Last Night: Blood Cells and Past Lives Captivate and Confuse (In A Good Way)

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Past Lives played the Sunset Tavern last night with Black Houses and Blood Cells.
After seeing Blood Cells again last night, I'm even more convinced that this band has the potential to galvanize a resurgence of post-hardcore and post-punk in Seattle. First, they managed to attract a sizable crowd at the Sunset Tavern, proving that Blood Cells can attract an older audience than the all-ages crowd at the Vera Project. Secondly, there's an appeal to watching Ryann Donnelly command the stage that goes far beyond the appeal of Blood Cells' harmoniously chaotic music. She's like Lady Macbeth or Ophelia, putting every emotion on the line, whether it's in her lyrics--which feature pleas, begs, and images of death--or the way she holds her hands to her face with fear in her eyes. It's a captivating performance and impossible to ignore.

A few other notes on the night's bands:

Black Houses were an unexpected addition to last night's bill, and not just because they filled in after World's Greatest Ghosts canceled. They look like a Nirvana cover band (three long-haired guys throwing themselves around a tiny stage) and sound like a combination of grunge, Stone Temple Pilots, and a little Black Sabbath. Black Houses are an actual metal band--which isn't a bad thing, but it felt out of place with Blood Cells and Past Lives' sound.

Jaguar Love might be carrying on the Blood Brothers' legacy by making out-of-control and sometimes unlistenable music (I'm not sure that Johnny Whitney's voice and a drum machine belong in the same band), but Past Lives are the best thing to come out of the Blood Brothers' break up.

Their music is sparse, more stripped down that anything the Blood Brothers did; in fact, it's hard to compare the two bands because Past Lives sound so incredibly different, aside from Jordan Blilie's falsetto. It feels more adult, as if the band took lessons from their youthful music-making and moved forward. (Past Lives' new material, like "Deep in Valley," shows even more maturity, with elements of psych rock). It's technical without being alienating, as if they took pure noise and turned into an artful song, stripping away any expectation of a verse-chorus-verse structure. Here, Blilie uses his vocals in that Thom Yorke kind of way, turning his voice into an instrument.

The only quality Past Lives shares with the Blood Brothers is the attempt to defy genre and style to challenge the very notion what makes a song. They stacked songs one after the other during their Sunset performance; it was nearly impossible to tell when one ended and the next began. Past Lives aren't making the most lovely, melodic music in Seattle, but it's definitely the most interesting.

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