music // Cathedrals : David Bazan : 2012.07.27
"I think that Tacoma is doing a really good job of being itself tonight," said Aaron Stevens of the Broadway Center for the performing arts at the recent Tacoma Cathedrals show.  "Tacoma is often talking about itself as if we keep working hard we're going to be better than Seattle or better than Portland.  But i don't think that's what we should attempt to do.  I think we should  be who we are, letting Tacoma have its own unique presence and voice."  It was obvious Aaron was speaking to the right crowd as it erupted into hoots and applause.  On that note, Aaron then introduced headliner David Bazan (of Pedro the Lion) as "also a person who is really good at being himself and not trying to hide who he is—a sweet, gentle guy, amazing father and husband..." READ MORE
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festival // Fall Free for All : 2012

This October, Tacoma’s Broadway Center hosted a weekend-long arts and cultural festival in the heart of downtown Tacoma—the 2012 Fall Free For All. We managed to capture a few of the excellent music performances along with several of the other sights and experiences—the wide variety of which represented some of Tacoma’s and the greater Pac NW’s best creative output.

Above is the first video showing some of the first day of the festival—including a couple performers on The Warehouse‘s “Busking Stage” and the headlining performance of My Brightest Diamond at the historic Pantages Theater.

This video includes a couple highlights from the evening of the first day—a performance by Seattle’s USF on the Squeak’n'Squawk stage and a stellar headlining performance by Carletta Sue Kay at the Pantages :

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music // Kevin Sur + Passenger String Quartet : 2012.07.07

Tacoma’s summer stage was set—fathomless blue sky slowly melting toward the West into a cocktail of red and orange. The perfect backdrop for a live performance. Locals gathered in the historic lobby of the Pantages Theater, downing libations and little bites before being breezed away via shuttle to two different house shows: one featuring  OK Sweetheart and the other—the subject of the above video—Seattle’s Kevin Sur (of Indian Valley Line and Artist Home) backed by the Passenger String Quartet.

Red Hill wine, Asado apps, a view of the Tacoma Narrows—life is already good with such favorable details, but it’s even better when the main event is so sublime; the lush arrangements of Kevin Sur’s Americana dream folk could be performed anywhere and the effect would still be breathtaking. Throw in a string quartet, a couple inspired covers and an original piece by the quartet’s Andrew Joslyn and it all makes for some midsummer magic.

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art // HIDE/SEEK : Tacoma Art Museum

In those with only a cursory knowledge of the South Sound, you’ll find the usual prevailing stereotype that Tacoma plays a (pungent) second fiddle to Seattle and Portland—that culturally, it’s nothing more than a slowdown on the I-5 corridor. Thank goodness for those who believe otherwise, for those who know our progressively-minded city has much more going than sometimes meets the eye. Great art and cultural dialogue and emerging new identities bubble just below the surface. Tucked away in plain sight.

Enter the rich and revolutionary exhibition “HIDE/SEEK: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” into the city’s artistic landscape. That’s right—you won’t find it occupying the revered sleekness of LACMA or SFMOMA. You’ll find it here at Tacoma Art Museum—at least until June 10th.

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festival // Squeak + Squawk : 2012

After a brief haitus, Tacoma’s Squeak + Squawk returned last weekend with its third music festival. The 2012 festival took place across several Tacoma venues and featured a broad and dynamic lineup from Tacoma favorites to global buzz bands—or both. Case in point is local Tacoman Brad Oberhofer (SOTA grad!) who played at The Space with his eponymous Brooklyn band. Check out these videos of them whipping the crowd into a giddy pop frenzy with I Could Go above.

Then there’s the band from down under, POND, setting their controls for the heart of Tacoma and blasting The Space with their unique brand of psych glam—Fantastic Explosion of Time :

Lastly, take a peep at one of Tacoma’s best—Not From Brooklyn—tearing it up with a brand new song at the opening night show at Tahoma Tea & Co.

click through for one more video each from Oberhofer and POND . . .

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music // Pickwick : 2012.03.24 : Cathedrals Tacoma

Let’s face it—from gothic cathedrals to cozy corner chapels, churches are built to carry sound. The voices of Pickwick fit hand in glove to the reverent, ambient surroundings of Tacoma’s Immanuel Presbyterian Church last weekend. Galen Disston’s rafter-climbing croon and the band’s buoyant, blue-eyed soul jams brought the most docile listeners out of their church pews to stomp and clap the dickens out of an otherwise mild-mannered Saturday night. Stained glass windows fogged up, the call and response reached a fever pitch, and our love for those boys was born again.

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epicurean // From the Bar Stool : Chris Keil

Every Tuesday it’s as if a little sliver of the Ice Age descends upon 1022 South, minus the hoarfrost and woolly mammoth tusks. It’s when proprietor Chris Keil summons 150-pound blocks to his small cocktail bar and takes to them like a man possessed. Possessed, specifically, with a very sharp chainsaw.

