Live reviews

Jenny Lewis, Springtime Carnivore

Aug. 14 • Wild Buffalo

For anyone who saw Jenny Lewis on main stage at Sasquatch this year, her performance at the Wild Buffalo on Aug. 14 was exactly as expected: tremendous. Performing with a full band, Lewis showed the stage presence/persona that makes her live show well worth the price of admission.

Opener Springtime Carnivore (the newest project from Greta Morgan of Gold Motel and The Hush Sound) started the night off with a beautiful set consisting of songs off their self-titled debut record. While only about half to 2/3rds of the sold out crowd had showed up by the time their set was over, the reception from those in attendance was overwhelmingly positive. Their set was undeniably fun and consisted of a great mix of danceable pop tunes (including Sun Went Black, which should be a staple of anyone/everyone’s end of the summer playlist). It was obvious that the band was having a great time and Greta commanded the crowd’s attention with ease – If anyone is on the fence about seeing Springtime Carnivore next time they come to the PNW, buy a ticket now.

After the brief pause between sets, Jenny Lewis came on stage, greeted by cheers from all 400-plus people in attendance. She immediately tore through five songs, four off her debut record The Voyager and the unbelievably catchy “Moneymaker” (dating back to her previous band, Rilo Kiley), which has become a staple among her live show as of late. After taking a minute to acknowledge her family (who were in attendance), the band continued, jumping into another Rilo Kiley track, “With Arms Outstretched.” Jenny paused before beginning “The New You,” taking a moment to explain that the song was written in response to both the breakup of Rilo Kiley and her troubles with social anxiety.

Included towards the tail end of the show were a few new tracks, which presumably will be included on the follow up to The Voyager. While they were catchy, it was fairly obvious that they were both unknown and unfinished. Each was more of a skeleton than a fully fleshed out song and the crowd reaction was positive but lukewarm. After ending the show with three more tracks (including the “She’s Not Me”, which the crowd sang possibly louder than Jenny herself), half the band came back on stage for a stripped down encore. The show ended with a rousing performance of “Girl on Girl,” before which Jenny invited Greta Morgan to come participate in singing.

The vocal harmonies between Jenny and the guitar players in her band were impressive for a live setting, and the cohesiveness of the show as a whole (from the rainbow themed clothing, to the song transitions) was remarkable. While everyone in attendance was thrilled that her tour stopped here in Bellingham, it is inarguable that Jenny Lewis won’t be performing in smaller venues like the Wild Buffalo much longer.

-Hayden Eller 

 

 

Tin Foil Cat, Mac Sabbath, Mothership

Aug. 13 • The Shakedown

 

Wow! This was a night to remember!

First up was Tin Foil Cat, a three-piece psychobilly outfit featuring an upright bassist who goes by the name Mandible Everdoom (Mandy Cramer, who has done a few beautiful covers for the magazine). A fairly new addition to Bellingham’s music scene, Tin Foil Cat brings a unique sound and energy to the table. If a film is ever made around the concept of a “Space Western,” this crew could put together a fitting soundtrack.

Hailing from Dallas, Texas, Mothership emitted such 80s hard-rock vibes that I was sure Poison, Dio and Whitesnake were about to appear. With three dudes and one shirt, and the semi-intentional humor of overdoing a good thing, Mothership is the stoner-rock band that Kenny Powers would put together in between his cocaine-fueled leopard-print jet-ski rides. The two frontmen, wielding guitar, bass and microphones, gave off so much power and wickedly-skilled metallurgy, one might think they share the same blood. Well they do. Big bro and little bro absolutely tore the stage to shreds while their Dallas homie on the drums pounded away like evil little gnomes were under those drum-skins waiting to gorge on everyone’s bone marrow. Well not today gnomes, we’ve got Mothership to save our asses.

Now, Mac Sabbath! What can I McSay? On top of living my dream of ostensibly making a career out of one giant pun, these dudes have everything going for them. By taking up an anti-corporate, anti-GMO, anti-fast-food stance while wearing Mickey D’s attire tweaked with just enough metal-styling to avoid a corporate lawsuit, this ingenious band pioneered one whacky course. Plus, being a Black Sabbath cover-band slathered in bizarro-world McDonald’s attire, they are a perfectly weird fusion of British and American cultures.

