Live Reviews: October 2017 shows
Note: Above photo: Erika Frease, by Joel Askey
Earthless, Crystal Myth
Oct. 22 • The Shakedown
Grit, precision and domination were the orders of the day as Earthless amazed the sold out Shakedown crowd with a monumental, action packed Sunday night performance. In sheer brilliance, the San Diego power trio proved a loud, genre crossing of intense blues, doom, garage, metal and more, with enough energy to burn down any club in their path. Their rare appearance in Bellingham brought devotees of heavy, informed rock out in droves, settled in for a night to remember. With local opener Crystal Myth to start things off, the two band bill delivered more bang for the buck than anyone could have hoped for.
Crystal Myth brought their charged brand of Sabbath inspired hefty rock, the perfect opener for an epic night of psychedelic luster. The trio worked through a passionate set and ignited The Shakedown with riff after riff of exciting, melodic metal/blues. Their sound is late 60’s, early 70’s electricity with the vocals to match. All meeting up with modern metal for a truly engaged sonic thrill ride. The three-piece strutted their chops through tunes off their brand new self-titled EP, recorded in Bellingham and released on October 15th. You can listen to their newest offering and purchase a copy at: crystalmyth.bandcamp.com. Stay tuned to Crystal Myth. They’re on the pulse of eclectic, uplifted and crushing rock n roll.
At nine o’clock sharp – silence became fire as Earthless began their triumphant journey into the nether reaches of hallowed, heavy music. The wicked charms lit in those first few moments only built through a one and a half hour set of pure, progressive inventiveness. Extreme volume led by monstrous technicians of virtuosity, the trio play structured yet improvisational spirited music – delivering an intoxicating aural experience. The men of Earthless write big, raucous soundscapes with souls of adventure. Their songs and live presentation are meditative, beyond both thought and time. By the one-hour mark of their set, the band had played a total of just three intensely hypnotic songs. Time seemed to slow to a crawl, a portal to a magical world opened, and an awestruck crowd happily dove inside.
The rhythmic brilliance of Earthless is an unstoppable foundation. Drummer Mario Rubalcaba, known for his work in OFF!, Rocket From The Crypt and Hot Snakes, along with bassist Mike Eginton presented the sweetest possible combination of Motorhead, Sabbath, 80’s punk and minimalist, hard driving subtlety. The nuanced feel of this pair set the stage for the band’s phenomenal performance. As a group highly invested in German krautrock, their innovative, ‘keep a song going for 20 minutes without batting an eyelid’ approach has a flair, which is not easy to come by. The sorcery of their group chemistry is potent. Second nature. Earthless play from a location deep inside their bones.
With the ground level engaged, guitarist Isaiah Mitchell played his heart into the ever loving pieces of his Fender Strat, his sound feeding through analog tape echo, boutique Dova amp and Orange cab. The guttural delivery would have made Hendrix sing praises. Isaiah’s attack pulsed with atmosphere; the overall mastery of his instrument formed an ambient spectacle that lifted the band into the metallic-blues stratosphere. Isaiah’s craft as a guitarist is next level, born of an amalgamation of refined styling. Bending and grinding notes into oblivion, his demonstration was non-stop rebellion and grace in one package. Earthless songs shape-shifted into 20-minute guitar solos, hinged to the impeccable dynamics of an unstoppable drum and bass assault.
The phenomenal guitarist’s t-shirt summed up the night – a large UFO shining its light on the ground of our planet, while a smaller UFO in the distance pulled a body into the bowels of its ship. Tonight, we were pulled into the high tech machinery and brilliant luminescence of Earthless – without coming back down. Thank you, gentlemen, for an inspired evening.
Oct. 21 • The Business
On a blustery October evening in downtown Anacortes, The Business Records hosted an intimate show featuring Olympia-based recording artist Erica Freas. Erica is involved in several projects, including the punk band RVIVR as well as her own compositions as a singer/songwriter.
