I don’t remember the exact first time I played the Crocodile. I’d been there so many times as a customer and concertgoer that those early years are a dim smear of bleach smell and cigarette ash across my memory. But I remember distinctly a time BEFORE I ever played the old, pre-renovation Crocodile, when it was still my highest ambition to get a show there, and I remember submitting my cassette-tape demos in manila envelopes with hand-drawn cover art and One Hour Photo press kits. And I remember not hearing back from Christine, the booker, and calling her and leaving messages, and not having my calls returned. And calling again. And again.
So although I don’t remember the actual first time I played the Croc, I remember pining for it and dreaming of it, certain that it must be the finest feeling, that there was no surer sign of arrival, of belonging. And when I finally did play that first show, it was on a Tuesday night, as the first of three bands, to a virtually empty house, a smattering of supportive friends and the supportive friends of our fellow striving bands. And we played our asses off, startled that we could hear ourselves in the monitors, half-aware that somewhere in the shadows maybe Sub Pop’s Jonathan Poneman was watching, or maybe R.E.M.’s Peter Buck was sauntering through his wife’s club, and maybe they’d be impressed by our dedication and “chops,” and we’d get signed. I remember all those feelings, and in Seattle in the 1990s, the gateway to the other side was Tuesday night at the Croc.
Tuesday night was when they started you if they’d never heard of you, if you didn’t have any famous friends, if you weren’t drinking buddies with someone, or sleeping with someone, and in many cases even if you were. Everybody started by playing a Tuesday night at the Croc, and the only reason it was Tuesday is that the Croc wasn’t open on Monday. I know Modest Mouse did it, Death Cab did it, Harvey Danger, Murder City Devils, Band of Horses, Pedro the Lion, Blood Brothers, 764-HERO, Elliott Smith, the Decemberists, and ten thousand other bands did it. Everybody started there, Tuesday night, first of three, and from there your fortunes rose or fell determined largely by your own merit. It was an exceptionally level playing field. Though there were as many clubs in town then as there are now, though there were almost as many musical styles, there was one aperture through which everyone eventually tried to squeeze.
Admittedly, some bands were introduced to the Crocodile stage soon after their first show, propelled by early buzz or the helping hand of a powerful friend, while others played dozens upon dozens of house parties and shows at the Rendezvous, the Lake Union Pub, the Storeroom—the beer-soaked viscera of Seattle—before landing their first Croc show. And to be sure, hundreds of bands never did play the Croc, looking askance at it even then, dismissing it as a hipster hangout before the word was common, contemptuous of the tightfisted booking policies and bitter over the cliquishness of the Seattle scene. Plenty of bands with vibrant local careers hardly played there at all, content to be the masters of their own circuit, ill-suited for the slightly more downtown vibe of Second and Blanchard.
But for those of us intoxicated by the idea that banging on a guitar could sweep you up and out into the wider world, a Tuesday night at the Crocodile was the first in a long string of narrow, swaying, unsafe bridges you would have to cross. Once you’d played your Tuesday—almost always a disappointment, no crowd, no pay, no screaming girls, no Jonathan Poneman or Peter Buck, not even enough drink tickets to catch a buzz—the rest was kind of up to you.
It took me a long time to understand that media coverage didn’t work the same way. The music sections of the Weekly and The Stranger made no references to bands just breaking into the scene. I naively assumed any band that could land a Tuesday night at the Croc was worth a few column inches, a capsule review, or a little star, but week after week the papers were silent. It sounds slightly ridiculous now, but I felt like things were happening, man, that affected people’s lives! The clubs were the proving grounds where experiments were happening and mistakes were being made. I’d never been so excited before in my life as in those early years of seeing a dozen bands a week. There were spectacular failures, sure, but even they were instructive and hilarious. I kept thinking “Where is everybody? Why aren’t these Tuesday-night shows sold out, week after week?” The newspapers focused on their buzz bands, or “up and coming” bands, and ignored the rest of the scene as you would glance over moldy cheese in the back of your refrigerator. Sure, a newspaper is going to anoint certain bands and slam others—that’s only natural—but how could they so blithely ignore whole swaths of the city’s various scenes, and make almost no attempt to have their music sections present what was happening in the city at large? Conspiracy! Infamy! My young heart surged with outrage.
