It was almost a whole year ago when I got my first photo pass. It was November 27, 2009, and it was a Lonely Forest show at the Showbox at the Market. I didn’t know what I was doing with my camera, and I basically knew nothing about the band. A year later, this had been the fourth time I’d seen local darlings the Lonely Forest, this time at Neumo’s, with Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin (SSLYBY) and Us On Roofs opening.
I was up front with a couple friends of mine, and clustered next to me was a small crowd of especially excited teens around my sister’s age, freshmen at Western. I wasn’t sure what they were going on about, and at one point I overheard, “well, does your mom know what Chris Walla looks like?
I didn’t hear the answer, but a few minutes later, one of the boys jumped up on stage and grabbed the bass sitting on the floor. He – Mikey Farrow, and two other guys-Brian Fisher on guitar and Nick Blodgett on drums, made up Us On Roofs, a local indie pop trio that sounded like they took some inspiration from the Lonely Forest themselves. Farrow took off his shoes almost right off the bat, and the crowd surprisingly didn’t overwhelm the band. But seeing that it was a loving local crowd, they were very perceptive and open to more local talent.
And this was a time when I felt particularly old.
All throughout their set, the young band thanked the Lonely Forest more times than I can count, but it was made evident why when John van Deusen of the Lonely Forest decided to get up on stage and sing with the band into Farrow’s mic, as he looked on like a proud older brother. And before he left the stage at the end of the song, van Deusen gave Farrow a great big hug from behind, also like a proud older brother.
It turns out, after I went home to check out more on Us On Roofs, they are all my sister’s age, and from my hometown of Gig Harbor. Go figure. And it also turns out that Us On Roofs also competed in this year’s Sound Off!, a Seattle battle of the underage bands competition put on by the Experience Music Project – a contest the Lonely Forest won back in 2006. So hopefully you’ll hear more from Us On Roofs in the next year or so.
After their set was over, the guys of Us On Roofs took back their rightful places up front with their friends while SSLYBY set up their gear.
Even though SSLYBY was the odd band out in terms of being non-locals, they put on a great show, with some older tracks from Pershing and Broom, as well as a bunch of new ones from Let It Sway, out in August.
“We’d like to dedicate this song to –“ and guitarist Philip Dickey trailed off after mumbling two names and an awkward pause. I guess you could say that SSLYBY has an awkward charm. Understated personas, generic clothes, but superbly catchy songwriting. A couple of my favorites were “Modern Mystery” off Pershing and “Everlyn” off Let Is Sway, which was produced by of all people – Chris Walla.
So even if SSLYBY aren’t based out of Seattle, they’ve still got some bit of Seattle running through their music. I swear Chris Walla is like the Timbaland of indie rock. He works with everyone.
“We’d like to dedicate this song to the Lonely Forest, or more how we’ll feel once we’re done touring with them,” Dickey announced again, right before they jumped right into “All Hail Dracula!” But the best part of that song is how upbeat and so not-vampirey it sounds. You’d be hard-pressed to find a band whose melodies are more universally feel-good that you picture artfully shot scenes from adorable movies with Michael Cera in your head.
But the retro mixing and harmonies matched with the oftentimes-somber lyrics keep SSLYBY from being kitsch. You sometimes want to skip around, sometimes slow dance, but you always want to dance in some way or another.
Just before 11, the Lonely Forest came out on stage, checking the mics and chatting with the kids in the front row, but not starting their set quite yet.
“We’ve gotta go off stage, because it’ll make us cooler!” John van Deusen said to his tourmates waiting in the stairwell to the right of the stage.
“You’re already cool enough!” A voice came from the crowd, not sure where though. Van Deusen smirked at the remark, but then they did step off stage to be “cooler.” But suddenly before they actually took the stage, local comedian and radio host Luke Burbank got up on stage to introduce the band. I hadn’t seen a proper band introduction in…I don’t even know how long, so that was a nice surprise. Burbank told the crowd that apparently The Lonely Forest had been double booked that night, but they needed a good reason to stay at Neumo’s. With that, a monstrous round of applause and screaming lit up Neumo’s as the band took the stage for real this time.
Having seen the band four times this year, the songs are all so darn recognizable that I can’t pinpoint any sort of set list. I was glad to hear all the songs off their latest EP – included “Let It Go,” “Ramshackle House,” “Live There,” and “Turn Off This Song (And go outside).” The latter of which was basically the soundtrack to my summer. “This song is about pretentious guys in bands,” van Deusen said of “Turn Off This Song.”
“Live There” was also a stand out because of the intensely local subject matter, and being in a room full of kids spanning from Anacortes all the way to Gig Harbor, it was a particularly heartwarming song.
As the venue grew hotter and hotter, the crowd grew more and more enveloped in their own mass of energy. Even after playing through plenty of songs off We Sing the Body Electric, guitarist Tony Ruland crowd surfing, and one encore, the crowd wasn’t done yet.
Really, during the encore the band played an especially rousing version of “Blackheart vs. Captain America” that ended with van Deusen swinging his guitar high above his head that I was afraid the strings might break and the Telecaster would be sent into the crowd. Thank goodness the strings didn’t break, but it was surely the way to end the show.
It’s a weird experience going back and looking at the photos I took of this band a year ago, and I think about how far the Lonely Forest has come since then – they released a phenomenal EP, were the first band signed to Chris Walla’s record label Trans, and they’re getting ready to release another LP.
It’s nice to know that we’ve all grown quite a lot in the last year.
And Chris Walla seriously works with everyone.
Almost one year ago: The Lonely Forest, Telekinesis, and The Globes at the Showbox.
Check out more photos from last week’s set at Neumo’s HERE.