“Whatever happened to grunge?”
Or so The Real Tuesday Weld’s Stephen Coates asked the small crowd to see his band at the Rendezvous Saturday night. Coates may or may not have been aware that the most notable genre in Seattle’s music history was getting a big celebration on the other side of Lake Washington for Sub Pop’s 20th anniversary festival but neither he nor his band nor anyone in the crowd seemed to care.
The Jewel Box Theater in the Rendezvous is a small space, with a capacity of around 75 people. It was, according to the history on its website, built in the 1920s and still has the same look and charm after 80 years or more. That seems especially apropos for a band like The Real Tuesday Weld, who are inspired by the 1930s, jazzy, Depression era. The theater was probably about 1/3 of capacity for most of the night.
The space of the theater worked to the band’s advantage. I’ve seen rock bands struggle within its confines – mostly because the room is a square box and the guitar chords and drum beats don’t have any place to escape to and just bounce off the walls. But here the movie screen and cozy, intimate space suited the band just fine.
Coates, schooled as a visual artist, used the theater’s screen to project images while the band played, mostly animation or clips from older movies (or similar imagery). Rather than dance he playfully stumbled across the stage like a drunken crooner still hitting each note, sometimes appearing to be overwhelmed by the images projecting behind him. It was a schtick, but it worked.
After two songs into the set, he announced that he wouldn’t play any more unless more people moved up front and filled the seats close to the stage so that he could see everyone. Most of us did. The crowd, which probably didn’t exceed 30 at any given time, didn’t need much persuading. He also said there would be a lot of audience participation. Thankfully, we never were part of the act but the British Coates asked for suggestions to visit for the few hours he was in Seattle (he said it was his first time). When he asked about grunge he also asked who the hot new bands were in Seattle and who he should listen to. No one really gave an answer – which means no one said The Fleet Foxes – and I wanted to hug them all.
The Real Tuesday Weld played their cabaret-style pop, or what Coates calls “antique beat” – think the Gershwins with an iBook – for about 75 minutes. Most of their songs came from their 2007 album The London Book of the Dead and a few from 2002’s I, Lucifer. The middle of the set was the strongest, going from “I Love the Rain” to “Kix” (a song whose credit Coates shares with Cole Porter, which is more ‘inspired by’ and less of a cover of “I Get a Kick Out of You”) to “Dorothy Parker Blue” to “Ruth, Roses and Revolvers”. The latter, he identified as being a “Lunge” song – grunge from London.
Before “Dorothy Parker Blue," Coates asked if anyone in the crowd was a “literary type.” One woman said she was and was a big Dean Koontz fan. He asked if anyone else were fans of any “New York dead writers? Who liked to drink martinis?” I knew where he was going on the setlist but didn’t say anything although I’m a real-life admirer of Dorothy Parker’s writing (can you name another writer more fun to quote?). Finally, someone one mercifully shouted her name and he kicked into the trip-hoppy song about my literary heroine.
For the encore, Coates and guitarist Clive Painter first played “Apart”, a song The Real Tuesday Weld recorded with the Puppini Sisters before closing with the “[Still] Terminally Ambivalent Over You” – a song that sounds like something Cole Porter would write if he were alive in 2008. “Apart”, he said was a song about “after-death,” which preceded a death song (“Bringing the Baby Back Home”). He said it was like “an after-dinner mint.”
This was an early show at the Rendezvous, with another one scheduled to begin at 10:30. The Real Tuesday Weld had to stop playing at 9:45 but left the impression that they would have played longer if the option was there. I would have loved to have heard “The Ugly and the Beautiful” but I’m sure everyone was content and happy. Coates and the rest of The Real Tuesday Weld delivered an excellent show that was fun and funny and always entertaining.
I hope they make another return to Seattle soon. If they do, I’m dragging all my friends along. They don’t have a choice.
1. Blood Sugar Love
2. The Life and Times of the Clerkwell Kid
3. Epitaph for a Dream
4. The Eternal Seduction of Eve
5. One More Chance
6. Over the Hillsides
7. I Love the Rain
9. Dorothy Parker Blue
10. Ruth, Roses and Revolvers
11. Last Words
12. Bring the Baby Back Home
2. [Still] Terminally Ambivalent Over You