Sunday, June 11, 2017

TOBIAS THE OWL - Gig Review from Ballard, WA! 6/7/17

Tobias The Owl


@ The Tractor Tavern

June 7, 2017

Ballard, WA



On a pleasant Wednesday evening, the Tractor was sporting a local lineup – with the special guest slot being Tobias The Owl.


I’ve covered Tobias’ work for roughly six years now.  From the early beginnings here in Seattle to the current version that I saw play on Wednesday, it has been a joy to watch the growth of Tobias The Owl.


Many times performing solo, tonight Tobias The Owl was backed by a four piece band (percussion, bass, keys, and violin with backing vocals as well from some members).


The Tractor was getting noisier as the set started.  The stage side had a lot of local musicians and friends from all of the bands in attendance.  The bar side had the same but much more talking and such.


“Every Eye Is A Universe” came out in late 2016 and has been performing extraordinarily well.  A few tunes were played from it on Wednesday night – including the album opener, “The Wind and The Echo”.


The band sounded good with decent lighting this time around (compared to the last time I saw them in March).  Songs such as, “Murmurs”, “Low Life”, “Sing Me To Sleep”, and a personal favorite, “Inverse Seconds” were aired to much appreciation by the audience.


I’ve already stated that I feel Tobias The Owl could go as far as he wants to with his music.  I can hear it in commercials, films, etc.  His voice is rich with character as he weaves his tales of human relationships, science, and other worldly topics. 


Catch him this summer either solo or with his band – Tobias The Owl never disappoints.



Mark Sugiyama

Eclectic Arts


Special Thanks:  Tobias The Owl for the credentials!


Friday, June 9, 2017

LETTERS FROM THE FIRE Return To Seattle! June 6, 2017 Gig Review!

Letters From The Fire


@ El Corazon


June 6, 2017

Seattle, WA



If we play a little six degrees of separation (well, maybe not six, more like two or three), I discovered Letters From The Fire via another band.  Actually, no, scratch that.  I discovered them via another band's publicist back in 2016.


Said publicist had been sending several invites to artists on his roster that were coming to Seattle.  Either schedules didn't match up or genre of music or sometimes both.


Finally, in September, another invite came but from a band I was interested in and it was on a day that worked for my schedule.  Bingo!


I checked out the club to see who else was on the bill that night.  I did a quick Internet and You Tube search on each band. 


One of those bands was Letters From The Fire.


I saw them play - first of the three touring bands that night - to about 20 people.  And they played the shit out of their instruments to those 20 people. 


Impression made.


One t-shirt, CD, and picture with singer Alexa later, I was home listening to the CD and was impressed even more.  No filler.  No throwaway tunes.  Punchy solid production.  Amazing album!


Fast forward to March of this year - 2017.  Letters From The Fire returned to Seattle - this time one band under the headliners.  Many more than 20 people this time around to play to and make fans out of - I'd say mission was accomplished at that gig. 


And this brings us to Tuesday night - a warm Tuesday night in Seattle.  Letters From The Fire were here as the first touring band supporting another headliner act.


Guitarist and taco aficionado Mike Keller guested me so I could cover the show.  An interview was discussed but had to wait until another time.  Actually an interview was discussed briefly for the March show too but I had to bail on that one so we're even so to speak.  Next time I hope we can make that happen.


If you haven't seen the band live, they just go for the throat.  What can I say?  I cover a lot of shows and a lot of the "newer" bands (LFTF aren't really new but this incarnation is) play hard but they're usually missing something to these ears.  Sometimes it's musicianship.  Others its stage presence or songwriting is still a work in progress.  Letters From The Fire have it all working - firing on all cylinders.


I have yet to see them do a headlining set (hopefully soon) but the 30 minutes they're given they always make the most out of.  All of them - and I mean all of them - just wail away on their instruments. 


Clay (bass) reminds me of what James and Lars must of felt when they first saw the late Cliff Burton in his former band Trauma.  Just point in his direction, pick your jaw up from the floor, and say to yourself, "we need that guy in our band"!  He and Mike should start a side band - like a death metal band for fun - call it "Devil's Tacos" or "Taco Death" or even "Fire Amongst Us".  Clay reminds me a bit of Alex Webster of Cannibal Corpse fame - thus the death metal idea.  In any event - the guy rips on the bass.


Mike (guitar) - doing the jock and roll deal these days (as in started out as an athlete and then took up the guitar - still hits the gym often, though).  Rhythm guitar for days - side to side head twisting with hair flipping out all over the place.  Tongue sticking out, finger flipping at times, controller of the laptop backing tracks, Mike keeps it all together.  Every band has at least one member that handles the business on the road, they're the ones that know the details of the gigs, behind the scenes bullshit every band deals with on tour, riders, payouts, media requests, etc.  Mike gives it all he's got live - you can tell he lives for that time on stage.  And his rhythm work is extremely tight.  Such an under appreciated part of a band - trust me, you'll know when the rhythm guitarist is a slacker.  That ain't Mike.