Where did this stew of crazed-genius come from? Legend has it that Mac Sabbath began by playing shows in the basements of McDonald’s in L.A. – I can almost taste the wicked irony of anti-corporate tirades being sung where thousands of pre-packaged buns, patties and chicken-feet nuggets are stored.

The bizarro Ronald McDonald, Mayor McCheese, Grimace and the Hamburglar not only blowed minds on sight, they cooked up mean Sabbath covers, replacing “Iron Man” with “Frying Pan.” The eerie Ronald adopts a perfect British accent and has absolutely nailed the wicked Sabbath laugh which never got old. Mayor McCheese and Grimace showed extreme talent by playing Black Sabbath songs without being able to even look at their instruments and the Hamburglar kept the tune on the drums splendidly.

Their prop game was on point too – Ronald flipped fake burgers on a steaming grill, sprayed water from condiment bottles, drove a remote-control boot-car, drank from a massive straw and brought out a behemoth inflatable burger. Mac Sabbath even boasts of being a family-friendly band. Not many things can bring fringe metal-heads and children together – but Mac Sabbath can. Bravo.

At one point somebody yelled, “What the hell is happening?” He wasn’t the only one, several times I pinched myself – this was real life.

–Bennett Hanson

 

 

Make.Shift Block Party

Aug. 1 • Flora St.

Twas a block party for the ages. For all ages, that is. Along with the fresh summer jams, Flora Street was scattered with fun for everybody – an American Gladiator-style jousting ring, a slip n’ slide, a dunk tank where local celebrities cooled off, a punk haircut station, a coloring station, skateboard ramps, food trucks, a beer garden and even an ingenious painting mechanism built from a bicycle. Also present was a guitar shredding contest (hair metal ruled the day) and a pie-eating contest that the legendary Lardass would’ve been proud to attend.

Over the span of eight hours, eight musical acts took the stage and spewed their sock-rocking, jaw-dropping sounds for all those sun-strokin’ scallywags in the area to hear. Sounds abounded, from the bluegrass fiddlin’ of Moongrass to the cheery beach tunes of Iji, back to the home-grown country of Thimble vs. Needle’s banjo and over to the hyped electronica of CUFF LYNX.

Dogs hit the crowd with their nutty, sporty, skate-friendly rock which happened to pair perfectly with the pleasant summer weather and the sound of skateboards rolling over the pavement. Sticking mostly to a happy-go-lucky vibe, Dogs shook things up with a song whose chorus went, “What does it mean to die?” But it wasn’t long before the stoned and slightly grungey Weezer vibes returned. In their final act, Dogs left me drooling with a wickedly strung-out guitar solo – oozing with grime, sludge and all the best ingredients of a Cobain-inspired solo. Whoever let the Dogs out is welcome to do so again in my neighborhood anytime.

Scruffager showed the skills of one of Make.Shift’s very own sound engineers. A solo act, Scruffager scrounged together sounds from her guitar, keyboard and mic, morphing them into an uber-chill and drenched sound-wave of intense pleasure. With an accent that seemed to blend notes of British, Scottish and Aussie tones, the vocals were subtle and especially beautiful over the song that layered “ahhhhs” over a soft beat and surfy twangs from her guitar.

Heavy Petting stood out among the acts as well. The band’s righteously distorted, instrumental noise-rock shook the skulls of many a head-bobbing freaks. The incredibly talented trio switched from groove to groove, tune to tune, blending the songs together in a seemingly flawless manner. Though each member held their own weight, the drummer was utterly captivating – quick as Donald Trump is to offend and as tight as an Eagle Scout’s slipknot.

Gonzo caught everyone’s attention, but rather than expelling fear and loathing (as the name might imply), the band was more about cheer and clothing (they had new shirts). If I had to point to a band and explain how northwest rock evolved from Nirvana’s hey-day to the present, I would probably point to Gonzo. Grungey, and moving from crawling tempos to gut-wrenching speed-and-noise bouts, the trio certainly knows how to rock. With about 20 pedals between the guitarist and bassist, Gonzo’s sound was neatly crafted but not too caged in. Twas a truly rockin’ block party.

