Sunday, March 16, 2008

Seattle Wrap-Up

So last weekend I took a dreadfully long bus from Vancouver down to Seattle. Typically I think the drive should be 2.5 to 3 hours, but due to extraneous stops, a hold-up at the border, and arriving in Seattle in rush hour it was a long, stuffy 5 hours. I stayed at the lovely Green Tortoise Hostel (cheap, clean, convenient, free breakfast!), right across the street from the famed Pike Place Market. Even better was that the two Harvey Danger shows I was going to were at the Triple Door, just around the corner less than 2 blocks away. A quick recap: Harvey Danger was performing over the course of two nights all three of their albums in their entirety and a set of b-sides/rarities. Their sophomore release King James Version, which I bought for 99 cents several years ago in a HMV bargain bin, is one of my favourite albums of all-time.

It truly was a celebration of all things Harvey Danger, in honour of the 10th anniversary of their first album which spawned the hit Flagpole Sitta. The band came decked out in semi-formal attire with flowers on their lapels. They had a bevy of special guests singing back-up, a horn section at one point, and someone playing the funkiest electric cello. In total, I counted up to 15 individual guests just on the first night. A very cool moment: the dad of their former drummer Evan Sult (who's in another band in Chicago) played banjo on their cover of This Busy Monster's Underground, just as he did on the original album. The sound was excellent, though the venue had a surreal dinner theatre-like vibe. It's not often you sit at a candle-lit table at a rock show... They made a commemorative booklet "Harvey Danger's 10th Anniversary Public Spectacle" with liner notes from all the band members (and former drummer) reminiscing and telling stories about basically every song on every album and then some.

Cover-wise, my favourite moment was when the organ-intro from HD's cover of Bowie's Oh! You Pretty Things kicked in.... SWWWEEEEEeeeetness. They also played their cover of Save It For Later, which I found out that night they had never played live because they were tricked into recording it for the awful movie 200 Cigarettes. Basically they were asked to cover a 1981-82 era song, so the band submitted suggestions for Devo, Bowie, XTC, and Duran Duran, but the label demanded an English Beat cover. After the fact, they found out that the label was re-releasing the English Beat catalogue and their cover version, featured on the soundtrack and end credits, was intended to bring the English Beat to a new generation...? Something like that.

Harvey Danger - Save It For Later [originally by The English Beat]

After the 2nd show, I asked Sean Nelson about the status/whereabouts of his Harry Nilsson tribute album Nelson Sings Nilsson, which for a couple years has been limited to some myspace tracks and demos. "Oh, that's a long and painful story," he told me, but he assured me the project was not dead despite all signs to the contrary. Even if he has to put it up on his website, he said it will be released someday, somehow. Victory! GREAT things come to those who wait.

The opening group for both shows was a group who called themselves Alaska/Nebraska featuring Eric Howk and Jacob Hoffman from fellow Seattle-ites The Lashes. One's from Nebraska and one's from Alaska, hence the name which was informally chosen to grace the poster. Even though they ended up playing pretty much the exact same set both nights, we were simply treated to their beautiful folk ballads twice, captivating the crowd even though many of us were at both shows. As you can see in the photo, guitarist/vocalist Eric Howk was wheelchair-bound, a fact that I normally wouldn't think twice about, except that in summer 2006 I saw the Lashes open for The Living End in Toronto, a set particularly memorable to me because the Lashes' frontman Ben Clark jumped off the stage to dance, crushing my toes. When I got back to Vancouver, I was shocked to read that last May while at a party at a friend's house, Eric fell into a 12-feet deep hole left unsecured by the neighbouring lot which was under construction, an accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Eric, who was named for guitarist Eric Clapton, has stayed in good spirits since the accident, happy to be alive and still able to play the guitar. He has said, "It's a life change, but not an attitude change." Remarkable. Most of the songs played at The Triple Door can be downloaded from his myspace site Palmer, AK. I've posted a couple of my fav's here, thus sparing you the mind-numbing process of downloading from myspace. "You must be logged in to download" + no login button + crazy filenames once downloaded = annoying.
Palmer, AK - Noelly
Palmer, AK - Goodtime

A couple days ago I stumbled on a treasure trove of cover songs celebrating Seattle. Last August was the centennial anniversary of the Pike Place Market and to celebrate, they organized a 4-hour concert featuring Seattle-based artists performing covers of Seattle-famous songs! Streamed and archived on Seattle Channel, I got all the songs here though I apologize for the somewhat low volume levels.

