LIVE REVIEWS: Oct. 2016
Raz Simone, Sango, Landon Wordswell, Sam Lachow, Mostafa
Oct. 23 • WWU
Home page photo: Raz Simone in a sea of happy fans during the show at WWU Oct. 23. PHOTO BY JOHNATHAN PENDLETON
A veritable who’s who of the Bellingham hip hop scene made their presence known before the music even started at the WWU VU on a clear and crisp Sunday evening late in October. Singers, promoters, producers, MCs, rappers and artists all showed to see what the evening had to offer.
Mostafa started the night off strong with Landon Wordswell running his tracks. Mostafa is always well spoken, and true to his nature, the man brought clear, crisp vocals with powerful lyrics to the audience; Mostafa’s words were always clear, even as he explored a variety of tempos and was joined by epic local songstress Bailey Martinet. Landon Wordswell not only manned the tables for Mostafa, but also joined him on features, the favor was returned for Wordswell’s set. These two created a seamless transition into a rapid fire high energy set of Wordswell showcasing a confident, bold, in your face experience with the man living at the front edge of the stage, touching the people with his words and his fingers.
Those in attendance got a little dance break with Sango; while the attention stayed front and forward, the Seattle DJ and producer dropped original tracks live and turned the show floor into a dance floor. It started getting real sweaty when Sango called out “do you know this one?” and the crowd replied with a roar of confirmation.
Sam Lachow’s set was the most anticipated of the night. I was turned on to this guy when he played the Wild Buffalo a couple months ago, but I was late to the game, as was proven to me by the predominantly college age crowd singing along to every song he and his crew preformed. Lachow does not work alone, he came with a boldly talented crew including an electric violinist who sings in a way that breaks hearts and Ariana Deboo to kill the back-up vocals. Even the DJ chimed in on the mic and shared the focus with all those on stage.
While no one wanted Lachow’s set to end, everyone needed to hear what Raz Simone has to say. He came out in a large jacket with his hood up to bring lessons we both needed to hear and were ready for. The man quickly shed his armor and brought a raw truth to the stage that the people were ready to hear donned in a white tank top he gripped the hem of when most deeply moved by the music. The electric fiddle returned and kept the diverse collaboration going. With everyone at full attention it was time for school. Raz asked, “Who is a student?” and some hands stayed down. Afterwards we were offered up a bold history lesson – I knew we were all, in reality, students of life. Once everyone was in the mood to learn, the class happily sat down ‘criss-cross-applesauce’ facing the back of the venue when prompted. The lights went red and everyone shared in the joy of real music with honest words for the lesson. Of course Raz called out to his friend Sam Lachow who joined for one more track and before the night ended, Simone formed the crowd into a ring that embraced him as he ran out his last two songs. Every time I see him preform, Raz changes the way people see things, the way they watch the show, how they see hip hop, their whole take on reality, and he starts it all by having us turn around….. quite literally. I truly feel bad for anyone who had a chance to be in attendance but missed this one.
Mobina Galore, Maneken Hand
Oct. 15 • The Shakedown
A blustery puke of a storm may have had everyone barricaded in their homes this night, but the real storm was inside the Shakedown. Starting the night off, Maneken Hand played a supercharged set of blistery punk and psych, complete with the occasional instrumental “jam” section that managed to push the bounds of what the band is known for without straying too far from what people expect; wacked out lyrics, that creepy mannequin prop, and the destructive power of bass player/vocalist Liisa Gilbertson. On that front did they absolutely delivered, with the band was as tight as ever weaving in and out of each song with an energy that couldn’t help but be contagious. It was a great set that served as an intro for the explosion about to take place with Mobina Galore.
What a primer it was. A perfectly executed demonstration of the apparently time-tested rule that Canada seems to just get melodic punk better than anyone else on earth; Mobina Galore’s songwriter is like the storytelling of a PUP song high-fived a Less Talk More Rock-era Propagandhi. Jenna’s raw, scratched out vocal brought the emotion and energy of basement punk to the melodic and explosive stage presence that enthralled those still brave enough to be out and about that Saturday night. Marcia’s thunderous drums and backup harmonies drove harder, faster and louder than most of the punk I get to see from this town. It was tight, emphatic, explosive, and if there was ever a friendly Canadian “shots fired” situation, it was this show. If anything, Bellingham punk needs to get on this friggin level.
