Drunk At A Show: The Round
L to R. onstage Jason McCue, Sarah Feinberg, Tim Wilson
The 158th edition of The Round featured a roster of Seattle-area-based musicians hand-selected by Steven Graham, host of 107.7FM’s “Locals Only” show.
The Round is a monthly event organized by the Fremont Abbey Arts Center every second Tuesday of the month. The individual musicians all share the stage. Each plays one song (the other musicians may participate or accompany) and then there’s “another round.” Between rounds, a spoken-word artist performs. Amid this loop of spontaneous music and oration, a local painter live-paints to the side of the stage.
While Jana Kaye Gering placed lines and turpentine mixture that would become a humming bird, Tim Wilson, Sarah Feinberg, and Jason McCue played rounds of brave and alluring neo-folk (accompanied by lap steel guitarist Jamison Dewlen and pianist/vocalist Torry Anderson), punctuated by spoken-word artist Sharon Nyee Williams’ righteous calls for self-love in a fucked up world.
Kicking off the first of four rounds, Jason McCue proudly wore the “young upstart” label on his sleeve during the requisite stage banter but is equally capable writing tautly emotional folk-pop songs. McCue is obviously a studied acoustic practitioner with hype to boot (last year he placed first in MoPop’s Sound Off! Under 21 Battle of the Bands), and he is adept at channeling indignant energy into songs that toggle between euphoria and pain. Several songs began beautifully and instrumental-like, but as soon as things got generically baroque, McCue ramps it up, spitting lines about love, loss, LSD and stretches of road.
The second player in The Round was Sarah Feinberg, who also writes, plays, and sings in the Everett-based band TELLERS, who just released a debut full-length full of kick-drum-driven dark folk-rock. Feinberg doesn’t shy away from the events or feelings that are behind her down-tempo anti-bullshit folk-rock, and opened up to the audience about how her cousin passed away months after her own wedding; she introduced her second song of the evening as a “song for Death, and [for] myself for working through all this.” This was her most sonically memorable song, and it continues to haunt me by way of Feinberg’s chilling fingerpicking, which she restricted the lower two strings of her guitar. It made me think of Chan Marshall’s idiosyncratic picking style heard on her mid-90s releases and that perhaps Feinberg has the power to take us deeper into uncharted and strange musical waters with just a voice and a guitar.
Rounding off The Round was Tim Wilson, who is also one fifth of Seattle band Ivan & Alyosha. Wilson proceeded to pull out song after song, and with each song, I felt like I was bumping into the same person in the street week after week. Failure, brutal honesty, and embarrassing naiveté ... these were not only themes, but ethics that Wilson willfully tries to embody. Wilson’s first song had me tangled up in my own emotions by the first verse. And it only got more disarming from there. As a Seattle folk scene veteran whose band has been playing since 2007, Wilson’s experience is in full evidence here, muso-skills-wise and otherwise, as heard in the breathtaking line “so confused and yet so self-assured,” a perfect summary of the overconfidence some of us wear in an attempt to outwit life.
Surviving change, the loss of a loved one, your own sick ego... how do you talk about categories of experience without lapsing into cliché? Lucky for those present, spoken-word artist and storyteller Sharon Nyee Williams stepped up to the mic to rectify, with sincere humility, the unreliable divide between art and life. Each of Williams’ three pieces possessed a timing, rhythm, and flow that played off of a question (e.g. “what is the American Dream?”) that she used as a refrain. I personally loved the way her pieces rhetorically crucified false notions of self-fulfillment: “How do you “follow your heart?” It’s embedded in me.” Self-acceptance is more complex than “following your heart,” and while the songs that come out of terrible situations eventually come out of Bluetooth speakers in the form of easy-listening, Williams gave voice to the lows and highs that visit us in words that become embedded (to borrow her word) in our bodies and brains.
Personal dignity, dreams of rock stardom, first loves... it all came up with this quadruple-threat line-up of individual performers, and down to the closer: Feinberg, McCue, and Wilson’s cover of the Beatles (written with Billy Preston) tune “Don’t Let Me Down.” “Sing along if you know it,” piped Wilson before they launched (hard) into the song. If you sang along, you might have asked someone embedded in your heart to not let you down, or maybe you asked yourself.