The Reverb Festival Class of 2012

56 local bands descend on Ballard for one glorious Saturday.


(21 and over) by Julia Mullen Gordon

NoRey, 6:30 p.m. Since the "dogmatic, coked-up, llama-killing, Esperanza Spalding– boning, Michael Pollan–scolding, über-locavore Cascade foothills chef" Lou Kohl appeared on SW's cover last year, it's been a challenge to separate him from NoRey frontman Alejandro Garcia, who portrayed the fur-coat-clad spoof on the cover. By day, Garcia may masquerade as a culinary outlaw, but by night his distinct accent is put to use in NoRey, whose globally influenced, edgy pop wouldn't sound out of place in an Iñárritu film.

Lifestyles of the Poor and Unknown, 7:30 p.m. Not many bands call Port Townsend home, but this one makes an exception. Led by Spencer Tucker (a tugboat deckhand and high-school classmate of this writer), LPU isn't far from the whimsical, off-kilter style of early Modest Mouse, while Tucker's deep vocals recall Wolf Parade's Dan Boeckner.

Gabriel Mintz, 8:30 p.m. If you've been traumatized by one too many Bumbershoot drum circles, you'll naturally be apprehensive of Gabriel Mintz's socks-with-sandals style. But give a listen to 2010's Volume 1, which proves him a highly skilled player whose pop sensibility shares equal space with insightful songwriting. We promise it sounds nothing like the Dave Matthews Band.

Shannon Stephens, 9:30 p.m. "Faces Like Ours," Shannon Stephens' duet with Bonnie 'Prince' Billy from this year's Pull It Together, is a strange take on the country lament, calling attention to white privilege with its slant lyrics. Stephens' secret weapon is her ability to twist traditional forms, making topics like rent and dishes vessels for philosophical exploration.

Whitney Ballen, 10:30 p.m. When Ballen turned 21, she didn't drink a sip of booze. Her album, White Feathers, White Linens is similarly pure; from its very title to Ballen's childlike vocals to the tinkling music box that marks the album's beginning, her songs come from a place of innocence and wonder.

Rachel Harrington, 11:30 p.m. From the opening twangs of slide guitar on Harrington's new record, Makin' Our House a Honkytonk, it's clear this is party music. Harrington proves herself a charismatic and commanding vocalist whose songs are perfect for a twirl around the dance floor—hat and boots required.

Shelby Earl, 12:30 a.m. On her debut album, last year's Burn the Boats, Earl proved her chops at intelligent country, showing she could compete with genre masters like Neko Case on songs like "At the Start," a duet with the Long Winters' John Roderick (who also produced the record) that our Mike Seely called "an early front-runner for best song put out by any artist in 2011."


(all ages) by Eric Grandy

Mike DC, 6 p.m. This Canadian-born, Port Townsend–based MC does that earnest-white-rapper thing that's so popular around these parts, spitting it hella sincere whether he's snarling about his hip-hop cred or Slugishly mourning some doomed romance.

Brain Fruit, 7 p.m. For sure one of the more out-there bands playing this year's Reverb Fest, this Seattle drum-and-synth duo applies muscular live drumming to hypnotically evolving synth arpeggios, with results that can range from motorik-krautrock cool to fully unhinged noise jams. If all those words sound like nonsense to you, just trust and go get your mind blown.

Chocolate Chuck, 8 p.m. Little brother of queens THEESatisfaction, Chocolate Chuck would be, what, like an archduke among Seattle hip-hop royalty? Lineage aside, the young producer has plenty going for him in his own right, with a sample-flipping style that's simultaneously breezy, bass-y, and based.

Julie C, 9 p.m. On the cover of her Sliding Scale EP, Julie C looks more like a cool librarian than a battle-tested rapper, but her 206 Zulu affiliations profess a love for hip-hop culture both progressive and traditionalist, and her rhymes are nimble and sturdy enough to stand on their own.

OCnotes, 10 p.m. Otis Calvin "Notes" III is currently reigning as this city's most inspired beat-maker and maybe most promising all-around musician. In his solo productions and those with heady, freestyling duo Metal Chocolates, he sways from jazzy and glitchy hip-hop instrumentals to soulful not-quite-house tracks to tropicalia-inflected singer/songwriter material. His tastes and talents are boundless; watch where he goes next.

