Tonight in Seattle:  

Festivals

Photoessay: Pickathon 2012, part I

{Langhorne Slim / by Victoria VanBruinisse}

It was an incredible inaugural experience for us at this year's Pickathon, the once-a-year celebration of all things indie roots (and indie, and roots) down on Pendarvis Farm in Happy Valley, Oregon. While, at times, the heat made the festival something to be endured, rather than out-and-out enjoyed -- temperatures broke 100 degrees on Saturday and hit the mid-90s on Sunday -- we still managed to have a blast.

Pickathon is just... different, something you have to see to experience. It's somehow simultaneously appealing to hipsters, hippies, families, and heads. The production of the festival itself is one of the most sustainable we've ever witnessed, with a token-for-dishware trade and "no single use" policy, exclusively local vendors and no corporate sponsorship. And the curation is so much more than just indie roots, with everyone from Gordon Gano to Langhorne Slim to Neko Case to Thee Oh Sees to THEESatisfaction taking the stages between banjo-picking sing- and stomp-a-longs. Pickathon really is one of those festivals that's stayed true to its roots while growing in size and popularity, free from car ads and jumbrotrons. We were all just up to our armpits in farm dirt, digging on tunes and having a hell of a time. And isn't that how it's supposed to be?

Here's a few photo highlights of our first day at the fest, Saturday (the weekend actually runs from Friday to Sunday). The Mynabirds were the first band to catch our ear in the main stage area, with their ethereal, jammy, layered sound. They fused their vibe with about two percent tent revival and a heaping side of synth-hipster for good measure, and it worked like a charm:

{The Mynabirds / by Victoria VanBruinisse}

{The Mynabirds / by Victoria VanBruinisse}

{The Mynabirds / by Victoria VanBruinisse}

Next up, we caught a set by the Bowerbirds, who delivered pretty prog.indie folk songs. Worth noting: the band has a new album out as of March '12, and will be touring this fall with a stop at our very own Neumos at the end of October. More info here.

{Bowerbirds / by Victoria VanBruinisse}

{The Mynabirds / by Victoria VanBruinisse}

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Latest comment by: Imaginary Amie: "Aw man. I want a Gordon Gano breakfast! Wait. That sounded...very bad. "

Recommended Event: Intiman Theatre Festival

MIRACLE! at the Intiman Theatre Festival. Photo by Chris Bennion.

Intiman is turning 40 this summer, and after a series of setbacks in the last few years (which culminated in a 2011 half-season cancellation, layoffs of the theater's entire staff, and near financial collapse) it's back in a big way with a summer theater festival unlike anything I've seen during my dozen years in Seattle: four separate productions sharing a repertory company of seventeen local actors playing more than 40 roles in 80 performances. It's happening through August 26, and it's an event you really should experience at least a part of.

Because unless you completely loathe theater, there's something for you here: a new local piece (Dan Savage's Miracle!); a challenging contemporary drama (Proof author John Patrick Shanley's Dirty Story); an iconic Ibsen (Hedda Gabler); and, of course, a Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet). Some of Seattle's best talent is involved on the boards and behind the scenes: local actor-treasures Marya Sea Kaminski and Timothy McCuen Piggee shine brightly in three plays each. And the set-design team, headed by the uber-talented Stranger Genius (and third luminary of this festival) Jennifer Zeyl, has built a versatile, visually surprising playground on the mainstage to support three of the shows, plus a completely separate mini-world (for Dirty Story) in an intimate new studio space. What a thrill.

After the jump, my thoughts on each production, listed in order of awesomeness.

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Heineken City Arts Festival: one very impressive lineup!

It's safe to say that we're all recovered from yet another fantastic weekend at Capitol Hill Block Party -- toxins have been sweat out, legs have been rested, and ringing has left the ears. Now, it's time to start getting prepped for yet another awesome festival to sweep the streets of Seattle: City Arts has unveiled the initial line-up for this years upcoming Heineken City Arts Fest, and it is shaping up to be one eventful weekend! Gathering some of today's best performers, City Arts plans to transform our Seattle streets into one big haven for creativity and fun. On top of the initial lineup, you'll find limited capacity shows in secret locations littered about the festival, leaving attendees with little surprises around every corner. City Arts will also be offering scavenger hunts, bike races, booty-shaking after parties and many other vehicles for experiencing Seattle in a new and artistic fashion.

