy, Spain and other countries.
Marshall Chapman – A Nashville treasure and my musical hero. Rodney Crowell calls her “The Goddess of Tall”. The first time I saw her was in 2011 at The Station Inn , a Nashville mecca for singer/songwriters of country, Americana and bluegrass. All my preconceived notions of Nashville flew out the window that night. She was REAL. She was CANDID. She had bare feet. And she wore basketball shorts to the performance. I liked her before she ever sang a note. Here is my blog of that show (scroll down a bit to find the Nashville section). She has a new album and a couple of books that are Must-Reads for music lovers. Check her website for more info and purchase some merch!
My husband, who travels to the Nashville area often, had a chance to see her play again this year at The Bluebird Cafe, another very famous yet tiny Nashville hangout. Will Kimbrough (see below) accompanied her on guitar once again to promote her new album, Blaze of Glory, which is getting rave reviews. I was so jealous that my husband attended the show without me, but I knew he would return with her signed CD. What I missed most were the stories that accompanied the songs. My husband recounted a few stories to me when he returned. She also told the audience that this album is meant to be shared with the one you love. Play it in the bedroom with the curtains drawn and the lights low. By the fifth song, you should be ripping each other’s clothes off.
My sweet husband did bring home a signed copy of Marshall’s CD. Throughout the album, the instruments stay firmly put in the background, allowing Marshall’s vocals and lyrics to shine. Occasionally, Mr. Mike Utley, one of Jimmy Buffet’s cohorts and co-producer of this album, drops in for a visit with an organ accompaniment. The first two songs offer some good ol’ rock and roll, and one includes The Reverend Todd Snider on vocals. After that, she pulls in for a sexy slow dance. A new genre is born, says Marshall: “Torch-song Americana”. Hear some tunes here.
Will Kimbrough - Another Nashville hero whom I found through Jimmy Buffett. We’ve seen him perform several times in various locations solo, with Rodney Crowell, Emmylou Harris, Todd Snider and with Marshall Chapman in Nashville. He just released a solo album, Sideshow Love, and will perform in the Seattle-Bellingham area in early January 2014! More info soon!! A MUST-SEE EVENT!!!
Willie Sugarcapps - An Americana supergroup starring Will Kimbrough- also with new album out this year. They are getting outstanding press and are currently enjoying a Gulf Shores Shrimp Fest weekend in Alabama.
Todd Snider - Now, The Reverend Todd Snider. He received his license to officiate in support of gay marriage. Part folk/Americana, part country, and part rock-n-roll. He can make a political statement in a song before you know what hit you. His live shows are a stand-up comedy act with some music thrown in. He makes you think, laugh and generally just have fun. He said he isn’t trying to preach to you, either. He tells these stories because they rhyme. We also saw him at The Triple Door last year, and I wrote a review for Randomvile. We saw him at The Zoo this summer on a perfect Sunday evening. He brought along Hayes Carll, whom I coined Todd Jr. by the end of his set. He was also a storyteller, and had funny songs that accompanied the backstories. His voice was a little more country than Todd’s, more akin to Jack Ingraham. Carll also had some inappropriate songs that he couldn’t sing because of “the children” in attendance. On his website, he had a ton of videos. Shawn Mullins, , of the notorious talk-sing “Rockabye” song, was a very pleasant surprise. His guitar playing was superb, and his other songs rich and interesting. Sarah Jarosz opened Todd’s show. I really enjoyed her clear folk vocals accompanied by a fiddler and a cellist, who plucked his instrument like a bass. She did a Bob Dylan cover of “Ring Them Bells” and it was wonderful. She only played about a half-hour set, but kept the audience’s attention the entire time.
Tommy Womack - Another favorite Nashville/Kentucky solo artist, a Daddy with Will Kimbrough, and collaborator with many others including Todd Snider. He has an album out (several, actually), and plays regularly at The Station Inn with Will and Marshall. He also wrote a humorous and heartbreaking tell-all about his life in the band Government Cheese called Cheese Chronicles. A very entertaining read. Visit with him on YouTube every Monday Morning for a cup of coffee (see his website or FB for more info) and pick up your own coffee mug on his website. ”Don’t let the bastards get you down!” I have yet to meet Tommy, but P got to meet him at The Station Inn last year. I’m hoping to make it back to Nashville in 2014.
