Wednesday, March 25, 2015

DEE WALLACE: An Interview from The Vaults 2012


As the third month of 2015 nears the end, I thought it would be a good time to release this interview from the vaults.

This interview was conducted in May 2012 at Crypticon Seattle.  For those that have been reading EA, you already know I was severely concussed when I attended the convention that year.  This interview and one other were already pre-planned weeks in advance so I had no intention of cancelling them.  With my assistant in tow, I somehow conducted this interview without sounding like a complete fool.   Well that's what I think - you, dear readers, may have a different opinion.

Ms. Dee Wallace was warm and direct when we did the interview.  She is a very caring person but she will also call you on your bullshit in an instant.  I'll be honest I was nervous during this one but everything turned out better than I expected.  By the end of the interview we took a photo where I was standing a good person's length away.  Dee grabbed me close to her - which explains why we look like lovebirds in the pic (look further down the interview for the photo in question).  I love that photo!

Dee was gracious enough to sign a copy of her book, "Bright Light", and give it to me on her dime.  Just another fine example of her generosity as a person.  She told me she wanted to know what I thought of it after I read it.  I told her I would write her and she looked at me like "you better".  The book truly hit home with me.  So much so it was rather scary.  I wrote her a very lengthy email stating so and, much to my surprise, she wrote back to me which was quite heart warming  Still is, actually.

I have nothing but good memories of my time speaking with her.  And considering my medical state at the time, that's saying something.  ;)

Much thanks to Dee for doing the interview.  It was such a thrill for me!

EA readers:  I present Ms. Dee Wallace!


EA:  Hi!  The first thing is that at your panel yesterday, I want to mention that one of the fans asked you about working with Eddie Diezen and you were like I don’t remember who that was on "Critters".  I did my research last night.  As it turns out you didn’t work with him.  You were in "Critters" while he was in "Critters 2".

DW:  Oh good, because I really felt bad when I forget.  You know, you work with so many people. 

EA:  Sure especially in your case with a career over 40 years.  So yeah, you didn’t work with him.  

DW:  Thank you for purging the guilt.

EA:  With this being the second convention that I’m covering for my magazine, do you remember what your first convention was like and that whole experience from the very first time you did one of these shows?

DW:  Oh I think I had about 4 pictures on my table and a lot of the older actors were there and they were trying to school me on how to do it like put plastic over the photos and wear gloves and don’t shake people’s hands.  That lasted for about a half an hour and then I went screw this.  You know who I am right?  I’m a hugger and you know I love to shake people’s hands.  The "don’t talk to them, just run em through", that’s just not me.  It’s not who I am.

EA:  That’s great though because that makes it more of a personal experience for the fan and they don't feel like they’re getting bum-rushed through.  

DW:  Yeah, it’s not fair to everybody.  You guys spent so much money and everything getting in and you deserve time with us.  That’s part of the thrill.

EA:  Right, it is.  I know I appreciate it. 

I want to hear all about your healing and your energy healing.  It seems like it’s really a priority with you and you have all kinds of events coming up and you have a radio show and for someone like me that doesn’t know a lot about it, where did it start, how did it start, what can you tell me about it?

DW:  Well it started after Chris (husband) died and I’ve been hurt a lot in the business which I talked about in "Bright Lights" and I just kinda fell to my knees that I don’t want to be a victim anymore, I don’t want to be angry anymore.  I want a way we can heal ourselves.  Those were the key words and literally within minutes I started channeling.  It was weird.

Yeah, I’m an English teacher from Kansas so becoming a clairvoyant within minutes was not something that was in my comfort zone.  But I think probably just because I am the girl next door and I am able to explain it in ways that people can really understand and have fun with it and everything.  Maybe that’s why the gift came.  Basically it’s around directing your own energy and that you have to take responsibility.  

You have to take responsibility for yourself and if you don’t create yourself you become the created upon literally, by society and media and genetics, you know, all that stuff.  So you really have to step up and take responsibility for yourself and then the entire universe can come forward to help you and support you, but you’ve got to direct the energy first.  You have to choose first.  And most of us are waiting for somebody else to choose somebody else to do it for us.

EA:  You’ve written three books related to the energy healing.  Or is it kind of a combination of an energy healing and your autobiographical stories?

