by Jessica Price -
SGN A&E Writer
WEST SEATTLE SUMMER FEST
WEST SEATTLE JUNCTION
(CALIFORNIA AVE SW &
SW ALASKA ST)
The annual West Seattle Summer Fest has grown from an unfussy neighborhood block party to a full-fledged three-day festival that won't stay a relative secret for much longer. Between Alki Beach and the Summer Fest, West Seattle is seeing a huge influx in visitors each July and locals are only too happy to share their civic pride for one weekend each summer.
Now in its 36th year, this year's musical programming was once again the main attraction, boasting a hefty lineup of local acts and culminating in a boisterous set from San Francisco's Shannon and the Clams. With their mix of girl-group, surf punk, and garagey stylings, the quartet lands on the right side of kitsch, throwing down something modern and fun without being perpetually stuck in reverse like many a vintage-inspired rock band can be. At the end of Saturday's festival, a mini-dance party broke out in the streets of the Junction while cool summer breezes carried away the heat of the day. 'Wow, you have something really special here,' vocalist Shannon Shaw told the crowd in sincerity. 'A free music festival that everyone in the neighborhood comes out to?'
In conjunction with the West Seattle Junction Association, the performance-booking reins were handed over to West Seattle's Ben Jenkins and Troy Nelson, co-founders of Killroom Records (Nelson is also a DJ at KEXP). 'Showcasing artists that are making a significant impact in our city is something we focused heavily on this year. We also wanted to represent all genres from our vibrant music scene,' they said of this year's lineup. The weekend featured over 20 artists and as always, was 100% free. Local heavyweights from Seattle's recent music history included The Briefs, Kinski, The Dusty 45s, Dude York, and Spesh, as well as an early set from local kids covering blues, rock, and pop from the School of Rock.
Rising stars The Blacktones delivered a magnetic, groove-filled afternoon set. This band is one to watch, especially as they are about to record with producer/recording engineer Jack Endino, who contributed to the early success and trademark sounds of Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mark Lanegan, and L7. The Blacktones vocalist Eva Walker could hold her own among PJ Harvey or The Kills' Alison Mosshart. Consisting of founders/twin siblings Eva Walker on guitar/vocals, Cedric Walker on drums, and Robby Little on bass, the band describes themselves as 'a goody bag of blues, punk, and black power' - and indeed they are.
Another buzzworthy local band, Tacoma's Mirrorgloss, played early Saturday evening, fresh from playing Tacoma Pride earlier in the day. We've had our eye on Mirrorgloss for several years now, and these ladies work and play hard. You can catch them regionally with a huge variety of bands and at festivals all over in support of their three electro-pop/rock/soul releases, including their most recent, Raise Ya Grades, and the excellent EP Something New. The genre-defying duo bring the party wherever they play and are in fact real life best friends that initially met on MySpace and hit it off instantly. They went through a few musical incarnations, eventually putting together a band for a Jeff Buckley tribute that 'basically became the beginning of what would become Mirrorgloss,' the ladies told me via email.
Here's a little more of that conversation:
Jessica Price: What were your individual musical backgrounds before Mirrorgloss?
Najah Todd: I played cello in middle school, switched to voice in high school and in college switched to private lessons and specialty choirs, but up until I joined the local Tacoma music scene I sang in church mostly.
Del Brown: I started singing around 7 in the choir at church and took vocal training all through school in some form or another. I picked up instruments along the way but never had the confidence to stick to it. The late '80s/early '90s indie and punk scenes are where I started dabbling in fronting rock bands.
Jessica: How do you feel your sound has developed over the last 2 EPs and album?
Najah: We feel like we have evolved, and we are still experimenting and discovering new ways of writing together and with other producers; we are more or less leaning toward an indie pop sound and less of a rock sound. We're fluctuating and still in the process of growing.
Jessica: Do you both write lyrics, and switch up who sings?
Najah: Yes. It's a very fluid and collaborative effort. We give each other space to express whatever story or emotion we need to convey through lyrics, melody, and arranging.
Jessica: As women in music today, do you feel like there's more of camaraderie between other women in the biz than there used to be (and more acceptance from the boys' club)?
Najah: So far we don't adhere to a 'boys' club' but the womyn and grrls in the community have been more than supportive. We have definitely made some solid connections with the women in the music community.
Jessica: The world has changed since 2015 when your first EP came out, and not for the better - do you feel like you've seen or experienced a renewed vigor in making music and in taking chances with art now compared to then?
Najah: As African American women the world hasn't changed as much, and, as artists and as women, it's always our job to write what's in our hearts and speak our truth.
Jessica: One of you just had a birthday. (I'm sorry I forget who!) You are both such great role models to follow your heart and experiment; to do what you feel. Do you feel that now more than ever as full-grown adults you've hit your stride musically, and in who you are as women?
Najah: (Just had the birthday on 7/14.) I feel like I'm on my path, but I haven't hit my stride - but if I keep going in this direction I will just continue to create more bodies of work, and hopefully many masterpieces.
Del: I'm still growing, and I am humbled that I have this outlet now that I have matured and feel like I have more intelligent things to say. If I were in my 20's doing this I would have probably embarrassed myself by now.
Jessica: What are your current obsessions in music, fashion, life in general?
Najah: Fashion - I like '90s preppy fashion (Clueless era), glam, glitter, goth, ethnic prints with Doc Martens or chunky shoes and winged liner with a bold matte lip. For music, I'm super into indie hip-hop (Duckwrth, Vic Mensa) sultry girl vocals (Anna Wise, Angel Olsen, and Kimbra) and throwbacks (Veruca Salt, 7 Year Bitch, Dionne Farris and Irma Thomas). Life - Vitamin E oil, La Croix, anything lemon flavored, watermelon, confident and well-accomplished men.
Del: Fashion - Give me a circle skirt, some bold prints especially plaids (think grunge), a splash of goth, a dark matte lip, an ironic and whimsical piece of jewelry and block heels. Music right now...well...Mor Mor, Yuno, Alpine, Zhu, Twin Shadow. So much...I love no wave stuff like the Bush Tetra and ESG... Cocteau Twins forever. Knife Knights, that video is amazing. I can do this for hours. Life - Rachel's Ginger Beer, ice water, enamel pins, shea butter, watermelon, hot sauce, Ali-Express app, emotionally intelligent and self-aware human beings.
Jessica: What's next for you ladies? Aren't you recording with Erik Blood sometime soon?
Najah: We're taking a quick break after these next few summer dates to refocus and get our heads back into the creative process. We are working on continuing to build the fire in our friendship and just spend some more quality time together. All relationships take work and ours is no exception. And yes, Erik Blood and Mirrorgloss will be a thing in the near future; it will be everything you wanted and nothing you expected.
The 36th annual West Seattle Summer Fest set the bar incredibly high for talent this year. Watch for Mirrorgloss August 13 in Olympia, The Blacktones at the Capitol Hill Block Party this weekend, and October 3 Shannon and the Clams return to Seattle to play the Crocodile.
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