AT THE SHOWBOX this weekend, there's this amazing event, like one of those music festivals from the '60s only without the stench or—regrettably—the gratuitous nakedness and free love. It is a three-day orgy of sound, however, as Seattle hosts the fourth Terrastock festival. Terrastock is a prestigious international gathering of adventurous rock and folk-based music loosely tied to the premise/promise of psychedelia. Previously held in Providence, RI (1997), San Francisco (1998), and London (1999), this year's lineup offers a ridiculously refined selection of 32 acts, and the music varies widely along a fairly distinct axis: syrupy sweet '60s pop, noisy psychedelic rock, ambient guitar drones, ethereal folk-rock, heavy protest-folk, meditative acid-folk, pan-ethnic krautrock, improvisational pummel-folk, and even plain old pop.
Showbox, Fri-Sun, November 3-5
rockrgrl Various locations, Thu-Sat, November 2-4
The event is named after Ptolemaic Terrascope, a fanzine as good as it is difficult to pronounce. British music enthusiast Phil McMullen began PT with genius Bevis Frond guy Nick Saloman in 1989. The Terrastock lineup reflects the 'zine's wide-ranging taste for baked, beautiful sound. And dig it, this isn't a Trekkie convention or an impenetrable, secret-handshake subcultural gathering. Even if you don't know the difference between Amon Duul 1 and 2, what a Twisted Village is, or which is the best Haphash and the Coloured Coat album, if you have a passing interest in psychedelic rock music you'll have to work hard at not enjoying yourself.
Terrastock is not an industry schmooze-a-bration and there are no seminars held. Artists play at Terrastock for the first time in years, rock stars play amazing sets of uncompromising intensity, and bands that would be the obscurest of the obscure anywhere else are worshipped like gods. Highlights of T4 include the absolutely brilliant Japanese psychedelic folk band Ghost, criminally underrated '60s singer-songwriter Country Joe, legendary '60s psych-rockers Chrome Syrcus, and Martyn Bates from the eclectic '80s act Eyeless In Gaza. Moe Tucker and Doug Yule from the Velvet Underground will play both separately and together. McMullen is also psyched—as it were—to see Ghost. "I worship the ground they walk on and truly believe Michio Kurihara to be the most distinctive guitarist playing anywhere right now," he elaborates. He is also especially proud to showcase some lesser-known British acts who haven't performed in America before, like "amazing singer/guitarist Pat Orchard, who is very much in the Nick Drake/John Martyn mold, and my old friend Rod Goodway's Ethereal Counterbalance."
Local promoter bigwigs One Reel are backing the event because they're so into it. Programming manager Chris Porter is "a lover of much of the music that gets written about in Ptolemaic Terrascope." He went to T2 in San Francisco. "It's one of the few events I've ever seen that had an incredible feeling of community," he recalls. "It's an event that is not about hype, big money, or big attitude. People are coming from as far away as Australia and Germany to be a part of it. I talked with Phil back then about bringing it to Seattle; he and I got along instantly. This was one event that I just had to be a part of somehow."
McMullen disagrees with those who think that the $75 three-day pass (single-day passes are $25) is too much. "Some of these performances will be unique to the Northwest, if not the world. It'll be the Bevis Frond's last US appearances for the foreseeable future, and it's unlikely that surprise act Children of the Rainbow will perform more than this one show [membership of the band is a guarded secret, and they'll be in disguise]. Some of the sets will blend into each other as bands and artists merge and split like amoebas.
"A lot of performers say a Terrastock audience seems to be uniquely attentive and appreciative," McMullen says. "Tom Rapp said after last year's Terrastock that it's almost like a party; every now and again someone from the audience gets up to play, and then they disappear back into the audience and someone else gets up and has a go. Maybe it's the fact that there are so many fellow musicians in the audience—very few of the Terrastock bands this year will simply drive up, play, and disappear again. Aside from many of the bands who've gone on to do records together after collaborating at a Terrastock festival—Simeon [of the Silver Apples] and the Alchemysts, Damon and Naomi with Tom Rapp and later Ghost, Bardo Pond and Roy Montgomery—I'm aware of at least two couples who initially met at a Terrastock and are still together. Last year we even had a wedding!"—M.M.
