Archive for the ‘My Seattle-Related Concert Experiences’ Category

Sunday, October 8

[Update re: John Lennon tribute show discussed below. The Green Pajamas’ Joe Ross was kind enough to let me know which musicians played on the various songs. Since I am lazy, I just copied his email at the conclusion of this post.] 

Sunday would become the most intensely packed day of this trip…and most of it was cat-free.

After playing a little guitar on the Inn porch, and annoying some of the guests with an acoustic version of “Drain You,” I headed down to a bar called Buckley’s in Belltown. There, I would take in a football game, which started at 10 in the morning. That takes a little getting used to…drinking beer so early in the day.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I am a long-suffering Philadelphia Eagles fan, who began following the team in 1975 when it was especially horrid. I had found that a group of 40-50 Eagles fans congregates each week at Buckley’s. So, I took the light rail from Capitol Hill to Westlake Center, and walked to Belltown from there. As I neared the bar, I saw two Eagles fans in front of me, one wearing a Brent Celek jersey (tight end), and the other donning an old school Randall Cunningham uniform. They almost got hit crossing one street, so I couldn’t resist shouting, “Figures, a couple of Eagles fans causing problems.” They turned around, saw the bird logo on my shirt and smiled. New friends.

I chatted with these guys, Matt and Brian, for most of the game (which the Birds unfortunately lost, 24-23). About an hour in, I mentioned how I heard about a new Eagles-fandom documentary called “Dallas Sucks” (we fucking hate the Dallas Cowboys, by the way, and their cockroach “fans” who live in Philly but have never been to Texas.) Matt smiled and said, “Brian’s the director of that documentary.” Wow. So apparently this Eagles thing will end up on Showtime soon. Brian (last name Bennett) is working on a Sun Records piece now. Life can be so incredibly cool sometimes. (Here’s a link to a story about the project:


(Fellow Eagles fans. From left: Matt Ferguson, Brian Bennett.)

After a bit of sulking following the Eagles loss, I headed over to get my burger fix at Two Bells Tavern. Jim Tillman from the U-Men told me about that place and yeah, their burgers rule.


Following that, it was off to Fremont to meet my writer friends Dave O’Leary and Clint Brownlee. Dave has written two fantastic novels: Horse Bite and The Music Book. Both are semi-autobiographical pieces centered around Seattle music, love, and coffee. I met Dave in 2011, during my book launch, which was about a week after Horse Bite came out. Both of these guys are the among the coolest people I know. Clint is working on a novel, and I’m excited to see how that comes out.

We met up at a Fremont bar called the George & Dragon, which is a pretty authentic English pub (except they wait on you and the beer is cold), owned by someone from the UK. It’s funny…I’ve only met Clint & Dave a few times, but they feel like old friends. When we get together, it seems like no time has passed, even though it’s been over a year. I wish I could hang out with them more often. Good people.


As it started to get late, Clint had to leave, and Dave invited me back to his place to watch the first debate. Sounded great…hang out, make fun of Trump, and enjoy some homemade lasagna. That was until I walked in the door. Guess what Dave has? That’s right, a cat. So, I had to leave. Again, why oh why does everyone in Seattle own a cat?

I headed back to Capitol Hill and grabbed a tuna sub at Subway for dinner. It reminded me of why I don’t eat at Subway. It sucked. (By the way, we call them hoagies in Philly. Don’t ask for a “sub” here.) But things were about to get better.

Over in West Seattle at a small bar called the Parliament Tavern, a group of musicians gathered together to put on a tribute show to John Lennon, as Sunday was his birthday. Leading the group were two stellar long-time Seattle players: Joe Ross of the Green Pajamas and John Olufs of Red Dress. Early Green Pajamas…we’re talking 1984…were heavily influenced by the Beatles. Red Dress, well I’ve written a lot about them on this blog. They are kind of like James Brown meets Frank Zappa, played with sort of a Band aesthetic.


(Joe Ross of the Green Pajamas [second from left], and John Olufs of Red Dress, lead the John Lennon tribute show.)

The band offered up the Beatles repertoire more or less chronologically. The crowd of course loved it and sang along because: a) you’ve got some of the best musicians in Seattle playing it and b) it’s the freaking Beatles. Joining Joe and John at different times were James Burdyshaw, of the 64 Spiders and Cat Butt. James did a nice acoustic version of Dear Prudence, then went electric and killed it on Yer Blues.


