So many people peg Seattleites as repressed or unfriendly, but I don’t think that’s true at all. For me, the evidence is on display at a good concert, and I try to see as many as I can. We have a passionate, informed musical culture here and the fans almost always give as much as they get. I was lucky to see some fantastic shows in 2013 and I’ve decided to provide an awards system ranking the various experiences along with a fascinating anecdote from my own experience at said show. Because it matters. Where possible, I uploaded my own videos to youtube, but all of the vids are there to communicate how rad the artist is in a similar concert setting. Cheers~
Yokozuna Grand Champion: Holy Ghost! With Midnight Magic at Neumos Crystal Ball Reading Room, October:
Maybe the best show I’ve ever seen. Having “witnessed” Holy Ghost! open a few years ago for Cut Copy, my friends and I formed a pact to see them when they inevitably headlined. Touring in support of their “Dynamics” release, and joined by their fantastic DFA (of James Murphy/LCD Soundsystem fame) labelmates Midnight Magic, Alex Frankel and Nick Millhiser did everything right—perfect implementation of live instruments, great visuals, and extending their signature crisp 80’s-influenced synthpop into one ripping electronic jam session after another.
I played pied piper to a big group for this one and put all my music-nerd capital on the line. Vindication came as everyone danced to the point of exhaustion. The crowd of ~20 before the show started became 300 in minutes. There were beach balls and a blow-up doll floating around, but this kicked the shit out of a Jimmy Buffet show. I may not “own a toothbrush” or “have charisma or self-esteem”, but I pick a good show. Home run. Good job!
Runner-Up: Django Django, Neptune Theater, March:
Another gem via KEXP, Scottish rockers Django Django descended from the heavens to visit the Neptune on a March weekend where nearly everyone I knew had “gone out of town.” Django Django is amazing, so I headed to the Neptune, exercised my rights as recognized by the State of Washington, and saw the show solo.
It was, criminally, my first trip to the Neptune, which is a gorgeous venue. Most of the concerts I check out belie the imagined “Seattle freeze” and it’s easy to meet people, but for whatever reason the Django crowd was a little clanny. I also might have been drunker than I thought. No matter! The plush upper deck allowed me to soak in Django Django’s vaguely psychedelic Beach Boys stylings via the domed roof. The sound quality—particularly frontman Vincent Neff’s crystal-clear vocals—was excellent. Very talented musicians; great band, go see them.
Lazarus Award: Deltron 3030, Crocodile, November
If you were in high school around the turn of the last decade, you’ve seen an already-bizarre world get a lot crazier, messier, and sadder. Back then, the alien autopsies were realer and the faceless intergalactic corporations were our biggest worry—before they became people. Deltron 3030 spoke briefly, poetically, and weirdly for a generation, and then they were gone.
We grew up. We saw the world for what it was and we despaired. We became what we loathed. By 2013, we were at the tipping point of a terminal decline into soulless, technology-driven consumerist dystopia. Then, a miracle. Thirteen years after the brilliant 3030, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Dan the Automator and Kid Koala restored hope in our hearts with the beautiful, operatic Event 2.
None of the more bizarre album guest artists (Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, Zack de la Rocha, David Cross, Amber Tamblyn, and British chef Jamie Cullum) were at the Crocodile when Del came to visit, and we didn’t get the orchestra on stage, but Steve Aoki played guitar and the Mars Volta drummer played…drums. A triumphant return to the future.
Fun fact: Kid Koala’s daughter is a big fan of Yo Gabba Gabba, so he did an official song for YGG. His superb undercard DJ set at the Crocodile ended by taking the audience through the opening routine of the children’s show.
Best Fan Appreciation: Souls of Mischief ’93 Still Infinity 20-Year Anniversary Tour, Crocodile, October.
Youth Revisited II. If you listened to Del, then you listened to Souls of Mischief. Celebrating 20 years since releasing their seminal hip-hop classic (‘93 Till Infinity) as 17-year-old kids, SoM’s appreciation for two decades of living their dream was palpable and heartfelt. An bouncing crowd of Seattle ‘heads fuelled a classic performance.
Fun Fact: If you walk south on 2nd after closing down the Crocodile, the BBQ stand man will sell you $13 worth of brisket for $8 or whatever we had in our pockets.
