Julia Massey and The Five Finger Discount – CD Release Party at The Sunset Tavern

Julia MasseyJulia Massey and The Five Finger Discount ~ CD Release ~ “Five Letters From Far Away”

~ with Yevtushenko, and The Glass Notes

Show review by Christa Fischer

As I approached the entrance of The Sunset Tavern, I could feel the energy surrounding my body increase. This was a particularly exciting night. The members of Julia Massey and the Five Finger Discount would soon be performing the album they had released earlier that day. Band members backstage were quiet, celebratory but mellow, resting their voices, warming up their muscles, and staring, expressionless yet deep in thought. Their focused preparation seemed to be tempering the electric energy already stirring in the air, keeping it under control until they were ready to release it…

Soon the first band Yevtushenko was ready. Front woman Amber Shine started out the show with a long deep breath of sound created on her cigar box synth, and in that yawning moment, the crowd woke up and moved toward the stage. It didn’t take long for this bold indie rock trio to get people moving. Yevtushenko’s sound is robot electric but still Seattle organic, the message of the music is simple yet complex, Shine’s vocals are clear and bright and her stage presence is engaging… yet, the music mostly reminds me of shadows. It’s a sound that should do well in a city like ours with similar traits. At moments I am reminded of Blondie, other moments herald a hint of what I can only call Judaic Punk. Guitarist Jeff Bazz is like a machine that plays a mixture of tight rhythms, fluid chords, and well placed leads while drummer Jeremiah Johnson is the heavy groovy glue that holds this dichotomous venture together. The audience was ready for some dancing by the time they finished playing. I look forward to seeing this band again and getting to know their repertoire.

The Glass Notes were next to take the stage and as they set up, people started gathering even closer in anticipation. I have seen this band a few times and really enjoy the energy and passion that they bring to their powered-up high energy rock. The songs start with Jake Uitti’s delectable poems which are changed into lyrics and brought into a kind of “after life” by way of Robb Benson’s rich, melodic vocals and long admired song writing skills. Then Uitti gets to revisit his words in their new musical form and add his own sublime bass riffs. These two elements are woven perfectly into the powerful beats of drummer Perry Morgan and from there it is all embellished brightly with the innate and intrinsic lifts and falls of Tim Dijulio’s rock hard rock guitar. I have seen this band a couple of other times and from the very start of The Glass Note’s  set I saw an even more connected and much tighter band than I had seen last, which is significant since the bar was set pretty high. They started out their set with strength and quickly took things to a higher level, feeding off the energy of the crowd without hesitation. I felt like I was seeing a band that is dedicated to the craft of evolving and getting ready to take on more by honing their sound and their live show and responding to the cues of their fans. They have already been well received by local airwaves and the local music grapevines for their recent release “As the Building Crumbles”. It is good to see that they are hungry for what’s next because so are their fans.

It was just about time for the highlight of the evening and the air was thick with the excitement of the last two acts and the anticipation of the headlining band Julia Massey and The Five Finger Discount.  Massey is a long time singer-songwriter, keyboardist, and guitarist with a voice like the rays of the sun, lyrics that inspire and ignite, and songs that flow so cosmically kinetic it’s like being present at the birth of a star. Multi-instrumentalist Geoff B. Gibbs is technically “the bass player”, however, he plays many different roles in this band. His gorgeously crafted bass lines are so seamless it’s like he’s dreaming it all up for us on the spot with some sort of gleeful old-world magic. Drummer Dominic Cortese plays such danceable, moving, heart-felt beats that it is nearly impossible to stay in your seat. When you put this talented trio together, the chemistry, composition, and delivery of this band’s cutting edge, cosmically rooted pop rock is really something to behold. This band has a child-like heart but these songs are all grown up. The lyrics bring to mind lifetimes of love and loss, and the musicians know how to carry a listener to the highest heights. Additionally, with brilliant foresight JM+FFD introduced their fans to the songs on “Five Letters From Far Away” almost immediately after releasing their last album “Is There Room For Me?” in the Fall of 2010. The result was a room full of fans who knew most of the songs on the new album, looked forward to having recordings, and couldn’t wait for this moment. The chanting started… It was time…

The band walked out on stage and all that energy they were tempering started to rise up from the ground. From start to finish, their performance of these newly released songs was steadfast and focused in a way that perfectly showcased their capacity for greatness. They opened with the high energy, driving “Top 100” and the crowd was instantly mesmerized and singing along. Their fans delighted in precise and powerful performances of the vibrant, melodic “Orbiter”, the groovy, hypnotic “Sri Ma”, and the well crafted and resonant “Marquee Malarkey”. With the opening rim hits of “Don’t Worry About Us” the audience was pressed even closer to the performers. The sound exploded, bouncing off the dancing crowd and then back up to the stage. “Back Door Open” kept the crowd floating around weightless and smiling and pulsating to Gibb’s fluttering and breezy bass lines.

Then, the crowd accepted the invitation to come back down to Earth for a moment to move and sway to the minor chords and gorgeous progressions of “Song of the Dying”. Then Massey did what she does best. First she reminded us that the darkness of life is all about balance with her solid and eternal song “Who Silently Suffers” and then she picked us all up by our hearts and escorted us on an adventure into the soul with heartfelt “There is a Song”. The sleigh bells at the end felt like they came too soon… They felt like a soft twinkling signal that we were nearing the end of this incredible night of music. Sure enough, we now faced the star-gazey “Outro” as a long lovely bittersweet goodbye… for now… Gibbs and Cortese moved out of the lights and Massey took her place center stage with her acoustic guitar to sing us one final lullaby, “Here is a Stone Wall”. If there was a dry eye at that moment, I can assure you it wasn’t mine.

– Christa Fischer

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