Monday, January 25, 2016

BLEACHBEAR Gig Review - 1/23/16

Mason Turner and The Reign

Fremont Abbey Arts


Here's my write up on the Bleachbear gig from last night.  It was sort of a pre CD release for their upcoming second full length, "Cowboy Movie Star" due in March.

For those that have been following Eclectic Arts for the past year, Bleachbear will be a familiar name.  I wrote a lengthy piece on the Sound Off competition where they were one of the four finalists.  I also wrote a detailed review of their debut CD, "Lost Parade". 

And if you've been looking at the EA expansion online, then you viewed the in person video interview conducted before their gig at The Funhouse in April of 2015.  Not to mention the three live clips from said gig as well.

My alter ego - Seattle Next Door - completed a photo shoot with the band last weekend as well (a few examples are included in this write up).

Oh, and I was wearing my Bleachbear t-shirt last night but I think it was obscured by my jacket.  Fan boy you say?  Perhaps.  I'd prefer to think that I'm supporting a local band that I happen to think has tremendous potential.

Before I get on with the review, I'd like to thank Sara (from Train Wreck as well as Little Sara and The Night Owls) and Anna (from SND fame among other things) for checking out the gig for another perspective outside of my own.

I had never been to the Fremont Abbey Arts.  I had commented to Sara that I hadn't been on Fremont Ave here in Seattle, WA in a few years.  A community based arts center, Bleachbear have a long history with the business, having started their career there back in their middle school years.

An all ages affair that was billed as a CD release (of sorts) - I suspected there would be a great turnout of family, friends, and classmates.  And there was as in a sold out event! 

Opening the evening was Siahna, a local young singer who was a contestant on NBC's "The Voice".  While getting over being sick, she took the cramped stage promptly with an accompanying guitarist.  She ran through a short but sweet set of cover tunes.  You couldn't tell that she was sick other than when she spoke in between songs.  Full of power and emotion, she delivered a fine vocal performance.  I was off to the side in the front where most people were listening to her performance.  But, unfortunately at these types of shows, the opener never has the full attention of the audience.  The din from the back of the room, where people were talking, catching up, etc was quite loud.  I'd love to hear her voice in a quiet setting to truly hear the nuance of her vocals.  A good start to the evening.

Next up were Mason Turner and The Reign.  A local four-piece band, the band was clearly enjoying themselves.  There were parts of many of their songs that were very mature for their ages.  All four members had a good command of their instruments.  A special mention to the other guitarist in the band for the tasteful slide guitar work on the "Summer" tune.  I noticed your work.  One of my guests said the band was entertaining but not their cup of tea. 

My one recommendation is that, when opening or in the special guest slot on a bill, stick to your songs.  Make a point.  Make a statement.  The lengthy guitar solo (hey, don't get me wrong, I'm a guitarist too so I understand the solo aspect of the live performance) at the end of the second tune was unnecessary.  You could of played anywhere from half to another full short tune in that time.  Keeping things concise is key for openers.  You'll have more impact on those checking you out for the first time (like magazine editors).  If it's your gig (i.e. headlining), solo all night long if you so choose.  Just a small recommendation.  Overall, I enjoyed their performance.

Bleachbear started off their set by debuting their new music video for, "Somnium".  Shot back in December 2015, the tune was inspired by the dance scene from the ageless comedy, "Napoleon Dynamite".  The black and white video was visually interesting.  I'm not sure if the audience quite understood the vision of the storyline but it went over well with the crowd.

Immediately after, the band launched into a set comprised of the forthcoming second CD with two additions from their first release. 

Despite a poor mix for the opening tune (lead vocals were definitely too low in the mix), the band was all smiles, playing to the captivated audience, many of whom had seen the band before. 

Joining them on lead guitar for some of the tunes was Mason Turner.  Musically this made perfect sense, as there is lead work on the new CD.  So the sound was filled out for sure.  Visually, this made no sense but I understand why he was there.  Is there another female family member that plays guitar perhaps?  J

While the crowd sang along to parts of "Astoria", the set was the usual for these gigs I've come to understand:  short.  After running through the majority of the new CD, "Cowboy Movie Star" as well as "Astoria", the bands vocalist/guitarist came back for the first encore solo.  Tigerlily grabbed the bass and did a haunting rendition of, "Stop Holding On" from the first CD.  Hearing her voice with only the bass provided the best sound mix of the night.  Also, the crowd had silenced so every nuance could be heard.  For me - this was the highlight of the night.

Emiko and Bird returned to finish the encore with the up-tempo tune, "Sunken Submarine".

The band exited the stage to much applause and the gig was in the books.

Miscellaneous notes: 

One thing I noticed VS the other two performances I've seen is that Emiko was doing more of the in between songs banter than before.  Whether this was on purpose or not, it did help enforce that this is a band.  I'd have Bird say a few things from the drum kit too in the future just to round things out.  The power of a trio.

I'm big on vibe when it comes to musicians and/or bands.  I noticed it at the April 2015 gig and this one as well - Emiko has a vibe going on.  The bass is pumping through the songs, she's fully into the music, dancing to the tunes, and it shows.  It's that indescribable character - some people call it the "it" factor.  I've never been fond of that term but in the same way that bassist Cliff Burton had his own vibe going on when he was raging with early Metallica, Emiko has a vibe, too.  It would not surprise me if she ventured off on her own in the future to do her own solo project. 

Bird's timekeeping has improved.  The drummer is the engine in the band and if the engine is all over the place, so is the band.  It was great to hear things getting tighter and that was due to the drumming being the backbone of the tunes.  Good stuff!

Another note is the mix last night.  Tigerlily's vocals were getting overshadowed in the mix a good part of the night.  Even when she was belting out the high notes, the instruments were fighting with the vocal mix.  By the last few tunes, things were in check.  Mixing bands is always a tricky beast, which I understand.  I purposely listened to the entire set from back of the audience, pretty much dead center, just so I could hear the nuances.  But this is a minor picky thing.  Anyone that's heard my own music duo knows we've had our own fair share of mix issues for sure.


This was a very enjoyable night of local music.  A great turnout helped with the energy in the room.  As always, I would of loved to have heard a longer set but this seems to be the norm for these shows. 

I'm looking forward to the CD release in March.  Look for my review of the new CD very soon!

As always, if you haven't checked them out, what in the world are you waiting for?

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