Aplscruf's Music Blog

Massy Ferguson’s Rockin’ CD Release Party at Treehouse Cafe, Bainbridge Island

It’s good to be back. Even better, it’s good to be writing about my favorite Seattle band, Massy Ferguson, out on the town celebrating their latest CD, Great Divides. It’s their best album to date. Explosive, powerful rock with tremors of Americana twang. Nostalgic and sometimes pensive lyrics of misspent youth, dark imagery, pedal steel, country harmonies, hints of Petty and Tweedy. There’s a little bit of everything, but mostly solid, guitar-driven rock.

Pleasant surprises and sonic twists include: Adam Monda’s fresh guitar effects and Skynyrd-esque solos; Fred Slater’s tasty keyboard grooves that show up all over the album bringing a 70’s vibe; Jay Kardong’s lamenting pedal steel on “Saddest Man” shifting the sound into country territory; female guest singer Adra Boo’s harmonies that blend perfectly with Ethan Anderson’s lead vox on the up-tempo single “Maybe The Gods;” Drummer Dave Goedde’s temporary tempo change in the middle of “Don’t Give Up On Your Friends;” and Ethan’s spoken lyrics and thumping bass on “Momma’s in the Backseat.”

Although they just played a CD release party at The Crocodile, they performed a special show in Bainbridge Island for the folks at The Treehouse Cafe who have supported them most of their nearly dozen-year career. And what a perfect spring evening to take a ferry across Puget Sound. This was the first time I ventured across the Sound to see a band at The Treehouse, but lots of top-notch singer/songwriters have made a point to play Seattle and not miss Bainbridge before heading to their next destination, including Americana royalty like James McMurtry, Hayes Carll, and Mary Gauthier.

Adam Monda and Ethan Anderson of Massy Ferguson

I love Massy Ferguson. I love their music, their originality, their humor, and their personality; not only as a musical entity, but as individuals. Each member is not only a master of his instrument, but genuinely a nice guy. They are happy to sign autographs, they run their own merch table, get to know their fans, and seem grateful to still be together. They can hang with their fans and hang with fellow musicians and their musical heroes. They play the smallest stages to a handful of faithful fans and still give 100%; or play to thousands of sweaty, beer-fueled festival-goers in some summer locale and gain new fans by the end of the night.

They all have careers outside of the band (for example, Dave Goedde, graphic designer and MF drummer extraordinaire, designed the album cover!), but also commit to a pretty full tour schedule. Their music has taken them from the farming community of Marysville, Washington to the far reaches of the globe, most recently a  whirlwind trip to Spain. They’re gearing up for a month-long trip to the UK in July. They’ve played Honduras, Iceland, Mexico, and Roslyn, sometimes in the same week. Okay, maybe that’s not true; but I do recall them playing some other country and then hitting one of the local shows just a couple of days later. It happens. It happens with all musicians who make (part of) their living on the road.

I asked Ethan Anderson a few questions about the creation of Great Divides and their recent and upcoming tours.

Aplscruf: Your last album, Run It Right Into the Wall was inspired by your musical anti-heroes (including The Replacements, Wilco, and Son Volt). What inspired you to create this latest album, Great Divides?

EA: To be honest, and trying not to be too dramatic, survival. As a band, you need to continue to grow and write about it, otherwise you’re dead. I think that the major inspiration for me in my lyrics on this album is some stories of growing up and stories of innocence, stories about experience, stories about growing up where I grew up, when I grew up.

AS: How did your songs stream into words and music?

EA: Like I said, a lot of the songs are taken from my experiences growing up. The song “Don’t give up on your friends” is basically me singing from the perspective of myself as a rebellious 16-year-old. The song “Can’t remember” is the story of when I first started talking to my now wife when she was a single cocktail waitress. A lot of songs started with melodic lines or words that Adam Monda was kicking around. I would say almost all the lyrics are written by me and Adam. Usually him starting with some kind of inspiration and me extrapolating, for lack of a better word. For example, he had this guitar idea and one lyric that said, “There’s a lot of people saying you were there.” Pretty ominous. I took that lyric and wrote a song about it, maybe one of the darkest songs I’ve ever written about someone who committed a crime and decided to go on the lam. The song is actually inspired by the book “Motel life” by Willy Vlautin.

AS: For the single, “Maybe The Gods”, Adra Boo does an amazing job backing you on vocals [see the video, produced and directed by Ryan Purcell].

EA: Adra is a phenomenal singer we met through our producer Martin Feveyear. She has said before that she could sing anything, and this song is absolute proof of that.

