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At the Croc, The Blakes keep getting better
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At the Croc, The Blakes keep getting better

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

The Blakes
August 3
The Crocodile


For a band climbing its way up, the toughest crowd is always the one in your backyard - especially if your backyard happens to be Seattle, where rock stars are born and bred. Local audiences have seen and heard it all, so the bar is quite high for any act trying to catch a break. Fortunately for The Blakes, it appears they've been greenlit by the jaded night owls of the Emerald City - and lucky for us, they continue to capitalize on their potential.

The hard-rocking trio hopped onstage shortly after U.S.E., a local pop-tronica ensemble, had everyone sweating to the oldies for an hour non-stop - this alone was a tough act to follow because the energy was through the roof and everyone wanted to keep partying. The Blakes went to work, and midway through the opening number, "Little Bit About You," they had feet moving and heads bobbing, even from those at the back bar ordering the next round of PBRs.

A noticeably slimmer Garnet Keim, lead singer-guitarist of this vigorous threesome, seemed calmer, more relaxed and more focused than in previous concerts, where he comes across as a little over-anxious. There was something very tranquil about his appearance on Monday night, which lent itself well to the overall performance.

The Blakes did a rousing version of "Music Together," a song that sounded rather incredible on this dance-athon evening. In fact, I wish they'd play this tune more because it has such a great vibe.

There was new material introduced from the group's forthcoming album, Souvenir, but it was familiar favorites that delighted concertgoers most, some of who arrived with hand-held fans and waved much-needed air onto drenched bassist Snow Keim.

"A Fire" was slick and slightly intense, while "Don't Bother Me" was bouncy and fun. As usual, "Pistol Grip" was badass - it truly belongs in the opening credits of a dark western. Assembled fans, several that I recognized from previous Blakes shows, mouthed the words as drummer Bob Husak pounded determinedly on drums.

The Blakes sounded different to me on this night, in a very good way; whereas at Chop Suey in early 2008 the band gave a slamming rock concert, the songs on this evening were janglier, looser and riding on the fringe of rockabilly. Maybe it was the disco ball spinning over the stage or leftover energy from U.S.E., or maybe I was in a jumpier mood, but the riffs sounded catchier, as if the trio tinkered with the arrangements and turned them into dance-rock remixes.

"Two Times," a signature hit by The Blakes, had nearly the entire floor singing the lyrics - if anything, Garnet Keim may have held back a tad on vocals, but the crowd seasoned it by loudly chiming the chorus. "Vampire" was my personal favorite at The Crocodile, and I pray for an extended version down the road because it's got a terrific guitar riff and really gets people swaying in various directions - a young woman at my side danced circles around her boyfriend like a ballerina on a frosting high.

In the coming months, The Blakes will put out a new album, the aforementioned Souvenir, and head out on a national tour. It's not a do or die scenario, but the band is hoping this will give them the kind of exposure blessed upon fellow local artists Fleet Foxes and Death Cab for Cutie. The potential is certainly there, as is the worthy material and hometown approval, but this doesn't calculate to instant success - it's a whole other ballgame out there in the music world beyond Seattle, with no guarantees and few second chances.

But I have a feeling The Blakes will keep trying, and trying, until the timing is just right.

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