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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 19, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 20
Upstream Music Festival + Summit 2017
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Upstream Music Festival + Summit 2017

by Paul Torres - SGN A&E Writer

UPSTREAM MUSIC FESTIVAL
+ SUMMIT 2017
PIONEER SQUARE
May 11-13


Paul Allen's Upstream Music Festival + Summit took its inaugural bow last week under mostly rainy skies. The event featured keynotes speakers Quincy Jones and Macklemore; both of whom attended Garfield High School. Festival officials estimate 30,000 attended the events. Approximately 360 cross-genre artists spread throughout and just beyond Pioneer Square performed during the three-day festival from May 11 to May 13.

Although there were some rough spots in organization including late band starts, audio issues, badge scanning difficulties, and capacity rooms leaving some fans out, I would say it was a very exciting and lively event. The Amazon Web Services sponsored main stage had that '90s festival tinge of nostalgia especially with Dinosaur Jr.'s show. J Mascis sang and played with his crew through the wind and breeze with an excited crowd bobbing around with their clear plastic bags in tow. (This odd sports stadium rule apparently was a festival requirement.)

Here is my nightly account of my experience with the music events:

THURSDAY NIGHT
Comedy Underground: Thunderpussy - Thunderpussy sliced, snarled, and shook down the room with their powerhouse music. A gutsy version of Jefferson Airplane's 'Somebody to Love' roused the packed audience into pure punk frenzy. Thunderpussy is not shy and exhibits the best of local talent; raw nerve and uninhibited musical gifts.



Comedy Underground: Mike McCready & Friends - Local legend Mike McCready, guitarist for Pearl Jam, showed up with some buddies. This group of rock and roll troubadours put on a tight and frenetic set. From bluesy rock to punkish rock, their wide-ranging musical expertise covered amazing renditions of classic songs from Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and Faces (Rod Stewart era). The crowd was also entertained by the pure love and amiability of the musicians on stage, which fed into the night's overall awesomeness.

FRIDAY NIGHT
Court in Square: Erik Blood - Erik Blood is Seattle's own electronic god. The atmospheric mood music mixed with tones of dark love and universal elation. Along with musician compadre Irene Barber, Blood filled this venue with its swirling echoes of cosmic soundscapes and trippy beats. Blood's 2014 Touch Screens release is a gem that will gleam your soul.



Axis 2: Smokey Brights - Chill vibes get real with the sounds of this modern era progressive alt country-rock band. This seasoned band is engaging and knows how to bring eclectic groove for its audience.

SATURDAY NIGHT
Smith Tower: T.Wan - Funk DJ T.Wan played at Night Shift on the Smith Tower's 18th floor. The late afternoon seemed an odd time for funky retro-esque sounds that I should be hearing in the later hours, but it worked. T.Wan brought the energy and had people dancing, including a young kid, about age 5. I am betting the vibes at night for this venue are a bit more happening.

Court in Square: Sloucher - Sloucher or Dinosaur Jr., played a capacity crowd. The line was out the door to Court in Square's crowd capacity and the dutiful security staff were only letting people in one by one. I leapt up to the fast pass queue and flashed my media credential, a purple wristband, and I got in, but only after respectfully letting in some eager fans first. I caught the tail end of their act. I was taken back to my days of listening to Pavement and Sebadoh (check your alt-rock fanzines in your basement). I was nostalgic, but the new fans were simply feeling musical hope, but with modern hi-fi gloss.

Axis 2: GOODSTEPH - I first became familiar with GOODSTEPH as the Sound Designer for ArtsWest's excellent Milk Like Sugar production. After that review appeared in the SGN, I regretted not mentioning the masterful interplay of the drama and hip-hop music as it boosts the story. Much like that play, GOODSTEPH boosted the mood of the audience with danceable beats and smooth vocal. It is pure rhythm and pleasure.

Axis 1: Summer Cannibals - Portland's Summer Cannibals brought the 'rauc' and roll up the Coast. They were ranging from fine to excellent at any given moment depending on the chord change. They are by sound and style a perfect festival band - entertaining in small doses because their energy may just be a bit redundant for an entire evening.

Main Stage: Dinosaur Jr. - '90s legend J. Mascis and crew pumped out Dinosaur Jr.'s classic alt-rock gems. That mystical MTV 120 Minutes era with videos directed by Spike Jonze was represented with songs like 'Feel the Pain,' 'Freak Scene,' and their beautifully inelegant cover of The Cure's 'Just Like Heaven.' Although there seemed to be audio issues, it somehow fit with the fuzzy fidelity of its time period.

Comedy Underground: Pye Corner Audio - Pye Corner Audio is an electronic project from the U.K. It was layers of atmospheric tones and sounds building on each other with airy breaths, blips and bleeps. It's come down music after a night of rave and rolling, if you are into that sort of thing.

Delicatus: Loveless Building - Well, I guess it had to happen. There are now Foo Fighter-inspired bands playing and apparently playing for years now. Sure Loveless Building has decent musical chops, but they need to wipe clean their 'house band affective disorder.' After a few Busch beers, I am sure they sound as good as the ultimate talents and without the restraints of bar band status or in this case deli-at-night.

Axis 1: Quasi - Quasi shook the bricks and rattled the worn wood floors of this very old Pioneer Square building. They hail from Portland and probably came down in a VW camper van blasting emo-rock. It's like Elliott Smith, Conor Oberst, and Sufjan Stevens doing a Jeff Buckley tribute show. And I mean that in a sincere way. This band is pretty damn good.

165 South Jackson Street: Haunted Horses - Bam! Wow! Haunted Horses were the best act I saw. Just two members produced a powerful sound of clanking drums, distorted guitar with dreamy reverb, and syrupy vocals. Described as punk in the Upstream information, I found that a bit too limiting to describe what they are. Are they The Jesus and Mary Chain for a new generation? Does it matter? Just be sure to catch them when they play next.

Galvanize basement and rooftop: Hip-hop artist - By the time I made it to this venue, I was exhausted. I am not even going to pretend I knew who was playing in the basement. When I went to the rooftop, there was a decent crowd, but there were turntables without a DJ with just the house music playing.

Upstream Music Fest + Summit is being compared and contrasted, for better and worse, to Seattle's Bumbershoot and Austin's SXSW events. Time will tell. Seattle is fickle these days. The demographics are drastically changing. Maybe this is a last grasp to hang on to a glorified musical past to lead us into the future and all its fortunes. Is music the salvation?

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SGN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW:

The Fabulous Allan Carr director Jeffrey Schwarz on having his latest documentary premiere at SIFF

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Upstream Music Festival + Summit 2017
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Robbie Turner and guests host special screening of Cabaret at SIFF May 24
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Theater Schmeater presents William Rawley's very funny Money & Run trilogy
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Scott's fascinatingly unsettling Covenant doubles down on Prometheus
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Schreiber's charming Chuck star-turn a pugilistic knockout
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Brutally sparse The Wall a haunting psychological battlefield
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