Have I missed anyone here? I’m sure I have. It’s been a tough year to find time to get out there, so we’ve been very picky about our show dates. We try to see our regulars first and foremost. Once in a blue moon we see a new band or enjoy an opening set; it’s always a nice surprise to add one to our “favorite band” list,
I discovered The Hi-Risers quite by accident, but they’ve been a branch of a growing musical family tree for years. The tree sprouted for me when my love of Jimmy Buffett’s laid- back, Margaritaville empire led me to Will Kimbrough, who writes and plays occasionally with Jimmy and lives in Nashville. Ms. Marshall Chapman, a singer/songriter and Nashville legend, also wrote for Jimmy and plays regularly with Will. When my husband’s company moved their corporate headquarters to northern Alabama, we made a trip to Nashville last summer and got to meet and visit with Will and Marshall. Marshall also wrote a book about Nashville artists called They Came To Nashville and included a chapter about Eddie Angel, who used to be lead guitarist for her band. Following so far?
Eddie Angel is currently fronting Los Straitjackets, an instrumental surf band. Two weeks after I read Marshall’s book, Los Straitjackets played at Slow Food Roots Music Festival just north of Seattle. Two members of Los Straitjackets, Gregorio El Grande (guitar/vocals) and Senior Jason Smay (drums) also play in The Hi-Risers, based in Rochester, NY. Gregorio El Grande, a.k.a. Greg Townson, founded The Hi-Risers in 1997 with his long-time music collaborator Todd Bradley (bass/vocals). When Greg and Jason aren’t playing with Los Straitjackets, you can catch the trio tearing the place apart in a Rochester venue, various cities along the East Coast, or maybe even Europe.
After meeting Greg and the rest of Los Straitjackets briefly at the festival last summer, he was kind enough to send me a copy (via Todd Bradley–thanks, Todd!) of The Hi-Risers’ latest album, Once We Get Started (Spinout Records, 2008). They have several albums out, including some on a Spanish label, Rock & Roll, Inc. Greg was involved in writing most of the songs and collaborated with several talented people, including Todd, to complete the album. Some of the songs were previously recorded on Rock & Roll Inc., then re-recorded for this album. The history of the making of each song, tour dates and music store can be found on The Hi-Risers website.
I asked Greg how he managed to get so big in Europe, especially Spain. “We first went to Spain in 2004. A promoter there heard our second record, In The Spotlight, and hired us to play an amazing festival in Gijon. After that the band started to tour there on a regular basis and we built up a nice following. We’ve also played Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France, Finland, Belgium, Sweden and more. Rock & Roll Inc. is run by a good friend of mine and is based in Madrid. He’s a big fan and one of the nicest people I’ve met in the business.”
Once We Get Started is a delightful 14-track mix of multiple decades and genres of rock ‘n’ roll, surf, swing and rockabilly, but with original songs and their own trademark sound. Greg’s superb guitar skills rock each song with complex rhythms and runs, while Todd keeps that rock ‘n’ roll beat on bass. Greg and Todd also have sweet retro harmonies on many tracks. Jason Smay absolutely kills on drums and adds depth and speed to the poppy tunes. Their songs have very addictive lyrics; the title track stuck in my head the rest of the weekend. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly simple composition of these songs, though. As Greg says, “We work very hard to make it sound like we don’t work very hard, if you know what I mean.”
They tear the place apart on the first song, ”Foundation Rock” and end the disk with a screaming guitar solo on the frenetic “Two Week Notice”.
“She’ll Be My Ruin” makes me want to learn to swing dance:
“ATM Inside” has a modern rock tone and a darker quality as the boys lament their loss of funds from a girl with a heart like an ATM.
“Katy Did”, a pun on the katydid grasshopper, even includes a lyric about finding her in a meadow!
“One Note Joe” is frustratingly funny, as he literally only plays one note throughout the guitar solo:
Other tracks include heartbreakers and sweet love songs, as well as one that sounds like Jimmy Buffett himself should record called “Slack Jawed & Trout Mouthed”.
The Hi-Risers have a new album coming out in July called Hang Around With You. I look forward to reviewing that and spreading the word about this band made for sock hops and summer lovin’.
Here’s another video, just for fun:
Gregorio El Grande steals the show with his solo in “You Send Me”
Check out the Randomville article here: http://randomville.com/wordpress/?p=11564 for a more concise review. The blog below contains more details of our day at the festival.
Eddie Angel of Los Straitjackets coaxed the devil out of his guitar Saturday afternoon at a quiet little food and music festival in Stanwood, Washington.
I first heard of Los Straitjackets while reading They Came to Nashville by Marshall Chapman. I saw Ms. Chapman perform in Nashville in June of this year and purchased her book soon afterward. Eddie Angel was featured in her book because he used to play in her band back in the 80′s. He then formed Los Straitjackets in 1994. Chapman named Los Straitjackets as her favorite Nashville band, and Eddie Angel as her favorite guitar player. When I heard they were coming to the Seattle area, I had to go.
