Bes album release show in the world
January 26th, 2019: Alma Mater
On Saturday night, Bes invited some local favorites to open up their album release show and warm up the crowd to what I would categorize as “history in the making.”
As I arrived and walked through the gated entrance into the courtyard just outside of Alma Mater, I noticed Bronson Bragg, lead vocalist and guitarist for Bes, greeting and chatting with some of the attendees. A lovely and creative atmosphere was just ahead of me: art installations that illuminated the night, as well as local art plastered on every wall. As I made my way to the ticket booth, I had a direct view of center stage and caught Luke Stanton, the opening act, warming up with Micaiah Sawyer, his violin and vocals accompaniment for the night. Once I got inside and enjoyed the aesthetic look of the staggered wood panels and strips of lumber on the walls and ceiling, I had just enough time to walk up to the stage before Stanton opened up the night with his first song, “Broken Heart.”
With a guitar on his lap and his heart on his sleeve, Stanton reeled everyone in from any side conversation. From up close, you could see each individual emotion being projected outward into the microphone: teeth glaring, eyes squinted, lungs pushing. His right hand played percussion on the guitar body, resonating in the wood, vibrating the strings, and giving flight to the notes that zoomed past your ears. It was the sound of a full band coming from one towering figure on stage.
The following songs took place with Stanton on his feet, and you could see the music flowing through him from head to toe. With each verse, Stanton stepped up to the microphone on his tippy toes and wiggled his feet along with the rhythm. Watching Stanton perform and embody every word with such brutal honesty spread a feeling of unity that would last throughout the night.
After only a few songs, Stanton was gone, and Tacoma rock outfit Mister Master took the stage. This funky group came with its metaphorical guns blazing. After an intimate and heartfelt time with Stanton, adding a bassist and drummer to the stage really amped up the energy in the hall, which you could feel through the blasting bass speakers. With the dials turned all the way to 11, Mister Master led the audience through the ages.
With influences like Stone Garden, Jimi Hendrix, Pearl Jam, and Led Zeppelin, we got what we could expect: a lot of energy, a lot of fun, insane guitar solos, slamming drums, and great stage presence. In between songs, quick banter between the band and audience members sparked a feeling of familiarity in the room, sharing times of mischievous childhoods and musical inspirations that led to that moment. Mister Master came, electrified the audience with its seven-song set, created a friendly atmosphere, made everyone dance, and off they went to make room for Bes.
Bes is made up of Bronson Bragg on guitar and vocals, Nick Kennedy on bass, Thene Aldergreen on percussion, and Brady McCowan on sax. Bes has been meticulously planning the details and release of its album alongside its most recent music video, and, by the looks it all, it paid off. The concert hall was filled with people waiting for Bes to take the stage, and, when they did, the roar was deafening. As soon as the band got our attention, they didn’t release it even for a second. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen; every song was fresh and delicious.
The intricate composition of the entire set and each individual instrument was equivalent to a monumental tapestry, woven together with precise knowledge and intention to create a massive and striking work of art. Every note was intentional and every silence carried with it deep meaning. The melody was dynamic in every sense of the word; nothing was stagnant.
Bragg was immaculate on the guitar, shuffling up and down the neck with surgeon-like precision. He created sounds that engulfed the entire room in terror, ecstasy, or relief. Any time you managed to take your eyes off the guitar, Kennedy and Singleton would draw you in with their faces of intoxicating agony as they got lost inside the rhythm. Sweat was flying left and right, emotions backing every pluck of the string and strike of the cymbal. McCowan filled the crevices of any unwanted silence, almost bursting the melody with his lungs. The more you watched, the more you got sucked into a world of unfamiliarity, yet somehow it was the exact place you wanted to be.
With all of this technical and precise execution of their instrumentation, Bes managed to keep the performance and its stage presence incredible light, fun, and even silly. You would catch Bragg bouncing to and fro, making silly faces at the crowd, along with Kennedy, as he returned the favor. For the last song, “Matador,” Bragg jumped off the stage in the middle of the song, started a conga line while playing his instrument through the crowded concert hall, returned to the stage, finished the song, and, for a finale, collapsed to the stage floor.
All in all, Bes not only knows how to create remarkable and intoxicating music, but are all true entertainers through and through. They have the knowledge and the ability to take a person away from their own mind and transport them to a brand new world of infinite possibilities. The crowd was extremely pleased as Bes took their final bow and went off stage.
By the time Crossing Crusades took the stage, many people had left, but the band still delivered a knockout show. A five-piece that can be described as alt- or nu-metal, their performance had countless times where guitarist Retten Steincipher or bassist Aaron Lee would go over to an audience member in the front row and let them strum their instrument for a moment or stop to give a high five. They welcomed crowd participation and acknowledged their role in the music. What really stood out, besides great vocals from Chris Hopkins, was the harmonized guitar melodies that Sam Thompson and Steincipher managed to keep straight. One or the other would play the same melody just three steps up on the neck in almost perfect succession.
The only downside was that Crossing Crusades’s (and Mister Master’s) vocal lines were almost entirely drowning behind a rich and full line of instruments. It’s a common problem with live shows, especially with louder and heavier soundscapes, but still unfortunate because the verbal connection to the message and story behind the music was missing.
After their set and an encore, the remaining band members and audience members mingled in the open room until the staff kicked everyone out, and another unforgettable night got filed as a memory in our brains.
Originally written for Dan's Tunes Seattle