Bright Weapons, Freeway Park, Sosa
Make.Shift • July 18
In the sweat-nest known as Make.shift, people got together to properly send Bright Weapons off on their last show, before Costa Rica steals their bassist.
First up was Sosa. Pioneers of a bluegrassy-indie-rock sound perfectly accentuated with heavy keys from a master KORG-ist, Sosa quickly found the sweet spot for many a concert-goer. The feathered-hat wearing vocalist had some of the most unique pipes I’ve ever heard – nasally yet clear, with a bit of frogginess. It was splendid.
The band’s M.O. was no doubt to fuse bluegrass with indie-rock, but they did something even more unexpected – reggae. Two songs had a clear dub-reggae guitar riff, which, when mixed with the keys of the KORG-maestro and the swelling bass lines, made for quite the tunes. The bass, in fact, did much more than support the band’s grooves – it had them on a leash. During the sound check, the frontman was persistent about cranking the bass, to the point where the bassist was like, “I mean, if you really think so.” My point is – it worked. Long live loud bass.
Freeway Park took the stage next and absolutely ruled. Now, I’ve made a reference or two to the B-52s in other reviews – but none have been more deserving than this. The vocalist, former What’s Up! writer, Graham Isaac, channels the exact sound and energy of Fred Schneider’s talk-song style, as well as his fun stage antics. It’s absolutely clear the B-52s are an inspiration to Freeway Park, but I would say The Pixies are as well. The band perfectly oscillates from catchy talk-rock to noisy Frank Black yells and back – keeping the crowd entertained with jokes in the few lulls.
Other elements of the band were impressive as well. Such as the vocalist’s memory – he probably spat as many words as Slick Rick and made no signs of slipping up. Also, the other members, the bassist, guitarist and drummer were impeccable in their performances. Early on, in mid-solo, the guitarist threw his Rickenbacker over his head and proceeded to gently but firmly bump n’ grind his glorious axe against the amp hanging from the ceiling – yes please. And if all this isn’t enough to please you, they opened the set with a poem. So cheers to Freeway Park.
On to the final act, Bright Weapons! This dance-punk band brought plenty of pizzazz to their final show. They even tossed band t-shirts from the stage, though to the chagrin of Rob on bass who pointed out the plan was to sell the shirts and donate the money to Girls Rock Camp – so there were winners and losers in that regard.
But the band sent themselves off quite well – the set was righteous. Dance-punk abounded, with many themes for the bookish to pick from. Non-fiction fans were sure to be pleased from hearing words like “patriarchy” and “matriarchy,” while fiction-fans surely had a wet dream during the Game of Thrones inspired-song. Oh, and a guest-screamer came on stage to ruin her vocal-chords for our pleasure. So thank you.
Big Business, Tacos!, Dryland
The Shakedown • July 7
This show was a powerful way to begin the week at The Shakedown – concert goers began to fill the venue even before opener Dryland hit the stage, you could just tell that night was going to be a hot heaping serving of heavy rock.
While a lot of passing conversation was buzzing around Big Business, the whole show was full of incredible talent and never had a dull moment.
Local super group, Dryland (which features Hollie Huthman, Brad Lockhart, Ryan Clapper and Luke Greer) opened the show with bang – this band never ceases to amaze me. They’re together, huge, and a headbangers dream to see and performed a live set that steadily thundered along with each song bringing a wall of distortion, deep bass and primal drums. Dryland keeps you engaged with their fantastic music. It’s almost impossible not to put a fist in the air and bang your head to this band.
From there on out the it was a night of dynamic duos. Never underestimate the power of two.
Tacos! were as exciting and delicious as their name implies. Don Stewart and Lupe Flores (ex-Sugar Sugar Sugar, currently with Powwers and The Grizzled Mighty) make up this heavy hitting band and took no prisoners with their set. The guitar riffs, backed by drums you only wish you could play on top of screaming vocals from the both of them made me wish their set never had to end. Their setlist was in your face and didn’t mess around – you could just tell that their objective was clear; rock hard and melt some faces. They did just that.
Closing out the night was the legendary Big Business (featuring Jared Warren on bass – formerly of KARP and Tight Bros from Way Back When and drummer Coady Willis – formerly of Murder City Devils who grew up in Bellingham. Both members also play in The Melvins). The Shakedown by this point was packed and you know if a band can pack a venue in Bellingham on a Tuesday night, that they’re going to bring the goods. They most definitely brought them. The duo is a booming rhythm section that sucked in the crowd with their high-fueled rock music. Like I said, never underestimate the power of two. Their setlist was well constructed and full of great songs like “No Vowels” and “Hands Up.” You’d be hard pressed to see these guys in such a intimate setting and it’s honestly the only way I could ever see them again. Their raw energy combined with the intimate environment gave me a feeling I can only describe as completely enthralled.
Write Riot Poetry Slam
Honey Moon • July 16
Slam, bam, thank you m’am that was a delightful poem – that’s the atmosphere here in this rustic cottage-like venue, where the carefully crafted word-strings pour from eager poets’ mouths as tasty meads, ciders and wines are poured back into their observant and absorbent mouths.