My husband was golfing the weekend they were supposed to play The Tractor; by the time I started scrambling to find someone else to go with, they sold out. Their website mentioned they would be playing at Slow Food Roots Music Festival in Stanwood. I looked them up, and decided to ask my teenage son if he could go with me, since the festival was family friendly. He surprisingly agreed, so I purchased the $20 tickets and told him we were in, and not to make any other plans.
My goal was to not only introduce my son to some unique music, but also feed him some decent fair food. I’m always surprised at the paradox of our local fairs to showcase beautiful animals, vegetables and fruit, and then serve heavily processed, greasy fast food. But this festival tried something different. The vendors were local. The food was grown locally, and the menu included burgers, beef brisket (cooked 15 hours on-site), veggie wraps, fruit smoothies, salads, roasted corn, desserts from a local bakery, and locally roasted coffee.
After a slow drive through heavy Everett traffic, we arrived about 2:00. It was a perfectly warm, sunny day, with a little breeze to keep us from overheating.
We were hungry and purchased delicious hamburgers with fixin’s that included rhubarb ketchup, herb-infused mustard, beautiful butter lettuce, ripe tomatoes and fresh buns that were hand-cut. They were so flavorful.
We grabbed some water bottles and found a seat in the small set of wooden risers just a few yards from the stage. In front of us, there were people scattered about in beach chairs and blankets. A few hundred people gathered in the vicinity of the stage and beer garden.
The Moondoggies were finishing up a tight set, and sounded fantastic on this warm summer day. I kicked myself for not driving up a bit earlier. I do plan to see them again soon.
We wandered around after their set to find some dessert – a giant, tasty snickerdoodle. We walked back to the stage and settled in again on the risers. The crowd picked up a bit when it was announced that Los Straitjackets would be coming on stage in a few minutes.
My son refused to see a video or any pictures of the band. I thought he was just being a lazy teenager, but he told me he really wanted to be surprised. I only told him they were an instrumental surf band, and they wore Mexican wrestling masks. That was good enough for him!
I watched my son’s metallic grin spread all the way across his face as Los Straitjackets took the stage, decked out in their campy, colorful spandex wrestling masks, black bowling shirts with their names embroidered on the pocket, and black pants.
They started out the set with a slower song that showcased their unique surf guitar sound. Their matching, sparkly Galaxie 4 guitars were custom-made by DiPinto Guitars, based in Philadelphia, PA. They put those guitars to work.
By the third song, “Casbah,” more people showed up and started paying attention. Senior Angel thanked the audience in pidgin Spanish, sans accent, and introduced the song: “Gracias, damas y caballeros, otro cancion es…Casbah! The three guitarists lined up and jutted their heads like pigeons to the beat of the song.
The fifth song was a cover, “You Send Me” and I felt like I was a 50’s sock hop doing a slow dance with Marty McFly.
“Despues, a new…nuevo cancion called Space Mosquito, o Mosquito del Espacio!” This was a new song from their upcoming album.
Senior Angel’s skillful guitar playing was magical. I’ve really never seen anything like it. Maybe even the best I’ve ever seen, for pure entertainment value. He was all over the frets, throwing his pick hand behind his head making it look and sound like he had some kind of telepathic control over that guitar. He was plucking, picking, pounding on the neck, making that thing scream out sounds I’ve never heard. Maybe he was possessed. Dios Mio! El Diablo!
A second guitar, played by and introduced as El Stupendo, El Fantastico Senior Gregorio El Grande (Greg Townson). He rattled out the solos, playfully hit harmonics, slowed it down, and complemented Angel’s guitar to perfection. He stopped through part of a solo, threw his arms up toward the crowd in a show of triumph, and they whooped and clapped for more. When not touring with Los Straitjackets, El Grande plays in another band with the drummer, Jason Smay called The Hi-Risers, based in Rochester, NY.
The drummer, Senior Jason Smay, had his hands full keeping up with the fast surfer pace, banging away in the hot August sun. He had a remarkable solo of his own during a cover of “Sing Sing Sing,” and received a well-deserved standing ovation.
The bass player, Senior Pedro (Pete) Curry, whose mask was epic with winged sides like some loco Jurassic lizard, had very difficult runs and some fun coordinating dance moves with the two guitarists during the long set. They would stand together and play or cross their legs at the same time, pose, throw their arms up in unison, and mug for my camera.
Many of the songs were fun covers, but they are also getting ready to drop a new album and played two more original songs, including “Bobsleddin’,” and one called “Positively 6th Street.” I only wish we were watching their act at a beach party in Southern California, where we were free to dance and get a little…Psycho! (Cue the Psycho Beach Party Video!)
