Nothing counters the post-New Year’s hangover winter-blah season of the PNW quite like a “DIY-feeling,” free and (semi) all-ages festival of local up-and-comers. That’s the idea behind the Big Ass Boombox Festival, which in its third year after forming in Portland, has spread to Seattle’s famous stages at The Crocodile and the Rendezvous’ Jewelbox Theater. Featuring 40 bands and ten authors spanned over two nights and three stages, there was simply too much to catch. But we did manage to pick our favorite five lyrics from our five favorite artists over the weekend. So they go, in all their ‘DIY-feeling,” glory.
Off to a rough start on Saturday night, the Rendezvous stage was over an hour behind schedule – caught these guys through sheer luck. The uncharacteristically well dressed audience wasn’t ready for their opener “Morning Fog,” which dealt in crazy dynamic contrasts, a switch between a verse in 11/8 time and a chorus that was pure Southern brass circa early Maylene & the Sons of Disaster - all played with a two-guitar power trio. The confrontational lyrics may have bugged the forever-alone, passive aggressive heckler next to me, but I sure dug it:
While these guys ponder being a fat kid, fighting to the death and how “we’re all slaves to the Lizard King” (which they’ve stated is not a Doors reference), their main claim to fame is their energetic, two-piece live show. They may get compared to Weezer, but the similarity mainly rests in lyricist Jared Cortese’s voice and only slightly in older tracks like “Holiday,” [LISTEN]. For the most part, drummer Dominic Cortese’s stripping, sweating, flailing, and general acrobatics mix with his brother’s guitar work to feel just as much like a major-key Led Zeppelin or groovier Japandroids - see my subpar camera work - if not more bluesy big names out there, such as The Black Keys:
Otherwise a pretty straightforward tale of love lost, coping old-timey style with weed and a not-so-subtle ‘60’s San Fran reference, these guys knew how to treat their material live. Standard heavy rockin’ out on blues rock shit, but frontman Nathan Trueb knows his way around a slide guitar. Plus, when he screams, he’s a deadringer for Anthony Green, a fact you can hear occasionally in their recordings, but it’s underused: [LISTEN]
Tangerine’s beachfront-infatuation indie pop has been described by a buddy as “so precious, you need a punch in the face after listening to it.” While that’s pretty accurate, both the impeccable harmonies and lead guitarist Toby Kuhn’s whammy-bar-infused riffs bring their intended “free love” vibes into a live setting with perfect execution. If you’re not into it, your girlfriend will be – these cats are blowing up so fast you couldn’t find a more surefire way to get closer to the object of your affections, or score some indie cred, or both: [LISTEN]
Introduced by the MC as “his absolute favorite band in Seattle,” the jangly Charms is led by a Dirty Beaches lookalike with a euphorically-reverbed voice and backed by all kinds of intricate unique rim-work by drummer Raymond McCoy to really send this lyric home – if you let it – even if technical snafus hold up the show a bit: [LISTEN]
Full disclosure: Nouela couldn’t make the festival because she came down with the flu the morning of. However, as a necessary bonus mention, her track “Fight” is so good that she makes the best-of festival list without even showing up. Or, let’s just call it an ‘Honorable Mention’. Armed with a Regina Spektor-ish voice but a much darker, sinister ivory attack, Nouela squashes the oft-true stereotype that girl-fronted piano music must focus on boys and generic self-empowerment. In terms of tracks about the bite-and-scratch in-“fighting” within the world of indie music, this even beats pre-Disney Macklemore’s “Ego.” If only she’d played: [LISTEN]