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Festival Blog

Live from the 2008 music and film festivals!

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June 14, 2008 9:19 PM

The Verdict

Posted by Jonathan Zwickel

Seattle thrives despite itself.

More specfically, Seattle music thrives despite a city government intent on limiting fun, state liquor laws that are nothing short of puritanical, and unchecked development constantly pushing artists and musicians to the margins. The fact that the Georgetown Music Festival can host 50-some bands--the vast majority local--in an out of the way setting and a less than supportive civic attitude towards outdoor celebration owes everything to the attitude of its producers. Props all around.

Props to the weather, too. Way to pull it together!

As I said before, we--you, me, your neighbor, Greg Nickels--need events like these to happen in this city. Seattle must maintain its cultural gravity or else, in the face of overdevelopment and gentrification, it will lose its creative currency. Whether Nickels knows it or not (or knows it and just doesn't care), that currency is a prime motivator for prospective tourists and would-be residents. Kill it and everyone goes to Missouri. I hear rent is cheap there.

And the Quintessential Seattle Weekend continues with Emerald City Soul Club at the Lo Fi Gallery. Don't sleep.

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June 14, 2008 8:59 PM

Rocking with the 'Duct, Lashes

Posted by andrew matson

David Terry has other musicians with him, but he is the focus of Aqueduct on stage. Perched behind keyboards, he belted out a bunch of catchy, fractured synth pop songs to the biggest crowd of the day at the Rainier stage beneath the I-5 ramp.

Among other things, he succeeded in removing the taste of The Hanks from my mouth by powerfully putting down some quintessentially Seattle indie pop. Terry lives here and makes albums for local label Barsuk Records, and his wonderfully unaffected singing style and natural warmth recall NW pillars and labelmates John Roderick (The Long Winters) and David Bazan (Pedro the Lion). He's from Tulsa, but when he sings wry, honest indie pop with that voice, Aqueduct is the sound of Seattle. The audience jumped around and took cell phone pictures in the setting sun light.

But Aqueduct is only one sound of Seattle. This much was proved by a rousing set from The Lashes. A scrappy bunch if there ever was one, they looked like GMF: guys who don't shave often wearing aviator shades and tight pants. They played a loud set of what sounded like bubblegum pop run through torn speakers. It should be noted that frontman Ben Lashes looked like a self-styled icon: Chicago Bulls jersey, black scarf, black baseball hat cocked hip-hop style, black jeans and a black Nike hoodie. He looked like a man come to bring death to rock traditon, yet The Lashes are about as straight-up as it gets. Their set was rock as dance music, rock as party, echoing a sentiment that The Hands put out with their tried and true yet completely exciting rock 'n roll two bands previous on a different stage.

And with that, I left Georgetown. Detroit-souding local blues-rock band Thee Emergency were still yet to headline, but I'd been at GMF since noon. What can I say? My dogs were barking.

Georgetown Music Fest, I love you and all your rocking. I love that you gave hip-hop a chance. I love the BBQ man. I hate to see the buildings around you get torn down- next year's Fest might have different surroundings. But next year, that awesome band of 14 year-olds I saw (The Lost Episode) will be 15 and even better, and should they decide to come back, probably playing at one of the bigger stages.


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June 14, 2008 8:31 PM

Putting the "Aw" in Rawk

Posted by Jonathan Zwickel

Meat-and-potatoes rock--there's never too much of it.

Just when I write a huge story about the sound of Seattle being "pretty, pastoral, and mellow," along comes a well-stocked Georgetown Music Festival to put the "aw" back in classic rawk. Seattle's got it in spades and it's been well represented here all day.

First by the Hands, a gutsy, don't-give-a-damn band that ran wild with double guitar leads and marial drums. Lots of "whoa-oh"ing behind lead singer John Healy, who was equal parts raunchy bark and unhinged yowl. When a band has that much fun on-stage it's infectious, and their energy carried over into the front rows, the mainstage beer garden, and backstage, where a bunch of other festival-playing musicians dug the Hands' crunchy riffage. Yes, I said "crunchy riffage."