DW:  Well, "Bright Light" is autobiographical.  It goes through my career and everything with the healing lessons that I learned sprinkled through.  The other two, "Conscious Creation" is totally channeled and the "Big E" I call my toilet book because you can literally read it on the toilet.  It’s a page and a half on a lot of all of the sayings that we’ve been raised with like “You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”?  And what they mean literally in the New Age healing world.
EA:  Okay, I’m definitely going to want to pick up one of those books before I get out of here.

DW:  They’re pretty awesome books.  They’re helping a lot of people.

EA:  Yeah, do you have any plans to like with your energy healing to maybe do anything that would be like a television show or special or…

DW:  I’d love to do a TV show on it.  I’m just waiting for everybody to catch up.  You know, they all want a gimmick and right now we’re into reality shows where you make fun of people which I refuse to do.  So, yes, I would love to do a healing show about it.

EA:  It just makes so much sense, if you’re doing these and you’re doing private sessions with clients, I could see it on Lifetime or on Oprah’s channel, numerous channels actually.

DW:  Well I’m holding that vision with you.

EA:  I saw on your website you had a quote that said, “Love yourself beyond anyone or anything else, love yourself so much that you can’t do anything that doesn’t make you love yourself more”.  Does that kinda sum up the…

DW:  Yeah, that’s the cornerstone of everything, really.  Because if you don’t love yourself, you’re not going to want to give yourself the joy and happiness and the money and the health and the relationship that you’re asking for and that’s where most people get tripped up because they aren’t in harmony with what they’re asking for.  You know, they’re judging money and they’re still holding all these silly beliefs that money’s the root of all evil and money can create unhappiness for you, when really money has no power in itself, it’s what your consciousness behind the money does with it.

EA:  Right.

DW:  And if you hate your body, why would your body create health for you?  So you have to be in harmony.  Bottom line, if we all just live in joy and love, we wouldn’t have to do anything else. We wouldn’t have to read another book or study or do any of that, you know.  And we’ve known that forever, but we don’t choose to do it.

Like you were saying, I think that’s probably one of the biggest things is choosing to do things.  Choosing to love yourself so that everything else can kind of come back in line with you.  And that’s the foundation.

Everything’s a choice.  You know, people will call in to my show and go “yeah, but you know, he is playing around with me, right, with another woman and you know, I can’t feel good about that” and I said, “yeah, you can”.  Bottom line, you still have a choice.  Are you gonna stay in love and joy within yourself while you leave, while you divorced the bastard, right?  Because when you go out of that within yourself, that’s when your creation stops.  In the way that you want to create, you know.

EA:  Powerful stuff.

DW:  It’s great stuff and it’s freedom.  It’s really freedom, but you know, you have to choose and something happened at home last night and I just instantaneously got pissed off.  Right? And that lasted for about fifteen minutes and I went, okay, well this isn’t serving me.  It’s not gonna make it better.  In that moment you get to be human and then you get to choose how to shift yourself out of that so that you can create more of what you want.

EA:  Right, I used to work as a teacher for about 16 years with special needs kids and also at-risk kids.

DW:  Oh, wow!

EA:  Yeah, I used to tell them all the time that, “you always have a choice”.  You may not think you have a choice, but there actually are two if you look at it.  Maybe they both kinda stink.  One’s a little better than the other, but you can’t say I don’t have a choice.  No, there’s something there, I have to help you see that.

DW:  And then, they can start taking the power back instead of thinking they’re victims.

EA:  Right.

DW:  So many of us just think well shit happens and we have to react to it.  But that’s not true.

EA:  Right.  You can choose which way you want things to go.

DW:  You have to choose.   So, Victor Franco wrote about that very thing in his famous book "Man’s Meaning For Life" (about the Holocaust) that no matter how bad it got he got up every morning reminding himself he had a choice about how to feel.

EA:  Wow!

DW:  Nelson Mandela writes about the same thing.

EA:  There’s a quote from of all people, Gene Simmons’ mother, who was also in the camps during the Holocaust.  Her quote was that “any day above ground is a good day”.

DW:  Yeah.  It is if the day above ground you live in joy and love.  I mean, you can have a lot of days above ground and live in hell.  Not my idea of a life.

EA:  Like what you’re saying, if you’re not making that internal choice, you’re going to be going in circles.

DW:  Your internal choice creates the reality of your life.

EA:  Right, love it.  I love hearing that mentality, that’s the mentality that I have so…

DW:  Yeah, I can tell, that’s great (smiles).

EA:  You mentioned yesterday that you had a great story to tell about "Ten".

