The Scott Greene Support Rally
March 8 • The Underground
In what can only be described as a massive outpouring of love and emotion, 500 people jammed into the underground to join The Scott Greene support rally. Ten acts played short sets which each included a Greene written song covered in tribute to him, who in November was diagnosed with devastating brain cancer. He has since undergone serious treatment and is unable to earn income while battling this horrific malady.
The show started off with a bang as Boris Budd opened with a solo acoustic version of Greene’s emotionally charged song “Kicking,” followed by what one audience member called a sublime performance of songs about marijuana and God. Budd was joined onstage by sidekick vocalist Heather Bates and Stone Jones on guitar. The show quickly jumped to the infectious groove of Spaceband. Dressed in street clothing as opposed to their standard NASA suits that some people say resemble ISIS prisoner attire, the band achieved liftoff with a past Loyal Sinners song that showed the tightness and power of the talented
Spaceband. Guitar virtuoso Adrian Clarke took the stage for an amazing display of musicianship, doing his thing delighting the crowd.
One of the highlights of the show then took place as the legendary DT’s donning Scott Greene t-shirts blew the roof off the place with their powerful rhythms that included a version of Greene’s “Little Things,” which was quite inspiring. Greene, of course toured the globe along with show organizer Phil Carter with his band headed by Dave Crider, founder of Estrus records and member of one of the transformative bands of the early 90s, Mononen. The audience then enjoyed the brilliant singer-songwriter stylings of Sher whose introspective stuff has been a mainstay in local folk circles for years.
Sunset Superman then attacked the crowd with powerful renditions of everyone’s favorite cover songs from the 80s butt rock era. The band had amazing chops offering hi octane entertainment in what already was shaping up to be a powerful night of music and love.
Another highlight of the evening was the Odd Couple like interaction of co-MCs Stacy Bloch and Boris Budd. The infectious laugh and master hosting skills demonstrated by Bloch combined with the snarky, humorous comments from Budd kept the event fresh and moving. This exciting new comedy team could definitely make their mark playing the nursing home and or bar mitzvah circuit if they so chose.
Things really started to get heavy as David Weiss took the stage with the fabulous Shasta Bree, whose haunting vocals on some of Scott’s songs gave this reviewer goosebumps. Weiss then brought Diva onto the stage that once again combined her amazing vocals and inherent hotness to bring it home as usual. A weird buzz then kind of emanated from the room as Luke Warm sent a message to the audience explaining his absence before his band The Moderates played a spirited set without their beloved leader, who was on location in New Zealand filming the musical version of his play Cool Hand Luke Warm.
Up to the challenge, DW one and the rest of the Moderates blew it out, causing the crowd to have a powerhouse dance reaction. As noted previously each act performed a Scott Greene composition, which was amazingly special to Scott as, this reviewer had the good fortune of discussing this with him. Scott had played and/or recorded and did studio work with every act on the bill in some capacity over the years.
The crowd was now bubbling as word has spread that the Scott Greene Band was going to take the stage. The first incarnation of the SGB came up without Scott with special guests – Sean Meyer, Kevin Heath and Dave Weldon filling the holes and delivering big on some SGB tunes. The SGB line up was in top form as stalwarts Phat Ron Steagall, nifty Nick Robinson and Chip Westerfield geared up for the return to the stage of the man of the hour who came up and played four fantastic new songs that brought the crowd to a frenzy like had not been seen at a Bellingham musical event for a long time.
Greene’s singing and guitar work had not missed a beat over the past five months of body draining radiation and chemotherapy. Wearing a hat and broad smile, Greene obviously was finally back home on the stage that has become his sanctuary for over two decades to the delight of us all. We all look forward to many more songs and years of great music from a true Bellingham musician and anchor of the local music scene.
City Hall, Minor Plains, Female Fiends
March 20 • The Shakedown
While Bellingham may empty itself of its student population during the spring intercession, The Shakedown was not wanting for fans as Kent natives Female Fiends took the stage. With enough hair and Fender logos on stage to make any guitarist in this town jealous, they delivered a tight and polite set of pop rock as a strong opening set for the night. A mix of Captain Von Bullshit-era Modest Mouse instrumentation with more relaxed vocals, they warmed up the crowd with a healthy dose of contagious, upbeat, delay-saturated rock in a compellingly paced package.
Taking the middle slot was local instrumental prog-math-hyphenated-genre-rock/metal group Minor Plains. As usual, they delivered a blistering, brain melting set of builds, solos, breakdowns and as always, dubstep-style drops. As with most shows at The Shakedown, the sound was amazing, and a band with this dynamic of a sound makes the most of everything available. I could wax poetic about the face-smashing riffs, air-guitarable chops and positively destructive rhythm section for ages on end, but for the sake of space and a modicum of taste I’ll spare you. Minor Plains is a band to see no matter what, if only for the explosive drop at the end of “Starfish Omega”.
City Hall closed out the night with a solid set that brought a sort of blend of the two previous bands in a way. The boys in City Hall tend to err more on the side of indie-rock hooks and harmonies, but occasionally throw in some really mind bending syncopation and guitar lines that, while not necessarily heavy, do give a lot to chew on. Spacious rhythm parts made each build taught and tense, so every time they would hit a chorus it became anthemic. Breaks and stops bring out the best parts of The Shins being smashed with a great set of vocal work from the whole band.
