Freakout Fest 2017, Day 1: Bombay Beach, Strawberry Mountain, Battleme, My Goodness, Spesh, BlackWater HolyLight

Battleme // photo by Jake Hanson

Battleme // photo by Jake Hanson

Reports from Kaitlin Frick (KF), Dusty Henry (DH), Gabe Pollak (GP)

Battleme

If there was a showmanship award to be handed out at Freakout, Battleme would be a top contender. The Portland rock outfit gleefully indulged in the audience from the stage at Tractor Tavern. Lead vocalist Matt Drenik prowled the stage, possessed and hellbent on raising the stakes. His presence was as big as the music, hitting harder with each track. The band’s energy was palpable in the room, never showing a sign of letting up throughout the performance. (DH)

Bombay Beach // photo by Jake Hanson

Bombay Beach // photo by Jake Hanson

Bombay Beach

On their Bandcamp page, Bombay Beach describe their music as “Band, adjective.” While they obviously have a sense of (slacker) humor, I might suggest a rewrite. Maybe  “cacophonous post-punk for the end of days,” or “frenzied future delirium.” Or to borrow from one of their song titles, “new American rage.” However you describe the Portland trio’s sound, chances are they’ve torn through two songs in the time it took you to do so. They powered through ten songs during their 27-minute set at Conor Byrne Pub Friday night, which consisted mostly of material from their 2016 full-length debut, Death Tape.

Bombay Beach // photo by Travis Trautt

photo by Travis Trautt

Comprised of Ryan Lynch on guitars and vocals, Matt Zimmerman on bass and vocals, and Jeremiah Hayden on drums and vocals, the power trio seems like a tight-knit, egalitarian group, at ease with each other on stage yet slightly detached from their audience. While Lynch and Zimmerman alternated vocals throughout much of the set, their delivery was most effective when they shout-sang in unison. The trio previewed at least one new tune during their set, so fans can rest assured there is more new rage from these guys just around the corner. (KF)

Spesh // photo by Jake Hanson

Spesh // photo by Jake Hanson

Spesh

It’s difficult to dance and take notes at the same time. That was my biggest takeaway from Spesh’s uptempo show at the Sunset on Friday night. The Seattle four-piece, previously known as Boyfriends, put on a short, but sweet set that made it hard to stand still, particularly if you were a fan of 80s alternative. Some songs exhibited the light, bouncy touch of Scottish indie-pop charmers Orange Juice, while others sounded like The Replacements covering The Cure.

Most importantly, the band sounded incredibly tight. Spesh ran through their eight-song set without so much as a pause between most songs, making it easy for the crowd to get — and stay in — the groove. The only hiccup happened when drummer Ian Dugas broke his snare drum. As he scrambled backstage for a replacement, guitarist Sergio Mirazo filled the silence with a little Fleetwood Mac. Then it was back to the show, and back to the dancing.

Spesh // photo by Jake Hanson

photo by Jake Hanson

Every part of the music marshaled the crowd to move. The beats were fast, the basslines propulsive. Mirazo played perfectly (and subtly funky) guitar licks, reminiscent of Talking Heads. And if the crowd needed any further inspiration to dance, they needed only look to singer Michael McKinney. He twirled and sang onstage, providing inspiration for others to join in and bounce around.

Notwithstanding the broken drum, there was only one problem with the set. And it really only became apparent after Spesh finished playing and you wanted to hear more. Apart from their couple releases as Boyfriends, Spesh have yet to release any music, meaning that the only way to experience the group’s current material would be to see them live. Then again, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing. (GP)

My Goodness

My Goodness // photo by Jake Hanson

My Goodness

My Goodness delivered a confident, 60 minute-long set to wrap up day one of the Tractor’s Freakout festivities. Playing mostly new material from this year’s Scavengers release, they also sprinkled in a few old favorites, along with a timely tribute to Tom Petty. Their plodding rendition of “You Don’t Know How it Feels,” (previously released on their Islands EP), was one of the more downtempo songs of the band’s set, sounding more like a funeral dirge than a celebration of life.

The highlight of their set was the ever-catchy “Silver Lining.” This truly hook-filled, habit-forming song showcases everything we’ve come to expect from the Seattle outfit: a blazing, looping blues-rock guitar riff, propulsive drums, a hummable melody, and expansive vocals that showcase lead singer Joel Schneider’s subtle Malkmus-like warbles.

My Goodness

photo by Jake Hanson

A special shout-out goes out to the artist creating psychedelic liquid projections that served as a spaced-out visual backdrop for the evening. Ranging from kaleidoscopic imagery to analog static, with band names gracefully interspersed in all caps, the visuals cemented the Tractor’s role as Friday’s psychedelic stage and served as a pleasantly hallucinatory reminder of the DIY spirit of the festival. (KF)

Strawberry Mountain // photo by Travis Trautt

Strawberry Mountain // photo by Travis Trautt

Strawberry Mountain

When you envision a band that embodies the spirit behind the phrase “freakout,” you might picture something a little like Seattle’s Strawberry Mountain. In lieu of a drummer, one member stood to the side with a mini-kit held up by a cardboard box and sometimes played with what looked to be a string of puka shells. Another member shared this kit with their bandmate, bouncing back and forth to a synthesizer/MPC. It was a great visual metaphor for the band having no real barriers. While their music delved into psych-expansions, it was firmly rooted in massive hooks that felt almost akin to pop-punk. It was a startling and totally engrossing combination. Not a bad way to immerse yourself in the beautiful, strange world of Freakout Fest. (DH)

BlackWater HolyLight

BlackWater HolyLight // photo by Travis Trautt

BlackWater HolyLight

A half hour was simply not enough time with BlackWater HolyLight, who opened the Tractor during Night 1 of Freakout Fest with six songs that likely converted every person in the relatively small audience to instant, enthusiastic fans. The Portland quartet, consisting of members of Portland bands Grandparents, DAN DAN, and Laura Palmer’s Death Parade, delivered a dreamy set of gothic flavored psych-garage rock. Their reverb-rich, siren-like vocals were reminiscent of Warpaint or L.A. Witch, and were countered by thick guitar sludge emanating from stage right. At times, guitarist Laura Hopkins was in a full-on metal thrash stance, her strawberry blond locks banging the night away. These gals have the sound, style, and stage presence to make a big, dark splash in the PNW scene and beyond, and their forthcoming debut album, due out this spring on Riding Easy Records is sure to deliver. Can’t wait until spring? Be entranced by the Portland sirens in this live music video of their song “Babies.” (KF)

BlackWater HolyLight

photo by Jake Hanson

BlackWater HolyLight

photo by Jake Hanson

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One Comment

  1. Michael M
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Morgan Dixon is the drummer for Spesh, not Ian Dugas. Brian Yaeger is on bass. Sergio and Michael are the leftovers from Boyfriends xoxo

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