Live Reviews: July 2016
Special Explosion photo by Tommy Calderon
Dog Mountain, Special Explosion, Itemfinder, Talktin and Easy
July 22 • Make.Shift
This was a fantastic show, one I had been looking forward to the show ever since it was announced and it didn’t disappoint. Despite a delayed start and not the largest turnout, it was lots of fun and people did show for the Seattle bands.
Talktin and Easy opened the show with a set of solid pop rock, think “El Scorcho” by Weezer. Featuring members of Seacats, Candysound and Special Explosion, Talktin and Easy are a band made up of talented musicians and songwriters. Their performance showed these talents and had me completely enthralled as they performed.
Itemfinder played following Talktin and Easy. It was the first time I had seen them and I’m sure it won’t be the last time. They’re an emo/pop punk band that won my heart over. Their melodies, driving rhythms and shouting vocals worked so well and ultimately helped the night stay interesting.
It was challenging to hear the vocals clearly that night which I’ll attribute to the band being loud but also knowing that Make.Shift’s P.A. as well as basement isn’t necessarily conducive to clarity.
Special Explosion took the stage next and as my personal bias goes, I was ecstatic. With the addition of Mike Ferrario on bass, the band is now a six-piece band and their sound is excellently full. They played of completely new songs that are to be released on their next album and noticeably had the crowd immersed in their music – the band’s performance was tight and professional. If you missed the show, you best make sure you make the next one.
Dog Mountain closed off the night with their power pop catchy tunes. It was my first time seeing them with their new arrangement of Rob Granfelt on drums and Nick Emard on bass and it was wonderful to watch. The whole night was running a little behind schedule and by the time they took stage most people that had gone for the show had left which was disappointing to see but for those of you who stuck around are the best.
The band didn’t seem to let it get to them and still had fun while on stage which I respect a lot.
Tiger Breaks/Dirt Bros, Fretts
July 23 • Green Frog
It was a particularly slow Saturday night in Bellingham, the kind of night that reminds you we still live in a college town that can get a little slow in the summer. As showtime neared, it was obvious this was going to be a sparsely attended affair, which meant a lot of folks would miss out on two fantastic bands.
First up were Bellingham’s Fretts, a trio who continue to get local music fans digging in their sound. Pulling from influences like Pavement and other 90s indie rock luminaries, Fretts ran through a half hour-plus set, which utilized singer/guitarist Jake Werrion’s unique style of songwriting. Instead of copying from their influences, as many new bands do, Fretts lifted, pulled and stretched those sounds, making something unique and interesting. Guitar, bass and drums all worked together shaping sounds that were slightly out of the norm – just enough to get the listener’s attention without being so far out they got lost. As the band continues to grow, it’ll be interesting to see how their sound develops.
Following Fretts’ great set were Madison, Wisconsin’s Tiger Breaks, which featured the talents of former Whatcom County resident Phil Parhamovich, who lived in the area for a spell around five years ago. Unfortunately, the already sparse crowd became even smaller and Phil’s homecoming collided with the summer slow show syndrome, but that wouldn’t derail the band – though computer issues would. The Tiger Breaks setup was unique for the Frog with Phil on keys/guitar, another keyboard player, bass and the drummer using a sparse, primarily electric kit (which sounded surprisingly good). As they went into the first song, a cool key pop number, it was pretty obvious there was some sort of problem, as the sound instrumentation seemed to be off. They tried to adjust things a bit with the second song – there were weird spurts of dance music coming from their computer, but something was amiss. After the song ended, the second keyboardist and bass players dejectedly walked off stage with Phil and the drummer starting into a delta blues/stomp number. The Tiger Breaks were having severe equipment problems so Phil turned it into a Dirt Bros. show, a band he fronted during his stint in Whatcom (and later in Madison). For the next hour, Phil and the drummer cranked through a set of blues, boogie and stomp reminiscent of early Black Keys (if they had more swing to ‘em). Near the end of the set, Phil would run through a riff, facing the drummer, giving him a chance to quickly learn what the song was about before the two went into it seamlessly – it was a pretty cool feat to see the drummer pick up on songs that quickly.
As the night came to a close, those who remained gave the band a resounding applause – folks who were there loved what they saw. Hopefully next time through town Tiger Breaks can play the set they intended and it won’t be on a sleepy summer night.
Tetrachromat, Wigwam Ultamax, Kuvoza
July 15 • Jacuzzi House
On Friday, July 15 a generous crowd packed themselves into the Jacuzzi House despite the blistering summer heat. Even though it was arguably hotter inside no one seemed to mind. People were hungry for music, and happy before anything that they were able to get it. The crowd wasn’t disappointed in the least as the evening offered an excellent smattering of up and coming local talent.
Opening up the bill was Wigwam Ultamax. This three-piece did an excellent job of beginning to ramp the energy of the room up and getting people moving. The band had a delightfully grungy, garage band sound with a little more under the hood. There were simple but hefty riffs and throaty singing peppered throughout which often broke through into more instrumental heavy, atmospheric jams. The band’s sound was a whirling of Nirvana meets The White Stripes with a welcome dose of the psychedelic that really melded their style together and gave them something unique.
