As I mentioned a while back, I’m pretty excited about the Northwest Folklife Festival, occupying Seattle Center this weekend. Of course there’s the Ball of Wax showcase on Sunday, which features myself and four other fine artists that have graced BoW over the year. But in fact there are Ball of Wax alumni sprinkled liberally throughout the entire festival. Here’s a little rundown, packed with music and videos, so you know just where to go all weekend:
Jeremy Burk (Indie Roots Stage, Friday, 2:00 p.m.)
Jeremy (heard on Ball of Wax volumes 12, 16, and 21) and his band just get better every time I see them. Still a pretty young artist, it’s been great to watch him grow as a songwriter and performer over the past few years. His songs are simple and powerful, and his voice is raw and affecting. A great way to kick off the weekend.
James Apollo (Indie Roots Stage, Friday, 5:45 p.m.)
James Apollo was on Ball of Wax Volume 3 (which you can download for free at that link). At the time he lived off in the Midwest somewhere. He’s lived in Seattle for a while now, and I’m embarrassed to admit I haven’t seen him play – or even met him in person yet – since he moved here. Go see him and tell him Ball of Wax says hi.
Saint Siren (Indie Roots Stage, Friday, 6:30 p.m.)
OK, Saint Siren have never been on Ball of Wax for some reason, but Caleb Thompson, the singer and songwriter of that group, was on Volumes 10 and 15. He’s one of these guys who can just sit down with an acoustic guitar and start playing and singing and totally transfix you. He was always way too reclusive as Caleb Thompson for my tastes, so it’s great to see him getting out there with a band behind him. They seem to have the bulk of their music available to stream on their web site.
Led to Sea (Indie Roots Stage, Friday, 8:00 p.m.)
So far Led to Sea has only been on one volume of Ball of Wax (19), but of course Alex Guy, the insanely talented woman behind that moniker, is one of the five songwriters currently hard at work on our songs about books for Ball of Wax 25. The things Alex can do with just her viola, her voice, and a looper put many full bands to shame. Go!
Corespondents (Indie Roots Stage, Friday, 8:45 p.m.)
I can’t believe Corespondents have only been on one volume of Ball of Wax (#8, which you can download for free). Their album Hairy Ghost Pipefish is one of my favorite recordings of the first decade of this century, and their most recent, Ur, is excellent as well. The trio use stringed instruments (some quite familiar to Western eyes, some from far-flung cultures around the globe) and percussion, mixing folk, jazz, Middle Eastern, and Eastern European musical traditions into a delicious sonic stew all their own. Reading that, it sounds kind of corny and pointy-headed, but there is something viscerally pleasing and from the gut about Corespondents’ sound that cannot be conveyed in words.
Ravenna Woods (Indie Roots Stage, Friday, 9:30 p.m.)
Ravenna Woods made their debut – to my ears, at least – via a very brief Ball of Wax appearance, with their song “Intermission” on Volume 18, the One Minute Singles installment. They have gone on to win the hearts and minds of many in this town with the intense, thrumming sound they build by attacking their acoustic guitars as if they were Gibson SGs and pounding the crap out of whatever piece of a drum kit happens to be around.
Norman Baker and the Backroads (Indie Roots Stage, Saturday, 12:20 p.m.)
Norman Baker has only been on one volume of Ball of Wax under his own name (19), but the man wears many hats, and has appeared on quite a few Ball of Wax CDs with various projects. He’s a very talented fellow, and recently joined me in the ranks of the beardless Ballard singer-songwriters, so he deserves your support.
Brad Dunn (Indie Roots Stage, Saturday, 1:00 p.m.)
You’ve already heard me gush enough about Brad. As far as I understand, this will be a “Brad Dunn and Dandelion Gold” performance. You can bet I’ll be there front and center.
Pufferfish (Indie Roots Stage, Saturday, 2:20 p.m.)
OK, yes, I’m a member of Pufferfish (heard on Ball of Wax Volumes 1, 4, 9, 15, 21), but I’ve loved the band since well before I joined, as you can tell by the band’s appearance on volumes 1 and 4. We’re pretty fun; come check us out.