The way I saw it, every night of the week there were, at minimum, a dozen clubs in the city featuring original music, three bands per club playing 40-minute sets each: 30 bands a night, averaging six days a week. Even assuming that 95 percent of those bands had the charisma of limp asparagus, there must have been at least 10 bands a week worth a quick blurb of critical appraisal. Surely in the course of promoting their favorite bands, the local rags could widen their focus a little to wink at the enormous variety of music being made in the city. Would that be so hard? Certain genres are never going to be fashionable, and not all small scenes are “cutting-edge”—some are just crap—but the vast majority of local musicians would never see their names in print, their art appraised, or their fans acknowledged. It didn’t seem right.
Now I’m not some softhearted kindergarten teacher who thinks every suburban ding-dong who claps his hands in rhythm is making a sacred communion with the gods of music, but come on. It’s not as though every town is blessed with an embarrassment of decent music venues and hundreds of working bands. And every three-band bill in town also represents work for bartenders, doormen, soundmen, and the armies of support people radiating from them. If the music scene doesn’t support itself, and if casual fans have no way to learn about new local music, the whole enterprise could wither on the vine and Seattle could end up with a music scene like that of Phoenix, or Oklahoma City, forced to steal some other city’s basketball team.
When my own band finally gained a little profile, I chastised the reporters and editors I met, still smarting after years of feeling as though the bands I loved and the scenes I came up in had been laboring in obscurity. “Why the hell didn’t you write about my band two years ago?” I groused. Their sudden fascination with me seemed proof of the fundamental dishonesty of the system, like the way Jack Nicholson gets his meals comped in restaurants. Why the hell does Jack Nicholson need a free dinner? Writing about a band only once it got popular seemed like a fundamental misapprehension of the job. The music editors would roll their eyes at me and patiently explain that their newspaper was a business, not a social-service organization obligated to publish an unerring record of events. They were trying to earn advertising revenue to keep the lights on, and they didn’t have the resources to exhaustively cover every little musical eddy. They were obligated only to give due diligence to the inescapable. It was an obvious truth. Like most young artists, I was on the threshold of having my idealistic illusions fed back to me with bitter greens, and I’ve spent 15 years trying to accept that people seek refinement only until it is no longer cost-effective.
Still, I never stopped believing that Seattle could do better. Believe me, I’m not trying to reform the entire American music business. I’ve seen smarter and more energetic people than me come back from that battlefield holding their genitals in a sack. But Seattle is a world unto itself, and we have always bent the wheel to fit our own peculiar gait. So I kept hammering people in the local press about my idea, my “Tuesday night” principle that the real heart of a city is found not in the big stars who pop from the firmament every year or so but in the shimmering glow of unsung constellations. I remained convinced that casting a wider net might, if not produce a city of philosophers and poets, at least give a broader sense of the culture we share. Who wouldn’t rather read a well-penned review of some earnest Cornish jazz-funk trio playing Tuesday night at Tula’s than another review of Radiohead by a flippant dickhole dreaming of a job at The Onion? I’ve listened to a large sampling of Cornish jazz-funk over the years, and let me tell you, it ain’t gonna kill you. If you think you’re too smart or too cool to listen to some six-string-bass solos every once in a while, then you’re a snob and a dick. That’s nothing to be proud of, so quit smirking and go stare in the bathroom mirror until you sob.
