Posts Tagged ‘seattle’

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Local news: “Seattle, City of Music”

October 30, 2008

Mayor Greg Nickels thinks that Seattle is not getting the recognition it deserves as a music city, and last night he unveiled the Seattle Music Commission. Modeled after similar organizations in Austin and Chicago, it has a twelve-year mandate to work to improve Seattle as a city for musicians, for live music, and for music businesses. Nickels has had a somewhat rocky relationship with Seattle music venues, having spearheaded some fairly draconian city bylaws, including asking for the authority to shutter clubs that didn’t comply (the City Council balked, and ultimately Nickels decided to veto the scaled-back versions). However, he’s recently proposed rolling back the admission tax at venues and providing city assistance to help new venues start up. Last night also marked the release of a new economic impact study; highlights include the 20 000 or so music-related jobs in Seattle, the 1.2 billion dollars of revenue, and the fact that about 40% of this revenue comes from sales outside King County, bringing cash into the area. Nice to see the Mayor’s Office step up to the plate to help Seattle get even better as a music town.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer article. Mayor’s Office press release.

Image: Music sign at Seattle Center by Flickr user jcolman, reposted here under its Creative Commons license.

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Concert Notes: The Mountain Goats and Kaki King

October 21, 2008

[embedded YouTube video; if you can’t see it, click here]

[Showbox at the Market, Seattle, WA; October 20, 2008]

I’ve seen the Mountain Goats umpteen times, and every show that I’ve been to has been amazing – I’ve never been to a show where I felt like John Darnielle has given less than his best. Last night was no exception, and the superlative Mountain Goats performance was only highlighted by opener Kaki King.

There’s a fable for artists, whose source is now lost to me. The story is that two budding potters were taking a class. One neophyte potter was told that his efforts should go towards making the perfect pot, and that he would be graded on the perfection on a single piece. The second was told that she would be graded on the volume of pots that she turned out; that she shouldn’t worry much about any given pot, as her grade would just be based on the total number. At the end of the class, the student who was just interested in getting pots made was making better pots than the student who agonized over making each one perfect. I thought of this story last night as the Mountain Goats played ‘Going to Georgia.’ It’s an astonishing piece of songwriting, a perfect merger of music, lyrics, and emotion. I once listened to it a dozen times in a row, and each time I heard “she smiled as she eased the gun from my hand,” I felt like someone had reached into my chest and torqued my heart. Darnielle is famously prolific and, like the potter in the story, it’s clear that he’s honed his craft. It comes through in both the quality of individual songs and in the sheer depth of stellar songs from his catalog that he can draw from for his live shows.

As well as being an exceptional songwriter, Darnielle is a phenomenal performer. He always comes across as happy to be performing and fully engaged in his interactions with his band and with the audience. One of the manifestations of this is his between-song banter.  A highlight last night was his response to shouted-out song requests. Like most musicians, Darnielle doesn’t do requests from the audience. (listen up, concertgoers!) He described his response in terms of Kafka’s The Castle, in which the protagonist tries to convince the guards to let him in. “The guards say, “You can give us money. We wouldn’t want you to feel like you hadn’t tried everything you could.” So he gives them his money, and they take it, and they still don’t play Ace of Bass.”

Darnielle’s onstage gifts were thrown into stark relief by his tourmate and collaborator, Kaki King. It’s abundantly clear that King is technically proficient, and I’m happy to see a guitar goddess get added to the mostly male pantheon. But her performance was insular. She barely engaged with her band, much less the audience, and her few remarks were surprisingly mean-spirited. She introduced what I presume was her best-known song with, “I’m contractually obligated to play this song. So you can all touch yourselves now.” Not a very effective way to endear yourself to your existing fans, much less win over new ones. And I’m sorry, Ms. King – you’re just not famous enough to be bored with playing your ‘hits.’  The only time she seemed seriously engaged with anything besides her guitar was when she was sharing a stage with Darnielle – she was smiling, facing him, and her body language said, loud and clear, “I’m playing with you!” (they performed several songs from the Black Pear Tree EP and the Smiths’ ‘I’m so Sorry’).  King has a lot to learn from her tourmate, who is admittedly a master – I would follow John Darnielle into Hell if he sang and played his guitar as we went, and I’m sure I’m not alone.

