Project Pabst, Day 1: Against Me!, TV On The Radio, Blondie

photos by Matthew B. Thompson (view set)

For years, Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace stood in center stage at raged away, sometimes at others, sometimes at herself. When she came out as transgender in 2012, that fury subsequently turned to a newfound onstage fire, transforming the flagging band from an increasingly cult concern to one of the most important bands of the moment with the brilliant Transgender Dysphoria Blues. Grace and her bandmates have been on the road more or less nonstop since the album’s January 2014 release, but they hardly seem tired. Arriving onstage with little more than a greeting, the band – Grace, longtime guitarist James Bowman, veteran punk drummer Atom Willard, and human ball of energy/bassist Inge Johansson – ripped through “True Trans Soul Rebel”, and then proceeded to transition seamlessly into “Unconditional Love” without breaking a sweat. And after that song was finished, they seamlessly transitioned into another song. And another after that. This happened for a full sixty minutes, as the Gainesville, Florida band ran through a succinct overview of their increasingly revered discography. Touching on all the staples (“Don’t Lose Touch”, “Cliche Guevara”, “Pints of Guinness Make You Strong”, “Thrash Unreal”) and future classics (anything off of Transgender, but especially set- and album-closer “Black Me Out”), Against Me’s afternoon set was just one more victorious battle in Laura Jane Grace’s not-so-quiet revolution.

TV on the Radio have been in the upper tier of critical darling rock bands for a little over a decade now, but even though they have a commendable legacy that they could ride out for another festival tours, they’ve admirably chosen to come back from a tragedy-imposed break with their most lively, direct album to date, Seeds. The death of bassist Gerard Smith hangs over Seeds, but in the sense that it’s made the band’s remaining members dive headfirst into a new approach to living life to the fullest. The onstage sextet drove through a handful of Seeds’ louder, more direct tracks before diving deep into the TVOTR catalog for a hit parade few bands of the ’00s could rival, including “Wolf Like Me”, “Golden Age”, “Dancing Choose”, “Young Liars”, and “Staring at the Sun”. Tunde Adebimpe might be reaching a new peak as a frontman, drawing in the crowd with his frenzied delivery and still powerful voice, despite facing a near 100º afternoon. (There will be no “Staring at the Sun” joke here.) As the tour behind Seeds winds down, TV on the Radio are a million miles away from where they were a few years back: powerful, directed, and full of hope once again.

As Debbie Harry, 70, takes the stage in a hot pink dress in 95º weather and begins singing “One Way Or Another” as the sun sets across the Portland skyline, it is absolutely baffling as to why more festivals haven’t booked Blondie. The New York punk legends have a pretty big slate of hits – The Best of Blondie is one of the best single-disc rock compilations, full stop, and they play most of it onstage every night – delivered by an age-defying frontwoman and some new material that sounds better than you’d expect, not in the least because of Harry. Just as charming and effervescent as she was in 1979, Harry stands as a perfect ideal of how musicians should age: not afraid to reference past achievements while staying completely focused on the present, perfectly walking the line between artsy seriousness and fun-loving charisma. Half of Blondie’s lineup was playing with Harry in 1977, and the other half have come in at some point since the band’s 1997 reunion, but they’re a formidable unit, well-rehearsed and with a surprising amount of showmanship (it takes some gall to bust out a keytar solo on “Call Me” and then nail it). Watching the crowd light up every time the first notes of one of the band’s many hits rang out over Zidell Yards, Harry (who playfully gave shoutouts to Against Me! and TV on the Radio, as well as yelling “420” after a snippet of the Beastie Boys’ “Fight For Your Right (To Party)”) and the boys were a surprise when they were announced at the top of the festival’s lineup, and their closing performance stood as a benchmark not just for the other major heritage act (Sunday’s sub-headlining set from the Buzzcocks), but for the younger bands as well. Just like they did with their choice of Tears For Fears last year, Project Pabst should be commended for booking a well-loved and still-great heritage act: your move, Bonnaroo, Coachella, etc.

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Song of the Day: The Space Merchants – Mainline the Sun

photo by Andrew Strasser

photo by Andrew Strasser

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Mainline the Sun” by The Space Merchants from the 2015 album The Space Merchants on Auqualamb.

