Aplscruf's Music Blog

Richmond Fontaine’s Swan Song in Seattle

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Richmond Fontaine played a final show in Seattle at The Sunset on May 14, 2016. L-R: Dan Eccles (guitar), Willy Vlautin (vocals, guitar), Freddy Trujillo (bass), Sean Oldham (drums). Photo Credit: Alicia Rose

It was a night full of contradictions. I’d never heard of Richmond Fontaine until just a few months ago. The Portland band have been around over 20 years. Last Saturday, they played a final show in Seattle. I’m now a new fan of a band that is breaking up. Great. I’m late to the party–er, funeral once again.

I witnessed a band’s wake before–Seattle’s North Twin, who delivered their own coup de grace just down the street at The Tractor about six years ago. I prefer it that way; at least there’s some closure. The death of Richmond Fontaine will be prolonged a few more months; but here in Seattle, they celebrated their long life surrounded by friends and musical family. There will be at least one more show in Oregon, and an Ireland/UK farewell tour in October before they pull the plug. They’re ending amicably and leaving us with a parting gift: a fantastic new album fittingly titled You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To.

I binge-listened to RF’s albums over the last few weeks, trying to catch up before we hit the show. Frontman and acclaimed author Willy Vlautin‘s lyrics paint desolate pictures of the downtrodden, lonely, broke, the unlucky, the abandoned–the outcasts of society. Tales of addiction, break-ups, desperation, and downward spirals are common themes throughout the ten albums. Some characters are likable losers who were dealt a bad hand in life or have paid dearly for their bad choices. But there is also a feeling, just a glimmer, a hint, that once in a while, one of those effed-up kids he writes and sings about is going to be alright. Each day that I listened, I always circled back to their latest  release, the thirteen songs on You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To. It’s depressing as hell at times, and yet I wanted to hear it again and again. I connected and empathized with the characters. The up-tempo melodies of some of the songs offset the melancholy lyrics. Balance.

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Willy Vlautin – Illustration by Nate Beaty

I also read Willy Vlautin’s first of four books called The Motel Life. Although the heartbreaking story and sympathetic characters absolutely gutted me, I wanted to read more and was sad that it had to end. I plan on purchasing the rest of his books. Feel free to do the same here: http://willyvlautin.com/store/ Rumor has it, his fifth book is in the works. According to Willy, when his personal life is falling apart, he writes songs. When he’s healthy, out jogging, he’s probably writing a book. Strangely, I had his name and the book’s title in my phone under “Books to Read” for a year–a strong recommendation from my friend Kari, artist and loving partner of David Corley, who also spent time with Willy and Co. in Ireland. I never made the connection until just recently.

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Be sure to purchase their merch!

I also was told by a friend, Oliver Gray (who is mentioned in the liner notes of at least one of RF’s albums), that Willy’s books must be read in order of publication. Oliver is not only a superfan, but a venue owner, promoter, music critic, and author. He has hosted RF shows in England for many years (RF has a huge cult following in The UK and Ireland) and befriended the band in the process. I just met Oliver in person while we were on holiday near London in April, just days before I found out about RF’s show date in Seattle.

One thing I love about live music is how it brings strangers together, bonding over the common love of a band. I made another new friend after I announced on Facebook I was attending this show. Allison, a superfan from Canada, traveled to Seattle with her husband Tony, and we met up at Hattie’s Hat for a chat beforehand. We have several mutual, music-loving friends, so it was only natural that we should eventually meet and instantly bond (while our patient husbands sat idly by). Although she’s been a fan for years, she had never seen RF in person, so she was thrilled to experience this final show.

The day of the show was dark, gloomy, and rainy–so contradictory to the blue-sky day before, which sizzled Seattle with record-breaking temperatures.

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We made our way to the very front of the stage, right after the doors opened. There is nothing like standing in the front row of an intimate venue. I love watching the band, up close and personal. I like catching their nuances: the onstage banter and inside jokes; a grimace while hitting a big chord; a tapping foot; a sly, knowing smile when a rare wrong note is hit; nimble fingers finding the frets; glances and nods when things are going well. RF was no exception. One could tell they have a healthy, brotherly bond with each other, even though their band was on its way out.

If they love each other so much, why are they breaking up? Read and listen to Willy Vlautin’s answers here:

Willy Vlautin was interviewed recently by Casey Jarman of Portland Monthly : http://www.pdxmonthly.com/articles/2016/4/15/willy-vlautin-on-richmond-fontaine-s-farewell-and-the-price-of-living-hard

While in Ireland, Willy also spoke with Martin Bridgeman on a radio broadcast regarding the breakup, the new album, and the crafting of his songs and stories: http://kclr96fm.com/folkroots-interview-willy-vlautin-152016/

The mature audience knew their band and were there to give them a final sendoff with support and love. Although I was a newbie here, I still felt accepted and comfortable among them. It was fun to watch the crowd, too, as many sang along with Willy or nodded their heads in acknowledgement to a song, and loudly clapped and whooped after each one.

Richmond Fontaine began the set with my favorite song off their new album called “Wake Up Ray”. Here is a live version from Oregon Public Broadcasting:

Willy’s lyrics tear at my heart:

Wake Up Ray

It ain’t no use, ain’t no use
Maybe some guys just ain’t meant to
I was living in Montana once and I was married
For a while it rolled so easy
But she got to where she couldn’t stand our place
She got to where she cringed at the way I slept and ate
I bought her a bird, a finch she called little Joe
And then one night she blew into a rage
In a snowstorm she ran outside and opened up the cage

Wake up Ray let’s get out of here
This town’s done nothing it’s clear but try to do us in

Wake up Ray, the sun’s coming up and still I can’t stop thinking
How can someone you love so much grow against you so?
All I did, all I did was try to toe that line
The same line you see everyone else toe
Now all I remember is running through the snow
Looking for Little Joe as the wind blowed

Wake up Ray, I need a cup of coffee in a bad way
Let’s get out of here this town ain’t done nothing
It’s clear but try to do us in

The Seattle show included most songs from their latest album and also dove into tracks from the last two decades.There were some last-minute changes to the original list, too. Their stage performance was tight, energized and faster-paced than some of their recorded songs–fueled, I’m sure, by the enthusiastic audience. Early on, longtime fans shouted out song requests, and Willy acknowledged a few with a wide-eyed nod, or laughed at their persistence.

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Willy would stop once in a while and explain the origin of a song, such as the dark and ominous “Hallway” from 2003’s Post to Wire. He said he used to meet a friend for breakfast at a cafe, and one day he didn’t show up. Willy went to his house and found the friend in his tighty-whities, hiding in the hall with a gun. Apparently, he was on a coke binge and had been up for three days. “He almost shot me that day. I never met him for breakfast after that.”

“Let’s Hit One More Place” from the new album was dedicated to Scott McCaughey of The Minus 5, who headlined this night. Willy said he’s been a fan of The Minus 5 for 20 years, and channeled Scott when he wrote this song.

“Two Friends Lost At Sea” was based on another true story. One of Willy’s favorite Portland punk bands was Dead Moon. When people are excited about a band, they like to tell their friends. Sometimes, that leads to a wonderful shared experience. Other times, like in Willy’s case, it ruins the band for them. He made the mistake of introducing a girlfriend to the band. Later, she broke up with him. The next time he saw her was at Dead Moon’s show. She was making out with some new guy in the front row. Ruined.

Although he seemed a little shy onstage and mostly sang with his eyes closed, he was very personable, friendly, and humble in the merch line before and after the show. He greeted each fan, listened intently to their stories, and seemed grateful to them for showing up. There’s a self-deprecating charm about him, as if he is genuinely surprised by his fame and the fact that his books and music are treasured by so many people around the world.

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Freddy Trujillo and Willy Vlautin

Dan Eccles on lead guitar, just rocked. He was so entertaining to watch as he grimaced and head-banged through the set, his long hair trying to keep up with the beat. His nimble fingers delicately found each chord on the slower folk songs, but slammed the power chords with a full-body gyration. He had a minimal amount of pedals, but made excellent use of them to alter the sound to match a pedal steel guitar, add some serious fuzz, or the emphasize the twang in his Telecaster.

One of the last rocking songs of the evening, “Lost in The Trees” is from 2011’s The High Country. They also played this song at Kilkenny Roots Festival in early May, and are favorite performers there. Below, you can hear Freddy’s thumping bass, watch Dan shred that Tele, and be amazed at how seemingly effortless Sean is at holding the steady, commanding beat on drums. Willy’s grim lyrics and monotone vocals on this song give it a punk edge.