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Listen local: The Maldives

October 17, 2008

I don’t listen to a lot of country, or even alt-country (unless you count M. Ward, or Band of Horses), but I think the Maldives are drawing me in. Jason Dodson, the principal, settled in Seattle but was raised in Virginia, and their music definitely sounds like it hails south of the Mason-Dixon line. Since I don’t usually seek out country music, all I ever really hear is bits of radio-ready, ultra-mainstream singers, which has little appeal to me. But listening to the Maldives makes me realize why people like country music: it has warmth, emotion, and narrative, while being evocative of a different place and time (that is, one that is not a rainy Seattle evening at the dawn of the 21st century). The band came to my attention through a friend of mine, who tells me that they are phenomenal live. They’re playing at Neumo’s tonight, and they have a steady slate of local gigs lined up over the next couple of months – check out their website or Myspace page for details.

More: myspace website

MP3: The Maldives – Darkness Follows

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Listen local: Grand Archives

October 8, 2008

It’s been a couple of months since zed equals zee relocated, and we’re now heading into our first Seattle winter – perpetually overcast skies, cold drizzle, and steadily shortening days. Fellow Seattle-ites Grand Archives must understand this, as their music is the perfect warm, comforting, laid-back antidote to the weather. Principal Mat Brooke left Band of Horses, which he co-founded, to get Grand Archives going. Their demo got some notice, including a review on Pitchfork; they subsequently signed to Sub Pop and released their first, self-titled album earlier this year. I’m really sorry I couldn’t go to their show here in Seattle on Saturday night; I’m hoping that they’ll do another hometown show soon.

MP3: Grand Archives – Sleepdriving

More: website myspace NPR feature

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Upcoming: Decibel Festival, Sept 25-28

September 22, 2008

The fifth edition of Seattle’s Decibel Festival begins on Thursday, September 25 and ends on Sunday, September 28. And when they say ‘begins’ and ‘ends,’ they really mean it. With a full line-up of afternoon activities (like dB in the Park) and after-hours parties, it’ll be going pretty much non-stop. Multiple evening shows reward springing for a pass to facilitate dashing from venue to venue in Capitol Hill – for example, my Thursday night schedule has Stewart Walker at Sole Repair, followed by Barbara Morgenstern at Neumos, and wrapping up with Attentat at the Baltic Room. Other highlights include Audion and Carl Craig on Saturday night, and The Bug and Supermayer on Sunday night – you might want to clear your schedule for Monday morning.

MP3: Claude VonStroke – Who’s Afraid of Detroit (Audion remix)

Previously: xkcd on techno, The zen garden theory of minimal techno, Techno and impressionable young minds

Image: Robert Babicz @ Neumos, Decibel Festival, 9/22/2007 by Flickr user donte, reposted here under its Creative Commons license.

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Concert notes: Okkervil River

September 18, 2008

[embedded YouTube video; if you can’t see it, click here]

[Showbox at the Market, Seattle, WA; September 17, 2008]

Note to Okkervil River: Let your bassist sing on more songs.

Previously: Upcoming: Okkervil River and Sea Wolf

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zed equals zee goes west!

July 26, 2008

zed equals zee is heading west! We’re relocating to Seattle for a year. This blog will still focus on local music – it’ll just be a different version of local. So you have a favourite Seattle band, or are in a Seattle band, please tell us about it in the comments! And if you are a Boston band – say, one of these bands – I’d love it if you followed Freezepop‘s example and do a West Coast tour.

Also note that updating will be spotty this week, during the move. But stay tuned!

MP3: Hallelujah the Hills – Wave Backwards to Massachusetts

Image: Freeway Curves by Flickr user Slightlynorth, reposted here under its Creative Commons license.