review by Jason Kinnard
photos by Alex Crick
My ears are still wrecked from a hot night of music at Neumo’s on Friday at the sold out John in the Morning at Night show. I’ve never left a single one of these shows disappointed and this year was no exception. In years past ,these have always been amazing shows to highlight up and coming bands, introducing us to acts such as Vampire Weekend, Maps, and Jamie T. The line-up this year was definitely intriguing when I first saw the show announced; I could only begin to imagine how a high-energy band like United States of Electronica was going to blend with a headier band like Iran and vice versa. Then again; isn’t that eclectic mix what KEXP is all about? I love the mixed bill. I don’t know why more shows aren’t like this.
The evening started pretty much on schedule, ast the on-stage action coordinated with the live broadcast seemed to go off without a hitch. DJ Michele Myers got the party started with her infectious energy, dancing her way around the back of Neumo’s where the live broadcast station was set-up. The fact that the show was being broadcast live just seemed to add another cool element to the evening; it was almost like we were all at a secret party that everyone was trying to get into. Ha Ha, suckers! As soon as DJ Michele announced local opening act Throw Me The Statue, the place went nuts and the party was on. Alex and I were right up front for all the action!
In addition to being the hottest ticket in town, it also happened to be one of the hottest nights of the year so far in Seattle. The inside of Neumo’s quickly became a sweatbox as the crowd was just starting to fill in for local band Throw Me The Statue. This was my first time hearing the new material live and there was a lot of it that I liked: straightforward synth-pop. They sounded fantastic turned up on their brand new amps and set the bar high for the rest of the bands who were to follow. Next up was highly anticipated Brooklyn band Iran.
Iran had the most interesting stage set-up of the evening, a wooden chair in the middle of the stage next to a stand-up microphone stand and a full on rock band. I was excited to hear how the new material from Dissolver would sound live. Aaron Aites had a mesmerizing presence on-stage as he shifted from sitting to standing. Turns out the song that had me blown away though wasn’t from their new album at all but was their lead off song “We Could Go Away For a While” from their 2002 album, The Moon Boys. That was some of the sickest guitar work I’ve heard in a long time and it fit absolutely perfect with Aaron’s vocals. Hearing that right up front with the guitarist was a treat; my ears were luckily still intact at that point. They finished their short seven song set with favorites like “Buddy,” “Evil Summer,” and “I Already Know You’re Wrong” from their new album. A nice mellow set by Iran: what a perfect segue-way into Electronica.
In contrast, U.S.E brought the dance party to JITMAN. First of all, you have to respect any band that brings their own letters to a show, in this case giant white letters complete with white Christmas tree lights, letting you know the party is about to get started. U.S.E also brings their own beautiful singing/dancing girls who had no problems whipping the crowd into a frenzy as the band played their unique mix of dancey synth pop, complete with vocoder lyrics, multiple percussionists, and keyboards. It all went off without a hitch until the lead keyboard station went completely dead with only two songs left to play. The band improvised well but it didn’t help the near full capacity crowd from sweating any less. The place was dripping at this point as the stage was puddled with water and littered with empty water bottles and half empty gin & tonics. Confetti was being blasted everywhere. The band played a couple more songs to end their set and the stage was finally set for the headliner, Pela.
At this point, the crowd inside Neumo’s was packed like sardines, the place was buzzing and it wouldn’t be long before the boys from Pela took the stage. Everything and everyone was sweating at this point. We were in fact live on the air, with the clock ticking down, so luckily they don’t waste any time getting set up. John soon introduced the band and each band member gave him a giant hug before they took their spots on stage. The last time I saw Pela was at their epic 2007 KEXP BBQ appearance, so I was definitely excited to see them play again and hear some of the new songs. Anyone who saw them that day at the BBQ definitely left as a fan. One thing was for certain, Billy loves KEXP and it felt good to hear him complimenting the station and calling the city “blessed” for having it. Seattle and New York have a strange sort of connection with music, and Seattle and Pela seem to have an even stronger bond. As soon as Billy grabbed the microphone and screamed “Seattle!” the crowd roared to life and it was clear they were ready to rock. They were who everyone was here to see. This is also when I discovered not bringing earplugs was probably a bad decision. This was big anthem rock coming straight at you, right in your face. I was merely inches from the action, and not much further away from the amplifiers either. Standing in front of the fantastic guitarist Nate Martinez was a mind-blowing experience and I loved every ear numbing minute of it. The band ripped through 14 or 15 songs of pure American rock including classics from their wonderful first album, Anytown Graffiti, and new songs like “Augustine” and “Juarez” from their upcoming album. They finished the night with a quick encore (no time to waste when it’s live on the air!) and confetti canons marked the finale as the group posed for a bow. We love you too, Pela. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for next year.