Last summer was the time of falling in love with the Redwood Plan. I'd seen at least part of a set they played at the Comet Tavern some time in 2009—actually no, I know it was on a lineup with Hotels, so it was probably in January 2010—but their performance at the Capitol Hill Block Party was the first time I'd seen a full set and I immediately became a big fan. Besides seeing them again at Bumbershoot, I went to the Crocodile on Thursday September 16 to see them yet a third time, performing with Jupe Jupe and Fading Collection (who officially dropped the "the" from their name). I didn't take very many notes at this show. Jupe Jupe had a New Romantics vibe and gave a solid performance. Fading Collection played some songs from their then-new EP Attakk, which didn't grab me strongly but sounded okay, and their older songs of course still sounded great. They finished with an unlikely cover of Prince's "When Doves Cry", featuring a pretty powerful duet between lead singer Sarah McGuinn and live-show backup singer Tavia Kachell. Finally, I wrote just one note about the Redwood Plan—undoubtedly because I was too busy rocking out and dancing—which was that my only complaint was that some of the vocals were getting lost. That seems surprising now, given that Lesli Wood is certainly a strong singer, but if I recall correctly she may have been rocking out too much at times to stay close enough to the mic. Regardless, it was a good show. Check out some photos from the show here on Flickr.
I then finished the month with a solid week of shows, starting with the five days of Decibel Festival from Wednesday September 22 to Sunday September 26. Once again I had the pleasure of covering the festival for the KEXP Blog, and you can find links to all my posts there in my wrap-up post here on my journal. (My photos are linked there, too.)
The next day, Monday September 27, I was back at Neumos to see School of Seven Bells. I missed most of the set by opening band Active Child, but arrived in time to hear them do a good New Order cover (unfortunately I didn't note down which song) and their final song, which was also good enough to make me wish I'd been in time for their whole set. After five days at Decibel Festival, it felt very grounding to listen to School of Seven Bells' shoegaze-dreampop blend. I noted during their newer song "Bye Bye Bye" that the sound wasn't that great right up front by the stage, but I couldn't tell whether it was just due to my wearing earplugs or the speaker placement or some other factor. Still, it was great to see them again and I enjoyed the show very much. I stubbornly took a few photos, even though the lighting was terrible for my iPhone, and you can see them here on Flickr.
I had a choice of good shows for that Monday, but obviously could only attend one. Fortunately, I had a second chance at another: although I couldn't see Freezepop in Seattle that night, the next night I headed down to Portland to catch them at the Fez Ballroom, playing with Aerodrone and Ming & Ping. Judging by its looks, the Fez apparently really was an old ballroom converted over to a rock club, and I thought it was a pretty cool space, with big comfy chairs and sofas on the sides of the room. Aerodrone were a cute couple of young musicians who were probably born after New Wave ended, but were clearly going for that look. One played synths and they shared vocals on a short set of fairly lightweight sugary sexy dance/party tunes. They had a lot of enthusiasm, though sometimes it felt like they were trying a bit too hard; still, it was fun. Ming & Ping was easily the weirdest and most unexpectedly awesome act I saw all year. Ming was the lead singer, appearing live on stage; he was backed via video projection by "Ping", his supposed twin. Music was provided by a combination of pre-recorded original tracks and a live drummer, and two dancers completed the scene. All the performers were dressed in elaborate Chinese opera costumes, with the whole effect being kind of surreal. But it was crazy good! The music was very polished, and Ming (and Ping) was an excellent singer. I made sure to pick up their latest album, Ming & Ping, and I hope to see them again some time. Finally, Freezepop were on tour for the first time since the Duke's departure with their new four-member lineup, including original members Liz Enthusiasm and The Other Sean T. Drinkwater as well as Robert John "Bananas" Foster on drums and Christmas Disco-Marie Sagan on synths and backing vocals. The new lineup worked well, although I found it hard to hear Sagan's vocals. Continuing in the general theme of my recent archive summaries, I was much too busy dancing to the music of one of my favorite bands to take many notes; this time, I didn't even jot down the set list as they played, which I've done in the past. They did play a few new songs from their then-forthcoming album Imaginary Friends, which sounded good. For the finale they brought the other bands out onstage to help with a cover of Europe's hit "The Final Countdown", a song which frankly I've never liked and don't find any better even when Freezepop's playing it, but it was an effective way to bring down the house. Ming & Ping may have been the surprise discovery that by itself was worth the drive down to Portland, but I made the trek for Freezepop in the first place and I was very glad I did as—"Final Countdown" dislike notwithstanding—it was a great performance. I have lots of photos from this show, some of them are even fairly decent, and you can see them here on Flickr.
And then three weeks later I was in a serious car crash that means it'll be quite a while before I could do such a trek again, but that's another story.