(James Burdyshaw of 64 Spiders and Cat Butt performing “Dear Prudence.”)

One of the many highlights of the evening happened when the stage was cleared for Laura Weller-Vanderpool and Bonnie Hammond, also known as Capping Day. Capping Day had some wonderful songs in the late ’80s, done in sort of an Indigo Girls harmony style…none better than “Mona Lisa.” Anyway, they did “Across the Universe,” which actually brought tears to some of the fans. I was sitting with Chad Channing from Nirvana, who said it is his favorite Beatles song.


(Capping Day plays “Across the Universe.” From left: Bonnie Hammond and Laura Weller-Vanderpool.)

The band played a little past midnight. Such a wonderful way to conclude this trip…well, pretty much conclude. Monday would turn out to be a chill day before catching an early flight home on Tuesday. To repeat my Facebook post, I want to thank everyone for another fantastic Seattle visit. I look forward to seeing you again next year.


(Looking out across the water from Fremont.)

Update: List of players in John Lennon tribute show, from Joe Ross FB message.

The core band, besides me and John, was Kelly Van Camp on drums and Sean Wheatley on bass. Other guests up were: Mike Geglia and his son Mike jr., also Bill Preib did I’m only sleeping and Rachelle Write did I call your name.

Here’s the sets (37 songs) pretty much as they went down: Set one: working class hero JOE (Am) I’ll Cry Instead KELLY (G) I should have known better KELLY (G) You can’t do that KELLY (G) When I Get Home MIKE G. (C) One After 909 MIKE G. + MIKE jr. (B) A Hard Day’s Night MIKE G. + MIKE jr. (G) this boy KELLY (D) No reply JOE (C) I’m a loser JOE (G) I call your name RACHELLE (key G) I don’t want to spoil the party GAIL + JOE (G) Set two: across the universe LAURA V. + BONNIE (D) You’ve got to hide your love away KELLY (G) help JOE + KELLY + GAIL (A) I Feel Fine MIKE G. + KELLY (G) Ticket To Ride MIKE G. + KELLY (A) Nowhere Man MIKE G. + KELLY (E) Girl JOE (Cm) come together RON B. (D) in my life RON B. (A) she said she said KELLY (Bb) I’m only sleeping BILL P. (Em) rain JOE (G) I Am The Walrus JOE (A) set three: revolution JOE (A) dear Prudence JAMES B. (D) yer blues JAMES B. (E) Ballad of John and Yoko JOE (E) Don’t let me down JOE cold turkey JOE (Am) I’m so tired JOE (A) instant karma JOE (A) imagine JOE (C) I dig a pony JOHN (A) all you need is love KELLY + everyone (G) tomorrow never knows (C)
oh yeah, Ron Bailey sang Come Together and In My Life.


Let me begin by saying, why can’t everyone in Seattle own a dog? I like dogs. I have two. I’m not allergic to them. So, in other words, why can’t people construct their lifestyles around my health needs? Is that really asking too much?

Ok, so we’re up to Saturday, October 8. For the most part, this day turned out to be fairly mellow. After breakfast, I hung out on the front porch and played my rented Taylor for about an hour. A neighbor came by with his young daughter and said, “We heard you playing. Mind if we listen for a while?” I’m like, “Sure. As long as you don’t mind some acoustic death metal.” (I didn’t actually say that.) Anyway, that was very cool. The neighbor’s daughter spun around as I meandered my way through “Amazing Journey.”

Her dad ordered a copy of my book as I played, prompting me to think, “Maybe Tribe would have been a bestseller if I had just sat out on a corner and played Neil Young and Who covers.”

Next, it was off to Ballard to meet Jack Endino and Mia Katherine Boyle for breakfast. I have a dog named Mia, and I was tempted to say something stupid like, “Mind if I call you Human Mia?” but fortunately the little man in my brain responsible for shortcircuiting idiotic comments shut that one down before it could escape my lips. (Too bad that little man doesn’t exist in Trump’s brain. Sorry for getting political, but I couldn’t resist.)

We chatted about Jack and Mia’s current musical projects, as well as some of the Sub Pop grunge era reissues…most notably an upcoming U-Men box set primed for 2017. In case you haven’t figured it out, I love the U-Men. The remastered compilation will feature some previously unreleased songs.