The Staxx Brothers Feat. Jonzey of King Porter Stomp, My Dad Bruce
Oct. 23 • Wild Buffalo
The anticipation was palpable as the Wild Buffalo filled up early for the long awaited release party for The Staxx Brothers new album Hot Chocolate. This free event at the Wild Buffalo drew a diverse crowd all wearing their dancing shoes. Fancy Faces by Bailey adorned many attendees with bright paint that glowed under black light while the stage was set and Davin Steadman of The Staxx Brothers greeted the crowd. This was also a chance for Jonzey of King Porter Stomp to meet some Bellingham people – the MC from Brighton has been on tour with Staxx for their album release tour after Davin spent an extended stay in the UK working with his music family. I have really enjoyed peeking into the events of this on-going music exchange and international collaboration over the last several months.
The crowd was ready when My Dad Bruce jumped on stage and started the show, Julian “Adjectives” Friedman kept himself busy both running the tracks and MCing with “Jesus” Chris Willis offering up both offerings from their latest release and older favorites. It has been awhile since we have seen these two on this stage, but they brought the energy just like they always have.
Staxx Brothers filled the stage almost immediately after My Dad Bruce ended their set. Staxx is always evolving and brining a new dynamic to their live performance. I counted no less than 9 musicians who took part in this set. I don’t think I have seen so many horns for a Staxx show before; a trumpet plus both baritone and alto sax rounded out Justin Smith on keys, Matt Taggert on Bass, Dave Pender on drums, Ryan Nutter on guitar and of course Davin Steadman, the man with the mic (making them a Bellingham band by default). Jonzey joined in for the second song and regularly thereafter in a carousel of instrumentation in which each artist was able to showcase their own sound and demonstrate the high level of musicality present in each of those on stage for this event. The classic funk sound and driven rhythms had the crowd moving and shaking, even if the dancers couldn’t comprehend the skills and true talent of those on stage. Everyone on the floor kept moving towards the stage as the night went on as if it helped them better hear the music, but let me tell you what, it sounded great no matter where you were in the Wild Buffalo, a venue Davin called “a mecca where local talent and international talent can come together” as he beamed standing together with Jonzey and the rest of the musicians on stage. One of my favorite parts of the night was watching Davin, in his signature choir robe adorned with gold stripes, as he crouched on the corner of the stage to get the best possible angles photos of his bandmates in the heat of their solos.
I am excited to see what My Dad Bruce has planned for the future, I am sure it will be something to see. You can check out the new album Hot Chocolate pretty much wherever it is you normally get your music, and you can find The Staxx Brothers themselves bringing out FREE funk at the Wild Buffalo any chance they get.
Bob Fossil , Invictus, Jane Deaux, Drftrs
Oct. 14 • The Mind Palace
As the sun sets, Bellinghamsters hunker down for the suspected typhoon that is reported to strike down upon the town come night fall. Everyone seems to be spooked by reports of major flooding and power outages in the area, except for The Mind Palace curator, Ben Waight. The gung-ho venue manager is notorious for hosting professionally run shows of epic proportions.
Local funk punk collective Drftrs, christened the home stage with an incredibly high-energy performance. The band is comprised of lead guitarist Naoki Tsuruta, bassist and hype man vocalist Alex Rolfs and drummer singer Jared Deguzman. Drftrs have unique style of switching from fast paced rock rhythms that get the crowds’ feet movin’, to smooth psychedelic breakdowns that create audible breathing room between their songs. For this particular show, Drftrs recruited alto saxophone player Noah Braley, who used his horn to add soring melodies over the bouncing riffs laid down by the trio.
Jane Deaux, hailing from Portland is the next to take the stage. Holly Brooks aka Jane Deaux is the spunky front women for the pop rock power group. Sporting long black and pink hair, she aggressively whips her colorful locks in time to the meticulously rhythmic back beat of drummer Ian Garner. The band’s heavy undertones are provided by bassist Elias McCann, who is armed with a six bass guitar, creating basslines so heavy they may have scared away the half hurricane that was suspected to hit at any moment. The crowd became entranced in the pulsating rhythms and catchy choruses delivered by the Oregonian rock ensemble.
As Jane Deaux rounded out their soul shaking set list, the numerous Palace goers reciprocated the deep grooves through defining applause and loud praise. Enthused by the generous affirmation, McCann lets out a tremendous animalistic roar “F*** YEAH!”. The crowd eggs him on with vigorous cheering. “You guys are the best damn crowd we’ve ever played for!” he animatedly exclaims.
