Live Reviews

Make.Shift Block Party • Sept. 24 • Make.Shift

Cover photo: Dryland performs during Make.Shift’s annual Block Party. Photo by Emma Hartwell

Make.shift block party, an annual summer event, was actually in the fall this year, on the third day of fall to be exact. The Block Party is one of the largest fundraisers for local non-for-profit gallery and music space, make.shift.  Volunteers in safety orange trucker hats ran two music stages in addition to the Kid Zone, beer garden and donation stations on the 300 block of Flora Street. The outdoor stage kicked off promptly with a very young band, Heroes – and by young, I mean under 18.  The four-piece presented a great collection of covers led by their siren of a female vocalist who you would never suspect of killing Sublime’s Badfish from a photo. Heroes closed their set well with a strongly done rendition of “Hotel California.”  For the next band SO, all the action moved to the basement stage inside make.shift where you can attend all-ages shows all year round. Things got a little dirtier as SO played boldly with an almost garage sound from the guitar drone and punctuated drum lines to the classic three man line up.  They definitely experiment with their sound and don’t follow a formula in their work. Back outside Judy Just Judy sweetened things back up with covers from across decades hitting jazz, hiphop, soul, rock and more. Morgan nailed the vocals on the wide-ranging material; the rest of the band was right there with her and showed their musical prowess throughout the set. Girl Teeth took us back to the basement and back to the heavier sound, their dream punk foundation the sad and angst-y vocals really felt at home on that stage, but it is where Girl Teeth started, so it makes sense.  Freeway Park went straight across the street from the beer garden to the stage for their set, and hit it hard with a loud punk / rock set rife with profanity as small children drew flowers with sidewalk chalk, this is when my earplugs came out.  I really enjoyed their set, it was exactly as it should have been. Babe Waves kept the punk grunge rock thing going, but with much more of a pop sound and sweet frosting on top than we had heard so far in the day. Another very young band, Croak surprised some with their hardcore sound and screamo vocals.  It is easy to tell this band wants everyone in the pit, and their energy for heavy music is contagious.  Insert traditional guitar shred off.

-Thea Hart

Post shred-off, Block Party go-ers migrated into Make.Shifts cozy basement for Candysound’s set. It was funny seeing them play twice within 24 hours; playing at a crowded house show with the moon in full bloom and during a sunny afternoon. Both performances drew equally welcoming and interested crowds, eager for their reverb-laden indie rock. Fresh out of a newly released single, they played with energy and proved themselves, once again, to be one of Bellingham’s best.

Crooked Neighbors took the outdoor stage, a refreshing addition to the Block Party’s lineup. Each song they played was soulful and earnest, all emphasized by their charming and electric stage presence. Even if you were off checking out everything else the Block Party had to offer, you could still hear the fun in the brashness and technicality of their melodies. It’s a shame to note their recent announcement of disbandment – a band as unique and animated as Crooked Neighbors will definitely be missed within the Bellingham music scene.

Possibly one of my favorite sets of the day was DoNormaal. Her setup was simple – a laptop and a microphone – but her lyrics and stage presence suggested more. Every line seemed to be tied into the personal and political, speaking about race and queerness, her own experiences and thoughts. A crowd of femmes stood up front, sharing the stage with DoNormaal. Her music and confidence was striking, and I’m pretty stoked that Make.Shift included her in the lineup, bringing much needed visibility to queer femme artists of color.

-Emma Hartwell

Hailing from Seattle, Great Grandpa were one of the bands I didn’t want to miss at the festivities and they didn’t disappoint. Disjointed and beautiful post-grunge rock, the five piece were understandated yet mesmerizing as well as sonically brilliant. Heavy yet beautiful.

Dryland finished off the inside shows with a glorious set – a common occurrence for these music scene vets. In spite of a bad cold, front man Brad Lockhart was in rare form, at one point “nearly” hanging off the fire sprinkler pipes as well as balancing on top of the drum set. Tight as hell, the band were mind blowing.

Headling the festivities were The Palisades – It’s been a few years since the boys called it a day and we’ve all missed them – they go down as one of my all time favorite Bellingham bands. Coming together for this special reunion show, The Palisades boys played without missing a beat to the hearty crowd, covering songs from all of their records. As they rain came down, they ended the set with “Rapture,” a perfect closing to a great day of music.

