Friday, April 17, 2009

Local Seattle, I will forget you not

Last night I had a really blessed time on the Seattle music scene.

My host, a friend of a friend named Athima Chansanchai, assured me I was having a genuinely local experience at Conor Byrne Pub in Ballard, and it certainly did seem that way. It was a cozy venue with friendly, unpretentious people and a soundwoman who looked much like Tina Fey and managed to keep the mix at a volume that was easy on the eardrums.

It helped that she had a manifestly respectful trio of bands to work with, none of which relied on monstrous abrasive guitar tones to get their message across. It was as much fun as I have had kicking back, drinking beer and listening to live music in as long as I can remember.

This excursion started with an effort to recruit a creative local musician to write songs with me while I was in town for a health care journalism conference. Amanda Doyle put me onto Athima who put me onto her high school friend and former colleague Lino, who wasn't up for writing songs together sight unseen but did happen to have this gig on the books with his band Bandolier.

We walked in with The Sunnyside already on stage. This is a tight, mostly female folk combo characterized by acoustic textures, tasteful piano playing (got to love an upright piano in a local bar and a band that modulates its sound so you can hear it played) and pleasing harmony vocals.

They gave way to Forget Me Nots, which in fact was an unforgettable band. First, the look: two tall Norwegian types as bookends on the stage, a man on bass and a woman on fiddle, both towering and blond. Behind them, an expressive and wickedly talented drummer. Up front on guitar and vocal, a Jesus-haired man with sweet vocals and intricate guitar playing that left space for the other players, including the violin, which is so easily crushed by an amplified guitar.

Musically, they moved in several directions which didn't really connect, but the approach was so unpretentious and the music so effective and pleasing that it didn't matter. They did multifaceted instrumentals, ambitious rocks songs with several moving parts, blues, and covers of massively popular songs like Pink Floyd's "Money" and Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean".

Bandolier finished the night with wistful guitar pop, nicely colored by keyboard flourishes. Lino's songwriting is strong, in the vein of Camera Obscura or Belle and Sebastian, and his vocals were wonderfully complemented and offset by a female singer who shared the leads. This woman, listed on the site as Ann, has a pixieish physical beauty, and a quality that you can't teach and would kill to have in a band: she evidently likes to be looked at while she is up onstage. If the right opportunity presents itself, she could command any stage and any degree of pop stardom.

I scattered copies of our work around to these various bands, and hope to recruit them in our future projects. However that turns out, I am very grateful to have reconnected with the spirit of live music and to have had a taste of local Seattle. It was delicious.


Image is of Forget Me Nots.

1 comment:

Annnnn said...

Thanks so much for your review! And for coming to the show...we have another this Saturday if you're around.