Diminished Men (The Vera Stage, Saturday, 4:10 p.m.)
Diminished Men first surfed onto my radar with Ball of Wax Volume 10. Their description on the Folklife Site, “Dark Cinematic Surf Rock,” manages to sum up their sound pretty concisely without quite getting across how great the sum of those four words is. They are fun. They are subtle. They are heavy. They are loud. They cover a Joe Meek song. You will never regret witnessing a Diminished Men show.
Cahalen Morrison & Eli West (Indie Roots Stage, Saturday, 5:25 p.m.)
Cahalen and Eli (whose “Kingsfold” can be heard on volume 23) are the real deal. I first saw them play at the Harry Smith/Anthology of American Folk Music tribute event I helped produce last November at the Columbia City Theater. They stood in front of one condenser microphone with their instruments and voices, and projected a beautifully mixed performance of folk music that was authentically old-timey, impeccably performed, and truly heartfelt.
Sam Watts (Indie Roots Stage, Saturday, 6:15 p.m.)
I’m not sure why Sam is listed under his own name, rather than Ghosts I’ve Met, the band name he’s been playing under for a while now (which you can hear on Ball of Wax 22). This might mean you’ll just hear his hushed voice and acoustic guitar rather than the full band of incredible players he often surrounds himself with, but either way you’re in for some beautifully played, first-class songs.
The Glass Notes (Indie Roots Stage, Sunday, 11:00 a.m.)
Robb Benson has shared several tunes and several bands with Ball of Wax over the years. Whether solo (volumes 5 & 15), with Dept. of Energy (volume 10), or with his newer project The Glass Notes (volume 18), I’m always thrilled to hear new material from Robb and help share it with the world. This man is just insanely talented and prolific, a constant stream of creative output gifted with one of the most versatile and stunning voices I’ve had the pleasure to hear in person.
Ball of Wax Showcase: Levi Fuller, Joshua Morrison, Shenandoah Davis, Sunday Evening Whiskey Club, Pickwick (Indie Roots Stage, Sunday, 12:30 – 3:45 p.m.)
By now you should be starting to realize that there is a huge number of artists that could have fit under the umbrella of a Ball of Wax showcase, and this group of five is by no means meant to represent all that Ball of Wax has to offer (hell, even the Ball of Wax artists throughout Folklife are just one small corner of our world). That said, I’m thrilled to be sharing the stage with this fantastic group of songwriters and performers.
Joshua Morrison was on Volumes 2 and 5, and is another of the participants in the Songs about Books experiment. Whether playing solo in my basement or on the stage at the Tractor with a full band, a set by Joshua is a true delight. His songs and voice will melt the chilliest of hearts.
Sunday Evening Whiskey Club (briefly known as Bucks T-4, and heard under both names on Ball of Wax 18, 21, and the brand-new 24) is made up of seriously talented musicians playing country music with a full, rich sound, but they don’t go all the way for Nashville nu-country, by any means. They are smart and sardonic and just a little dirty and impossible not to like.
Pickwick has gone through some transformations since you heard their mellow country tune “Woody Allen” on volume 9, but one thing hasn’t changed: singer Galen Disston still has a gorgeous, spine-tingling voice. The band’s current sound is rooted in the soul sounds of the ’60s, and they pull it off elegantly and beautifully. I’m really looking forward to seeing them live after so long.
Fox and the Law (EMP/SFM Sky Church, Sunday, 8:30 p.m.)
I wrote about Fox and the Law (heard on volume 23) not too long ago, and I still recommend catching them live, even if you don’t think you’re into blues rock. They might just change your mind and/or melt your face.
Amateur Radio Operator (Indie Roots Stage, Monday, 5:00 p.m.)
ARO are some of our oldest, fondest friends, and if you’re reading this and have never seen them live, what the hell is wrong with you? If their set is half as good as their set at the Ball of Wax 24 release show, it will still be better than most things that could happen to you on a Monday evening (or most any evening, for that matter). This far into this post, I’ve run out of adjectives and similes, but let’s just say they rock and they rule and it is your duty to see them.