-Brent Cole 

 

Mr. Feelgood and the Firm Believers, Austerman File, DJ Mike Roe

Sept. 2 • Wild Buffalo

One might think this would be a bit of a dead show; it was after all on a holiday weekend. However, the Buffalo was packed for this! It was an incredible night filled with tantalizing musical morsels from start to finish!

The show opened with DJ Mike Roe. This cat knows how to spin ‘em, sick beats from start to finish. His set is full of music that goes way back. He did everything from Motown through today – Saturday Night Fever included. His set was entertaining and fun, Mike had the crowd on their feet from start to finish. It was a great way to get the people amped up and ready for more!

Next up were the Austerman File. The band formed originally in 2010 as a three piece and has done nothing but grow musically since then, adding extra percussion, horns and more guitars. Their sound is energetic and polished at the same time. Taylor’s staccato words are mesmerizing when combined with this excellent band.

Headlining the show was Mr. Feelgood and the Firm Believers. This was their first weekend headliner – the band was full of excitement before the show, the energy surrounding them was unmeasureable. Opening the show with “Young Love” to start getting the crowd to warm up. It happened quickly and by the time they were into “Take Us Home” no one was sitting down, everyone was on the dance floor. One of the greatest things about this band is their ability to make just about any problem feel smaller. Their energy level was so high the crowd was throwing shirts up on stage at Major, the lead singer. The band really stepped up for the large crowd, playing better than ever before – it was quite an astonishing show. The chemistry, harmonies and love of Bellingham are contagious. The more the crowd knew the words and sang along the harder they played.

-Kris Countryman

 

Ozomatli, DJ Antonio

Aug. 30 • The Wild Buffalo

This summer was once again a whirlwind of shows, festivals, fairs and events of all sorts in our not so subdued city. Looking back at the past few months, one of the best had to be Ozomatli at The Wild Buffalo. A powerful and infectious fusion of “Latin/Funk/Hip-Hop and everything in between,” their music can be described as the sound of their home city of Los Angeles itself. Their achievements and honors over the years would read like a Christmas wish list for any entertainer, and here they were in Bellingham! Arriving at the show, the venue had the air and appearance of a CD release. Red carpet laid out before a backdrop of their last album, huge banner hanging behind the stage with the band logo emblazoned on the center, with everyone dressed to impress on the dance floor. Turns out there was no new CD, but the band had just turned 21 (which is kind of a big deal) and these guys were in celebration mode.

Things were spicy right from the start with DJ Antonio pouring sonic salsa all over the dance floor to get the bodies sweating. It was evident in their moves that a number of attendees had some background in grooving to the deep afro-cuban, reggaeton, and merengue rhythms blasting through the already thick air. No stranger to spinning Latin beats, DJ Antonio (Antonio Diaz) and his wife Heather also offer a variety of hot dance lessons and dances through Rumba Northwest (see their ad in this issue). The crowd warmed up and ready to go further, DJ Antonio turned the night over to the night’s main attraction.

Ozomatli’s name comes from an Aztec god of dance, fire, harvest, and music who appears in the astrological form of a monkey. Their music invokes an absolute primal need to move your body which most of us did, not stop, for the entire show. Their set began explosively and did not cool down till the very last beat. Driving percussion, horns ebbing and flowing from faint to freight train with a lot of call-and-response Spanish lyrics, it was like an urban block party had moved indoors. The feature, the focal point of the melody was constantly changing as the music popped across the stage. Volleying from horns, to strings, strings to percussion, rising and falling like the approach and departure of so many neighborhoods through an open car window. Calling out to a responsive crowd the trumpet soared and the bodies joined in its flight. Many of the song names themselves were a call to dance. They led us through “City/Gallina,” “Chango,” “Sat/Elysian,” “Tus Ojos,” “Cumbia,” “Nonstop Medley,” “Como La Flor,” and many more – no set breaks, no rest, no need. The best bands always leave you feeling fulfilled yet wanting more. Adding that we were dubbed the “weirdest stop on the tour” is always a nice touch around here. Ending the night there was no chance of an encore as various band members began dismantling the drum kit in mid song. Lead by the horns the various new drummers spread out into the pulsating crowd beating the skins and stomping on the dance floor. Jumping, leaping, whistles blowing along with enraptured shouts of “Ole!” rising in unison from the mass of bodies made it feel like our team had just won the world cup. Thank you Wild Buffalo staff for yet another world class act in our excitable little hamster wheel.

