Live Reviews: July 2017
The Sonics, Second Hand Suits
June 30 • Wild Buffalo
*photo by David Johnson
The last day of June brought a special treat to Bellingham as garage/punk pioneers, The Sonics, rode through The Wild Buffalo with their trendsetting style of pure roots rock n’ roll. Despite an abbreviated lifespan of studio recordings from 1964 to 1966, the now legendary Tacoma band became a major influence on Nirvana, Bruce Springsteen, The Hives, The White Stripes and countless others. And we had the good fortune to see why. Fans spanning decades in age arrived excited – ready to witness, pay homage and downright enjoy a true Northwestern gem.
There is no better way to honor the past than with the present. And local opener The Second Hand Suits showed us how that’s done. The duo, Anthony Navarro (drums) and Nick Evans (bass), tore the roof off with their high energy rock n’ soul. Bellingham by way of the southern delta mixed with 80’s punk, they won every ear in the room with what they described as “the gospel of booty shaking.” Drummer Anthony slayed in dark suit and bolo necktie, headbanged and grooved with marching band precision. All the while, he engaged the crowd between songs with the charisma of a southern preacher and let us all know that he was “sweatin’ out my demons.”
Smart, campy and well-designed tunes brought a new spin to the days of the rock n’ roll dance party. Bassist Nick took center stage with his perfectly selected period Rickenbacker and acted out the steps as Anthony prompted the audience to “put your hands at the side, bend your knees, open your eyes wide… and do ‘The Creep!’” With songs and spirit which honored a long-forgotten epoch of 60’s roots rock, intertwined with modern edge and performance drenched in catharsis, The Second Hand Suits have a unique style. With upcoming summer tours, they are sure to spread their mojo and message far and wide.
The Sonics burst out of the gate with a 20-song set that transported the Buffalo to a raucous 1960’s garage party. They tore right into “Cinderella” off their 1966 album, “Boom,” and the fire didn’t let up until the night was through. In keeping with tradition of the era, R&B covers performed in inspired, personalized fashion were mixed with The Sonics original classics like “The Witch,” “Boss Hoss” and “Strychnine” from their highly acclaimed debut LP, “Here Are The Sonics,” released in 1965. The set was loud, hard driving and explosive – gritty vocals, saxophone hooks, intense rhythms of virtuoso drumming and intrepid guitar solos – everything The Sonics were loved for when they started as teenagers.
The light was bright during lively takes on “Louie Louie,” Little Richard’s “Keep A Knockin’” and their amazing version of “I Don’t Need No Doctor” originally by Ray Charles which sounded so ripping it felt like Motörhead was in town. The Sonics created a movement, regarded by many as the best garage rock band that ever was. Some cite them as the archetype punk rock/biker band. Whatever is said today, their impact and inspiration on the history of rock n’ roll music is unchallenged. And tonight, we were lucky to ride along with them into the sunset.
SiLM/Living Body(UK)/Space Heater
July 8 • Kennelly Keys
On a beautiful summer Saturday night in Anacortes, a small but enthusiastic crowd was treated to three sets of energetic music.
The opening act, Space Heater, from Gig Harbor, WA is a 5 piece band, pumping out synth/guitar driven riff rock with a muscular rhythm section and dissonant minor key overtones.
Taking the stage next was Jeff Smith, principal singer/songwriter of Leeds, UK-based Living Body, on a solo tour featuring his arrangements of the band’s material. Jeff, who goes by the name Juffrage, has a soaring voice which reminded this listener of Jeff Mangum. He semi-jokingly introduced one of his compositions as being about “death and neoliberalism.” Living Body is touring in support of their album Body is Working, released in late 2016.
The final act was Anacortes’ own SiLM, featuring Luuk Honey on guitar, with Hannah Honey on bass and Erik Wallace on drums. SiLM washes the audience in loud sheets of sound, drenched in delay and reverb. Luuk and Hannah traded off vocal duties over their post-rock dreampop anthems, featured on their current album release “LISTENWITHIN”, available at https://silm.bandcamp.com.
All in all, a show that deserved to be appreciated by more folks, perfect weather notwithstanding!