DW:  "Ten" was my first big mainstream movie  and I didn’t know to go over deal points and contracts and stuff.  I just thought your agents were supposed to take care of you.  Oh, dumb blonde me.  So I got down there and we got to the first day of shooting and we were on the beach in Mexico and Blake Edwards (director) comes over and says “welcome Dee, is everything great?”  I said, “oh Mr. Edwards, my room is so beautiful.  I thought I’d died and gone to Heaven.  It was this marble suite. This little kid from Kansas.  My room’s great and everything’s so nice, but where’s my trailer?Well I didn’t know that my agent hadn’t negotiated me a trailer. 

EA:  Oh…

DW:  And without skipping a beat, he turns to his executive producer Tony Adams and he says, "I don’t know Tony, where’s her trailer?And Tony goes, "uh, uh, uh Mr Edwards, it’s coming.  It’s on the way, but it’s a little late.Right?  So, he turned to me and said “well you’ll be in with Bo (Derek) until your trailer gets here.  Which did not make John Derek very happy at all, I might add.  So 40 minutes later, here comes the trailer and I had a trailer every day.  But that’s the kind of guy Blake was.

EA:  Speaks volumes about him.  He could have easily just said, “you don’t have one”.  Tough luck.

DW:  And the story I didn’t get to tell about Peter Jackson yesterday.  Chris died while I was shooting "The Frighteners".  And I went back and forth 4 times across half the world and they said you can settle up with us.  We’ll make the arrangements. Just settle up with us at the end.  So I went to settle up with him and the accountant looked at me and said “no, Peter’s taken care of it, it’s his gift to you”.

EA:  Wow!  That's really sweet of him.

DW:  Yeah, you hear so much shit about people in our business that it’s important to hear the love too.

EA:  Yeah, that’s awesome.  You’re right, from fans’ points of view, especially with the internet and everything else, the social media, you hear all kinds of bad things, the rumors.  There’s got to be good things going on to.  For me it’s like the football analogy, when all the Tim Tebow stuff was going on.  He’s kneeling down on one knee, he’s been a Christian all of his life and they want to make an issue out of that when they have other NFL players that are shooting people at nightclubs, players that are getting arrested for potential sexual assault for, etc.  Just let Tebow do that.  To me, it’s like you don’t hear enough of the good things.

DW:  Isn’t that what we were talking about?  As soon as you move into judgement, then the love and the joy is gone.  And the separation happens and then the I’m better than you are thing happens.  And you’re not going to be saved if you’re not the religion or…Judgement in our world just limits all of it’s so incredibly.

EA:  Right, right.  What was life like for you growing up in Kansas before you went to New York, before you went to LA?  Just your earlier childhood.

DW:  My dad was an alcoholic all my life.  We were extremely poor.  I lived most of the time with my grandmother.  We lived downstairs and she lived upstairs.  And he ultimately committed suicide, my father.  The other side of that was I was loved unconditionally.  I had an amazing relationship with my dad when he was sober.  And a huge support system with my grandmother and my mom.  Everybody was incredibly talented.  So it was a real Ying and Yang thing.  I talk a lot about it in "Bright Light "and how it affected me later when I moved into becoming famous.

EA:  When did you start dancing? Were you taking classes, lessons?

DW:  My mom started bartering that for me when I was about 4 years old.  That’s when I started my own daughter dancing.

EA:  You said like when you went to New York and eventually from New York you went to LA, you kind of danced yourself across the country.  Tell me more about that, what were you doing then?

DW:  Industrials, that’s how I got my equity card in an industrial, called the Millikin (sp) show.  I was in an Oldsmobile show. (sings)  “Tie a yellow ribbon around that Oldsmobile”.  I danced my way across and made some contacts out here  and went back to New York and then got the Coogle Peanut Butter stuff, right.  Danced into Coogle Peanut and just ultimately I kept ending up in LA.  That’s why I just decided to come for awhile.

EA:  I remember you saying yesterday in your panel, you did like over 400 commercials.  You put in the time, you paid your dues, etc.

DW:  I did.  I never looked at commercials as paying your dues.  I thought I died and gone to heaven every day I got to go to the mailbox.  Which is still my favorite thing of the day is going to the mailbox because I associate it with all the checks I got in New York and it was like… You know, when you’re raised in a really poor family, it’s like do we have enough food to get through the week?  Going to the mailbox and having a thousand dollar check is like you’re living on another planet.  I’m always very appreciative of anything I get because I remember those days when I didn’t have anything.

EA:  Right.  It’s almost like Christmas every day when you went to the mailbox.

DW:  Absolutely.   Now we go to the internet to Paypal and my assistant goes “all right we’re going to the internet mailbox”.  We celebrate every time there’s money in there.

EA:  You kinda mentioned a story yesterday with Tyne Daly and some young actors on a set that were basically not being respectful.

DW:  Assholes.

EA:  That sense of entitlement, that type of thing.  Is that from all the jobs you’ve done, all the work you’ve done, not only yourself, but tons of other actors as well, is it that sense of entitlement that you see with the younger generation of actors?

DW:  It’s not just with acting.  I can see a sense of entitlement with young people, period.  I think you have parents, they wanted to give their kids a better life.  And the intention was really positive.  They wanted to empower them with a better life.  And ultimately I think we gave them too much and didn’t teach them some of the principles.  As a healer, I go back and forth because I know creation should be really easy and can be really easy.  And the easier it is actually the more you create.  Until you have that down you really have to take a responsibility again for...  and I think we need to stop enabling, not only our young people, but anybody else in our lives.  Enabling people doesn’t empower them.

EA:  Dee, have you turned down any roles, that you kinda kicked yourself about later?

DW:  No, a lot of roles I wasn’t available to do because I was doing something else or didn’t get up for, yeah, a lot of those.  But none that I turned down that I’m sorry about.  Things that I turned down, turned into real B movies with gratuity and stuff like that.  It’s not what I was out for.

EA:  I was listening to the audio track on "The Howling" dvd.  I remember Joe Dante was talking about that when you guys shot that scene in the adult store in the film, you were genuinely freaked out by the whole thing.  Can you talk a little bit more about shooting that scene and similar ones?

DW:  When an actor gets into their role, you have to cross a line .  You have to.  If you don’t cross a line, then the audience doesn’t cross it with you.  So I let my character go in to lala land and I become the character in the moment.  There’s always a part of Dee that stays present but there’s a lot of Dee that, like the story I told you in "Cujo" when I broke the window,  there’s a part of me going, okay don’t take your knees and the kid over the glass.  But most of me is Donna having to get the kid out of the car.
EA:  Can you give me a birds eye view of your experience shooting "E.T."?  I’m sure you’ve talked about it a million times, but now in 2012 what stands out for you during that time of making that film?

DW:  Waiting, waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting.  I think I was on the set over 3 weeks before I ever worked.  Drives an actor nuts.  Steven (Spielberg) one time said “can you explain to me why it makes an actor so nuts, I mean, you know we hired you”.  I said, "well, we’re like a racehorse Steven, you come and get us and we go, oh, we’re gonna race, we get to race, we get to do what we love, right? And then you take us to hair and make-up and we get groomed and then we go to wardrobe and we get our saddle on and we’re ready to go.  And if you don’t let us go, that energy’s got to go somewhere.He said to me, “oh well, I never understood that, thanks”.  Next morning I was on the set at 7:00 am and worked all day.

EA:  You mentioned yesterday in the panel that working with the young actor in "Cujo" that if he wasn’t there, you don’t know what you would have done kind of a thing because he was just so together for a child actor.  Also, what was it like working with Henry Thomas in "E.T."?

DW:  Danny was fabulous and wonderful.  It was just me and Danny in "Cujo".  Me and Danny and the dog, right?  That little kid was asked to do so much far out emotional work.  All the kids in "E.T." were fabulous.  Again, Danny I think was asked to go beyond what a kid should have been able to do.

EA:  So that’s why he made even more of an impression.

DW:  Yeah.

EA:  Do you feel with your roles like in "The Howling" and in "Cujo" and even with "E.T.", have you been typecast at all?

DW:  Sure.  I don’t think I was typecast before "E.T.", but after "E.T.", I was the quintessential mom.  I was the mom that everybody wanted and it was just easy to stick me in mom roles.  So, I’m still trying to get out of it.

EA:  The upcoming film from Rob Zombie, "The Lords of Salem".  Is that going to take you out of that?

DW:  I’m SO not a mom in that film (smiles).

EA:  With all the remakes that Hollywood’s been doing, how would you feel if they tried to remake "The Howling" or for some weird reason try to remake "E.T."?  How would you feel about that?