Near the end, a fan threw a Winner’s Casino (an actual casino and a song from 2002’s Winnemucca) satin baseball-style jacket, up on stage as they played their final song. Willy sported a big grin as he played. They later posed for a photo with the jacket, all smiles. It was a great way to close the night and to find closure with this beloved band.

Like some of Willy Vlautin’s characters in his songs and stories, the band mates are probably going to be alright after the breakup.Willy, Sean Oldham, and Freddy Trujillo are already members of another band called The Delines. Willy is planning to spend some time working on his next book. Dan Eccles also plays in a band with Portland legend Fernando Viciconte.

We can’t go back, but we can look ahead. They’re still with us, just transformed and scattered into new entities.

Bitter and sweet.

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Check out Richmond Fontaine’s tour updates for the rest of the year here:  http://richmondfontaine.com/dates

Listen and purchase their music through Bandcamp here: http://richmondfontaine.bandcamp.com/

I also posted a version of this piece to No Depression here: http://nodepression.com/live-review/richmond-fontaines-swan-song-seattle

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 18, 2016 Posted by | 2016, Alt-Country, Americana, Richmond Fontaine, The Sunset Tavern, Willy Vlautin | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys at The Sunset 12.21.13

Big Sandy with Kevin Stewart on Bass

Big Sandy with Kevin Stewart on Bass

I couldn’t stop smiling tonight.  Big Sandy and the boys brought their top-notch show to the intimate Sunset Tavern.  I only wished I knew how to dance.

We began our fantastic weekend by checking in to the very swanky Hotel Ballard, directly across the street to our ol’ stompin’ grounds, Hattie’s Hat and The Tractor.  The boutique hotel just recently opened, and it is fabulous.  Although the nightly rates are a little steep and garage parking is $15, it’s a steal for attending any shows in Ballard.  We could not come close to matching their rates by staying in downtown Seattle and paying over $30 for parking plus taking a taxi to Ballard.  We’ll be sure to stay here again.  Our room was spotless and tastefully decorated, too, with an iron balcony overlooking “our” street.

We got in to town around 5:30 and got settled in.  We decided to go grab a bite at Bastille, a French restaurant just a few steps up the street.  Being the last weekend before Christmas, we wondered if the crowds would be crazy, or if the neighborhood would be quiet.  Actually, the crowds were manageable.  We bellied up to the beautiful bar and ordered a shared meal from a bartender who looked like he came from some glamorous Parisian bar that served Oscar Wilde.  His hair was slicked back and buzzed and he had a respectable beard.  I think I remember his friendly and polite manner from the last time we ate there.  He brought us some wonderful drinks and took our order for chicken and baguettes.  There was a sea salt sprinkle on the baguettes that made them irresistible.  The half chicken was delicately fried and crispy.  A few tiny Brussels sprouts and some rustic potatoes surrounded the moist chicken.  After saying adieu to our genteel bartender, we continued down the street to find dessert.

First, we stopped by The Sunset to see if the crowds were forming, but it was dead.  We checked in and got stamped so we could come back later.

We noticed most of the smaller restaurants and cafes were packed.  We stopped by the very crowded Hot Cakes and picked up a delicious peanut butter cookie that we devoured in minutes.  I think we waited longer in line than the time it took to eat that cookie!

Back to our room.  We cleaned up, donned our western apparel, and headed back up the street to The Sunset.  The audience grew exponentially once we entered.  I could not believe it, but once again, we were able to get two bar stools at the end of the bar.  We get so lucky scamming seats!  We happily scooted in next to a pair of rockabilly girls dressed in leopard prints and beautiful up-do’s.  Next to them was someone I recognized from our first Big Sandy show.  He had a large, colorful neck tattoo and a perfectly coiffed ducktail.  His tweed jacket completed the dapper package.  I took a pic of him at the first show because he got on stage with Big S and sang a rockabilly tune in a death metal pig squeal while Big S laughed. It was so hilarious!  Here is the link of that show: http://randomville.com/live-review-big-sandy-and-his-fly-rite-boys/.  I felt shy when we first got there, and was not ready to introduce myself quite yet.  I did bring my business cards this time, so at least I was a little more prepared to pass around the cards.