I IDENTIFY EQUALLY with the terms "rockr" and "grl," so I was happy to write a preview of the first ever Rockrgrl Music Conference. Happy, that is, until the deluge of CDs and press kits from performers began taking over my already cramped cubicle. Right now I'm about as happy as you would be if you had to sift through mile-high piles of overly earnest folkies and faux-funk rockers parading as punk bands. I hate to say it, but very few of these grls are actually rockrs. Many hours and much Mountain Dew later, I have emerged from the sea of mediocrity, female-fronted shock-rock, and occasional true talent to tell you who to see, where to go, and what you can skip. Don't worry, you can thank me later.
The RMC, as we with little time and lots of CDs to review like to call it, is the brainchild of Rockrgrl magazine's Carla DeSantis. The Renaissance Madison Hotel (515 Madison), with its many meeting and ballrooms, will serve as home base, while showcases and gigs will go down all over town. For more information, visit www.Rockrgrl.com.
"Women of Valour" Banquet—Seattle legends and ex-Heart rockers Ann and Nancy Wilson will be honored at this kickoff ceremony. Flowing velvet jackets and bodice-hugging lace are recommended, requests for "Barracuda" are not. Renaissance Madison Hotel, 6:30pm.
Breakroom—Get there early for former KCMU DJ and Stranger writer Mia Boyle, whose songs all manage to sound a bit like Hole's "Doll Parts." Following Ms. Boyle are the very fun and genuinely rocking punk-pop stylings of Seattle's very own Cookie. 1325 E Madison, 8:30pm.
Liquid Lounge—If I were on Survivor with a bunch of the singer-songwriters who sent in their CDs, NYC's Jennifer Marks is the only one I wouldn't vote off. She's funny, soulful, and smart. One hint: Don't call her Red. Experience Music Project, Seattle Center, 11pm.
Showbox—The Goddess Perlman is something like a feminist showgirl, only that's not quite right, either. Tammy Faye Starlight is equal parts Judy Tenuda and Pia Zadora. She has a song called "God Has Lodged a Tenant in My Uterus," and also plays in a Rolling Stones cover outfit called the Mike Hunt Band. (If that's not funny, sick, or demented to you, repeat band name until it is.) 1426 First, 8pm.
Keynote Speech—Ronnie "Be My Baby" Spector and Amy "Closer to Fine" Ray give shout-outs to all the ladies in the house. Renaissance Madison Hotel, Ballroom A, noon.
Mommy, Do We Have to Go on Tour?—Punk pioneer Exene Cervenka and others discuss the intersection of motherhood and the gigging musician. Renaissance Madison Hotel, Ballroom A, 1pm.
Crocodile—Put the Rockr back in Rockrgrl. Don't miss the Kill Rock Stars showcase featuring the Gossip, Bangs, and Bonfire Madigan. The former two play lo-fi, DIY hard-hitting punk rock for your inner indie chick, and Bonfire Madigan is the band for all of you who think that Sarah McLachlan wouldn't actually suck if she had something to say and some real music to say it to (with a cello). 2220 Second, 8:30pm.
Woodstock '99 to Eminem: When Did Women Become the Enemy?—Seattle native, former Village Voice editor, and legendary rock writer Ann Powers moderates this discussion. Also speaking are Sleater-Kinney's Carrie Brownstein and Woman of Valor Ann Wilson. Renaissance Madison Hotel, Ballroom A, 1pm.
Interview with Pamela des Barres—Learn to be a groupie or just look like one. Well, only if that's your thing. . . . Renaissance Madison Hotel, Ballroom B, 1pm.
Do Music, Chicks, and Politics Mix?—I don't know, but I think City Council member and panelist Judy Nicastro might. Renaissance Madison Hotel, Marion Room, 2:30pm.
Drum Workshop—Grab your sticks and give the Stone Roses' "She Bangs the Drums" one more loud listen before Kid Rock's Stefanie Eulinberg and Kate Shellenbach of Luscious Jackson show you how it's done. Renaissance Madison Hotel, Visions Room, 3:30pm.
Century Ballroom—Jill Sobule just wants to get over that "I Kissed a Girl" thing. Give her a chance, huh? 915 E Pine, 10pm.
Crocodile—You don't know Exene Cervenka? And you call yourself a Rockrgrl? You shame me. Get on down to the Croc and receive your learnin'—LA punk chick style—with Exene's band Original Sinners. 2220 Second, 12:30am.—L.L.
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