From Fictions to the Fairweather Family

Free is the right price

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Despite the fact that I’ve been writing about this area and the music that can be found here for more than a decade, I don’t seem to be under the spell of the nostalgia that is felt by many in this music scene. Sure, I’ll take the occasional meander down memory lane from time to time, but I have no wish to rewind the clock back to what I perceive as a better, more golden time.

Don’t get me wrong: I am grateful for all the many experiences—not to mention all the fun—I’ve had, the people I’ve met and the relationships I’ve formed, many of which date back years and have their place in my present day. I do not view a fascination with things past as a poison, more like a perfume that, when applied too liberally, can overwhelm all else.

But if there is one thing I am nostalgic for, it’s the free local music showcases that used to be an integral part of this music scene.

The showcases, many of which were put together by What’s Up! Magazine, were exactly what they sounded like: A free night of music during which up-and-coming local bands could strut their stuff. The bands didn’t get paid at the end of the night, but the shows gave many the chance to play real shows in front of real audiences, sometimes for the first time ever. The goal was to introduce people to new bands and have a good time, sans lofty expectations or pressure.

Such local showcases have fallen by the wayside in recent years, not so much out of neglect or lack of interest, but because music venues are more plentiful than ever, and the committed cadre of people charged with booking those venues are as dedicated to giving new bands opportunities as they are landing major touring acts. Places like the Cabin, the Green Frog, the Honey Moon, and more, as well as nights like the weekly Showdown at the Shakedown competition and the open mics that happen just about everywhere, have created an environment of unprecedented access for new bands to this music scene (for of-age bands, that is. It goes without saying that all-ages access still has some catching up to do, sadly).

In short, dedicated local showcases just aren’t as necessary as they used to be. But undertaking only that which is necessary doesn’t seem like any way to live.

Someone who shares my nostalgia for the free local showcase is the man who is responsible for so many showcases of the past, What’s Up! Magazine Editor Brent Cole. For the past several years—almost since I ended my tenure as a What’s Up! staffer to become a Weekly staffer—Cole and I have been talking about reviving the free local showcase. Like many of the ideas we’ve had over the years, the talk was largely aimless and without any real-world results, but it was a notion we turned to time and again. Recently, that talk had become more serious, with the thought of pooling our (admittedly, very similar) resources and throwing a joint Weekly/What’s Up! affair.

Realizing we’d never get anything off the ground unless we actually pulled the trigger and committed ourselves to a date, Cole finagled an open Saturday-night spot at the Shakedown and informed me that we’d better find some bands pronto because our publications were about to throw a big ol’ music-making party.

The night in question is Sat., Oct. 12 and the bands fit the old local showcase prototype in that they are newish to the music scene and eager to entertain. Of course, Saturday’s show also continues the free-showcase tradition of putting together a roster of local bands that are mostly a mystery—not just to the general public, but also to both Cole and me. Which only makes it all the more fun.

Of the three bands booked (at press time, that is. A fourth band may yet be added), Fictions is the closest to being a known quantity, at least to me. Comprised of KUGS music director and all-around music lover Nick Thacker, as well as friends Katie Weiss and Erik Wallace, the band sounds exactly like what happens when a trio that spends its time steeped in a catalog of deeply Northwest influences comes together to form a self-described (and an apt description it is) “angst pop” band. If K Records and Barsuk had a baby and raised it in Anacortes, it might sound something like Fictions. And yes, that is intended as both descriptor and compliment.

Another of the bands playing has actually been around for a minute, but have been doing a decent job of flying under the radar until recently. Called the Shows, they’re a three-piece rock band who aren’t afraid to let their sound get a little gritty and don’t mind throwing a little attitude into the mix. Originally a two-piece, they rounded out their lineup with a drummer several months ago, and one can only assume they’ll be expanding their reach—and confusing people with their name, as has already happened—in near future.

The third band has, for some reason, chosen to offset their name with quotation marks—“Porch Cat and the Fairweather Family”—leaving me to wonder if this is a band or a “band,” i.e. practitioners of some kind of musical trickery that will surprise and delight us all. Whatever this “Porch Cat” entity may be (like, say, if it just happened to be lovely female-fronted folk/Americana, which is what it is), part of the fun of the local showcase is in the possible discovery it entails.

At the end of the day, I can give you all manner of good reasons to at least stop by the first joint Weekly/What’s Up! local showcase, but no reason trumps this simple fact: It’s free. I hope to see you there.

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