Show Date: January 13, 2017
Helllooooo ‘90s! I was seriously transported to a Pavement-esque era with opening band Scarves. They flew through their set, weaving schizophrenic song structures and their singer’s unique timbre into something seriously fascinating. Between a breathless pause, their singer announced: “Normally I say some stuff here to endear you, but fuck it we don’t have time for that.” Not at their pace, anyway. Bam bam bam! I get the sense that this is a group of restless tinkerers, evident by how they threw different versions of themselves out with each song. À la ‘90s Built to Spill, you could never quite know what shape or tone they’d take—and there is something truly thrilling about that.
These goshdarn cutie-patooties opened their set with what they called “hippie grace,” encouraging their audience to hold hands with their neighbor, and take one long breath. This was a good reminder of what we were all there for, given how annoying it can sometimes get at a show being jostled around constantly by some chode out on a shitty date. For a moment we all held hands, took a deep breath, and all was well.
What can I say, this band is charming as fuck! Between the adorable banter between Marrieds™ Ryan Devlin and Kim West and their sweet and to the point melodies, you can officially call me a fan. If someone has ever had a bad time at Smokey Brights show I’m pretty sure they were lying—this is layered, inviting, warm music. One of my favorites of the night was the pulsing “In Demand,” the opener on their latest album Hot Candy.
SEATTLE KOKON TAIKO
The tale goes that it was only the first taiko that was able to lure the sun goddess Ameterasu out of her hiding place in order to save life on earth. “Taiko” means simply drum in Japanese, but outside of Japan it can refer to any of the various Japanese drums, and to the unique form of ensemble taiko: a synthesis of rhythm, movement, and spirit.
This full-bodied set by Seattle Kokon Taiko certainly lived up to this word, mimicking the soundscapes of the natural world in a mesmerizing combination of ancient and modern to achieve what they describe as a “[oneness] with the drum in time with the rhythm of the earth.” Or in simpler terms: it was fucking awesome. Even a crowd squished to the brim to make room for a 10ish-piece drum ensemble couldn’t help but be energized by this spirited performance, punctuated with the guttural yowls of its actors.
It WAS Friday the 13th, so I was waiting for some spooky shit to happen, but little did I know this would come in the form of Ravenna Woods, with their inventive and ever-changing songscapes, and frankly, sometimes-spooky vibe. Joined by a smaller continent of taiko drummers for a few of their songs, it was a moody pairing that lent to their expansive new sound.
The unexpected partnership of these two halves brings to mind the 1917 ballet Parade (bear with me)—the collective brainchild of Erik Satie (composer), Leonide Massine (dancer/choreographer), Pablo Picasso (set and costume design), Serge Diaghilev (producer of the Ballets Russes), and Jean Cocteau (writer). While it was the first time Picasso and Satie had ever worked on a ballet, the result was a surrealistic and wholly new take on the classic art, one which like most cool new shit was met with criticism (its subject matter was inspired by popular entertainment of the period, which was weird, and some of Picasso’s cubist-inspired costumes were solid cardboard and thus prohibited its dancers from, well, dancing). But the resulting piece was revolutionary, bringing common street entertainment to the elite. (To invoke a lesser but still surprisingly good partnership I would say try the green tea flavored Kit Kats. SO GOOD. So unexpected.)
THE POINT IS: we need more local groups like these teaming up together outside of their familiar realms to bring us new and unexpected art. The results this night were truly spectacular.
Side note: “Alleyways” is still catchy as fuck.
Photos by Brady Harvey.