(Grand Arson at VanFest | The Post)
There’s nothing quite like VanFest.
The best part about it was the fact that local music was feeding the music in a DIY-centric community driven way.
There were kids who love music, who usually drive 45 minutes to catch their hometown favorites play gigs in Seattle, but were able to see the whole thing five minutes away from their house.
As a result, 260 lbs worth of food was donated to directly support the hungry in their own neighborhood with plans to double the intake next year. That’s huge!
It’s not just kids seeing their friends bands play, while that did happen, the music acts booked were some of the best I’ve seen.
Jason Webley, invited to TED talks talked about why he was invited and the merits within the program. He also sang poetry about a forgotten but significant woman in the founding of Everett, WA after covering punk songs on accordion. He’d tell stories stomping his feet asking everyone to dance in the acoustic tent.
Grand Arson came back again this year and started a circle pit of like five people, and then invited guest vocalist to ease it on back, before playing with sweat dripping on the dusty pebbled floor, kicking out into the crowd blurring the line between musician and audience.
People would try lying on beds of nails to discover a bit more about the artistry in body modification, tangled each other up in a game of ropes, and the food was amazing. Decently portioned, amazingly priced and homemade, served as if your family made it.
Verona, formerly known as We Move Mountains threw their box of cds on the floor for anyone who wanted one saying that it was the record they wanted to produce for five years. The vocalist was clearly struggling but giving it his best while his bassist did guitar spins hearkening back to their hardcore roots.
New Lungs would probably earn most improved if VanFest had trophies like in little league baseball. Pushing their newest record Reviver, the band has taken an ambient turn in their style and their progress as artists and musicians were one of the most respectable. I’d get chills during their set.
Seacats were snarky playful dudes playing an ironic indie mashup of pop hits like “Beverly Hills”.
OC Notes would stop by the KGRG tent and reminisce about the days he’d request NOFX and Less than Jake. Beal would say Notes would inspire him to perform despite the abundance of people at the Special Explosion set.
"Dude didn’t give a [damn] he just did his thing, I thought I’d only be singing to my wife, but I appreciate everyone coming to clap for me,"Beal said.
It was true though, OC notes was excited to play and spin around in circles as each track would end with an echo on his vocals, giving props to the engineers. “Sound, that was fresh as hell, that was dope!”
Special Explosions inspired by Built to Spill, Death Cab for Cutie and “best friend band” Seacats. were live at sunset drawing one of the biggest crowds of the night.
Fresh off their tour with Topshelf Records, their first few songs are hints for their follow up album due sometime within the next year.
Being level with people on the ground playing in a forest outside of Seattle—land of the cold detached appreciation of music.
On the east coast it’s said that the west coast is the only place where people don’t crowd surf.
But an hour outside of the city and it’s better. During their tour they’d see kids pile into cars driving from one town to the next.
The emo scene that’s thriving is a community with music front and center feeding into itself. I think that’s what we were doing in Maple Valley. I think that’s what Van Wolfe will help continue to build with his festivals in the forest. And it has nothing to do with genre.
They say heat rises, but that wasn’t the case at the RX Bandits show.
The hottest part of their show was the 21+ pit on the floor at Seattle’s Neumos, August 4.
Most venues burn up when a decent crowd packs in for the headliner measuring at a good bazillion degrees.
The fun part about summer shows in the frying-pan-month of August is that the crowd is cranked up to sizzling before entry. Sweat-soaked skin makes everyone slip when they’re holding onto their phones.
Thankfully, my phone was the only one that I saw on the ground and I managed to pick it up right away. Not so fortunate were a shoe, a couple pairs of sunglasses and plastic cups that littered the ground as I tried to quietly exit and get some air.
My shoes came off a good three times but I slipped right back into my soles even when some dude was shoving everyone else a little bit too brashly, and getting nearly lifted right out of my shoes during one of the chillest and coolest sets I have ever seen.
Rx Bandits (read a crowd calling back for an encore in this voice: R-X-B Wut! R-X-B-WUT!) drew in a slightly more of-age-crowd than I’m accustomed to, with only a smattering of “youngins” looking down from the rafters.
Which made the pit also slightly tipsy.
I was turned around more times than I can remember raging all over that floor, running into fans of Mogwai, Finch, and believe-it-or-not a dude in a vest with Slayer and old school punks Dead Kennedy’s. Which somehow worked. As hot and aggressive as the surroundings were, the coolest parts of the show were the easy, ambient, rock vibes each of the three bands put out.
From Indian Lakes
A breeze would mercifully ease in through the musician/emergency exit as From Indian Lakes played favorites like “We Are Sick” and “Breaking My Bones” along with some new tracks.
(the video works despite the thumbnail)
Short sweet and super cool, they opened to a steamy crystal ballroom full of people singing back the words. I love seeing opening bands getting treated right by a crowd. Nods in sync with the drum hits and a few rhythmic claps kept everyone from heat exhaustion. Sweat cooled the body as the guitars chilled the ears.
The Dear Hunter
The Dear Hunter ended their set with their hit single “Whispers” which provided an interesting dynamic between the indie influence introduced by From Indian Lakes and responded in turn with a combo of heavenly vocals and hellish ambient rock. On either side of me were bigger dudes hopping around which made pictures and moshing pretty difficult for someone of my stature-5’7” and 165 lbs of pitting fury. Never fear, I stood my ground as The Dear Hunter inspired a mood akin to cursing a tortured soul and finding redemption within.
One person commented on how the speakers were muffled by what looked like band artwork, turns out what was put up and hidden by black sheets would blind the crowd.
The lighting display by headliner, RX Bandits was a brilliant show in and of itself. A flashing ‘R’ and ‘X’ were the only things keeping the theatre lit as the house lights were shut off completely. I was seeing spots, but fading in and out of view were the silhouettes of the ambient three piece.
At the start of the set I was in the balcony, but I had to run towards the stage. The lights compelled me.
There was only one problem, my bar stamp sweated off. Luckily, the staffers could detect the trace outline and I was engulfed by the sea of people.
It was one of the grooviest pits I’ve been in my life. You’d expect the heat and overwhelming turn out to be lulled in place. Not so, the crowd was jumping and moshing in time to mellow guitar lines.
In Wayne’s World fashion, I’d peer over at the trio and think how “not worthy” I was, to witness the artistry in guitar shredding.
They’d play songs off of their new album, which was spacey and ambient and throw it back to their older roots.
RX Bandits was called ska by a Slayer fan who was in the pit losing his mind. And I could tell a first-wave influence in some of their songs accented heavily by a few Seattlites rocking dreadlocks.
Eventually, I had to step out and ‘lo! I ran into Joey, vocalist of From Indian Lakes.
We chatted as RX Bandits closed out the night for a few minutes. Full interview is available on kgrg.com.
The overall gist covered how Joey describes the band, how they ended up on tour with Relient K, how not-crazy they are, and how ambient vocalists save their voices and are able to sound consistent throughout the tour compared to other artists.
Plus you’ll hear the encore in the background. (click this for more)