Live Review: Short Run Beach Party at Washington Hall 11/15/2014

La Luz Soul Train

Volunteers Bryan Littlefield and Jessica Lopez start La Luz's soul train (All photos by Victoria Holt)

Washington Hall overflowed with creative energy on Saturday, November 15th at the Short Run Comix & Arts Festival, an annual event showcasing “almost 200 cartoonists, publishers, zinesters, authors, animators, and more.” The venue was packed to the brim with tables lined with artists and their wares, along with a bake sale, food trucks, a silkscreen lab, comic portraits, a treasure hunt, and poet Elissa Ball, roaming the venue creating improvised haikus. The festival is the focal point of a week dedicated to indie “comix” – a term for indie comics to distinguish themselves from the large scale companies like Marvel and DC – and self-published, small press.

The 2014 organizers were Eroyn Franklin, Kelly Froh, and Janice Headley, and Saturday night, they planned a beach-themed party to celebrate another fantastic year. The entertainment was provided by two Pacific Northwest surf greats, The Shivas and La Luz. What better music for a beach party? DJ Domenica from Hollow Earth Radio provided the tunes in between.

Portland band The Shivas got things rolling with their dreamy rock progressions. The crowd was great, dancing and moving around, not one still head in the room. The dancefloor felt open and relaxed, a welcome relief from the usual jam-packed vibe of Seattle clubs. Washington Hall’s ballroom was a beautiful setting for such broad, open sounds and happy, restless feet. The Shivas were super tight, each player taking the listener on wild tangents, then lining up perfectly with the rest of the band for a satisfying finish. They rolled and rocked, and we boogied.

Organizer Janice Headley and volunteer McKenna Haley dance to The Shivas

Members of La Luz dancing to The Shivas

Having only seen La Luz at small clubs and DIY venues, I’d never seen them work a room like Washington Hall. Their sound is equally fit for the dive-y, dark red club as it is for hardwood floors and bright white light. As their reverberant guitar and twangy bass filled the space, audience members were transported back in time, to a place where dancing was the focus. Built in 1908, the Hall has hosted some of the greats: Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, and even a young Jimi Hendrix. La Luz tapped into that old communal dancing, calling for a “soul train,” where a space is formed in the crowd, and people dance down the center two by two. At first only a few joined in, but by the end of the song it was overrun. One clever audience member mimicked the Short Run logo, laying on her back and reading a zine, to enormous cheers and laughter.

During another song, the band encouraged people to slow dance. What followed was a beautiful sight, friends and lovers twirling around the floor, basked in beach-fuzz and romantic harmonies. La Luz played most of the tracks from their debut album It’s Alive, as well as a few new ones.

After playing their popular single, “Call Me in the Day,” singer and guitarist Shana Cleveland looked somber. She said, “We almost died a year ago,” referring to the band’s terrifyingly close call between black ice and a semi on I-5. She continued, “So we couldn’t play Short Run. But we didn’t almost die this year, and here we are!” There was mixed applause, and she continued, “That song always makes me think of that semi crashing towards us…” and her bandmates quickly cut her off, teasing, “No, no, no…” They all laughed and agreed it was too heavy to dwell on. La Luz have picked things up and kept moving, even traveling to Iceland last week for Iceland Airwaves. Their melancholic harmonies and deeply resonating chords remind us to push onward, balanced always between the honest truth of life’s hardships and its joys. We might temporarily lose our way, but there’s always a light, la luz, at the end of the tunnel.

See the rest of the photos here.

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