Tonight in Seattle:  

Willis Earl Beal wows small crowd at Barboza

at Barboza

{Willis Earl Beal / by John Gleason}"Hey, people in the back, shut the fuck up!" That's how 27 year old Chicago native Willis Earl Beal started out his show at Barboza on Friday, imploring the talkative crowds in the back of the room to pay attention. He got his wish and took the opportunity to read a few lines from Bukowski before transitioning into an a cappella song, which he described as a "warm up." He explained his earlier outburst by saying "I'm not a mean guy, I just want to be listened to, just like everybody else." Fortunately for Beal, once he started singing he had no trouble getting people's attention. 

All but a handful of songs Beal performed involved him singing over recordings being played from a reel-to-reel player set up on the back of the stage. Beal has spent time as a street performer around Chicago, so he has experience as a solo performer and working with little additional instrumentation. His money maker is his other-worldy voice, and he gets every last ounce out of it. He was frequently belting out his songs, so powerful at times that the room seemed to take a step back. As he sings in "Swing on Low": "Microphone is my ticket, microphone is my tool." He also showed off his range a few times, working his way up to a pretty high falsetto for one song, then apologizing afterwards that it wasn't as high as he usually likes to go. When he wasn't sitting and strumming an electric guitar for his few slower numbers, he was gracefully dancing around the stage with his Ray-Bans on, a leather glove on one hand, a toothpick in the corner of his mouth, swinging his hips and belting out songs that left the crowd thoroughly mesmerized. For one song he took off his belt, folded it in half, and slapped it against a plastic chair to create percussion. 

Most of the songs sung came from his debut album Acousmatic Sorcery, which was released in April. While the songs on the album are frequently lo-fi, stripped-down guitar and piano songs, his live instrumentations sounds significantly different, a point that Beal acknowledged towards the end of his show. "You can buy my album in the back, but the songs on that album don't really sound like what I played tonight." His powerful voice doesn't have nearly the same effect on record either. While Acousmatic Sorcery is a solid album in it's own right, Beal might be better served releasing a live album at some point to really showcase his astonishing voice. With tons of charisma and undeniable talent, you get the sense that Beal has a bright future ahead of him.

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Latest comment by: John (In Ballard) : "Willis Earl Beal is coming back to Barboza on October 23rd. Tickets are only $12 too. I highly recommend it! "

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M83 at the Paramount Theater

at Paramount Theater

I shouldn't have to tell any of you this, but if you missed M83's sold out performance at the Paramount Theater this past Thursday night, you missed one hell of a show

Backed by lighting effects that at times looked a lot like giant multi-colored neon glow sticks, M83 started their performance the same way they did at their Neumos show this past November -- with Hurry Up, We're Dreaming's opener "Intro" -- and they never looked back. Half of the balcony where I was at was standing from the very start, and midway through the set, the lead single from HU,WD (and probably their most popular song to date) "Midnight City" got pretty much everyone who was still sitting down up on their feet and dancing. One of my minor qualms with their Neumos show last November was the lack of any saxaphone solo during Midnight City, since it's such an energetic, climactic moment in the song, and as cheesy at it sounds, I just want to hear that saxaphone kick in at the right time. This time around, they brought in a live sax player to belt out the solo, and people seemed pretty excited about it. 

Considering that their Neumos show was just a little over five months ago, moving over to the Paramount Theater was a big step up for the band. Gonzalez seemed a little overjoyed and grateful to be playing a sold out show at such a massive venue. He even took a moment between songs to voice his amazement at it all saying "This is such a huge fucking venue for us, it's exciting!" Towards the end of the set, Gonzalez asked to have some of the lights brought up so he could take it all in, which he did briefly before emphatically collapsing to the floor, almost in disbelief.

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Matthew Sweet and Summer Twins

at The Triple Door

 

{Apologies for the crappy cell phone pic, you guys!}

Was this my most anticipated show of the year? So far—YES. I think it was. And so I was a little worried when my friend told me that Matthew had stumbled a bit during his Portland show, but I needn’t have been: The Girlfriend Tour was exactly what I wanted it to be.