And then by Slender Means, who's sweet, soulful keyboard runs added a side of greens to the bands otherwise meaty, pop-rock feast. The keys stood out as more a lead instrument than mere embellishment. Supremely tight songwriting from these locals, the kind of catchy, bedrock jams that are impossible to deny. With both Slender Means and the Hands, the full-body takeover came in the form of volume, lots of volume. Along with savvy songwriting, that volume is why the music is impossible to deny: It forces itself on you until you relent. Nobody was putting up much of a fight.

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June 14, 2008 7:02 PM

The smoothest bands at GMF...

Posted by andrew matson

...are locals Slender Means and Los Angeles band The Hanks.

Slender Means played around the corner at the Georgetown stage, and their slick pop rock was impeccable.

On disc, Slender Means' guitar rock grows tiresome, its prettiness workmanlike. Live, with all the character amps give guitars, Slender Means sounds a whole lot better. For a band that likes to pull off "yearning" as a song style and whose strong suits are its musicianship and songwriting, you need textures to make things stand out, and Slender Means was drawing that out of itself here. The members were really listening to each other, and when I left them, singer Josh Dawson's tenor vocals were perfectly restrained and carrying most of the melody.

Over at the Stockhouse stage, I watched The Hanks make GMFs worst music. It's a matter of preference, because the crowd gathered was not small- 150 people?- and people were swaying and bobbing, clearly getting into the music. It was "contemporary rock teenagers like" as defined by Hollywood.

Now Aqueduct is starting. I can already hear the chant: "Who wanna rock with the Aqueduct? You wanna but you know you can't stop the 'Duct!"

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June 14, 2008 6:01 PM

The Key of Drone

Posted by Jonathan Zwickel

Hypatia Lake is an extremely well-adjusted band. I don't mean that they make sure to call their moms every Sunday and navigate post-modern ennui with stylish aplomb (though maybe they do), but rather that they balance drone and melody in an extremely tuneful, accessible way.

One guitarist lead and another was dedicated to jagged squalls and slow, heavy washes of feedback. Playing the Rainier Stage to several hundred people (the crowd thickens as the hours pass), they made dissonance sound soothing and intricate interplay look easy. That's a good festival band.

Man Plus are on the Stockhouse Stage and sound really good. Back to more sunshine and music.

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June 14, 2008 5:36 PM

Who Knew?

Posted by Jonathan Zwickel

mail.jpgShim by Heather Trimm


It's official--The weather is beautiful. The sun is shining on Georgetown Music Fesival. We now have perfect festival conditions. More happy people show up every hour. Sweet-smelling smoke from the BBQ guy wafts over the Stockhouse Stage, two-seater planes buzz over the Rainier Stage, fans sit in the grass and take it all in at the Georgetown Stage. The layout is thus: An L, formed by backstreets and alleys, with the main (Rainier) stage at the crook of the L. At either end are the smaller stages. The schedule is timed so that bands play the smaller stages simultaneously, with the main stage quiet. When there's a band at the main stage, the other stages are quiet. Very smart.

Shim (pictured above) slayed the main stage crowd earlier. These guys were unabashed heshers, long-haired, mutton-chopped, crude, and oversexed. It was guitar-driven classic rock, not the a $200-a-ticket geriatric cashing-in kind, but in the "we just wanna party with you" guitartastic kind. You know what I mean. If you don't, these lyrics should fill in the blanks:

Love me like an animal
Put it in the cool moonlight
Want me like an animal
Cuz it's feeling like I could go all night

Thank you, Shim, for the true-blue rock. Thanks again for best band name at the festival (followed by Hockey).

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June 14, 2008 5:00 PM

Psychedelic Rock From Pink Snowflakes

Posted by andrew matson

Photo by Heather Trimm special to The Seattle Times
smallPinkSnowflakes41.jpg

What does "psychedelic rock" mean to you?

