Saturday Afternoon Artist – Pigeonhed


“I cannot wait anymore, without you coming here. I cannot wait any longer… So carry on.”

Pigeonhed, one of those elusive, untouchable bands who you love but have never seen play.  In a city filled with mega-talented rock bands, my heart can’t help but gravitate to the Prince-ified falsetto of Shawn Smith in this vintage Seattle electronic band.  Since I found their CD “The Full Sentence”, dusty in the stacks on my night shift at KCMU, they have been my favorite local band.

Not just Shawn’s voice grabs me, but the keys and loops (credited to both Shawn Smith and local musical legend Steve Fisk) have a grainy darkness. The beats are cut roughly and each has a suspended, plodding hit…

There’s a stunning lightness to Shawn Smith’s voice when it enters the electronic urbanscape of these instruments.  Their music calls to me like a grainy black and white photo taken in a blackened basement, just after someone has thrown open the door at the top of the stairs.

The lyrics.  I can’t even tell what all of them are. But the chants hit me somewhere visceral.   The polished ruffness of the sound makes it even more real.

Shawn Smith is one of this city’s finest singers.  His work with Brad (a rock band with Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard), Satchel and his solo stuff are all top-notch, but Pigeonhed is by far my favorite.   He seems less as if he’s watching himself.  In these songs he lets it all go.

Much as I love this band, I was resigned to never seeing them live. They broke up in the early 00s.   We have their very last CD in the record library here at KEXP. It says “For KCMU”, written in Sharpie.  And it has one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard – “Mirror Mirror” on it.  This 5-song disc was never sold in stores.  On Shawn Smith’s website it says that there were signed and unsigned versions of this limited edition CD (50 copies worldwide) that were given away to the first 50 people to order Steve Fisk’s album “999 Level of Undo” from Sub Pop.

The most popular song Pigeonhed has is “Battleflag”, most likely because of the Lo-Fidelity All Stars remix that appeared on many soundtracks, including the “Sopranos”.

I’m hoping that they play the original, not just cause it’s an amazing song, but also I can’t wait to see Shawn Smith drop all these mf bombs.  (Parental discretion is advised.)

They’ve been my favorite local band for over a decade. So I am thrilled to tell you that  Pigeonhed is reuniting for “Tips for Tap” a benefit for U.N.I.C.E.F. this Sunday at Neumo’s!  Wayne Horvitz is headlining.  Since it is a “school night” I got the set times for you.  Like Lightning plays at 9, Volcano Diary at 9:45, Wayne Horvitz at 10:30 and Pigeonhed at 11. With secret guests after that…

When I found out my favorite local band was reuniting, I knew there was no way I’d miss this show. But it made it even better to hear that proceeds from this concert go to bringing clean drinking water to developing countries.  So I’ve offered to MC the show and will see you there…

Michele Myers spins on KEXP 90.3FM every Saturday from 3-6pm, and on our sister NPR station in NYC – WNYE 91.5FM on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 6-9am.  She also produces and writes KEXP Documentaries.

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One Comment

  1. Vicki Lambert
    Posted May 13, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    I am only new to pigeonhed… i totally love the sound, lots of new fuson, lots of soul, a touch of funk. I hope shawn smith continues in this venue…reminds me a lot of a brian eno mix coupled with curtis mayfield. I am 11 years older than this man but i would totally marry him. tell him for me please. I’ll come to seattle from tennessee anytime.



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