Thursday, September 16, 2010

Camas 3rd Folkin Anniversary - Victoria's Five Dollar Cover?

Sunday night, after moviing into my new place, I decided to go to the 3rd Folkin Anniversary at Camas books. I decided to go partially because it was affiliated with the Victoria Anarchist bookfair, and I hadn't been able to go to it. Plus, who says no to a $5 concert? if its bad, its bad, who cares, it only cost $5, if its good, its a bargain (especially around here). When I got to the bookstore, there were a few people milling around outside, with their dogs, smoking, talking, hanging out, and some people inside. I went inside and found a seat, and slowly people began to wander in, and the store was full of dirty, grungy anarchist kids. they had to keep the doors closed because they had been busted for having shows before - the smell, and the temperature in the store were sort of...uncomfortable.
I can't tell you what the bands were called, partially because I have a feeling most of the bands that played were loosely organized groups of friends, but also because I can't remember. (each really only played for 10-15 minutes) What I do remember was this
- there was a woman who sang and played guitar, she hard blue hair and the most amazing voice. I asked the grungy looking kid next to me what she was called, I think he said Starla. I could be wrong though
- An older couple, the woman who played clarinet while the guy played guitar, both would sing. their songs were political folk, poking fun at government, pharmaceutical companies, and a host of other issues.
- Buffalo Buffalo - a four piece band, there was a fiddle, a guitar, and some other instruments I cant remember. they were pretty good.
I left after that, even though there was an hour or so left before it was finished. The cops were starting to drive around the block, and some (very) drunk people were starting trouble, spilling outside of the building, and making a racket.
I left then, because getting arrested was not high on my list of priorities, and I had class to go to in the morning.
I learnt something that night - Victoria does have a music scene, albiet a small one, and not even close to the size of the music scenes in Vancouver or Seattle. The scene here is also closed, for lack of a better word - its difficult to find out abotu things, to find what is worth seeing, unless you know artists, or people who are involved in the music scene.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hole. Not what I expected

On the festival guide for the Sunday night at the Mainstage, the listed bands were Rise against, (which I didn't see) Hole (which was amazing) and Weezer (which was good, despite stoping half an hour before their set was finished, taking a break, where it was unclear whether they were finished or not, and then starting again). Having Hole listed as playing Bumbershoot may have been a little bit misleading - Courtney Love is the only remaining member of the band, so it might have been more appropriately listed under Courtney-Love-and-a-backup-band-playing- Hole - songs.
I wasn't sure what to expect, since an article in The Stranger had said there were three possible Courtneys - Robo Courtney, Crazy Courtney, and Amazing Courtney.
I was pretty sure it was going to be a complete disaster, but surprisingly, it wasnt. It was really, really good. They nailed all the songs, and she put on a show.

Monday, September 6, 2010

I saw Bob Dylan, But I'm not sorry

Bob Dylan was an icon of a generation, his songs spoke to the political turmoil of the 1960s, the war in Vietnam, racism, and the civil rights movement. He falls into the category of musicians you have to see, even if its only to say that you have seen them in concert. I’d heard that Bob Dylan hadn’t played a great show last time he was in Seattle, but I bought the ticket for Bumbershoot anyway, because well…it was Bob Dylan, and who wouldn’t like to be able to see they’d seen Bob Dylan in concert? Besides, it was a festival, even if Dylan was awful, at least there would be other bands, and I wouldn’t feel like I’d been ripped off..
The mainstage had sold out in advance, although people trickled in slowly during The Decemberists, and during Neko Case, the majority of people didn’t show up until Dylan was about to play.
He opened with “Everybody Must Get Stoned”, although it wasn’t recognizable until halfway through the song. Although Bob Dylan has never had a strong voice, and his songs have often seemed more like spoken word set to music than actual songs, his performance at Bumbershoot was worse than I expected. His voice was gruff and gravelly, like a smokers’ voice, and was nearly impossible to understand – the only way my mother could identify‘Just Like A Woman’ was by the one guitar riff in the chorus.
He was supposed to play for an hour and a half, but we (my mom and I) didn’t stay until the end, we couldn’t. He’d already destroyed two of his better known songs, and after 45 minutes, I turned to my mom and said “If he attempts to play Mr tambourine man, I’m never going to be able to listen to that song again. He’s going to ruin it.”
Maybe It’s unfair of me to expect an elderly man to perform at the same level as he did 30 years ago – but if he can’t perform anymore, then why is he still touring?
Although the songs were nearly unrecognizeable, and the show was so bad, there was a steady stream of people leaving even though the set was barely halfway through, I'm not sorry I went. After all, now I can say I've seen Bob Dylan in concert, and even if he isn't good anymore, his music was the voice of a generation.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Northwest Folklife - May 29th 2010

Started this afternoon at the K Records Showcase, called "This is Our Show" It featured bands from K Recs, The Hive Dwellers, Karl Blau, LAKE, and The Curious Mystery.
The Hive Dwellers are a band you either love or hate. Calvin Johnson is either a musician you love or can't stand, I think don't people "sort of" like him or "sort of" dislike him, so it makes sense that people wouldn't "sort of" like or dislike the band. The lyrics were more than slightly ridiculous, and the music wasn't particularly complex, however, the fact that it was Calvin Johnson - the man behind Beat Happening, as well as other bands that influenced the late 80s/early 90s music scene, and also the man who created K Recs, made it worth seeing. It would be like if the musicians from the 1960s your parents listened to were still alive, and they had the chance to see them. Seriously.