Nobody is asking Chris to dismantle 150-pound slabs into rugged, fist-sized rocks customized purely for patrons’ drinking pleasure. It’s a choice—and admittedly, a good one. Each a diamond in the rough, winking up at you from your glass with the self-sufficient pluckiness of a Klondike gold miner and the crystalline purity of glacier melt.

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music // Elk & Boar : 2012.02.26 : studio session

Over coffee at Bluebeard the other day, we had a conversation with Kirsten—the Elk in Tacoma’s soulful Elk & Boar—about this and that and mostly, the weather. Our consensus was that Tacoma skies brandish more diversity—day to day, hour to hour—than any other place we’ve lived. From the gauzy west-facing pinks of afternoon to glowing cloud obelisks pervading the port skies at night to the otherworldly opacity of surprise snowfalls, Tacoma never fails to awe us when we look up.

Kirsten invited us to join Elk & Boar in their studio—”The Cottage”—to record a couple of their songs on just such a mercurial day. From the windows we witnessed blinding sunshine punctuated by apocalyptic showers of hail and snow, a series of surly mixed skies that must (we suspected) be concealing triple rainbows, and at least one little renegade cloud that doggedly, preferentially rained on only us—à la Winnie the Pooh.

Inside the studio we kept candles lit—Kirsten using her “Swedish Hands” to handle the hot votives—while we discussed the creative process of music. Drummer Dalton sees shades of blue when he plays; Kirsten, shades of red. Travis (Boar) identifies as a “Mozart” while Kirsten a “Beethoven.” Nary was there moment when at least one person wasn’t plying their instrument with intuition, intensity and just plain love.

Musicality courses through the veins of this band as effortlessly as blood. See for yourself in these videos above. (more…)

music // OK Sweetheart : 2012.02.04 : Goldfinch Spaceworks

One of our favorite acts from the 2011 Doe Bay Fest was undoubtedly OK Sweetheart.

We adore their soulful and sweetly purring pop—songs that feel both in the moment and timeless. Last weekend, Tacoma band Goldfinch asked them to headline an intimate show christening Goldfinch’s new Spaceworks residency.  We wouldn’t have been anywhere else in Tacoma that night!

When we ran in to OK Sweetheart’s Erin Austin the next morning at Bluebeard, she said she loves playing in Tacoma. Let’s hope they come back soon!

In the meantime, take a peep at the video above and photo gallery below—both of which also include a look at live painting by Tacoma artist Briton Sukys, a hilarious bit of storytelling from his wife Megan Sukys (of KUOW) and some lovely pickin’ and whistlin’ by Grrr Animals‘ Mike Weller (also of OK Sweetheart.)

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music // Space Works for Goldfinch

Spaceworks Tacoma is a project to activate empty storefronts in downtown Tacoma with art and creative enterprise.

Spaceworks recently awarded Goldfinch—one of Tacoma’s finest local bands—a three-month artists’ residency in a Hill Top practice space next to Fulcrum Gallery.

Goldfinch plans to nest down and begin recording their new album during this time as well as open up their space to live shows and Art Walk events.

Above is the first in a series of short videos documenting Goldfinch’s Spaceworks residency—in this episode, a rehearsal of Nick Cave’s “The Ship Song” for their Feb 4. show with headliners OK Sweetheart in the very same space. More info on the show here.

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art // Jeremy Gregory : “Tiny Circles”

Puppets + Prophylaxis?

We never knew dental hygienics and cultural aesthetics paired so well together until we walked into the industrial swank of Brooks Dental Studio Thursday evening for “Tiny Circles”—Tacoma artist Jeremy Gregory’s debut of moldable, ragtag and utterly charismatic puppets.

A local figurative painter and cartoonist, Gregory made a sudden leap into a three-dimensional world of repurposed media and charismatic figurines. The results of all his imaginative labors? An unforgettable hobohemia of street urchins, artists, rodeo clowns, skater kids and charming scamps complete with checkered biographies. They brandish toothless grins, cans of spray paint, Rubik’s cubes, extra arms and in some cases, questionable intentions.

In other words, these aren’t lifeless sculpts. They’re fully-developed, fearless personas that may well throw a bonfire party or tag your living room wall if you turn your back on them.

Gregory is one to keep an eye on for sure. He’s apparently working on a stop-motion film starring his motley crew of characters, whose progress you can check out here:

And what can we say about Brooks Dental Studio other than it is the coolest place you would ever associate with topical fluoride applications? Owner Dr. Jamie Brooks DDS and staff apparently get that the functionality of a workspace doesn’t negate the need for good ambience. The studio even won a design award from the American Institute of Architects—certainly nothing to sniff (or should we say rinse and spit?) at. And now their back wall features a very cool mural (see below) by Gregory himself.

Brooks hosts regular art shows and all sorts of hip, community-minded happenings. Like them on Facebook to stay in the loop!