Monday, October 20, 2014

Chastity Belt: Greetings From I-5

18 OCTOBER, 2014
Chastity Belt (Seattle)
Tulips (Los Angeles)
This weekend brought an embarrassment of musical riches to California, leaving one to regretfully pick from SF's Treasure Island Music Festival, the Moon Block Party in Pomona, my town's own New Noise Music Conference, or Filter's Culture Collide party in LA. So how did I find myself tracking the back roads across the state and up highway 14 en route to the high desert? Seattle's Chastity Belt holds the answer to that question. In the midst of a west coast swing, they hit up Lancaster, CA to do an all ages show with Tülips, from Los Angeles. Spearheaded by Acerogami in Pomona, the foray into bringing curated shows to Lancaster drew a modest crowd in numbers, but they more than made up for it with enthusiasm, and stellar dance moves, to burn. The venue was the Memorial Hall at the newly renovated Cedar Center For The Arts, and it was breathtaking. While makeshift venues have their own special charm, every now and again it's nice to go upscale, and the bright sounding room would hold both bands in good stead. Tülips was a fine discovery, an LA quartet that holds down the garage punk end of the spectrum with verve, alternating between two songwriters, Taleen Kali and Angie Bloom. "Spring" was a highlight, appearing late in their set. Their sole release to date is a cassette single: "Hotspur/Wait" on Love You Just Records.
Formed in Walla Walla, and relocated across the state to Seattle, Chastity Belt have spun out a pair of EP's, Fuck Chastity Belt and Dude, and one full-length: No Regerts, on Help Yourself Records, with the album making the cut for our Top 25 last year, Their second LP is in the can and being readied for next spring. The set found Chastity Belt in an interesting place, with what would have been easy crowd pleasers such as "James Dean" or "Pussy, Weed, Beer" cast aside for more emotive tracks. Leading off with "Seattle Party", they didn't wait long to take a left turn, dropping in a new song before moving on to "Black Sail". With the tone established, they kept to it, turning in a set more melodic than raucous, including a moving version of "Full". The real eye-opener was the band interplay, with the quartet showing an impressive growth over the last few years. Guitarist and lead vocalist Julia Shapiro was an entrancing focal point, but attention to the rest of the band: guitarist Lydia Lund, and the rhythm section of Annie Truscott and Gretchen Grimm rewarded attention time and again, particularly Truscott's bass lines, which brought out the underlying melancholy. Shapiro's side project Childbirth remains a worthy repository for the more vehement songs in her output, and we had the pleasure of crossing paths with Childbirth not too long ago. Based on the evidence of this evening, the next Chastity Belt record should be one well worth keeping an eye on.


Julia Shapiro
Gretchen Grimm
Lydia Lund
Annie Truscott


Becky (Acerogami) and the evening's DJ plot world domination...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Day Two

04 OCTOBER, 2014
Mavis Staples. In Charge.
Day two of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass was taken at a more leisurely pace than the brutal day one, but it matched up in terms of diversity of acts and intensity. Fortune had us finding a base camp in the shade of the Towers Of Gold Stage, courtesy of a fellow NY expatriate and his lovely wife, which became lovingly known throughout the day as "Camp Mike". Deltron 3030 got things off to a magical start, the horn section providing an energy boost for Del Tha Funky Homosapien, Kid Koala, and orchestra conductor Dan The Automator. The ever-reliable Built To Spill carried the flag. Even having just seen them at FYF Festival, one can never get enough of Doug Martsch and crew. Soul icon Mavis Staples, having recently celebrated her 75th birthday, showed absolutely no sign of it, as she charged through a set, balancing cherry-picked classic rock tunes with civil rights anthems, along with the de riguer Staples Singers standards. She was feisty and in form, and her crack band responded in kind. Mike Ness showed no signs of slowing down, and Social Distortion danced with what brung them there, as it were, sticking to the meat and potatoes punk sound that has galvanized more than one generation, ending with their epochal cover of Johnny and June Cash's "Ring Of Fire". In a gesture perhaps most symbolic of the festival, the message was that a great song can still take flight, even (on paper) in the most unlikely of hands, and you got the feeling, as the band stampeded the chorus, that somewhere, Warren Hellman was nodding along. Finishing out the day in style, Chris Isaak packed the Star Stage, and the hometown hero noted his six block commute with no small delight. He can still hit the high notes, his Nudie-style suits got a big thumps up from fashion cops in the audience, and his latter-day Orbisonisms went over perfectly in the late San Francisco afternoon. A perfect note to finish on.






Best seat in the park...
Greetings from Camp Mike!