Visqueen is a great example of taking the fuzzy base of frenetic pop punk and chugging it up with real soul and storytelling. Rachel Flotard’s long-running Seattle band astonished critics and kids last year with Message to Garcia an expansive, confessional full-length created out of love for her recently passed away father and crafted between bouts of brimstone-shooting mini-tours and generous overseas charity work.
Flotard is boss all on her own, but she’s always willing to give back and a little more to the needy in the music scene and out. (The deeply giving character of Flotard’s personal activism also shows up in her collaborations with local performers like local children’s music maker Brian Vogan, her sweet vocals perfectly matching his on the opening track “How To Fly” on his brand new album, Sing A Little Song.)
But it’s in Visqueen’s rip-it-up live performances that you get to see Flotard burn the brightest, with a talent that NPR’s Stephen Thompson perfectly describes as a combination of “Neko Case meets Joan Jett.” ‘Nuff said.
The Music Lounge was as full as it had been all day as Flotard and Visqueen took the stage. On stage it was Flotard playing guitar and singing, Cristina Bautista playing bass and singing backup vocals, and Barb Hunter on electric cello. They started off with “Hand Me Down”, the first track off Message to Garcia, and then continued with “Tall Grass”, “Summer Snow”, and “Beautiful Amnesia.” Every song was carried by Flotard and Bautista’s voices, with Hunter’s cello providing a sustained foundation. The story of their performance was Flotard’s stage presence and between-song banter. She is truly an amazing personality and it felt like she was just a fan up on stage, enjoying everything right along with us. She made fun of her mane of red hair, as well as the odd Plexiglas screen set up in front of the drums all day, which she dubbed the “sneeze guard.” She was quick-witted, interactive with the audience, and even opened the floor up to a Q & A at the end of one song. The performance felt more like a laid-back evening with Flotard, which was accentuated with Visqueen songs. She had the entire venue smiling and laughing from start to finish, and could have put the whole comedy tent to shame.
After playing “Beautiful Amnesia,” they played “Ward”, one of the catchiest songs off Message to Garcia, before ending the set with “So Long” a heartfelt, emotional, and affecting song to her father that only featured Flotard’s beautifully crystalline voice and Hunter’s melancholy cello. Though this was a change of pace from the bubbly power pop they had played up to that point, it was the most transfixing song they played, and you could have heard a pin drop in the Music Lounge.