Drunk At A Show: Linda's Fest 2018
It’s not every day that the punk singer gets on his hands and knees to pour sincerity into an audience’s ears, but happened on Saturday, August 25 at the 9th Annual Linda's Fest, the annual grunge-conscious music-fest at Linda’s Tavern in the heart of Capitol Hill: “When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait ‘til I turned 21 so I could go to Linda’s,” testified Sandrider’s vocalist-guitarist, Jon Weisnewski. “A lot of the [so-called grunge] bars from the era are gone [or have gotten new facelifts]...but not Linda’s...” And so, an impressive crowd of leather and black denim-clad enthusiasts congregated in the small parking lot behind Linda’s to celebrate a dying breed: the last true Cap Hill rockist bat cave.
First to play were Nox Novacula, a goth-metal outfit with a cheeky sense of humor (all four members started out the set wearing matching, opaque-like-my-soul aviators). Smoke machines were à propos, as were the bespoke black bouncy-balls emblazoned with the phrase “DEATH TO FALSE DEATH METAL.” A relatively new band (they’ve been playing among the living since last October, only), tried and true gothic themes (like the story of Persephone) and chorus pedal bass sent pleasantly cold and dark references ricocheting around my mind. You know the usual name checks, but I heard an uncanny similarity to the proto-goth 1970s LA punk band, Zarkons. For the last song, Nox Novacula’s singer took off her shades, and paced the stage like a caged animal, as if signalling a story arc of doomy proportions that can only be hinted at in the daylight.
Next were long-ish-standing Seattle punkers TRASH FIRE (in case you weren’t sure about their geographic origins, the singer, Jonah Bergman’s camo jacket had a dope appliqué with the letters S-E-A-T-T-L-E). Fabulous camo jacket talk aside, TRASH FIRE’s main party trick is to impart an experience of full-tilt self-abnegating estrangement from sense and reality for 20-minutes of puerile Ramones-y dirty, sly, pop-punk. The quick and jocose numbers included one about the time a dog bit a friend in the face and they had to go to the emergency room, but it was unreal and fucked up because everyone was really stoned. Miraculously, the gravity of this situation was reduced to PBR under the bridge (also known as the TRASH FIRE cosmology?). Speaking of PBR under the bridge, I’d also like to give the singer a shout-out for not only taking my beer, dumping it on my head (and his head AKA dual PBR baptisms), but for fishing out a cold one for me after the set. Special thanks.
After drying myself off, I returned to Linda’s parking lot (complete with bedecked dumpsters) to find Wild Powwers as they kicked off their set. O.K, I can’t even look at the word “kick” without talking first about how fucking insane thethree-piece’s drummer, Lupe Flores, is. She hits so hard and fluidly, crafting phrases that, once they grab your attention, do not let go for the entire song. Her playing is so damn intelligent, melodic, and phrase-y, solidifying the notion that this is no half-hearted throwback band. Wild Powwers are making intense, urgent guitar rock right now. The energy is all in the moment—to feel the physicality of the songs’ as a listener in the crowd is the musical equivalent to pushing oneself through physical pain and reaping the oxygen and endorphic gains at the end. This is what strength sounds
like, expressed and channeled live by individuals who will not stop at mediocre. I know it’s a journalistic cop-out, but the name Wild Powwers could not be more apt.
Next band, Sandrider, have been playing their breed of grunge metal and hauling around an insanely oversized kick drum since 2008. Wearing a tropical print shirt and tight af denim, geetarist and singer Jon Weisnewski worked the macho-man silhouette, playing the whole set in spread-eagled power stance. (As a small woman I was genuinely (not) terrified). Unapologetic machismo as reference to the futility of said machismo? Definitely well-trod territory...think of Pissed Jeans, or that one band...Nirvana? Lyrics were difficult to make out (when this was brought up, the bassist declared the vocals “not important” – zing!). Although Sandrider is definitely more metal than Nirvana ever was, their set proved a firm reminder that Seattle is where metal and meta-masculinity originally tangoed. Sandrider also received the stamp of approval of Wild Powwers’ drummer, who was positively freaking out side-stage.
“We’re here to reclaim our throne as the third best band in Tacoma,” quipped Hozoji Margullis of Helms Alee from behind her trap set before the now packed Lindafest audience. If it was your first Helms Alee show, the feeling of driving forward into treacherous winds and darkness, was so real that it was hard to stop and take stock of the song that just ended: each song did not exist for itself, but felt like a way of getting to the next song portentous number, with vocal duties changing gears between Hozoji and bassist Dana James’s eerie harmonies and singer-guitarist Ben Verellen’s sustained wail, long tendrils of hair whipping everywhere. After all, Helms Alee takes its name after a nautical command used when steering a sailboat into the wind. Ecstatically defiant, Hozoji’s rhythms and earth-shaking tom-rolls shook me to my core, and drove home the point that you do not go to a Helms Alee show, Helms Alee rolls up to you.
And out into the night I rolled, still slightly sticky from the PBR incident, but feeling sonically baptized by some of the Seattle area’s finest heavy rock bands.