City Arts Fest review, day four: with Lemolo, Ravenna Woods, Motopony and Two Door Cinema Club and more
As I’ve mentioned time and time again, I’m a tad obsessed with Seattle musicians at the moment – which is why starting Saturday at the Crocodile for the SSG Showcase was pretty much the most magical way to spend the afternoon.
Held in the intimate Back Bar, the happy hour showcase found members of Ravenna Woods, Lemolo, Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band (Benjamin Verdoes)and Motopony (Daniel Blue) performing (semi) acoustic versions of their own songs – as well as covers of the artists sitting beside them. What came of this concept was probably the coolest moment of the entire festival.
Having caught Ravenna Woods’ jaw dropping performance the night before, I was prepared for vocalist Chris Cunningham to once again blow my mind, and when he opened with “Warm Body” by Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band, assisted by keyboardist Sam Miller, and Meagan Grandall and Kendra Cox of Lemolo, he did just that.
If you didn’t already know this, I’ve got a major crush on Motopony’s Daniel Blue. He’s got one of the rawest folk-rock voices I’ve ever heard – and the dude rocks a mean mountain man beard. That, my friends, is the fast track to this lady’s heart. So when Blue decided to cover Lemolo’s haunting track “On Again, Off Again,” – and make it even more beautifully heartbreaking than I even thought possible, I almost lost it. Then the ladies of Lemolo returned the favor – covering Blue’s “Wait For Me,” – and my night was made.
As the set progressed, the group of musicians seemed to become more comfortable, jumping in on each other’s songs, and encouraging each other to “figure it out” along the way – a moment of musical spontaneity that had the super group interpreting familiar songs in ways I never imagined.
“We’re called ‘Organized,’” Blue remarked toward the end of the set, to which the audience chuckled. “Because obviously we’re – err. We’ve actually been together for 20 years. This is our last show, and you guys are seeing it.” Though the story was imagined, the magic that happened in that room was not.
The rest of my night was spent across town at the Showbox SoDo, where St. Lucia, Friends, Motopony and Two Door Cinema Club were set to perform.
Brooklyn-based act St. Lucia was a pleasant surprise at the SoDo show. Originally billed as a one-man act, the act now consists of at least three other band members working together to make spacey, soaring indie-pop tracks. I especially liked the song, “September,” for it’s simple, 80’s-inspired electro vibe.
Although I thought Motopony a strange fit for Saturday’s bill (they seemed a bit more folk-y amongst the synth-driven sound of other acts on the bill), I was excited to see them nonetheless. My anticipation was only heightened when I heard through the grapevine that Noah Gundersen would be stepping in as Motopony’s guitarist for the night. Blue and Gundersen on the same stage for an entire hour? Yes please.
The band’s performance of “King of Diamonds,” was another high point of the night for me, as Blue’s soaring vocals were only trumped by his sweet dance moves – something Lemolo’s Cox explained he’s been doing for years.
“He’s like the original Father John Misty.” Revelation of the night: That he is.
I honestly don’t know what to say about Brooklyn-based act Friends, who took the stage after Motopony – except that I hated everything they were about. The costumes were obnoxious, you couldn’t hear a damn thing lead singer Samantha Urbani was saying (surprisingly, I don’t think it had anything to do with the sound system) and they were just really, really weird.
I’ll admit, Friends’ material sounds halfway decent on record, but in the live setting, the strange electro-funk meets indie-rock meets I HAVE NO IDEA, did not translate. And what about the glorified hype boy Sasha – who spent the majority of the show prancing around the stage in a velour track jacket, patterned spandex and a children’s backpack? THAT was strange.
If there was going to be a “most entertaining part” of their set, I’d say it came when Urbani started collecting clothes from the audience – an act quickly transformed in to a competition for “who in the audience has the best flannel shirt.” Or maybe it was when they left the stage. Yeah, I think that was it.
As I mentioned in the preview for this show, I really, really, really love Two Door Cinema Club – so much so that I’d pretty much exhausted my copy of their debut, Tourist History, by the time they released their sophomore effort, Beacon, a few months ago.
The Irish foursome easily had the most elaborate light set up of any act I saw at City Arts Fest this year (granted, I didn’t make it to the laser dome or either of the Ghostland Observatory sets) – and for good reason.
If you’ve never seen Two Door live, you should probably know this: it’s loud and seizure inducing and there is a lot of jumping. Like, A LOT of jumping. As expected, Two Door’s set proved to be a two hour-long dance party, sound tracked by cuts new and old.
The act sounded incredible live, and it was great to hear their newer material live, especially the new single “Sun,” a slower, percussion driven track that really showcases what vocalist Alex Trimble can do.
And while I was amongst the masses of bodies swaying and bouncing and screaming along to one song after the next, it was their older stuff that kept me truly enthused.
Two Door Cinema Club set list:
- Sleep Alone
- Undercover Martyn
- Do You Want It All
- This Is The Life
- Wake Up
- You’re Not Stubborn
- I Can Talk
- The World Is Watching
- Next Year
- Something Good Can Work
- Eat That Up, It’s Good For You
- Come Back Home
Keegan Prosser is a writer in the Seattle area.