Keaton Collective, Manatee Commune-June 20th at the Wild Buffalo

Keaton Collective has been a fixture in Bellingham music for the entirety of my time here, granted this places me in the n00b category as for music residency but does allow for a very holistic approach to the band, tying itself off with one last fan appreciation show at the Wild Buffalo. This show was by no means the end of the band, Keaton Collective will go on to negotiate a new ecosystem and win the hearts of many in Seattle.

My last “local” night with Keaton Collective (once DIY record label turned big ass band) was first and foremost free, giving the show a very natural vibe that we were all just there, hanging out, and there happened to be a really awesome band full of people you love playing music with effortless skill. I don’t think this feel is unique to this show entirely, which honestly makes Keaton Collective the band that Bellingham has come to love.

The bill was economical and measured, with just one act opening up the night. I had heard many whisperings of Manatee Commune (mostly by people much hipper than myself), which has been followed by my all-knowing head nod and vague affirmation-whom I still had yet to catch live or give a full earnest listen. But I can honestly say after hearing their music I can understand what the bustle is about, especially considering Bellingham’s recent luck with dreamy electronic à la Odesza. They’re by no means a copy-cat group at that, they are riding the chillwave train but with precision, honing in on specific beats that hit and carry out sweeping their listener through the ethereal Northwest.

Though their live performance was slightly unvaried, featuring Grant Eadie (of now defunct SoccerMom) creating the beats and Henry Slater drumming, the music had no trouble engaging the crowd on it’s own. With a compact, quality catalog the two-piece played several songs to a typical opener crowd that I have no fear will quickly work their way to the forefront of bills-hopefully coinciding with their ascent to legal drinking age so we can all buy them a thousand beers.

The contrast of the bill worked flawlessly-moving from an up and coming, fresh-faced local act joining the rotation, followed by the seasoned vets with a deep catalog of crowd favorites; showing not only the diversity in genre that is allowed more frequently in smaller markets but also the outstanding quality of acts that pop up around this town.

I’m glad that Keaton’s last “local” show was on a big enough stage to fit their two drum sets (always a crowd pleaser) and create the wall of the sound at the forefront that trade off vocal responsibility as well as they harmonize.

Keaton in its electric state is still novel for me being that my first experience with them was in the Underground Coffeehouse on campus; jamming equipment in nooks and crannies, playing with hot rods, and constantly being told to “turn down” their acoustic instruments. In that respect, their set was much heavier than I remember them being-more angsty breakdowns and distortion, starting out the set with “Only Real Fans Have Tattoos.”

A major highlight was Alex Jones taking vocals on “No Moon on the Water” by Magnolia Electric Co, which obviously holds a very heavy place with the recent passing of Jason Molina. It feels wrong to mention a cover as a highlight for a band with so many songs worth commenting on, but this one especially captured me at the show.

They structured their set with the same diversity as their overall sound, making it hard to pin down “sounds like” comparisons with alt. rock tracks such as “Be a Mess” with shout-y vocals and heavy layered guitar parts, settling into soporific alt./country tracks including “Fallin’ Asleep,” featuring pretty harmonies, and the delicate mix of genres (and my personal favorite KC track of all time), “Trucker’s Wife.” The only frustrating part of their live performance is the difficulty to hear individual lyrics, because these guys are incredible at songwriting.

The crowd was as comfortable with Keaton Collective as the band was with the crowd. Like in any good long-term relationship the crowd casually fell into one song from the previous without skipping a beat and demanding more throughout the night.

Part of me thinks that Bellingham hasn’t fully swallowed that these are parting words with Keaton Collective as a local group, because if they truly did, the place would have a line down the block to get into this show. Luckily they won’t be too far from home, so for now I encourage them to at come back at least once a month, make a sandwich, do some laundry, and play us some songs.