Brothers From Another, 11 p.m. On their recent Taco Tuesday EP, this Seattle hip-hop duo dedicates a song to artisanal-ice-cream queen Molly Moon, extols the virtues of love (worth changing your college major for), and praises their 206 elders in "Sonic Boom." If it wasn't clear: This is one profoundly pos-vibing, town-friendly rap act.

Soul Senate, midnight Forever subordinate to the whims of the Funky President and hemmed in by the decisions of the Jazzy Judiciary, Seattle band Soul Senate nonetheless delivers a traditional suit-and-tie soul revue—including a loungey cover of "You Can't Always Get What You Want"—that both sides of the aisle can agree upon.



(all ages) By Keegan Prosser

Darren Loucas, 6 p.m. The veteran blues rocker who brought us the Jelly Rollers and Juke steps into the limelight as a solo act. Weaving simple melodies, a mean falsetto, and intricate guitar riffs, Loucas channels the honesty of the '90s, bathed in raw folk tradition.

Eugenie Jones Quartet, 7 p.m. This sassy jazz vocalist delivers soulful tunes in the same vein as sultry mamas Sharon Jones and Nina Simone, backed by a stellar lineup of seasoned musicians. Don't be surprised if she name-checks Beyoncé and Angelina (she has before), or drops a sexy, piano-driven rendition of "Cry Me a River" (she's done that too).

Prom Queen, 8 p.m. Churning out sickly sweet pop tracks inspired by pinup girls and 1960s house-wives, Celene "Leeni" Ramadan is, naturally, everything Lana Del Rey tries too hard to be. A multi-instrumentalist with sultry vocals and a killer retro style, Ramadan pulls you in with her sugary disposition—and keeps you with her edgy girl power.

The Crow Quill Night Owls, 9 p.m. Think old-timey string music of the 1920s and '30s variety. If you're a sucker for a good washtub bass, this act, which fluctuates from a duo to a six-person collective, delivers the goods. It's the stuff you dance to drunkenly when your lady (or man) is fussin'—and all you want is a stiff drink.

Spoonshine, 10 p.m. Playing bouncy Americana jams of the bluegrass persuasion, this act had a rowdy group of hippies stomping at Folklife earlier this year—and are bound to bring the same mischief to Ballard Avenue. Also of note: Their new EP, Song of Sockeye, was produced by Soundgarden knob-twister Adam Kasper, and features George Schwindt of Flogging Molly.



(all ages) By Ma'Chell Duma LaVassar

Perpetual Ritual, 4:30 p.m. Mitchell Saulsberry is one of those enigmatic types who like to operate under a moniker. By keeping it undercover, this musical Svengali (who can also be heard in his very different project Grave Babies) recruits a hefty number of talented collaborators who keep each of his tracks extremely fresh. His blend of lo-fi, electro-chill, and melodic choruses make for a sound fans of "the chill room" can get behind.

Secret Colors, 5:30 p.m. Secret Colors, aka Matt Lawson, combines experimental sound and visual art for a multisensory musical experience meant to lull you into sweet submission. Using meticulously placed random sound bites and heavy effects perpetrated by both guitars and synths, Lawson does not directly push you down the rabbit hole, but serves as more of an enveloping, seductive spirit guide who tinkers with your senses in a way both pleasing and a little disturbing.

Haunted Horses, 6:30 p.m. We could spend hours and countless words trying to get you to wrap your head around the awesomeness of demonic, druggy electro-duo Haunted Horses, or we could just let the band's Web tags for their February release, Live at the Embassy, do it—"Tags: punk, dark noise, rock, post-apocalyptic satanic space jams, true-exorcism-fantasy, Seattle." Yep. Why go on? We know we had you at "post-apocalyptic satanic space jams" . . .

Naomi Punk, 7:30 p.m. One of the great things about our fair city is that you can get your punk rock in any flavor you choose: Brit, garage, grunge, or gutter, we have a band that fits the bill. However, it's been a while since we've heard a band successfully marry a slurry Oly ethos and sludgy Seattleness like Naomi Punk has. These boy wonders appreciate bastardizing the basics, taking 1, 2, 3, 4 to another level, and have created an earworm with their track "Voodoo Trust," one of this year's gems, which somehow simultaneously screams "new" and "Northwest."