As the poetry began, one such challenger brought a steady stream of respectful indignation to the surrounding bourgeoisie. His poem was a how-to on the proper use of a urinal – it was fascinating. The 14-point guide for leaking the dragon concluded with, “Wash your hands (optional).” The challenger was met with a mediocre response from the crowd, though perhaps that’s because the majority of hands were busy scrambling for hand sanitizer.
The rest of the event was more predictable, thought hardly less entertaining. One poem titled, “Empty,” stung of sorrow and provoked one audience member to say, “Someone buy her a drink ASAP.” One provoking poem titled, “80 in March,” was about climate change. One poem painted a scene from inside a refrigerator, thoroughly worshipping maraschino cherries. Another poem showed great potential but the forced poetry-slam-voice detracted from its message. Still, no poem went without praise from the kind audience of wild-hairs and white-hairs.
And may I just say, while reviewing the slam and sitting on the patio with my notepad, I felt like a cross of a god and a thief. Sitting with a notepad at a poetry reading is likely to instill admiration in many, though it’s just as likely to instill suspicion in others. And rightly so, but I tell you, I did not steal material – this is fair use.
So to give all you kind readers a proper feeling of the event, I’ll include some of the poets’ stand-out lines.
“Aunt Jemima is cat-called from the back of the bus.” Thanks for the laugh, Griffin.
“If I’m going to be self-destructive, you better be damn sure it’s for a reason.” I agree, Lucas, self-sacrificial is a much better word.
“Humanity is a failed science project.” Quite prophetic, Andrew.
“You asked me what I was thinking. I was thinking about continental drift.” That gem came from Ryler Dustin, “the most renowned slam poet in this area,” as one fan described him. Dustin was even granted enough time for a lengthy set of well-written poems.
In the end, it was a frenzied night of poetry, well worth the action of the night.
Wild Buffalo • July 11
When you hear a “Marley” is performing in your town…you go. You go because Bob is, was, and will always be “Legend.” You go to get caught up in the Marley mystique. You go to hear them cover the songs we all grew up listening to. But how often do you ever go to hear their original songs?
On Saturday, July 11, The Wild Buffalo welcomed Kymani Marley to the stage and he proved that he is a world class performer in his own right.
Yes, he opened with Roots, Rock, Reggae, and included “Redemption Song” and “Is This Love” in the set (being Bob’s son does carry some obligation to the fans), but this was a Kymani show and his music ruled the night. Combining songs from a number of his albums, it was a great exhibition of who he is, where he’s from and where he’s heading musically.
Out on the road supporting his seventh album Maestro, Kymani brought a solid band who played a tight, high energy set while remaining very much in the background while the backup singers Yendi Songbird and Charlotte McKennon would have stolen the show from a lesser performer. Their powerful melodic voices, strong stage presence, and captivating beauty really helped take the show over the top. Yet it was Kymani’s rough, rugged, raspy reggae that was the centerpiece of the evening and he left the stage with fans cheering for more.
With a packed dance floor from beginning to end, the infectious island beats set a great tone for the coming long hot days of Summer and showed Kymani’s a hustler who’s gonna keep hustlin’.
Girl Guts, Scarves, Good Will Hunting, Just Friends
Make Shift • July 12
On Sunday July 12, Make.Shift was a gathering of some of the finest punk you could have asked for this summer. Bellingham’s Scarves and Girl Guts joined forces with California’s Good Will Hunting and Just Friends to play a show that will remain as one of my favorite shows of the year.
Initially, the night started slow with only a small handful of people showing up causing the bands to delay their start but as the night went on Make.Shift became comfortably full.
Scarves went on first with their whimsical punk music. For them, it was their tour kickoff show and they had fun with their set. They performed well through their set and had humourous banter in between songs.
Among some slight technical difficulties and noticeable song hiccups they took everything with smiles and laughs. If I would suggest anything it’s that an extra hour of rehearsal never hurts just to tighten up the loose ends. Keep up the tunes and fun shows.
Next up were the two Californian bands, Good Will Hunting and Just Friends. They made the trip all the way up from the Bay Area to play and both delivered phenomenal sets. Good Will Hunting is a punk band with those classic Bay Area sounds and emotionally driven lyrics. They were energetic and did a great job involving the crowd during their set. Don’t worry, if you missed them, they said they’d be back and I encourage you not to miss them when they do return.
Just Friends are also a punk band but have a couple of horns to back them up along with their catchy and explosive songs. This is not a ska band though. It’s punk with some brass don’t get too confused. This band quickly filled Make.Shift and had the whole place moving. Their setlist was comprised of songs from their new album as well as some of their better known songs like “Welcome Mats” and “Bad Weather.” Everyone was together and you could tell that while they have a lot of fun performing, they work extremely hard and play as hard as they possibly can.
The end of their set resulted in the crowd rushing the stage while everyone sang and danced along. Like Good Will Hunting, see them when they’re back, it will change your life like it changed mine when I first saw them.
Girl Guts finished off the night with a classic set. They were tight and left everyone feeling satisfied with their night. Their music just begs to be sung along to and they were incredibly comfortable getting people moving that night.
Their music has evolved throughout their time as a band and at this show I thought this was particularly noticeable. While I still think they’re a punk band their sound I feel has become more matured. This growth in their music along with performance makes easy draw a personal connection with them than ever before. Lastly,you can always tell if they’re playing by simply looking at the crowd. They have dedicated fans and friends who support them, which is incredibly admirable.