Live Review: Rocky Votolato at the Triple Door

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Seattle's Rocky Votolato played an important benefit show Saturday at the Triple Door. The Texas-born and Washington-bred singer-songwriter was raising funds for the IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) and the packed venue was full of folks who gladly paid $15 to support Votolato and a good cause.

Writer Erin Thompson was squeezed into the back of the Triple Door on Saturday night and after the jump, check out her review of the concert. It sounds like he played a great set of music filled with some new songs, a few classic covers, and lot's of fan favorites from Suicide Medicine and his first Barsuk produced album, Makers.

Rocky Votolato at the Triple Door. August 15.

Rocky Votolato put on a beautiful show Saturday night, and the first thing he did right was choose the Terrordactyls, a twosome from Vashon Island that he found on MySpace, to be his opener. Imagine, if you will, the Flight of the Conchords, only without the New Zealand accents and with tighter harmonies and catchier songs. Okay, so the Terrordactyls are not only better musicians, but they've got the same goofy charm as Bret and Jemaine - Michael Cadiz plays the guitar, Tyrel Stendhal plays a variety of percussion, including the xylophone and the kazoo (apparently a kazoo company called Kazoobie Kazoos in South Florida sponsors them), and both sing. It's a charming formula - one song compares two lovers to two Venn diagrams overlapping each other, another claims, "When I was a kid, the proudest I had ever been was when I didn't hit my sister for a several hour stint." The audience - a full house -- ate it up. At the end of the set, Cadiz turned and pumped his fist at the glittering stars behind the stage - victory indeed!

As for Votolato, he was at his finest on Saturday evening - one man, one mic, one acoustic guitar and a harmonica, Bob Dylan-style. Votolato kicked off his set with stripped-down versions of "Portland is Leaving" and "White Daisy Passing" before announcing that he was using the old stage fright-quelling technique of picturing the audience naked. "Some of you, it might be more fun than others. It's nothing sexual though, I promise." He then launched into songs from his new album, due early next year. "Lucky Clover Coin" is a poignant love song that bares Votolato wide open - the chorus declares, "For the rest of my life, I'll put your broken pieces back together." It's hugely confessional and set the trend for the rest of the new tracks he played - another one, "Red River," in a true Dylan-esque narrative fashion, tells the story of a Vietnam War vet experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. Votolato's voice is somehow gravelly and smooth at the same time - either way, there's power behind that rasp. He's got a great howl - he can even make shouting sound melodic - and his falsetto is heart-meltingly pretty.

Votolato rounded out the set with with a cover of Cat Stevens' "Father and Son," "Tinfoil Hats" (dedicated to his parents), "Sparklers" (dedicated to his friend who's been dogsitting his gassy Boston Terrier), "Makers" (a powerhouse tune that blends together two themes of drinking bourbon and existential philosophy - it's the best song off of the album of the same name), "Suicide Medicine," the anthemic fan favorite, and during his encore, an absolutely stunning performance of "Holding Onto Water." In between songs, Votolato related anecdotes about New York City, Allen Ginsberg, the poems of Shel Silverstein and quoted his hero, Mahatma Gandhi.

And yet he lacks any form of pretense - this is a man who cares about more than himself, his music and his record sales. Early in the show, Votolato stated, "true fulfillment only comes through the fulfillment of others." In keeping with his goal of playing at least one big benefit show a year, all proceeds from this show went to the IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare), currently campaigning to save the world's remaining elephants. "Who doesn't love elephants?" Votolato asked, citing he and his wife April's passion for the environment. So when you've got a socially conscious, dazzling songwriter, family man and crowd-pleasing performer on stage, it's hard not to love him.

--Erin Thompson

 
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