Grave Babies, 8:30 p.m. Sweet local label Hardly Art's signing of Grave Babies is kinda reminiscent of that good-natured couple who take in a child whose parents disappeared under mysterious circumstances in every B movie ever. Because, as with that sweet-faced child, you never know what's brewing under that appealing package. They are the label's Orphan, if you will. Hope you didn't burn through your stash during Haunted Horses, because the trippy, brutal, sexy nightmare on Ecstasy which is the Grave Babies begs to be appreciated on the not-so-sober tip. Songs like "Eating Babies"—and even the title of their EP, Gothdammit—show they have the smarts to approach themselves as one would any good B movie: with tongues firmly in cheek.

Nouela, 9:30 p.m. Reminiscent of some other forceful ladies behind the keyboard—namely Fiona, Chan, and Tori—Nouela Johnston's classical training comes through not only in her stellar ivory tickling but also in her dramatic vocal delivery. The former frontwoman of People Eating People can take her voice from subtle to symphonic in just a few bars on her latest, Chants, a record that simultaneously explores and celebrates all the dark, moody places love-gone-wrong can take you.

Arrington de Dionyso, 10:30 p.m. You will never forget the first time you experience Mr. de Dionyso. Sensual horn solos, Tuvan-style vocals, and lyrics in Indonesian make for music as weird as it is raw, as sexy as it is spiritual, and truly unlike anything you've ever heard, which in this day and age is saying a lot. Much like all good things of a kinky nature, the first time you hear it you won't know what to make of it, but once you give in to the rhythm and let yourself get caught up in it, not only will you like it, you'll find yourself craving it again and again.



(all ages) By Erin K. Thompson

Baby Guns, 5 p.m. This duo, singer/ guitarist Neil Giardino and singer/ keyboardist Erin Shannon, makes scuzzy, funereal music inspired by classic noir films, complete with heavy synths and eerie vocals. Their black-and-white-toned songs can be heard on this year's Kingdom Come cassette and on an upcoming 7-inch single from the local Flatfield Records.

Sweet Pups, 6 p.m. This surf-pop quartet (three gals and one dude drummer) is fronted by bitchin' singer/keytarist Prisilla Ray, formerly of the Cute Lepers. The band's chanty, girly melodies and riffing guitars owe as much to sweet '60s girl groups as to tough '80s lady rockers like the Runaways.

So Pitted, 7 p.m. Their Facebook page states "RECORDING SIT TIGHT SEATTLE." In the meantime, there are just two rough demos by this punk outfit on Bandcamp. Which is fine, because both "Party Boyz Anthem" and "Heaven Sent" are the type of thrashing, devilish, heavily distorted stuff that's best witnessed live anyway.

Kithkin, 8 p.m. Following exuberant performances at the Capitol Hill Block Party and Doe Bay Fest, this quartet of Seattle U. undergrads is creating a big local buzz for their noisy, polyrhythmic style and all four members' joyous, percussion-loving penchant to smash and bang things onstage. See our preview of Kithkin.

Posse, 9 p.m. The winner of Seattle Weekly's Best Garage Band of 2012, this bassless rock trio is dually fronted by guitarist Sacha Maxim and Paul Wittmann-Todd's charismatic, quirky vocals. The band's self-titled album and their Bill Callahan covers EP, Some Dongs, stand equally as two of the year's best local releases.

BOAT, 10 p.m. This jaunty, mischievous pop-rock quartet, led by Tacoma schoolteacher D. Crane, has been a beloved local mainstay for years, and is preparing the release of its fifth LP, the as-yet-untitled follow-up to 2011's bold and boisterous Dress Like Your Idols.



(21 and over) by Hannah Levin

Chastity Belt, 5:30 p.m. As sweet and sharp as the onion their hometown of Walla Walla is named for, Chastity Belt traverses territory similar to that mined by Reverb veterans TacocaT: They favor raunchy, mischievous themes of sex and debauchery set to a riotous, party-punk soundtrack, but with an even rawer, garage-rock edge.

