Sam Parkin‘s appearance on Ball of Wax 47 is quite a serendipitous occurrence, stemming from a chance music recommendation by a Trader Joe’s checker who noticed my giant headphones and figured I probably liked music. I went and listened to Sam’s demo EP (available for whatever you feel like paying on Bandcamp) and was instantly won over by his intimate songs, powerful voice, and scrappy production values. I didn’t even notice the lyrical content, but when I reached out to Sam and suggested he submit a song to Ball of Wax sometime, it turned out there was resistance-and-rebuilding-relevant material on this very EP (as I’ve mentioned before, I am pretty terrible at noticing lyrics).
“Can’t Be Won Over,” written before the election results came in, is a reaction to the mounting apathy in our society and the damage it can create. Once we’ve won the fight against the current administration and all it stands for, we need to remain vigilant against apathy and complacency long into the future. I appreciate Sam for reminding us of this fact, and for doing so in such a gorgeously listenable fashion.
Sam will join us for a solo set at the Ball of Wax 47 release show this Sunday, 2/26 at the Sunset. I’m looking forward to meeting and hearing him play for the first time.
So this current wave of protest and resistance is inspiring and uplifting and badass and all that, but we all know that this shit didn’t start on November 8th, right? (Or even June 16, 2015.) People have been marching and pressing for justice for a long, long time, and even in the past few years some incredibly important movements have swept the nation and filled the streets to address serious, systematic injustices. (There was a reason I made the theme of Ball of Wax 38 protest songs way back in the fall of 2014.)
Kimya Dawson first shared “At the Seams” – her beautiful, heartbreaking ode to Black Lives Matter – a year and a half ago, but as I was putting this volume together I realized that it was a perfect, and necessary, fit for the theme of resistance and rebuilding. It doesn’t address our specific shitty situation, because it doesn’t need to. This shitty situation’s roots go way, way back (more on that later), and we need to do so much more to fix our country than get this fucking maniac out of the West Wing. I’ve already spent far too many words on this when what you should really be doing is clicking play below again and again until you’ve committed “At the Seams” to memory. This is important, and I’m so honored that Kimya let me include this song on Ball of Wax 47.
Less than two weeks after the unfortunate events of Election Day 2016 (and two weeks before I sent out the call for this volume of Ball of Wax), I received an email from Solvents with their response to the situation: A live demo version of “Song for President Trump (I’m Gonna Fight”). This song is straightforward and heartfelt, and feels like a perfect snapshot of the incredulity and defiance of that strange, dark moment in history. Of course I knew I had to have it for BoW 47, and I was delighted that Jarrod and Emily were able to record a studio version in time.
I’m looking forward to fighting alongside them at the Ball of Wax 47 release show this Sunday at the Sunset.
This is a banjo and snare drum marching song that seems to be lightly channeling the Pogues. I can see the band walking down the streets of downtown Seattle like in a Macklemore video. Slowly picking up more and more strays and passerby along the way. Until by the end of the song they’ve got a whole crowd of thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands. The vocals are front and forward so as not to miss a word, as Danbert Nobacon pops off references to Darwin, H.G. Wells, la Revolution and the like – all brightly tied into today’s reality politics. I enjoy the cleverness of the song – like towards the end, where they start singing “do do do do do” but then wrap up the melody with “do whatever we have to do.” It caught me off guard. So the song goes on and more and more join the crowd, the resistance. Till finally they finish up. The march and the video comes to an end. And then the crowds, the crowds, the crowds . . . Viva la Revolution.
Join the crowd and see Danbert Nobacon & members of his Axis of Dissent live at the Ball of Wax 47 release show February 26th at the Sunset!
The theme of looking forward with hope and determination continues with Julia Massey‘s “Carry On,” a 2017 take on the acoustic political folk song. The song starts with a personal moment, a sister wondering how to explain this election to her son (something I was worried about before we knew the outcome of the election; I’m struggling more every day to imagine how I’ll explain this all to my own son when he’s old enough to understand [not that I’m even old enough to understand what’s going on right now, but you know what I mean]). The main thrust of the song is how we as individuals can “carry on” and do the work that needs to be done to get through this together, limiting damage and fighting for positive change at the same time: “Get in the streets . . . give what you can . . . get on your phone and call your congresswoman.” Amen.
Don’t miss your chance to hear this and other songs in a rare solo set from Julia at the Ball of Wax 47 release show: February 26th at the Sunset!
It’s been pretty hard to feel good for the past few months, so the concept of a “feel-good” song – especially as part of a compilation directly addressing our current situation – might make you cringe or roll your eyes, but bear with me. Great Missoulans Caroline Keys and Nate Biehl (along with something called VCCA Chorus) have managed to craft a song that combines bouncy, snappy instrumentals with heartfelt, sweet, hopeful lyrics in a way that will probably make you dance and cry at the same time. Or maybe that’s just me. And maybe it’s not a “feel-good” song so much as a “feel” song. Anyway, “Hope Resists!” is both a wonderful concept and a killer song and exactly what you need to hear right now.
Our old pal Darryl Blood‘s “Germania” does a great job of packaging an earnest expression of incredulity and horror at our current situation with a simmering groove that keeps your head nodding with the rhythm even as it’s shaking at – well, pick a reason to shake your head these days. His low-key, deadpan vocal delivery perfectly offsets the gravity of his words and lets the smoking instrumental track carry us along. The world may be falling apart around us, but at least we can dance while we bemoan it, right? But Darryl’s not as resigned and fatalistic as all that. “We can’t back down, we gotta rise up now,” he sings at the close. “Stand together as one and be united.” Here’s hoping.
Welcome to Ball of Wax 47: Songs of Resistance and Rebuilding. When I put out the call for this volume a little after November 8th, I could never have predicted the variety of musical responses it would generate. This collection contains fifteen tracks, covering an appropriately wide range of modes, from earnest and hopeful to bitter and sardonic to straight-up angry. We’ll be rolling out tracks for the next couple weeks, leading up to the release show on February 26th at the Sunset.
Wiscon starts us off on a positive, empowering note with “My First Day,” a rousing punk anthem that counters our current horrific reality with singer Taryn Dorsey’s vision of how she’d handle the job of president. “I’d end the war on women,” she sings, “and reassure our children that they are safe in their own land.” I’m with her.
Ball of Wax 47 Release Show: Songs of Resistance and Rebuilding
Sunday, February 26, 7pm doors
The Sunset Tavern, 5433 Ballard Ave NW
$8 [tickets] – entry includes a BoW 47 CD
All profits to the NW Immigrant Rights Project
Featuring Levi Fuller & the Library / Hangry Hayrabs / Solvents / Danbert Nobacon / Louis O’Callaghan / Julia Massey / Sam Parkin / Virgin of the Birds
As we all know by now, per the machinations of the electoral collage, the presidential election swung because of the collective voting decisions of Michigan, my home state of Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, the birth place of many of Ball of Wax‘s most beloved local musicians: like Caleb Bue of Caleb & Walter, guitar wizard Jason Goessl, Bart Cameron of the Foghorns, and Sam Russell. Maybe if a few more traditionally Democrat voters in Philadelphia, Detroit, and Milwaukee came out and a few less folks in the exurbs and rural area decided not egg on the end of Western democracy by voting for Trump, things would be radically different right now. But we are where we are, and Sam’s rallied some local talent for both a compilation and a show to benefit Planned Parenthood, an institution committed to human dignity, autonomy, and well-being now facing a real existential threat from the current administration. Despicable cross-fit enthusiast and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is also from Wisconsin, a fact that must both enrage and humiliate Sam and crew.