The night ended smoothly and calmly, and despite the sparser crowd for a typical Shakedown show, the audience was treated to a great mix of pop, rock, and maybe learned a math lesson or two along the way.
Sumac, Lozen, Grenades
March 14 • The Shakedown
Bellingham’s sludge/metal/hardcore community got quite the gift this month when a couple of Northwest legends stopped by the Shakedown March 14 to unleash their new side project. Sumac is the latest musical venture of ex-IsIs, current Old Man Gloom member and certified viking Aaron Turner and Nick Yacyshyn, the drummer of Vancouver, B.C.’s Baptist. I should mention they also enlisted the help of the mighty Brian Cook of Botch/Russian Circles/These Arms Are Snakes fame on bass. And that Sunn O))) and Boris producer Mell Dettmer helped record Sumac’s debut ep the Deal. And also Kurt Ballou of Converge did the mastering for the Deal. I really bet you hadn’t missed this show, huh?
The night started out with Seattle’s four-piece hardcore act Grenades. There’s nothing worse than a boring or bad hardcore band, and Grenades, thankfully, are neither of those. Their brand of hardcore/post-hardcore has the aggression and precision of bands like Code Orange and Nails. Grenades’ live performance was blazing and brutal, as Frontman/bassist Aaron Yost commanded the stage with a contagious amount of intensity and emotion.
Next up was Lozen, a Tacoma duo that features Hozoji Matheson-Margullis of Helms Alee on guitar/vocals and Justine Maria Valdez on drums/vocals. Lozen feels a lot more raw and a lot less concise than Helms Alee, which isn’t a bad thing at all. The winding, almost tribal brooding verses explode with a full frontal, sludge assault that draws as much from the Melvins as it does from Sabbath. In short, these ladies kicked some serious ass.
After Lozen finished their set, every dude with a neck beard within 100 miles piled to the front of the room, Rainier cans in hand, to bear witness to the sludge/metal gods that compose Sumac. And they did not disappoint. The riffs were a plenty, the volume maximized, and the sludge HEAVY. Drummer Nick Yacyshyn is a complete and absolute monster behind his kit, creating the most creatively disjointed rhythms and beats, while simultaneously somehow keeping it all together. Brian Cook was dressed like Daniel Day Lewis’ character from Gangs of New York (sort of) and explored the band’s lower register with just as much ruthlessness and fury. This foundation set the perfect scene for Aaron Turner to let loose with his growl and his relentless riffage and shredding, which made the remainder of the show a night of sludgy, doomy goodness.
March 1 • The Shakedown
It was a disappointingly sleepy Sunday when Howlin Rain, The Blank Tapes and Low Hum made their way to The Shakedown. In spite of the lackluster turnout, those that made it out saw different spots on the psych spectrum as well as one of the best guitarists fronting a phenomenal rock band.
Low Hums began the show playing an indie rock/psych mix that’s best compared to Austin’s The Black Angels. While the band has been around upwards of six years, their sound was so similar to The Black Angels, some in the audience were looking for more of a stretched out sound. Those big fans of The Black Angels, though, were in heaven. If the worst thing about your band is you sound too much like the Black Angels, then you’re not too bad.
Next up were LA’s The Blank Tapes. The trio went more retro than Low Hums, but stayed within the all encompassing genre of “psych rock.” For most of their set, I didn’t really feel anything about them – I wasn’t getting what they were trying to do, or, at least, it wasn’t hitting me in my soul. It sounded great, but didn’t click… until the final song, when they spread their sound out more, loosely jamming within the structures of a long song. The drums had a unique beat going on and the band really fell into a good groove – my guess is their sold out show the previous night in Vancouver was more spirited and their sound came across better.
Finally, Howlin Rain made their way to the stage, to cheers from the small but enthusiastic crowd. Fronted by Ethan Miller, also of Comets on Fire (my all time favorite band) and Feral Ohms, Howlin Rain is more of a blues/70s rock outfit than his other bands. With a new album having just been released and the band in the middle of a West Coast tour, Howlin Rain was ready to rock. The quartet looked as awesome as they sounded with the bass player/guitarist sporting a double neck bass/six string guitar and great vintage gear, the guitarist looking like your crazy hippy cousin and the drummer playing copper plated gear – all this plus Ethan’s now patented vintage 70s clothes with a mad scientist beard. All four guys looked like they were living the lifestyle, which had nothing to do with the music, but did add to the mystic of awesome with the band.
Opening up with “Meet Me in the Wheat,” Howlin Rain played songs off their new record as well as cuts from their catalog, playing with a reckless abandon that is often time missing from the more song oriented recordings. Miller, plays his Fender Jaguar as if it’s an extension of his soul, was relaxed and inspired, flying through stunning solos while the rest of the band worked to keep everything in check. It was, for fans of Howlin Rain, absolutely magical and musically all one could hope for.
Midway through the set, Miller began talking about how kind everyone had been in Vancouver the night before and Bellingham felt like an extension of that with the bartender, soundman and crowd being incredibly friendly, endearing the audience to them that much more. As they rolled through the final songs of their set, Miller asked the audience if they wanted to hear a jam number or boogie number for the final song. While the audience wanted jam, the bass player said boogie and off they went, with the boogie turning into mammoth guitar solos followed by both guitar players squealing feedback to close out the night. It was, simply put, absolutely awesome.