As for the music? The line-up has been released and features heavy-hitters such as: Two Door Cinema Club, Ghostland Observatory, Joshua Radin, A Fine Frenzy, Reignwolf, Omar Rodriguez Lopez, and many more {including Lemolo, The Maldives, Kay Kay And His Weathered Underground, Ravenna Woods, Fly Moon Royalty, Case Studies, Tiny Vipers, Stephanie... whew!}. What should get most of your salivary glands working overtime is the headlining act, what City Arts describes as a "much anticipated collaboration from David Byrne and St. Vincent". If you have seen either St. Vincent or Byrne perform live, you most certainly understand what sort of treat this would be for the senses and, of course, the opportunity to see what will most likely be a once-in-a-lifetime performance.

If you haven't heard, David Byrne and St. Vincent have collaborated on an album titled Love This Giant, which is due out September 10th (UK) and September 11th (US). Check out a track from their upcoming album below:

With what City Arts has planned for this years' festival, the bar will most certainly be raised. Again, boasting a impressive list of entertainment and festivities for all, this is one you certainly will not want to pass up. Passes for this event go on sale Thursday, August 2nd.

For a complete list of the initial lineup and additional details, click here.  

Recommended festival: Pickathon 2012 {August 3-5}

We know, we know -- Pickathon? you say, with an air of disbelief. Isn't that a bunch of beardy hippies with banjos out on a farm someplace in rural Oregon? Do they even have wi-fi? Fret not, dear imaginary friends: we are here to share the good news, which is the plain and simple fact that Pickathon Is Awesome. It's kind of got everything you ever hope for in a festival -- multiple stages in the open air that vibe on well into the nighttime, it's not too crowded, there's abundant camping on-site, and it's chock full of local food vendors and boasts a purposeful, sustainable green vibe. And of course, first and foremost, Pickathon's got the bands. (And ps, apparently, abundant wi-fi.)

This year's lineup has everything from sad bastards and bastardettes {like Laura Gibson, Alela Diane, and the Bowerbirds} to full frontal shredders {Heartless Bastards, Cave Singers} and back again. Whether you like the cool, sweet croon of Neko Case or the jamtastic vibe of Dr. Dog, or those multi-faceted types like Langhorne Slim -- who gives us a little bit of everything, from scream to croon to a howl -- you'll find your groove on Pendarvis Farm. And to sweeten the deal for you not-so-rootsy folks, the weekend is parsed through with some of the best of right now's straight-up indie.fill-in-the-blank vibes, with sets by Y La Bamba, Typhoon, Thee Oh Sees, and THEESatisfaction.

Here's a little more on the folks you already know and love:

Cave Singers {Pickathon artist page}

{Cave Singers / by Victoria VanBruinisse}

The idea of hearing the Cave Singers rage on into the nighttime on a farm in the middle of nowhere (kind of) has got me near-giddy with delight. Imagine if they went back-to-back with Heartless Bastards? HELLO, DREAM SET. Their shreddy, full-volume indie-roots part Zeppelin, part campfire vibe is unlike anything else out there, and we are bummed out to the max that we won't be hitting town until late Saturday morning -- their Friday night set is going to be a doozy. If you're up there on time, catch these guys on Friday night from 1a - 2a (hell yeah!) in The Galaxy Barn, and on Saturday on The Woods Stage from 4:30p - 5:30p.

Neko Case {Pickathon artist page}

Fresh off of a well-recieved performance at the Capitol Hill Block Party, Ms. Case will be gracing us with her one-of-a-kind croon twice at Pickathon as well. Her stories are well-worn and beautifully crafted, and as her bio states, walk the line between contemporary and timeless with nary a mis-step. She'll headline The Woods Stage on Saturday from 9p - 10p, and the Mt. View Stage on Sunday from 8:45p - 10p.

