Oh, Messy Life: Desolation Wilderness

by Ben Funkhouser

I showed up to the best named house in the city. (Hint: it’s from Squidbillies.) There weren’t a ton of people there. Right away, Desolation Wilderness‘ handsome and well dressed frontman, Nic Zwart, seemed a little worried about the crowd. Who could blame him, the band was about to embark on a national tour, and they needed funds. But as the show started, people started to show up.


Wisconsin’s Panda Teeth played first. He spent about 30 minutes setting up in the living room of the house, a huge cabinet speaker, a head, facing him, a table covered in pedals and a p.a. system, with microphones under a floor tom and some cymbals, lastly, a keyboard setup with a delay pedal. He began looping simple beats with his mouth, the drums and some more abrasive keyboard sounds. Considering how many bands there are that use loops, Panda Teeth was extraordinary simply because he could time his loops perfectly. As the set went on, he got more comfortable, making really beautiful songs that would turn around and slap the listener right in the face for zoning out too much. As I said, there are many likeminded bands around these days, but instead of creating warm tropical soundscapes, as is the hip thing to do now, Panda Teeth made his songs a lot more dense and powerful. He toured from the boonies in Wisconsin with Farms.


Farms had some weird recordings on their myspace. I wasn’t sure what to expect. They set up in the basement. Drums, a keyboard and guitar through a huge Marshall stack. They started with a reverbed guitar jam, which almost seemed like a warm up. After about 3 minutes of that, the guitarist started to play keyboard instead. The set started getting better and better, stopping only twice for the whole next 25 minutes. Their sound was startlingly easy to describe, but they went about creating it in an entirely unorthodox manner. Using a keyboard to play hyper-fast, powerful math rock is not anything I’ve ever seen before. It ruled. It totally ruled. As they got more comfortable, the songs got faster, the drum fills got crazier and the keyboard lines began to stray from the original patterns. They ended with what would have been a fade out. Go to their myspace, say “HEY YOU GIMME YER SPLIT WITH PANDA TEETH ASAP.” Trust me, its super good.

Christmas is Olympia’s most hyped non-K recs band. For good reason: Jake Jones, of Moon Runners fame plays drums. Other than that, these are all kids who haven’t had bands that I’ve heard of, but damn they came together fast and rocketed off. Christmas combines the simplicity that is usually over looked in the now often referenced surf style with sassy excellent female vocals. There isn’t any noise in this band, just rad excitable surfy garage punk. This band has all the fun energy of a sloppy beach party, somehow managing to keep the chaos in just enough control to sound awesome. Guitarist Pat Scott-Welsh crowd surfed under the 6 foot ceiling while playing his guitar. Singer Emily Beanblossom had the facial expression of Black Flag era Henry Rollins but wasn’t limited to that. It was a total wild dance party. This band has a 7″ coming out on Endless Latino records, known for putting out notables like Shearing Pinx, seeing this band is imperative. They’ll be playing Seattle on the 26th of September with Moon Runners. You have to be there.


Headlining the show was Olympia’s Desolation Wilderness. Having just put out their second full length LP on K Records, Desolation is touring the country, and then Europe. This was one of the first shows of the tour. They play a surfy beautiful dream pop, heavy on the pop. They seemed tired, but about 30 seconds into their first song, I see guitarist Ben Kapp totally rocking out, playing dream pop. Which is totally hilarious, cause it looks like he would be playing Judas Priest or something. They start to get into it; new bassist Gordon Baker clearly really knows his shit, they sound awesome. At a basement show, sometimes sound is sacrificed to the setting, and in the beginning, it was. But then Kapp turned up his delay pedal, increased the volume and completely shredded this super pretty riff that played off the vocal part and melted into the songs. You’ll have many opportunities to see this band in the next few months after tour, you’d be a fool not to.

Sept 12th — HEALTH, Past Lives at Vera
Sept 20th — Team Dresch, Erase Errata, Telepathic Liberation Army at Vera

Ben Funkhouser is a former KEXP programming intern turned regular 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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