Philip (philaros) wrote,

Jan 2009 concerts 2 & 3: KJ Sawka at Nectar Lounge, Supreme Beings of Leisure at Chop Suey

Last Friday I went to Nectar Lounge to see KJ Sawka headlining an electronica show to mark the release of his new EP, Undefined Connectivity. Opening for Sawka were the DJ group Shift Crew and electronic musician novaTRON, and DJ Flave wrapped up the evening. Sonic MC acted as host for the evening and also performed freestyle rap during each set. I felt that Sonic MC's rapping generally didn't really enhance the music, but it did fit in well with the flow.

Shift Crew are a group of DJs associated with Shift Recordings; this evening's trio included Shift Recordings founder Lukki, CB, and Dirty. They took turns spinning records on a pair of turntables, using a laptop and some other gear to mix the music. Their music was primarily dubstep and trip-hop, somewhat danceable but I felt it was more for background ambience than dedicated listening. I liked their set, but felt it went on a little long and the other two acts could have been given a little more time.

novaTRON creates live breakbeat music using a custom set of synthesizers and audio gear—no laptop, turntable, keyboard, or conventional instruments. His set was more engaging and danceable than Shift Crew's dubstep, although it also would've served well as club background music. Unlike the last time I saw him, it never sounded oppressively heavy or claustrophobic, it was groovy and fun.

KJ Sawka also creates live breakbeat and drum n' bass electronica, but where novaTRON takes an all-electronics route, Sawka starts from the basic source of beats, live drumming. That said, Sawka is as much an electronic artist as a drummer, and he spent almost as much time drumming one-handed as two, activating samplers and other electronic gear. Although he's thus capable of playing a full set by himself, for this show Sawka was joined on most of the songs by his frequent collaborator Kent Halvorsen on keyboard (and trumpet in one song), and also had Christa Wells on hand to sing vocals. Sawka played a near-continuous set of music, with the only real breaks occurring when Wells came onstage to sing, but the transitions from song to song were always apparent. The set featured a video projection, but due to Nectar's layout with the screen off to the side of the stage, I doubt anyone watched; all the excitement was up on stage. As a performer, Sawka was a real showman, often rising from his stool to make dramatic gestures without dropping the beat, and his drum kit included a set of lights flashing in sync with the rhythms. Wells also had a strong stage presence, using both her powerful voice and stage moves to good effect. Sawka finished his set by bringing out Blake Lewis on guest vocals; I'm only vaguely aware of Lewis as "that Seattle guy from American Idol", so it was interesting to hear him perform and learn he's a good vocalist. Sawka continues to be one of my favorite musicians in Seattle, and I look forward to hearing more from him.

I have a few photos of each act, starting here in Flickr.

The following evening, I went to see Supreme Beings of Leisure at Chop Suey. Also on the bill were DJ LA Kendall and electronic musician Carmen Rizzo; although Supreme Beings of Leisure were billed as the headlining act, they were sandwiched in between the other two artists. Kendall did not appear on stage, but played a good set mixing jazz and soul-influenced trip-hop and drum n' bass that set the right mood for Supreme Beings of Leisure. Rizzo used synthesizers, a laptop, and other electronic gear to make a techno mix ranging from ambient to drum n' bass; he sounded pretty good but I did not stay for the full set.

Supreme Beings of Leisure are the duo of Geri Soriano-Lightwood (vocals) and Ramin Sakurai (keyboard and electronics), with Sheldon Strickland (bass) and Jason Graham (drums). (They also have a guitarist, Geof Brandin, but he was not present.) They played a great set of groovy feel-good dance music mixing funk, jazz, and soul influences with trip-hop. I was surprised that nearly half their set came from their first album, particularly as I was under the impression that they were touring in support of a new album. However, it turns out their latest album (only their third) came out a year ago, and it was pretty clear that like myself, most of the audience was only familiar with the first album. So the band played up to their audience. Another surprise was that not only were they positioned as the middle band, they also did not get to do an encore. As their set list showed a planned three-song encore and they were getting (and returning) much appreciation from the audience, I believe this was not by their choice. Whoever did make the decision, it was a poor one, as the audience was clearly there to see Supreme Beings of Leisure and the fairly-full club mostly cleared out once it was clear the band was done. Although I did enjoy the show, the combination of the short set and the number of familiar old songs left me feeling that I could've passed on this one.

I took a few photos of Supreme Beings of Leisure, which can be seen starting here in Flickr.

Coming up next week, I'll be at the Showbox at the Market on Friday Feb. 13 manning the KEXP info table for Lykke Li; if you're there, stop by and say hi! The following week on Friday Feb. 20, the Sunset Tavern has an awesome show with Point Juncture WA and Hotels, both of whom are celebrating album releases, and The Animals at Night opening. With such a great lineup, it's hard to imagine a better show happening any time soon; however, no doubt Annuals will at least match it when they headline a show at Chop Suey the week after on Wednesday Feb. 25. I've been so excited about these two shows, I haven't even looked ahead yet to March, but I'll let you know what I find when I do; one thing I do anticipate then is the grand re-opening of The Crocodile.
Tags: chop suey, concerts, kj sawka, nectar lounge, novatron, photos, supreme beings of leisure

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