Annette Brown, Lifetime The story of June Carter Cash comes to life in the…
- Posted on Aug 17th 2010 5:00PM by Heidi Lowry
The 8th Annual KEXP BBQ was the pinnacle event in the month-long free concert series the station puts on every August at Seattle Center's Mural Amphitheater, an outdoor, tree-lined venue in the shadow of the iconic Space Needle. And just because the day-long fest was free doesn't mean it didn't deliver. The BBQ was like a scaled down, all-indie version of Coachella, and if the station had wanted to charge fans to get in, it would have been worth every penny. The thoughtful lineup, however, was simply KEXP's way of thanking listeners for their support.
Portland-based alt rock veterans Quasi, who closed the show just as the sun was beginning to set and the soaring temperatures simmered down, best embodied the event's warm, do-good vibe. The band's t-shirts that had been for sale throughout the day were the home-made handiwork of drummer Janet Weiss, created in her basement. At one point, a fan held up a cobalt blue shirt and she remembered making it. What better memento to take home after a day of good, honest music?
Whether singing about peace and love or bemoaning the way life is just a gray sky and, thankfully, short, Quasi vocalist Sam Coomes delivered his often metaphoric lyrics with life experience and performance prowess, but also with the exuberance of someone half his age. After all, he sang, "if it's not too loud, then you're not too old," and it's comforting to know that artists who helped shape early '90s alternative rock remain at the top of their game.
Backed adeptly by bassist Joanna Bolme, Coomes went wild on jam-based guitar melodies and punky displays of musical mayhem on a set of Roxichord keys dropped tactfully into each of the band's effortless songs. Their set was an alt rock Americana exclamation point at the end of a day filled with irresistible riffs and head-shaking grooves.
Other standout performances belonged to the Joy Formidable and Dinosaur Feathers – two unsigned bands that couldn't be more different from one another and yet fit together seamlessly on a bill that spanned the wide mix of KEXP's tastes.
The Joy Formidable's frontwoman, who goes only by "Ritzy," looked like a cross between Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon, Australia's soulful free spirit Sia and a very-much-less-self-aware Lady Gaga, sporting a platinum bob, straight bangs and bright red sunglasses. Her vocals were reminiscent of Bjork in serious mode and the woman can shred on her guitar. It was hard to believe just three people (Ritzy was accompanied by bassist Rhydian Dafydd and drummer Matt Thomas) could crank out such thick, triumphant rock couched in a layered, sonic feedback landscape. Performances of 'Whirring' and 'Cradle' were especially killer. Originating from Wales, it was the band's first foray into America and hopefully not its last.
The Joy Formidable perform 'The Greatest Light Is the Greatest Shade' at KEXP:
Dinosaur Feathers is what most synth-pop bands would sound like if they were less moody and brooding, and more tribal, tropical fun. Their music was from another world -- one filled with saturated colors and happy pills. The sound was as eclectic and danceable as it gets, one part Beirut mixed with one part They Might Be Giants. Singer Greg Sullo said the Brooklyn band was used to playing for significantly smaller crowds and that's a shame. Dinosaur Feathers is an off-beat gem.
Acts with local ties also made special appearances at the show. Seattle's the Lost Forest dedicated a song to the crowd and city after declaring that Los Angeles, where they were recording a new album, "kind of blows" and that Nashville "thinks too much". With grungy garage rock sensibilities, the band was clearly Seattle bred. Lost Forest's nerd-chic vocals were akin to those of REM singer Michael Stipe's mixed with the sneer of Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong. To top off their hometown pride, the drummer wore a classic Seattle Mariners trident t-shirt as he pounded out the rhythmic background for the group's fierce riffs.
Suckers, a Brooklyn quartet who missed their flight, but managed to book another and arrive 15 minutes before their 6:30PM start time, dazzled with percussive pop mastery. Their offering was like a jungle part, at times mellow and at other times adept at shaking the crowd out of their skulls. Then, from nowhere, out came a trumpet and the sound got sunny without turning ska. Though the vocals could use some work -- they go from a low grumble to an operatic falsetto that isn't always successful -- the potential is there for them to whip up something special with time.
Seattle rapper Victor Shade opened the event with smooth hip-hop beats, enough street cred to make his performance legit, and an emphasis on fresh rhymes that lived up to Shade's promise to "educate and liberate through the medium of rap music." Though the 2PM heat didn't make for the most ideal time to fully appreciate his party, he set the stage for what the rest of KEXP's BBQ brought in spades: A show stripped down to what fans like best about festivals -- music, plain and simple.
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