On Warpaint, the Kills, and Winding Down With Heavy T and the Blue Notes: Sunday at Bumbershoot

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No firearms
Maybe it was the overflow of "Who are you going to see?" questions that I fielded Sunday, but at some point, I decided I would approach this day without an agenda, and lean on the possibility of being pleasantly surprised.

I didn't have to wait long, because I fell under the spell of L.A.'s Warpaint the minute I stepped onto the fountain lawn. As Julia noted, the all-girl quartet is badass, and, while there are definitely bands out there that rock harder, the dripping guitar notes and hypnotizing vocals (which came from both sides of the stage) drew me in closer. They're definitely a band with a "sound," like some of John Frusciante's echoey opiated ventures or locally, like more slowed-down, bass-ed up You.May.Die.In.The.Desert with pretty vocal tendrils interlaced. And, while I only caught the last few songs of their set, they earned a "Catch you next time" wave from me as they left the stage. I think they understood.

I had some time to kill before I caught . . . the Kills, so I had a beer and watched the Butthole Surfers, who I thought I'd like more than I did. They utilize a lot of the tactics I dig: loudness, abrasiveness; knobs; trippy vocal effects; visuals; but their set was just a bit too messy for me so I moved on.

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The Needle and the Kills (note Mosshart's awesome red hair).
The Kills were pretty great, but it seemed like it took them a few songs to warm up, or at least to get their levels right. It's not like their pre-programmed drum tracks are super-big or crashing on record (save maybe the stomping "U.R.A. Fever"), but it almost sounded like Jamie Hince's guitar was carrying Alison Mosshart's vocals à la carte, at least until I moved way closer to the stage. The show--and the balance of the instruments--really began to come together with "Kissy Kissy," which featured Hince and Mosshart thrusting and singing on the same microphone, and the crunchy "Satellite," which started off with an awesome synchronization of quick guitar-delay and light flicker. Overall, I have to say, the set was rad. The Kills killed it.

At this point, I was tired of Bumbershooting and left the festival grounds (sigh) to hit The High Dive and revel in some blues-rock from hometown quintet Heavy T and the Blue Notes . . .

The band was already in full swing when I arrived, but they're a band that kind of always feels like they're in full-swing: Heavy T--a large man with a killer white beard and an old blues soul--was picking rhythm guitar and wailing old blues lyrics from a chair just stage-left of center stage while the band carried on behind him. To his right, his son Augie navigated blues scales with a splash of slap bass. The presence of Clam Hamr frontman Pat Dwyer on lead guitar added a welcome hard-edge to the blues-standard-heavy set, and he, along with nimble-lipped harmonica don Ramsey Sierra (seriously, who is that good at the harmonica?) took turns SHREDDING over the rhythm tracks.

After a short intermission, the quintet (rounded out by drummer Brendan Swenson) jumped into a mainly improvised segment, where each member threw out a few notes to use as a springboard, and the band took off on an extended jam-journey which was mainly background music for the remaining drinkers wandering the floor, but some damn fine end-credits music that completed my day's soundtrack with pizazz.

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Heavy T with his Blue Notes.

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