I always learn something interesting each time I meet Jack. On this occasion, Jack had just returned from a production gig in Italy and he talked about that country’s fascination with more theatrical proggy-style rock and how music fans there don’t identify with straight-ahead AC/DC-style riff rock.

Mia handed me a CD of her band with Jack called MKB ULTRA along with a t-shirt (yay, t-shirts), we said our goodbyes and I headed back to Capitol Hill. Almost forgot, Jack’s in an improv band with Five called Beyond Captain Orca. The name just seemed so obvious (and apparently was a random utterance by Five’s girlfriend Zinnia Su.) After chilling for most of the day (read: that means taking a long nap…sorry, I’m old. I yell at millenials for their man buns, bushy World War I-style mustaches, and jet packs.)


Later that evening, I met up with former Mudhoney bassist Matt Lukin for beers at a West Seattle bar called The Bridge. Matt might be the most entertaining human being on the planet. I think we high-fived 20 times…about what, I’m not sure. He thinks Mick Harvey is a dick. I didn’t even know who Mick Harvey was until I found out he wrote a song called “Out of Time Man,” which shows up at the end of the first Breaking Bad episode. (I kind of like it…even performed it an open mic a few times.) I know Mick Harvey was in the Bad Seeds. But, apparently he’s also a dick. High five!


(Matt Lukin, apparently embarrassed to be seen with an Eagles fan.)


(Dick’s, a Seattle institution, and where I had dinner.)

It’s been almost a year since I posted anything to this blog, and that means you readers will have one of two reactions: 1) Wow! We’ve been waiting a year for this! Why have you kept us alone in the dark for so long! or 2) (crickets.)

I arrived in Seattle late Thursday evening, October 6. Went to sleep. Exciting, I know. So, let’s start with…

Friday, October 7

I’ve stayed at a few places during my now 15 trips to Seattle…the University Inn in the U-District, the Belltown Inn in (duh) Belltown, Rob Morgan’s couch in Ballard, and on this trip, the 11th Avenue Inn on Capitol Hill. The Inn is a great place to stay…you’re in the middle of a vibrant neighborhood, the cost is reasonable, and it comes with breakfast and free parking. The new Light Rail line has a station two blocks away, which connects you to other neighborhoods as well as the airport.

I usually start with some musical-related interactions, but today I want to begin with a conversation I had with the breakfast chef. He’s in his 30s, I’m guessing. Anyway, we got to talking and it turns out he’s from Texas, but has lived in New York, Germany, and Prague. While in the Czech Republic, he bought a motorcycle and used it to explore the local countryside, as well as Slovakia and Hungary. Later, he moved to Seattle where he now paints and cooks. Moral of the story: talk to people. They’re fascinating.

Ok, enough with the background stuff, let’s get to the music.

I met my friends Leighton Beezer and Five at a vegan cafe called the Wayward in Wallingford. Not my idea, of course. I come from the “eat a fucking burger” school of cuisine, but the Wayward’s food was quite tasty (I think I originally typed “nasty,” but it was good…really) and I enjoyed it. I wanted to interview the pair about their improvisational approach to music-making. Since the Wayward was a bit noisy, we reconvened at Five’s house a few blocks away.

Five has a cat. Everyone in Seattle has a cat. And I’m highly allergic. See the problem here?

So we did our interview on Five’s porch. Before I get on that, a little context is in order.

Leighton was in a grunge era band called the Thrown Ups (that piece of information is now in my wife’s head…one of the useless bits of knowledge I have imparted to her. Once she picked up the home phone and yelled down to me, “Honey. It’s Leighton Beezer from the Thrown Ups.”) The Thrown Ups became the quintessential “fuck band,” in that, other than Leighton himself, the other members looked at it as a side project. The players, at different times, included Mark Arm and Steve Turner from Mudhoney, and Scott Schickler of Swallow. The Thrown Ups were an improvisational punk band. That is, no songs, no rehearsals. Whatever happened on stage happened. That included heaving oysters at the audience at the Gorilla Gardens and covering themselves in cola-infused mud during a show at the Central Tavern.