Up next were instrumental progressive rockers Kuvoza. The band really knows how to set a vibe and immediately captivated the attention of the room. The band consists of drums, bass, guitar and keyboard with each being used masterfully to create a mood. The band really focuses on setting an atmosphere for their songs rather than throwing avant-garde blistering riffs in your face. There was an old-school prog-rock feel, which was appreciated, while still keeping things modern. Think of Kuvoza as the strange love child of Rush and Explosions in the Sky. Kuvoza has classical sensibilities with a focus on layering and building a sound and groove, which washes over the listeners… Leaving them helpless but to dance along and enjoy the journey.
Closing out the night was Tetrachromat. A progressive, technical metal band in a style that you don’t often see played in Bellingham. These guys obviously worship at the altars of bands such as Animals as Leaders and Periphery and it shows through it their masterful mixing of complex rhythms and melodic guitar wizardry. There is a welcome melting pot at work in how Tetrachromat forms their sound. One guitarist has an 8-string behemoth of a guitar and one of the most modern amps on the market; the other has a classic Fender amp and a frankenstein pedal board of this and that which was used deftly to round out the sound. The result is a sensory-battering (meant in the nicest way) gauntlet of sound that leaves the listener with a lot to digest in the music. It’s clear that Tetrachromat works hard on the music that they are building and it obviously resonated with the crowd. The people went wild with every new polyrhythm and could do nothing but smile in gleeful awe at every solo riff.
All in all it was a perfect end to a great night of music, leaving all involved sweaty and spent — retreating to their homes to recuperate for when the next round of music comes along.
Rachel Sullivan, Karima Walker, Advance Base
July 23 • Make.Shift Art Space
The lights were dim and the mood mellow as the audience sat in rows of metal folding chairs in the Make.Shift basement, gazing up toward the stage at Rachel Sullivan. The local indie artist performed an acoustic set featuring lovely emo vocals and simplistic chord patterns on songs like “Conscious Habits,” making for a beautiful sway-inducing opening to the evening.
Up next was Tucson-based Karima Walker whose black and white projections against a white backdrop expertly complimented her cassette-tape ambient-styled recordings on which she flipped, pressed play and flipped again, transitioning seamlessly between melodic murmurs of samples. Walker’s voice quiver and coos silently yet soulfully atop singular picks on guitar strings, the vocals looping overtop one another as she breaks into gentle strums. As the song fades, Walker fiddles with the cassette recordings and the projections change scene, making for a thematic, enthralling set you’d need to see live.
The gentle experimental nature of Walker’s set opened the stage perfectly for Owen Ashworth of Advance Base, who has been experimenting with several mediums since the 90s and during his former project Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. His first recording, taped on an answering machine, is still relevant of his style today: lo-fi and understated using outdated (to some) equipment and a modest setup. His live set matches perfectly the recordings you’d hear on his website, most of which he recorded himself, featuring samples initially created a decade ago and the same, familiar sound of a drum machine on songs like “Pamela” and “Christmas in Milwaukee.” Ashworth took a few minutes between songs to describe when they were written, the circumstances or the people behind the characters in the stories. One story of his particularly made the audience laugh, as he described being pulled over at the Canadian border and hoping the patchouli in his car would not be mistaken for drugs. At the end of the night, Ashworth packed up his Subaru once more to hit the road with his touring partner, his four-year-old daughter Rosie, to make their way back to Chicago.
What’s Up! Showcase: Kuvoza, Vervex, House of Blue Leaves, The Co Founder,
July 27 • The Shakedown
This month’s What’s Up! Showcase featured bands that have been a staple in the Bellingham community for a while, but their progression was encapsulated this night.
Kuvoza started off the set with dreamily dissonant, eerie guitar sounds backed by simplistic, steady drumbeats, punchy bass riffs and drawn out keys. The band’s stylistic choices are reminiscent of something you’d hear off a sci-fi movie trailer, or the dramatic scenes in Twin Peaks where the scoring builds upon itself. The self-proclaimed “psych prog pop” band has been playing more shows around town, so be sure to catch them soon.
Up next was Vervex, the brainchild of Jake Barrow, in full band form. What started, as a solo project has now become a full-fledged indie electronic collaboration featuring members of City Hall and the Co-Founder. Their sound is reminiscent of early Animal Collective-ish vocal styling with reverbed guitars, intricate, heart-pounding bass lines and dynamic, cymbal-heavy drum action.
Third up were House of Blue Leaves, another reverb-heavy outfit featuring blast beats, fast and intricate guitar riffs and powerful, terse lyricism. The band performed an energy-packed set when guitarist Alessandro Sondi DeCaro broke a guitar string and cut the set short to the dismay of the audience.
The Co Founder took the stage in its newest form, featuring drums and bass alongside Hayden Eller, turning his once-solo venture into a dynamic trio. Vervex’s Jake Barrow provides a whole new element to the band, hitting the floor toms and cymbals with both precision and strength, while the bassist Luke Hogfoss provided subtle but unique bass lines.
Closing the night was one of Bellingham’s favorites, Candysound. The dynamic indie pop outfit has added new members in the last year, gaining Brendan Silk on bass and Erik Takuichi Wallace on drums, forming a collective of some of Bellingham’s most skilled artists. Playing some older songs off their album released last year, Candysound closed out the night with an audience-rousing set, featuring playful guitar riffs from both Teo Crider and Jesse Cohen, loud and complex drum beats from Wallace that syncopated with the Silk’s bass lines. It was a solid way to end the night.
Published in the August 2016 issue of What’s Up! Magazine