To my never-ending surprise and delight, I described my “Tuesday night” theory to my editors here at Seattle Weekly, and they jumped at it excitedly. Music Editor Chris Kornelis took the idea and ran, expanding it not only to this feature—in which the paper dispatched writers to profile nine different bands in the city’s current Tuesday-night class—but to more commitment to coverage of bands in the trenches. It’s a commitment, I’m told, that is only going to get more pronounced. Check out the Weekly‘s music blog, Reverb, every Wednesday morning, to see a review of an up-and-coming local band that played the night before.
It’s not just a question of discovering the new Modest Mouse before anyone else, it’s also about pushing back a little against the feeling that everything is homogenous, that culture is watered-down and dull-witted, and that new music is increasingly a pale imitation of past giants. Hundreds of bands in Seattle are unmentioned, undiscovered, and unknown, and every one is a creative collaboration of your neighbors and friends that strives to entertain and enlighten. Live music is our public square. Don’t wait to hear what the next big thing is; go out and discover something new on your own. There’s no shortage.
Columnist John Roderick is the singer and songwriter in Seattle’s The Long Winters.
DOCTOR AND THE BIRD
Tuesday We Saw Them: February 8
By Chris Kornelis
Five years after he started peddling his bluesy, two-man shuffle around Seattle, George St. John’s sets still draw less than Taco Tuesdays at the Wild Rose. When he hit the stage at the nearby Comet Tavern last month, St. John had at his command a modest showing of two dozen patrons—roughly the number catching a smoke break between bites down the street. But St. John has a bigger problem: Half his band keeps quitting.
Penny was the first drummer he played with after making the move from San Diego. In three years they played 10 shows as the Obligators. Then she got a proper job and quit.
Andy came up with the name Doctor and the Bird, and lasted about a year and a half. Then he got a promotion at work and quit.
Danny has stuck around for a year and a half, too. He doesn’t want to leave. But he’s about to take on some new familial responsibilities, and needs to go on hiatus. Or quit.
Despite the obvious interruption in momentum, the latter might be the best thing for DATB. St. John’s willingness to improvise on the guitar in an extended solo is a rarity in a town filled with bands content to stick to a script. But St. John’s finger-picked slide guitar is also one of the city’s most underutilized resources. The swampy blues St. John imagines in his head and attempts to articulate onstage needs more intensity—more hustle—from the other half of his band. And he knows it.
“It’s a different kind of mind-set of drumming,” St. John says. “If you listen to John Lee Hooker records, the drummer, you barely even notice him. He doesn’t do any fills at all. But he’s playing that shuffle perfectly.”
DATB are regulars at venues like the Blue Moon, the Comet, and the Shanty. But in 2011 St. John wants finally to make a proper record, find not just one but two dependable collaborators—perhaps adding a bass player—and reach a sound and style that remains elusive.
“I’m still trying to achieve something that I haven’t attained,” he says. “I would like to be able to call ourselves a blues band. But, of course, always with the freedom to play whatever the fuck we want to play.”
Doctor and the Bird plays the Funhouse on Wednesday, March 30.
Tuesday We Saw Them: February 15
By Caleb Hannan
Mike Giacolino knows what it’s like to work until your hands bleed. The lead singer and songwriter for local folk-country act Ole Tinder, Giacolino wasn’t always a musician.
In a past life he made good money working in sewer mains. Giacolino had the suburban ideal: a wife, a home, and a Harley. He had cash and toys. He just didn’t have the time to use them. And he could see that time was something he was running out of. “I looked around and realized that the few old guys doing what I did had to take a handful of Advil just to get out of bed,” he says.
So to the eternal astonishment of his fellow union laborers, Giacolino quit his well-paying, secure job, enrolled in hairdressing school (he now cuts at Rudy’s in Fremont), and started playing music again.
He had been in bands before, playing bass in a high-school punk group and tenor sax in local rockabilly outfit the Knocked Outs. But it wasn’t until two friends who were touring with Columbia-signed, Rick Rubin–produced Seattle songwriter Brandi Carlile invited him to play piano on the road with them that he thought he could make a go of it alone.
