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Archive concerts summary: May 2010

May 2010 was a busy month for music, with four shows plus the Sasquatch Music Festival (and some late-night dancing on top of that, but that doesn't get reviewed). I was also very busy with work (in a welcome change) that month, which I guess is my still-lame excuse for never noting here when I posted a review on the KEXP Blog of the first show I saw that month: on Saturday the 8th, I went to the Crocodile to see Owen Pallett, with Snowblink and CataldoOwen Pallett put on an amazing performance that made me a confirmed fanboy. I took several photos at this show which you can see in this set on Flickr.

On Tuesday the 11th, I was thrilled to see Annuals return to Seattle, also playing at the Crocodile, and happy that they brought along their previous opener What Laura Says for a second time, along with the Most Serene Republic. I decided this time that What Laura Says are a kind of southern version of Grizzly Bear, with their '70s-esque bluesy prog rock and good vocal harmonies. I liked their ability to handle minor trouble without blinking: the lead guitarist didn't stop playing when he broke a string, and the drummer and bassist covered further technical difficulties after another song by starting a groove that went seamlessly into the next song. I also liked that their multi-instrumentalist had a table-ful of glass jars and tin pots to play as percussion. The Most Serene Republic played late-'90s indie pop-rock, sounding something like Harvey Danger. But the band tossed in some unusual extra instruments including trombone, banjo, trumpet, and a bit of violin amongst the guitars, keyboard, bass, and drums, adding some color and individuality. Their music was also pretty busy, with complex bass and drum lines in unusual rhythms; it didn't quite grab me, but it was definitely enjoyable. Annuals were amazing as always, ranging from intimate folk music to epic prog rock. I was amused to see that guitarist/drummer Zack Oden had added accordion to his repertoire; by my count, that puts them up to at least 15 different roles among the six members. They played several new songs from their Sweet Sister EP, which all sounded good, but nothing as glorious as "Complete or Completing" or "Hot Night Hounds", for example. Still, new music from Annuals is always welcome, and I'm always eagerly hoping for their next visit to Seattle. The lighting at the Crocodile is seldom kind to my iPhone's camera, but I still took a lot of photos, which you can see in this set on Flickr.

On Thursday the 20th, I went to the Rendezvous Jewel Box Theater to see Unwoman, the solo project of cellist/vocalist Erica Mulkey, who I first saw performing as a member of Stripmall Architecture back in 2008. I missed most of the opening set by the Tin Can Tobacco Band, who as you might expect from that name played roots folk. Next up was Nathaniel Johnstone, performing on banjo with a concertina player and with Mulkey as a guest on theremin for a couple songs. Johnstone claimed to have just picked up the banjo for the first time that Monday, but attributed his skill with it to the fact that it had the same tuning as the viola, which he played in school; I would guess though that he's also a talented guitarist, based on his playing. Apparently this was an unusual set-up; if I recall correctly, the other three usual members of his band were already en route to a tour stop. Musically the sound was unusual too, having a strong Balkan influence, and I wondered whether that was the normal style with the full band. The players had some good banter, at one point Johnstone asking "what key is this in?" and receiving the reply "it's in the key of shame flat." I enjoyed their set. As Unwoman, Mulkey used computer backing tracks including synth rhythms and self-sampled cello to augment her own cello playing and singing; she also played theremin for "Casualties", the title track of her then-new album. The album was written in response to a bad breakup and aftermath she went through, and so the songs tended to be weighty and dramatic, but her strong clear voice and classical-music sensibilities carried them well. She also did a lovely slow and moody cover of Joy Division's "Ceremony". I'm honestly not sure yet how much I actually enjoy most of her music, though I have no doubt that it is quite good, but I do plan to keep listening as she does and no doubt will continue to do interesting things.

I didn't take any notes at the fourth concert of the month, which featured the Tripwires, the Fucking Eagles, and Hotels playing at the Skylark Cafe on Friday the 21st as part of KEXP's "Hood to Hood Challenge/Celebration" in West Seattle. I can say that this was Hotels' first show with their new drummer Aaron Voros, who acquitted himself admirably, and of course all the boys put on a good show as always. I know I stayed up front for the Fucking Eagles, who delivered a strong set of rock, and I decided I wasn't interested enough in the Tripwires to stay through their whole set, instead leaving early to go dancing as I'd planned. 

Finally, I finished the month by once again having the privilege of attending the Sasquatch Music Festival as a correspondent for KEXP. You can still read my coverage of Saturday, Sunday, and Monday at the festival on the KEXP Blog, and check out a large assortment of photos from all three days on Flickr. I had a fantastic time and saw some amazing performances, particularly by My Morning Jacket, Massive Attack, Phantogram, and Seattle fire-dancing troupe Pyrosutra


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