I really-really-really think that the Sick Bees are one of the best, under-appreciated, bands in Seattle. Yeah yeah, I know that this is saying a lot but I've been enthralled with the group ever since I saw them at the CMJ festival back in 2000. So after playing only a couple of shows in the past year and a half I was glad to see that they would be at Chop Suey opening for Mike Johnson.
Here is the quick low-down on the Sick Bees. The band is made up of two very talented women (Julio and Starla). Julio plays the drums and Starla sings and plays the electric guitar. That's it, Spartan. They have two albums, On the One and My Pleasure, (on Up Records). If forced to draw a comparison to another band, I might say that the Sick Bees are the rougher, rawer, non-techno, more rock 'n roll sister of Le Tigre… I will probably burn in hell for saying that.
Starla is really something. She just stands up there with this amazingly dynamic voice and just manages to have a good time rocking out on the guitar. I once saw a show at the Crocodile where this intoxicated guy was salivating over her while she was playing and she took it all in stride by glaring the guy down and saying, to the delight of the crowd, "Listen man, I am not your rock 'n roll fantasy."
Julio is equally impressive. She's this super talented drummer who just sits back there madly banging out the tunes. Occasionally, something amusing happens and she gets this wild Cheshire Cat kind of grin on her face. It's really refreshing to see these two having a great time with their music and at their show.
On Friday, it was a good crowd that surged close to the stage once the music started. They began the set by playing four or five new songs and then dipped into material from My Pleasure. In the end they played seven or eight new songs as well as the popular "Amen," "Strawhat's Dogs" and "Love in a Puff."
The new stuff continues right where My Pleasure left off with some great new samples and another track where Starla uses her voice in a bizarre dolphin-like fashion. Again, Starla's vocal range is absolutely astounding as she quickly moves back and forth from low husky harshness to pretty and polished (occasionally reminding me of Sinead O'Connor). It is always hard for me to absorb new material before I get my hands on an album but several nice gems were apparent such as the "Cowboy Song" (or that is what I'll call it until I find out the proper name).
I talked very briefly to Starla after the set and she indicated that the Sick Bees have spent most of the last year working on new material, but she didn't mention that the record was anywhere near coming out. Hopefully, the show at Chop Suey will be the first of a number of shows that is part of the push for their third album.