“I thought, ‘Wow, if my friends can sell out the Paramount, I can probably play a Tuesday night at the Comet,’ ” he says.
Newly divorced and with “some death around me,” Giacolino set up a digital, stand-alone Roland 8-track in the galley kitchen of his Phinney Ridge studio and recorded “a really sad record,” 2008’s The Longest Year. “I wanted to turn a hard time into something good,” he says.
He then set off to play in as many places as would have him, while trying to avoid the “stigmata of the coffee-shop guy.” He rounded out his trio with a drummer and pedal-steel guitarist, and on this Tuesday night at the Comet, the three sound like a stripped-down Flying Burrito Brothers. The crowd is spare, appreciative, and face-to-face with the slight Giacolino, which is just how this former pipe-layer—he of the once-cracked palms and sore shoulders—likes it.
“The bigger rooms are great,” he says, “but I still love setting up on the floor and looking people in the eye.”
Ole Tinder plays Conor Byrne on Saturday, April 2.
Tuesday We Saw Them: March 8
By Erin K. Thompson
Posse—Sacha Maxim, Paul Witmann, Nick Heliotis, and Jon Salzman—have only been a band for a few months (they played their first show last December), but they’re already headlining, drawing an impressive number of listeners to the Sunset at 11:30 on a recent Tuesday night. Posse’s tunes concentrate on heavy guitars with loping, unhurried melodies in the style of Pavement. But Heliotis says they’re not consciously trying to bring back the ’90s.
“I think it’s just a natural thing that’s developed,” he says. “When we play it’s a lot more guitar-y and a lot louder—the kind of Sonic Youth/Pavement side of things comes forward more—so I think that’s what people associate us with at this point. Which is fine, those are both great bands.”
Witmann, who shares lead vocal duties with Maxim, is tall, gangly, and wears thick, black-rimmed glasses. Physically, he’s the poster child for the genre of music he’s chosen to play. He sings with the laconic drawl of Lou Reed, and comes off as friendly and endearing onstage. “Sarah,” which Maxim says is about an old lady she once met (“It was not a good experience”), is the highlight of the set—the bass thuds, the chorus hypnotically chants in circles, and although the song is already rolling along steadily, the best part comes when Maxim starts screaming her lines like a possessed child.
Posse closes with a cover of Belle & Sebastian’s “Me and the Major”; this version is, of course, weightier and tougher than the light, lilting speed of the original, emblematic of a certain substantial and captivating strength that Posse brings to the stage. The band is charming and rocks heavily.
As for the future, the band recently put down five songs at Captain Trips Ballsington’s High Command studios in Olympia, where, Heliotis says, they plan to return to do some more work on forthcoming 7-inches—and maybe an album—to bring on tour and sate the demands of their incipient fanbase.
“None of us are really expecting anything of it,” Heliotis says humbly, while not ignoring their recent audiences. “It’s nice that it seems like a few people have noticed. I’ve definitely played in bands where you play for years and no one picks up on it.”
Posse plays the Funhouse on Sunday, April 3.
Tuesday We Saw Them: March 8
By Mike Seely
Every night is Tuesday night at the Skylark Cafe. It’s located on one of the city’s most utilitarian strips, in Delridge, near a steel mill, Harbor Island, and the West Seattle Bridge. There’s rarely a proper headliner—lineups consist of mostly local up-and-comers—and the cover is never more than $5, if there’s a cover at all.
The Skylark is not the sort of place one would expect to find a rip-roaring Fat Tuesday party, but the club, with vintage portraits of Buicks adorning its walls, is throwing one nonetheless. There are beaded necklaces for all to wear, and Hurricanes and Sazeracs are on special at the bar. Yet the crowd—respectable, but hardly as robust as you’d find on Bourbon Street, or even in Pioneer Square—seems intent on throwing down Pabst and tater tots. That’s more the Skylark’s speed anyway.
