Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

With Monsters Are Waiting, The Pipettes, The Fratellis, Jon Rauhouse, Rachel Flotard, The Blakes, Turbo Fruits, Prototypes, Junior Senior, and Nicole Atkins and the Sea.

To kick off the final day of SXSW 2007, we knew — even before we left Seattle — that we wanted to hit the NY2LON party at Habana Calle 6. It really was a no-brainer: co-sponsored by Brooklyn Vegan and featuring Bloody Marys, Cuban Food, and a great line up (finally Amy Winehouse and the Fratellis on the same bill?).

A no-brainer especially since last year we were turned away from the NY2LON party (which included luminaries like Voxtrot, Two Gallants, and the Charlatans), for no good reason (grumble grumble). This year the poster said doors at 11am and encouraged us to get there early to guarantee entrance. That said, we complied; in fact, we were first in line and entered no problemo!

Monsters Are Waiting. Photo by Kaley Davis.The first band up was Monsters Are Waiting. This LA-based band played at about 12:30pm, amid a bunch of pretty cooler-than-thou hipsters — I'm going to blame the general level of aloofness on the fact that that the free Bloody Marys were very slow in coming. Something about the band (um, the black dyed hair, black sweater, black eyeliner, black instruments, black background) made me think this band doesn't often perform by the light of day. They definitely seemed a bit uncomfortable in the sunlight.

But being a bit of a pre-Goth-demographic Cure baby myself, I really liked them, even if they were a bit predictably Hot Topic bat-cavey. Singer Annalee Fery has vocal stylings reminiscent of Bjork, and her voice was nice (if not a bit affected). The band earned huge bonus points from me for 1) covering the Stone Roses "I Wanna Be Adored" (that took some major cahones and they pulled it off with aplomb) and 2) ending their set by telling the audience they had driven from LA to Austin on frying oil. They drive a Frybrid! TIG is in full-on support of bands touring on bio-fuels!

Rosay Pipettes. Photo by Kaley Davis.While at the NY2LON party, we got to talk about how we were all itching to finally see a full set of those Pipettes we’d being hearing about for the last three days. We kept having close calls of seeing a full set of theirs, but maximum capacities and scheduling overlaps kept us at bay.

And of course, I needed to get my daily dose of Fratelli, and Dana was jonesing for some more Amy Winehouse (at this point, for those not keeping score at home, we were at two shows a piece for our respective fave acts). Since the Fratellis were playing at NY2LON at 3p and at the Filter party across town at 4p (with the Pipettes), what we were to do??

Our fate was sealed for me when I realized Amy Winehouse has backed out of the NY2LON show (finally! one of those infamous Winehouse flakes I'd been reading so much about!). We rallied the troops and headed out to catch the lovely Pipettes, who had whetted our appetites two days earlier when we caught the last songs of their set, from the back of the room. We needed more Pipettes in our imaginary monitors, please!

Catching their full set, their coordinating dresses, their Supreme dance moves, their harmonies: we were smitten. Oddly, by the end of the set, we all had our favorite Pipette. My favorite is Rosay! She has the most complex harmonies and the sassiest dance moves.

Riot Becki Pipette. Photo by Kaley DavisNo way! Riot Becki was my favorite. With her sassy haircut, cool glasses, and tiny little nose piercing, I fell in love with her sexy indie librarian look and new best friend approachability.

Perhaps I was also intrigued because she was the only Pipette who had a modifier in front of her name. I'm certainly curious what happened to earn her "Riot" as part of her moniker.

Gwenno Pipette. Photo by Kaley Davis.I might have steered clear from Gwenno as my fave only because I found her bleach blonde bombshell looks so intimidating, but that's totally not fair. I bet she's really cool as well, and would totally listen to all our boy troubles and help us shop for shoes too (they would just look so much cuter on her!).

But I don't want to play favorites. I was completely floored both by how well all three of these ladies sing, and also how memorable their songs are. I distinctly remembered as they played each of the songs we'd caught two days earlier, in some cases, word-for-word, even though I'd only had one listen. I still remember them now, typing them up at home, thousands of miles away from the closest Pipette. "And we've got no regrets! And in case you haven't guessed… we're the prettiest girls! You ever met!"

