Upstream Music Fest + Summit, Day 2: Polyrhythmics

all photos by Bebe Labree Besch (view set)

With eight members, it’s no surprise that the afro-funk of Seattle’s own Polyrhythmics packs a mean punch of energy. Beyond the vibrant wall of sound that struck audience members of our Occidental Park at Upstream, festival-goers were also hit with a massive dose of sheer joy. The highly-danceable sounds of this energetic collection of musicians was met with an even more contagious spirit of positivity. Each member had a beaming smile plastered upon their face as they locked into the groove of their instruments. Families danced, we all smiled, and the energy of their intricately layered excitement flowed straight through to those fortunate enough to experience their performance.

As their name indicates, Polyrhythmics are experts at weaving in tantalizing layers of sound. With a three-horn section, an auxiliary percussionist, drummer, guitar, bass AND keys, they truly maximize their potential for high-spirited jamming. What really drove the dynamic element to their performance was the range in guitar tone. From blues, reggae, to classic rock and roll– the drive of rhythm and bursts of horns were carried right alongside the evolving vibe of guitar. This progressive display of sound was spotlighted by a set list loaded with unreleased material (like the track ‘Spiderwolf’) off their upcoming album, expected to release this Fall.

With the funkiest of drum breaks, incendiary horn solos, smooth organ sounds and highly infectious energy, Polyrythmics will go down in Seattle history as one of the most delightful live performances to catch. If you were able to take them in at Upstream, you can surely attest to their undeniable aptitude for fun!

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TV Eye: Week of 5/15

The xx // photo by Amber Knecht (view set)

KEXP has our TV eye set for this week in late night television. Set your DVR, TiVo, or just drink some coffee to stay awake for these musical guest performances on your favorite talk shows. Here are the highlights:

Monday, May 15th:
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon: Weezer, Todd Rundgren
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Metallica
Late Night with Seth Meyers: Mark Guiliana

Tuesday, May 16th:
Jimmy Kimmel Live!: Snoop Dogg
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Jesus and Mary Chain
The Late Late Show with James Corden: Ice Cube
Last Call with Carson Daly: Strand of Oaks

Wednesday, May 17th:
Late Night with Seth Meyers: BNQT

Thursday, May 18th:
Jimmy Kimmel Live!: Ann Wilson
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: The xx

Friday, May 19th:
Last Call with Carson Daly: Strand of Oaks (R)

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In Stores Now 5/15

Older acts dominated this week’s batch of new releases, but a standout LP from a new band is the sophomore release from L.A. duo Girlpool. KEXP Music Director Don Yates notes the album “finds them recording with a full band for the first time, and the end result is a more muscular and fully realized take on the band’s stripped-down, lo-fi folk-pop, combining buzzing guitars and sturdy rhythms with their hushed harmonies and intimate lyrics.”

On the other end of the spectrum is a new release from veteran Memphis soul singer/songwriter, Don Bryant. It’s a “potent set of old-school southern soul combining a warm sound featuring stellar accompaniment including five members of the legendary Hi Rhythm Section with Bryant’s grainy vocals and lovelorn lyrics. (Bryant was a staff songwriter for Hi Records in the 1970s. His most famous song is “I Can’t Stand The Rain,” made famous by his soon-to-be wife Ann Peebles. This album was recorded in her honor.)” Veteran multi-instrumentallist/singer/songwriter/producer Todd Rundgren delivers “a typically eccentric and varied set ranging from slinky electro-pop and bumping funk to ’80s yacht rock and more. The diverse guest lineup ranges from Dam-Funk, Robyn, Bettye LaVette and Trent Reznor to Donald Fagen, Joe Walsh, Daryl Hall and Joe Satriani.” And, Paul Weller, former frontman for The Jam, releases his 13th full-length solo album, which features guest appearances from PP Arnold, Madeleine Bell, Boy George, The Strypes’ guitarist Josh McClorey, and Soft Machine’s Robert Wyatt.

Mod ’60s band The Creation release a five-disc box set, with four discs of music and a DVD that includes an interview with guitarist Eddie Phillips and various live performances, including appearances on the legendary German 60s TV show Beat Beat Beat. And veteran Athens, Georgia-based band Elf Power release their 13th LP, a release that keeps in time with their Elephant 6-psych beginnings.
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Monday Music News

photo by Alan Lawrence (view set)

  • Father John Misty stopped by Jimmy Fallon this weekend to promote his latest release Pure Comedy, which has been in near-constant rotation at KEXP since it was released. He played the track “Total Entertainment Forever” which also happened to be one of our Songs of the Day last week. Donning a pair of red (possibly rose-colored?) glasses and a noticeably fuller beard than when we last saw him, Misty gave a seamless performance which should excite all those fortunate enough to have snagged a ticket to his sold out show at the Paramount next Wednesday, May 24th. [Consequence of Sound]

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Song of the Day: Broken Social Scene – Halfway Home

photo by Matt Barnes

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, unrealeased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Morning Show with John Richards, is “Halfway Home”, a 2017 single by Toronto-born Broken Social Scene released on Arts & Craft Records.

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Upstream Music Fest + Summit, Day 3: Gazebos

all photos by Bebe Labree Besch (view set)

It’s hard to think of a band more fitting than Gazebos to close out KEXP’s Broadcast from Little London Plane, and nearly impossible to pick one who would have more fun doing so. The Hardly Art darlings’ four-song session brought out the most entertaining qualities of the band’s oddball pop.