Some of the other covers included “Tequila,” in which Angel asked the beer garden: “Quiere Tequila?” and blasted into that famous song. They also played “The Munsters” theme song, the Stones’ “Time is on My Side,” and–uh, Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” from The Titanic. It sounded so cool, though!
Senior Angel kept forgetting where he was playing and exclaimed to the crowd, “Viva, uh, viva…Stanley? No? Stanwood. Viva Stanwood! Y viva…[he read off the festival name from Gregorio's wrist band] Slow Food Roots Music Festival!” The crowd laughed and cheered heartily, and he continued, “Viva Beer Garden!” More cheers. “Viva Batman!” and plowed right into the “Batman” theme song to a happy crowd.
We moved to the side and sat on hay bales next to the right side of stage during encore while they played a Ritchie Valens instrumental, and it was a perfect, beautiful rendition.
After the quick encore, I told Jacob to make a dash for the side of the stage, as I hoped we could catch them before they left. It was so open, it was easy to see them. There was a lone security guard who cheerfully helped bring the guys over to meet us.
Eddie came over first, and I had my copy of Marshall Chapman’s book in my hand. He recognized it immediately and was taken aback. He said he’d never seen anyone with the book at a show before. I quickly told him how we were just in Nashville in June and saw Marshall’s show, and realized they would be coming to town! He happily signed my book on the picture in chapter about him. The drummer Jason signed it too, and thanked us for being there.
The security guard brought over Gregorio who also signed the book, gave me his card, and was glad to hear I was doing a review of the show. I told him I heard they tore it up at The Tractor last night, but I couldn’t get tickets. He remembered they sold out. He said they had a great time. I told him The Tractor was our favorite place to see live shows, and he said he’d come back as long as The Tractor is still there. He said hello to my son, whom I quickly introduced. He shook Jacob’s hand (Jacob later admitted that was pretty cool). Gregorio then called the bass player over, who also signed and after hearing my explanation of how I acquired the book, said to me, “Marshall–she’s a smart one!” Yes, she is.
I was shaking when I left. I was so excited to get not only Eddie Angel’s autograph, but the whole band’s! Jacob said, “Calm down, Mom!” and smiled as he said it.
We were almost hungry again and purchased peach smoothies, a beef brisket sandwich, then went back for roasted corn cob and pecan pie bars for dessert. The entertainment, the food, the perfect weather…Yeah, it was a good day at the festival.
Viva Los Straitjackets!
- Alan Rickman
- Ayron Jones and The Way
- Benjamin Doerr
- Big Daddy's Place
- Big Sandy
- Bob Dylan
- Brent Amaker and the Rodeo
- Chateau Ste Michelle
- Columbia City Theater
- Concert Season 2005
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- Concert Season 2009
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- Concert Season 2012
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- Concert Season 2014
- Cristina Bautista
- Damian Brennan
- Darrell's Tavern
- David Bowie
- Davidson Hart Kingsbery
- Dudley Taft
- Dusty 45's
- Emmylou Harris
- Flight to Mars
- Fox and The Law
- George Harrison
- Gimme Shelter
- Hard Rock Cafe
- Harry Belafonte
- High Dive
- Jakob Dylan
- Jimmy Buffett
- John Mellencamp
- Kasey Anderson
- Langhorne Slim
- Los Straitjackets
- Mark Pickerel and His Praying Hands
- Marshall Chapman
- Marymoor Park
- Massy Ferguson
- Murphy's Lagh
- Nectar Lounge
- New Mexico
- North Twin
- Old 97's
- Ole Tinder
- Paul McCartney
- Railroad Earth
- Randy Hansen Band
- Redhook Brewery
- Rod Stewart
- Rodney Crowell
- Rolling Stones
- Roots Rock
- Ryan Adams
- Ryan Purcell and The Last Round
- Small Sur
- St. Paul de Vence
- Star Anna
- Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs
- Steve Martin
- Stevie Ray Vaughan
- Tagaris Winery
- The Avett Brothers
- The B-52's
- The Black Crabs
- The Cardinals
- The Chris Eger Band
- The David Wax Museum
- The Fonda Theatre
- The Gorge Amphitheatre
- The Gourds
- The Hi-Risers
- The Juliettes
- The Old 97s
- The Outlaws
- The Paperboys
- The Paramount Theatre
- The People Now
- The Puyallup Fair
- The Rainieros
- The Satellite 4
- The Showbox
- The Sunmakers
- The Sunset Tavern
- The Swearengens
- The Tractor Tavern
- The Triple Door
- The Wallflowers
- The Wild Feathers
- Todd Snider
- Tom Petty
- Toubab Krewe
- Van Morrison
- Vicci Martinez
- White River Amphitheatre
- Will Kimbrough
- Willie Nelson
- Willie Sugarcapps
- Yellowstone Country Guardians