We also saw some other people we knew.  We are starting to feel like regulars.  I guess we are, since we have been hitting the Ballard clubs regularly since 2007.  Big Sandy came out of the backstage room and ordered a soft drink at the opposite end of the bar.  He looked our way, and we smiled and raised our glasses to him.  He smiled and did the same.  I should have walked over and talked to him, but the growing crowd surrounded us.   Johnny 7 Stuart showed up.  He opened for Big S in Portland a couple of days before.  Johnny said the Portland show was cool, in the old  and elegant Crystal Ballroom. He also managed to catch X and Blasters at El Corazon the night before.  We had another function that night, so I was bummed I missed that show.  I enjoyed talking with Johnny, and miss seeing him play on stage.  It’s been a while.  We’ll make an effort to see his show in 2014.  Gaby, our Bothell friend showed up with her husband, Marc, too.  Dean, an acquaintance we met at Hattie’s before the first Big Sandy show, also arrived.  Pat recognized him and brought him over.

Ugly Christmas Sweater Pub Crawlers

Ugly Christmas Sweater Pub Crawlers

The crowd pushed forward, and we realized we were right in the middle of a giant group of Ugly Christmas Sweater Pub Crawlers!  They looked like college students, all buff and beautiful, but with hideous red and green sweaters!  It was fantastic to see the variety and creativity.  I’m sure some were lovingly made by a grandparent.  I took a few pics.

Snowman Vest

Snowman Vest

Country Dave Harmonson was there, too, and was going to play with the opening band, Cahalen Morrison & Country Hammer.  Cahalen and crew loaded in while we ordered drinks and a pizza slice.  I didn’t think I could eat a bite, but it was so good!  Cahalen Morrison’s band filled the stage with guitars, steel, drums and violin.  They had a tight country sound and the dancers appreciated their lively tunes.

Cahalen Morrison

Cahalen Morrison

I said hello to Gaby and told her I was glad she made it.  P saw her earlier, and she said she was trying to get off work asap to get to the show.  She knew it would be packed.  Actually, after the pub crawlers dissipated (they were only on the 2nd pub of the night), the crowd became pretty reasonable.  It was probably only ¾ full, and by the end of the night only about ¼ stuck around.  We were perfectly comfortable on our stools and took turns getting up and moving through the crowd.  I also said hello to Country Dave after his show, and again congratulated him on his superb skills on pedal steel.  He’s really a master.  I also told him that Pat saw him at the airport playing his gig, but he didn’t want to interrupt his playing.  Dave said, “PLEASE” stop by and say hi, because he gets bored sometimes sitting in the airport with no one to talk to!  So if you ever see a man picking a guitar or pedal steel at SeaTac Airport, please stop by and pay Country Dave Harmonson a visit.  He’ll appreciate your support.

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Big Sandy loaded in and we prepared for his rollicking show.  I just love his energy.  Here’s a review from last August: https://aplscruf.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/two-big-nights-big-sandy-willie-nelson-and-the-gourds-8-22-8-23-13/ We took our seats and meanwhile, I asked Pat to look up my first Big Sandy review from 2012, because I was pretty sure there was a picture of our tattooed neighbor in my review.  There he was, up on stage squealing away!

Clark, the Death Metal Pig Squealer!

Clark, the Death Metal Pig Squealer!

I zoomed in on the pic to fill the phone’s screen, and slowly moved it in front of him.  He stopped, looked at the pic, looked at me, and laughed!  “Hey, that was a fun night!  Did you take that picture?”  Yes, I did, and I wrote the review, too! “So, did you coin the phrase, ‘Death Metal Pig Squeal?’”  Well, yes, yes I did! Ha! That cracked me up.  I coined a phrase! He shook my hand and introduced himself as Clark.  We spoke for a while about the whole rockabilly culture.  I am so enamored with the scene.  I love the coiffed hair, the beautiful dresses and tattoos.  I took a few pics of the dancers.  I envy their cool looks.  I wanted to dress up after my first rockabilly show, but just didn’t seem to have the nerve—or the tattoos! I love connecting with people at these shows, too.  We’re finally branching out a bit.  We used to just sit there by ourselves and not interact with anyone, and it can tend to get boring in between sets.

