Audioasis live at The Sunset: Hannah Levin with Don, Julia & El Toro
review by Chris Estey
Brian Barr, refulgent music editor of The Seattle Weekly, along with the rest of their supremely talented writing and design staff, planned to brave the oncoming fall weather of October 5, 2008, and scheduled a one day Seattle music festival for the date. Everything turned out fine — blessed with a day of fairly warm wind and no wetness in the air, REVERBfest joyfully dominated club-row in legendary old town Ballard (one of the best areas in Seattle to hang out anyway, with all its great bars, restaurants, Sonic Boom Records, etc.) from 3 PM Saturday to very early Sunday morning.
Still a pup of a music gathering and seeming like a much friendlier younger brother to the much wilder and woolier Stranger Block Party (hey, Sound Magazine, when’s YOUR festival happening?), REVERBfest drew eager crowds to witness groups like Mono in VCF, Onry Ozzborn & The Gigantics, Team Gina, Grayskul, and Black Whales. I was able to catch some bands I’ve been meaning to enjoy for a while and hang out with the incandescent creators of the high quality alt-weekly SW and so much beamy local talent it made my head spin. Or maybe that was from drinking swell-tasting Canadian brew from Kokanee, one of the sponsors of the event.
High-points for me were hanging out at the Sunset with friendly and funny roots veteran Herman Jolly (ex-Sunset Valley) and getting a copy of the debut from his new group, Little Pieces – the warm sounds of which settled my soused nerves on the way home last night. I also caught Jolly’s wife’s band, Hazelwood Motel, amid a packed and attentive crowd filling the Conor Byrne pub. Megan Pickerel (sister to Mark) was in Portland shoegaze band Swoon 23 at the end of the last decade, and she has carried a moony sweetness into the pensive small town tenement laments of band-mate and fellow front-person Ed Vierda. From the adorably semi-serious look on her face, she seemed happy to connect with the daytime audience. An unceremoniously relaxed Vierda admitted he wasn’t used to entertaining in this amount of sunshine (such as it was peaking through the leaves blowing outside). During the set, Pickerel delightfully played a weird old keyboard to flavor the mood swinging of tracks like “Break Myself In Two” and “My Demon.” Tempos changed greatly and third part of the trio, Patrick Smail, shifted from delicate syncopation to bash and roll with ease, charging up some pretty sobering reflections from what can imagine is the damaged but determined life of Ed Vierda.
After a few more beers, I headed over to catch Sage back at the Sunset, a band I’d seen a few times back in the day. (They can be found here on a somewhat uninformative website — http://www.imekka.com/sage/ — don’t mix them up with a jam band back on the East Coast.) Guy Davis (bass and vocals), Marc Olsen (guitar and vocals) ,and drummer Mike Williamson were part of the seminal alternative prog-rock scene, along with Sky Cries Mary, in the Seattle underground before and during what we like to call “grunge.” Sage seems even slicker now, as if they’ve been practicing relentlessly since then, and bass-lines that once had a tumescent post-punk quality now seemed serpentine and jazzy beyond the rock framework. Sage’s long set inspired much adoration from the crowd, and one has to wonder if a prog revival is right around the corner.
At 6 PM, KEXP DJ Hannah Levin kicked off the first ever live Audioasis broadcast at the Sunset (here’s to many more) with a band she lovingly introduced, Tad Doyle’s Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, which featured his lady Peggy on bass, and he immediately showed he’d lost none of his power or flair for the psych-drenched big beat. Whilst some people have been claiming a complete throw-back to bands like Pink Floyd, Tad knows his pre-Black Flag SST distribution catalogue, tapping into a terrific combination of expansive mid-70s independent space rock influences (Hawkwind, for example) and raging, technically-enhanced metal. Tad and Peggy confessed a love for underrated Canadian metal-evolutionaries Voivod after the show, and that sort of art-music-on-steroids approach seemed to storm the Sunset for only a brief exasperating moment before we all fell down besides ourselves. Bravo! Bring on more, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth!
Seattle Weekly’s Reverb Fest ’08 – Tad Doyle Interview
Afterwards, I headed over to the Tractor Tavern for See Me River before the deep-drinking and rabid socialization with my sparkling ex-boss Matt Sullivan (of Light In The Attic Records, still my favorite label even if they no longer have me on the payroll) and his gorgeous girlfriend Jennifer Maas (of Evil Bunny Films, still working on the Wheedle’s Groove soul-funk-in-60s/70s-Seattle documentary, which ought to be awesome) caught up with me. In full disclosure, I will admit of being See Me River’s co-publicist (with the wonderful Ashley Graham of Wig PR), and I will refrain from inappropriately slobbering over my own client here (though they make me feel like I’d love to), but I should note that Ms. Levin made it over to see them as well, and I’m sure her schedule was very tight last night, and the venue itself was very well and happily filled. Leaving it at that, I will let my comrade Noah Sanders report his own thrills for the fantastic musical value that is Seattle Weekly’s REVERBfest!