Saturday at the West Seattle Summerfest reaped the benefits of the weather gods with a second glorious day in a row, so Festgoers were able to enjoy the embarassment of local music riches in full summer splendor.
Eight Legs to Nowhere opened up the day with a 45-minute lunchtime set. This quartet is as local as you can get–the band members practice and record in West Seattle–but their sound summons up more far-reaching influences. It’s an intriguing combination of driving indie rock (think Superchunk) and expansive prog-rock. There aren’t a lot of bands mining this particular vein outside of Texas musical explorers And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, and if Eight Legs aren’t quite at that level technically, the intensity of lead singer/bassist Tommy Kim definitely portends some great things.
Ye Olde Concerts Examiner fell in love with Seattle cabaret band The Bad Things at Columbia City Theater’s one-year anniversary show a few weeks back, and found his initial fondness reaffirmed by the band’s great Summerfest set. Most surprisingly, their brand of cry-in-your-drink Tin Pan Alley pop played as well amidst resplendent sunshine as it did in the dead of a booze-besodden night: Rattletrap sing-along ballads of romantic sorrow, it seems, sting just as sweet regardless of the weather. Besides, it’s genetically impossible not to love a band boasting a lead singer named Jimmy the Pickpocket and a mandolin player with a gold-capped tooth.
The Rat City Brass, meantime, brought a Herb Alpert warmth to the West Seattle Junction, morphing familiar pop standards with an infectious bossa nova swing that had the gathering crowd moving happily. Perfect summertime dance music.
Rachel Harrington and her Do-Right Boys journeyed from Oregon to provide the purest old-school country fix of the Summerfest. Harrington’s classically weepy voice and original songs are suffused by a starkly gothic tinge in places, but always with solid footing in the great old-school country tradition.
By contrast, the roots rockers in Massy Ferguson used country sounds as a springboard to their own brand of Americana. It’s Gram Parsons by way of Bruce Springsteen; lyrically sharp country-rock unafraid to really kick things in the pants when it has to. Sturdy as their records are (and their new effort, Hard Water, is pretty damned terrific), Massy really shine live. Bass player Ethan Anderson’s voice took on raspy urgency in-person, and he and fellow songwriter/guitarist Adam Monda kicked up Springsteen blue-collar energy with the best of them.
Let it be stated for the record that Ye Olde Concerts Examiner in no way endorses the use of illicit substances. However, were one to traverse that treacherous path, you could find worse musical accompaniment than Seattle’s Lowmen Markos. The band members looked like a bunch of awkward high-school kids (replete with long-sleeved t-shirts and the embryonic stages of facial hair adorning their youthful mugs), which made the scope and scale of their songs an unexpected (and exhilarating) surprise. Their trippy, all-instrumental, spacy songs sounded like indie-rock left to hallucinate in a broiling summer sun.
Yours Truly has devoted a lot of copy to Curtains for You over the last year, a trend unlikely to wane as long as Seattle’s best pure-pop band also continues to be one of its best live outfits. Their 7:30 gig played out to a large and enthusiastic crowd, and the band most definitely fed off the audience’s energy. Lead singer Matt Gervais bounded and bounced around the Summerfest stage as though his feet were spring-loaded; and his, guitarist Mike Gervais’, and keyboardist Peter Fedofsky’s customarily-breathtaking vocal harmonies pierced the occasionally-muddy sound mix with pinpoint accuracy. It’s easy to take for granted the rhythm sections in pop bands, but Curtains have struck it lucky with a bassist (Nick Holman) and drummer (Davey Lawrence) who know how to keep things hopping without overwhelming the band’s faultlessly-structured melodies.
Things went from poppy to epic with the next band on the Summerfest stage, The Bend. Add an ‘s’ to the end of their name, and that’ll give you a hint as to their sound: pre-OK Computer Radiohead, U2, Doves, Coldplay, and some of the more anthemic shoegazer bands of the ’90’s provide The Bend’s touchstones. Blessedly, they bypass mere pastiche with a truly lush dual guitar sound and a real secret weapon in vocalist Jay Cates. Cates, a bearlike figure of a guy, packs a robust set of pipes that suggests Peter Gabriel by way of the Catherine Wheel’s Rob Dickinson. If there’s an unsigned band in Seattle with the chops and epic sonics to fill arenas right now, it’s these guys.
Finally, after soaring amongst the stars with The Bend, Ye Olde Concerts Examiner needed some down-to-Earth, sweaty grooving. And God bless the Staxx Brothers for providing it. This Seattle combo laid down a lean funk-rock vibe–bass, guitar, drums–as a backdrop for Ayo O’s raps and Davin Michael Stedman’s vocals (lazy sampling of other bands’ grooves? Heck, no). They’re an addictively-watchable and incendiary live act: Stedman, in track suit and headscarf, made for a hilarious and high-energy frontman: He was funny as Jack Black, and as restless onstage as Anthony Kiedis–only with a way better, more soulful set of pipes. And the vocal interplay between him, Ayo, and femme vocalistas Michelle O’Connor and Angela Rickard couldn’t have been deeper in the pocket. Consider Ye Olde Concerts Examiner’s butt more than sufficiently shaken.