KEXP BBQ: Champagne Champagne, Born Anchors, Japandroids and Dinosaur Jr. Kick Ass

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Alex Crick
J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr.
Showing up to a Dinosaur Jr. show without earplugs is not something I'll ever do again. The talented and legendary trio are known for using distortion and feedback to create their own version of a wall of sound which can be incredibly taxing on unprotected ear drums. My ears are practically still ringing as I type this so I can't help but mention that at the moment. But more on Dinosaur Jr. (plus a full set-list) after the jump.

Saturday's KEXP BBQ was a hell of a lot of fun. Despite the fact that the weather was crappy and the sun didn't come out once, the music coming from the stage and the vibe at the Seattle Center was so warm, nobody seemed to mind. The first group to perform was Seattle's Champagne Champagne who are known for being three of the wildest party rappers in the local music scene. They're songs are more geared toward crazy house parties or drunk audiences at the Cha Cha or the Lo Fi rather than an outdoor festival full of kids, teens, and parents. So it was interesting to see them singing tracks like "Molly Ringwald" about coke models in front of 6-year-olds. And while I couldn't help but feel bad for the parents who were cringing at the lyrics, an artist shouldn't feel compelled to censor his or her lyrics and nobody looked too bent out of shape about it. And all the teens and tweens in the audience loved every curse word they heard, so I guess Champagne Champagne made a lot of new fans.

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Jonathan Cunningham
Sir Thomas Gray of Champagne Champagne
If anything stood about the purpose of the KEXP BBQ to me, it was the way folks who you never really see at concerts across the city were on hand to catch live music. Elders, toddlers, families, the disabled, and random Seattle Center passerby's were treated to one of the best free concerts I've seen all year. And while the boys of Champagne Champagne definitely put on a fun, energetic set, they were just the lead off band and, for the most part, things only got better after them.

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Slats at KEXP BBQ
Next up, Born Anchors took the stage and quickly switched the vibe from party rap to pop-punk. Capitol Hill staple Slats was even on hand for their set which was surprising for two reasons. One: who knew Slats left the Hill? I'm not saying that as a diss, but when was the last time any of you saw Slats elsewhere? And secondly, Slats has a definite bent toward harder AKA real rock. So as a band, if you can catch him in the front row of your show, you're probably doing something right. Born Anchors were definitely having a blast on stage playing jams like "In Disguise" and my personal favorite, "Cascading."

When it came time for Japandroids to take the stage, the level of excitement went up a little bit. The talented Vancouver, CA-based two-piece just put out, Post Nothing, which is one of my favorite records of the summer and a lot of the tunes they played came straight from the new record. Lead singer Brian King's curly bangs kept blowing all over his face while he played, which would have been fine if there was a breeze on Saturday. But there wasn't one. Upon further inspection, he's got a fan blowing on him the whole time to make his hair flap about in "the wind." That struck me as a bit cheesy, but at the same time, dude works hard screaming his lungs out and that fan comes in handy.

Jonathan Cunningham
Since they're just a two-piece with drums and guitar, they both have a lot of space to fill and they do it well. Drummer David Prowse was banging away seemingly non-stop and drenched in sweat while King invited the entire audience to sleep on Prowse's couch if we were ever in Vancouver. They were at their best on songs like "The Boys are Leaving Town" and my favorite, "Young Hearts Spark Fire," the latter of which has lots of screaming "whoas" to sing along with. Despite the name of their new album, there is definitely a post pop-punk feel to a lot of their songs, but that's not a bad thing.

As for Cymbals Eat Guitars... I feel like the cymbals ate their guitars. I couldn't get into it at all and various folks in the crowd used their set as a prime time to socialize. That is if it didn't put you to sleep. I couldn't feel their music and it struck me as forgettable before they'd even left the stage. Portland's Viva Voce was slightly better. They were memorable at least and their compositions, though a bit slower than I'd typically like, were well put together and balanced. Husband and wife team, Kevin and Anita Robinson have a good chemistry on stage (which isn't a given) and their songs like "Octavio" and "Drown Them Out" kept the crowd in good spirits. But at this point in the evening, as it started getting dark, people just wanted to see Dinosaur Jr.

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Even the baby to the left came prepared for Dinosaur Jr.'s set. How I forgot ear protection is beyond me. But I quickly learned why everybody else had earplugs bulging out of the side of their heads. Lead guitarist J. Mascis was playing with a whopping six amps behind him including one pointed straight at his face. There's no way Mascis has more than 45% hearing capacity at this point, but his wall of noise sure is fun to watch despite the damage it creates.

Although Mascis clearly looks like he could be a character in Lord of the Rings from afar, the rest of the trio, Murph (drums) and Lou Barlow (bass), looked good for their age. They played a lot songs from their new album, Farm, but also touched on a few classic's like "Out There," "Freakscene" and "Just Like Heaven" as well. They all seemed really energetic during their hour long set. A mini mosh pit broke out in the middle of their performance and folks were crowd surfing as well. They were a great way to close out the night. Folks who used to listen to that band when they were 12 or 13 were standing next to 12 and 13-year-old's hearing Dinosaur Jr. for the first time, and that type of rock' n' roll continuum is an important part of what made KEXP BBQ so fun this year.

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Alex Crick


Bulbs of Passion

Been There All the Time

Back to Your Heart



Over It

Out There

Feel The Pain



Just Like Heaven

Mountain Man


The Lung

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