DW:  They did just remake "The Howling" with young people.  They said it was a remake, it wasn’t at all of course.  Actually somebody’s just bought all the rights to "The Howling" books and they want to know if I would do another one based on my character or like my sister.  I’d be my sister.  I said, look, I have to read the script and I would have to know who’s doing it and I would have to know...cause I’ve got a responsibility to all my fans from "The Howling".

EA:  You mentioned about being frightened of being on stage like doing some theater work.  Did you already do it once and had a bad experience or already knew that’s not for me cause I’m going to forget my lines or…

DW:  It’s just every time I go on, I’m freaked out and then I forget my lines. I don’t know, maybe in another life?  I would’ve, but I always get through it.  I’ve done Annie Get Your Gun in front of 5000 people a night, I remembered the songs and dances, but I’m always scared to death I’m not going to.  I don't like the panic.

EA:  Last question - how long were you working as a teacher?  What you did you teach? 

DW:  I just taught a year of high school, theater and english.  Because my mom wanted me to have something to fall back on, if this didn’t go.  So I wanted to honor that wish so I got my degree, I taught a year and I then I said “mom, if I don’t go now, I ain't ever getting out of here”.  So with their blessing, little Deanna Bowers (Dee), who’d never been out of Kansas in her life, went to New York.

EA:  And then, here you are now.

DW:  I was there for two years and came out to LA.  The rest, they say, is history. (smiles)

Friday, March 13, 2015

BLEACHBEAR "Lost Parade" Review 3/13/15


I remember back in 2011 asking for local music to review for the magazine.  I received a lot of submissions.  I specifically requested hard copies to weed out those that only use digital forms of promotion for their band.

I had a stack of CD's, CDr's, and the like.  I think even a few cassette (!) tapes made it to my door.  While I'm not one to toot my own horn, ever since the 80's, I've enjoyed turning people on to new music.  A few examples - this band out of San Francisco that were playing this really heavy style of metal that reminded me of Motorhead meets Maiden/Priest.  They had a 12" single for "Jump In The Fire" out in the UK and Europe at the time.  The band?  These unknown guys called Metallica.  Ever heard of them?  It's too bad what they've turned into but back in the day they could do no wrong.  But I digress.

So, back in 2011, that pile of music I received was pretty much just that - a pile of crap.  Yeah, I'm not in a mood to sugarcoat my words today.  Surely there were a few exceptions you say?  Yes, there were - three to be exact.  One is still putting on their live production shows annually here - getting better each year.  Another is playing a gig tonight in West Seattle.  And another has adopted a stage name to protect his identity.  He has returned to the local stage and has produced a quality EP of music as well (after several CD releases).  Two of the three were interviewed and featured in Eclectic Arts (print version).

This brings me to my current review of Bleachbear's "Lost Parade" release.  It's hard to not include a few different perspectives on this release.  I want to be fair to the CD as I would any other that I review here but I have a bit more background on the band so my perspective isn't that of a newbie.  For better or worse, I will breakdown what I think of the album as if I knew nothing about the band, k?

I've been living with this music for the last week - week and a half or so.  I played it through my TV, my stereo, and my trusty boombox.  Front to back, I listened to it approximately a dozen times, maybe more.  I wanted to soak in the music before I wrote this review.

The CD starts out with arguably the strongest track, "Stuttering Hearted".  I can't think of one thing to make this song better.  It reminds me of the late great Ronnie James Dio when recording vocalist Geoff Tate (formerly of Queensryche) for the Hear N Aid release.  Geoff finished his vocals in the studio and Ronnie just said from the booth, "Great.  It's Great.  It's Great."  He said it with such finality you knew there was nothing more to be done to improve the performance.  That's how I feel about this tune.  It's great!

The use of vocal phrasing (mixture of voice) during the song adds dimension to the tune. Tigerlily's voice is upper register.  It is airy and distinct.  To me, it stands out on the entire album in a positive way.  To others, it may be a bit of distraction (or it may take getting used to).  "Stuttering Hearted" is the leading candidate for a single release if you ask me.

I must mention that the production is lively - very clear bass lines, drums, voice, guitar, etc.  I'm not quite sure if the basic tracks were recorded with the band as a whole or separately.  In any regard, it works.  Kudos to the production/engineering team for putting out a quality production that isn't overly produced/slick.  The organic-ness of the performance comes through which I love to hear.

The band consists of three ladies - Tigerlily Cooley (vocals/guitar/bass), Annabella Bird Cooley (drums/percussion), and Emiko Gantt (bass/bells).  All songwriting credit is given to Tigerlily Cooley. 