AS: How was the Crocodile album release party? Did it sell out?

EA: Yes! I actually heard that they had to keep people outside until some people left so, in my mind, that’s a sellout! It’s probably our most successful local show ever and really meant a lot to have so many people come out and be so enthusiastic about this new record. We’ve had a run of really good shows in Seattle and it’s always so much fun to be able to rock an amazing show, then go sleep in your own bed, ha-ha.

AS: A couple of months ago, you and the boys toured Spain for the first time and played several festivals there. How did that experience differ from playing here or the UK, for instance?

EA: Spain was amazing. And really tiring. I think there’s something about the Spanish lifestyle that was really hard to get used to, in a sense. A lot of the shows, even on Tuesday nights for example, didn’t want you to start until midnight. You would be eating a huge dinner at 10 PM and then, where my natural instinct after a really big meal would be to lie down, you have to jump on stage and rock a crowd for two hours. The food was a highlight, by the way. As for the shows, you couldn’t ask for much more from the first tour. There were people there every night, usually very enthusiastic. We even broke out a few songs in Spanish and people went nuts. I really hope we have a chance to go back there because that was really memorable.

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Back at The Treehouse, Massy Ferguson blasted into the first of two sets with tunes from the new album and threaded in songs from their catalog of five full-length albums and a handful of EP’s.

The same phenomenon that inflicts the Seattle crowd also showed up this night in Bainbridge. Although the show officially started around 8, people didn’t fill in the dance floor until at least an hour into the show. The audience formed what I call the Semi-circle of Shyness phenomenon, a 10-foot gap between stage and audience that no one dared to cross until Ethan Anderson, lead singer and bassist, intervened. During the middle of the song “Powder Blue,” he asked them to take five steps toward the stage–not for him, but in order to appease the fire marshal and keep the fire exits clear. Well, that brought the crowd forward and pulled the stragglers in behind them until the dance floor was completely full. It was fun to watch it fill in so quickly, once the crowd was given “permission.” He finished the song in Spanish, a signature Massy move. Since they just got back from Spain, it was a fitting way to end it. It’s another thing I love about the positive dynamics between this band and their audience. Ethan knows how to work the crowd and get them on their feet. He and the rest of the boys make a point to engage and interact with them throughout the show.

Once the crowd was planted on the dance floor, there was no turning back. They danced their way through “Maybe The Gods,” “Don’t Give Up On Your Friends,” “Momma’s in the Back Seat,”and the title track, signs that these songs will be new classics at future shows.

Although they play mostly original music, they do throw in a couple of covers during their live shows. This night, a couple of surprise covers I haven’t heard them play before included “Jane Says” by Jane’s Addiction Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone.” Of course, the crowd sang along to Dylan, as lead guitarist Adam Monda took turns belting out the lyrics with Ethan.

If Ethan brings out his flute, it’s a dead giveaway the next song he’ll play will either be from The Marshall Tucker Band, Jethro Tull, or Men At Work. “There’s a special place in Hell for people who steal flutes,” said Ethan. A couple years ago, his cherished flute was brazenly stolen out of his car. A crowdfund campaign formed, and within a matter of days, loyal fans and friends donated enough money not only to replace that flute, but to purchase a spare. Redemption! Ethan raised his flute triumphantly to the audience. “Suck it, guy who stole my flute!” He and the band then dove into a rousing cover of “Can’t You See” as the audience helped with the chorus. The new flute is named Mary, by the way.

Massy Ferguson finished off the night with the title track of their last album, Run It Right Into the Wall. Most fans stayed until the very end and hung around at the merch table afterward to collect their own copy of Great Divides and a T-shirt or two.

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AS: What’s next for summer gigs? Outdoor Festivals? OH! And you’re touring with Pete Bruntnell in the UK!! [see UK tour poster below for dates/venues]

EA: Of course, we have local summertime gigs etc., but what I’m really looking forward to is our July UK tour. I’m really excited to play with Peter Bruntnell, Danni Nicholls, Ben Jordan, Kiefer Sutherland[!] and all the other people we are slotted to perform with on various festivals or in clubs. There’s something so cool about the UK and the experiences we’ve had there.

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Check out Massy Ferguson’s tour schedule, and then hop a plane and join them in the UK!

Support the independent artists who venture to your city and play small clubs and venues. Support quality music.

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May 31, 2019 Posted by | 2019, Alt-Country, Americana, Massy Ferguson | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments