Archive for September, 2017

Day 3 was pretty quiet. I checked in with Jack Endino for breakfast in Ballard. Just for kicks, I brought along the obscure Leaf Hound CD I had bought the day before to see if he recognized it. And of course he did. He gave me the Jack response, “This must be a reissue, because the copy I have is badly recorded.” I also mentioned this other similar band that came out around the same time (1970, give or take) called Bubble Puppy (I mistakenly said, “Bubble Buddy,” accidentally quoting Spongebob, and of course Jack corrected me.) I did have one thing in my pocket Jack had not heard of: a song called “I’m Rowed Out” by the Eyes, which is…in my opinion, the ultimate Mod song. Check it out. Tell me this song doesn’t put you in London in 1966.

Jack and I talked a little about Chris Cornell’s passing and the U-Men box set (Sub Pop is putting it out in November!) that he remastered. Some of the tracks used the original vinyl as a source since the master tapes couldn’t be located.

Later I was supposed to catch James Burdyshaw’s band, Sinister Six, play at a house party in Fremont (This trip should be called the Ballard-Fremont Express), but I showed up late and saw these guys instead, Julia Dream a psych three-piece (drummer not pictured) from Seoul, South Korea.

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Later, I met Kevin Whitworth, guitarist extraordinaire from Love Battery, and Leighton Beezer once again, for a drink on Cap Hill. Mostly those guys reminisced about the days of old. Kevin mentioned working at a restaurant across the street in the mid-’80s. And at the time Robert Plant and Phil Collins were touring together and they stopped in for a bite to eat. Kevin was invited to sit and chat with them. One of the guys was super nice. The other a total dick. Guess which one was which?

That was pretty much it for me. A quiet day, like I said, plus I had an early flight out the next morning.

Overall, a fun trip, and I’m looking forward to next year’s visit…in the meantime, who is that mystery band that will be playing at Dawn Anderson’s benefit concert on October 5? No one’s talking.

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So here’s the deal: I built this trip around two bands I desperately wanted to see: Kinski and the Squirrels. If you know anything about me, you’ve heard me rave about Kinski, so I won’t go into more of that here. I’ve seen them twice, once in Seattle at the Victory Lounge on Eastlake, and once in my hometown of Philadelphia at Johnny Brenda’s in Fishtown. The Squirrels? Well, if you haven’t read my book, I wrote a special addendum on that band. Read it and you’ll understand why I had to go see them…especially since they don’t play very often with their classic line-up (this time featuring singer and front man Rob Morgan, guitarists Joey Kline and Jimmy “J.T.” Thomas.)

The Squirrels had booked a show at the High Dive in Fremont on Saturday September 2. Kinski was playing as part of the “Northwest Psych Fest” at the Sunset in Ballard the previous evening. ‘Perfect,’ I thought. ‘I’ll book this trip and enjoy these two great bands over the holiday weekend.’

Then the Psych Fest organizers moved Kinski to Saturday night, at 10 pm, the exact same time the Squirrels were set to go on. So what is one to do? Simple. Figure out a way to see both bands.

I started at the High Dive at 9, saying hi to Rob and then catching the opening act…Mark Nichols performing as a one man band. Mark was…well, I came up with a new word to describe him: fantastical. Among other things, he played an inspired version of Aaron Copeland’s “Hoedown,” as part of tribute to the recently departed Keith Emerson and Greg Lake (ELP covered the piece on their 1972 Trilogy album.)

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[Mark Nichols doing his thing.]

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[Mark and the Rob Morgan performing together. Notice the spectator on the floor with a beer by his side.]

After about a half hour of Mark (and yeah, I had the “why don’t more people with off-the-charts talent like Mark become famous” moment…see Bruce Pavitt’s comment he told my class once, “There is no justice in the music industry.”) I ubered it over to the Sunset, about a 10 minute ride away from the High Dive.

Perfect timing. Kinski was just setting up. Plus I got to say hello to Five and Zinnia Su, who are fans and supporters of the band. I also got to say hi to Mia Katherine Boyle, front lady/singer/guitarist of MKB Ultra, and who happens to be Jack Endino’s girlfriend.

I picked a spot about two feet in front of guitarist Matthew Reid-Schwartz and braced myself. (It’s just so cool to see one of your favorite bands play right in front of you.) They immediately launched into “Detroit Trickle Down,” the opening track from 2015’s 7 (or 8), with guitarist Chris Martin playing a massively distorting slide. The band offered up some more selections off that album as well as older stuff…one of my favorites being “The Narcotic Comforts of the Status Quo” from a split EP they did with Sandrider.