Guitar extraordinaire Ashley Kingman and drummer Joe Perez

Guitar extraordinaire Ashley Kingman and drummer Joe Perez

Big Sandy, drummer Joe Perez (aka Lil’ Sandy), guitarist extraordinaire Ashley Kingman and bassist Kevin Stewart were ready to go.  He had a massive setlist, and I think he hit most of the songs on it.  He must have played for about an hour and a half, maybe 2 hours.  I lost track of time once they got started.  The dancers were out en force.  I had fun watching them twirl around.  The girls had such pretty dresses and ta-tas to fill them.  I don’t think I could “fill” those dresses properly! I really wanted to get out there and dance, though.  It was a swing style, with lots of twirling and fancy footwork.

Dancers tearing up the floor!

Dancers tearing up the floor!

He played many of my favorites, including “Miss Tracy”, “Jumping From 6 to 6”,  and “Chalk it Up to the Blues”.  His energized set kept the dancers moving.  He played a couple of acoustics off the latest album, What A Dream It’s Been too, and the audience adjusted accordingly to some slow dances.  Ashley  Kingman rocked his electric guitar again, in his unassuming style.  He’s an expert, and never has to add gimmicky moves to get his musical point across.  I love the explosion of sound. Big Sandy delivers his smooth lyrics through the intro, and then he turns to the boys and lets them go, go, go!

I was disappointed in how few people stayed around till the end.  He’s such a class act, and should fill a larger venue.  It was getting late, though, and I think people like to hit the road before midnight.  We didn’t have far to go, so we were in no rush.  We were glad we stayed, glad we got to talk to some more friends, glad we had a free weekend to get out and let loose!

We talked to Big Sandy (aka Robert Williams) after his show.  He sweat right through his suit, and rightly so, after such a long and electric set.  He noticed we came early and stayed late.  I again told him I wrote about his show a while back and gave him my card this time. We took some pics with him and wished him well.  I also bought a cool t-shirt from Ashley, who also remembered reading my previous review, so that was rewarding.

The boys were headed to Eugene next before returning to California.

It was a perfect birthday weekend getaway.  Thank you, P!

December 28, 2013 Posted by | aplscruf, Big Sandy, Concert Season 2013, The Sunset Tavern | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Night Out at The Sunset Tavern 10.13.2012

Star Anna and Ty Bailie

After a long, dry spell of no nights out to see live music, we finally formulated a plan for Saturday, October 13.  We drove into Ballard and after circling the block several times (our usual course of action) we scored a street spot in a central location.  We made our way to a new establishment called Kickin’ Boot Whiskey Kitchen.  The enticing smell of barbecued meats filled our nostrils as we walked down the sidewalk to the refurbished warehouse.  After a relatively short wait in the bar area (we stood at a tall, slim rail with a little shelf to place our drinks), we were seated in the noisy dining area.  The warehouse environment made for a loud crowd echo, but we didn’t mind it too much; we were just so glad to get out.  We shared a tender pulled pork, with sides of mac ‘n’ cheese and collard greens.

We walked around the corner and up the block to Hot Cakes, a very tasty new dessert bar just a few doors down from The Sunset.  We shared (we’re finding we don’t spend or eat as much if we just share meals, and we still wind up pretty dang full) a molten lava chocolate cake with caramel sauce and little toffee chunks sprinkled on a ball of vanilla ice cream.  Hot Cakes’ ingredients are mostly if not all from local vendors.  And just so tasty.  They also served some alcoholic beverages and coffee drinks.  You can also purchase some of their products in kit form and take it home and bake yourself.

Full and happy, we strolled into The Sunset Tavern and enjoyed some great local music from Sherilyn Segrest, Star Anna, Kasey Anderson and not-so-local Lydia Loveless.  See my Randomville review here for a taste of their music and links to their websites: http://randomville.com/live-review-star-anna-and-kasey-anderson-at-the-sunset-tavern/

October 20, 2012 Posted by | Concert Season 2012, Kasey Anderson, Star Anna, The Sunset Tavern | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fox and The Law at The Sunset Tavern 3.2.2012

Fox and The Law Photo courtesy of Ray Spaddy

Fox and The Law held my attention from the first chord to the last beat.  The youthful band just burst with energy onstage. They played a rocking show to a full house at The Sunset Tavern, a kickoff to their eventual destination, SXSW. 

Check out the full review on Randomville!

Since this review posted, they are currently in SXSW and will play Wednesday, March 14!

March 14, 2012 Posted by | Concert Season 2012, Fox and The Law, Randomville, The Sunset Tavern | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment