Friday, November 15, 2013

The Blues Is All Right at Bumbershoot

Disclosure Pre-ramble: in early 2012, the non-profit OneReel approached us about curating a “Blues Block” – working with their Program Director to facilitate the booking of a three-act segment on the Mural Ampitheatre stage at Bumbershoot. Within the confines of budget and consensus, we strove to present a block of music to showcase an exciting blend of local, regional and national talent combining the familiar with the hopefully soon to be familiar. In order of appearance, the 2012 Blues Block comprised the Ty Curtis Band, the Karen Lovely Band, and the Harmonica Houseparty starring Magic Dick & the Lee Oskar Orchestra; in 2013, it was Ayron Jones & the Way, Nikki Hill, and the Duke Robillard Band. While our arrangement with OneReel bore no mercenary interest for us, I felt it fair to lead with noting our (albeit limited) involvement in the festival. That out of the way, not a word of the piece below is influenced by what is disclosed above. OneReel’s Bumbershoot Festival is the annual consumer-friendly music, arts and culture event of record for the Pacific Northwest, perhaps the United States. With a reported attendance this year of 125,000 over three days and ticket purchasers from all 50 states plus 33 countries, it resides in the national rock & pop event conversation with Lollapalooza, Bonaroo, Austin City Limits, Sasquatch, and Coachella. The significant difference in programming is, while Bumbershoot’s music line-up alone stands next to the others, it also offers a well-rounded cultural palette of performing arts with deep content showcasing comedy, film, and in a given year anything from theater and art galleries to vaudeville and burlesque, flash mobs to literary readings, not to mention a knack for introducing audiences to tomorrow’s stars and a noticeably heavier hand for showcasing its homegrown local and regional talent. If there is less Blues than there used to be, that’s more indicative of the consumer landscape than the festival itself, which has always and continues to offer more of the genre than its competitors nationwide. For a price which registers at a fraction of what the other name-brand festivals across the land are charging, Bumbershoot gives the consumer a broader and more interesting presentation of music, arts and culture past, present and future – and more Blues – than any other rock & pop festival. Some have challenged Bumbershoot’s commitment to the Blues, and perhaps rightly so – but not so quick, as all things are relative to time and place. Admittedly, there used to be more Blues at the festival. There also used to be a whole lot more Blues in popular culture, on the radio and television. In the 70s, even as singer-songwriters commenced the decade while disco and punk closed it out, Blues-rock was filling stadiums and hanging in the Billboard Hot 100 throughout with Zeppelin, ZZ Top, the J. Geils Band, Clapton, the Allman Brothers, and the like. In the 80s, it was full-on mainstream via the height of commercial AOR (album-oriented rock) radio and MTV, helping to usher in the careers of Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Robert Cray, George Thorogood & the Destroyers, to name a few. Blues and its related family of genres was pop in the 70s and 80s, or at least a consistent resident of the Top 40, prominent magazine covers and such. Blues-as-mainstream began to taper off in the 90s, but not without the career renaissance of Buddy Guy and B.B. King, the introduction of Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and significant arcs in the careers of artists like John Hiatt and Bonnie Raitt. That’s why we saw more of it on the mainstream rock & pop festivals back then. The general public was consuming more of it. The one consistent piece to this examination is, Bumbershoot has been doing more of it than its competitors at every turn. In the 70s, while the other rock & pop festivals were programming music only and headlining Styx, REO Speedwagon, Ted Nugent, and Journey, Bumbershoot was rolling with the pop acts of the day but also with Willie Dixon, Etta James, and local heroes the Amazing Rhythm Aces, offering programming highlights by computer via touchtone phone starting in ’75, and adding extra elements like the Alternative Theater Festival, the OneReel Vaudeville Show, the San Francisco Mime Troupe, literary presentations, film workshops, dance and opera to its programming. When Live Aid ’85 gave us only George Thorogood, who used his mid-afternoon time slot well by having the otherwise-uninvited Bo Diddley and Albert Collins sit in, and a rough-sounding reunited Zeppelin with Phil Collins on drums, Bumbershoot gave us Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Ray, and Wilson Pickett. The US Festivals in ’82 and ’83 only came as close as Dave Edmunds one year and Los Lobos the next, while Bumbershoot gave us Thorogood, Bob Willis & the Texas Playboys, Tina Turner, and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown – not to mention, Firesign Theatre and Henny Youngman on the comedy stage. Dollars for donuts in the 21st Century, it doesn’t get better than Bumbershoot. Using one example (all the other biggies fall in), Coachella’s advance pre-sale for 2014 was $349 for general admission to the three-day music festival, or $799 for VIP, plus $60 for a shuttle pass to get and from the parking lot, $150 for VIP parking, $85 for camping and a host of other options including fancy tents and tee pees ranging from $2200-6500. Even the base price is so lofty, it comes with a down payment and installment plan option – this is true, not a figure of speech. The pre-sale sold-out in early September and the line-up won’t be announced until sometime next year. The 2013 line-up was mostly an oldies & indie rock bill, arguably as strong and interesting as Bumbershoot’s music line-up but inarguably not as well-rounded and decidedly three times the price. The only Blues-friendly artist I noticed on Coachella’s lineup was the amazing Vintage Trouble, which also played Bumbershoot along with Eric Burdon & the Animals, the Duke Robillard Band, Nikki Hill, Ayron Jones & the Way, and Vicci Martinez. And that was just one day at the Mural stage. The numbers and Blues-friendliness are the same and similar for Sasquatch, Lollapalooza, Bonaroo, Austin City Limits, et al. Comparatively, Bumbershoot’s 2013 advance pre-sale was $45/day or $115 for all three days. Perusing the price points and respectively awesome artist line-ups at the other major rock & pop festivals, Bumbershoot runs the table by offering more value as it consistently produces a more interesting and exciting bill of entertainment and experience for a decidedly lower, accessible price. And more Blues. Ayron Jones (photo courtesy of Nate Hultman):
Duke Robillard (photo by us):
Nikki Hill (Matt Hill on guitar, photo by us):

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Wall of Fame

many of the folks who've graced our stage, bar, dance floor, bathroom, etc. have made their marks on this wall, which mostly lives upstage left and wraps around the corner a little to the green room and elevator accessible entrance. The other day, we walked through and snapped some photos of that wall. It's a nice walk through the last few years, no?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

2012 in Review (much belated)

2012 was a crazy year in so many ways. This is our belated recap. We lost some friends, among them Rick Welter, the great Portland blues man; Bob Carter, original drummer in the Mighty Blue Kings and longtime member of Nick Moss & the Flip Tops; Highway 99 resident artist, the legendary and magnificent Kathi McDonald. Our house sound man for almost three years and longtime sound man for Lee Oskar, Nearly Dan, Doctorfunk and others, Steve Dooley battled pancreatic cancer far longer and more successfully than any of the docs had given him, he made it through 2012 but on February 7 the world lost a great one. They will be missed. We've enjoyed wonderful friendships and relationships with many amazing Artists and Musicians in the Puget Sound area, special folks who seem to rise at every occasion, always there to fill in on short notice, play a benefit when they could be playing elsewhere for money, always putting that special something into everything they do, making every show a special occasion. This is a partial list and we're total assholes for not mentioning anyone who deserves it, but the names that come right to mind here include: Andrew Cloutier, who quietly does it all, from bandleading and music directing to hired-gun session work, to stepping in with little or no rehearsal and still always making it look and sound like this one-night-only thing has been played a thousand times and is at its best, tonight; Nick Vigarino, who ALWAYS shows up when there's someone in need, not to mention he is the greatest slide player this side of anywhere, electric and acoustic; Scotty Harris, award-winning sax player by trade, bass player in his spare time (his awesome wife Lissa Ramaglia is the award-winning bass player of the family), he got a day-of-show call from Commander Cody who asked, " bass player missed the flight to Seattle... could you fill in?" - 4 hours before showtime, to which Scotty said, "Why not?" and proceeded to skim through his Commander Cody albums before getting here and running through the evening's set list by key, tempo, intro and outro with Cody in the band room. This show still gets talked about by anyone in attendance on that crazy night. And of course there's Karen Lovely, who scrambled to fill a short-notice situation on a Blue Velvet Rhythm & Blues Dance Revue show and proceeded to knock the cover off the ball, Karen has also been very active supporting United By Music around the world, and when she hit Bumbershoot with her awesome band plus the extra muscle of Peter Dammann (guitar) and Hank Shreve (harp) she took that festival by storm. Among headliners or co-headliners who made their Highway 99 debut in 2012: Ana Popovic, Jimmy Thackery & the Drivers, Carl Verheyen, the 44's, Left Hand Smoke, Kalimba Band, Bob Corritore & Dave Riley, Patrick Lamb & His Funkified Band, Mr. Nick & the Dirty Tricks, and the Laurie Morvan Band. 2012 also saw the the birth of some super cool Seattle groups, including the Timmons Wall Band, the Hot Wired Rhythm Band, and John "Scooch" Cugno re-charged his band as the 88's. We enjoyed ongoing relationships with our rockabilly promoters, WesternGents who produce the monthly Rockabilly Night, and Marshall Scott Warner who continues to bring us amazing shows with top-shelf Americana and r&b artists, not to mention the unsung role he played in helping us land the opportunity to host a night of the KEXP "Shake the Shack" Rockabilly Ball. When Artists and Musicians stage unique shows with a concept or theme... we dig. Among those last year: KIM FIELD'S HARP BLAST (a couple shows featuring Paul Green, Adam Gussow, Hank Shreve, & Grant Dermody); SLIDE MONSTERS (Brian Lee, Mark Riley, & Rod Cook backed by The Orbiters); THREE GUITARS (Chris Stevens, Jack Cook, & Brian Butler tearing it up on stage together); LISA THEO & KIM FIELD and the TITANS OF TWANG; SON JACK JR.'s HOUSE OF BOURBON (Delta Hothouse, Blues Redemption, & the Total Experience Gospel Choir). Early in 2012, we were tickled to be asked about curating a Blues Block at the Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival. Our work with OneReel was mutually rewarding enough that they graciously asked us to do it again this year. In 2012, the Blues Block on the Starbucks Mural Ampitheatre stage featured the Ty Curtis Band, the Karen Lovely Band, and the Harmonica House Party starring the Lee