The "house band" called The Iconics was made up of Dave Dederer and Andrew McKeag, guitarists from the Presidents of the United States of America; Mike Musberger, drummer for The Posies and The Fastbacks; Jeff Fielder, bassist from Sera Cahoone; and Ty Bailie, keyboard player from Department of Energy. Throughout the night they were joined by other featured guests.

Download a zip of all the songs here. Um, except Angel of the Morning will have to be downloaded separately because it was hiding when I made the zip file...

The Iconics - Seattle [popularized by Perry Como]
(feat. Paul Jensen of the Dudley Manlove Quartet)

The Iconics - Tall Cool One [originally by The Wailers]

The Iconics - Angel of the Morning [originally by Merrilee Rush]
(feat. Sean Nelson of Harvey Danger)
As you might have guessed, my stumbling upon this concert was purely because of looking up something Harvey Danger-related.

The Iconics - Spoonman [originally by Soundgarden]
(feat. Artis the Spoonman and Rachel Flotard of Visqueen)

The Iconics - I Don't Like Your Face [originally by The Heats]
(feat. Paul Jensen of the Dudley Manlove Quartet)

The Iconics - The Witch [originally by The Sonics]
(feat. Evan Foster of the Boss Martians)

The Iconics - What'd I Say [originally by Ray Charles]
(feat. Patrinella Wright of the Total Experience Gospel Choir)

The Iconics - The Old Settler [traditional; written by written by Francis D. Henry]
(feat. John Roderick of The Long Winters)

The Iconics - The Day Brings [originally by Brad]
(feat. Shawn Smith of Brad and Mike McCready and Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam)

The Iconics - Little Wing [originally by Jimi Hendrix]
(feat. Shawn Smith, Stone Gossard and Mike McCready)
It never occurred to me that Jimi Hendrix was from Seattle, having always associated him with... well, not Seattle in any case. But I found out from a Seattlelite that yes, Jimi was born here and buried in a Seattle suburb. During my visit I got to mess around with an electric guitar at the Frank Gehry-designed Experience Music Project and stop by this Hendrix statue near Broadway & Pine streets.

The Iconics - Spanish Castle Magic [originally by Jimi Hendrix]
(feat. John Roderick & Mike McCready)

The Iconics - Rock & Roll Pest Control [originally by The Young Fresh Fellows]
(feat. Chris Ballew of The Presidents of the United States of America)

The Iconics - Louie Louie [originally by Richard Berry]
(feat. Chris Ballew)

The Iconics - Barracuda [originally by Heart]
(feat. Choklate)

Mike McCready & Chris Friel - Star Spangled Banner [originally by Francis Scott Key]
I didn't know this until now but the American national anthem is set to the tune of an old drinking song. Very curious! Here, Mike McCready channels Jimi Hendrix's Woodstock incarnation of the anthem.

Chris Ballew - Peaches
An impromptu solo a cappella version of the hit for The Presidents of the United States of America.

Speaking of POTUSA, they just released a new album last week called These are Good Times People (with an aggressive internet marketing campaign). It's also got a nifty flip book music video for the lead single Mixed Up S.O.B. directed by Weird Al Yankovic, though it clearly wasn't meant to be watch on youtube or myspaceTV.

The Presidents of the United States of America - Froggie
My all-time fav POTUSA song.

Highlights of the weekend:

  • I found out that a couple days ago Sean Nelson joined none other than Jonathan Coulton at the super-hyped SXSW festival on the Heather Gold show, playing a Billy Joel cover! They promise audio and video soon, but for now check out Heather Gold and JoCo covering Harvey Danger's Flagpole Sitta reading lyrics off an iPhone, heh heh. It's been over a year, but we're still waiting on Harvey Danger's cover of JoCo's Code Monkey...
  • the session on a cruise that Sean Nelson performed with the Barenaked Ladies' Steven Page celebrating the solo music of Paul McCartney is on DIME as a DVD torrent!!! Brilliant. There were some special guests too like Sarah Harmer dropping by to perform Mull of Kintyre. If you have one of those elusive DIME accounts (like me, bwa ha!), then I definitely recommend that.

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