It’s always fun to catch a major Seattle act performing in large Seattle venue. But what’s better? Catching TWO major Seattle acts (plus an up and coming one) playing at a SMALL Seattle venue, that’s what. Even with the unusually tough parking conditions, I wasn’t expecting such a crowded house when I walked into the LoFi. The front bar was congested so I headed to the stage. Luckily, there were only a handful of people in line there, providing time to absorb the red glow of the stage and teeming audience already there. The bill was comprised of three Seattle bands: Hobosexual, Spinning Whips and Dead Sonics. LoFi hosted a mixed-genre show like this one just the night before and both appeared to be sold out. They might be onto something here. Other venues should take note.
Dead Sonics nondescriptly took the stage around 9:30 p.m. with their followers immediately gathering near the monitors, knowingly nodding their heads to the first song. It quickly became apparent that this band doesn’t subscribe to any one genre. What might start out as rap could easily spin to rock and escalate to punk. What starts out as indie could turn to ska then trip right into prog rock. In their short set, you learned to expect the unexpected with Dead Sonics. With Taylor Tunison on vocals, Dominic (name intentionally excluded by the band) on guitar, Marshall Hance on bass and Collin Andresen on drums, the Dead Sonics kept the crowd entertained with its crisp sound and constant movement. As a dedicated vocalist, Tunison did an exceptional job dancing through extended solos and musical bridges. He appears to be natural at singing as well, dispensing rap without misstep one minute and destroying the crowd with convincing thrash screamo the next. Andresen had me convinced that he was standing while playing the drums until I noticed his elevated throne. Hance moved smoothly with shifting half spins all while concentrating on his fretboard. Dominic, subbing in at guitar, delivered impressive work (without pedals!) that blended into the background unless you intentionally focused on it. All in all, it was a solid performance and great way to kick off the night.
The Spinning Whips are a Seattle mainstay that no one knows about. Seriously. This band has been around for years but with a steady rotation of band members, staying front of mind for concert goers has been a struggle. Still, with the leadership of Jordan West, they have been able to pull together two albums and a string of consistently high-energy shows at Seattle’s most popular venues. Tonight’s performance was no exception. Using a liberal amount of head whirling, West took it to the crowd, dispensing a mix of rock, Americana, blues and post-punk (no joke). As a 5-piece, The Spinning Whips generated a larger-than-life sound that included (count ‘em!) 3 backup singers, stadium-worthy keyboards and loud everything-else. Lastly, West deserves an A+ for creativity. Sure, he’s crowd-surfed before but I’ve never seen someone sing into three mics at once nor decide to hand out cans of silly string to an audience. I’m not sure that last idea went as planned – the stage became a tidal wave of ropey filament during their last song. It was a great way to end their set with a comedic bend.
Having just returned from a short Pacific Northwest tour, Ben Harwood (vocals, guitar) of Hobosexual started the show off with a story, recounting their experience losing a transmission in Pendleton, Oregon which led to their being ignored at the counter of an 8-person diner for 90 minutes and suffering through a “severe case of Hypoglycemia.” After the laughing subsided, he and Jeff Silva (drums) jumped into an extended set of their trademarked blues-driven rock. Upon first hearing, Harwood’s solos appear improvised but that’s only until you see his fretwork firsthand. After a few minutes, it becomes apparent that is his dazing speed and fiery tone are off the charts, causing audiences to return to their acts repeatedly. Luckily, on this night, Harwood wasn’t reluctant about facing the audience, allowing them to follow his playing against the sound coming out of his custom-designed, dual head and cab configuration. Meanwhile, Silva calmly dealt smart beats with an abundant use of cymbals. (I have yet to track his snappy transition from the snare to his considerably-lifted crash locations.) This is a band that doesn’t play all that often, so if you haven’t seen them before, you have to catch them at the Upstream Festival on Thursday, May 11th at 7 p.m.
As tonight’s turnout confirmed, there has been an uptick in the Seattle music scene in 2017. There are some new bands but they don’t account for the noticeable growth in crowd sizes. Music fans are going out more frequently and staying longer at shows, maybe realizing that (as Jordan West puts it) “live music is sooooo much better than Netflix!” What will summer bring, not only in audience count but the impact on performances? There’s always been a direct correlation in fan participation and a musician’s stage presence and the connection between the two often cause shows to go off the rails. I just can’t wait to be there when it happens.