As the Portlanders break down their gear, Bellingham’s own party rap committee, Invictus prepares their energetic crowd rocking production. Fronted by Bellingham’s own baseball capped rapper Jonah Falk, the rhythmic foundation of hip-hop trio is generated by identical twins Dallas and Shaun Quick. The slender brown haired musical brothers seem to have been parented by metronomes, they’re always in the pocket never missing a beat. Dallas strikes down rap style snare and kick back beats while manning a separate eletronic drum pad that generates bass lines. Busting his drum kit while simultaneously playing bass patterns, Dallas seamlessly multi tasks while Jonah and Shaun keep the audience on their feet with their comfortable stage presence. Dallas pounds out the pulsing bass line to the group’s mass transport anthem “Metropolis,” as Shuan sharply strums the catchy chords the crowd starts jumping in authentic excitement. Jonah spits bars about his love for Seattle and its faithful metro bus system. With pumped up jams being dished out by Invictus, the crowd is fully warmed up for the main course.
Known to be the gate keepers of funk in Bellingham, Bob Fossil has earned their stripes as one of the most hart hitting, soul slamming, tightly rehearsed music collectives in the area. The colligate funketeers are well renowned for shaking house show audiences with their fierce rhythmic ballads. Lead singer and guitarist Kenny Clarkson wields a red Fender Mustang guitar that he savagely strums while belching out the heart felt lyrics to Body & Soul the opening track off their newest album entitled American Hippo. All the members of the five-piece band are donning lengthy silk kimono shirts, each uniquely decorated with intricate colors and fabric patterns. Bob Fossil’s coordinated showy outfits along with their professional stage presence accentuated the already astounding performance. The audience moshes crazily, stomping so hard that the wooden floor of the palace begins to bounce along with the show goers. Large LED show lights blast vivid hues upon the band as they delve into hit after hip shaking hit. Audience members were so captivated by the musical talent, they forgot about the horrendous weather conditions that caused Bellingham natives to batten down their hatches and stock up on emergency provisions earlier that day. Bellingham Storm Watch 2016 was a night drenched with hard rocking riffs that poured down bone shaking ballads, even an expert meteorologist could never forecast an audible monsoon of that magnitude.
Tetrachromat, Alien Boy, The Crawl
Oct. 8 • Karate Church
The ominously towering white turret of the Bellingham Academy of Elf Defense, otherwise known as The Karate Church, serves as a beacon of hope to distraught Saturday night street-goers. The green light above the entrance to the basement music space, shines through the steady drizzle of rain. A damp crowd of smokers shelter their cigarettes from the wetness outside the door as eager fans scurry inside. The lineup that awaits the soggy audience tonight is anvil weighted, no holds barred, heavier than hell experience.
The Crawl, a trio of Bellingham alums who now reside in Seattle, have an experimental style of meshing sampled synthesizer patterns with shrieking vocal melodies built upon pounding drum beats. River Fleischner is the multitasking guitarist and vocalist who also adds sonic textures through a synthesizer on a stand in front of him. The Crawl’s earthy noise rock ballads are usually based around a syncopated keyboard lines that drummer Harley “Harls” Christensen generates on a device adjacent to his drum kit. The overdriven gritty synth intro to the recently released single “Carefully Considered” builds an overwhelming suspense among the crowd. Bright multicolored LED lights shine down upon bassist Matt Cooper who doubles the repeating electro phrase with a layer of deep bass rumble. The consistent rhythm of the programed synth creates a dependable groove that makes the audience move in a back and forth motion.
As The Crawl ends their set, Portland based band Alien Boy starts setting up their gear. The Karate Church recruited a stage light manager Bill Fischer, who adjusts his tall strobe patterned lights to shine brightly down upon Sonia Weber, the guitarist and vocalist for Alien Boy. The four-piece pop punk power group released their second album entitled Stay Alive the night before the show. The band’s excitement for their freshly premiered music was evident. Bass player Mac Pogue wildly jumps around while striking the driving rhythm to the band’s chorus drenched melodic anthem Swell, the opening track on their new album. The audience is entranced by the psychedelic light patterns. Alien Boy relentlessly delivers angsty power chord centered performances, giving the audience a constant rebellious rhythm to bounce and rock to.