The Space Merchants – Mainline the Sun (MP3)

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Capitol Block Party 2015, Day 3: The Julie Ruin, Ratatat

all photos by Victoria Holt

Playing while it’s raining at a festival is always a gamble. Lots of people who would have otherwise wandered over out of curiosity are hiding out in every covered nook and cranny imaginable, so it was only the diehards waiting in the drizzle for The Julie Ruin‘s mid-afternoon set. But, to be honest, it was all the better for it. Not only is Kathleen Hanna is a Pacific Northwestern legend, she’s also an all-time great frontwoman, so playing to a crowd of people who knew her work and ethos inside and out only underscored the sorta homecoming gig for her. (The set had an additional significance because Julie Ruin were supposed to play Block Party in 2014. After a flare up in Hanna’s lyme disease, the dates had to be pushed back a year.) Hanna’s ebullient presence was the perfect counterpart to the rain, and as she danced her way through the set, she was met with fervent applause from those in attendance. (Save for maybe Father John Misty, no other artist had nearly as many “I love you!”s shouted at them.) Run Fast, the group’s debut album, is more in line with Le Tigre’s fun anthems than Bikini Kill’s austere politics, and it was easy to see the sincerity on Hanna’s face when she admitted her favor for singing over yelling these days. At a time when pretty much no one at Block Party was having fun, The Julie Ruin seemed to be having the time of their lives, and while that didn’t bring out the sunshine, it was certainly the next best thing.
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Live Around Town This Week


Tuesday, July 28th:

Danzig, Pennywise, Cancer Bats at Showbox SoDo // All Ages (more info)

Breathe Owl Breathe, Shenandoah Davis, Sean Nelson at the Tractor Tavern // 21+ (more info)

Barton Carroll, Wolf People, Joseph Giant at The Sunset // 21+ (more info)

Helms Alee, Coliseum at El Corazon // 21+ (more info)

• Out to Lunch Summer Concert Series presents Andrea Peterman at IBM Building // All Ages, FREE (more info)

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Live Video: Calexico at Robert Lang Studio

Photo by Alan Lawrence (view set)

Recently, KEXP returned to the grotto-esque space of Robert Lang Studios for another intimate session with one of our favorite bands. This time, veteran Tucson band Calexico performed an exclusive set for KEXP donors, featuring songs from their terrific new release, Edge of the Sun, plus an older favorite, and talked in length about the recording process, their inspirations and even their favorite foods. Now, you too can join Joey Burns, Sergio Mendoza and Ryan Alfred for this very special event:

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Tuesday Music News

photo by Dave Lichterman

  • New Order have shared the first taste of their upcoming album, Music Complete, their first without former bassist Peter Hook. “Restless” follows the tried-and-true formula of an instant classic. It’s a bright song with an addictive hook that will stay with you all day. [Pitchfork]

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Midnight in a Perfect World: LoneLady


LoneLady is the music project of British vocalist/guitarist Julie Campbell, an artist heavily inspired by the post-punk and leftfield-disco movements of the early 1980s. She’s tweaked these influential, groovy sounds to her own liking over two albums released on the esteemed UK label Warp Records and she showcases her influences as well as her more contemporary inclinations throughout an insightful and exclusive DJ mix for Midnight In A Perfect World.

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Live Video: Guantanamo Baywatch

Photo by Amber Knecht (view set)

Fresh off globetrotting tours to Australia, Canada, and the U.S., local based surf rockers, Guantanamo Baywatch, stopped by the KEXP live room to share new tracks from their sophomore LP, Darling… It’s Too Late. The Portland four piece embody the sounds of summer as they shred through rockabilly swells on “Raunch Stop” and “Barbacoa”. Meanwhile, on “Beat has Changed” and “Too Late”, Jason Powell shows off melodic croons that would do Elvis (appropriately gracing the front of bassist, Chavelle Wiseman’s shirt) proud. Find some shade, relax, and listen to the sweet tunes below:

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Song of the Day: EZTV – Bury Your Heart

photo by Daniel Topete

photo by Daniel Topete

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Bury Your Heart” by EZTV from the 2015 album Calling Out on Captured Tracks.

EZTV – Bury Your Heart (MP3)

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Live Review: Timber! Outdoor Music Festival Hits Its Stride In Third Year

Charity, Josiah, and Jon from The Head And The Heart on the Campfire Stage (all photos by Morgen Schuler, see complete Friday set)

It’s a bit difficult to accurately convey in words the many factors big and small that contribute to making Timber! Outdoor Music Festival a weekend unlike any other. As cliche as it might seem, Timber really is one of those things that has to be experienced in person to be fully appreciated. Now in its third year, the festival brought three days and nights of music, swimming, mountain biking, skydivers dropping in to a game of bubble futból, good food and beer, outdoor diversions, great community, and so much more to the banks of the Snoqualmie River at Carnation’s Tolt-MacDonald Park.

The folks at Artist Home, the production company behind Timberrr (its winter sister held in Leavenworth each January), and the beloved Doe Bay Fest held each August on Orcas Island, describe Timber as “summer camp for adults.” That motto holds true in more ways than one. Read More »

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