To the Pink Snowflakes, it means deafening guitar feedback over head-nod tempo folk songs with "trippy" echo guitar effects and use of EBow note sustainer. It means songs come out of speakers like a wash, at firehose force and with narcotic pacing.

Their set was fun, but so loud that you had to either jump right in or not mess around with it at all.

The Snowflakes decorated their sound with electric violin, the Stockhouse stage with a black-light poster of a unicorn, and the air surrounding their 200+ audience with bubbles streaming from two machines. They played GMF last year, and their set was slightly better today- the songs sounded tighter. Most of their appeal is in the look and feel: the bubbles are whimsical, the band looks like a hobo version of arena-psych-pop band The Flaming Lips, and- if you're into "heavy" things- the noise from the guitar and drums hurts so good.

GMF will change you: the BBQ man's smoke wafts over the fence and gets into your clothes, the sun bakes your skin, and the Pink Snowflakes make you go deaf.

Off I go to watch The Hands and Aqueduct!

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June 14, 2008 4:02 PM

Traffic

Posted by Jonathan Zwickel

It's impossible to describe how odd/cool it is to be watching a band--Shim's well-honed horndog classic rock, for example--play an outdoor set in the sun when out of nowhere

ZZZZZZZHHHHHHHHHHMMMMMMMM

A low-flying biplane buzzes a couple hundred feet over your head.

And then

HHHHHHHHRRRRRRRNNNNNNNN

A semi rolls down the on-ramp right behind the stage.

The world turns as Georgetown rocks on. Feels urban, unique, remote. Which it is.

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June 14, 2008 3:14 PM

The best band in Seattle...

Posted by andrew matson


Photo by Heather Trimm special to The Seattle Times

...is three 14 year-olds who go by The Lost Episode. At the semi-hidden Georgetown stage in full-bore sunshine, Fergus Farley (drums), Daniel Perlmutter (bass) and Pete Michel (guitar; vocals; keys) won over a crowd of around 150 in a big way. People threw their hands in the air and made rap concert noise ("ohhhhhhhhhhhh!!!) for Pete's "hip-hop" breakdown using programmed sound samples from what he called "a thirty dollar keyboard." He pressed the buttons like he was scratching records. The band members are kids- skinny white kids with floppy haircuts in jeans and t-shirts- and when Fergus and Daniel laid down a a Fisher-Price My First Groove under Pete's fresh button mashing, it was funny watching them super-seriously play something so stitched-together and fun.


But that wasn't their "sound." The Lost Episode is dreamy Sonic Youth and Black Sabbath. Pete's a good guitar player, and Sabbath shows up in heavy minor-key guitar lines. He's also comfortable with guitar noise like Sonic Youth: queasy-sounding string bends hung in place to relish the dissonance; song verses were four chords but unpredictable and largely unresolved. Daniel and Fergus were just as much a part of the sound. The songs I heard were carefully composed pop but with multiple movements, and the rhythm section held things together nicely.

Okay, maybe they aren't the best band in Seattle, but The Lost Episode hit a soft spot for me. I will never not love a confident, slightly depressed, art-damaged band of 14 year-olds with good taste. The kids are alright, and it's warmed my heart. Almost as much as my skin, which is burning form the concrete's reflection of a very hot sun. June gloom, huh? Sleeves are rolled up at GMF- even the short ones.

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June 14, 2008 2:24 PM

"Hi Everybody." "Hi Eric!"

Posted by Jonathan Zwickel

You're still here?

That's fine. Since you insist on staying home and reading about the festival instead of coming here and experiencing it, you ought to have something good to read. You ought to know what you're missing.

The Setting: Old brick buildings, narrow back alleys, 38 bands, three outdoor stages and two inside Jules Maes. Georgetown's wonderfully rough-hewn cafes, bars, and restaurants (said our server at Smartypants after picking up our bill: "Have a kickass day!"). A wildly diverse crowd, from punk-rock tweens to fanny-packed Boomers to bearded, tatted locals, plus dogs and babies. A supremely low-key atmosphere, far from the sweaty hipster crush of Block Party or the milling thongs of Bumbershoot. Sun. Beer. Beer in the sun! Almost like summer!