As I said in the last Pipettes article: Need the CD. Need them to come to Seattle. Need to get all three action figures. Anyone want to bet me when the U.S. copies the U.K. once again (hi, "The Office") and we have our own version of the Pipettes?

By this time, the Dewar’s Scotch-sponsored portion of the bill inspired us to override our previous plan of heading back to the NY2LON party and decide to wait out there for the Fratellis. Yes, the Fratellis. Again!

In case this surprises you, YES, it was another fine performance from our Glaswegian mates. This time they speckled the set list with some surprises – one of which was a rip-roaring cover of The Who's, “The Seeker.” This, in addition to spotting an inquisitive Thurston Moore on the porch overlooking the stage (he was the next up on the bill), was a magical last imaginary-Fratellis meet up.

But, to avoid being so sad about goodbyes, I did some internet research back at the hotel and realized that they were going to be in Seattle with BRMC on May 13, 2007 at the Showbox. Hooray!

Jon RauhouseAfter such a rock and roll afternoon, what could be better than a trip to TGI Fridays! Actually, I'm being serious. Normally I am extremely anti-chain restaurants, but this was the coolest Fridays ever, with a huge back patio overlooking the river and front-row seats to see those famous Austin Bats fly at dusk. That was a spectacular site to see!

But it was a short-lived respite in TGI Fridays-land, as imaginary photographer and I booked it to the Red Eye Fly for the first show of the evening: Jon Rauhouse. While Rauhouse himself is not a Northwes
t resident, I kinda feel like we can claim him because 1) he plays pedal steel for Neko Case (who we can sorta maybe still claim as our own) 2) he had Seattle resident Mark Pickeral (Screaming Trees) drumming for him tonight and 3) he had Seattle resident Rachel Flotard (Visqueen) sing a couple of tunes at the show.

The set was definitely a highlight of my SXSW experience (and was clearly photographer Kaley's favorite show by a landslide; as a whole fan of All Things Neko, I'm surprised she could even see through the lens, she was smiling so huge throughout the set). The night felt very humble and grounded, sans the pretension and the hubbub so often seen at the fest. It felt like what I bet Austin is like most of the rest of the year: a group of music fans hooting on a band of virtuoso performers, and everyone having a damn fine time of it.

Rachel Flotard at SXSW 2007. Photo by Kaley Davis.The set was all over the map: from originals to showtunes and classics and back again. While I enjoyed the entire set, the highlights for me were clearly when he brought up two fabulous ladies to diva it up on the mic: Sally Timms of the Mekons, and Seattle's own Rachel Flotard of Visqueen. Both ladies shot lots of lip off to Rauhouse and the band (including Flotard referring to the keyboardist as a "Jewish terrorist," which sounds scary as I type it but was actually hilarious), but both were no joke on the mic.

The evolution of Rachel Flotard from Rachel the punk-pop princess in Visqueen to Rachel the vocalist has been enchanting to witness. Those months of touring with Neko Case have definitely paid off and a more courageous and enduring Rachel has emerged, one with all the sass and vigor we've come to expect, but one who can stand up and tug your heartstrings with the power of her voice. When she sang "Harbor Lights" I actually choked up.

Speaking of choking, I nearly choked on the Spaghetti Warehouse dinner I was enjoying with the rest of the posse at the time when I heard about what an incredible Flotard experience I was missing (did you send me like, eight text messages telling me how amazing Rachel was???)

I think there were at least nine — and she only sang two songs!

The Blakes at SXSW 2007. Photo by Kaley Davis.After their set, Kaley and I darted across the street to the KEXP showcase at Mohawk to catch a blistering show from Seattle band the Blakes.

As I've mentioned before, the Blakes are shit-hot live. This three-piece has it all: a great tight garage-rock intensity, boyish charms and good looks, raw sex appeal, and hook-laden songs that make the girls squeal. As always, it's great to watch local Northwest bands in new locales (I cracked up when they said "We're from Seattle!" midway through the set and asked if anyone else in the room was. There were quite a few "woots!" in response for sure.)

After the show, we weren't sure where to head. I wanted to see Kings of Leon at nearby at Stubbs, but since a little band you might have heard of called THE STOOGES were headlining later that night, the line was literally halfway to Dallas, so we knew we weren't getting in there…

Turbo Fruits. Photo by Kaley Davis.So in search of something off the radar, we found ourselves at The Co-op watching a band called Turbo Fruits from Nashville, Tennessee. I texted imaginary Dana and she came and joined us.