Cameron (guitar) - handling the leads in the songs when called for, Cameron is the school of rock guy - the one that could probably tell you about every aspect of his instrument, your instrument, and your brother's instrument.  Rocking out equally hard as the rest of the band, there's a calm strength to his playing where one can tell that he's in control of his instrument, not the other way around.


Brian (drums) - he's the drummer - this means he's got to be somewhat crazy, yeah?  He beats things for a living with a stick - and Brian goes to town on his DW kit - all three times I've seen him.  The drummers I've known are a breed all their own - and Brian keeps the tradition alive (and kicking)!


Lastly Alexa (vocals) - she can sing damn it!  She, like the rest of the band, gives it her all when she's on the stage.  She can hit the notes on the songs just like the recordings. She fronts the band and is the ringleader during the show.  Enough said.  A great fit for the band!


What else can I say at this point?  I've been very fortunate to have seen LFTF three times in about a span of 9 or 10 months.  Want to know what songs they played?  Go see them the next time they play your town.  When they wrap up this leg of the tour, they have a week or two off, before heading back out with Seether for round 2 of that tour. 


They have three music videos from the album ("At War" being the newest), several lyric videos from the album, and of course there are fan-shot live clips all over the web. 


They're a great fucking band.  I'd love to see them headline or even co-headline a tour that brings them back to Seattle.  I think a band like New Year's Day could work - different yet similar crowds.  Stitched Up Heart perhaps? 


In any event, until next time, I'll be playing my "Worth The Pain" CD on 11 and wearing my LFTF hoodie I purchased from their Big Cartel site (shameless plug) once it shows up here next week. 


Safe travels all and next time - we talk!



Mark Sugiyama

Eclectic Arts


Special Thanks: Mike for the credentials - no issues at the door this time!  Cheers!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

RODRIGUEZ Finds His Way To Seattle! Gig Review - May 30, 2017!


Arum Rae

@ The Moore Theatre
May 30, 2017
Seattle, WA

 (c) Rodriguez Official Site


Guitar?  Check.
Sunglasses?  Check.
Hat?  Check.
Audience?  Check.

I was very fortunate to witness the music of Rodriguez.  If you aren't familiar with his story (or the film that brought this new found attention to the man and his music the last five years), it honestly would not have mattered at the show in Seattle. 

There is an honesty and integrity that rings through each note of music that emanates from Rodriguez.  One can't help but feel like your witnessing the performance of a wise man, an elder, a poet from yesteryear.

The Moore Theatre in Seattle, WA was the perfect setting for an evening with Rodriguez.  This was the last stop on a string of west coast performances. 

Opening the night was NY based singer songwriter Arum Rae.  Performing solo - standing with an acoustic guitar - Arum poured her heart out into an opening set of songs that went over very well with the audience (myself included).

What was unique was that as Arum got deeper into her set, the more intimate the 1800 capacity Moore Theatre became.  Her voice singing of life's trials and tribulations, hopes and dreams (including one of touring with Rodriguez), I found her performance hypnotizing. 

Accompanying herself on acoustic guitar - no capo key adjustments for any songs, which was unusual - Arum made quite a few new fans with her performance.  I would strongly suggest checking her out if she plays your town.  Beautiful music and performance!

After a brief changeover, the three-piece backing band for Rodriguez was introduced who took their positions on the stage.  Then, the man himself was introduced.  Escorted out with assistants on either side, the 74-year-old musician came out to thunderous applause.  After getting situated on a high backed stool, with a stand to his right, Rodriguez said a few words to the audience before donning sunglasses and, at first, a beanie/skull cap. 

He and the band launched into a few songs before Rodriguez changed his beanie for his more familiar black hat.  In-between songs it was interesting to notice that he would always turn to his right, strum a few chords, sometimes say something to his guitar player (and I'm guessing music conductor for the band), and then reach out to see where the mic was before launching into the next song.

Very few in-between songs banter - although he would respond when the audience was yelling out things to him. 

Everything from, "I Wonder" and, of course, "Sugarman" was aired as well as several cover tunes including The Door's, "Light My Fire" and Jefferson Airplane's, "Somebody To Love". 

The sound got better as the night continued on (I think initially the mic for Rodriguez was not close enough to him and the FOH sound didn't adjust at first - even with audience members yelling out for more vocal in the mix).  Watching Rodriguez play his nylon string acoustic electric with his right hand strumming and slapping the chords out (no pick), his unmistakable voice really hit home just what an amazing musician he is.  To think the majority of the world never would of known of this immensely talented man had it not been for the Academy Award winning film, "Searching for Sugarman" is amazing to me. 

Thank goodness for the film shining a light on Rodriguez.  The world is a better place with he and his music in it.

The evening ended with a full crew bow to the audience.  Waves and thank you's from the stage and Rodriguez was escorted off to stage left as the house lights came on.

