This week we celebrate the 15th year of one of Seattle’s favorite hometown labels: Barsuk Records! Since its birth in 1998, Barsuk has helped create a platform for dozens of great bands, from the Pacific northwest and otherwise, to get off the ground and put forth incredible music. Even in the decade and a half of growth, one thing that Barsuk has never lost is its family-style sentiment, and to celebrate its birthday, Barsuk planned out an incredible weekend of music, getting the whole gang back together for a hodgepodge of new and old Barsuk goodness. Each night, the label is tackling another neighborhood and bringing a full card of musical genius.
Friday night, Barsuk moved to the U-District for another sold out gig, this time at the Neptune. Tonight, John Roderick’s The Long Winters played through every note of their 2003 classic When I Pretend To Fall. Warming up the evening was one hell of an undercard. A reunion performance by Sunset Valley was followed by the live debut of Minor Alps, the duo of Matthew Caws (of Nada Surf) and Juliana Hatfield. Finally, David Bazan played an extra special set with the Passenger String Quartet. The Neptune was packed from beginning to end and there’s absolutely no question why. Tonight’ show was one for the Barsuk books.
Sunset Valley returned to Seattle for a night to remind us how infectious Herman Jolly’s pop tunes can be. Sunset Valley’s last Barsuk record Goldbank 78 Stock came out in 2004, but a couple years haven’t wiped the smile off of Jolly’s face. Each of these songs popped and simmered with spacey brightness, and even unfamiliar with some of the songs, the crowd loved every minute. A few hecklers were even asking for classics that band hadn’t prepped for. Jolly hinted at Barsuk releasing a full Sunset Valley digital discography, complete with b-sides and unreleased tracks sometime in the future. Closing with heavy-hitting favorite “Jackass Crusher”, Sunset Valley rounded out a reunion show with prestige and headed back to Portland for another reunion date.
“This is our first time playing in front of people” Matthew Caws opened up Minor Alps’ set. “Well… we played KEXP today… so I guess that was in front of people… but this has a more human vibe”. You certainly couldn’t tell it was his and Juliana Hatfield’s first time performing their songs together in the live setting. Minor Alps’ debut was divine. Opening with Nada Surf b-side “I Wanna Take You Home” (which featured Hatfield on the original recording) and moving on to material from their debut LP together Get There as well as some of Hatfield’s solo tracks like “Candy Wrappers”. Caws and Hatfield are both veteran songwriters at this point, so its no surprise that together they make incredible music. Continuing the evening’s delightful lineup, Minor Alps made their first live show a delight for everyone.
At this point, David Bazan is a Northwest legend. The founder of Pedro The Lion and the songwriter who has captured countless hearts with this deeply personal solo efforts came to the Neptune tonight with the help of the Passenger String Quarter to give a different view of his Barsuk material. Spanning from “How I Remember” off of the 2006 Fewer Moving Parts EP to plenty of material from his newest solo LP Strange Negotiations, Bazan played a divine set, complete with plenty of political jokes (he dedicated “Wolves At The Door” to anyone who didn’t vote for Initiative 522). And though fans in the audience probably loved Bazan just as much as The Long Winters, he had no problem playing the part of the hype man. “Everything up to this point tonight has been a nice, warm back massage”, Bazan said with subtlety, “but what’s next is hard intercourse, performed by John Roderick”. The crowd exploded with laughter. Barsuk’s family warm and fuzzy feelings were in no short supply tonight.
David Bazan & The Passenger String Quartet:
If you call yourself a Seattleite and you’ve never seen The Long Winters live before, you have lived a lie. John Roderick throws an insanely good show, and there’s no other way to put it. His priceless stage banter with Sean Nelson (“It’s nice to see that the whole balcony was reserved for past members of The Long Winters”) and his face-melting guitar antics could alone make the show more than worth your money. But tonight, playing all the way through his most loved record, with classics like “Scared Straight”, “Cinnamon”, and “Stupid”, there’s no way you couldn’t have fun at this show. But with the show sold out weeks in advance and every square inch of the Neptune chalk full with fans singing and dancing along, having a bad time certainly wasn’t the case for anyone here tonight. Roderick blasted through the record with a smile on his face, rocking out every number and interacting with the crowd at every moment along the way. The Long Winters threw Barsuk a party like none other.
The Long Winters:
Check back for more Barsuk 15 action this weekend!