We both observed that the trio *looked* like they were barely legal on tour in their first band ever, but we came to find out they're actually from the Thurston Moore-acclaimed band Be Your Own Pet (he even signed them to his Ecstatic Peace record label). It makes sense that they follow in their BYOP roots and take the T. Rex-infused garage pop road. After the last few days of big crowds, industry money (yes, even including my dear Fratellis), it was refreshing to mix it up with Turbo Fruits.

Yeah, they played the show like the place was a packed Stubbs, posing with their axe for an appreciative group (that continued to grow throughout their set). The show ended with an enthusiastic friend helping out on the drums (two drummers on one drumset) with sweaty applause from all.

Prototypes. Photo by Kaley Davis.

Whew, after that burst we knew we wanted to end SXSW 2007 with a Junior Senor dance party.

Despite our exhaustion, we headed to Exodus and before Junior Senior caught French rockin' dance band, Prototypes.

I liked Prototypes, even though I had no idea what they were saying (you know, singing in French and all). To me, the lyrics were beautiful against the backdrop reminiscent of a euro discothèque.

Sure the lead singer could be the Karen O of Paris and they might have a song title that translates to "Dance On The Shit" – I actually like them regardless. Hell yeah to my fellow EuroTrashers!

I think I spent most of Prototypes in some over-stimulation, over-exhaustion haze. Since I'd spent most of the night in smaller venues listening to more intimate performers, the Prototypes set totally jarred my brain, especially since the number of green-clad St Patty's Day Meathead Revelers were clearly starting to outnumber the Indie Rock kids at this particular venue. The end of the day deo was starting to wear out, the room was packed to the gills… and then we had to wait at least 30 minutes for the Junior Senior soundcheck (which was weird — who knew they even played instruments??). But I was resolute: I wanted to end SXSW with Liz and at a dance party!

Junior Senior at SXSWIt's true. Their set change took an astronomical amount of time – I'd say at least 40 minutes, perhaps near an hour. In a dance club, sweaty bodies, 1.30am… there's only so much someone who isn't used to being in 'dance clubs' or around sweaty bodies can comfortably handle in the wee hours.

Once Junior Senior did take the stage, all that set change frustration was (nearly) forgiven. Although I expected their Junior and Senior-ness to be a little more pronounced, they were still commanding of the eager-to-boogie crowd. It was a bold bet to start the set off with their five biggest hits from the classic album, D-D-Don’t Stop the Beat.

And with that, my five favorite Junior Senior songs performed live for my enjoyment, I was fully Junior Senior
satiated. I danced, I sang along, and I was ready to head back to the hotel… to pack.

Nicole Atkins. Photo by Daniel Coston.As for me, I heard three songs. I was all: Go Junior! Go Senior! Go imaginary Dana, back to the hotel room!

When I left Exodus I had every intention to walk/hobble my exhausted self back to the hotel; but, as I got close to the bridge, I realized I was standing in front of Copa, a venue where New York's Nicole Atkins and the Sea were closing out the festival. I had only just learned about Nicole from imaginary writer Betsy Boston, who had just submitted her review of Blood Diamonds, the band's debut EP, days before I left for SXSW. I was impressed with Betsy's glowing praise, and loved the tracks I'd heard on her MySpace profile (especially "The Way It Is" — OMG, that song completely rules my world and I need to hear it at least four times every day).

So I slipped into the show: barely. I couldn't even find the door to the venue at first. That's how hidden this show was.

The set was spectacular and baffling — spectacular because Nicole's voice is even more robust and soaring and heartbreakingly beautiful live, and baffling because there were only about 15 or so other people in the room to hear it — and this from an artist signed to Columbia Records. Completely bizarre, and I'm betting some publicist somewhere has lost a job over this one. (And big thanks to photographer Daniel Coston for sharing this photo.)

I have no doubt that in the coming years I'll be able to tell my imaginary friends and grandchildren that I once saw Nicole Atkins sing at 2am to a nearly empty room in Austin, Texas.

And truly, isn't that why we all go to SXSW? To be able to return with stories like that?

As for me, three hours later, I was on my way to the airport to head back to Seattle, glorious Seattle. Who needs to sleep just to get on a plane?

And the countdown to the Fratillis’ Seattle show begins!