I first met Julia Massey on the day of the book launch party for my first novel. She showed up at the Feedback Lounge in West Seattle with the rest of her band as they were on their way down to a show in Tacoma. They bought a couple books, had me sign them, and after a bit of small talk, they left. That was in October of 2011, and as they left, I wondered about them and their music. I hadn’t seen them play yet, hadn’t even listened to them online. I had no idea if I’d even see them again. But a correspondence started after that. I listened to their music. We talked about the book. Julia was kind enough to give it a positive review on Amazon. And then I went to see her play.
And boy was I hooked.
A little poppy, a little bit of rock, a little folksy at times. But not really any of those things. Julia Massey and the Five-Finger Discount was one of those rare bands that just had their own sound. Something like “cosmic folk rock” was only a partial description. There was a sweetness to the music without being overly sentimental, an honesty without sharing too much, a willingness to bare all without saying, “Look at me!” They weren’t pop or heavy or alternative, and while not exactly cosmic, they were out of this world, or rather in a world of their own, and the music bridged the gap, invited the listener in. And I wondered back then in the fall of 2011 if I was hearing the new Seattle sound.
All of that is still true. They recently played a sold out CD release show at Conor Byrne, and the set list included some of those songs from three years ago. With The Music Book just out, that made it a special thing for me to hear, but it was all the more significant because it was the bass player’s last show. Geoff Gibbs, one of Seattle’s best bass players, is moving on to a new phase of his life. Lucky for us that he leaves behind a number of recordings with Julia and drummer Dominic Cortese.
And lucky for you that Julia and Dominic are playing Saturday night at the Sunset with another band from the book, the Jesus Rehab. And this is a show not to miss. Julia is pregnant, you see, and very nearly due, so this will be her last show until the spring. A couple weeks ago, she was kind enough to visit me in the Critical Sun studio to chat about music and life and movie adaptations of literary novels. She was also kind enough to let me join her in playing a version of the Pointer Sister’s “Fire” so if you listen all the way to the end you can hear me plucking on the guitar while Julia just takes it away. There are some cool perks to this writing thing.