Karl Blau has a reputation of having played every festival in the Pacific Northwest at least once. I'm not sure if this is true - I've never seen him live before, and I dont remember him ever playing any Vancouver shows. He played newer songs, from the Zebra album. I found this a little disappointing, because I'm only familiar with the Nature's got a way album, and so I wasn't familiar with anything he played. It was still a good show though, and I'm glad I went.

LAKE was good, it helped that I'd wanted to see them for as long as I'd known of their existence - so, for like two years - and I'd given up on them ever playing a Vancouver or Victoria show. Unfortunately, most of what they played was off of their newest album, which I hadn't had a chance to listen to, but it didn't matter, because the concert was still good.

The next band I wanted to see was Acorn Project, a Funk/Rock/Ska band from Bellingham. I was a bit skeptical at first, because I hadn't heard of them before, but they were really good. They sound very similar to another one of my favorite Bellingham bands, Yogoman Burning Band - who, coincidentally enough, were also playing this festival, and I'll get to that in a minute. Back to Acorn Project. They had more or less everybody who had stayed to watch them dancing, the little kids in the front, the highschool students, the stoners, and the little old ladies - as well as everybody else.
They only played a half hour set, but the whole performance was energetic.

Yogoman Burning Band was next, they're another Bellingham based, rock/ska/punk/reggae band, and sound very similar to Acorn Project. I've reviewed them in this blog before, and I've seen them live before, again, their show was amazing.
I didn't know they were playing Folklife until last night, when I sat down an looked at the festival schedule. They played almost entirely new songs, that are not on either one of their two CDs, except at the end of the set - they finished with "Streetlights" and "Pass the O", two songs from their first CD, that came out in 2007. Again, they were able to get people dancing an singing along, and the show was just really energetic and fun.

The last band I saw was Panda Conspiracy, a multi - person band from Seattle, (seriously, I don't even know how many people were on stage)The show was entertaining from the very beginning - some of the band were wearing panda costumes, others were in bunny suits, beachballs were flying through the audience, and the music was upbeat and easy to dance to.The only downside to this band was that their songs were long, which meant that they couldnt play very much in a half hour set. However, what they played was really good.

One Last Thing About Folklife - one last thing, thats it, I swear. Its apparently the largest music festival of its kind in North America - a by donation, community/volunteer run folk festival. think about that for a minute. Its really important to support things like this, because they make it possible for almost anybody to enjoy music.

Northwest Folklife - Friday, May 28th 2010

Thankfully, the ferry ride from Victoria to Seattle was completely uneventful, and my anxiety about crossing the border - something I always get, although I don't know why, since I'm just your average, middle class, white female college student, were completely unfounded. Didn't get into Seattle until 3, an after I'd dropped off my stuff and gotten a snack, off to the festival it was!.

The first band I saw was shotty, they're a three piece pop punk band from Seattle, and I saw them for the first time at Folklife last year. There are two things that make this band worth seeing live, the first is that even though a majority of their songs seem to tell a familiar story about a girl, or a relationship, they are incredibly catchy, and are very easy to dance to (and even if you don't like dancing in public, you'll be tapping your feet and bobbing your head like everybody else). The stage prescence they have, and upbeat energy of the live performances is what makes this band entertaining, and a band worth seeing.

The second was another Seattle based band, NoRey, a reggae folk band. They sounded like a cross between reggae, ska, soul, and folk music, and at one point I'm fairly certain I counted six or seven people onstage.

The Third band I saw was Blood Red Dancers, another local band. The music was rough, raw, and unpolished, although it was clear that the edgey and unpolished sound of the music was not an accident, or due to a lack of practice, it was supposed to sound that way.

Lastly, other than the many bands performing at Folklife, there was also a wide assortment of buskers and and people playing instruments who were not on one of the stages, but who, in many cases, were just as accomplished as those who were.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Its Festival Season! (well, almost...)

Since summer is almost here, and school is nearly done for the summer, if it isn't already, I've put together a list of festivals around the Pacific Northwest that I think are worth checking out, just in case you were looking for something to do. So in no particular order....

1. Northwest Folklife - May 28th - 31st, 2010, Seattle WA.

- A 4 day festival over Memorial Day long weekend, with 25 stages and over 900 bands, there's bound to be something to entertain everyone, whether you like jazz, blues, country, folk, world music, dance, or storytelling. An added bonus? Its not one of those festivals where you have to pay hundreds of dollars for a weekend ticket. Entrance is by donation.