Erica performed a set of solo acoustic music, featuring songs from her 2016 album “Patient Ones” as well as her impressive back catalog. The set opened with “Harriet”, a song that manages, like many of her compositions, to be both driving and introspective. “You’ll find me in the beauty of the branches as they bend into the wind. You’ll find me in the way the wind caresses all the grasses and your skin.”, she concludes the song with a powerful reference perhaps to a lost loved one.
Her solo songwriting is deeply personal but not maudlin or excessively confessional. Rather, Erica uses metaphor defly to paint her feelings and experience in a way that invites interpretation. One of her more powerful statements was in the song “Silver”, which she admitted was about sexual harassment. “We’ve all tasted silver sometime … but we swallow our tongues and hide” sums up both the scope and individual effect of an issue that has long been a problem but seems to be particularly newsworthy of late.
The audience was quietly enthralled with Erica’s performance, as she demonstrated the depth of her artistry as a soloist. If you get a chance to see Erica solo, or with RVIVR, your time will be well spent.
Skookum Sound Benefit
Oct. 6 • The Shakedown
On Oct. 6, the Shakedown held an event called Skookum Sound with Marquis Mason, Cody Stephens, and Jackie Wetchler hosting the event to help raise money for the Skookum Kids program.
“Skookum Kids works to support and care for children in the foster care system. The short-term care that Skookum Kids offers allows case managers to find appropriate and healthy long-term care for children, said Cody.
The night was full of groovy, funk, hip-hop and spoken word performances. JNAII, Valeria Pedraza, and Laurel Yae warmed up the event, followed by headliners Campana and COSMOS.
Marquis, Cody, and Jackie came up to thank everyone for their support before welcoming COSMOS onto the stage. Although the turnout was very intimate, they were visibly moved that the people attending the event wanted to help foster children find a home.
What was even more moving was that the audience was all smiles—truly happy to be a part of this opportunity. That night I saw a community coming together for laughter and dancing while also reaching out to help each other.
This warmth turned hot when COSMOS came onto the stage. COSMOS appeared serene yet fiery from first song until the finale—Campana danced through each song unconcerned with the compactness that comes with performing the Shakedown’s small stage with a full band.
Feeling the energy, the crowd returned the loving energy back with dancing; head nods, or simply closing their eyes and feeling every note float through their ears.
The majority of COSMOS’ set list came off of their work of art “Moonshine”. They performed hits such as ‘Galagirl’, ‘Living Proof’, and “Xtra! Xtra!’ The dedicated COSMOS fans in the crowd sang every word and would holler whenever any of the classics came on.
Overall, it was truly touching to see how much support goes into local projects. I saw a lot of people mingling with the hosts and performers—the overall vibe felt very open and connected. I could tell friends and fans alike were there to support Skookum Kids and a very loved Seattle band through the power of music.
To check out the COSMOS project, visit www.cosmosthe.band. Their music is offered through Sound Cloud and Spotify. If you would like to know more about the Skookum Kids program or get involved through volunteering for Skookum Kids, visit their website at: http://www.skookumkids.org
Lifeless Form, Hissing, CAVURN
Oct. 8 • The Shakedown
Few places on the West Coast beat Bellingham as a setting for apocalyptic tunes. Our humble town’s fog-draped mountains, healthy abundance of dark bars, and dubious reputation for attracting serial killers makes for a strong resume when one is seeking out the heaviest of heavy music. As your more pierced and hungover friends have likely explained to you, The Shakedown makes an ideal host for any show that lands on the darker side of things. The October, 8th show featuring CAVURN, Hissing (SEA), and Lifeless Form was evidently a winning combination. Before the first note of the opening band the place was already filling up.
Anyone who listens to enough doom metal can tell you that the genre is pretty dependable, often to the point of predictability. The steady ritual chugging of thick sonic dirt that makes the genre so viscerally satisfying can also be a hard pattern for artists to truly distinguish themselves in. However, as soon as CAVURN opened the Sunday night show time fell away. Slamming into the set, it was impossible to tell the amount of time between booming chords and crushing drums. The songs were long, and they deserved to be. As each wave of dirt crested into a breakdown, drummer/vocalist Kyle M’s tortured growls pulled everyone in the building down into the cave I have to assume the band crawled out of. If you’ve ever thrown up devil horns at a show you need to mark your calendar for their next gig.
