Drunk At A Show: PSA, Begonia, and Royal Canoe Light Up Barboza
It was the kind of evening where I ordered a Rainier, was served a PBR, and should have been drinking red wine all along. Barboza, neatly tucked away under The Runaway at Neumos, served as a cozy disco respite from the Seahawks crowd raging above. “Just let me see the tag on your jacket,” screeched a woman in a blue and green sweatshirt, grabbing at my shoulders, determined to confirm if I was wearing vintage Pendleton (I was not.) Shimmying out of the sporty crowd and into the belly of Neumos was, as we introverts like to say, a good move.
Opener PSA descended on Barboza like summer in Seattle. Deliriously cool, fiery, and dripping with raw, golden talent. Armed with nothing but a banging backtrack, in seven songs she turned an empty stage into her throne. Someday, she may have backup dancers, costume changes, and a light show, but only if she wants them- she certainly didn’t need any party tricks to captivate this audience. Flexing her hypnotic vocal prowess, Seattle’s resident popstar ignited a sensual energy that moved many to dance (no small feat in Seattle!) Her sound is less “baby making music” and more “I’d do me”. Confident anthems like “Perfect” and take-no-shit tracks like “G.H.O.S.T.” land smoothly in this era of self-love. Often nodding to the bright, sharp hip-hop and R&B of the early aughts, PSA takes a familiar sound and twists it, so the music is uniquely her own. It’s pop, but it’s not cookie cutter. Want to experience the magic for yourself? Her debut EP, aptly titled Debutante, is now available on Soundcloud. At one point, PSA exclaimed, “look at Seattle showing up on a Monday!” Based on the audience’s sheer reverence for her, I think that’s something she can come to expect when she’s on the bill.
I softened my PSA comedown with a boring, ‘ol IPA while Winnipeg artist Begonia kicked off her set with a bang. The critically acclaimed frontwoman Alexa Dirks wasted no time in showing us how far her powerful vocals could go. My friends and I spent the show trying to place her sound- Rihanna? Adele? Merrill Garbus? Alicia Bognanno?! Dirks can do it all and then some. Hopping from jazz kitten, to sunshine daydream pop, to psychedelic funk, to bluesy howls, she moved seamlessly and intimately through every track. Her band kept up with her, providing some big, meaty beats the audience could sink their teeth, and dip their hips, into. In between songs, Dirks brought a genuine friendliness to the stage, riffing about her songs, cracking jokes, and making her keyboardist squirm with a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday”. From the belting chorus of “Juniper” to the lovely, vulnerable track “Hot Dog Stand”, Begonia kept us on our toes in the best possible way. Maybe it was the beer, maybe it was the way the audience enthusiastically clapped along to the beat, maybe it was the ethereal halo of violet light cradling Dirks’ face, but it felt like Begonia brought a little Canadian magic to Capitol Hill.
And, just like that, it was whiskey ‘o clock. One giant Seattle shot of the cheap stuff later, my friends and I were ready for Royal Canoe. Staples of the Canadian indie pop scene, Royal Canoe clearly has built a loyal following in Seattle. By now, Barboza was packed with the kind of true-blue fans who sing along to every track. A little Beck, a little Foster The People, a little Vampire Weekend, it was easy to imagine Royal Canoe bringing the house down at a sunny outdoor festival. Bangers like “Bathtubs” and “Love You Like That’, the latter which transformed into Nirvana’s “Lithium” (a fun nod to Seattle) kept the crowd moving, even though I’m sure it was past most of our bedtimes at this point. Matt Peters is a strong lead vocalist and performer- often emoting not just through song, but through some belly-centric dance moves that whiskey-me thought were pretty great. If you like warm synth sounds intertwined with rock/pop influences, swelling choruses, and touchingly honest lyric play, keep Royal Canoe on your radar.
So, the moral of the story? Show up to weekday shows, don’t skip the openers, and, if you’re imbibing, tread gently on Barboza’s staircase- yes, I tripped.