2. Sasquatch - May 29th - 31st 2010, at the Gorge.

- Another Memorial Day weekend music festival, with multiple stages and big name bands, such as Massive Attack, Pavement, Tegan Sara, and Nada Surf, as well as lesser known indie bands, like The Lonely Forest, Shabazz Palaces, and Japandroids. Unfortunately, this year is sold out, so if you managed to get tickets, I am very, very jealous.

3. Vancouver Island Music Festival - July 9-11th, 2010, Comox Valley, BC.
- A folk music festival featuring a variety of performers on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, Canada. Although its not cheap - $129 if you buy before July 1st, $149 after, its worth the money. Last year it was ranked as one of the best summer music festivals in North America.

4. Victoria Ska Festival - July 7th - 10th, 2010, Victoria BC.
- A ska music festival in Victoria BC, featuring a variety of Ska bands from all over the Northwest, as well as Canada, and the world. Not only is it a chance to hear some amazing little - known ska bands, Fishbone will be playing a show. Its not an expensive festival either, $99 for the entire weekend.

5. Vancouver Folk Festival - July 16th - 18th 2010, Vancouver BC.
- Although the full lineup isn't out yet, the lineup for this years Vancouver Folk Festival looks amazing. there's a wide variety of performers and genres, including world music, folk, jazz, and blues. This years festival includes The Avett Brothers, Calexico, Sarah Harmer, and Valdy, just to name the better known performers, there are also bands from Colombia, Haiti, and Mali, as well as a wide selection of performers from across Canada. Adult Weekend Tickets are $133 before June 11th, $160 before July 15th, and $185 at the Gate.

6. Bumbershoot - September 4th- 6th 2010, Seattle,WA
- I know that calling this a summer festival is a bit of a stretch, since its at the end of August, but its still technically during the summer holidays, so I'm calling it a summer festival. Its the 40th Anniversary of this festival, and although the artist lineup hasn't been released yet, personally, I haven't had a problem finding something to listen to. Its interesting to see that tickets are a bit different this year, rather than charging one price, and having people line up to see mainstage bands, they've got two different types of tickets - one which allows you to get into the mainstage, presumably without lining up, and one that doesnt include entrance to mainstage shows. strangely, they seem to have done away with the idea of a weekend pass entirely, unless you pay $250 for a "VIP pass" Tickets - $22/day, without mainstage access, $40/day with mainstage access

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Natalie Portman's Shaved Head is awesome + Concert Review

One of my favorite bands at the moment is Natalie Portman's Shaved Head (NPSH). They're an electro-pop/punk band out of Seattle WA.
Their music has a hyper, poppy dance club feel to it, listening to it makes you want to dance like nobody's watching.
Recently, I was able to see Natalie Portman's Shaved Head play at Lucky Bar, here in Victoria. I was fortunate enough to get tickets, the concert had actually sold out in advance, and I was lined up with about 10 other people to get in. Even though we had to stand in line for about an hour, eventually everybody got into the venue, and it was definitely worth the wait. The opening band was OK, but when NPSH got on stage, everybody started dancing. There was glitter, there were balloons, streamers, it was more like a giant dance party thank a rock concert. And you didn't care if you looked like an idiot dancing.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Yogoman Burning Band

It may be known as being city that gave us Death Cab for Cutie, but there is no shortage of Bellingham based indie bands. One of these bands is Yogoman Burning Band, a band who's music is a combination of reggae, ska, punk, dancehall, and a dash of folk thrown in for good measure. Their first CD, released in 2007, is an upbeat reggae album, and although some of the songs don't seem to be about anything in particular, the feel of the album just makes you want to dance.
Their second album "City of Subdued Excitement", released in 2009 is considerably different from the first album. Although the reggae influence is still noticeable in many songs, the album as a whole has a more folk/country feel to it, and some songs feel like they would be well suited to a smokey 1920s dancehall. But that doesn't take away from the fact that Yogoman Burning Band's second album is just as amazing as its first.
The other reason this band is amazing is because of their live shows. In 2008, I had the opportunity to see Yogoman Burning Band live, at WHAAM in Bellingham,

the energy of their performance was amazing, and the performance itself was very tight. Very quickly they had nearly everybody dancing, from the very young to the older audience members. If you get the chance to see this band, I suggest you take it, you will not be disappointed.

CD Review - Mt St Helens Vietnam Band

The name alone gets your attention, but that's not the only thing to like about this group. The debut album from the Seattle based Mt St Helens Vietnam Band is best described as musical cut-and-past. Although the album has been criticized for that reason, I think that the upbeat, shifting tempo, and the unpredictability of the songs create an energetic feel, and are exactly what makes the album great.
The fact that the band is different from a majority of the current bands in the Pacific Northwest is a strength, not a weakness.