Alela Diane {Pickathon artist page}

We're lucky to have the folks at More Dust Than Digital and our pal Greg Vandy in our midst, creating killer artist portraits like the one above for local folkster Alela Diane. She's currently on tour in Europe (per her gorgeous recent Instagram photos) and will be making her way back this way for two sets at the festival. Catch her at The Workshop Barn on Friday from 5p - 6p, and again on Sunday on The Woods Stage from 3p - 4p.

Blitzen Trapper {Pickathon artist page}

This Blitzen Trapper track ("Furr") is the one that got me hooked, and the one that keeps me coming back to this band for a contribution on about half of the mixes I make for friends looking to be turned on to 'new' music. They're fresh off of a tour supporting Wilco, will be making a stop out at Doe Bay Fest later in August, and they'll be hitting the road in late September / early October with our pals The Head and the Heart. Short version? Get hip if you're not already there. You can take them in at Pickathon Friday on the Woods Stage from 9p - 10p, and Sunday on the Mt. View Stage from 6:45p - 8p.

Dr. Dog {Pickathon artist page}

Hello, jamtown. To quote Dr. Dog on recording their latest album: "It was reminiscent of when we were starting out and were these fearless weirdos in a basement, so confident and reckelss and bold." That's exactly the vibe we're hoping to catch from them up at Pickathon, as they take us on a trip from noodle-jam to gritty rock and back again. Couple their instrument-wielding talents with an at-times unprecedented lyrical prowess, and you've got a recipe for a good time. Dr. Dog plays The Mt. View Stage on Saturday from 9:45p - 11p, and The Galaxy Barn on Sunday from 1a - 2a

Heartless Bastards {Pickathon artist page}

Just like the Cave Singers, I am beside myself at the opportunity to spend a set or two with The Heartless Bastards out in the starry, clear nighttime. The cut above (yep, that video is about six years old) is "Brazen", off of 2006's All This Time, but still stands up strong -- it easily could have been recorded last week. They'll be kicking ass on The Mountain View Stage on Friday from 8:45p - 10p, and again in The Galaxy Barn from 1a - 2a on Saturday night (Sunday morning).

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Capitol Hill Block Party 2012 review: Best year yet?

{Grimes crowd / by Brady Harvey}

Monday has come and gone, and we're still having sweet, only slightly-sticky memories of this year's annual Capitol Hill Block Party. This year's was definitely the least hot or humid, making it pleasurable for those of us who aren't too into the sun (no offense to the lovers of the big yellow lava-lump in the sky). Saturday heated up as the musical apex of the fest rose, with Brooklyn's The Psychic Paramount awesome possum-saucing new fans on the Main Stage (and then again at a semi-secret show at unofficial CHBP venue The Comet on Sunday, with a whole bunch of fellow psyche freaks a-jambling).

Special little shows erupting here and there through the fenced-in Broadway neighborhood that surrounds The Stranger offices was a topic of much chatter as we walked between Neumos, the Vera Stage, et. al., to catch the already delightful scheduled line up Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Duff McKagan of Guns N'Roses immortality played a little bass for Walking Papers, a new thang he had swinging in the always-chuffed-and-stuffed bunker of the Cha Cha. There were a lot of other hidden thrills, but this is possibly my favorite Capitol Hill Block Party ever simply because there was so much sweetness going on officially, you couldn't not hear a great band just a few feet away from wherever you stood / swayed / jitterbugged / passed out in a tipple pool. I saw maybe one or two bands that didn't light my fire, but they were up-and-comers and may burn brightly later on when I catch 'em another time.