But enough about high art. The Thrown Ups represented the essence of all things grunge as it existed in the pre-Nevermind ’80s: get on stage and go for it. To paraphrase Leighton, ‘Don’t worry about whether you’re playing the chorus or the verse. If you forget what you’re doing, jump into the audience. A show that ends up as a train wreck will probably be a better show anyway.’ That freedom, camaraderie, and musical spontaniety exemplified grunge in its pure form. Heavy music was certainly the prequisite, but as Jack Endino once told me, it was more about getting the feeling out than playing the song note for note perfect. The Thrown Ups represented all of that.

I met Leighton for the first time in 2007, at a bar in Belltown called the…damn, I forget, wait, I think it was called the Rendezvous. Anyway, we had a beer before his performance that evening. After we finished, Leighton received a dumbfounded expression from the hostess when he inquired, “Do you know who’s playing tonight, because it might be me.”

Half an hour later, with a patch together crew of players including the aforementioned Five, Leighton’s band took the stage. They gave us 45 minutes of…well, I’m a writer and I can’t really put it into words. They played and it was great. Ok? The musicians fed off each other in a way only artists can, at times featuring cascading crescendoes of noise, and at other times lowering the volume to create some beautiful sonic textures (that sounds like I know what I’m talking about, doesn’t it?)

The next time I saw Leighton was in my hometown of Philadelphia. He played a bar called the…I forget that one…small place, which isn’t there anymore. On South Street, maybe? A small dive bar. Leighton’s band, called Empire Vista played songs that evening. Wow, with vocals and everything! After I wrote a review of that gig, Leighton emailed me: “You thought they were songs?”

For over 30 years, Leighton has focused on developing the concept of a band that won’t rehearse and eschews arranged material. I became fascinated with that concept and decided to interview him and Five about it.

I will post the actual interview shortly, but suffice it to say the conversation opened my eyes a bit. I’ve been playing guitar myself for a long time, badly, but have seriously worked hard at it the last two years, and I’ve become good enough to play a few songs at open mic nights. My teacher Thomas is awesome and has helped me discover talents I never knew I had. Thomas has taught me technique and theory in addition to songs, which he allows me the freedom to change as I see fit.

Five is the anti-Thomas. Five’s approach to teaching guitar is as follows: Grab the instrument, randomly twist the tuning pegs, and then begin playing. Don’t worry if it sounds like crap, it may or not be as such…but the important thing to grasp is, does it sound good to you? Or perhaps better put, does it feel good to you? So playing guitar becomes much more of a spiritual experience than let’s say a mechanical one. I told Five I’d try that approach when I get home.

After that experience, I drove up to Edmonds to catch the ferry over to Kitsap, on Bainbridge Island. Guitarist Derek Burns was throwing a birthday party for Paul Burback, of Before Cars and Paundy, at his house in Hanville. Hanville is apparently Bainbridgian for, “houses in the middle of nowhere.” It’s about a half hour drive from Kitsap, and beautiful does not begin to describe the setting. It feels like you’re sitting out in the woods on an island, probably because you are in the woods on an island.


(About to depart Edmonds for Kitsap on the ferry.)

I arrived early, and Derek offered up some salmon salad he made from his own catch. One of the reasons I love coming here is to explore the pronounced cultural differences between us Easterners and those who call the Northwest home. One of Derek’s friends asked me if I was a fisherman. (Yeah, right. My uncle once took me fishing for flukes off the coast of Point Pleasant, New Jersey. I think we anchored about three quarters of a mile off the shoreline.) These guys were talking about venturing out of the Columbia River and into the Pacific Ocean, sometimes anchoring hundreds of miles from land to fish for tuna. They talked about how fear of the ocean is a healthy thing, it helps keep one alive in a sometimes brutal, unforgivingly massive body of water. I looked at them with an expression that is best described as a combination of admiration and ‘good luck with that.’


(The bustling traffic behind Derek’s house.)

I think what strikes me about these folks is how utterly at ease they are. They are so comfortable with who and where they are…it’s a refreshing change from the city attitude people possess in places like Seattle and Philly. Absolutely no pretense.

Soon, Derek, Paul, and Before Cars/Paundy mate Andy Miller began to jam. (Couple of tidbits…Paundy is the combination of “Paul” and “Andy,” something I didn’t know about until last night. Also, Derek apparently possesses one of Kurt Cobain’s distortion boxes in his living room. I don’t think Derek gives a shit about its late famous owner other than he likes the sound of it.) They rocked out, of course, but in a sort of jazzy, groovy way at times, sometimes more bluesy. No vocals…someone apparently neglected to bring a PA.


