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Feb 2009 concert 3: Annuals at Chop Suey

On Wednesday Feb. 25th, I went to Chop Suey to see Annuals, back again and this time headlining their own tour. Opening for them was Jessica Lea Mayfield and What Laura Says.

I walked in just as What Laura Says were starting their set, and my immediate impression was that they were a long-haired Southern rock band. That may be technically true, as they are from Arizona and do have long hair, but as their set went on I realized they had a greater complexity than just simple blues rock. They had touches of country music, as appropriate for Southern rock, but also a strong strain of prog-rock as well; somewhere between Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Fleet Foxes, perhaps. The quintet had very nice vocal harmonies and also were quite good musicians, as they demonstrated in an extended instrumental jam leading into one song. I really enjoyed their set and picked up their CD Thinks and Feels after the show; I'll be listening for more from them in the future.

I had heard good things about singer-songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield and she definitely had a bevy of fans at the show. Mayfield played guitar and sang, and was was ably backed by a trio, including her older brother, on guitar, bass viol and bass guitar, and drums. However, her sleepy-weepy country rock did not win me over. I found that almost all her songs sounded about the same to me. Even when she covered a Buddy Holly tune, it was indistinguishable from the rest of her own songs and if she hadn't announced it I wouldn't have known. Despite this, the crowd was very attentive, and when she played one song solo the room was impressively quiet throughout, with barely a sound of chatting from the bar area. Finally, she had a rock-out moment with her last song, climbing up on the side of her brother's upright bass to play guitar while he kept playing the bass as well. It was a fun moment, but for my taste the whole set could have used 500% of that.

Annuals came out to a dark stage and played an extended percussion introduction, with four of the six members on drums that flashed red green and blue lights as they pounded away. I was surprised that this led into "Hot Night Hounds," a song they've been featuring as a show closer in part for its strong anthemic sound and for its repeated cries of "goodbye!" toward the end. However, though I wondered how they would follow that up, I had faith in Annuals and I was amply rewarded with yet another stellar show. Unlike their last visit, Anna Spence's keyboard and vocals were properly mixed and both sounded great; she had particularly pretty, ethereal backing vocals on "Hardwood Floor". In fact the vocals in general seemed to stand out more at this concert, such as the nice harmonies in "Sway" and "Chase You Off"; also, bassist Mike Robinson did some backing vocals this time, which I don't recall from previous concerts. Standout tunes for me included familiar tunes from Be He Me: "Complete or Completing"; "Brother", which featured a powerful and gorgeous extended musical intro; and "Carry Around", the first of two encore songs. However, the newer songs from Such Fun, including "Hot Night Hounds", "Hardwood Floor", and the final encore, the honky-tonk "Hair Don't Grow", also sounded great. For the main set closer, "Wake" (also from Such Fun), two members of What Laura Says joined the band to provide backing vocals, whistling, and drumming—because with Annuals, you can never have too many people drumming. With Annuals, you also can never see them too many times, and as I say every time they come to town, I'll be eagerly awaiting their next visit, hopefully this autumn.

I have a small set of photos from this show, starting here in Flickr.

Although I've been quiet here for over a month, I haven't stopped going out to shows, and I have some reviews to catch up on: Hotels at the newly-renovated and re-opened Crocodile, and Black Mountain at Neumos, both from the last full week of March. However, I have one more review that's already written, for Tricky at the Showbox at the Market last Saturday; that review was written for the KEXP Blog, and should be posted there soon. Coming up in April, two shows that my sister Andrea pointed me to: Christy & Emily at the New Crompton (which apparently is someone's house in the U District) on Thursday April 9, and Franz Nicolay (whom you might know as the leader of The Hold Steady) at the Sunset Tavern on Friday April 24.

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