Now let's get to what was seen and supremely dug, by the EMP's photographer and Tea Cozies' Brady Harvey and myself, since Friday afternoon, July 20:

Father John Misty (Friday, 4 p.m., Main) craftily created a record worthy of an L.A. Wolf King earlier this year, but it was no warmed-over homage to SoCal succubi and champagne made by long-haired millionaires filling up your daddy's and mama's orange crated elpee collections. Josh Tillman perfected a musically appealing (and at times satirically astonishing) journey to the end of the weird scenes in one man's gold-dust mind. There was no reason to think this one-time drummer for the Fleet Foxes wouldn't blow everyone away by loosely, confidently, and joyfully singing the songs from this new persona's one platter oeuvre, but his personableness and professional surpassed expectations. I have never experienced such a warm, welcoming, wowing start to a festival. We were all into the music and J. was into us, his lanky frame curling its upper limbs into the air, pointing at the gods, tearing at the moon's face paint, calling out to friends like Joel Cuplin and Eric Fisher (of Constant Lovers), his band aces all the way. Hey, I could have left the festival then and been pleased as deadly nightshade. But the trip was just starting to ball.

Deadkill (Friday, 4:15 p.m., Neumos) somehow juggles being ferally fearsome with sometimes being really funny (lyrically), reminding me slightly of the late 90s rosetta stone of performance art punk, Raft of Dead Monkeys. But the humor is more reserved, and that is probably the only thing one can describe as reserved about the band, as they make sounds that smell like a Detroit muscle car factory spitting out speed flames. Lead singer Bryan Krieger has tattoos as if he's ready for some mixed Martial arts and a body to match it, and his boys don't slag watching his back in total panther-rock attack. Ecstatic. Great rawk, no holding back. OK, I'll stop "pa-rapping" now.

Crystal Stilts (Friday, 5:15 p.m., Neumos) was good, and made me appreciate them more by seeing them live. No, I am not a fan, but a casual admirer at least. (Put down your shoegaze; don't hit me with their I'm-so-high heels.) There is something about the Stilts' sound that is mesmerizing, but also an aspect that seems like it could be beefed up somehow. Live, it's a wonderful flow -- it moves me more seeing them grind their organs, lurched over stacked keyboards and singing like they're peeved poets at the bottom of an ennui well. Old man flashback: they kind of remind me of Polyrock from back in the very early 80s, being both fuzzily dissonant but also new wave streamlined, and not too concerned with direct listenership connection. 

Doomtree (Friday, 5:15 p.m., Main), on the other hand, which I walked out to from CS, roared and bounced and spun soul music and gave crazy good advice about living and exploded like a firecracker party on a hot asphalt island. You could not help but be pulled in by their thick-groove, big-hearted, Minneapolis funk and flow. Nothing ambivalent about this hip-hop, it's rooted in a head scene but it's sheer body rocking beauty. Dessa's deeply adored for a reason, and I found more than one to feel the whole way about Doomtree this day. How'd I arrive at this jam so late? People were loving this, really loving it.

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Pride 2012: party with a purpose!

As members, supporters, and allies of the LGBTQ community, many of us will be out and about in our lovely city this weekend celebrating the few days of annual fanfare known as Pride Weekend. To casual passerby, Pride Weekend may look simply like a love-riot -- full of parties, debauchery, intoxication, and the predictable "morning after" vibe that's best observed on the streets of Capitol Hill: shredded rainbow accoutrement, balloon fragments, and a whole lotta feel-good glitter decorating the streets in the dawn hours of Sunday morning, before the regroup takes place at the annual Pride Parade through the downtown streets of our fair city. But Pride has much more to it than that -- so before we run down a mini-schedule of all the rad doings that are waiting to be had over the course of today and tomorrow, we thought it best to take a moment to remind you (and perhaps educate you) about what all the fun is about in the first place.

