Band in Seattle recently began shooting for its second season, and the scrappy locally-produced show’s become an engaging regional music sampler in the year-plus of its existence.
There are plenty of ways to see quality video footage of local bands playing live, but Band in Seattle offers up its wares in charmingly old-school fashion on CW network affiliate Channel 11 every Saturday night at 11:00 p.m. Whether by accident or design, the show’s programmers have demonstrated a knack for cherry-picking a wide cross-section of Seattle musicians nicely uninformed by trends: A durable blue-collar rock band (Gunn) or a sharp old-school soul ensemble (Funky 2 Death) may not hold much flavor-of-the-month cache, but it’s great to see them getting exposure in the same venue as hip-hop futurists Kingdom Crumbs. In another nice touch, all of the bands showcased weigh in on their music—and on balancing the mundane necessity of day jobs with their art—in mini-documentary wraparound segments.
Season 2 started strong with a great showing by noir-pop chanteuse Prom Queen, and last Friday Band in Seattle taped a segment featuring The Gods Themselvesand THE FAME RIOT (their caps, not mine) at the show’s usual haunts, Victory Studios. The performance space sported great acoustics and a comfy retro layout that made it feel like a party at your cool uncle’s bachelor pad, replete with free beer courtesy show sponsors Naked City Brewery.
I never miss a chance to see The Gods Themselves play live if I can help it, and their Band in Seattle session cemented that resolve. The band’s debut record was, simply put, my favorite local rock release of 2014, a beyond-cool amalgam of post-punk starkness, caveman rock throb, and thick psychedelic funk wrought from a deceptively minimalist three-piece lineup. Live, TGT delivered a no-bull yet elastic sound that thrived on unlikely synergy: They hefted some serious rock muscle behind B-52’s-style new wave on “Last Chance for Love,” primal garage-rock stomp behind epic goth (the towering “Thunderbird”), and an unexpected vein of soul amidst the serpentine snarl of “I Am the President.” Thanks to the sharp sound mix, the call-and-response interplay between lead singer Astra Elaine’s versatile purr and Damion Heitnschel’s Joey-Ramone-style bark came through loud and clear.
Speaking of loud, Tacoma outfit THE FAME RIOT came fully-equipped with plumage so gloriously garish it woulda made the most shameless hair-metal band blush, and that’s a significant part of their charm. Frontmen Shazam “Tea Time” Watkins and Liz Scarlett ladled on plenty of showmanship to go with their teased hair, sequins, and circulation-constricting stretch pants, playing their rock-star roles to the hilt and lending an extra layer of humor and flash to their slick and catchy pop. Contrasting electro-disco with smeared-lipstick decadence isn’t a new concept, of course—British bands like Dead or Alive and Sigue Sigue Sputnikruled dance clubs back in the ancient analog days of the 1980s—but damned if these T-Town imps don’t work that combination like conquering heroes. If the seemingly spring-loaded audience reaction at their Band in Seattlesession was any indication, there’s potential for some serious mass-appeal method to THE FAME RIOT’s madness.
The Gods Themselves/FAME RIOT episode of Band in Seattle should air sometime in the spring, and the show continues to film new episodes throughout March and April, with plenty of worthwhile local bands in tow. Tickets and more info are available here.