A satisfying evening of music from both Arum Rae and Rodriguez, I was fortunate to be there with the other fans in attendance. 

As Rodriguez said from the stage, "Sugarman" the song is "descriptive not prescriptive", and, "hugs not drugs".  Rodriguez is the music man - delivering music to anyone that will receive it.  "Searching for Sugarman"? 

I found him here in Seattle, WA.  And I'm hooked.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Special Thanks:  Nate (for Arum Rae) and Rodriguez for the credentials!


Arum Rae


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

YNGWIE MALMSTEEN Sets Seattle On Fire! Gig Review from Seattle, WA! May 25,2017 @ The Showbox at The Market!

Yngwie Malmsteen
Killian Mahaffey

May 25, 2017
@Showbox at The Market (via Studio Seven)
Seattle, WA


The maestro himself was back in Seattle Thursday night!  Being one of the main influences on my own guitar playing, I have seen Yngwie Malmsteen 4 times over the years.  I even got hit in the face with (then drummer) Anders' drumstick back in the day - a stick I still have to this day.

I've said this once and I'll say it again - one thing I've always liked about Yngwie is that he doesn't give a shit what you think of him.  He has his fans, he has his detractors - he could care less.  He does his own thing, whether fashionable, passé', or hip, it matters not.  It always reminds me to follow my own path, whether it intertwines with others around me or if it leaves me alone for spells at a time, it doesn't matter.  Lead and others will follow.

I arrived to see a line at the Showbox, as the doors weren't open yet.  By the time I got my credentials, the first local opener was playing.

Killian Mahaffey was ripping through an instrumental variation on Vivaldi's Four Seasons.  Sporting a Fender Stratocaster, and backing tracks, Killian proceeded to get the shred fest going.  

As soon as I heard the opening notes of the backing track play Gary Moore's "The Loner" from "Wild Frontier", I was fucking sold (Gary is my number one influence as a guitar player)!

We were also treated to "Parisienne Walkways" - another Gary Moore tune.  The vocals needed some work but the guitar playing didn't.  Great hearing a guitarist rip through some songs and play others with heart and emotion.  A good start to the evening!

Next up - and I'm typing this "after the fact" - was local heroes Mechanism!  I had heard SO much about this band yet I had never seen them play in all the years of their existence.  Yeah, yeah, I suck. Go ahead and say it.  Hah!

The boys hit the stage and just melted the audience with straightforward metal with heavier elements (some Metallica and Pantera inspired chugging on the E string) along with some serious guitar shredding.  I totally got it while shooting and watching the band blaze through their set.  Fist bumping Tony from the photo pit, I got to watch his playing up close.  An old school metal guitarist, when everyone told me he shreds, I watched him tear up his Ibanez like nobody's business.  

The five piece played a punishing and professional set of metal.  So why the melancholy tone you ask?

The band has decided to lay Mechanism to rest.  This was announced publicly the next day.  For the long time diehard fans (and there are many), this was devastating news.  For me - I was bummed.  But, by the same stroke, I was also glad I got to see the band tear it up before hanging it up.

The bands performance on Thursday was a fine farewell, whether the crowd knew it or not.  Hails guys - all the best with your future endeavors!

After a brief changeover, 10pm hit and the lights went down.  Red light and fog permeated the stage.  The wall of Marshall's "you can see from space" backline, the ever familiar neo-classical guitar came blasting, and I mean blasting, through the PA to entice the audience.  The band entered through the darkness one at a time.  Then, the man himself took the stage.  Dressed in his customary all black, with crosses hanging from his neck and wrist, black boots, and a main of hair, Yngwie blazed all over his scalloped fingerboard as the first notes of "Rising Force" echoed throughout the Showbox.

Ever the showman, Yngwie played the songs, not entirely like the recording because this is a live performance.  Much like Hendrix, no two Yngwie gigs are the same.  You might hear the same set list but his playing of which notes, runs, arpeggios, etc. differs from night to night.

I remember the first time I saw him on tour for the first album - yes I'm an old fart - I was blown away by the fact that he could play the guitar the way he does and be a showman at the same time.  I thought he would stand still and stare at the neck of his guitar all night when playing his parts back then.  Nope.  And here we are over 30 years later and he still isn't ha-ha.

Playing a 90-minute set of songs from all throughout his career, I was glad to hear several pieces from the first album (with Yngwie singing no less).  

I got what I came for - guitar shredding (in front of my face when I was in the photo pit) - man it took me back to the 80's - only I was far away from the stage back then.

Yngwie who?  Yngwie fucking Malmsteen as the shirt says.  Indeed.  Long live Yngwie!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Special Thanks:  Studio Seven for the credentials!  I'm forever grateful for the opportunity to cover this show!  Cheers!

Killian Mahaffey


Yngwie Malmsteen

All photos websized.  Full resolution images will be on the official EA site coming soon!