(All photos by Trevor Foyston.)
KISW 99.9 FM was the proud sponsor of an unusually strong lineup at El Corazon on December 17th. Headliner Puddle of Mudd hadn’t toured through Seattle in over two years, so the die-hard post-grunge enthusiasts were out en masse. The line to get into the venue stretched around the block, but the fan’s anticipation was strong enough to distract them from the current cold spell hitting the northwest.
With (count ‘em!) five bands in the lineup, Dire Fire started the show promptly at 8:00pm, playing a surprisingly diversified set to an unexpectedly animated audience. The crowd filled in close to the stage to take in a short set of island rock. Randy Campbell and Caleb Kallander, switching between vocals and lead guitar, played easy-listening grooves with well-harmonized choruses. Fender guitars in tow, they kept the audience engaged with a variety of smooth, mellow songs mixed sparingly with blues and rock tunes. People drank, smiled, swayed and probably reminisced about past tropical vacations before Dire Fire ended their show with a fast-paced number, “If it Ain’t Rock and Roll.” An all-around great performance from the youngest band of the night.
Bryan Bach & The Killing Season (comprised of Amanda Cox on drums and Michelle Garcia on bass) would fall under the “good ‘ol time bluesy rock and roll” genre if there was such a thing. When Bryan took the stage, he immediately gave the audience an adrenaline rush by ordering them to “get the fuck up!” and then ripped through a series of soulful numbers, many of them covers. He delivered songs with a lot of energy, bending his hollow bodied Gretsch guitar to his whims while belting out hits from Chuck Berry to ZZ Top to Robert Johnson. I’m sure there were originals included, but Bryan obviously reached deep into the archives, blurring the lines of what was created or borrowed. (He’s really good, it was tough telling the difference.) He played thick solos while roaming the stage, sweating profusely, motivating the crowd to do the same. When done, the watchers generated some of the loudest applause of the night. Bryan and crew seem destined to be a big part of the Seattle circuit in 2017.
Jaded Mary was third in line, a four-piece prog rock band who mixed in a fair amount of rap metal and homegrown grunge. Vocalist David James was uninhibited by either instrument or personality, immediately belting out intro vocals (“Chakakaka!”) that were well-timed with guitarist Tim Bertsch, bassist Jamal Horner and drummer Leif Wagner. Early in their set, David James coaxed the audience to get naked, daring them to throw (ANY) articles of clothing up to the stage. What looked like a blouse flew in from the left, but the band had already refocused on their music. Slashing through technically precise, passionately aggressive numbers that should’ve started a mosh pit, Jaded Mary took home the “most spirited” award of the night.
When Klover Jane took the stage, anticipation was high. This band has been together for 6 years so most of the Seattle rock scene is familiar with their no-nonsense brand. Rane Stone started the show with a profound monologue, highlighting the recent loss of local legend, Joel Eggert, in a tragic motorcycle accident. The celebration of Joel’s life was set to occur the following day at Slim’s Last Chance Saloon, which Rane invited everyone to. He then went on to dedicate Klover Jane’s “Livin’ To Ride” to Joel, not just that night, but every time going forward. The band erupted into their trademark Gibson-laden, hard-as-steel rock-and-rolla set. As always, their sound was rich and full, leading the alcohol-fueled crowd into full-bore dancing and singing.
Rane later paused the show for a fiery personal motivation speech, explaining that tonight’s show wasn’t about Klover Jane, it was “about finding what is real and pure in your heart and fighting for it, no matter how difficult things get.” His personal motivation? The front-page controversy known as Standing Rock. The thing about Rane is that isn’t just giving it lip service. When he highlights the atrocities going on there, he’s committed not just to fundraising, but actually driving all the way to the Dakotas to help rebuild, repair, feed, protect and support the reservation’s residents. Volunteers circulated the room with large buckets in hand, accepting donations as Klover Jane played on. By the end of it, the audience was exhausted and the band in high spirits. It was definitely a memorable performance.
Note: Puddle of Mudd ended up not making it to the show on December 17th. Klover Jane provided an extended set and local band Stiff Spirit played an impromptu collection of rock on the Funhouse stage as the audience filtered out of the venue. In true stand up fashion, El Corazon announced that they would schedule a second show on January 8th with the same lineup. Purchased tickets would be honored at the next show or refunded entirely, fan choice. The Stiff Spirit and Puddle of Mudd review continued below stems from that second show.
For the January 8 make up concert, Stiff Spirit was added to the lineup as the opener. Headed up by Jason James (vox/rhythm guitar) and backlined by Ron Stoehr (lead guitar/vox), Larry Joireman (drums) and Darren Augenstein (bass), Stiff Spirit has been kicking their heavy, raspy, no-nonsense rock and roll around Seattle since 2012. Their punk-infused, pub-crawling, sloppy raw goodness was a good way to kick off the night. Drumming was fast but not fancy, while the bass playing would’ve made AC/DC fans smile between sips of PBR.
Dire Fire, Bryan Bach and Klover Jane’s repeat performances were as entertaining as their first. While the crowd grew in anticipation of Puddle of Mudd’s arrival, there was also a sense of nervousness that PoM would miss this one as well. Until late in the evening, there were whispers that Wes Scantlin wasn’t even onsite. Luckily, these worries were squashed when roadies finally began setting up PoM’s gear onstage.
Puddle of Mudd, led by said Wes Scantlin, has been a post-grunge mainstay since 1991 (wow, has it really been that long?). After their infamous signing with Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst, PoM’s career took off in the early 2000s with a series of hit singles that were critically acclaimed and often included on major motion picture soundtracks. Most of the fans in attendance probably already knew that as they were visibly pumped to see these guys. After a long musical intro, Wes took the stage and leaned into the microphone with both hands, staying there for most of the night. It was obvious from the start that their followers were here for their older material. When delivering familiar hits, the audience went nuts. When delivering their newer material, not so much.
There were also a handful of faux pas which made the show a little quirky – their playing to backing tracks, Wes not knowing when the Seahawks latest win occurred, and PoM returning to the stage for an encore before the crowd asked for it – but did any of this matter? It did not. The crowd was highly engaged and smiling throughout. Short people on the floor stood on their tip-toes while tall people frequently displayed devil horns. As PoM ripped through grungy song after grungy song, Wes did a good job channeling Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley’s grittiness and charisma. You could tell that this sound isn’t just relevant to this mob, it’s also timeless. That was what these fanatics wanted and that’s exactly what they got.