The first act of the night is a transplanted Louisianan “nerd rapper” named Three Ninjas (Jason Brunet). He is a rotund, ponytailed, bearded man who looks as though he shares DNA with John Popper and Tad Doyle. He is joined onstage by a hype man who looks like James Mercer of the Shins, and a DJ who just looks like a guy. They’re all wearing masks, although it’s clear they’re doing this in commemoration of Mardi Gras and not as an adjunct of the insufferable trend sweeping indie rock at the moment.
In keeping with Three Ninjas’ overt obsession with sex, the first track’s main riff is “My dick is kind of big.” Later, the line “Have a fucking baby,” repeated over and over, forms the chorus of another song.
“Tonight there’s a positive message: It’s OK for the ladies to masturbate,” the MC tells the crowd between songs, cementing the trio’s status as the anti-Macklemore.
Late in their set, the trio breaks character and covers Jewel’s “Foolish Games.” It is sung earnestly, as though at a karaoke bar. But as he seems to do with every song, the DJ lays down an infectious jazz-house backbeat. He’s surprisingly clever for an outfit that takes itself so unseriously.
Three Ninjas can best be described as Public Enemy meets Tenacious D meets Gray, with lyrics by Bushwick Bill. They’re nothing if not original. Whether they’ll be the next Mad Rad remains to be seen, but they’d doubtless be well-received at Comicon.
Three Ninjas play The Josephine on Saturday, April 2.
Tuesday We Saw Them: March 8
By Julia Mullen Gordon
There’s something Daniel Blue wants the city to know: “Tell them I hate folk.” He says this wryly, and makes a pun that likens “folkers” to a similar-sounding word while drawing his band’s logo on the wall of Neumos’ green room.
“[Folk] has the potential to bring people together, and I see it doing the opposite,” he says. “That’s the problem with a really hip, in-the-know scene. We put chains on art in order to belong.”
Without the rumbling keyboards and beefed-up rhythm section that give his band Motopony its bluesy swagger, Blue’s songs would be reduced to him strumming a three-stringed acoustic guitar. Buddy Ross, a Seattle producer with a genial personality and a Paul Bunyan beard, first teamed with Blue in 2009 to record the band’s self-released, self-titled debut. Ross’ love of golden-age soul bleeds through to Motopony’s floor-stomping jams, and Blue’s formidable, at times spastic, vocals are the perfect accompaniment.
Yet at the heart of the band’s appeal lies Blue’s songwriting. He is a master storyteller, skillfully dissecting love, dependency, creative struggle, and all those other themes musicians endeavor to tease out in verse. The results are compelling, and the live show is nothing to sniff at, either—even in front of a modest crowd at Neumos, Motopony’s performance is such that they might as well be playing to a stadium full of people. It’s no wonder New York’s tinyOGRE Entertainment signed up to re-release their debut and KCRW has started spinning the band’s single, “Wait for Me.” The only folks yet to catch on are the Seattle public, who need to start showing up in greater numbers to give songs like “Seer” the raucous dance party they deserve.
Motopony plays the High Dive on Saturday, April 9.
Tuesday We Saw Them: February 22
By Nick Feldman
“I’ve actually narrowed it down—1972 to 1978 might be the greatest musical era of all time,” says Legendary Oaks frontman Craig Schoen over beers and shots of Jägermeister in a booth at Ballard mainstay Hattie’s Hat. “Black Sabbath, hippie music, funk, disco, and punk rock . . . it’s astounding. In one era, they all existed together.”
Schoen has spent the past two decades playing in music hubs like Athens and Brooklyn, most recently with Maplewood, a band that includes Nada Surf’s Ira Elliot among its lineup and lent a song to classic-rockers America to cover. And despite their varying backgrounds, his newest bandmates have caught on to the timelessness Schoen taps into.
He can list plenty of reasons he moved to Seattle. It’s home to what he calls “arguably the country’s best radio station,” KEXP; an appreciation for live music; and significantly cheaper rent than New York. But a band formed here, in 2008, only when his fiddle-playing Wallingford neighbor needed to borrow a rolling pin and the two got to talking music.