(Jam session. From left: Derek, food, Andy, Paul.)

After a while, I became infused with the essence of Derek’s cat. And I began sneezing uncontrollably. And I had to go outside on the porch, where I remained for the rest of the evening. (To riff off a Gallagher bit: “Good thing I have allergies!”) I hung out there until I got too cold, and let the combination of cat reaction and beer dissipate so I could head back to Seattle.

Saturday (today) would be a much quieter day, beginning with a breakfast with Jack Endino and his girlfriend and sometimes bandmate, Mia Katherine Boyle.































After two completely full days and nights, Sunday felt like a nice break. I had a relaxing morning, and got to know the chef (Albert) a little bit at the B&B where I stayed (I found a really cool and reasonably priced one on Capitol Hill called the 11th Avenue Inn.) Turns out Albert and his wife decided to move to Seattle just ’cause…they found a tiny apartment in the neighborhood and they both work part time. Basically the plan was to give up a bunch of stuff they didn’t need in exchange for a more low-key lifestyle. I love it when people make a conscious decision to break free from the preordained American rat race.

Capitol Hill 2Capitol Hill 5

[A couple of shots of Capitol Hill.]

For lunch, I met fellow writers Dave O’Leary (author of two fine semi-autobiographical novels: Horse Bite and The Music Book. You can find them both on Amazon) and Clint Brownlee. Dave also occasionally plays bass in a band called Sightseer. We met at Elysian brewpub down on 1st Avenue and were soon joined by yet another writer and historian: Jeff Stevens. We chatted about the usual musical stuff and then the conversation ventured into Seattle’s obscenely horrible transportation problem. Like many younger cities, Seattle grew too quickly and the lack of importance placed on public transportation has contributed to brutal highway congestion. I notice it gets worse each time I come here.

Apparently, Seattle’s solution was to build a tunnel…which of course makes little sense. To make matters worse, the boring machine got stuck against a lead pipe (I think…correct me if I’m wrong, Jeff) and still remains in the ground until officials can figure out what to do with it.

On a fun note, we talked about Clint’s appearance in the Mudhoney video, “I Like it Small.” You can definitely make out his distinctive beard and Dodgers cap. See

Later, I headed over to Fremont to meet Jack Endino and his girlfriend for dinner (for Thai…something different! Forgive my wiseassery, Jack.) We talked about the usual music stuff…although Jack did mention something about an upcoming U-Men release. I, um, yeah…can’t wait for that one.

After dinner and leaving my car keys in the rental car (yay, hopefully not early onset dementia!) I headed back to the Hill for an early retirement (no pun intended…fuck, I got an AARP card in the mail. I’m officially old.)

Saturday would finish on a high note, with a trip up to Kingston to watch Before Cars play…the previous night I hung out with them at the Malfunkshun show. I headed up to Edmonds (Rob Morgan’s hometown [yay]) to catch the ferry over (it’s fun taking the ferry…try it sometime), and met the BC people at a bar called the Filling Station.

Before Cars is Chad Channing on guitar/bass, Paul Burback, also on guitar, Justine Jeanotte on violin and keyboards, and Andy Miller on percussion. What is their music like? Hmmm…I think Chad describes Before Cars as “alternative folk.” I would say they’re folky, but they also draw from the ’70s singer-songwriter genre as well. Justine’s presence also adds to the band’s musical palette as well as the overall talent level. I think their music fits the West Coast vibe well.

The previous evening, during the trip up to the Malfunkshun show, Paul made me laugh hysterically when he mentioned one of his friend’s throwaway lines: “Well, you know what they say…” Apparently, his friend, after chatting with a convenience store clerk or whomever, would say, “Well, you know what they say…” and then head out the door, leaving the cashier hanging. For some reason, I found that hysterically funny…and now of course I will have to borrow that line, with the added benefit of annoying my wife and daughter. (I can picture an updated Monty Python skit based around this scenario, with the clerk frantically googling the term on his phone to find out what they actually do say.)

