Donwstream Music Fest + Art Show
May 11-13, 2017
By Paul Broderson
The whole time all those yuppies and tech wankers were hobnobbing around Pioneer Square drinking $9 microbrews and watching bands they didn’t really care about at the Upstream! Music Fest, NadaMucho.com’s favorite underground venue Substation hosted a weekend of counter-programmed goodness called Downstream. Bands were encouraged to submit their rejection letters from Upstream!, Paul Allen’s innaguaral “SXSW for the Northwest,” for inclusion and the whole affair had a decidedly counter-culture type of attitude in both the promotion and the programming. They even had some tattoo artists in as “key note speakers” (pictured above.)
The result was an uneven lineup, quality-wise, but a triumph as far as being weird, loud and anti-corporate in nature. And, nestled right in the middle of the weekend was perhaps the best single-venue lineup of either festival, Saturday nights glorious run of Vigilante Santos, Downtown (#41for2016), Oliver Elf Army, Jugs of Blood, Crystal Desert (#41for2017), Tyrannosaurus Rox, Crazy Eyes (#41for2015) and the mighty Tit Nun (#41for2017).
The back room of the Freelard venue was already packed when Colleen Thomas’ beautifully-haunting vocals started the night off amidst the keyboard, guitar and drums of her three-piece band Vigilante Santos. All of Nada’s photographers were at Upstream!, so I got some shots with my iPhone.
Moving to the main stage, Nada favorites Downtown delivered a set of Devo-inspired electro-punk in front of their patented spray-painted sheet and the irreverence that only frontman Mr. Nicholas Markel can bring. Their set was amazing. This is the best band in Seattle right now.
Hailing from Everett and touting that it was the “greatest city in the world,” Oliver Elf Army did that amazing mix of guy/girl vocals I love so much. Think Vaselines meet Cheap Trick.
Jugs of Blood hit the stage next, and I can also assume that the blood that covered them from head to toe was fake. The crowd was caught off guard by the sheer volume of the band’s Marshall half stacks as the band hemorrhaged through songs about a masturbating Sasquatch and a rapist sloth. It was weird that such themes brought the crowd such joy; they just head-banged along like they were listening to the normal metal lyrics about swords, dragons or wizards.
Crystal Desert was next in the back room with an assortment of pedals and cool noises coming from the amps they amazed the crammed room with super angst, demonstrating why they’ve caught the eye and ear of local music bloggers like Seattle Music Insider.
The highlight of the night was Trannysaurus Rox, or “T ROX” as the cool kids call them. The bass player and guitar player were top-notch musicians and the drummer seemed like happiest person on earth. T ROX also had amazing banter. At one point the lead singer said not to use condoms and to “just live life and have fun.” The bass player reminded the lead singer that people should, in fact, use condoms, to which the lead singer retorted “yeah but you’re pregnant.” Lead singer responds “I’m not pregnant, but I am still breast-feeding” and then squirts some breast milk into the mouth of another band member. Crazy shit.
Speaking of crazy, #41for2015 band Crazy Eyes had all the lights turn down for their performance in the backroom, leaving only the glow of the piano to accompany the frustration and anger coming from the band. I think it was all love underneath, as band members bounced into each other throughout the set, throwing each other’s coats back and forth and performing with reckless abandon. This might have rivaled T ROX for “performance of the night” actually.