–Bennett Hanson

 

 

Painters, Mr. Bones, Tom Nook, Falling Over

Aug. 21 • House show

Bellingham is now a little less emo now that Painters played their last show as a band on Friday, August 21. While the whole show was fantastic and the lineup consisting of Mr. Bones, Tom Nook and Falling Over was to die for, this is not as much a review but more of a reflection and a send off to Painters.

The crowd was filled with friends and family. As Painters took the stage, everyone gathered to hear them one last time.

They had fun with their set, most likely the most fun I had ever seen them have. While they normally joked and didn’t take anything too seriously on stage for most of their shows, you could really tell that they were happy that night.

Slip ups and false starts were laughed about and their energy while performing was definitely at an all time high. The crowd was very receptive and actively participated as the band played.

For the past two years, Painters brought their emo and spacious music to Bellingham. Their journey had its ups and downs but they managed to work together through all of it. Painters were made up of Devin Vigor, Morgan Call, Austen Kahn, Nathan Malick and Duncan Ogg; five teens turned young adults by the end of their run.

After speaking with the band, everyone said they were on to other projects, so I advise that you keep an eye out for what these talented guys will do next in their future endeavors.

-Tommy Calderon

David Liebe Hart, Sword of a Bed Speller, Guillotine Eye

Aug.19 • Make.Shift

I honestly didn’t really know what to expect with this show besides an eccentric and possibly bizarre evening of music. With a line up of Bellingham’s Guillotine Eyes and touring groups, Sword of a Bad Speller and David Liebe Hart, what else would you expect?  Down in the hot and sweaty basement of Make.Shift that evening, things got weird.

Opening the show was Guillotine Eyes, a duo group made up of singer Sean Meyer and guitarist Zach Zinn.

The set began eerily. Melodic and atmospheric guitar began to play as Meyer stepped out from side stage in a light pink prom tuxedo, wrinkled fedora and grotesque makeup being abstracted by a pair of pantyhose over his face.

While the crowd normally gathers close to the stage when a performance begin, Meyer’s entrance left the crowd visibly confused and slightly uncomfortable but that was clearly an objective on the band’s part.

Their music and performance had me to believe that they infiltrated Danny Elfman’s studio and tore a couple of pages from his compositional notebook. It was whimsical, spooky and laden with slightly dark humor. Along with that, Meyer’s demeanor made me think that if I were to see zombie Tom Waits perform, his performance would be exactly that of Meyer’s.

Meyer’s voice backed by Zinn’s guitar playing are a perfect match. Each of their parts complemented each other’s greatly. If you’re looking for something different from the normal concert experience, see this group.

The show goes downhill from here.

Touring group, Sword of a Bad Speller, kept the night weird with their music but not in a good way. To be frank, I was unimpressed. This group considers themselves a comedic rap group but I’m pretty sure anyone laughing would be due to secondhand embarrassment for this duo. They were unrehearsed and not up to any standard to be on tour, especially when the group is touring with someone that has a fan base made of thousands of people.

Rehearsals are incredibly important and when you can barely perform to a backing track, you know you need to spend more time practicing. Along with sloppiness,  lyrical content of the songs wasn’t funny at all. If you think using words like “retarded” in your songs helps enhance your humor, you’re wrong. Take it back to the drawing board guys.

Lastly, David Liebe Hart took the stage and put on a performance that everyone wanted. It was humorous, filled with stories of aliens and had the crowd filled with beaming smiles. Hart is mostly known for a show on the TV network, Adult Swim, called Tim and Eric.

Hart’s music isn’t what I would say is fantastic but that’s kind of the point of his work. He’s a comedian, uses music as part of his comedic routine and does this effectively. Hart was backed by some electronic music and used two microphones for his booming voice to be heard in stereo.

Throughout the night, he brought out some of his puppets to assist him sing songs. Like, I said, the night was weird but everyone was enjoying it.

The show was a once in a lifetime experience and I’m pretty sure I felt the whole spectrum of human emotions while watching and listening that night. If you were there, you definitely know what I mean.

-Tommy Calderon