After some food and beers, BC friend Derek Burns played, with Chad on drums and Paul on bass. I took some photos and enjoyed what I hoped would be a long evening. Once again, however, there was a problem…you guess it–cats were involved. Paul and Justine had offered to have me stay over so I didn’t have to worry about the ferry schedule. They of course have cats, so…I would have to catch the 11:05 back to Edmonds.

Derek, Chad, and Paul 1

After Derek’s set, Before Cars did a sound check and then relaxed before taking the stage. I think it was about 10:20, when someone said, “You know, Steve has to leave in half an hour.” So the band was like, “Ok, I guess we’ll play then.” (Gotta love that West Coast thing.)

Before Cars offered up mostly new material, throwing in “Catch You When You Fall” from 2013’s excellent How We Run. ( I found their set perfectly matched my mood…it was relaxing and allowed me to savor the moment. Again, it’s a pretty cool thing to experience one of your favorite bands from a few feet away.

Before Cars 5

[Before Cars. From left, Chad, Andy, Justine, Paul.]

At about 11, I said my good-byes and took off for the last boat back to Edmonds. I was asleep by midnight…an early bedtime for this trip.

Day 3: Saturday, April 11

I’m doing this post in two parts, because too much stuff happened on Saturday.

Things got rolling early, after a grand total of maybe six hours of sleep over the previous two nights. I met up with Leighton Beezer and his friends at the notorious 5-Point Café, located near the Space Needle. I liked the place right away, given some of the stickers on the wall (see below for an example.) Leighton is one of those people I have to meet up with every time I come to town…in addition to Rob Morgan and Jack Endino. As an aside, we had gotten our dates mixed up and Leighton called me at home the previous Saturday wondering where I was. My wife answered and said it was for me. I asked who it could possibly be given I never use the land line. “It’s Leighton Beezer,” she said, “from the Thrown Ups.”


Meanwhile, back at the 5-Point… Leighton introduced me, or actually re-introduced me to Five. He plays bass, I think, in one of Leighton’s improvisational musical collectives. In fact, I did see him play a few years back in Belltown, and yeah, they were great…45 minutes of improvised deafening noise, but crafted (is that the right word?) beautifully. Five and I chatted and I immediately entered him into my phone contact list for a couple of reasons. One, he’s a cool guy and two, I now have a person named Five in my contact list. Oh, before I forget, while members of our party were still filtering in, the waitress asked if more people were coming because otherwise she might have to move us to another table. I counted up and said, “We have Five…literally.” After a typically awesome experience with Leighton and friends, I was excited to get Cat Day rolling.


[Ladies and gentlemen, Five.]

See, I’m highly allergic to cats…like they literally make me sick. Dogs, no problem, but I can’t be in someone’s house who has cats for more than a few minutes. And, apparently, everyone in Seattle owns cats…and I did not know this. It only took 13 trips here to figure that one out.

So post-Leighton, I made my pilgrimage to Rob Morgan’s house…Rob is one of Seattle’s original punk rockers. He’s an artist, a musician, and well…he’s Rob. That’s all I can say, and I love him. Since Rob has cats (of course), we headed out and drove around Ballard, while we listened to his friend and former Squirrel Kevin Crosby’s new record, Money What Money? Rob’s on it, as well as Baby Cheevers (Google him or read my book…Cheevers is a legend.) Rob and Kevin described the record (at least I think they described it this way) as a parody of Frank Zappa doing a parody of Sergeant Pepper’s, sprinkled with some obscure Squirrels references. The record is, well it’s great, and fucked up, and ridiculously creative. At one point during the recording, Kevin said the producer would not approve of him using a duck squeak. So he found another producer.

photo (1)

[From left: Rob Morgan, Kevin Crosby, Senior Dorkinger holding Kevin’s CD.]

Afterward, I headed back to Capitol Hill to re-interview Vaporland. I say re-interview, because I talked to those folks a few months back by phone from Philly. We began that chat at midnight (9 pm Pacific), and I think we talked for about an hour. Great interview…lots of funny and insightful banter. And then after I was done, I couldn’t find the mp3 file. I’ve done hundreds of interviews, and I’ve never lost a recording. But this time I did. It sucked. Fortunately, the Vaporland folks were more than cool about it…as Seattle people tend to be, and we informally talked about doing it again live, the next time I headed to Seattle. And so we did.

