Tonight in Seattle:  

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

at Neumos

Three key words from Jason Isbell’s nigh-on triumphant set at Neumos last Tuesday night: benzodiazapine, codeine, and Pedialyte. Oh, and the liquor cart from the set opener, “Flying Over Water,” a new, gorgeous song that helped define the tarnished glow of Isbell’s new album, Southeastern. The chemicals swirled in Isbell's songs, as they have in his life. He's moved on, though, making classic tunes about bailing on wastedness. A lot of print has come Isbell’s way in 2013, from a New York Times Magazine profile to umpteen glowing reviews for Southeastern, among the most heartfelt albums you’ll hear all year.

“You all smell like onions,” he told the Neumo’s crowd and then he and the 400 Unit, augmented by show-opener (and wife) Amanda Shires on violin, ripped into their set, dotted by tunes he wrote as the 3rd guitarist in Drive-By Truckers and bolstered movingly by tunes from Southeastern. Isbell’s known for his loud, brawny guitar slinging and a set of vocal pipes that at times can outblast his guitar, which happened frequently during the set. Most impactful at Neumos were the new album’s acoustic, warm and sad and confessional songs, from “Elephant,” a wrenching minor-key cancer song to the partially acapella “Live Oak,” all haunted by a prior, drunker, more dangerous, and lesser-controlled Isbell. 

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The 2013 Sasquatch diaries, pt. II

at The Gorge

{This year, John in Ballard brings us all the bands that caught his attention at The Gorge during Sasquatch! 2013. Read part one of his weekend-in-review here!}

Seattle’s Deep Sea Diver kicked off Sunday with a fun, captivating early afternoon set. They premiered some new music that was well received, and even did a really great cover of Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy”, complete with front woman Jessica Dobson shredding some guitar solos during the choruses. The rest of Sunday’s Sasquatch lineup was loaded from top to bottom with great hip-hop, most notably one of the bigger names, Detroit rapper Danny Brown, who had a pretty energetic crowd gathered at the main stage for his set. Brown can be a polarizing figure: his voice is an acquired taste, and his drunk and drugged out persona isn’t for everyone -- but man, is he fun to watch! The Sasquatch crowd ate it up and was happy to dance and rap along with him. Brown ran all over the stage and often down among the fans, where he did a lot of call and response with his energetic audience. Another standout, O.C. Notes, closed out the Seattle hip-hop stage on Sunday with a nice set of genre-blending sounds. With the Golden Gods (Trent Moorman on drums, Erik Blood on Bass, Thomas Hunter on guitar) backing him up, Otis Calvin & Co. banged out tunes that at times sounded like hip-hop mixed with some jam band and funk -- Calvin’s vocals were often put through an echo delay, and on occasion sung through a bullhorn. 

Swedish band Shout Out Louds played a really poppy set that was easy to enjoy, even for passerby who don’t know their music all that well. They had great energy and their sound is almost tailor-made for the festival set. They ended with their 2007 song “Tonight I Have to Leave It”, which I hadn’t realized until this point sounds like it could have easily fit into the Cure’s late 80’s early 90’s catalog right between “In Between Days” and “Friday I’m In Love”.

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The 2013 Sasquatch diaries, pt. I

at The Gorge

{Sasquatch 2013 / by John Gleason}

Sasquatch 2013 got off to a good start with young Seattle rapper Shelton Harris. Harris was a late addition to the lineup, and he took full advantage of his opportunity. Rhyming over indie music samples from the likes of Matt & Kim and Youth Lagoon, Harris’ rhymes recalled the upbeat ‘believe in yourself, you can do anything’ type of rap that Macklemore can be known for -- fitting since Harris is actually an actor featured in Macklemore’s “Same Love” video. His young crowd multiplied as the set went on, surely bringing him plenty of new fans this weekend.

