Seattle Weekly Music Awards Showcase

No, I did not catch all 50 bands at the third annual Seattle Weekly Music Awards Showcase on Sunday, May 1, at various Pioneer Square locales. No one did, though a few folks made a valiant attempt at it. Showcases like this one often seem designed to optimize the average consumer’s option anxiety, so I decided to mosey around and see what I liked, and what was most surprising (and pleasant) about the event was how little wandering I ended up having to do.

Four bands that I saw—repeat: that I saw—stood out. I arrived at the fete later than expected (personal stuff; buy me a drink sometime) but with enough time to hear the final third of Marmalade’s set at the Last Supper Club. The nine-piece funkateers, nominated in the Best Soul/R&B category, had the crowd going hard, particularly during their closer, a 10-minute medley that included a bluesy-not-downcast “Tracks of My Tears” that drove into a rave-up during the “I need you/I need you” bridge.

Speaking of covers, I caught my first-ever tribute band in Seattle, 1234 (each number pronounced individually), who efficiently dispatched the catalog of the most efficient rock band of all time, the Ramones, at the Fenix Underground. “How you doin’, Fenix?” Rich Evans (aka “Joey Ramone”) said at the top, and the band slammed through its 16-song list with expert precision. The group lurched into its opening troika, “Psycho Therapy,” “Blitzkrieg Bop,” and “Teenage Lobotomy,” without a pause, and the set only gained momentum as it went; by the time they hit the final stretch (“California Sun,” “Pinhead,” and “Glad to See You Go”), the music had achieved escape velocity.

Senate Arcade never quite went that fast, but that was beside the point. At first, I couldn’t figure out whether the trio, nominated in the Indie Rock/Garage Rock category, were closer to math-rock or emo—they had elements of both but didn’t really fit into either. By the third song, they sounded even more like both, as well as a few other things—post-Slint metal, for instance, with spidery guitar lines, moody keyboards, and full-roar crunch choruses. All of which is to say that they sound mostly like themselves, whatever their competition in the awards. “We’re in the Death Cab for Cutie category,” guitarist/keyboardist Matt Terich deadpanned from the Catwalk stage. “We’ve never performed on The OC, but we want to.” Plan B, who followed Senate Arcade, could potentially play on that show, too—under the end credits, most likely. But that probably isn’t giving the nine-piece’s slow, dusky grooves enough credit: Their turntable cut-ups, mournful violin, loping bass lines, and brushed drums evoked another band with a similar gift, and a more apt moniker, the Cinematic Orchestra. With any luck, Plan B will be coming soon to an art-house cinema near you.