If you aren’t familiar with Seattle bands, they’re basically all the same people playing in various incarnations. So it goes with Vaporland, with a twist. Take Love Battery guitarists Ron Rudzitis (aka Ron Nine) and Kevin Whitworth; combine with ex-TAD bassist Kurt Danielson, add the Fluid’s Garrett Shavlik on drums, and singer Katie Scarberry…and you end up with…

Vaporland 2

[Vaporland. From left: Kevin, Ron, Katie, Kurt, Garrett. Unfortunately, I forgot the pup’s name.]

Vaporland begins with Love Battery’s base of heavy, melodic psych-influenced rock, and adds British blues of the late ’60s along with Kurt’s post-punk influences. Katie’s singing and percussion brings yet another element to this band. So this is not Love Battery re-boot. Listen to their eponymous debut record, issued on Van Conner’s (Screaming Trees) Strange Earth label. (

Oh yeah, Ron has cats, so we did the interview in his garage. He brought out some chairs and a portable heater and Katie served us some coffee and then things got rolling. I would say it went better than the original phone chat…lots of great stories, insight into song writing and influences, and of course that Seattle humor. Please, though, don’t tell me everything happens for a reason. That expression can make me violent.

After that, I drove up to Edmonds to catch the ferry to Kingston to see my friends in Before Cars. (Stay tuned for Cat Day, Part 2 coming up tomorrow…or some other day.)

Day 2, Friday, April 10

I woke up at 6:30 when I had the opportunity to sleep in (of course.) The only thing planned in stone was the Malfunkshun show that evening. I was hoping, though, that I might have a chance to meet up with Sub Pop founder Bruce Pavitt on this trip. I interviewed Bruce about his two books and he was kind enough to Skype with my students a couple years back when I did an honors course based around my book (ooohh…here’s a course about me, aren’t I great!) So I texted him around 9 and we agreed to meet for coffee. We chatted about a number of topics including the future of music. And then, for some reason, I mentioned how Nirvana’s Dive intrigued me…in the way Kurt threw in this weird G chord which disrupts a clean progression going up the fret board. It makes the song. Bruce said Dive is one of his favorite Nirvana songs, as it just captures the essence of that band and Kurt.

Update: I almost forgot to mention. Bruce recalled a trip he made to East Berlin in 1988, where he um, misplaced his passport. Fortunately, he retraced his steps and retrieved the document from the shop he left it at. If Bruce had been unable to return to the West, there would have been no Nirvana (also, his life would have been ruined…that, too.)

Later, I met up with the Before Cars people (more on those folks coming up in the Day 3 post) on Bainbridge Island. By the way, it’s always fun to take the ferry over to Bainbridge from Seattle. If you haven’t had the experience, go for it. You get a 30 minute ride with a chance to check out Seattle’s beautiful skyline. Plus, Bainbridge is a cool place to explore. We had a bite to eat and a couple beers before making our way up to the Point Casino to see Malfunkshun.


[Leaving Seattle on the Bainbridge Island ferry.]

Experiencing a one-time subversive grungy band in a casino somehow doesn’t seem right…but the tacky beach motif (including sand) made it so over the top that it seemed to work. Mos Generator opened. I’m not familiar with their music, but apparently they’re heavily influenced by Black Sabbath. Paul Burback from Before Cars told me their drummer quit like the day before or that morning, so the remaining two players decided to do an acoustic set. All I can say is they were fantastic…really bluesy and the guitar player (Tony Reed) also has a great voice. I chatted with Tony afterward and bought a CD and a shirt.

Malfunkshun took the stage next. I sat toward the back with the Before Cars folks, including multi-instrumentalist Chad Channing. The highlight, for me, was the last song (With Yo Heart and Not Yo Hands…off the original Deep Six record.) Malfunkshun’s Kevin Wood called out and requested Chad to come up and play drums…which he did.


[Chad Channing plays drums for Malfunkshun.]

We all stood around and bantered back and forth a bit before they whisked me off to catch the last ferry…which was supposed to leave at 12:55 am. It didn’t depart until nearly 1:30 am, however, and I had breakfast plans at 9 with the Thrown Ups’ Leighton Beezer. I could not miss that for anything, so I resigned myself to another brief night of sleep.

Coming Up: Day 3, otherwise known as Cat Day.