“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door… You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

 

Note: This is not a Built to Spill review. Rose saw Built to Spill, so if you want her opinion, go read her recap (coming soon). I did, however, see Jason Albertini (bass, Built to Spill) buy a bunch of Chastity Belt merch during Chastity Belt’s performance, which I thought was super cool. 

Like any journey worth telling, day two of Volume: Inlander Music Festival began with uncertain footsteps. Parking at city festivals can be a nightmare, so I left my car by Terrain and hoofed it over to the Steam Plant, hoping to catch some of Blossom featuring Myke Bogan. The journey took a little longer than expected (I’m still learning downtown Spokane), but I finally found my way to the outdoor stage at the Steam Plant, having missed half their set.

For me, Bogan was the main draw, a Portland-based rapper who I missed on day one due to his playing late. Why promoters would book a performer as good as Bogan at 12:15am, I’ll never know. But I digress. Blossom—a jazzy R&B singer also from Portland—was a dream to listen to, and while Bogan only came out for one rap duet, the duo made a terrific pair.

Unfortunately, you had to be standing directly in front of the stage to hear it. A little to the left or right and it all turned to the type of jumbled noise one hears through the walls of their neighbor’s dance party. Odd, because the majority of the 21+ area was sectioned off to the left of the stage and not one speaker faced that direction. Outdoor sound can be hard, I know, but it’s not impossible. This was embarrassing.

Also mildly concerning was the lack of attendance at the Steam Plant. Yes, it filled up more and more as the evening progressed, but at 6pm on a sunny Saturday with beer, food trucks and good music the place should’ve been packed. Where was everybody?

One could surmise there was no need to have parked six blocks away.

Chastity Belt @ Steam Plant

Chastity Belt is definitely a buzz band at the moment, which generally causes me to put my guard up. While I haven’t been crazy about everything the Seattle foursome has done, their new album sure is special. “I Used to Spend Spend So Much Time Alone” was just released on June 2 and so far it’s been met with acclaim. NPR says it takes on an “evocative… low-key, nonchalant persona [that] invites us into their heads.”

Listening to the band live confirmed my theory that Chastity Belt is channeling Nirvana at half-tempo. That, of course, is reductive; there’s much more happening here than what’s come before. But the sentiment is true, at least. “I’m not okay, I’m not okay. I want to complain,” sings Julia Shapiro, rather indifferently, on the new track “Complain.” There’s an irreverent grunge spirit hovering over these femme rockers as they play, and it’s a joy to watch live.

Choir Boy @ the Bartlett

With music festivals comes sacrifice. I had to leave Chastity Belt’s set halfway through to catch Choir Boy, one of the musical projects of Utah-based producer and songwriter Adam Klopp. He was one of my Critic’s Picks, having fully dived into his stuff the week before Volume.

I don’t know what I thought I’d see, but I certainly wasn’t expecting to find Klopp on stage in an orange jumpsuit and an old-man Halloween mask. It wasn’t just for one song either; Klopp remained in costume the entire set. The performance was surreal as this uber-weird, dancing figure, bathed in stage lights, swayed next to a rather normal-looking guitarist for 30 minutes. Cap it off with Klopp’s otherworldly vocals—the Inlander wrote Klopp “clearly worships at the altar of Brian Eno and Roxy Music,” though I can’t help but hear Roy Orbison in that ethereal vibrato—and you have a scene straight out of David Lynch’s brain. Choir Boy was my favorite performance of the weekend.

I talked with Klopp right after the show and asked him what was up with the stage getup. “I don’t know,” he said. “It just seemed right.”

Buffalo Jones @ Terrain

Sadly, I only caught the last two songs of Buffalo Jones, but they were another group I had been looking forward to seeing. Having existed for over a decade, Buffalo Jones are veterans of the Spokane music scene, but you wouldn’t know it listening to their stuff. Their music has an urgency to it that feels fresh. It’s forward-thinking rock ‘n’ roll with touches of the past (a little bit of Get Up Kids, Counting Crows and maybe Wilco).

From what I saw live the band doesn’t disappoint. They’re tight and that lead guitarist can shred. Buffalo Jones plays next with Krist Novoselic’s mysterious new group, Giants in the Trees.

Dario Ré @ Terrain

Despite a brief stop at the Big Dipper to catch a couple songs of Portland’s Tender Age, I spent the rest of my night at Terrain. The Spokane-based Dario Ré hit the stage with a seven-piece band that included back-up singers, woodwinds and strings.

Ré is a fascinating figure: tall but soft-spoken, locally based but globally minded. In our interview, Ré spoke of his time spent traveling the world, which eventually shaped his music: “I started tooling with stringed instruments in my late adolescence, but it took growing some wings and traveling Europe and North America to really begin my passion for songwriting.”

Ré’s performance was another victim of Terrain’s unfortunate acoustics. Some of Ré’s notes are so quiet, whether it be a soft-strummed mandolin, a plucked violin, or Ré’s own voice, and the spacious hall of Terrain just ate those notes right up (not a knock on the sound guy: Cathedral Pearls, Buffalo Jones, Nat Park & the Tunnels of Love, all the loud bands sounded great).

Regardless, Dario Ré impressed with a contemplative, diverse and compelling set. I’m looking forward to his forthcoming album, Aspen Artichoke, due out later this year.

Cathedral Pearls @ Terrain

Like any good story, the journey ended where it began. Terrain was where I first slipped on my wristband and it would be where I finally cut it off. Though music would be playing long after Terrain’s sets finished, my ears were tired and my feet—not the calloused clobbers of hobbits—needed some rest. I decided the Spokane-based, dreamy reverb-rock outfit, Cathedral Pearls would make a fine ending to my whirlwind of a journey.

Cathedral Pearls recently released a new single, “America’s Child.” It’s a driving tune reminiscent of the War on Drugs, ‘90s Bowie and the playful vocal stylings of INXS. In other words, it’s otherworldly—an industrial spirit that captures and keeps your attention.

With one of the biggest crowds at Terrain this year, Cathedral Pearls delivered on the local hype that seems to follow them. Being relatively new to town, I had no frame of reference for new or old material, (this was apparently mostly new tunes the band is in the midst of recording) or was fully concerned about the storylines that surround the musicians (some members frequent other Spokane bands and double-dip as business owners in local performance spaces). None of that really mattered, because the music spoke for itself and the music was good.

What I do find most compelling about Cathedral Pearls is that they represent both the past and future of Spokane music. Will they move forward and possibly break out? If so, will their success help define the Spokane scene that is to come? The story, I suppose, will write itself in time. For now, let’s just enjoy the rich, growing music scene that Spokane should already be proud of.

My day one recap can be read here. Be sure to catch all of our Volume coverage. Until next year!

 

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