The interlude between sets, right when the music stops, final applause dies off, drums are being torn down, amps are being unplugged, the crowd becomes paused in a state of tranquility. Soothed by the echo of beating of rain drops reverberating through the foundation of the building. The white noise serves as a calm before the storm. A blizzard of monstrous rhythm approaches. Frank Rowland, rhythm guitarist and lead head banger for local prog-metal legacy Tetrachromat, straps on his menacing pitch black eight string guitar. Making his way through the now packed basement, lead guitarist Nathan Malick sports a gargantuan wooden platform filled with stomp boxes of all different shapes, sizes and colors. Malick is infamous for using his pedal bored as an extension of his instrument, creating soaring distorted melodies that permeate the brutal chugging of Tetrachromat’s demonic cadence.
The onslaught of alternative metal mayhem commences. As drummer Josh Pehrson smashes his cymbals in perfect time with five-string bassist Ethan Wilson, the crowd transforms from a collected karate congregation, into a chaotic body flinging mosh pit. As loyal fans agressivly shove each other in consensual rhythmic frenzy, a young bleach blond attendee is thrown into the Pehrson’s drum kit, tripping over the bass drum and knocking over a ride cymbal. The band halts momentarily, as the fallen mosher lifts himself off the ground, regaining his balance, the crowd chants his name “Chandler, Chandler, Chandler..” No feelings are hurt, no equipment is damaged, Malick grabs a microphone and subtly announces “Mosh safely!” After the friendly PSA, the band dives right back into the vigorous overdriven breakdown. Tetrachromat doesn’t name their songs; however, each track has a unique arrangement of complex chord progressions and resounding synchronized thematic melodies. For headlining a show the night before at the Shakedown, the group brought an impressive amount of energy that invigorated the waterlogged church goers to a point of controlled insanity.
Nahko and Medicine for the People
Oct. 9 • Wild Buffalo
Long a sold out show, Nahko and Medicine for the People brought in fans new and old, making for a great mix this night at the Wild Buffalo
Opening band Hirie were already on stage when we arrived. They had great stage presence and a polished sound if maybe a little overproduced with backing vocals dubbed in. The band ran through a number of reggae, rasta and R and B jams eventually bringing Nahko Bear out to a crazy crowd reception for a guest vocal track. Nice to see local percussionist Kurtis Parsons (Rise N Shine) on tour keeping the beat.
After the set change the crowd began packing in, pressing to the stage like religious zealots yearning for their faith healer’s touch. From the back of the room a bullhorn squawked once and suddenly chants filled the air. The crowd turns and Nahko Bear is moving in behind us. Walking in through the front door and cutting through the crowd like a canoe on a glass lake. He moves with a hunger and determination, I can not yet make out the words he is chanting but the look in his eyes is liquid fire. Passion burns and people step aside lest they perish in his rapture. Making his way to the stage the crowd had taken up the chant. The words once muddy and unclear suddenly gain shape. Their eventual glorious form all too perfect for our times. “Water is life. Water is Sacred. Salmon will run. No dam can hold”! Over and over again the chants rise and fall, rise and crash only to rise as mist once again. The stage has been claimed. From the stage, “HO” followed by “HOKA” from the thrall in rapid fire succession. The audience held firmly in his grasp, the show begins.
Nahko at the keyboard they open with the mighty “All Can Be Done.” Like something out of a Southern Babtist tent revival, from the very first note hands shoot into the air, heads roll back as their exalted faces peer up to the heavens, their bodies begin to writhe and shimmy. A brash staccato trumpet intro and they move to “It Is Written” then “San Quentin,” “Make a Change,” and “Runner” before taking a break to talk about social issues. The band had the right crown in the right town for the rap they were laying down regarding Black Lives Matter, NODAPL, stopping coal trains and a number of other passionate concerns of the bands.
However, the amount of time they took was excessive. After a few minutes it began to feel like they show was not going to resume until enough faces in the crowd showed deep sincere regret for actions we as a community have collectively fought against for years and had gone out that night seeking a break from. Good message, weighty delivery. Back into more tracks for a bit and then they once again put on the brakes for quite lengthy band introductions and more waxing philosophic about personal guilt. By this point they had officially lost me and by the time the band began “The Wolves Have Returned” I was settling up my bar tab and heading for the street.
All in all a great performance and a real good time if maybe a little heavy on the social commentary.