Monday, October 24, 2016

Concrete Gardens in Seattle - Tony Macalpine with George Varghese and The Absent Light - Gig Review October 17, 2016!


w/George Varghese

The Absent Light
@ Studio Seven
Seattle, WA


For those in the know, I've been playing guitar for many years.  I currently play around town in a music duo called Train Wreck (one of a dozen Train Wrecks in the area it seems).  While guitar playing is not a priority for me, it will always be a love of mine.  

Tony Macalpine came onto the scene back in the mid-80's when the Shrapnel shredders were making a name for themselves.  I still have my "Edge of Insanity" album (and CD).  I remember back then it was always great not only hearing an amazing neo-classical guitarist but seeing one of color was inspiring to me (being Asian myself).  

This was the first time I'd be seeing Tony live.  I missed his last gig at Studio Seven just over a year ago, before the health concerns that took him off of the road for months.  I'm very glad, is all of the music scene, to see Tony back healthy and doing what he does best - perform music.

It was a Monday night at Studio Seven.  The club was maybe a quarter full - I actually thought there would be more people there.  Tony was playing a headline set in between stops while on tour opening for Steve Vai's current tour.

Local openers The Absent Light took the stage first.  A five piece that played an interesting brand of rock music, the guys in the band definitely have some musical chops (particularly the rhythm section).  I wasn't too keen on the vocals which reminded me a bit of Kurt Cobain but musically they held my attention.  

Next up was the other artist I was credentialed to cover for the night:  local guitarist/songwriter George Varghese.  George performed with his band, a few of which were making their debut (second guitarist Luke Greenwood and vocalist on two songs Gary Clay) this evening.  Complete with fog machine, George ran through tracks from his CD, "Back In Time", to much applause from the audience.  George was a strong contrast to Tony's set.  George comes from the "play for the song" approach which I really enjoy.  Very melodic and tasteful playing, with spurts of shredding, George captivated the audience with his set of tunes.  

George has his sights set on material for the Grammy's again (he played a showcase in LA last year check out YouTube for evidence) as well as other musical and recording collaborations (George own his own recording studio in Kirkland, WA).  

Coming across very humble on stage (and after his set), George has the talent to become a known commodity in the music industry.  Already popular in his native India, it's high time the US industry takes notices.  I'm looking forward to seeing what the future brings from George Varghese!

After a brief changeover, Tony Macalpine took the stage with Bjorn Englen and Aquiles Priester. Three monster musicians Tony performed tunes from his vast back catalog.  Tunes from his latest release, "Concrete Gardens" mixed in with old favorites like "The Taker" and "Tears of Sahara" seamlessly.  Tony played like he hadn't missed a beat, also throwing in a piano solo and turning the spotlight over to both Bjorn and Aquiles for their own solos, the trio ripped through material that left the musicians in the audience in awe.  

For myself, seeing Tony shred on his 8 string Ibanez was just ridiculous.  His picking is so clean I might as well use my guitar as a coffee table as I'll never play like that.  Inspiring and disgusting (you musicians know what I mean) at the same time, all three musicians were in top form.  

It was nice to see all of the artists last Monday evening enjoying themselves.  Packed club or not, you couldn't tell by their performances.  

Check out The Absent Light and George Varghese locally (both have Facebook pages) for upcoming shows.  Tony Macalpine is on tour right now opening for Steve Vai.  Hopefully Tony comes back soon to shred for us in Seattle once more.


Special thanks:  George Varghese, Dee Tee, and Michael Mesker for the credentials!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Adventures In Ballard - SHONEN KNIFE Gig Review! October 9, 2016 Ballard, WA

Shonen Knife
w/Full Toilet
& Ichi Bichi
Seattle, WA
October 9th, 2016
Tractor Tavern


I love a gig on a Sunday right now as Sunday's are my "Saturday's" in terms of workdays.  Japan's Shonen Knife were returning for their 35th Anniversary Tour at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard (a venue the band has played several times over the years).  With two local support acts in Full Toilet and Ichi Bichi, the sold out show was going to be rocking!

Ichi Bichi took the stage at 8pm.  A four piece, they played an interesting mix of tunes for their 30-minute set.  Their unique style was a great fit for the Shonen Knife bill.  In many ways, I would of preferred Ichi Bichi to have played a longer set and have the next band open the show.  Or Ichi Bichi plays 45 minutes and Shonen Knife play an additional 15 minutes.  I enjoyed what I heard from Ichi Bichi.

Next up was Full Toilet.  The name says it all, folks.  You will either laugh or scowl when you hear the name.  I laughed.  The band played probably over 20 songs in their 30 minute set.  Complete with steaming toilet as a prop alongside toilet paper and other visuals, Full Toilet were a novelty for the evening.  I'm not sure who got it but, honestly, for me, after 10 minutes I was ready for the headliner.

Shonen Knife are pioneers in the DIY music scene.  For the uninitiated the band started out in 1981 as a mix of pop and punk.  A trio of ladies consisting of Naoko, Atsuko, and Risa (the current line up - two are original members with Risa being the newest addition as drummer), Shonen Knife influenced countless alternative bands from Sonic Youth to Nirvana.

Hitting the stage in outfits designed by Atsuko Yamano, the band launched into "Pop Tune" and they were off and running.  Songs such as "Twist Barbie" from the 80's were mixed in with tunes like "Jump Into The New World" from their latest release, "Adventure".  

I was planted on Naoko's side of the stage - watching her sing and play guitar while her sister Atsuko thumped away on the bass and Risa smiled the entire show while bashing the drums.  Shonen Knife were pure musical fun!

The packed Tractor Tavern showed the band a lot of love Sunday night - singing and moving to the music all night long.  The band was clearly enjoying themselves and for Risa this was her first tour of the US so she seemed especially happy.

I was happy to hear "Capybara" and "Banana Chips" in the set!  Shonen Knife played for just over an hour and believe me the crowd (me included) wanted to hear more.  

Such a pure display of original, diverse, and uniquely Japanese influenced music, Shonen Knife showed why they're celebrating their 35th Anniversary as a band - they're pioneers in their field.  

The band is heading east as I type this.  Absolutely catch them when they hit your town - a night of musical fun guaranteed!


"Banana Chips" Video Clip

Thank you to:  Andrew for the credentials - everything worked out perfectly fine (even if for a quick minute the staff couldn't find my name - all was resolved once they realized there was one more list with two names on it - one of which was mine - hooray)!  

Also to the Tractor Tavern staff for always being good people.  They always greet you at the door with a "hi", "what's up", "how ya doin'", etc., are reasonable with security, and basically ensure everyone will have a good time.  Keep doing what you're doing.  It is appreciated!