-Victor Gotaelere

 

 

Summer’s End: The Naked Giants, Bob Fossil, Cosmos, Pants, DJ Calico

Sept. 25 • Larrabee State Park

Larrabee State Park’s gargantuan concrete theater is situated at the base of a grassy hill. The stage is lined with a professionally assembled sound system, monitors, mixers and all. As groups of young festival goers start entering the event, laying down picnic blankets and setting up camping chairs, the once quiet park area transforms into a lively gathering of eager music lovers. Dixon and Alexander gave character to event by establishing quaint festivities. From a ‘make your own tye-dye’ workshop, to a roped off security regulated beer garden, the ORGNTRS team (Alex Dixon and Max Alexander) gave a lively heartbeat to a simple a stage in a regular park. With local artisan food stand Buenos ‘Dillas Queseadillas catering the masses, the ever increasing crowd was enthused with what Dixon and Alexander worked to organize.

Admission to Summer’s End is a $3 minimum donation. All proceeds going to Atlantic Street Center, a Seattle based charity helping low-income families in the city’s southeast and central neighborhoods.

Seattle’s own rap curator DJ Calico kicked the show off with bass heavy hip-hop bangers and flawless track transitions. Calico’s iconic teal colored hair bounces around as he bobs his head to the beat, mixing contemporary trap music with electronic textures, producing intriguing remixes. The audience is dancing and singing along to the well-known catchy choruses. Following Calico, another DJ named Pants, who doubles as the keyboardist in jazz rap ensemble Cosmos, dishes out a seamless set of electro basslines combined with layered rap lyrics. The two DJ sets attracted more people in the area to enter the festival. Hikers, bikers and entire families curiously flocked to hear the rhythmic commotion.

Local rock power group Bob Fossil, started their set in full funk flagrance. The band, comprised of Western students, is gaining a reputation around Bellingham for rocking house shows and cranking out high quality recorded music. Their most recent release was a 14 track album entitled American Hippo, which debuted in May. Fronting the band, guitarist and vocalist Kenney Clarkson, bellows out the heartfelt lyrics to the band’s emotional anthem “Vanity.” The group maintained high-energy grooves with incredibly well rehearsed synchronicity. As members of the audience stood up and shook their hips to the Fossil rock, lead guitarist Joe Canfield reciprocated by head banging his long curly hair while ripping high intensity solos on his instrument.

Following up the classic rock entourage, Seattle based jazz rap experience, Cosmos. The groups’ main attraction is Bremerton raised rap artist, Campana. The phenomenal musicianship displayed by the five-piece band, that includes an alto/soprano saxophone player, creates and composed canvas for Campana to style his verses upon. The group’s tight beats and solid grooves shook the shoes of the now hundred or so festival attendees. Campana introduced his solemn yet compelling ballad “Black Lighter.” He tells the grievous story of his close friend, of whom the song is based upon, mysteriously passing away from a supposed overdose. The crowd of listeners crept closer to the stage, increasing the intimacy of the performance. As the group delved into the track, Campana’s voice accompanied by the soothing sound of whaling saxophone, glistening cymbals, deep bass and gentle keys reverberated out of the half dome amphitheater.

As Cosmos concludes their set, the sun began to set upon Summer’s End, casting a warm orange hue upon the gathering. The audience waits in anticipation for the Headlining act, Naked Giants, a high energy, hard hitting psychedelic punk trio hailing from Seattle. The group’s sound is constructed by Henry LaVallee’s intense drum patterns, Grant Mullin’s distorted guitar lines and Gianni Aiello’s punchy bass playing. The band is notorious for putting on an incredibly hyperactive performance. Throwing themselves around the stage, dancing like lunatics without missing a beat. Aiello sang backup vocals into a microphone that’s plugged into a small overdriven guitar amplifier. The retro cartoon tone adds novelty to group’s already flamboyant showmanship. Mullin viciously strumed out the intro to the band’s garage rock, power chord driven hit “Easy Eating,” off of their recently released album entitled R.I.P. The trio brought a high velocity musical onslaught that can only be experienced fully in a live setting. Naked giant’s punk power production was indeed the juicy cherry on top of the Summer’s End Sunday.