Opening band Summer Twins (from Riverside, CA) took the stage, and I was pretty much immediately taken with the two sisters at the heart of the band: Chelsea and Justine. First off, Justine plays DRUMS, and I’m a sucker for a female drummer. Second, Chelsea has one of these awesome sultry-cute voices, and plays the guitar in an adorable sway-dancing way that is almost too twee to handle.

Rounded out by Marcia Rivera on guitar (who stood completely and totally still the whole set) and Levi Audette on bass (who bounced around the other side of the stage in stark contrast), Summer Twins played a bunch of really solid, utterly danceable super-fun indie rock tunes that mixed a hint of of surfy-garage rock with retro pop.

Bounciness was in abundance, my friends. I bought their self-titled debut CD at the break, resisting the vinyl…but only temporarily. Because I bet they sound AMAZEBALLS on vinyl.

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The Round 83: Damien Jurado, Jonathan Russell and friends

at Fremont Abbey Arts Center

{Damien Jurado / by Victoria VanBruinisse}

I'm almost not quite sure how to begin recounting last night's show at the Fremont Abbey {Round #83, with Damien Jurado, The Head and the Heart's Jonathan Russell, and members of Pretty Broken things, two painters, and a poet} in a way that conveys it with proper justice. So far as layperson's terms go, it was just a show: two forty-five minute sets on a stage, three lead singers trading off turns, with active art creation on the side and yes, even the poetry was good. But when you take two powerful frontmen and put them in such an intimate setting -- you're bound to win big. And I think I can speak for the entire sold-out room when I say that everybody won last night.

Between getting to see Damien Jurado's work showcased at such a tangible, stripped-away scale {both through selections from Maraqopa and long-standing favorites like "Sheets"} and Jonathan Russell's raw-yet-polished abandon {several new-to-me songs, a Bill Withers cover, and an incredible closing number about getting postcards you don't want that's been rattling in my brain since The Head and the Heart's Easy Street set last year}, we were taken on a collective journey through the soundscape that engaged both the audience and the other members on stage in a way you just don't see at a one-band-at-a-time rehearsed show. Such is the beauty of seeing performers in the round.

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Latest comment by: imaginary victoria: "hey spiro, I didn't want to be disruptive to the performance and had to shoot "around" the folks sitting in front of us -- no, nothing I managed to get of her came out. :("

Mike Doughty: The Book Of Drugs

at The Triple Door

{Mike Doughty / by Victoria VanBruinisse}

The short version: I saw Mike Doughty perform a few songs and read from his recently-published The Book Of Drugs at the Triple Door this past weekend. I'm only a third of the way through the book in real life, but based on that (and his readings), I think it's pretty great and that you should all buy it / download it / acquire it in whatever manner you acquire your literary media these days.

The slightly-less-short version, as per brain-dump notes mid-show:

Both the book and the show are absolutely worth reading and observing, if for nothing but the chance to watch Mike Doughty set himself free and exorcise his Soul Coughing-tinged demons. Amidst offhand commentary, asking the audience to steal his album [Yes and Also Yes] and share it, admitting that it was named a failed attempt at an OkCupid profile; his carefully chosen words between songs gave us a glimpse into the insight that is Doughty himself -- speaking candidly about the horrors of life in a band he couldn't stand, and as he eventually began to sober up, [ed. note: attempted paraphrase] "scraping away the veneer as one would scrape away the covering of a lottery ticket with a coin to reveal the numbers," the veneer being one that he'd held himself captive with for years of drug and alcohol abuse. The evening's set was peppered with crowd-pleasers like "Twenty-seven Jennifers," "Rising Sign," Mary J. Blige's "Real Love," along with a from-stage kick in the teeth to the guy who requested a Soul Coughing song two-thirds of the way through the show.

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Latest comment by: imaginary victoria: "chris -- ditto to your comments. it's not exactly comfortable the whole time, but I think that's a huge part of what makes it / him so good. we get for-real, as-is mike doughty. love it!"