July 12 • Downtown Bellingham
Downtown Sounds reveled in a stunning summer setting as Dirty Revival and The Naughty Blokes rocked the huge crowd at this installment of its free outdoor concert series. A beautiful, sun drenched sky brought folks of all ages to dance, drink and frolic. Powered by volunteers who donated their time and energy, Downtown Sounds is a true testament to the joyous, community-minded spirit that defines Bellingham. Thank you to all who make it possible!
My arrival to the festivities came just after The Naughty Blokes finished their set. With a vast history of live shows since 2014, this Bellingham rock band have established themselves as an award winning regional act. Check their website for upcoming summer festival dates and enjoy some good time, “family-friendly” rhythm and blues.
Dirty Revival erupted the Bay Street stage with an impassioned and deeply moving performance. Born in Portland, OR, the seven piece ensemble has made several appearances in Bellingham since their start in 2013 and their shows seem to get bigger and better as they go. Dirty Revival play a wonderfully eclectic style of original material fusing classic funk, soul, R&B, rock and hip-hop. Their jaw dropping, body bopping boogie is that of a supreme soul band – each player a stand out solo musician in their own right – the unified sound a true ‘bigger than the sum of its parts’ blessing to experience live.
Vintage James Brown/Booker T and The MG’s stylized tunes with contemporary twists featured a powerful horn section, virtuoso keys, guitar, bass and drummer with impeccably glued meter to drive home their funky feel. The group is fronted by bona fide show stopping songstress, Sarah Clark. As lead singer, Sarah invoked the raw vocal beauty and delivery of Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin, with a style and grace all her own. Surrounded by her six piece, all male band, shouts of “C’mon boys!” gave their throwback sound irrevocable character. In the case of Dirty Revival, James Brown would agree – “It’s a ‘Woman’s’ World” indeed.
The matriarch of this phenomenal pack spoke in heart-filled space between songs – warm, motherly and forthright – regarding the band’s message of engaged social consciousness. Her fervid declarations on the state of homelessness in the Northwest, looking out for one another in community, striving to be the best versions of ourselves, the absurdity of war and dangers of the internet added worlds of depth to an already strikingly pure musical aesthetic.
The set’s awe-inspired climax showered our ears with enchanted cover songs you’d never have seen coming, seamlessly arranged in singular, apropos flair. Dirty Revival breathed whole new soul into Nirvana’s “In Bloom,” Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” and a riveting, show defining performance of Nine Inch Nails, “Closer,” where Sarah wittingly upped the vibration of the song’s stand out line and replaced the expletive ‘F’ word to instead sing, “I want to LOVE you like an animal.” Dirty Revival are here to spread love – in music and message. And with luck, they will become a staple of groove and wisdom in our Bellingham scene.
Take every opportunity to see them live. You’ll do your heart, mind and soul much justice in doing so.
BraimesWorld Backyard Silvercloud Piano Lounge & Juice Emporium
July 15 • Sunnyland
I went to a Sunnyland Stomp garden party. I have no idea how I got there. But there were fruit centerpieces and proper linen tablecloths, and the mid-day sun was just only then slouching away from the backyard stage as the Vincent Blackshadow started his set which included a number of duets with his dreamy younger sister Edie.
Courageous Cousin Alex and Hammerin’ Hank Johnston fully nailed it next before supergroup Stereo Donkey played surf music across the alley. Someone handed me a glass of red punch and winked at me all weird and I proceeded to enjoy the Jimmy Dean Martin Denny Trio featuring Diana, Aaron and sometimes Patti. Marmaduke turned on the bubble machine – which was awesome – and Mona Heart & Frank Breech of Fruit Cocktail mounted the 8” stage after helicoptering in. Trumpets were burned with real fire and unrelated apologies/advice sincerely rendered before a touching encore from “The Jerk.”
Elsa Fizzgerald next charmed the melancholy crowd before more punch and at last, the finale of the Backyard Silvercloud Crooners! John T. Human started out low and RockStar Matt up and resigned. Chelsea Farmer and Jon Sampson threw down resolutely and Eamon Ra shined, smiling. Bob Paltrow tickled the keys so danged pretty and the Black Squrlz acted weird as shit, like Dougie. And then the Braimesworld Family Circus Situation Band snuck out with an unannounced reunion the likes of which have not been seen in Sunnyland since much earlier in the pre-apocalypse.
You shoulda seen it…