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As usual with the Reverb Festival, my first few hours were spent in the VIP tent. I hate to dangle that taunt before I begin describing the slurry highlights of my sloppified mind. But that's where I get my tipple poured into me to prepare for the packed shows, and a few doubles with old and new friends coming and going early got me primed before my very first Seattle Whiskey staff meeting. Um, Seattle Weekly.
I met Lunchbox, who helped cater (bartend) the event, rapped for me about organic farming and everything being connected, and didn't hesitate to replenish my small black cup between bouts of speaking with the young folks. Ian (in the Morrissey shirt) and Tall Matt, Madchester-inspired members of Stephanie and fellow pilgrims from the punk underbelly of Spokane ("SpokAnarchy"), were in the tent and getting raves from trustworthy scribes like Andrew Matson at The Seattle Times before their 4 p.m. set. Research into their bassy ennui-wonka has made me a new fan ("Freak Flag" and "Meds" combine coming-down bliss with steel-pad-on-nerves annoyance; opening for like-minded art-damage divas like the Parenthetical Girls is a perfect fit, and placed them at the top of my "check out more and more" list.) The writing staff of the Weekly all welcomed me aboard as we greedily sucked our libations and then all waved nicely when "the Money Guy" walked by (couldn't remember his name, but would be happy to help his kids with their English homework, yes sir).
I shambled over to the Tractor, where I planned to spend most of the evening at this Reverb, not sheerly out of laziness but also simply due to the fact that the lineup was one I didn't want to miss any of. The first set was from the immortal, shamanistic (U-Men frontman) Tom Price's new thang, The Tom Price Desert Classic, which features Tom on vocals and guitar, fellow Gas Huffer Don Blackstone on additional guitar, Joe Kilbourne on bass, and drummer Martin Bland (Bloodloss, Randomized Control Trials). Hardly anybody was there, and ruminating on the pedigree of this seamless, Giant Sand-sort-of, gear-head orgy of wilderness bomp, I couldn't help thinking it was at least a small tragedy. Sure, Gas Huffer pushed on past their prime, but these are Tom's town-outskirts revved tunes, delivered with misty madness on Axes of Love. Even a failed couple-minute attempt at "Long Black Veil" was spot-on bourbon-smooth. A musclebound Miami juicehead and "his lady" agreed with me, and we raved about 'em after they left the stage, and I gave him the 411 on what just happened.
That same juicehead came and joined me at the front for Don't Talk to the Cops' full set at 7 p.m., in a packed house that at least knew to be there even if dancing would have crippled their scrotums or something. (I had flashbacks throwing hands and shuffling sweatily with the meat man to a similar scene at a Gossip show at the Block Party about 10 years ago, a skinny little punk girl and me being the only ones dancing there, too. Live it up, Seattle, keep it affected 'til everyone runs out of steam.) I'm only once more picking on this aspect of our music scene again because DTTTC is so St. Vitus-infected, incredibly danceable. I mean, Bles the leader is an actual all-out B-Boy hip-hop shaker, shouting out his speed-bubblegum-pop-culture-in-a-blender-set-for-oblivion songs sliced razor-thin and deep-fried by Larry Mizell, Jr. (Mash Hall), and Emecks, one short wiry, smiley hip-hop princess in blue jeans who kept straight up with Bles through the whole hysterical hustle, rapping and dancing and blowing minds, and a taller also-jeaned hottie who came up for a looser jam. There was sound advice about resisting snitching while being arrested, and a touching/hilarious Walk Like a Panther-era love ballad that was perfectly placed in the whirlpool (near the end). Steroids and me bumped fists whilst "his lady" continued to look at me like the evil hobo who might rob them later, but even if the rest of the swarm didn't dance, they were happy as an ointment made entirely out of flies.
Just before Don't Talk to the Cops was the Cops (inspired scheduling, no?), which caused some funny confusion among some sweet rubes (bless their hearts) in the crowd (is it the Cops' extended jam band or something?). Everything great and also somehow disappointing about the Cops was present -- the dangerous darkness always hinted at by the dusky throb of the bass, lead singer Mikey's ability to sound pissed but also vulnerable, the guitar grinding on the drums which almost attain early-Killing Joke funkiness. Unfortunately, too many tunes have always been mid-tempo, there's a lack of humor (satire, self-deprecation) in the lyrics which seem perpetually set on "sincerely insouciant," and this strange feeling most of the set feels like the five-minute track five on side two of an otherwise compelling new wave classic. Yes, I know this is blasphemy, and the Cops are gods here, but I know they have more in 'em -- the blistering urgency of the final two songs made up for a lot of blues-dub that came before I desperately want more from.
I joined Mr. Chris Kornelis at the door of the Tractor during most of Kelli Schafer's 9 p.m. and Curtains for You's 10 p.m. sets, and kept an ear out as Chris and I discussed the brilliance of Lindsey Buckingham (and his casino-playing work ethic), the silliness of pouty protest singers, etc. Damien Jurado tried to sneak out but I nailed him into agreeing to some quotage for a future God & Country column ("Sure, Chris, but right now I have to go home and go to bed!"--hey, he's the hardest-working guy in the Pacific NW, yet he made it out to a music festival he wasn't even playing in, so he earned it).
Schafer's live music is much more electrifying than what I've heard recorded; all kinds of downer-gorgeous goodness comes spilling out Siouxsie(?!)-style in a certain kind of Celtic-fogged lust-bumming and joy-rages. Wouldn't have guessed those influences (maybe it was all those whiskeys, heh), but there was a strange tingle in the air from her passion and the post-punky guitar raunch that reminded me of The Gits storming the Comet about 300 years ago (no shit). True Seattle scorn and swoon, and a lot of bands shoot for it, but it sounded classically us, maybe even moreso than the Tom Price set!
Next up, Curtains for You sounded exactly like their last album (After Nights Without You), a blue, ornate masterpiece of fussy pop frills and freakishly intense confessions, which is kind of mind-blowing live considering how intricately those compositions were constructed. (I had a guess it came from the soul and recent dire experiences of the band's songwriter Matt Gervais, and not from being masters of Pro Tools.) I couldn't see them at all, though, so that was missed -- it was like hearing the album (not to say it lacked passion--there's plenty on the record too). I had a sweet time talking with Chris and fellow scribe Dave Lake (about his old guitar player playing for San Francisco's Fang now -- now there's a conversation topic!) up front, and CFY was a perfect OST.
Then I virtually got squeezed out of the club by the selling-out crowds, though I really wanted to check out Gold Leaves with my mates, whom I lost in the ker-shuffle. After some time trying to find 'em and a place to see the new project from the mind behind Arthur & Yu, I went out and tried to steal a cab from a couple of groups of people and got laughed at by those waiting to squirm their way into the Tractor. Notes still ringing in my ear, more whiskey coursing through me than blood, and entertaining a lingering king mob with my own humiliation. Fucking awesome.