Palehound / Great Grandpa / Heavy Petting
February 19, 2016 @ The Crocodile, Seattle
Words by Nick Anderson
Photos by Tori Dickson
As someone who is (ostensibly) involved in Seattle’s music scene, I am fatally flawed at physically getting out there and experiencing new, live music. Partly this has to do with age. I’ve been to thousands of shows (starting with Elton John at the tender age of eight) and, I must admit, my tolerance for loud volume and crowded venues has declined drastically. (These old ears just aren’t what they used to be and if I’m going to subject them to a sonic pummeling, it had damn sure better be worth the tinnitus.)
Economics are also a factor. $10 at the door can buy at least three cans of cat food and I’ve yet to be driven from my bed at six in the morning to feed a mewling post-punk/proto-indie band. (Note to all post-punk/proto-indie bands: Do not drive me from my bed at six in the morning. You will not find me cooperative.)
Those (admittedly annoying) considerations aside, I do sometimes get a bug up my ass. Believe it or not, this crotchety cat-slaved old man still enjoys live music and occasionally craves it, especially anything new. There’s a particular thrill that comes with seeing a talented young band…and I don’t just mean “young” as in the band member’s median ages. No, I mean a band in its formative stage. And while you can tell that they’re good and vibrant RIGHT NOW, you know that they’re only going to get better. I suppose it’s akin to appreciating the quality ingredients of what’s soon to be an even better meal.
It was with this mindset that I jumped at the chance to review Palehound, Great Grandpa, and Heavy Petting at the Crocodile Back Bar. I had heard nothing but good things about local groups Great Grandpa and Heavy Petting, and Palehound piqued my interest upon first listen to their roundly well-received first album.
I’m not usually a fan of instrumental groups (lyrics are my first artistic love and it’s taken me a long time to appreciate music that doesn’t feature them), but I thoroughly enjoyed Heavy Petting’s set. Along with a delightfully intricate, but admirably tight, rhythm section and a guitarist who isn’t afraid to take charge or surrender the reins as the musical situation warrants, the trio also boasts an energetic stage presence. Too often instrumental groups lose sight of the fact that live music is not only to hear, but witness. Heavy Petting put on a show, and you can feel their passion in every facet of their music. For those still not sold on a band sans-lyrics, their bassist has some decent stage banter in between songs.
Great Grandpa took the stage next and proceeded to OWN the audience. It’s a special opportunity to hold the supporting slot on a three band bill with an up-and-coming touring act, and Great Grandpa made the most of it. I have a not-so-secret fondness for any band that’s technically proficient but unafraid to be sloppy because it’s waaaaay more fun, and this group secured a place in my heart almost immediately.
Seriously, did anyone else know that the 90’s, a-la Pavement, are back in a big fucking way? Because while I didn’t, I’m sure as hell happy about it. As soon as I heard that first ragged guitar tone, followed by that seemingly lazy, caustically pointed, and incredibly talented female vocal kick in, I was transported back to my hazy adolescence. This band was so much fun. They made me wish they still made Hi-Ci Ecto Cooler so I could punch one open and mix it with whatever liquor I first got drunk on…I’m pretty sure it was my best friend’s mom’s vodka.
When Palehound took the stage, I had no idea what to expect. This is a band that has experienced a relatively large amount of success (a positive Pitchfork review, an NPR feature) very quickly and is currently in the middle of one of their earliest, if not first, national tours. And a national tour is fucking HARD. As such, not every show is going to be legendary, or even good.
I had listened to their debut LP Dry Food a handful of times and thought it was great: interesting guitar riffs backed up up by excellent pop sensibilities, including a vocalist who’s not afraid to get weird with her lyrics. So I was certainly interested to see how all of it would translate live. And it was here that I arrived at my aforementioned thesis: this is an extremely talented young band, but they are raw. And that rawness is not a bad thing (certainly not in my estimation, anyway).
That being said, Palehound’s set offered a hint of what’s to come from this enigmatic group. Lead singer/guitarist Ellen Kempner is a musician to watch out for, with lyrics and a vocal style that that call to mind the Moldy Peaches and guitar chops that call to mind the Pixies and (dare I say?) Television. I’m going to sound like a high school guidance counselor, but this band has incredible potential and I can’t wait to see what they do next.
Check out more of Tori’s pictures from this show on our Flickr page.