After Harris' set, Seattle guitar slayer Reignwolf kept things captivating down on the main stage with some interesting mid-day theatrics. Towards the end of his set, he walked down into the crowd, still playing his guitar. While down among the crowd, the Easy Street Records van pulled into the crowd next to him. He then climbed on the roof of the van, which had a mic and a kick drum waiting for him, and proceeded to rock in the middle of the crowd, as his new mobile stage drove him off at the end of his set. Killer! Then, Father John Misty (Josh Tillman) entertained as much with his humorous stage banter as he did with his musical endeavors. A fan yelling to Tillman “I love your beard!” led to several minutes of dialogue about how you don’t want to fall in love with his beard; long story short: it will cheat on you. His persona on stage brings to mind a Jim Morrison impersonator at a karaoke bar as he’s about to get cut off. His performance was absolutely a highlight of the day.

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Built to Spill and Macklemore kick off Sasquatch! announcement party

at Neptune Theater

Spring is just around the corner, and with spring and summer comes the music festival circuit. Coachella recently announced some big names with Blur, the Stone Roses, and New Order set to play the California festival, so anticipation has been high for what Sasquatch would roll out. Monday night’s Sasquatch! Launch Party ended all the speculation with the announcement of a stellar lineup, but not before kicking the whole thing off with a killer show at the Neptune Theater.

Cody ChesnuTT started off the night with his own brand of high energy soul/funk/R&B. Wearing what appeared to be an army helmet, ChesnuTT had the crowd singing along as he bounced from one side of the stage to the other, his backing band sounding incredible. After a short video from Ron Swanson estowing the virtues of the festival “Thunder Closet," it was time for the 'special guest.'

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Latest comment by: Dead C: "Macklemore actually wasn't wearing a denim jacket at all. Also, Brett Netson sang the Beefheart cover."

Dirty Projectors bring their gorgeous harmonies to the Showbox

at Showbox at the Market

{Dirty Projectors / by Beth Crook}

Monday nights can be a little hit and miss as far as shows go: crowds can often be worn out from the preceding weekend -- in this case, that weekend involved three days of Block Party goodness -- and occasionally reluctant to venture out again for yet another show on Monday. That was certainly not the case with Wye Oak and Dirty Projector’s show at the Showbox this past Monday night.

Wye Oak opened up the evening to an already fairly crowded Showbox. The duo of drummer (and occasional bassist) Andy Stack and guitarist Jenn Wasner made enough noise that you have thought you were listening to a much larger band. Maybe it was the sound capacities of the Showbox on this particular night, but even if not, Wye Oak is much, MUCH louder and heavier live than their recorded version is. Wasner’s guitar playing often created a punishing wall of sound, with her vocals just barely lifting over the top. Their moody and contemplative sound harkened back to some of the shoegaze bands of the early 90s. This was my first time seeing Wye Oak, and I was certainly impressed.

{Wye Oak / by Beth Crook}

{Wye Oak / by Beth Crook}

Dirty Projectors took the stage to an anxiously excited crowd, with lead singer David Longstreth high-fiving audience members in the front row upon entrance. The first twenty-five minutes of their set consisted of songs from their new album, Swing Lo Magellan. That fantastic new material punctuated their setlist, as they played the majority of the twelve songs on the album, with highlights from their 2009 album Bitte Orca interspersed throughout.

One noticeable difference between the current incarnation of Dirty Projectors and previous ones is the adjusted lineup. While most members remain the same, former drummer Brian McOmber left the band on amicable terms and was replaced by Mike Johnson. More noticeable however, is the absence of Angel Deradoorian. The trio of Deredoorian, Haley Dekle, and Amber Coffman made some of the most unique and gorgeous melodies in indie music -- however, Deredoorian left the group earlier this year to pursue other projects and was temporarily replaced by Wye Oak’s Jess Wasner, who has since been replaced by former Chairlift member Olga Bell. Considering some of the harmonies and offbeat timing involved in playing their songs live, Bell did a fantastic job and certainly held her own with the rest of the band. When the three of them harmonized together on songs like “Useful Chamber”, they didn’t just settle for singing their beautiful melodies in perfect harmony, they did so at full volume. Not only were they all perfectly on-key, they absolutely belted those notes as loud as they could, and the audience loved every second of it. I noticed several people around me turn to their friends with that "wow, that sounds fucking amazing!" look on their face.

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