photos by Chad Syme
review by Sheryl Witlen
The Bumbershoot lineup is so strained with heavy hitters that it might be a bit difficult for an innocent concert-goer to decide who to go see in three short days. Lucky for you-KEXP is here to direct your eager ears to Thao with The Get Down Stay Down. Formerly of Falls Church, Virginia, the foursome now calls the streets of San Francisco home and have been touring tirelessly since the release of their most recent record, We Brave Bee Stings and All, which hit shelves this past January care of Kill Rock Star records. Before breaking into their songs you should meet the band which consists of Adam Thompson on bass, Willis Thompson on drums, Frank Stewart on lead guitar and Thao Nguyen on vocals and guitar. Describing their sound as “tangles of guitar, knots of singing, threads of beat and thump make a rope fit for hauling the heavy machinery of your day” they could possibly be the most appreciative band currently on the scene. Don’t believe me, visit their blog where almost every entry is overflowing with affection and gratitude for their fans who have come out to see their shows, the bands they have played with and most of all, your clapping and loving hands. Gleeful, yes; foolish, no. Though armed with melodies and tempo’s that are on the lighter side of the spectrum they sing about heartbreak and the trials of relationships like the best of the moody swingers. Thao and company also find time to lend their support and attention to Oxfam America and us their public position for the betterment of mankind. This global sense of identity helped led her to find Willis Thompson who was studying Environmental Sciences and Music during their days at The College of William and Mary. Shortly after the pair found Adam Thompson who at the time was performing as a solo jazz artist, The OK Bird. Frank Stewart prior to completing the collective was working as a producer and his adept skills are apparent on their crisp and clever record that is deserving of all the airplay we have given it thus far.
Interview by Jamie H
After their performance at the uber-exclusive (not really, but it makes me feel special) live, on-air performance at the Music Lounge at Bumbershoot, I had a chance to chat a bit with Thao from Thao With The Get Down Stay Down. Thao was a student of Environmental Studies and Music during her time at The College of William and Mary and her band has a close relationship with Oxfam America, a non-profit organization who “addresses social injustice through advocacy, public education, and emergency assistance programs.”
Thao has a reputation for being goofy on and off stage and this interview was no let down — it started with her receiving a gift of a wall clock with her name on the faceplate and ended by her walking off with the wall clock around her neck, held by a string of white beads because she wanted to “do this Flavor Flav style.”
J: Tell me about Oxfam, how did you end up working with them?
T: Well, they approached us a few months ago wanting to create a whole concert outreach program. The guy who does that got in touch with us and asked if we’d consider participating in letting people table at our shows. We knew of them, but I wasn’t incredibly familiar with their work. We started researching and we met them at headquarters in Boston and we hung out with them all day and they were amazing. In the way that organization is run and the transparency it has and the levels of accountability and their mission is so amazing, so we totally wanted to accelerate beyond just having a table at our shows and now we’re pretty much doing whatever they want, like whatever seems to be helpful.
I, on a personal level, have always – well, what I studied in school and what I was going to do before music all centered around non-profit and social work so it is seriously an honor to be working with them because the things that these people do – you walk in and it’s like this brain trust of the most intelligent, compassionate people. I think, I mean, it all sounds kind of weird because what is it? But when you say we’re trying to end poverty, we’re trying to end social injustice on such realistic and comprehensive levels.
J: Yeah, it seems like the areas they cover are really specific, but fall over a broad in scope.
T: Sure, yeah, and it’s all with more sustainable agriculture and addressing climate change and stuff, but doing it, like, on a grassroots level and doing micro-financing for women, well all of it, they are just very realistic. I think it’s an amazing combination of realism and idealism that can affect change.
Catch Thao With The Get Down Stay Down at the Bumbershoot Broad Street stage at 4:00pm today.