The Sunset Tavern feels small. Similar to the Media Club in Vancouver, but with more nicknacks on the wall from what looks like an old Chinese restaurant. The stage is tucked in the back corner of the room across from the bar. It's the kind of corner stage that reminds me of bars that no longer exist in Victoria like Steamers and Central Bar. Places that had food but also had great concerts several days a week.
I sneak past a group of girls huddled around the soundboard to order some beers I've never had because this is a different city. Above me is a sign that basically tells you to "Order and Get Out of the Way" but in nicer words. I had to admire the efficiency of the bar I wish Lucky Bar would adopt this principle.
I sipped my beer until John Vanderslice came over to give me a big hug. This is why I love this guy. He was honestly so happy to see that we had made it down to Seattle just for his show. Calling us "Canadian Heroes" for making the trek down that included a three hour ferry ride. We chatted for a few minutes before introducing us to Jacob Winik, one of the engineers from his analog recording studio in San Francisco called Tiny Telephone. He'd brought Jacob along to do sound for the entire tour. Jacob and I talked about when they opened Studio B a few years back at Tiny Telephone and the exciting news about opening the new studio in Oakland.
Pretty soon Prism Tats took the stage. Who knew just a guy, a guitar, drum tracks, some pedals, and some distortion would sound so great. He was seriously a welcome surprise, but most opening acts are these days. I think artists and bands really strive to find cool, contemporary, and talented bands to open for them these days. Unlike in the days of my parents where the "backing band" was for the most part awful. I will certainly be picking up a Prism Tats record in the future.
Before John and Jason Slota hopped up on stage I noticed the lighting in the venue wasn't great, but I could probably make due. I wasn't overly thrilled with all the photos I got, but I did take some I really liked. Harsh reds, blues, and pinks make it tough sometimes. Someone asked me about shooting in low light at this concert on tumblr my answer is here.
As usual John's show was filled with laughter, jokes, banter between himself and Jason, oh and a few shout outs to us for coming down. One thing I did notice though is all his praise for Jason Slota. Jason has essentially replaced the rest of the band by playing multiple instruments during the show. Primarily the drums and Moog. His drum solo at one point brought on declarations of Jason being a "golden god." A just and fitting title for him in my opinion. Seeing a talented musician like Jason Slota used to a potential I've yet to see in most indie rock bands.
JV eventually dismissed Jason for a quick break so he could play some songs solo. One of which was "Numbered Lithograph." It is hands down one of my favourite songs off Emerald City if not all of John's discography. Quickly he followed it up with "After It Ends" off his album White Wilderness. The song has been stuck in my head ever since.
On this tour John's songs are slightly rearranged, with heavy and aggressive notes added by an electric guitar. All while stay grounded, but not without sticking into your mind. The whole set I was thinking "I hope someone is recording this." Songs like "Teaspoon of Codeine" I wouldn't expect to be played heavily on electric guitar with the kind of urgency that you'd find on many songs off Cellar Door. A welcome and surprising change. I was quite a fan.
The set was certainly Emerald City heavy, but I'm not going to complain about hearing my favourite songs. There was a surprising lack of songs off Romanian Names. I'm not sure many noticed that tough. The songs off of his latest record, Dagger Beach were crisp like the autumn air outside the tavern. Seeing the songs live brought a new life to an album I fell in love with earlier this year.
After playing a couple Bowie songs John and Jason jumped into the crowd to play two more songs acoustically. JV armed with his guitar and voice, Jason with part of his drum kit, and the crowd with their voice. It was wonderful hearing a room full of people singing along to "White Dove." After that he was joined by a lady from the crowd he'd met that day to duet on "Trance Manual." I really feel bad for not remembering her name because she had a lovely voice. Then again so did the lady singing next to me most if the night.
It was a wonderful and quick trip to see a friend play a concert. I'd have no issue ever traveling anywhere to see John Vanderslice play a show. He's a thoughtful, caring, and extremely talented man. I highly recommend you check him out on this tour and buy some of his records.
More photos of John Vanderslice can be found on flickr.