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[The fantastical (see, there’s that word again) Kinski. From left: Chris Martin, Lucy Atkinson, Matthew Reid-Schwartz, Barrett Wilke.]

Not much else that I can say about Kinski than I’ve already said, other than this: they were 45 minutes of pure, unadulterated sonic bliss.

As soon as Kinski was done, I ran out the door, and ordered up a car to take me back to the High Dive. Fortunately, I was able to catch the last half hour of the Squirrels’ set. One of the highlights (and this is so typical Squirrels) was a mash-up of Aretha Franklin’s “Freeway of Love” with AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell,” the final result being…you may have guessed: “Freeway to Hell.”

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[The Squirrels. From left: Joey Kline, Rob Morgan, Bill Ray, Keith Lowe, J.T., and Bruce Laven on keyboards (not pictured.)]

After the show, I said quick congrats to Rob, J.T., and Joey, and then headed back to Capitol Hill with a smile on my face.

What a night. What a freaking night!

 

Time for the annual Seattle pilgrimage. This trip was built around attending some shows and meeting up with the usual suspects. So without further adieu…

Got in Friday afternoon, after a flight from Philly that left at 8 am ET. I met up with my good friend Dave O’Leary, a fantastic writer and cool guy at his favorite haunt: the George & Dragon Pub in Fremont. Dave introduced me to his wife Allison and some friends. He’s a regular. If you’re a friend of Dave’s, you are a friend of the George & Dragon.

That’s about all I have to say about that first night. Suffice it to say, I now know not to get off a long flight and start drinking local beers with a higher alcohol content. So, yada yada yada, I was in bed by nine.

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[Mountains outside of the plane as we begin to approach Seattle.]

The next morning, I met Leighton Beezer (His name is actually John Leighton Beezer, but I call him Leighton…everyone else calls him John, so I thought I’d be original) for breakfast on Capitol Hill. As I’m walking toward the restaurant, I pass under a store overhang and hear “Polly,” the 1993 Unplugged version, coming from a speaker. I think, ‘How cool! They’re playing one of my favorite Nirvana songs as I’m strolling along in Seattle!’ Then I realize, ‘Right. That’s my wife’s ringtone.’ (Sometimes I even amaze myself how completely out of it I am at times.)

Met Leighton and a couple he’s friends with and enjoyed some breakfast at the Crystal Kitchen. Turns out he’s putting together a benefit show on October 5 for Dawn Anderson. If you’re not aware, Dawn, a favorite Seattle music writer of mine, has been battling breast cancer and funds have been extremely tight…wonderful health care system have we in this country. And I’m sure the current party in power we’ll make it better. Ok, I’m done with politics…sorry.

So this show will feature the Thrown Ups, Leighton’s old improv punk/grunge band, Jack Endino’s Earthworm, and Swallow. I had heard a rumor about a mystery band appearing at this show…but Leighton will not confirm or deny it. That’s killing me. Could it be a grunge reunion show? Could it be a major act? No one’s talking.

During breakfast, Leighton provided a heartfelt theory of what drove the grunge scene. I won’t go into details, because it’s quite personal, but suffice it to say…it was young kids who experienced serious tragedies early in their lives, and used music to move beyond those tragedies. It was pretty powerful stuff.

I had some time to kill, so I walked around Capitol Hill and stumbled into a record shop called Zions Gate Records. As I scanned the CDs (yeah, I still buy those), I saw a copy of the Groundhogs’ Thank Christ for the Bomb. Then, as I walked toward the register, I couldn’t help notice what the store was playing…it was hard blues, with a Hendrix touch, supplemented with this fantastic blues turnaround (I’m a sucker for a great turnaround.) The next song was even better.

“Great selection,” the rather young cashier commented.

“Thanks,” I responded. “By the way, what are you playing? It’s fantastic.”

“It’s a band called Leaf Hound, and the record is Growers of Mushroom.”

“Ok, I’ll take it.”

“Right on. They had one fantastic record that came out in 1970, and then they broke up. So no one knows about them.”

I listened to it in the car. Yeah, wow, that’s all I can say.

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I headed back to the 11th Avenue Inn to rest up for that night’s shows featuring two great bands: Kinski and the Squirrels. More about that in Part II.