Belltown Bash Night 2 features dynamic vocals and mesmerizing beats
March 2nd, 2019: The Crocodile
The first two nights of March 2019 were very special in Seattle: some of the very best womxn artists from across the PNW gathered for the first annual Belltown Bash, held at The Crocodile.
I had the pleasure to attend the second night and catch some very inspiring and captivating acts. Although I wish I could have endured a little longer and gotten a chance to hear everyone, this old man had to call it around 11:30 p.m. I didn’t see all the talent that was gathered in that dark room, but the ones I did see completely blew my mind.
I arrived just 30 minutes before the first band was scheduled to play and caught Byland setting up for their slot. For me, this is a magical time where you get a chance to peer through the “stage persona” and glimpse the real people that show us a good time. There’s no expectation to entertain anyone just yet, so they mess around, share laughs, and have fun while getting ready. It’s always a beautiful moment.
House plants littered the stage. Vines were hanging from the ceiling; succulents covered the floor. There was an earthly, warm tone to the night that gave the photographers plenty to play with. After finding a nice place to set my things and really take in the scenery, Byland opened the night with some astounding music that featured powerful vocals to wake up all the neighbors and thunderous drums that made you turn around and notice your booty shaking without any effort on your part. They managed to envelop the whole room in a sea of music that plummeted deeper and deeper with every song. Byland expressed an amazing skill for setting certain expectations and then shattering them, leaving the audience on the hook throughout the performance. It was sad to see them go, but it was time for more mind-melting artists to take the stage.
Afterwards, I went to the Back Bar and caught a few songs by Cherry Thomas. She’s a solo artist that played an electric guitar and delivered dynamic vocals. She had a husky tone accompanied by provocative moans and yeahs in between lyrics, which really set a playful vibe. Unfortunately, the noise from Back Bar was competing with the music too much, so I went back to the main stage to catch Fretland.
As I made my way back into the main stage area, I was greeted with an explosive harmony that stopped me in my tracks. Fretland has a country vibe to them. A little twang filled the air, and the melodic lines made you want to dance and hop around. Nobody on stage took even a minute for a breather. They were always dancing, belting vocal lines, and shattering emotions on the floor with every strum. It was infectious. There was a moment when the guitarist and bassist switched instruments, which I found titillating. They closed off their set with a completely acoustic song: everyone but the lead singer left. She was strumming quietly on her guitar, singing emotional lyrics, then, out of nowhere, the band came back in to finish the song in a complete uproar. I didn’t see it coming, and perhaps that was why it worked so well.
While the main stage was shifting musicians, I ran to the back stage again to catch Stephanie Mae, with a three-piece band that did a wonderful job filling the space. They had a lovely presence and a lovely sound but were missing something that could take them to the frickin’ moon: with the two songs that I caught, I noticed that every line they played — whether piano, bass, guitar or even drums — was synchronized. It felt rigid and became predictable very quickly. In between staying on beat with each other and randomly playing an assortment of instruments in the same room, there lives a sweet spot where the magic happens, a place where the instruments have free reign over their road yet still reflect the main melody to the audience.
As I was rushing back to the main stage, Hoshin. started playing their first masterpiece. The vocals blended in with the melody like a frosted rose on top of a birthday cake — not really necessary, but definitely completes the aesthetics of the composition. Their whole set felt like floating in purple goo, in outer space, with glitter. Perfect music to explore the depth of one’s own mind. The piano carried the melody in most songs, and the guitar added bubbly accents throughout. But, the drums were extraordinary. The beats that Jonathan Wood flung out like they were hot pancakes fed the crowd and kept us on our toes. At the end of their first song, they finished with a drum solo. It got the crowd fired up beyond anything that took place before it. All in all, their whole set bled together into a singular performance that left you wanting more.
As soon as they were done, La Fonda took the stage. They’re a six-piece band that included a very odd looking synth with sounds that made the band stand out. An almost eerie, piercing sound would set the tone for a dreamy vibe that projected outward. La Fonda shared messages of love and growth to the audience in form of song and short stories in between. Not only did La Fonda bring the audience an interesting combination of mellow yet energizing music, but they also helped bring together the whole event. La Fonda played a role in organizing the bands that were performing during the Bash. In a way, the combination of the two night’s acts was La Fonda’s performance as well, and in that case, it was a completely earth-shattering experience.
As their performance came to a close, I could feel my brain starting to fade, but I had just enough energy to catch Coach Phillip at the back stage. Coach Phillips had a sound of what 2000’s pop music sounds like in my head: danceable tunes, interesting lyrics, fun all around. I really enjoyed the dynamics of the whole band. Lead singer Jess Kim had such a playful attitude and would bob to the rhythm or shake her shoulders with a sassy look on her face. It was a great band to experience in the intimate setting of the Back Bar. They mentioned they are publishing music, and, after their performance, it is definitely something that I would keep an eye on.
On my way out, I caught the tail end of Super Sparkle. They had such a great looking band with amazing vocals, a back-up dancer, saxophone, and heartfelt storytelling — everything I loved. But I knew, if I stayed, I would be too exhausted to drive home and forced myself to leave.
If only the show began just a few hours earlier, I would have been able to catch the whole line up, but for whatever reasons, our music scene is aimed towards the lifestyle of some very late night people. I’m still waiting for the day someone organizes an open mic for a Sunday morning brunch. I’d be all over that like ketchup on hashbrowns.
Originally written for Dan's Tunes Seattle