The Sound: First band of the day was the Lonely Forest, a pop-rock trio from Anacortes with emo-ish tendencies. The crowd at the Rainier Stage matched the band in looks and age and familiarity with each other. "Hi everybody!" the bassist said from the stage. "Hi Eric," everybody replied. We're all friends here.

Lead singer switched off on guitar and keyboards; he bumped up his vocals from angsty croon to angsty scream for the poingnant moments. There's a whiff of the Faint in their piano-driven tracks, yearning and ambitious, though the Lonely Forest keep the edges enjoyably rough. The mostly teenage crowd was enthralled. The band ended their set with a cover of "Tomorrow"--the "Annie" song--which was unexpected.

Word is Spokane's Kaylee Cole started singing and writing songs just a year ago. She had a wonderfully nuanced voice and emotional range considering, and her piano-led solo pop tunes were surprisingly complex and catchy. The aggressively cute, blue-eyed, blond-haired 22-year old subsumed apparent influences (Tori Amos, Joanna Newsom) to arrive at a hopelessly likable sound. "This is a song about Spokane," she said; the chorus went "Every day is the same and nothing is gonna change around here."

Danny's House is from the Bay Area freeway suburb of Vallejo and exhumed that drunk-fun brand of goofy post-Sublime ska-funk that went extinct in 1996. The bassist wore a shiny turqoise suit and matching cowboy hat.

Levator just followed at the Stockhouse Stage. Hard to focus on to focus on the music and blog simultaneously, but I liked the thick, drony psych-rock that I overheard. While I was sitting outside. In the sun. Listening to music. Sun! Seriously, it's been since like September. I almost forgot what it was like. Bliss.

Shim is currently classic-rocking the Rainier Stage and sound damn good doing it.

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June 14, 2008 2:06 PM

Your Civic Duty

Posted by Jonathan Zwickel

You really should get out from behind the computer and come down to Georgetown. Sure, Georgetown seems closer to Tacoma than Seattle and yeah, you don't know most of the bands playing at the festival, but these kinds of public celebrations are why you live in the city. It's your civic duty to support them, to take part, to drink beer in the sun and watch a teenage band from Anacortes sing their awkward hearts out. It's a micro-holiday in a funky, out-of-the-way neighborhood offering a bunch of good music to discover. It's Saturday. It's sunny! What's keeping you?

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June 13, 2008 10:10 PM

Helmet and BBQ and that's it

Posted by andrew matson

The day's headliner Helmet sent out guitar and drum technicians for roughly an hour's worth of tuning and sound-checking. The heavy metal songs that followed once the band got on stage were so technical and precise, the preparation seemed justified.

I talked to Stefan Schachtell, one of Georgetown Music Fest's promoters, and he estimated 800 people showed up today. It looked like at least 400 stayed for Helmet, and they all knew what they were getting into. Guys in their thirties slammed into each other near the stage, grimacing while fiercely shaking their heads. Helmet pounded out pulverizing jams and the crowd reacted like they'd been waiting for it forever.

Then everybody ate BBQ from the guy selling hot links and ribs outside the Fest's gates. Horror of horrors, he'd run out of ribs, so everybody ate the links. They went fast and the BBQ master vowed to return tomorrow with more ribs "for his people."

Oh, and I talked to the girl from Megasapien and told her she sounded like Sunny Day Real Estate. She said it was a compliment, and she was right.

Best part of today? The weather, which was cool but not cold as Helmet wrapped things up. Second best part? Cancer Rising.

More Georgetown tomorrow!

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June 13, 2008 8:21 PM

Cancer Rising

Posted by andrew matson

I just watched Seattle rap group Cancer Rising. I know these guys- rappers Gatsby, Judas and blesOne and DJ Tiles One- so I'll acknowledge some conflict of interest, BUT...