Frontwoman Shannon Perry sneered surf-pop melodies like she’d been recently sunburned. Guitarist TV Coahran backed her up with nonsense word choruses as bubblegum-y as Bazooka Joe himself. Suggesting some of the band’s glam rock influences, Perry played with different personas, shifting both the expressions on her face and the inflection in her voice to fit each particular song. On “Sauna,” from 2016’s Die Alone, for instance, Perry took on the proper tone of a manners coach, dictating comical advice on how to escape a spiral of self-destructive habits. “There are things one can do,” she sang-spoke. “Things like putting on shoes.”

This sense of humor — drummer Tyler Swan also plays in the wonderfully named electro-hip hop outfit, Truckasaurus — shone through just as brightly as Gazebo’s musicianship. Bassist Kimberly Morrison could not have looked more chill, nimbly plucking fast-paced bass lines. At the end of closer “Therapy,” Perry sat down on the ground by the bass drum, leaving all attention on the rhythm section, which Cochran coached through a minute and a half-long ending so grueling it made pedestrians stop behind the window to confirm that Swan’s hands were, in fact, still connected to his body. Swan sweat, Coahran yelped a count off, and Gazebos hit a hard stop. The audience applauded wildly as the band shuffled offstage for a group hug.

And just like that, KEXP’s Broadcast from Little London Plane during the first year of Upstream was over. We couldn’t have asked for a happier ending.

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Upstream Music Fest + Summit, Day 3: Versing

all photos by Bebe Labree Besch (view set)

On the last day of KEXP’s broadcast from Upstream, local four-piece Versing filled Little London Plane to the brim with post-punk perfection. Whether channeling the layered guitars of Built to Spill or the raw emotionalism of Modest Mouse, there was also something quintessentially Northwest about the group. Influences aside, their tense set afforded the crowd maximal release.

Session standout “Body Chamber” encapsulated the band’s appeal. While guitarist Max Salas hunched over his instrument, dredging deep growls from his red guitar, Kirby Lochner laid down a bass line simultaneously menacing and quietly funky, recalling classic art-rock acts like Gang of Four or, perhaps the closest comparison, Television. Salas bent to the floor to twist the knobs on his effects pedals, summoning a shoegazey wall of distortion (as well as a few pointed fingers from passerby’s outside who believed they’d located the source of the magic). Just when the layered jam seemed to reach its end, the band located another reserve of mangled sound. When they finally returned to a vamp and ended the song, Versing carried the momentum of several minutes of sprawling distortion with them. If listeners, who gave the song a thunderous applause, had their way, perhaps Versing would have played all night. Simply put, this is band to watch.

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Take Your Mama Out: KEXP’s Mothers Day Video Roundup

Father’s Day Kids Dance Party, 2016 // photo by Morgen Schuler (view set)

It’s time to take your mama out all night. No, really, ’cause it’s Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 14th, and moms don’t get the props they deserve for what has to be one of the most thankless jobs on the planet. Plus, they physically pushed you out of their body. That in itself deserves a bouquet of flowers every year, at the very least. And for some musicians, their mothers have become their muse, understandably so. KEXP has rounded-up a few of those songs, as well as some songs written by Moms themselves about the experience; stream them all below, but first, go call your mom:

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Upstream Music Fest + Summit 2017, Day 3: Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio

all photos by Bebe Labree Besch (view set)

On Saturday afternoon, Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio debuted three new songs to a capacity crowd at Little London Plane in Pioneer Square. Though the trio finished some of new tunes, including the ironically named “I Don’t Want to Play This,” as recently as Monday afternoon, there was no way that anyone could tell the difference. The band’s groove ran deep.

“Tacoma Black Party” drew a particularly large crowd, its irresistible groove encouraging kids to press their faces against the glass windows of Little London Plane, seeking a closer look at guitarist Jimmy James’ show-stopping antics. Overtop a Clyde Stubblefield-worthy pocket supplied by drummer David McGraw, James let it all hang loose. As the solo grew more bluesy and ferocious, his eyes closed, his mouth swung open, and his face turned to the grimace of a guitarist who can’t believe how hard he’s shredding. Channeling his inner Jimi, who grew up on the same street as Little London Plane, James lifted the guitar to his face and played with his teeth. Now it was the crowd who was in disbelief. When, with a nod, James handed the song back to the band, Lamarr played the joker, juxtaposing James’ epic solo with the cartoon couplet “Shave and a Haircut.” Jump back 60 years and relocate this session to Memphis, and it could have easily been a song recorded by Booker T. and the MG’s. Even if Seattle was full of Hammond Organ Trios — it’s not — the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio would still be the finest around for miles.

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Upstream Music Fest + Summit 2017, Day 2: DoNormaal

all photos by Morgen Schuler (view set)

Though at this point a remarkable DoNormaal performance is no unusual occurrence, Friday’s set from the artist (as part of the 2017 Upstream Music Fest + Summit) found DoNormaal in quite good form, the artist’s enthusiasm returned by a sizable audience in the Court in the Square venue. Since before the release of her 2015 album Jump or Die, DoNormaal (the moniker of Christianne Karefa-Johnson) has been on a creative tear, playing at a host of local DIY venues throughout the area, as well as alongside nationally recognized rappers (see: her recent set opening for Princess Nokia at the Crocodile). Accompanied by d.j. and a backdrop of hazed-out projections, DoNormaal also brought out collaborator Raven Matthews for a rendition of Jump or Die highlight “Chocolate Delight,” following Matthews’s performance on the stage earlier that night.

What made DoNormaal’s set particularly striking amidst a wave of local talent spotlighted on Day 2 of Upstream was the artist’s flow, which constantly varies in rhythm and tone, punctuating each track with a different perspective or attitude. Additionally, the ease with which Karefa-Johnson raps emphasizes the power of her imagery and wordplay. She asks the audience to linger on her turns of phrase, the rhythms, her gift of poetic verse.

DoNormaal @ Upstream Music Fest
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