Shearwater, Johana Kunin, Grand Hallway – The Nectar
Published 07-25-2008 on my old wordpress blog.

I’ve been finding lately that, for someone of the disposition to randomly not do the thing they had planned on doing (no matter how important or awesome), putting down some actual cash on an event helps to inspire you to go. So I’ve bought a few sets of tickets this week. Shearwater et. al. is show 2 out of 3 this week. Let’s see how it went.

I have not been to the nectar lounge since the last show of my old band, nearly a year and a half ago. Unfortunately, The Nectar is usually filled with bags of the french word for a shower. Well, I guess a large section of fremont is typically inflicted. However, it is possible to find these occasional safe havens when a large crew of like-minded individuals take over some unsuspecting venue or event and cause it to be less frat-like and more life-like. Tonight’s crowd was just strange enough to make me happy and not want to punch anybody in the soul patch. And there were even some good bands there!

Grand Hallway
if there was ever a band comprised of former high school orchestra students, grand hallway is it. now, before you get angry at me, i was the 2nd bassoon player in high school orchestra for three years, so i know those kids when i see them. however, in our orchestra, we did not have any kids that absolutely ruled at singing like the lead singer of grand hallway does. his voice is very similar to the singer from the velvet teen, but without the penchant for vocal wanking. the songs are all very melancholy and awesome. (particularly the one that ended “… spend most every night wondering how you are.” and from eerie quiet parts to almost indie-pop stuff, the band varies in an excellent way. the lead singer also plays piano and guitar, though i feel his piano stuff is stronger. or, at least, the sound mix made it seem so. at any rate, grand hallway started off an evening after mudhoney and no age with an excellent reminder that good music doesn’t always have to be loud. and now i am super psyched that they will be playing with BUGS IN AMBER! at the south lake union block party that i just now found out about by looking at their myspace. so thanks guys and gals.

Johanna Kiewnun
I first saw miss kunin at the new paradox. she brought with her only two things: a rhodes electric piano and a line 6 sampler pedal thing. one of her songs started with this amazing vocal trick where she sampled an a capella line into the line 6 and then proceeded to loop it and harmonize with it. probably the second most beautiful thing i have ever heard. it was probably that set that inspired me to try my own hand at learning piano (or failing to learn, as the case may turn out to be). well tonight, she brought seven friends and a gaggle of instruments. if grand hallway is a band made up of orchestra kids, johanna’s band is a band made up of band kids (and a violinist). there’s flute and trumpet and some wicked tambourine playing and some vibes and glockenspiels and more. it seems like our relationship is changing, miss kunin. and some of the old inspiration is still there, but i’m worried about our future. i guess i just have to focus on your wonderful singing style, that wandering all over your range at just the right times. but it’s okay, i understand that people change and that you need to move on. i hope you’re happy. and apparently you are, given that you had a song that you introduced as “total, unbridled happiness.” thanks for writing it in 5/4 time, by the way. i had not expected to get all math rock-y this evening. keep up the good work miss kunin. don’t let my conservative stance dissuade your progress.

i went in tonight with absolutely no knowledge of shearwater other than somebody from okkervil river is in the band. and i never really listened to okkervil river, either. here’s what i came away with. i don’t really like making those mash ups of obscure or not-so-obscure bands in order to describe another band, but i can’t help it in this case. so here goes: shearwater are the talking heads, with rick astley singing in place of david byrne, doing a who-style rock opera. sorry, that’s all i could think of the entire time as i tried to wrangle my tired old brain around what was occurring before me. because there was a lot going on. of particular note is the drummer. brad, a showgoing new acquaintance, took some photos that you absolutely need to find on flickr when they are up. words alone cannot convey the truth of things like fanny pack, awesome pants, and a fake fried egg attached to whichever shirt he was wearing. simply amazing. and multi-talented to boot: vibes, drums, bow vs. vibes, hammer dulcimer made of rough cut wood and sticks, clarinet and probably more. so that’s who i was watching the whole time. however, the bassist (who apparently is one year older as of today) was fun to watch because she did not stop smiling the entire time the band was on stage. that sort of enthusiasm for what you do is hard to find. shearwater also had some excellent variation in their songs. loud parts, ridiculously quiet parts, fifty thousand different instruments (and only 5 band members) and all-around excellentness. did i mention the drummer? he played xylophone and clarinet at the same time for a bit! to watch shearwater is to be amazed. to listen to shearwater is to live through a whole lifetime in a few songs, i think. this sort of epic inclusiveness. i’m glad i went to see them. you will be too, when you go.

now, it is nearing 2:30 and i’m getting stupid. i’ll be doing this again tomorrow night at the tractor with my other favorite local female artist: ms. jen wood. i’ll let you know how it goes.

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Keywords: fake fried egg, fremont, grand hallway, johana kunin, shearwater, the nectar

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