Oh, Messy Life: Problems and Other Voices

by Ben Funkhouser

There are many high school age bands around our community, often putting the most work into maintaining it. However, not a lot of these bands can really pull of the creativity and angsty pop genius of Problems. Starting as a garage rock duo, they evolved over the last year into a full sounding lo-fi punk-pop trio. Adding Bryce Woodcock on bass, Skyler Ford and Jagger Beato began writing songs that were super danceable with howls over the thundering and steady but totally funky basslines, while the guitar meandered off to play a melody high on the neck, drums steady in the back. But times change, and Bryce is headed to college in Oregon, signaling the end of Problems. They’re playing a few last shows, like one last night.

Problems
Problems

They borrowed one of the touring bands bass amps, a giant 6 foot monster cab, which seemed like it could create enough noise to knock over a house. Instead of overpowering the other instruments though, Woodcock’s basslines were clearer and prevalent, providing ample background for Ford to move around with, creating what has been described to be a “dancey-teen-angst-mess party.” That is not so far from the truth. Problems were and are an amazing local band, though not many got to see them. They have a few more shows left, one at the Funhouse, and a potential show with Woodsist buzz band Ganglians.

Also playing a rare and maybe last for a long time show was Olympia band Outdoor Voices. This trio, a close group of friends, is also a super beautiful sort of shoegazy-indie rock band. Two of the three also play in Desolation Wilderness, which sort of gives an idea why this band doesn’t play a lot, Desolation is leaving for months of touring in a week or so, and the dudes can’t physically be two places at once. Outdoor Voices songs are long and well set up. The first time I heard them, was a live recording of a song called “It’s Curtains,” which totally blew me away. The voice was almost indistinguishable, but the two guitars playing with noise and delay but still both being super present and heavy, proved to me how great this band was, I could the subtle nuances of their songs, in a poorly recorded live setting. Seeing them for the first time last night further enforced my notions of their ability to musically be two places at once. As one guitar plays a melody with tons of effect, the other one chugs away at the base chords, All the while, drummer Stephie Cristol shows her increased aptitude at playing the drums, she gets better every time I see her, not to say she wasn’t good the first time, but she certainly has improved since I saw her in 2007 with Tacoma hardcore band Gnostics.

Outdoor Voices
Outdoor Voices at the Olympia Artwalk

They played last at around 1AM, when everyone was super tired. But they pulled off an amazing set and somehow got the lethargic crowd dancing and moving again. Starting with the slower jam “Its Curtains,” where one of the guitar players, Gordon Baker sings, then moving the mic for a faster but less poppy song that reminded me a little bit of the Swirlies, in the sense that it was really beautiful, but totally over driven and way reverbed out. As the set progressed, they got to their last song pretty quickly, sung by Cristol. Having never heard her sing before I heard the recording of the last song, I was in awe at how beautiful her voice was. Their last song, “Colors” was like if Tiger Trap had two crazy guitar players and went super nuts while playing, like a shoegazey punk jam that Heather from Beat Happening would have written. One of the guitars played heavy sounding chords in the progression while the other played a delayed riff high up, then moving into a clear, driven verse for Cristol to sing a super pretty and heartfelt lyric, then moving back into chaos, then settling down. At the end, they built up the noise and fell into a Nirvana cover, not too seriously though. Although your chances of getting to see this band out of Olympia are slim, it is totally worth it to go to their myspace and listen to “Colors” in all its glory.

Seattle DIY’s annual celebration/festival/workshop/best part of the year is coming up, the fourth Carousel Festival is the last weekend of August. The point of Carousel is to bridge the gaps between the people and music in our beautiful scene and community, and to celebrate that scene and community through three days of music art, friends and workshops. Three day passes get you into 6 shows, one each day in the morning and at night, seeing tons of regional bands and activities. They are 17 dollars, and as tradition goes, all the money will go to Hollow Earth Radio and Urban Rest Stop.

Notable performers are: Strong Killings, See Me River, Why I Must Be Careful, Kidcrash, Helms Alee, Partman Parthorse, Weekend, Dennis Driscoll, Purple Rhinestone Eagle and Feral Children.

Hope to see everyone there.

Ben Funkhouser is a former KEXP programming intern turned weekly columnist. He his column, Oh, Messy Life, will focus strictly on the all-ages music in Seattle. He also is the booking assistant at the Vera Project and writes for Public Access Media.

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