Back in 1969, it was quite literally illegal to be out and gay -- especially so in New York City, where the beginnings of what we now know as a nationwide Pride celebration got their start at a bar in New York City called the Stonewall Inn. It was routine behavior back then for police to raid and shut down openly gay establishments as enforcement of laws banning homosexuality in public. {Seriously!} But on a fateful night back in June of that year, a handful of folks at that popular gay bar in Greenwich Village decided that they'd had enough. Not only did they fight back against that night's raid, but returned the next night over a thousand strong, demonstrating at Stonewall, and at other locations across the city over the next several days. Some of the first openly gay-labeled advocacy groups were borne out of these riots and demonstrations -- within two years, one had started in nearly every major city in the United States -- and the following year after Stonewall, on the same weekend, the nation's first-ever Pride parades took place in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and of course, New York City.

So, while you're out there raising a toast and shaking your gorgeous LGBTQ /-friendly booty on many a dance floor around town this weekend, take a minute to remember what all the fun is for in the first place! Here's a few official ways and means to help you get your celebration on, with an incredible community that's forty-plus years strong in the making:

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'Best' of SIFF 2012 series begins Friday at the Uptown

King Curling

A true 'best-of' SIFF 2012 program, IMHO, would include gritty French drama Polisse, Russian chiller Elena, Argentine road movie Las Acacias, French-Canadian melodrama Wetlands, Dutch sensuality experiment 170 Hz, and a number of exceptional documentaries (How to Survive a Plague, The Imposter, Wonder Women, and especially Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present).

And while I've never really claimed to be tuned to the collective frequency of the SIFFgoing public, it's still tough to fathom the dreary Any Day Now winning 2012's top audience award. But win it did, and it's among 18 features and one shorts package playing at SIFF Cinema's 'Best' of SIFF 2012 series unspooling this weekend. None of my personal favorites will be there, but some are indeed coming (again) soon to a theater near you.

Of SIFF's 'best of' films I've seen (75% of them, in fact, if you include the three which begin regular week-long runs at SIFF's cinemas on Friday), I only posted a solid-ish recommendation to one: Welcome to Doe Bay. But had I seen a few others earlier -- Extraterrestrial, King Curling, The Invader -- I'd've given them my version of a thumbs-up too and notified you about them before they screened. I'm glad I can give them some love now.

But I'm realistic about how much my opinion really counts for here, so proceed with cautious optimism as you leverage the opportunity to see some audience- and jury-award honorees (alongside a few non-winners that SIFF programmers apparently just saw fit to screen again), explore a few flicks the intrepid TIG film staff didn't make it to, and catch up on some of the general SIFFiness you may've missed out on over the past month. All screenings are at the Uptown unless otherwise noted.

DAILY, June 15-21; see siff.net listings for showtimes:

Extraterrestrial
{Runner-up: Best Director Golden Space Needle Award}
Julio wakes up in Julia's bed, after a night neither of them remembers very well; their awkward, hungover morning-after grows even stranger when they discover that colossal alien spaceships have appeared over Madrid. This is a quick and pleasant little romp by Timecrimes director Nacho Vigalondo, who did a charming and funny Q&A at the SIFF screening I attended. I can't promise Extraterrestrial will be quite as magical in his absence.

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Latest comment by: brandish: "Sliiiii-ip! Slip and Slide!"

SIFF Take: Future Weather

{Future Weather screens at SIFF June 9, 5:30pm and June 10, 10am at SIFF Cinema Uptown. Director Jenny Deller is scheduled to attend}

Both Future Weather and I Am Not a Hipster are also part of the inaugural Catalyst program at SIFF, and are eligible for the FIPESCI New American Cinema juried prize award! As part of the program, SIFF is offering a full day of public panels and discussion around co-cretion and community in the new digital space. Panels start at 10am and run through 2pm on Saturday, June 9, at the SIFF Film Center -- and are FREE to attend.  

Future Weather, which I was mainly excited about because the writer and director is female and HELLO WE NEED MORE WOMEN IN FILM, was an interesting spin on the usual coming-of-age story.

