Sunday Morning Coming Down

A guarded speakeasy meets the press.

The first nonfiction writer I really looked up to was Studs Terkel. Throughout high school and college, I read and reread Working—his plainly worded and thoroughly unpretentious examination of everyday employment experiences in the United States—countless times, trying to unlock how his straightforward approach yielded so much rich, unexpected detail. This was followed by an equally obsessive Gore Vidal phase and a tendency to hang on every word then-Harper's editor Lewis Lapham wrote, but as my interest in pop-culture journalism grew, I found a new set of heroes, including feminist progressives like Evelyn McDonnell and Ellen Willis, Big Takeover founder Jack Rabid, and of course, gonzo pioneer Lester Bangs.Though my career path now seems irreversibly locked on the rock-'n'-roll track, I still harbor a great deal of admiration and respect for more politically-focused journalists, especially when it comes to those with exceptionally fearless interview skills. Watching Meet the Press host Tim Russert take on everyone from Dick Cheney to James Carville has been a part of my Sunday-morning routine for more than a decade. So when news of his sudden death broke last Friday, I was deeply dismayed for his family and selfishly depressed that I'd have to navigate the rest of this election year without him as my whiteboard-wielding guidepost.Consequently, hitting rock shows was just not sounding appealing this weekend, until an insistent text message came in from Sunset booking agent Mike Jaworski late Saturday afternoon, telling me to hustle down to catch an unpromoted early set from touring band The Blind Shake. Thankfully, his description and enthusiasm ("like Drive Like Jehu and the Hot Snakes, but they own their thing") was accurate and entirely justified. It's a shame that this ridiculously powerful and preternaturally precise Minneapolis-based trio lost their original headlining spot on a previously scheduled Funhouse bill, because the 12-person crowd they played for couldn't have been more blown away. Mike Blaha's angular, aggressive baritone guitar thickly underscored the hotter tones of his brother Jim's guitar, strengthening the pull of their lean and muscular post-punk sound—the sort of brilliant pounding that labels like Dischord and Touch and Go are revered for (though they are currently signed to Minneapolis's Learning Curve Records). You know you've caught an unforgettable show when half the audience heads for the merch table immediately afterward—myself included. There's not a chance in hell I'd miss another opportunity to see this band, so I sure hope they can come back soon and get themselves a properly attended show.The crowd was much larger and far more liquored-up later that night at the north-end underground afterhours club affectionately dubbed The Cavern by its regulars, who guard the password for entry with protective ferocity. The club has previously hosted bashes for locals like the Cops and touring acts like Israel's Monotonix; Saturday night's guests of honor were MGMT, in town for a KNDD-sponsored show at Marymoor Park. When a friend texted me to ask if there were "a bunch of douches" in attendance, I had to concede that indeed there were, but plenty of familiar, friendly faces were partying it up as well, including the boys from the Maldives (with producer Tim Seely in tow), a slew of my KEXP colleagues, a handful of Sonic Boom employees, and Light in the Attic co-owner Matt Sullivan, who somehow managed to spill half his beer directly into my purse while handing off an advance copy of the Saturday Knights' long-awaited full-length debut, Mingle, which drops next Tuesday, June 24.Another local artist finally getting around to putting out his debut is Zach Harjo, who will celebrate that endeavor at the Tractor Tavern this coming Friday, June 20, with help from a recently reunited Sage. Harjo—who is somewhat more well-known for the out-of-the-gate success of his Ballard tapas bar, Ocho—is a jittery, jangle-y balladeer with a distinct dark streak that appeals to fans of Tom Waits or Ennio Morricone. There's a lot going on next week (Snoop Dogg's sold-out show at the Showbox SODO on Wednesday and the Dandy Warhols at the same venue two nights later, just to name a couple) but it's a safe bet Harjo's release party will be a solid, memorable show worth making time

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