-Nate Kahn

 

The Palisades, Creech, Candysound, The Co Founder

Sept. 24 • Jacuzzi House

With the fall season inbound, Bellingham’s own Jacuzzi House kicked off the school year with a monster line up of local legacy. On a damp Friday evening, alt pop trio, The Co Founder started their set by swooning the crowd with soaring melodies and soothing rhythms. The trio won the “Best Pop Will Rock Itself” award by What’s Up! in 2015 and they backed up their title by delivering a killer opening performance. Singer and guitarist Hayden Eller, who captures the attention of the audience through his catchy choruses and powerful chord progressions, fronts the band, which also includes Vervex’s Jake Barrow and The Palisades/City Hall’s Luke Hogfoss.

The increasing rain begins to attract vagabond students, hurrying inside, as they take shelter from the weather. As more town folk fill the parlor, Reverb drenched quartet Candy Sound begin their set. The band’s articulate indie jazz tone is hinged on the intricate guitar stylings of members Brendan Silk and Teo Crider, who trade clean echoing licks that fill the living room of The Jacuzzi house with heavy vibes. The enticed audience starts moving closer to the band. The group’s new single ‘Only At Night’ was the track that really got the crowd movin’. The driving rhythm provided by drummer Erik Wallace, who also produced, mixed and mastered the song, turned the house show from a soggy gathering into a full blown dance party.

As members of Candysound attempt to push amplifiers and drum equipment through the now packed performance space, Jack Aldrich, manager of The Jacuzzi, house trades his bowl filled with show donations, for a monstrous six string bass. Aldrich plays multiple roles in the Bellingham scene, from hosting countless events at The Jacuzzi House, to playing guitar is psych rock group Kuvoza. Tonight he’s layin’ down funky basslines in heavy alt rock act, Creech. As keyboardist and vocalist Rob Paulson warms up his Yamaha, Aldrich begins egging the crowd on by mimicking the renowned Seinfeld bassline on his enormous instrument. By this time, the audience is flooding over into the kitchen and out the door. Creech jumps into their hard hitting emotional set of energizing ballads. Two long haired male attendees are head banging in unison directly in front of the band. The ends of their locks brush Aldrich in the face as the intimacy of the showcase increases. Creech rips through tracks consisting of complex synchronized melodies while smoothly jumping time signatures. The eccentric and ever so sweaty crowd started gyrating as a single unit back and forth, almost knocking over the PA speakers at some points. A hectic free for all, they’re more than ready for the main act.

Condensation builds on the windows, blurring the outside view that many spectators chose instead of the nearly sweltering interior. Weather inside and wet from sweat, or outside and soaked by the now pouring shower, everyone in the premises was dripping with excitement. Luke reappears front and center with a cream colored Fender Stratocaster guitar and steps up to the microphone. “Hey we’re The Palisades”, the rambunctious crowd erupts in a resounding roar. The split second the band starts playing, everyone in house goes wild. Loyal fans spring out of the mosh pit, screaming the lyrics to the distorted angst driven hit “All My Tongues Are Tied”. The combined sonic power of Bassist Peter Coward accompanying the overdriven power chords, blasting out of Toby Reif and Luke’s cranked amplifiers shakes the walls of the humble Jacuzzi House. After the first three songs, Luke gazes out upon the crammed attendance while tuning his guitar. Faces pressed up against windows, everybody battling for a view of the local legacies.

As the band dives into the infamous somber anthem “Song You’ll Write,” a sudden surge of movement originating from the rear of the audience forces the horde of fans to hurl into the PA speaker to the right side of the band. The unintended off balance act causes the speaker that was sitting upon a tripod stand, to topple upon Toby, ricocheting off him it falls to the corner almost breaking a window. In a flawless recovery, the individuals at fault re-erected the speaker tower and The Palisades kept powering on. At the climatic conclusion of the track, Luke uses the interlude between songs to address the rowdiness that almost cost Toby a head injury, and the Jacuzzi house a shattered window. “Calm the f*** down! If you can’t dance without shoving each other… you must suck at dancing.” The crowd responds with laughter but Luke’s message was understood. The rest of the set was chaotic to say the least; however, people made sure to mind their mosh manners.

-Nate Kahn