Oskar & Friends Orchestra and Magic Dick. We're already working on this year's installment and while we can't announce anything probably until June, we're pretty excited about what's in the works. Some of the special events we enjoyed hosting and participating in: fundraisers and awareness for: United By Music with Lady "A," Kevin Selfe, Karen Lovely, Lisa Mann; Blues For The Blue (juvenile diabetes); Jam For Cans which can be considered the rhythm & blues event of record every year, helping out Northwest Harvest; the Washington Blues Society Holiday Party with the Randy Oxford Band, T-Town Aces, Stacy Jones Band, Sweet Danny Ray & Rafael Tranquilino; Kathi McDonald: A Celebration of Life, and Highway 99 Holiday Party w/ the HoHoHos. Here's a list of the Artists who graced our stage in 2012, hope we haven't missed anyone: The 44's, Adam Gussow, Alan Hager, Alice Stuart, Ana Popovic, Back Alley Barbers, Ben Rice, Billy Dwayne & the Creepers, Billy Stoops, Blue Velvet Rhythm & Blues Dance Revue, Blues Redemption, Bob Corritore & Dave Riley, the Bottoms Up Blues Band, Boyd Small & Friends (Monti Amundson, Jose Fulero, Lydia Warren), Bump Kitchen, Candye Kane, Carl Sonny Leyland & Joel Patterson, Carl Verheyen Band, Christine Harvilla, Chubby Carrier & the Bayou Swamp Band, Commander Cody, Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble, Curtis Hammond Band, Doctorfunk, Doug Rowell, Dragstrip Riot, Drummerboy, Dudley Taft Band, Duffy Bishop, Dwight Carrier & the Ro Doggs, Eddie "Devil Boy" Turner, Eric Madis, the Fat Tones, File Gumbo, Folichon, Franco Paletta & the Stingers, Gin Creek, Grant Dermody, Guitar Shorty, Hamilton Loomis Band, Hank Shreve, Hard Money Saints, the HoHoHos, Hot Rod Holman Blues Band, Hot Roddin' Romeos, Hot Wired Rhythm Band, James Harman Band, James Howard Band, James King & the Southsiders, James Miller, Jim Wallace, Jimmy Thackery & the Drivers, Joe Doria, Joe Krown Trio, John "Scooch" Cugno & the 88's, John Nemeth, Jon Koonce, Junkyard Jane, Kalimba Band, Karen Lovely Band, Kathi McDonald Band, Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne, Kevin Selfe & the Tornadoes, Kevin Sutton, Kim Field & the Mighty Titans of Tone, Kim Field's Harp Blast, Kimball Conant, Kirk Fletcher, Lady A, Laurie Morvan Band, Lee Oskar & Friends, Left Hand Smoke, Lisa Mann & Her Really Good Band, Lisa Theo + Kim Field & the Titans of Twang, Little Ray & the Uppercuts, Lloyd Jones & the Struggle, Lucky Tubb & the Modern Day Troubadours, Lucky Devils, the Lustre Kings, Maria Muldaur & Her Bluesiana Band, Mark DuFresne Band, Mark Pickerel, Marshall Scott Warner, Matt Schofield, Michael Shrieve's Spellbinder, Mitch Kashmar, Monster Road, Moses & the Hilltones, Mr. Nick & the Dirty Tricks, The Muddy Sons, Mutha Knows Best, Nathan James & the Rhythm Scratchers, Nearly Dan, Nick Vigarino's Meantown Blues & Back Porch Stomp, Nikki Hill & the Western Bluebirds, Nolan Garrett, the Orbiters, Patrick Lamb & His Funkified Band, Paul Green, Peter Dammann, Polly Keary, Rafael Tranquilino, Randy Hicks Band, Randy Oxford Band, Ravin'wolf, Raygun Cowboys, Red House, Richard Allen & the Louisiana Experience, Rosie Ledet & the Zydeco Playboys, the Roy Kay Trio, Ruby Dee & the Snakehandlers, the Sam Marshall Trio, Sammy Eubanks Band, Sean "Gator Boy" Donovan, Slide Monsters (Brian Lee, Mark Riley, & Rod Cook w/ the Orbiters), Slim Sandy, Smokehouse Dave, Son Jack Jr.'s Delta Hothouse, the Stacy Jones Band, Steve Kerin, Franco Paletta & the Stingers, Suburban Slim, Swamp Soul, Sweet Danny Ray, Teresa James & the Rhythm Tramps, Terry Robb, Texas Blues Guitar Summit (David Brewer, Tom Boyle, Tim Sherman), Three Guitars (Chris Stevens, Jack Cook, & Brian Butler), Timmons Wall Band, Tom "T-Boy Neal" Boyle, Tommy Castro & the Painkillers, Too Slim & the Taildraggers, the Total Experience Gospel Choir, Troupeau Acadien, T-Town Aces, Tumbledown, the Twangshifters, the Twisters, the Ty Curtis Band, Walter Trout, Whisky & Roses, Whozyamama, the Wild Snohomians. By the numbers... 143 artists played here in 2012 (we're counting package shows as one artist, same as a headliner, opener, or billed special guest). From the Northwest, 82 came from Western Washington (57%), a couple from Spokane, 25 from Portland/Salem/Eugene (18%), and three from Vancouver. BC - the Pacific Northwest accounted for 78% of the artists who played here last year, and we're as proud of the strong regional showing as we are the internationally touring shows. Other artists graced our stage from Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Chicago, Yugoslavia, the United Kingdom, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Phoenix, St. Louis, Colorado, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, New Hampshire, Albany, and Alberta. Whew!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Years Eve 2012-13: a Pictorial