Perla Haney-Jardine (who you may remember as the adorbs BB Kiddo in Kill Bill Vol. 2) plays Lauderee, a 13-year-old in a small town with a pretty terrible mom. Seems mom has a dream of becoming a Hollywood makeup artist, and so you know, she just leaves to do that, as moms do. And Lauderee’s hard-drinking, miserable grandma Greta (yay, Amy Madigan!) isn’t much more help. She tries, but uh. Let’s just say the apple clearly doesn’t fall far from the tree. The only person for this neglected teen to turn to is science teacher Ms. Markovi (Lily Taylor), who encourages Laurderee’s obsession with schoolin’.

And that’s where the spin comes in. Rather than focus on the whole "troubled teenage girl who runs around sleeping with everybody, drinking, doing drugs, and godknowswhatelse," Lauderee throws herself into environmental studies and obsesses over Global Warming—right down to how much oxygen trees can create, and how she can save a rare mollusk that’s barely surviving in the town’s rivers.

Sure, there’s a love interest—kind of—that results in one very chaste kiss. But in the long run, it’s not about that, and man was it was refreshing to see a teenage girl portrayed as something more than a wild, out-of-control monster blindly trying to imitate what she’s been taught. The only thing I wish the movie had more of was Lily Taylor’s character, but Haney-Jardine and Madigan were so good in their roles, I was okay with what ended up on film. Overall, it’s a nice, solid film, and I’m excited to see what Jenny Deller does next. 

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SIFF Take: The Source

{The Source screens at SIFF June 8, 8:30pm and June 10, 11:30am at the Harvard Exit. Director Jodi Wille and subject Charlene Peters are scheduled to attend}

“That’s not pot. It’s the sacred herb.” I like to imagine Father Yod said this right before posing in his big pimpin’ suit with all his ladies for this photo. 

Before I saw The Source, the only thing I knew about this trippy 70s cult was the name of its founder, Jim Baker (or Father of Light, or Father Yod, or YaHoWha), and that it derived from a popular organic, vegetarian restaurant on the Sunset Strip. Now I feel like I know WAY too much about The Source Family, but it’s all very interesting, so I don’t mind too much.

Baker made a boatload of money doing various and sundry things in the 50s and 60s, and then has this idea to create a hippy dippy restaurant in L.A. with his beautiful 19-year-old wife (he was something like 53 at the time) that made him boatloads MORE money. Then he took a bunch of drugs and did a bunch of kundalini yoga—and the restaurant evolved into a cult. At which point, Baker officially changed his name twice and went from “I’m here to deliver the word of God” to “I AM God” to “As God, I’m telling all y’all that I need 13+ wives. And we all need to have crazy sex orgies and blood rituals and smoke the sacred herb and have visions and deliver our message to the world."

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Latest comment by: Imaginary Amie: "Yay! So excited you're both excited to see it - and thank you for the compliments, Chris. I should have known you had their albums!!! :) Hopefully the documentary will be as interesting/strange/hilarious to you as it was to me. "

SIFF Take: I Am Not a Hipster

{I Am Not a Hipster screens at SIFF June 7, 9:30pm and June 8, 3pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown. Director Destin Cretton is scheduled to attend}

Indie Rocker Brook (Dominic Bogart) spends a lot of time and energy avoiding fame and super fans of his self-recorded debut album. He’s not very nice to his friends, he throws public tantrums about his ex, and he uh, doesn’t want to do any publicity. Okay. Dude? In other words, he’s kind of a dick. Who is apparently NOT a hipster. That much we know.

And then his trio of beautiful sisters comes to visit him in San Diego and we learn why he’s kind of a dick. His mom died. And his dad and him had a fight about it. And he left.  And he has in no way dealt with his feelings about it, except for through his music. And then oh man. I guess that means we can’t hate him anymore, huh?

Though it's not a perfect film, there’s an authenticness to I Am Not a Hipster that I can’t quite pin down—I think it’s because it’s layered with lots of severely amazing music. The tunes are by Joel P. West, who created an entire album for the fictional character of Brook (Bogart does actually sing them in the movie), called Canines, which you can listen to for free! I’m sort of wishing West would tour with these songs. I like them that much.

Recommended, even though it’s pretty depressing. Just because it feels so real—and the music is so, so, so great.