They got Georgetown Music Fest's crowd going like no other group so far. Thirtysomething couples leaned into each other's ears and repeated clever lines they picked up. CR rapped about Seattle things Seattle people know about like Ezell's fried chicken and "rollin' Rainier" Avenue, and that brought smiles to all ages of faces on the street and in the nearby packed beer area. There was a small child dancing with her mom right near the stage (side note to parents: get some earplugs for your kids!) and Gatsby worried aloud that his music had too much swearing for the youngster. With crowd endeared, CR ran through a set of West Coast-style party raps while people danced in what is now becoming dusk.

Missed Godspeed. Hearing Triumph of Lethargy Skinned Alive to Death right now. Brutal rock. The coffee shop is closing.

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June 13, 2008 6:42 PM

Sun!

Posted by andrew matson

We are now unzipping our sweatshirts at Georgetown Music Fest. The sun is out! Just an hour and half earlier it appeared impossible.

Also, very good rocking has commenced. With the sun, women have brought GMF to life.

The sun started shining as moody three-piece rock band Megasapien played the Ranier stage. Megasapien's singer is a petite woman who both plays guitar and sings like Jeremy Enigk from Sunny Day Real Estate, '90s NW pioneer of what is now called "emo" rock. As people put on sunglasses, she murmered verses and threw her voice off cliffs for big power-chord choruses. It was slow, heavy rock engineered to sound like there was a tight emotional coil underneath its surface.

I watched Megasapien and then walked around the corner to catch Seattle rock singer/guitarist Carrie Akre. She played solo with a lightly distorted electric guitar plugged into a small Fender amp. Later, she was joined by a male back-up guitarist. She has a tuneful, flinty rock voice, and used it confidently on power ballads. We know Ms. Akre from her '90s bands Goodness, Hammerbox, and the Rockfords, all alternative rock born from people who remember what "alternative rock" used to mean. It was bright, and even a little hot, while she played the out of the way Georgetown stage for an appreciative audience of people in black glasses with full-sleeve tattoos.

Back around the corner from Carrie Akre played another female-led local rock group called Kindness Kind. They did carefully arranged, very pretty pop rock. As I write this blog, their webpage is open on another tab: www.thekindnesskind.com. I suggest you check it out. What I heard was "indie"-sounding with an emphasis on writerly compositon, but not pretentious.

Inside All City Coffee blogging, I can hear The Bad Things plod through a Zorba the Greek-style 2/4 rave-up. It's minor-key and notably male-voiced. I think it's all men from here on out.

Whoa- here's Lords of the North sludge-ing through some drop-D tuning right next to me on the Stockhose Stage. Very manly.

Sets to catch: Cancer Rising and Godspeed, both local hip-hop, and Helmet, '90's progenitors of what Wikipedia calls "thinking man's metal."

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June 13, 2008 4:55 PM

Sound Check

Posted by andrew matson

Georgetown Music Fest '08

The Georgetown Music Fest is heating up. The weather is not. Last year, the GMF opened on what felt like the hottest day of the year. This year it opens on what feels like late Fall. Gray, cloudy and a little breezy. Sweatshirt weather.

The sound of drums, distorted guitar, "Check! check! check!" shouted into microphones, and, yes, overhead airplanes fills the air, but the music hasn't started yet. Right now it's rock ambiance: sound check.

The outdoor Rainier and Stockhouse stages are being serially occupied by several rock bands, each setting up their instruments, playing a few chords, almost starting a song, then thumbs-upping the sound guy and walking off stage to make room for the next band. The same thing is happening on the stage in nearby bar Jules Mae's and around the corner of 12th and Harney at the Georgetown stage. Last year there were three stages- the Georgetown stage is new.

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Recent entries

Jun 14, 08 - 09:19 PM
The Verdict

Jun 14, 08 - 08:59 PM
Rocking with the 'Duct, Lashes

Jun 14, 08 - 08:31 PM
Putting the "Aw" in Rawk

Jun 14, 08 - 07:02 PM
The smoothest bands at GMF...

Jun 14, 08 - 06:01 PM
The Key of Drone

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