Show Date: August 8, 2003
I had decided to go to the FourthCity event in Fremont so that I could finally catch Plan B play, but also because I'd never seen a show in Fremont before. The event was at the M: Café that had been opened up to include some studio space and a large outdoor patio with a cool red brick wall. M is across the street from the Triangle Lounge and around 10pm there was a light crowd trying to get in the door. Once I had made it up to the front I was rewarded with a big, six-inch stamp 'M:Pulse' that went halfway up my arm-arteries and all.
The first room was where the café normally exists and there was DJ spinning everything from electronica to Bowie's 'Let's Dance'. The crowd was primarily young and cool–made up of the young 25-30 year old hipsters that are the core of Seattle's scene. I had got there early but by 11pm it was pretty packed for the space and it was really hot in the multimedia back room where most of the techno and band action happened. One particularly nice thing about the setup was that there was always something going on. With DJs in the front room and the patio you could wander smoothly from one event to the next or even go chat outside.
I didn't really know much about Fourth City but it appears to be a rather fluid group of artists and performers that release music, promote events and provide a basis for a group of artists across all mediums (graphic designers, painters). FourthCity has a really technological feel about it which was refreshing considering the very entrenched presence that rock bands have around town. They have also put out a number of complications including the recent a lot of local djs and techno 'groups' that I hadn't heard of before.
After talking to some friends I wandered into the back room and had a piece of cake and listened to a bunch of great 'techno' including Zapan. After a while I wandered back through the main room on the way to the patio and saw the circle of people around a group of breakdancers. All I could see above the heads of the crowd were red sneakers spinning high in the air. Yes, definitely a nice change from the Crocodile the night before where I saw Fancey and I love you but I've chosen darkness.
I waited in the courtyard with the tall dark red brick wall and people watched with some friends until Plan B started playing.
I had been wanted to see Plan B for a while but had missed them at The Block Party and thought that this would be a good chance considering it wasn't the middle of the day and there was no hot sun burning down on me. I didn't know much about Plan B other than that they used a computer in the band, improvised a lot on stage, and that violinist Sarah Standard from Carissa's Wierd had recently been playing a lot of shows with them. Checking out Plan B on the web I noticed that they had played at this year's SXSW and have actually been around for a while.
Plan B–I was pleasantly surprised. The music was very sophisticated in a post-shoegazer era and I begin to slowly see their resemblance to the Icelandic band MuM. Plan B does a great job striking the balance between the laptop beats, classical instruments (like the standup bass, violin) and ethereal vocals. This creates a dreamlike sound that feels like it could be found on the Lost in Translation soundtrack (right after the My Bloody Valentine track).
Plan B is the creature of James Leroy van Leuvan (formerly of Automaton) and is the techno sided mastermind behind the band. The foundation of the music starts with James recording things on his laptop (e.g. drums, guitar) and modifies them to drive the beat via his laptop in live performances. Samples seem to be used sparingly such as a small child saying "I don't mind" softly in the distance on the song 'Latchkey Kid'. This works well in the music because it is non-intrusive and blends in with the exquisiteness of the sound. Again, credit needs to be given for the fine balance obtained between the beats, classical instruments, guitar and soft vocals of the diminutive Krista Warden (who may have recently served you a pot of Keemun tea at Victrola).
The band played through several tracks that can be found on their Keepsake EP & Like A Ship Sailing LP. I am actually rather stunned that they aren't headlining the Baltic Room or Chop Suey on a regular basis. Regardless, they seem to be on the rise because I hear their name around town more and more but the challenge will be to see where exactly they fit in. While they are perfect to be teamed up with bands like Halou-they don't seem to kind fall into the DJ world or the indie R&R dominated venues of the Crocodile and Graceland.
Plan B is clearly one of the underappreciated bands around town and hopefully everyone will get out to see them instead of staying at home listening to old My Bloody Valentine and Portishead records…