Big BLDG Bash
June 4, 2016
By Matt Ashworth
Photos by Jim Toohey
Last year I enjoyed interviewing AJ Dent about Big BLDG Bash so much I decided to double down this year. Below are thoughts from first timers June Woons and Aaron Semer, as well as three year veteran Jim Toohey.
NadaMucho.com: So, well, what did you think? Good shit, right?
June Woons: Totes amazeballs shit. Big BLDG Bash is doing the one-day music fest thing perfectly.
Aaron Semer: Absolutely good shit. Big BLDG and Macefield have become my favorite Seattle music festivals. I love the focus on local bands, and getting exposed to bands I’ve never seen before.
NM: Can you describe the atmosphere and set up for people who haven’t been before?
Jim Toohey: I have been to all three Big BLDG Bashes shooting for Nada. I like going early to SEE and FEEL the preparation, the co-operation, the wonderful sense of COMMUNITY connected to its purpose. Being there, you can’t but help feel connected, a part of it, a part of this community.
On the practical side, the flow through six stages is also a wonderful delight. The larger stages are “Yard 1 and 2,” which are housed in the biggest part of the building with really high ceilings and then move through a big door, down a cool hall, past the bathrooms and hit the smaller two stage set up, “Hangar 1 and 2.” The building is filled with eye candy at every turn, with bikes and other artifacts hanging, draping, and pasted everywhere, coupled with the added art installations of ultra-cool floating lit “jellies” by Kelly Fleek, you are always visually entertained.
AS: It’s really wonderful. You feel like you are a part of something special just being there. It’s basically a few big buildings – hence the name – and a couple open lots that are all connected underneath the West Seattle Bridge. When you first walk in it can be pretty confusing, but you get your bearings pretty quickly. Every stage feels intimate and can’t really accommodate more than a couple hundred people at a time. There are six stages, but only four ever have something going on at the same time. So basically, there is always something to see, and if one stage isn’t doing it for you, you just move on to another. It never felt daunting to try to catch multiple bands, even though there were over 50 sets.
JT: Big BLDG is the first festival I have been to that puts two stages in the same room, so when one band ends you simply move a few feet and turn 180 degrees and are set for the next band.
MA: Yes, the staging is definitely brilliant. I was there from like 7:45 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. and saw at least four tracks by all of these bands. It’s perfect for local indie music nerds with OCD. You just calmly follow the inertia and talk to people in between stages.
- Trick Candles
- NRVS LVRS
- Invisible Hand
- Acid Tongue
- BA the Scribe & Waffles
- Jo Passed
- The Fabulous Downey Brothers
- Great Grandpa
AS: I love that everything is very close and easy to get to. There was genuine curiosity and support in the air. Everything felt very relaxed and kind of ramshackle, but it was clearly very well run. Bands were on and off on a pretty tight schedule, which is really impressive with that many bands and stages. The sound was all pretty good too.
JW: Dreamcatchr was performing on the main stage when I arrived. I dug their indie pop and felt the warmth immediately.
Wandering through the Big BLDG, each stage area was remote enough that there was no sound bleed over from other acts performing at the same time, which is pretty rad for an event of this size.
The oblong Yard 2 stage gave Calvin Johnson plenty of room for his hott (sic) dance moves. Some folks may have been a bit apprehensive to see a middle-aged white guy rhyming so much, but my only gripe is that he needed more dub in his “Selector Dub Narcotic.” It was great to see him perform live and admittedly I have some back catalog catching up to do, but the day was all about the live music for me.
I caught part of Dirty Dirty and later Crazy Eyes at the outdoor Pyro stage. Both bands killed it: their energy was just right and they were exciting! The building itself shaded the performers on stage but left part of the crowd area exposed to the sun’s beaming intensity. The West Seattle Bridge overpass was also overhead, being all monolithic, creeping in the blind spot and stuff.