"Down By The Forest" is up next.  An upbeat number with more vocal phrasing around the two minute mark (seems to be a staple of the band).  The forest motif shows up in several of the songs lyrics.  There's a little, a liiiiiiiiiiitle bit of a oldies vibe to this tune (think 50's).

"Letters At Your Door" is quite introspective.  The glockenspiel seems to get a work out on the majority of the album too which is a nice touch - particularly on tunes like this.  It adds a dream/lullaby like quality to the atmosphere.

Next up is "Valentine's Day".  Guitar and vocals start off this tune before the bass kicks in and then the kick drum.  The pre-chorus has an almost Beatles quality to it.  The chorus reminds me of Tracy Bonham's work a bit.

"I Do It All For You" may be a bit of a cliche' title but the song is anything but.  Many of the songs have lyrical themes of being alone, relationships (good/bad), and letting go, among other topics.  The opening of this tune the timing of the guitar and the drums sounds ever so slightly off beat - just a smidge.  The snare hits in particular.  Nothing major at all, though.

This brings us to "Look At The Stars".  Acoustic guitar and vocals start this tune off.  Stripped down for the most part (there are bells on this track too along with eggs (shakers) and other percussion), this song reminds me of what the band could close the show with.  You know how some bands play the big bombastic song last while others leave the audience on a quiet note.  That would be this tune.

The left of field track on the album, "Astoria", captures the cinematic quality that I'm sure was the intent.  Lyrically haunting, the music fits it perfectly to create the ghostly mood.  This so reminds me of Veronica Falls from London (if you haven't checked them out, do so now) except that band is definitely darker and edgier.  One of the stronger tunes on the album, both in composition and instrumentation.  This would make a great song for a video.

And the last track (eight total) - we get "Stop Holding On".  Another stripped down song that eventually builds up in places, full of introspection, the track makes a fine ending statement on this release.

Eight songs feels a bit short for this release.  I would of loved to have heard a few more songs to make it feel more complete.  But, the statement within those eight songs is more than enough to tell the listener what Bleachbear is all about.

There are times when the band sounds a little like a solo act, though.  Like it's Tigerlily and the Bleachbears.  This makes sense as she wrote all the tunes.  But, I'd love to hear the band (and maybe they've already done this), all three of the ladies, sit down and write a tune or three together as a band.  Or, if Annabella or Emiko have any tunes they've written on their own, bring those to the band.  I think it would add to the cohesiveness of making the statement that "we are BLEACHBEAR" the band - hear us roar!  :)

Side notes:  the packaging of the CD is spot on.  Released in 2013 (or that's the copyright at least) in a digipack format, complete with lyrics.  I'm not sure what the trailer on the back has to do with anything - I'll have to ask the band about that.  I find it odd but so am I so it's okay.  

Overall, this is a stunning release.  The more you listen to it, the more it unveils itself, the layers within the music and lyrics.  As it's playing again as I finish this review, it doesn't get old or redundant.  Do yourself a favor and download the album from their bandcamp page or buy the CD.  When they're headlining The Paramount in Seattle, you can thank me for turning you on to them today. 

Have a fantastic weekend!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

EMP: Sound Off 2015 Finals Thoughts and Observations 3/7/15


I found myself with some "extra time" lately so I've been exploring the local music scene once again, seeing if there were any new artists out there that resonate with my eclectic taste in music.  Before we get into the review, let me say a THANK YOU to Dick Solid and The World Famous Ratchettes (AKA Cancerslug) for driving all the way to Seattle on 2/15/15 for their first gig here in my fair city.

It was because of their gig that I looked at what was coming up at El Corazon.  Lo and behold I saw a band called Bleachbear.  I was like "who is this?"  One search later and I found out they were an under 21 local band that were competing in a competition called Sound Off! for young bands under 21 (or 21 and under - I forget which).  I was intrigued so a friend and I went to the finals performance last night at the EMP (Experience Music Project).

Three finalists advanced from the semi-finals - Naked Giants, Bleachbear, and Emma Lee Toyoda  One wild card band was picked to round out the finals:  One Above None Below.  Each artist had roughly 35 minutes to perform a set of tunes in front of judges and an enthusiastic crowd at the EMP Sky Church.

Based on the criteria the judges were using, here are my impressions of each artist.  I'll try to be as objective as possible.