The first thing that hit me about Hissing’s performance was the beer that instantly got thrown into my eyes. Chaos and banging heads were the de facto reaction to the band’s blasted beats and intense breakdowns. The vocalist kept his eyes locked on the ceiling he snarled the crowd into a frenzy. The moshing ended up getting so intense that a bartender and bouncer stepped in to calm the crowd. Any band that accidentally turns the crowd into a liability must be doing something right.
Featuring vets of Bellingham’s music scene, including Jeff Kastelic, Lifeless Form set the atmosphere with an altar of animal bones, incense, and candles. The theatrics paid off, with the venue’s atmosphere noticeably shifting from a room of rowdy metalheads to a reverent black mass. Bursting double kick, black metal riffing, and reverb-drenched vocal screeches ruled the show. Willing or not, this band melts your reality and drags you into the inferno. The audience came to be overwhelmed and we weren’t disappointed. I stumbled home in a daze, drained and ready for the next show of this gravity.
Illogicians, Local Ghost, Jerkagram
Oct. 15 • The Shakedown
This show at the Shakedown featured two secret gems of the Bellingham music scene plus a band from Los Angeles in the midst of an eleven week tour. Illogicians and Local Ghost, two bands that grew out of earlier Bellingham favorites Savage Henry and Moongrass, plus LA’s Jerkagram, took the audience on a three-hour musical journey that featured influences from metal, math rock, prog, pop, ambience, jazz, and country, and showcased expansive improvisatory sections that defied categorization.
Local Ghost kicked things off, setting the stage for a night of celebrating musical eclecticism. The band, comprised of guitarists Eli Watson and Taylor Merlina, bassist Tom McKay, and drummer Nick Robinson, decided to eschew playing songs off of their last album, Momentum, in favor of playing a selection of new originals. Opening with “One Wish,” Local Ghost fluidly maneuvered through a set of traditional rock-americana-pop songs that kept listeners moving on the dance floor. Eli and Taylor’s voices carried the melodies with a soulful urgency that both lilted and crooned. Seamlessly, the music ebbed and flowed from upbeat riffs to slower passages that kept the energy in the room propelling forward.
Next on the line-up was Jerkagram. This guitar-and-drums duo of fraternal twins, Derek and Brent Gaines, fused minimalist-style loops with ambience, noise, and odd time-signatures; bringing to mind artists such as Tortoise, Deerhoof, and minimalist composer Philip Glass. Throughout their set, and even throughout single songs, Jerkagram employed a mix of bright melodic lines, distorted guitar feedback, shifting harmonies, drones, washes of cymbals, complex yet grooving beats, and a perfect mixture of dynamic energy levels ranging from extremely high to extremely low. The audience responded to these shifts in mood with vigorous, jerking movements followed by nodding their heads and gently swaying from side to side.
Illogicians closed out the night as they began their set with some instrument switching. Christopher Stainback, the band’s primary bass player, started off with a wash of lap steel before the rest of the lineup joined in. After the subdued introduction, the band launched into a toe-tapping tune from their album Delightfully Absurd entitled “Human Puke Box,” shifting the mood from the ruminating, pensive notes of the first song to that of an unusual country saloon. In a musical whirlwind, the mood then shifted to a quirky rock instrumental that got bodies in the small but hearty crowd grooving. As the set unfolded, the grooves laid out by drummer Aaron Cramer and the riffs of the prog rock, funk, and jazz fusion songs on the set were punctuated by gentler songs that featured vocals by guitarists Todd Smith and Jordan Watson.
All three bands rewarded the crowd at The Shakedown with musical revelry on an otherwise quiet Sunday night in Bellingham.