The untimely breakups of Sleater-Kinney and Dead Moon might make it seem like dark clouds have gathered over the Northwest. Add to that a mass exodus of musicians to cheaper environs, one mayor's idiotic nightlife proposal, and new legislation that might prohibit all-ages shows (once again), and things would seem bleak for our soggy corner of the country. But looking back on 2006, it's apparent that nothing will stop this city from producing great music.
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We saw at least one act, Band of Horses, become, well, pretty huge, scoring themselves rave reviews in Pitchfork, The New York Times, and basically everywhere else. BOH's label, Sub Pop, continued to reach out locally, signing chilly singer-songwriter Tiny Vipers and, most recently, the honey-sweet roots singer Sera Cahoone.
Barsuk Records also proved it would continue to thrive post–Death Cab by kicking off the year with a gorgeous release by Rocky Voltolato. Other releases followed by local underage indie popsters Smoosh and beloved raconteur John Roderick of the Long Winters. Suicide Squeeze Records celebrated 10 years in the record business, pimping a strong release by jangle-folkie Page France and welcoming former Carissa's Wierd frontlady Jenn Ghetto back home to begin recording a record for release in 2007.
Our favorite basement-run label, Light in the Attic, hit the ground running early last year by releasing the Black Angels' Passover. They continued to conquer with the first-ever stateside release of Brazilian psychedelic weirdos Os Mutantes' albums, then finished strong with the beautifully presented reissue of Karen Dalton's Something on Your Mind.
Local hip-hop icons Geologic, DJ Sabzi, and Gabriel Teodros launched their own label, Mass Line Media, with the help of local promoter Dave Meinert. They kicked things off with the national release of the Common Market LP. With strong releases on the horizon from both Teodros and the Scholars, Mass Line is sure to become our town's version of Quannum Records.
Makebreak Records broke down and reformed triumphantly as GoMidnight. Co-owned by John Schirmer and Blood Brothers drummer Mark Gajadhar, GoMidnight claimed local band Night Canopy, which features throaty, twangy vocals from Amy Blaschke and is boosted by the rhythm section of Pretty Girls Make Graves' Nick Dewitt and former Catch member Jenny Jimenez. Night Canopy's debut will be released in spring 2007. The young label also released two Triumph of Lethargy Skinned Alive to Death offerings.
We're also lucky to be able to see pretty much any band that hits the road during a year's time. For some, we didn't have to look much further than our own backyards—the Capitol Hill Block Party played host to a reunion of local legends Murder City Devils. Frontman Spencer Moody and guitarist Dann Gallucci even gave us a taste of their old antics, sharing a violent onstage kiss—so hot. Right?
The Cha Cha held its first live rock show ever (a bit ironic, considering it's been the source of a steady paycheck for a good percentage of Seattle's musical talent), with Weird Lords and the new two-man classic-rock project of Cobra High's Colin Roper.
A whole slew of young talents graced Seattle's stages for the first time: Fleet Foxes' self-released debut EP made No. 3 on Billboard critic Jonathan Cohen's Top 10 list for 2006, and the band is slated to record a full-length early next year. The Cave Singers have demonstrated their high, lonesome concoctions just a few times around town. But our guess is that 2007 has a lot more in store for the trio. Word is they've done some recording with Colin Stewart (Black Mountain, PGMG) that will result in a 2007 debut. And freedom-rockers Whalebones provided the city with a much-needed dose of good old-fashioned, foot-stomping psychedelic jammery. The band shared its music across the States as openers for Wolf Parade.
In addition to Kanye West, A Tribe Called Quest, and New Pornographers, KEXP's secret stage was an '06 Bumbershoot highlight, broadcasting live from an intimate theater. Folks in the know were treated to sets from 90.3 faves Nouvelle Vague, Jose Gonzales, and Brett Dennen.
Sean Horton's grassroots-run electronic/multimedia music throwdown, Decibel Festival, had a killer third year with more than 80 artists from around the globe, including Swedish producer Andreas Tilliander/Mokira and Germany's Thomas Fehlmann. It put greater emphasis on the arts aspect, too, thanks to visuals coordinator Leo Mayberry.
Rock clubs also played musical chairs this year, with former Chop Suey owner Chris Dasef taking over the legendary Comet Tavern, which has been solidly booked by DJ Mamma Casserole ever since. And longtime Crocodile employee Christine Wood stepped down as head booker, leaving the role to nice-guy Pete Greenberg, whose assistant booker position will be filled by former Sonic Boom record slinger Eli Anderson. Talent buyers Steven Severin (formerly at Chop Suey) and Jason Lajeunesse, of Neumo's, joined forces and combined resources with Neumo's bar manager, Mike Meckling, buying the Capitol Hill club from previous owners Marcus Charles and Jerry Everard. The power duo have dominated the booking game with their diverse skills, bringing acts like Jamie Lidell and the Melvins to the stage.
But that's only skimming the surface of what's happened in our town. Elsewhere, hippies were making good music again, Hessians were making scuzzy rock 'n' roll, a few artists actually made good records in a singles-driven era, the superstar DJ died, and people continued to steal music on the Internet at a rapid rate. All this and more in the pages that follow. . . .