Happy Birthday, Happy Day of the Dead, Julia Massey, Please Forget Me

Julia Massey and the Five Finger DiscountOn Saturday, November 5th, I had two obligations. First, there was a birthday party at the Skylark Cafe for Troy Nelson of the Young Evils. I certainly didn’t have to stop by, but he’d been kind enough to buy a book so I figured it was the decent thing to stop in and wish him a happy one and say thanks. The other thing was at The Crocodile. Julia Massey and the Five Finger Discount were playing for the Croc’s Dia De Los Muertos celebration. I’d met Julia once before, and like Troy, she’d been kind enough to buy a book. I thought, thus, to stop by and catch her band and if I liked them, perhaps jot down a few kind words about the show.

And I did.

I went from the Skylark (“Happy Birthday”) to the Crocodile (“Happy Day of the Dead”) where I had a beer and a gifted shot from the bass player of Sightseer who was there to see the opener, Goat. Julia was second on the bill so another beer and gifted shot later, she took the stage with Geoff B. Gibbs (bass) and Dominic Cortese (drums), and there were light bouncy chords on the piano and some clicking of sticks and cymbols before the rhythm came in and the bodies in the audience that were not scribbling in notebooks moved to the beat. They label themselves as cosmic folk rock, and it’s an apt description. They do use distortion sometimes, but as an effect, not for the overall tone.

Julia Massey and the Five Finger DiscountThey’re poppy and a little spacey. They look like they feel good up on the stage, even when dressed appropriately for Dia De Los Muertos, and that vibe comes through to the audience where it mixes with the beers and the gifted shots that somehow keep coming as I write things like “cool slap groove … big chords in the middle … little bass solo!” during a song called “Back Door Open”. The bass is a driving element in the band, and Gibbs is quite good at taking a dominant role but not overshadowing the others. They mix their sounds well. Massey’s voice echoes much of Regina Spektor, especially on tracks like “Aghodoe” which in moments also reminds me of Pink Floyd’s “High Hopes” in the progression underneath her plea, “Please forget me.”

Please forget me? Can’t do it, Julia.

Julia Massey and the Five Finger DiscountAt the end of “Aghodoe”, another shot arrives for me, and I’m glad I’m taking a taxi tonight, glad I can let the drinks mix with the goodness of songs like “Skatepark” (my favorite) and “Is There Room For Me?” A drunk guy attaches himself to me, asks about the book and how it’s doing, questions that I would normally be happy to answer, but in the moment, I want to listen to that vibe on the stage that makes me feel good like anything labeled “cosmic” should.

The bass goes on, at times distorted, at times on an electric upright with a bow. The gifted shots stop coming so I buy my own, tequila, and give a toast to the band as Julia sings, “You can do whatever you want …” Indeed. The music does give me high hopes, and no matter the pleas in the middle and end of a certain song, I definitely cannot forget it.

After the show, I go backstage, and there are pictures taken of the band. Gibbs shows me his effects board and lets me play his bass a little, and I get the idea that I should do this after every show I like. And later, in the back of a taxi on the way back to the Skylark for more birthday wishes and shots, I think, yes, I will definitely write a few kind words about Julia’s band.

Julia Massey and the Five Finger Discount


Photos by Sandy Lane. More photos here.


Dave O’Leary is a writer and musician living in Seattle. The Music Book, his second novel, was published by Booktrope in September 2014. In addition to writing for Northwest Music Scene, he has also had work published in The Monarch Review and on Slate.com. Visit his website at http://www.daveoleary.net. Photo by Stacy Albright, stacyalbrightimages.com.

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