Tonight in Seattle:  


Bumbershoot preview: Charlyne Yi & Patton Oswalt

I’ve probably raved enough about Charlyne Yi, but here I go again: in addition to crafting one of my favorite movies of the year, she’s also an adorable performance artist. Her shows reportedly mix music, magic and personable jokes – but since they mostly take place in and around LA – I’ve never been able to see them. Fortunately for me (and everyone else!), she’s performing at Bumbershoot this year.

As promised on her YouTube page:

"There will be music, joke-telling, story-telling, tatty-telling, scary stories, stories that you can pass on to your children's children... and more!"

So…I don’t really know what to expect, but I hope it’s something like this:

She’s paired up with Patton Oswalt – who, since I’m a novice when it comes to stand up, I totally knew NOTHING about until Ratatouille (he voiced Remy). After we watched it, my boyfriend said “You don’t know who he is???” and proceeded to download every video he could find and play them for me. And I admit, the dude’s pretty funny, even outside his adorable rat persona. He was on Dollhouse too, and hey, if you appear on a Joss Whedon show, chances are I’m gonna like ya’ (HI fellow WHEDONVERSE fans!).


Bumbershoot preview: Michael Franti and Spearhead

"The truth is that we need everybody. We need the ideas of the grass roots. We need the resources of the corporate world. We need the cooperation of the government. And we need the intelligence of everyday people with their street wisdom. We need everybody, so that’s who I play music for- everybody." - Michael Franti

The best way to describe the music of Michael Franti and Spearhead is organic. They have a sound that feels like it comes from the ground and courses its way through your legs to compel you to dance. They make music meant to be heard outside, under the stars, and amongst an eclectic mix of people. Bumbershoot will be a perfect venue to see them at their very best.


Bumbershoot preview: Blood Squad

Everytime I try to get tickets to see Blood Squad, they're sold out - so obviously my only chance to see them is at Bumbershoot this year.

Blood Squad

This smart 4-person improv group develops shows based solely on slasher films - something I can totally get behind, and I bet you can too.

Taking queues from Friday the 13th, Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street (mostly the hilariously bad sequels like F13 part 2, H20 & Dream Warriors), Blood Squad continually creates entertaining shows - I hear raves about them all over town, all the time. They don't use any fake blood or props, relying instead on narration, lighting effects and on-stage action to deliver the goods.

I can't wait to see them. Sounds like a lot of fun!

{Blood Squad is at Bumbershoot on Sunday, Sept. 6 from 4:45-5:45, Comedy Stage West}

Bumbershoot preview: Katy Perry

A few weeks ago, after Sub Pop made a very generous offer of $10,000 to the Northwest Film Forum during their emergency fundraising campaign, I made a comment on Twitter that I would refrain from making any critical comments about one of the label’s highly regarded local bands for the remainder of the week (this was probably on a Tuesday or Wednesday). I thought it was an inconsequential remark but it touched a nerve with a friend, who then challenged me to start pointing out the dumb things pop stars say and the two examples he gave were Lily Allen and Katy Perry.

There is no shortage of people who are eager to point out the seemingly foolish things that come out of pop tarts mouths; I’m just not one of those people.

I don’t think I’ve ever written anything saying that I was anything more than neutral when it came to Katy Perry (I’ve written plenty of my admiration for Lily Allen and flown out of town to go to the first two shows on her US tour this spring). I’m not so naïve to think that I was assigned to defend Perry for any other reason than to create an artificial straw man and make my pro-pop arguments seem specious. I resented being assigned membership to her fan club because Perry is far too close to Perez Hilton (a figure so loathsome I endorsed violence against him recently) for my comfort and she made an unfortunate crack about Allen’s weight. Most unforgivably, there’s her first single, “Ur So Gay” – it’s a monstrosity of a song that deliberately confuses metro- and homosexuality and plays into offensive stereotypes. Worst of all, it’s not catchy.

Here’s the thing: I like Katy Perry. It’s sort of begrudging, but here’s why.


Latest comment by: Katy Jill Souble-Perry: "Great piece, well written, but please, people, you gotta take the Jill Souble quote in context with the whole bit linked to from it... it's obviously not a clear-cut lashing out, it's done in a somewhat humorous way. Honestly, I think the press wants ...

Bumbershoot preview: Eleni Mandell

Photo by Laura Heffington

A profile from six years ago in Slate highlighted LA-based singer/songwriter Eleni Mandell as an example of a great talent who has yet to get a record deal. Even earlier, the New Yorker said in 2001 that she could be "the best unsigned artist in the business". In 2009, that is still true. Slate said of her:

If Mandell has been overlooked by the industry, it's not because she's hiding out in the American heartland. She lives in Los Angeles and could actually be described either as an insider's outsider or an outsider's insider. Raised in the Sherman Oaks section of the San Fernando Valley, she started playing guitar when she was 15 and began performing publicly while a senior at UC-Berkeley. Soon she met Tom Waits and Chuck E. Weiss (musician, quintessential rock scenester, and subject of the Rickie Lee Jones classic "Chuck E.'s in Love"), and Weiss became an encouraging mentor. Twice she's been a finalist for top singer/songwriter honors from L.A. Weekly, losing both times to Beck. Several of her songs have popped up on television (Six Feet Under) and in films (Heavy). Her reviews—when she gets them—are glowing.


Imaginary Interview: Radio8Ball

“Synchronicity is the star of Radio8Ball” was what the program’s host, a musician and actor named Andras Jones, declared when I saw his program at the Little Red Studio a few weeks ago.

The idea behind Radio8Ball is that audience members write down questions that they are pondering and several are drawn randomly throughout the course of the evening. Jones discusses the question with the audience member and then a wheel is spun, and will land on a number that corresponds with a song by the show’s musical guest, who will then perform the song and Jones, the audience member and the artist will discuss how the song answers the question that the audience member was thinking about.