Characterized by a poetic brand of Americana-tinged folk, Legendary Oaks initially comes off as deceptively innocuous amid a sea of similar acts. But that’s far from the case; while the alt-country influence doesn’t hide, especially thanks to the often-prominent placement of Brooke Asbury’s bowed notes, tastes of R.E.M. and The Hold Steady make their presence known through strong vocals and spirited melodies that are far from ordinary.
When the quintet recorded their self-titled debut this past January, they’d only been together two months and played a handful of shows, but Schoen had been sitting on some songs for more than seven years. The time since then has seen an aggressive evolution of their sound—which they promise the new material reflects—and the Oaks already have two additional albums’ worth of material to record, one of which they plan to release this fall. In the meantime, the raucous energy of their concerts lives up to the band’s stated goal of getting crowds to “drink and shake their asses.”
“I don’t care if we fuck up a little bit, but I want us to get better,” said Schoen. “I want to be the best fucking live band in Seattle.”
Legendary Oaks plays the High Dive on Saturday, April 23.
FLY MOON ROYALTY
Tuesday We Saw Them: March 1
By Keegan Hamilton
Adraboo, one half of electropop duo Fly Moon Royalty, struts out onto the stage at the Comet and oozes sexuality. Her hair is a massive puff of curly brown afro and her eyes are hidden behind a black-and-red pair of aviator shades. She wears a purple leopard-print minidress with black mesh stockings and fingerless gloves. Out of her top—basically a black, rhinestone-studded bra— spills enough cleavage to make Dolly Parton blush.
Though she resembles a young Aretha Franklin, her voice is a hybrid of Bette Davis and Erykah Badu—shifting between raw howls and smooth R&B tones. Naturally, she sings about sex. Over a woozy, reverb-soaked synthesizer on “Android Love,” she purrs through a vocoder: “Robotically initiate android love/Interchangeable programming mass functionality/Give her personality/All you do is push a button she becomes yours.”
A week and a half later, in an interview at Ohana in Belltown, Adra is transformed. Her hair is straight and jet black, and, save for a zebra-print scarf, her outfit belies her onstage persona. Seated across the table from her producer/musical partner DJ Action Jackson, she explains that her libidinous stage presence is partly the result of having hosted burlesque shows for the Seattle troupe Sinner Saint, and her role in the stage production of Shine: A Burlesque Musical. In the latter, she was tasked with singing a song titled “Large and in Charge.”
“I’m always the thick girl on the scene,” she says. “Shine opened me up. It changed my confidence about that. I’m like, ‘You want that li’l 100-pound broad? She’s over there but she’s not interesting.’ After that, I could dive into myself with the music.”
The duo released their self-titled debut album on January 26, and shortly thereafter inked a deal with Seattle’s Sportn’ Life Records. The label is known for hip-hop acts like D. Black and Fatal Lucciauno, but Fly Moon Royalty isn’t easily pigeonholed. While Jackson drops verses on about half of the tracks, his production blends soulful, J. Dilla–inspired beats with MGMT-style electronica. One song is even anchored by a Sufjan Stevens sample, the tinkling glockenspiel from the song “Detroit.”
“Hip-hop is the core,” Jackson says. “But we mash everything together, and that’s just how it comes out.”
Fly Moon Royalty plays Red Eye on Sunday, April 3.
Tuesday We Saw Him: March 1
By Todd Hamm
Otis Calvin VIII, the talented, on-the-rise producer/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist known as OC Notes, is cueing tracks on his laptop at the Comet Tavern. Tonight his set is buried in the undercard wasteland beneath sleaze-pop princess Lisa Dank, along with a handful of other mixed-genre acts. During most tracks, which jump from softer soul loops to self-crafted acid/bossa nova mixes, he simply stands back and processes the crowd’s reaction, his head in a constant nod. Occasionally he leans over his touch pad and flicks a well-placed sample over the crowd’s chatter. He exudes an elevated level of cool confidence as he plays his heavily layered instrumentals for the hundred or so in attendance, and despite any real crowd interaction or visual stimulus, people on the floor are dancing manically.
