Click the photo of Rocky Votolato for a slide show of the evening. All photos by Renee McMahon.
Who: Rocky Votolato, Night Canopy
Who: Rocky Votolato, Night Canopy
Where: Triple Door Mainstage
When: Thursday, June 21
Why: Local singer/songwriter plays CD release show.
Opening act Night Canopy, brought a question to mind: What are Poe and P.J. Harvey doing these days? Their short set was so filled with melancholy, like the best Irish ballads, that one could wither away thinking how sad the world is, yet so beautiful one promises never to miss another sunrise. That combination doesn't happen often, as it does with Poe and Polly Jean, that trying to capture it and hold onto it is nearly impossible. Vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Amy Blaschke's voice demands those comparisons, as well as others. Emmylou Harris comes to mind. With Jennifer Jimeniez singing the back up vocals in a subtle voice that perfectly complemented Blaschke's, the Night Canopy is a local group worth watching.
Like his opener, Rocky Votolato takes the best of twangy country-- the passion, the regret, the hope-- and turns it into a new experience. Looking at him and the band backing him up was like looking at a choir boy fronting a group of roadhouse rednecks. But Votolato doesn't have a choir boy's voice and the back up band played far better than your average weekend pub band.
That voice, which seemed strained by the end of the show, alternated between gruff and whiskey-tinged to mournful and beaten. It's the kind of voice that makes you want to kiss your sweetheart if he or she is right there and miss them if they aren't.
Votolato pulls off the singer/songwriter persona in top-nothc form, even playing the harmonica and guitar together (Seattle's own Bob Dylan, anyone?) which could become a lost talent if not for performers like him.
Pacing the show with fast, rocking numbers, and the more twang-inflected slow songs made the go by much faster than the crowd wanted. By the end of the set, requests were being called for, and wolf howls were being shouted when Votolato bent over to adjust and amp and have a sip of beer.
Votolato's brand of alt-country is what Bon Jovi probably wishes he could produce with his own "Nashville flavored" rock. While many of the songs Votolato played, most of the new album The Brag & Cuss according to him, did indeed rock, the lead guitar and pedal steel guitar work of "Spacey Casey" kept things firmly in the country genre. Also keeping with the country were lines like, "You can keep on drinkin' and never drown out where you been." If that ain't country, then what is? From Votolato's mouth, it is so believable it almost hurts.
Reporter's Notebook: At one point Votolato said, "I wrote this song about Reno and people keep giving me shit about it. Is Reno not a nice place to live?" Well, I lived in Reno for a short time and thought it was just fine. The song was good so that's really all that matters.
Both of these sets should make anyone who cares about music proud to be from Seattle. Having lived in places like Reno and Las Vegas, I know these things. If the only new music from your hometown is the Killers and Panic! at the Disco, you'd feel the way I do, too.
I didn't miss my bus this time. Thanks for asking.
Random Detail: Jennifer Jimenez of Night Canopy broke away from her xylophone long enough to take photos during the band's set .