The 7th Annual Hayride to Hell New Year's Eve Bash was barrels of fun! We'll let the photos do the talking. (photos by Erika Olsen unless otherwise noted) As we're getting ready to open doors, the Puget Sound sunset across the street represents the calm before the storm. (photo by Britta Lyle)
Seattle rock and Americana icon Mark Pickerel kicked things off with a riveting 30-minute solo acoustic set.
The folks are bellied-up and ready for a proper evening (photo by Tim Burge)
Nick Vigarino kicked things up a notch by going electric and using any old thing to play slide guitar as he walked through the capacity crowd and laid down the charm. 'cause he's got that.
An Evening at Merlotte's: Burlesque Inspired by True Blood producer Steve, getting some harmless platonic love from Benji and Josie.
The Blue Velvet Rhythm & Blues Dance Revue was hosted by the great Blues Music Award nominee Karen Lovely (pictured with Andrew Cloutier on drums)
with dance accents courtesy of cabaret artist, 2011 Ms. Viva Las Vegas Inga Ingenue
and international burlesque star The Shanghai Pearl
"Is there a trumpet man in the house?" Mr. John Fricke, takin' care of business.
Ladies, for crissake's, will you cover yerselves!
Erika with our new friend Adrian from the Ukraine (photo by Tim Burge)
Our headliners, Bob Corritore & Dave Riley tore the place up!
with an after-midnight 30-minute encore, joined by Karen Lovely and Nick Vigarino who'd performed earlier, plus the great Kim Field, and 2-time Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominee Lee Oskar (photo by Jocelyn Beresford)
Sasha, Britta, Shanna, & Rachel (photo by Nga Dinh)
Bob & Jocelyn.
Tim & Michelle, spending their 29th wedding anniversary with us. What, did they get married in the first grade? Look at these young newlyweds!