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Recap: Wednesday Night @ City Arts Festival

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Grynch, Photo by Kory Porter

Grynch- To a sold out crowd, Grynch got my City Arts Festival weekend kicked off in a big way. The Seattle rapper rep’ed his neighborhood of Ballard when he performed songs like ‘Mister Rogers’ with his huge signature smile plastered on his face. The lyrics “I’m feeling good I’m feeling great just the way I should” really summed up his appearance on stage- Grynch came off as humble and excited to be opening for Brother Ali, joking that when the two had collaborated Ali had dubbed Grynch ‘Brother Small-i.’ With DJ Nphared spinning his beats, Gynch won the crowd over with chemistry and charm just as much as with his song choices. The guy succeeded in getting Neumos amped on hump-day during ‘Smoke and Mirrors,’ and kicked my festival weekend off in the perfect way.

Jonathan Russell, Photo by Kory Porter

Jonathan Russell- I’ve often heard people say that concert venues are their church, so does it get more perfect when a church becomes a concert venue? All Pilgrims church recently was the home of Macklemore’s ‘Same Love’ video, and on Friday night Jonathan Russell of The Head the the Heart set up shop at the pulpit which was shaped strangely like a piano. Russell wore his nerves on his sleeve during the intimate acoustic show, revealing to the packed pews that he was anxious going into the performance. Nervous as he may have been, Russell played solo material to a hushed attentive crowd who ate up every verse and every story he provided. All Pilgrims is a perfect venue for Russell’s voice to shine, and when he played the Bill Withers classic ‘Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone’ or his own song, ‘Gone,’ every person with a soul in need of saving was in the exact right spot.

Pollens, Photo by Amber Zbitnoff

Pollens- Happy accidents are the best sort. This weekend it seemed that Barboza developed a little trend of running late on set times, and on Wednesday night it totally worked in my favor as I was introduced to the band Pollens. This was my first experience with the Seattle band, and I was completely captivated the moment the 6 piece ensemble chirped their eclectic yet totally fluid harmonies. The group is what I would classify as ‘Weird-Good’ — the sort of band that when you hear them, you also just have to see what they’re doing on stage to make these noises and melodies come to life. With multiple female vocalists and at least one male throwing his vocal stylings into the mix as well, it would be easy for this to sound like a mess, but nothing could be further than what actually happens at a Pollens show. The multiple vocals all share the same pitches, so when combined they become a thundering force that you simply need to pay attention to. Pollens takes the cake as the most unique band I encountered at CAF, and I think they left an impression on everyone in the Barboza Wednesday night.

Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band, Photo by Amber Zbitnoff

Mt St Helens Vietnam Band- I’ve heard that nothing good happens after 2am, but I know for certain all the best things happen after midnight. When I saw that Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band was booked to headline the opening night of CAF, it didn’t matter what time they took the stage, I knew I needed to be there. This band consistently puts on some of the most intense shows in town, and they didn’t disappoint (well, with the exception of not playing ‘Going on a Hunt’).

Opening with the powerhouse ‘Albatross, Albatross, Albatross’ it was crystal clear that MSHVB didn’t come to play around, and after two songs drummer Marshall Verdoes had managed to break both of his sticks into wooden shivs. To say he at times stole the show from singer and brother Benjamin would be an understatement- Marshall has to be one of the most impressive drummers to have ever played The Barboza, he completely goes bananas on the kit in the best way possible. An equally necessary shout-out goes to guitarist Drew Fitchette- during one of the band’s songs the guy was playing solely on the fret board, and I may have gotten so distracted by his fingers trapping and releasing the strings on his burgundy beast that I forgot to take note of what the song was actually called. The whole band was tightly wound and I know I said it earlier, but they’re just an intense group of guys- their talented bassist Jared Price lightened the mood every so often with a joke, but when you saw him pounding along on his bass nothing was humous, but everything was right.

It’s not a question though that the most vibrant personality on stage was front man and guitarist Benjamin Verdoes. I mean this in a good way, but he sort of comes across a little unhinged at times. He’s got the sort of power in his voice that most singers would be afraid to exercise, but Benjamin manages to throw his notes around in a way that comes across both controlled but with enough chaos to keep everyone in awe. When the band played  ‘At Night,’ Benjamin’s vocals came to a crescendo’d furry that left my jaw dropped. This is a powerful band, and one that sets the bar HIGH for other Seattle acts and showed a late night crowd huddled in the Barboza that they’re not to be forgotten about.