Naked Giants started off first (randomly selected order).  A trio playing what I consider new wave rock (yeah I made that up), the band was clearly well rehearsed.  Tight and in the pocket, it was hard to believe they were a young band.  The vocals didn't do much for me (but this genre doesn't do much for me to be honest) but there was no denying these guys could play and there were no weak links in the band.  Full of energy that their instruments were second nature to them, it made for a tough act to follow.  The band was having a great time and the crowd was clearly into what Naked Giants brought to the table.

Bleachbear were up next.  I'm guessing they were the youngest of the bands last night (I could be wrong though).  The band plays a mix of pop, folk, and indie influenced music.  There is a clear introspective quality in their tunes, lyrically, while musically they (for me) were the only band of the night to actually create a mood during their tune "Happy Birthday My Friend" (sorry if I got the title wrong).  Beautifully written and performed, the trio of young musicians took the front of the stage to perform this tune.  This song could be on a television show or film soundtrack, easily.  The audience reaction was positive but the energy waned from the first band.  I'll give my thoughts on this at the end of this review.

Unfortunately, they were plagued with sound problems throughout their set.  I wasn't sure if it was the EMP's sound crew or the equipment of the bands - or perhaps both.  But there was a noticeable low end feedback as well as some mic issues.

Third up was Emma Lee Toyoda.  Such an odd band to describe.  A five piece with Emma Lee Toyoda front and center playing banjo, guitar, and ukelele with vocals of course.  Lots of vocal harmonizing, with upright bass, violin, as well as drums, clearly she can write songs.  I didn't connect with any of the music, though.  The band was loose but professional and unique.

Lastly was One Above None Below.  A four piece hip hop act with two MC's, a live drummer, and a producer on the laptop, the guys delivered a new set of songs for the performance.  I'm not the biggest hip hop fan but I have heard some tremendous local musicians in South and West Seattle pour their hearts into their raps so I was hoping for the same here.  I found the beats/samples very generic and one dimensional.  The time signatures rarely changed and it made for a very one note musical performance.  If the samples were improved, it would allow the MC's to mix up their rhymes and create more dynamics in their tunes.

So what was my prediction?  My friend and I talked before they were announced.  I went back and forth but for me it went something like this:

1.  Naked Giants
2.  Bleachbear
3.  Emma Lee Toyoda
4.  OANB


1.  Naked Giants
2.  Emma Lee Toyoda
3.  Bleachbear
4.  OANB

Yes, even though I went to see Bleachbear, I objectively did not think they were the best band of the night (sorry girls) based on the judges criteria.  So who won?


My friend and I were like WTF???  I was absolutely stunned and shocked by the first place winner.  No disrespect to that band but I've heard better hip hop coming from high school cafeterias during lunch breaks than what I heard last night.  Do they have talent?  Yes, absolutely.  But all the bands did.  How they ended up with the most points is just baffling to me.  I've been a life long music lover of almost all genres.  A musician (performance and teaching) for over 30 years.  An audio engineer for a computer company who's clients included Sony, Shockwave, Maverick (Madonna), etc.  I've reviewed more music releases than I have time for (for my magazine) from artists from all over the world.  I went to my first concert when I was 9 years old.  I've been to so many since I can't even rattle off a number right now.  I'd like to think I'm an educated listener and reviewer.  Even now as I type this, I just feel nothing but disbelief - like when the Seahawks' threw the ball in Super Bowl 49 only to have it picked off.  Sigh.

At the end of the day, all the bands were winners.  They got some new gear, some got new gigs, they got an opportunity to share their brand of music with lots of new people (and possibly convert some into fans), not to mention play in a very cool venue.

But from my perspective, the EMP needs to fix the format of Sound Off for next year (it's 15th).  Comparing a hip hop act to a dream pop act to a rock type band to an indie folk act is SO apples and oranges it's not even funny.  I'm sure logistically it would be just too much to have separate final categories, let alone sponsor prizes, but I call shenanigans on how the winner was picked last night.

Oh, and KEXP guy who MC'd the event, Naked Giants had a louder audience response than Emma Lee Toyoda.  Yet you gave the audience award to Emma Lee Toyoda - prize being on the bill for a gig at the EMP in April.  Next time use a meter to measure the crowd response if you can't honestly tell with your own ears.  Again, I'm sure it's somewhat subjective but it just bugged me.

One point I agree on wholeheartedly - there is some amazing young talent here in the NW.  I hope each of the artists last night continue to pursue their passion in music and put Seattle on the musical map in the future!