NM: Yeah, what was up with the fire shooting rockets outside by the “Pyro Stage?” When I went out there for Invisible Hand they went off when I was standing right there and it was hot as fuck. They can’t have been street legal. What a nice touch.
AS: Yeah, the heat was very intense from those things. As far as I can tell, it was like a Simon Says game. People had to follow a pattern of lights, and if they screwed up it torched us all.
NM: What did you notice about the event, visually?
AS: First, the space. It’s really industrial. I guess it is multiple workshop studios that people rent? I had never been there prior to this event. It’s kind of Mad Max meets 1996 Seattle. A little industrial hippy/pre-corporate burning man, a little blue collar. I think each stage area had a very different feel to it. You could be crammed into a little sweaty room, or outside in a nice open yard. It was a good variety. Also, local artists had decorated the stages with installations, which gave them each a unique look and feeling.
JW: The Hanger 1 stage had these strips of white sheets strewn across a black background…colors were projected on them by evening.
The building itself is a visual delight, as by day it is a large old wooden building housing a variety of art studios and music rehearsal space. I took several pictures of the art and the metal works, as well as moments of random coolness and visual eye candy.
NM: Tell me three artists you didn’t know before going that you liked.
JT: Sleeping Lessons was brand new to me. I like both their sound and their presence. They clap their hands a lot like Wolfmother and Hounds of the Wild Hunt so I was bound to like ‘em. Then Somesurpises: I had no idea of what was going on here, and wow, right in one of my main wheelhouses of spiritually. Dreamy, ambien-tish sound but she has her own different thing. And I would party all night with NRVS LVRS from SFO.
NM: I guess you could say that the little upstairs stage had “some surprises” for you, eh Jim? How about you, Aaron?
AS: Great Spiders blew me away. I knew within about a minute of walking into their set that I was in the presence of genius. Omar Schambacher is a rare talent. Amazing lyrics and songwriting that feels as though it’s just tossed off, like he doesn’t even give a shit. I don’t know how I had missed this band over the years. They hit on pretty much everything I love about Rock n’ Roll.
I thought Psychomagic from Portland was fantastic. They reminded me of Psychedelic Furs and other music of that ilk. Even live they sounded like a 1980s New Wave record – shit was just dead in this fantastic way.
Another pleasant surprise was Tacoma rapper B.A. The Scribe. This guy is an amazing lyricist and his delivery is on point. Very speedy. So many verses. I don’t know how he could memorize that many verses and not fuck up. He packed people into the tiny Studio 18 stage. It got more packed as his show progressed, because I think word was spreading. Anyone who saw that show is not going to forget him.
NM: Yeah. BA was my favorite. Give it up for DJ Waffles one time in the back though too.
JW: I loved JusMoni. I’d heard the name around before but they somehow evaded me. It was natural to join the crowd in moving closer to the stage to soak in her sweet voice, the bass and the beats. I look forward to bouncing with them in the future.
NM: Not paying anyone is part of our model, silly. That’s how I know I get your honest opinion.
JW: OK. Before they started, a friend informed me that Tinfoil and Tape would bear likeness to Kid A era Radiohead, which seemed like a fair reference point but would normally make me feel kinda “meh.” In contrast, the singer’s voice had a presence that resonated uniquely (maybe it was a vocal effect?) and it became obvious that that association was irrelevant. I was not physically in the room and since I could only see from the open door behind the stage, I remain intrigued. From outside I watched the drummer dial in many tight beats, sun to his back, without breaking a sweat.
Wild Powwers were super fun and lively. The drummer crashed, splashed and thrashed hair in every which way and I nodded along like I knew what was going to happen, but was led astray with each turning riff that I never saw coming.
NM: What would you do differently?
AS: That’s a tough one. It was really well run, and the organizers should feel very proud of this event. Maybe more food truck options and another beer garden?
JT: Some added stage lights to help with photographers like me, but otherwise not a damn thing.
NM: I just wish I knew someone young enough to have still been there when Zen Mother played at 1:30 a.m. I bet it was awesome.