Tonight in Seattle:  


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


Bumbershoot preview: Vivian Girls

What do you get when you put a blonde, a redhead, and a brunette on a stage with three mics, a drum set, a guitar, and a bass? You get the lo-fi garage rock of Vivian Girls’ Cassie Ramone, Kickball Katy, and Ali Koehler—Duh. No, but seriously, Vivian Girls are way more than a group of cute girls making music in Brooklyn, they are a group of talented young ladies whose surf-punk transcends rockabilly with three part harmonies that make you feel like you’re in the 20’s.

They harness a similar aesthetic as Mika Miko but theirs is coated with more shoe-gaze fuzz allowing them to become more dynamic, bringing their punk up and out of the limited market ability of that genre and making them more of the female equivalent of The Black Lips. I feel like Vivian Girls started to get buzz around the time I left New York and I never got to see them play live, so you can bet I won’t be missing their show during Bumbershoot on Sunday at 6 pm on the Broad Street stage.

Bumbershoot preview: Exec Producers & Writers of Lost

ABC's Lost

I was a skeptic of ABC's hugely popular television show "Lost" at first - but all it took was a few episodes to get me hooked, and boy howdy am I. Apart from gorgeous sets and perfectly cast characters, what really makes Lost compelling is the storyline...non-linear and full of mystery (what the hell IS the smoke monster anyway?), it constantly leaves you on the edge of your seat and makes you wait in high anticipation for the next episode - so it's no surprise that when I sent a tweet saying the writers were going to be at Bumbershoot this year the RTs were plentiful and geeks around Seattle rejoiced.

A panel and Q&A at this year's festival will feature Executive Producers & Writers Carlton Cuse, Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, hosted by Jeff Jensen, Senior Writer for Entertainment Weekly.

I'm pretty sure they're not going to answer any direct questions about where next season is going, but maybe you can find out if the rumor about Charlie coming back is true (or in my case, get Sawyer's phone number). Heads up, people - this thing is gonna be packed.

{The Executive Producers & Writers of "Lost" will be at Bumbershoot on Monday, September 7 from 3:30-4:45pm at the Leo K Theater}


Imaginary Interview: Hotels

Over the past few years, Hotels have emerged as one of the most enjoyable bands in Seattle. They have a synth-heavy sound recalling artists such as New Order, Joy Division and OMD; their excellent second album, Where Hearts Go Broke, would not sound out of place if it were released by Factory Records circa 1981.

I’ve known a few members of Hotels casually for a couple of years and it is a pleasure to watch their live show and recorded music improve and grow more confident while finding their own sound and take on their inspirations. They’ve played several important shows this year, including the Capitol Hill Block Party and playing at the Crocodile just a few nights after its big reopening. They’ll also be playing Bumbershoot this year on Saturday, September 5 (at 2:00pm in the EMP Sky Church).


Bumbershoot preview: De La Soul

De La Soul's single "Me, Myself and I" was a hit in 1989 and all over MTV at the time. That was a time when I was just discovering music videos (I was ten years old then) and didn't know what to make of it. It didn't sound like what I knew to be rap at the time (which was basically Public Enemy and Run DMC). It was a lot funkier and while unusual to my ten year old self, the hook was undeniable.

Twenty years later, the album that came from, Three Feet High and Rising, remains one of my favorite hip hop albums. I didn't know it at the time but it was very progressive with beats and sampling, as well as with rhyming. It was also the first album I heard that had sketches in between songs. The follow-up, De La Soul is Dead was also a great hip hop album, with some of my favorite De La Soul songs like "Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)" and "Kicked Out of the House". It was a significant departure from Three Feet High... as it didn't seem as playful and was certainly a departure from their "hip hop hippies" tag that was bestowed on them for their debut (the same insult would soon be thrown at Wu-Tang Clan's RZA several years later).

What's truly impressive about De La Soul is not just how innovative they were twenty years ago but that they continue to be relevant today. This is one of the sets I'm most excited for at Bumbershoot this year.


Bumbershoot preview: Stuff White People Like

It was reported that blogger Christian Lander, behind the popular blog "Stuff White People Like" had gotten a $300,000 advance for his book based on his blog... and then found himself on the New York Times Bestseller List.

By "white people", Lander doesn't mean those crazy dingbats screaming about President Obama's birth certificate or people who will fill up the parking lot of a shopping mall to hear Sarah Palin speak, but he means affluent, educated white liberals. As Lander told the LA Times, "Too many white people don't like to be reminded that they're white. They like to think that white people are those evil corporate right-wingers or the uneducated masses who vote the wrong way. But 'enlightened whites' are white people too and have just as much of a group mentality as they think the red staters have."


Latest comment by: Chris Estey: "That's an interesting quote at the end. I don't know if I totally agree. A lot of indie fans seem to be seeking commonality, bands that they share with their friends (at the same time). Every genre or milieu has a snobbish element, (as one example) in terms of ...

Bumbershoot preview: Portland Cello Project

Photo by Alicia J. Rose

No false advertising here. The Portland Cello Project is just what it says it is.

PCP is a collective of (mostly) classically-trained cello players who perform (mostly) covers of contemporary pop songs. I wish they contained a little less irony but they do have some interesting arrangements with those songs.

PCP has collaborated with such artists as The Builders and the Butchers, Thao (of the Get Down Stay Down), Mirah and The Dandy Warhols. They released an album called The Thao and Justin Power Sessions on Kill Rock Stars earlier this summer, with each Thao and Justin Power (a PDX musician) collaborating on four songs. For Bumbershoot, PCP will be joined by Portland musician Adam Shearer, who is the singer of a band called Weinland. When the collective covered George Michael song earlier this month in Portland, people in the audience were offering their womb immediately after. Take that for what it's worth.

Here's the Portland Cello Project playing with The Builders and the Butchers:

Portland Cello Project plays Bumbershoot on Monday, September 7 on the Northwest Court Stage at 6:45pm.