Cristina Bautista, 6:30 p.m. There's clearly a reason former Visqueen frontwoman Rachel Flotard plucked this petite powerhouse to be her band's bassist during their final years (R.I.P. Visqueen). Bautista exudes every ounce of what makes punk-pop its most powerful: confident singing that comes from the soul—and the soles of her feet, evidently, given the arena-sized presence she brings to the stage.

Spaceneedles, 7:30 p.m. It's surprising that this artfully angular post-punk quartet hasn't been saddled with the "supergroup" tag, because Thomas Wright (Grand Archives, exbestfriends), bassist Jim Cotton (Feral Children), second guitarist Ben Kersten (exbestfriends), and drummer Scott Blue are some of the city's most accomplished and adventurous players. Expect the exceptional.

Monogamy Party, 8:30 p.m. Choosing seminal, drum-and-bass-heavy acts like KARP and godheadSilo as inspiration is a fine starting point, and the ideal launching pad for kinetically charismatic (and often scantily clothed) frontman Kennedy to launch his confrontational audience assault. It's safe to say the Sunset floor will be sufficiently beer- and sweat-soaked by the time these guys finish one of their signature frenetic sets.

Brokaw, 9:30 p.m. Good to Die Records founder Nik Christofferson harbors an affection for a certain caliber of sonic shrapnel, which is likely why three of his bands are on this particular stage. However, Brokaw may exemplify Christofferson's fetish for barbaric bass the best. Fans of Jesus Lizard, Shellac, and nearly anything a modern-day incarnation of Touch & Go Records would sign should get in line early.

Deadkill, 10:30 p.m. Keeping it simple doesn't have to mean keeping it stupid. Deadkill knows the line between the two is fine, but not worth fussing with too terribly much. When he's not bashing the drum kit behind Absolute Monarchs, guitarist Michael Stubz channels his love of the Germs, the Circle Jerks, and Black Flag into this gleefully dark, primal punk valentine.

Midday Veil, 11:30 p.m. Prior to joining this band, percussionist Sam Yoder described his future psych-rock family as "the perfect soundtrack to an opium den." While clearly not an inaccurate perception, what makes Midday Veil succeed so gracefully is their shunning of the genre's more ponderous moments in favor of lucid, finely drawn song structures that require attention, not lazy, lysergic detours.

Erik Blood, 12:30 a.m. Early in Erik Blood's career, while watching a member of the Strokes spontaneously compose a song in Blood's instrument-strewn, zeitgeist-channeling basement studio, SW contributor Ma'Chell Duma LaVassar told me she viewed him as the budding "Prince of Seattle." That girl is a soothsayer: Between his early work as a multi-instrumentalist in the Turn-Ons and his recent groundbreaking work producing artists as diverse as the Moondoggies and Shabazz Palaces, Blood is well on his way to becoming a defining architect of Seattle's contemporary arts culture.



(21 and over) by DAVE LAKE

Foghorns, 5 p.m. These Ballard locals play approachable anti-folk with creative instrumentation, including accordion, saxophone, and sometimes a bucket player instead of a drummer. See our preview of the Foghorns.

Country Lips, 6 p.m. A nine-piece outlaw country outfit with a great sense of humor and a name culled from a Dylan lyric—what's not to like?

Side Saddle, 7 p.m. A trio of pretty ladies sing pretty harmonies in tribute to their favorite female country icons: Loretta, Patsy, Emmylou. They're what the Dixie Chicks might be if they washed all the pop from their sound and left only the roots.

The Chasers, 8 p.m. Balls-to-the-wall hard rock that's turned up to 11 and held together by heavy grooves and heavier riffs, deftly balancing modern loud rock with classic metal.

Wayfinders, 9 p.m. Retro hippie rock that borrows from '60s psychedelia, '70s glam rock, and '90s Urge Overkill, all slathered in glorious vintage reverb.

Cosmic Panther Land Band, 10 p.m. An occasional Seattle folk supergroup featuring members of the Maldives, the Moondoggies, Widower, and Shim, which probably gives you an idea what they sound like: finger-picked folk tunes with killer harmonies.

Sweet Water, 11 p.m. They signed to the majors in the height of Nirvana-mania, retired in 2000, then resurfaced at the end of the decade to tour with Stone Temple Pilots—a perfect fit given their big guitars, big choruses, and big rock sound.

The Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band in the World, midnight They outlived the Beatles, survived—and thrived in—disco, and still look great in shorts. Don't get stuck in the line outside this one. Get there early, and drunk. The Greatest Rock Writer In the World



(21 and over) By Todd Hamm

Gold Records, 5:30 p.m. This local trio lands somewhere between NOFX's straight-ahead pop punk and Foo Fighters' yelled-out "garage" rock. They are goofy, and remind one of fellow fun-loving area punkers Schew Aquarium, with semi-sensical lyrics and simplistic guitar licks riding up front. They are talented, though, when it comes down to it, and know what to do with a guitar solo/bass riff/drum fill if the mood calls for it.

Full Toilet, 6:30 p.m. With a loaded name like Full Toilet, people are going to expect you to play some pretty ridiculous . . . shit, and frontguy "Piss" Don Sheets doesn't disappoint. Sure, last year's self-titled 7-inch went down right away as one of the most bizarre records Sub Pop has ever decided to lend their stamp to, but its beauty—if you can call it that—lies in that very absurdity. On the low, it's an expertly engineered/arranged project with well-balanced acoustics and rough but discernible pieces that come together in a choreographed-car-crash sort of way that makes the mere idea of a live show seem all the more intriguing.

Assfuzz, 7:30 p.m. The parade of scuzzy-named, loud rock bands continues with this trio of Bremerton dudes who don't always take the adventurous or easy-listening route (the vocals, for example), but it's led them to our all-local, show-and-prove music festival, where they are in a prime position to surprise some unsuspecting distortion-heads drinking bargain whiskey at the bar or hustling vintage Dr. Martens on Leary Way and turn them into hardcore Assfuzz-heads.

The Wheelies, 8:30 p.m. This highly melodic Tacoma quartet has a deep well of catchy pop songs sprinkled with moments of the loud stuff, and thrives in the fun little environment the name suggests, with songs about partying with friends and young love. The band's ability to traverse styles and volumes while maintaining its trademark upbeat flavor enables it to have extremely wide appeal without necessarily breaking new ground. See our preview of the Wheelies.

The Shivering Denizens, 9:30 p.m. Man, if stompin' honky tonk is your bag, you will absolutely love the Shivering Denizens. They've got it all: guitar twang, a stand-up double bass, a banjo (!). Lead howler Ron E. "The Rebel" Banner goes all in, singing slack-jawed songs about the skid-row lifestyle and catching the wrath of a "Cheatin' Woman," "Mad Momma," "Honky Tonk Witch," etc. The 2 Bit Saloon should be a perfect backdrop for such hootin' and hollerin'.

Ticktockman, 10:30 p.m. Seattle's Ticktockman set up shop in the more accessible regions of The Mars Volta's hyperprog catalogue, and plays with some interesting ideas along the way. That influence is a bit too pronounced at times: Ryan Van Wieringen's soaring vocals sound like they were gleaned from the Cedric Bixler-Zavala School of Abstract Singing, and the post-production matches the blueprint; the band's tangential song structures are a bit more original, but closely follow TMV's lead. But opinions vary widely, so your best bet is to see the group live and judge for yourself.

Ayron Jones and The Way, 11:30 p.m. Jones has one of those rich, buttery voices that he can make sandpaper-rough to match the moments when he steps on his guitar's distortion pedal. Nailing traditional blues-rock and R&B with original songs that sound like they could be tried-and-true standards, Jones and his band have the spirit of old blues vets, injected with contemporary soul. Oh, and dude can shred on the guitar. Should be a good one.

The Missionary Position, 12:30 a.m. From the ashes of stellar local rock outfit Post Stardom Depression, The Missionary Position has emerged to glam things up and strut the rock out. The band's albums contain flashes of arena rockers like Velvet Revolver: wailing guitar solos; big, sturdy drums; booming, gravelly vocals filled to the brim with sexuality. Frontman Jeff Angell is at the band's writhing center, fleshing out the guitar- and saxophone-riff-built numbers with tales of living on the edge. In bed and at the bar, a great way to close out the night.

comments powered by Disqus

Friends to Follow