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Last night I went to Neumos, intending to see Point Juncture WA, an up-and-coming band whose singles I've been loving to hear on KEXP the past few months. It wasn't until I'd already paid and started to walk in that I realized something was amiss with the list of start times I'd glanced at as I was paying, and I looked again to see that they weren't on the list. That's when I realized of course, they couldn't make it tonight because regional flooding had cut off Seattle from Portland, their home. Still, following my first principle that it's always the right decision to go to the show, I chose to stay and check out the other bands: Black Daisy, The Animals at Night, and the headliners Hazelwood Motel.

Black Daisy, the last-minute fill-in for Point Juncture WA, turned out to be a comedy-musical duo both on guitars and vocals, in the vein of Flight of the Conchords. They also had a bassist, but he seemed to be more of a guest performer for the show than part of the regular act. Beats were provided by a drum machine, which I realized after a bit was actually just an iPod. The two main members were dressed in an '80s tough-guy-rocker style of ripped denim and t-shirts, one with a ragged scarf, and both wore cheesy big wigs of the appropriate messy tough-guy hair. They played a set of silly songs about sex and relationships, featuring a variety of styles from hair-metal rockers to faux-country pop. My problem with this kind of act is that they're parodying styles of music, fashion, and performance that are already laughably bad, so the parody is mildly amusing but it's still inherently bad with little repeat value. (In contrast, Flight of the Conchords take good source material and make pastiches that are silly and goofy but also loving homages, giving their songs a more lasting quality.) That said, they did make me laugh out loud at least once, and they finished with an amusingly heavy and actually quite good cover of Hall & Oates' "Maneater", so I did enjoy the set but I think they'll need further development to have any staying power.

The Animals at Night are a duo on keyboard/guitar/electronics/vocals and drums. Although I've seen them described by several sources as downtempo electronica and trip-hop, at this show they played very groovy dance music with strong flavors of soul, funk, and R&B: much closer to Maktub than Massive Attack. Indeed, although leader Graig Markel in appearance is sort of the anti-Reggie Watts, he and Joe Patterson laid down a set of grooves that suggested a pairing with Maktub would be a great evening. Markel also rocked out pretty strongly on guitar and vocals in several songs, again in contrast to the downtempo label. As a duo, the group did make extensive use of sampled parts, and I reflected at one point how it might be nicer to hear the bass part live rather than recorded, for example. Still, they had a good sound and were quite enjoyable, and they should be a strong new addition to the Seattle scene.

Hazelwood Motel are the trio of Ed Vierda (guitar, vocals), Megan Pickerel (keyboard, vocals), and Patrick Smail (drums, backing vocals). They played a set of indie pop that started out mostly on the country side but pulled in some rock toward the end. Most of their songs were slow to midtempo, quiet, introspective affairs, with bittersweet vocals and a mournful spirit. This sort of indie-country-pop isn't really my thing, so at first I felt they sounded fine but just not very interesting to me. But then about halfway through the set they started a song with a stronger rock beat, and as it moved toward the chorus I recognized from an insistent guitar riff that I'd heard it on KEXP and liked it, the single "Break Myself in Two". As they continued to mix a few other songs on the rock side into the set, such as an upbeat one possibly titled "Watching My World Tonight", I decided that I did like the band after all. There was a funny pause at the end of the set, as they said they had nothing for an encore but didn't actually leave the stage, and after a couple minutes of calls for just one song Pickerel apologetically said they hadn't practiced recently (due to the snow shutting down travel in Seattle) and weren't prepared with anything else. However, the remaining audience would have none of that and finally the band gave in and played an encore, which sounded just fine to me. Although clearly I'd prefer a more even mix of rock-based tunes to quiet sad country songs, there's no question Hazelwood Motel are skilled songwriters and musicians, and I'll be keeping an ear out for more from them.

This was a small and well-lit show for Neumos, which means I was able to get some fairly good photos of all three acts, starting here in Flickr.



There are several shows coming up at the end of the month that are worth catching. These include Kinski at Neumos on Thursday the 29th, KJ Sawka doing an album release show at Nectar Lounge on Friday the 30th, and Supreme Beings of Leisure at Chop Suey on Saturday the 31st. (Weird, I just realized I haven't been to Chop Suey in over a year.) It turns out Hotels are also playing on Thursday the 29th at the High Dive, creating a little dilemma for me: I haven't been to the High Dive in a while and like seeing shows there (not to mention, it's Hotels), but I also haven't seen Kinski in over a year, not since their last CD release show in fact, and rumor has it they're also working on new material for their next release. What I do know for certain is that next month I'll be at the Sunset Tavern on Friday Feb 20 for what's sure to be an amazing double-release show with both Hotels and Point Juncture WA, and I cannot wait for that!


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