Upcoming Seattle Show: Solvents play the High Dive on Tuesday with Case and Ctrl, and Priory. Show starts at 8 p.m., and the cover is $6.
Contrary to popular belief, not all bands are from Brooklyn. Or from any big city. Take for example long-running Port Townsend group Solvents. Begun a decade ago as the solo project of songwriter Jarrod Bramson, the band has flown largely under the radar despite a steady release schedule and time spent touring with the likes of Karl Blau and Kimya Dawson.
Port Townsend, admittedly, lends itself to isolation. A little town on the tip of the Olympic Peninsula, it's surrounded by the usual suspects, water and pine trees. As with most respectable villages, businesses close early, so it can feel like a small miracle to find a venue that's all-ages, open past 8, and mercifully free of former high-school classmates. Such was the case with coffee shop-cum-wine bar Undertown on Friday night, where Solvents played a supposedly "mellow" set of their electrified folk-rock.
Solvents were on to the combination of electric guitar and violin long before groups like Arcade Fire. Not to say they sound orchestral--rather, their urgent, emotional songs lean more toward Pedro the Lion or Rivers Cuomo's home recordings. Frontman Bramson backs his confessional lyrics with chord progressions that cause warmth to spread through your body like a couple beers on an empty stomach, creating that certain indescribable satisfaction reserved for perfect pop songs. But Emily Madden's violin, at times following the melody, at times branching off, differentiates Solvents songs from the straightforward, power-chord ballads of a band like Hüsker Dü.
Just as not all bands form in a city, not all fans grew up in one, either. So we should stop being surprised when we find hardworking, talented musicians in our small towns and suburbs. Rather than calling Solvents the best rock band in Port Townsend today, we should acknowledge their ability to stand on their own merit. With a new album, Forgive Yr. Blood, a recent live performance on KEXP, and plans to tour to Austin's South by Southwest, this could be their moment.
The crowd: A mix of gray-haired folks and young people, peaceably intermingled.
Overheard: Re: Port Townsend fashion: "She wears pearls. Like, really nice pearls. And sweatpants!"