It’s a really amazing show that is carried by Jones’ charisma and intelligence, as well as the musical guests who appear on the show. The next episodes of Radio8Ball feature the Radio8Band (which is discussed below) and We Are Golden, on August 26 and September 2, respectively. There will also be a performance of Radio8Ball at Bumbershoot on Monday, September 7 (at Theater Puget Sound at 4:45pm). I spoke with Andras Jones, as well as Radio8Ball band member and frequent returning champion Jon Auer (who I have, full disclosure, known as a friend for several years), as well as Radio8Ball sponsor Dibspace’s founder Dominic Canterbury over drinks at Liberty Bar on Capitol Hill last week.


Latest comment by: Angela Jossy: "Love. this. show! Can't wait to see it at Bumbershoot! "

Bumbershoot preview: Helio Sequence

the helio sequence 7.12.08 sp20

Dynamic duos abound in music, reducing the idea of the four piece indie-rock band to a simpler two person endeavor to create resonant art. The Helio Sequence has been a great example of one such band comprised of singer/guitarist Brandon Summers and keyboardist/drummer Benjamin Wiekel. These guys may have a reduced lineup, but they maintain a complex sound that highlights both of their talents functioning in perfect symmetry. The guitar melodies accompanied perfectly by the drums beats allow Summer’s vocals to float effortlessly on top of their ambient synth infused pop songs.

And the story behind Summers’ vocals is one of overcoming. While on tour in 2004 for Love and Distance, Summers lost his voice and was instructed not sing for at least two months. Their subsequent album, their 2008 sub-pop release, Keep Your Eyes Ahead, shows Summers’ growth as a singer as a result of vocal instruction. His lyrics are solid and precise, their structure blending into the day-glow of their catchy yet subtle tunes. You can bask in all the glory of The Helio Sequence at Bumbershoot on Sunday at 9:30 on the Broad Street stage.

Photo by Amelia Gyde from TIG's Flickr pool.

Latest comment by: John in Ballard: "I love the Helio Sequence! I'll be at this show. Benjamin Weikel is one of my favorite drummers to watch live. The first time I saw them live I was in some sort of trance watching him-like watching one of those robot animals from the country bear jamboree or ...

Bumbershoot preview: Matt and Kim

Hailed as the quintessential party band, Matt and Kim, a Brooklyn-based duo comprised of drums and keyboards, set ‘em up and knock ’em down with their straightforward yet powerful pop songs formed around a new wave backbone. Their synth sound is layered with Matt’s nasal-tinged vocals and a pounding of cymbals that makes every chorus a sing-a-long.

Their newest album, Grand, stomps and rushes forward in fits and starts that have garnered the attention of much mainstream media, including a Bacardi commercial where you’ve probably heard their song “Daylight.” Or perhaps you’ve seen them bare all in Times Square for their “Lessons Learned” video. Their barely there melodies are secondary to the chanting spunk of their songs that seem the perfect formula to get listeners amped while still suffusing their songs with an arty dynamic that delivers a whole lotta fun.

If you haven't seen this pair in next-to-nothing during a New York City winter, here's the video. Catch them playing the Broad Street stage on Saturday at 6pm during Bumbershoot.


Bumbershoot preview: Janelle Monae


Although finding her way to Atlanta via Kansas City, Janelle Monàe calls herself the "girl from another planet" on her website and that sets the tone for her futuristic R&B and pop music. She planned on releasing her debut album Metropolis (inspired by and named for the Fritz Lang film of the same name)in four "suites" before being signed to Sean "P. Diddy" Combs' Bad Boy Records.

The one "suite" that I have is The Chase, the first part and it's a great R&B EP, especially the single "Violet Stars Happy Hunting!" which begins with Monàe declaring after a brief stutter, "I'm an alien from outerspace, I'm a cybergirl without a face". It sets the pace for her opus, which could be a futuristic musical that has the sexy coolness of a female Prince.

Monàe is an artist who can feel confortable playing to different crowds as she's toured with of Montreal and No Doubt. When I saw her play in Seattle last fall, she was opening for Jamie Lidell. At Bumbershoot, she'll be playing her set early in the evening, hopefully as the weather is starting to cool down and will make for one the acts at Bumbershoot that I have no intention of missing.


Latest comment by: Imaginary Mimi: "Wouldn't it be the coolest thing ever if she and Denis DeYoung from Styx did a duet of Mr. Roboto?"

Bumbershoot Preview: Hey Marseilles

Hey, Marseilles 12.27.08

If you’ve been looking for a band that has grown out of Seattle’s parks in the summer time yet sounds like it traveled over oceans to reach your ears, check out Hey Marseilles. Their unique sounds comes from the combination of seven members, most of whom play multiple instruments to create a Euro-infused orchestra of beautifully crafted pop songs.

Hey Marseilles have been hitting up a lot of festivals this summer making their inclusion at 2009’s Bumbershoot no surprise and yet still something to look forward to. After seeing them play Block Party they have gone down on the list of frenetic wonders not to be missed for the ways that their songs take on a life of their own when played live. Between the trumpet, accordion, piano and multitude of strings—it’s enough to make you swoon.

To call their songs anthropomorphic gives them a physicality that they don’t necessarily have. But it sort of gets at the idea; their songs are intangible, like some lovely ideal you want to live by, but unlike an ideal they change and grow becoming dynamic as they expand, showing the skill of this band at every performance.

Catch Hey Marseilles Sunday the 6th at 12:45 pm on the Broad Street stage.

Photo by Jeanine Anderson from TIG's Flickr Pool