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On a cool and desolate autumn evening last weekend, Seattle welcomed back Portishead for the first time in fourteen years, the season and the setting perfect for the murky UK act. Their most recent release, 2008’s minimal and stark Third, is already three years old -- this alone made the wait seem like a near eternity before remembering that I last saw the band a few months after I first moved to Seattle, in December of 1997 (and that performance at The Paramount left me thoroughly impressed.) With this in mind, even though over a decade had passed, I still had high expectations... and this time around the band was once again in top form. Time has not aged this group whatsoever, and I was left reeling from their outstanding performance the moment the lights were turned back on in the theater.
Since I'm such an opinionated music lover (some would say "music snob"), I have fairly rigid ideas about successfully pulling off a cover tune. The way I see it, there are generally two ways you can go. The first is to do a note-perfect rendition of whatever song it is you loved enough to perform in the first place. Otherwise, break it down and make it completely your own -- Grandaddy's cover of "Revolution" is a nice example of this tactic.
But after seeing The Velvet Richman Division (supported by Slaughterhaus Rose and Life In A Blender) last Saturday at The Rendezvous, I may have to add a third option. It turns out that combining said song with others by equally-adored, though generally unrelated, artists and just rolling with it works too.
When it comes to music, when it comes to pretty much anything, I’ve always been a style over substance kind of guy. I think it’s great that KISS put so much work into their costumes and stage show, but I would have much preferred songs that I actually liked. Other than Bowie, in fact, I can’t think of too many artists I admire who have successfully married style and substance. Which is why it’s so refreshing that The Fabulous Downey Brothers seem intent on providing both.
This Olympia-based outfit played to an adoring and enthusiastic crowd at The Comet Tuesday night, supported by Lakefight and Sebastian Clark. Adorned in blue costumes with sizable headpieces, they could have just stood on stage and immediately been different than virtually any other local band. But merely stand on stage they did not. Conflating a cauldron of hardcore, synthpop and musical theater, FDB whipped through an intense set featuring short bursts of controlled chaos. At times it was as if I were watching They Might Be Giants performing under the influence of ridiculously potent amphetamines.
Jens Lekman, with his new EP An Argument With Myself out on Secretly Canadian continued his tradtion of trademark immaculate-style storytelling as he launched into the title track "An Argument With Myself," spilling the beans on a literal argument he had with himself while walking the streets of Melbourne. "Waiting For Kirsten" preceded Jen's explanation of how the song came to be with Kirsten Dunst's mention of Jens in a past interview, which led to a chance opportunity in his hometown of Gothenburg to stalk Kirsten at a hotel (but sadly, with no luck).
Jens fervently dove into his back catalogue with the classic "I Saw Her In The Anti War Demonstration" and then quickly springing into "A Sweet Summer's Night on Hammer Hill." By now, many fans were swaying their hips and singing along to the chorus of "Bomp-a-bomp-a-bomp-a-bomp-a-bomp-a-bomp-a-bomp / can you the beat of my heart..." With no full band accompanying him -- a contrast compared to his past tours -- Jens introduced his lone companion on stage, drummer Addison Rogers to much applause. New songs "I Broke Up A Fight" and "Cowboy Boots" (a new one about having a dream about cowboy boots) were met with approval. And the crowd's favorites continued with "Black Cab" and "The Opposite of Hallelujah," with Jens stepping to the frontmost part of the stage mimicking the ringing of the bells at the end of the song, closing his set with "Sipping on Sweet Nectar."
Man, Two Gallants are a force to be reckoned with. After releasing less than a handful of records on Saddle Creek and after taking a two year break, it seemed like Two Gallants gained, not lost, steam after their hiatus. We were lucky enough to have caught them on their summer tour with The Mumlers and with support by Broken Nobles at Neumos on Monday night.
It was strange -- yet still fitting -- to see Broken Nobles opening the show. Seemingly drawing from the same influences as Two Gallants, it was kind of like being transported back in time to see one of those classic rock bands that never made it. Equipped with long hair, open shirts, and aviator sunglasses, they took the stage and started with a guitar-vocal duet. I thought this was the highlight of their show as the rest of their set morphed into songs that KZOK wouldn’t even play... to clarify: by no means was it awful, I even found myself singing along to a song of theirs -- it was rather more of a sharp contrast point between them and what we were expecting from the mighty Two Gallants.