Calvin has quietly amassed an incredible 17 full-length E-projects over the past decade, as well as an assortment of EPs, singles, and remixes unknown to all but the most plugged-in scene hawks. When asked about low-interaction performance, and the difficulties that come with moving from being a mainly instrumental, Internet-style musician to a live performer, he says: “The dope thing about me is that people have no idea what I’m going to do when I perform. Cats don’t really know me that well or what I’m capable of,” he continues. “Depending on the venue and how much time I have to perform, there’s no telling what I might do. Cats are gonna get it, though, the more they see me.”
Calvin’s local breakthrough of sorts came when he worked with THEESatisfaction for their 2009 holiday track “Icing,” which was followed in early 2010 by Dap Confuser, an album-length collaboration with Fresh Espresso MC Rik Rude. Metal Chocolates, another Rude/Calvin full-length, will be out April 1.
While Calvin’s continued to make headway into the world of collaboration over the past year and change, he’s only recently come into his own as a solo artist. His most accomplished work, 2010’s Madlib-styled long-play Doo Doo, with its 21 jazzy hip-hop and blunted neo-soul reworkings, make it clear he’s got even more up his sleeve.
“I’ve got some special stuff in store for the good people here on planet Earth,” he says.
OC Notes plays Neumos Friday, April 1, with Metal Chocolates.
The High Dive
Tuesday We Saw Them: February 8
By Julia Mullen Gordon
It’s a long drive from Port Townsend to Seattle, so in the early afternoon of a sunny Tuesday last month I met Solvents at their house in this remote coastal town. Singer Jarrod Bramson, violinist Emily Madden, and drummer Sasha Landis live together in a big, light-filled Victorian right across from the post office. Also in residence: Bramson and Madden’s three preteen daughters, an adorable kitten named Martha, and a gaggle of chickens and ducks. There’s even a deer napping under an apple tree in the front yard.
It’s a standard of living quite different from that of struggling bands in Brooklyn or Ballard. There’s a huge practice space, records scattered everywhere. Among the family photos on top of an old upright piano, a bumper sticker asks, “What Would Hüsker Dü?”
P.T. (as it’s called by those in the know) is a quaint little town on the Olympic Peninsula, two hours from Seattle by car and ferry. It’s isolated, but isolation has a tendency to inspire great art. The locale’s natural beauty and wildness go straight into Solvents’ songs, which merge classic rock with folk elements like a fiddle. “It’s trippy up here,” says Bramson. “There’s definitely a dark energy, and I try to tap into that in my writing.”
Bramson has performed as Solvents for more than a decade, and the band has a string of excellent self-produced albums to their name. But with their latest, Forgive Yr Blood, they have tapped into a new momentum, including a commitment to play more in Seattle.
“For us to go to the city is pretty fun,” Bramson admits. “Living there, you might take it for granted, but for us it’s a big adventure and adrenaline rush. We’re always at the venue two hours early, frothing at the mouth to get our gear in there.”
At the High Dive, it’s clear their commitment will pay off. Bramson’s songwriting demonstrates an innate sense of melody in the classic power-pop vein, but he backs his introspective lyrics with a distorted Les Paul and a full band. Songs like “We Were Guests Here” force you to pay attention, with an insistent melodic backbone behind what would otherwise be intimate confessions. Over it all, Madden’s plaintive fiddle adds another layer of nuance with its counterpoint melody.
It’s a strange but effective medley of folk and rock, those elements so popular in Seattle right now. The primary difference: With their classic-rock leanings, Solvents have more balls to their sound than many bands with more buzz.
Solvents play the High Dive on Saturday, April 9.