Best Fun/Music Density: Bumbershoot, September
Bought a ticket/found a free ticket/sold to scalper, “free” beers, great weather, good friends, herbal clouds about the place, and an unusually happy Seattle crowd set the stage for four back-to-back acts I’d have paid much more to see individually.
subcategory: Best use of punctuation/dancing: !!!
I’d been looking forward to experience Los Angeles freaks !!! (chk-chk-chk)’s frenetic dance-punk in person for several years, and they didn’t disappoint at Bumbershoot. If the beer garden 100 yards from stage is popping off, you’re doing something right. This vid is from Block Party a couple years ago, but very similar. Speaking of dancing, there was a four-year old child throwing down in the beer garden. Fuck yeah, Kid. Questionable, Mom and Dad.
subcategory: Most Divine INtervention: Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires
One of the best stories in music, Charles Bradley may also put on one of the best shows as well. A career as a struggling soul and gospel man, which included a stint as a James Brown impersonator on a cruise ship, finally came to fruition for the then-63 year-old in 2011. “The Screaming Eagle of Soul” is a bona fide genius vocalist and performer; he danced like he was 16 (including the robot) and took the crowd to church in a truly memorable set.
subcategory: I heard ‘em before you did: The Physics
Seattle hipster claim–I’ve followed the South End trio since the days when Justo was working down the hall from me in the science-nerditorium. They’ve gone from strength to strength over their three-album career and their unique, explorative style is making waves. Well-loved by the home crowd; can’t wait for the album debut show tonight!
subcategory: Most Surprising: Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside
Outside (haha) of my usual beat-driven purview, I got hooked on Sallie Ford’s raw, fiery brand of soul-rock over the radio. Finally seeing her tiny personage onstage—in particularly sharp contrast to the upright bass, I could not accept that the bold, brassy voice I had heard could come from a vessel so small. I got my face punched by that voice. Wonderful style, excellent accompanying band, and a pleasure to see such a talented female-led crew making such rad tunes.
Sinful-est Bacchanal: Eldridge Gravy and the Court Supreme, Tractor Tavern, November
A band is confident in their live act when: they celebrate the release of their third album by selling out consecutive nights at the Tractor in Ballard, respectively themed “Circus” and night two “Masquerade Ball.” This is of course clever concealment of the permanent theme, “What happened last night and why do I have a tattoo of George Clinton?” My eleventeenth pilgrimage to the altar of the funk and soul power squad was as good as the previous ten. With a passionate, freewheeling (and hard-drinking) following, they shut it down every time and get better with every show. I wore the my snap-it EGTCS golden bracelets on both wrists because I have them.
Let’s Get Weird-est: Funky2Death, Seamonster Lounge Wallingford Friday night residency; with Polyrhythmics at Nectar, November
The Seamonster Lounge on 45th is a wonderful place filled with magical possibilities. This may stem from the dark, sweaty, abandoned-trader-vessel motif, or the motley crue of hippies, hipsters, vagrants, guys who look like Rick James but dress like Gandhi, cougars (solicitous women?), scallywags, drinkers, and young lovers, but it’s certainly related to the Friday night house band, F2D (Funky2Death).
A staple on the Seattle funk scene, F2D is a well-oiled jam machine that, for FREE, rocks faces off and helps initiate meaningful, long-term relationships every Friday night. They opened for Latin-influenced instrumentalists Polyrhythmics at the Nectar in November, and both acts crushed it. Jimmy James, “the Bestestest in the Northwestestest” is the finest guitarist I’ve ever seen with my own eyeballs.
Pissed that I missed:
James Murphy (DJ Set) with Shit Robot/La Luz/King Khan and the Shrines/Rose Windows/RAC/Sasquatch Festival
Flushing forty (!) dollars will clog your toilet something fierce: Empire of the Sun, Paramount, September
Even after one of my favorite artists, Whitey, described them as “David Bowie without soul,” I still wanted to believe that Empire of the Sun would produce some quality…but Whitey was right. All laser show and funky, ugly concepts that exist for the sake of being funky and ugly. And for taking people’s money. When you don’t really believe in the music you are making, this look doesn’t go too far: