This whole post will be full of firsts. It’s my first story for Back Beat, it was my first time at the Sunset Tavern, and it was my first “country” show. I use the quotes because I wouldn’t say the whole bill was country. In fact, the bill on this particular evening was perhaps the weirdest juxtaposition of genres and bands I’ve ever seen.
First up was 1 Uppers, who played classic, Johnny Cash style country, with twangy slide guitar and everything. The whole band donned matching suits to go along with their old school sound. This local classic country band got the people in the Sunset dancing. I even had my toe tapping a little bit, and I don’t even like country, but this was more of the country my grandpa grew up with – not the stuff that wins all the CMAs and parades around calling themselves “country”. No, 1 Uppers was country I could appreciate. And by the looks of the crowd, everyone appreciated it.
This is when it gets weird. The band I came to see was Lost Lander, the second band on the bill. Lost Lander is an up-and-coming Portland synth pop band led by songwriter Matt Sheehy. Sheehy teamed up with ex-Menomenaut Brent Knopf to produce the band’s first full length DRRT, which currently has no official release date, but I’m surely excited for it. I’d heard a couple of the band’s singles “Afraid of Summer” and the spectacular “Cold Feet,” which featured lovely vocal looping and a deep synthy bass. And even during one song, keyboardist Sarah Fennell used two cell phones to create an eerie feedback noise into her microphone. These guys are truly innovative. Lost Lander was equally matching in their attire, but rather than bolo ties and cowboy hats, they were all rocking white denim and pristine white shirts. I thoroughly enjoyed their set, and I was surprised that this was their first tour, because they sound just as amazing on the recorded single as they do live. It probably doesn’t hurt that they had a phenomenal producer as well. Keep your eyes on these guys. I will be.
And finally headliner Brian Ledford and his band took to the small stage for his bluesy alternative country, which was a great way to end the evening on the misty streets of Ballard. Ledford’s band “The Cadillac Desert” is awesome, rocking a style of music with a vibe much older than the band members look. Also, it is perhaps the greatest “and the” name I’ve heard in a long time: Brian Ledford and the Cadillac Desert. Doesn’t that sound fantastic? Well, it is. I was by far the youngest person at the show, being 22, but I still think I’m old enough to appreciate seasoned musicians just as much as my parents. And this is exactly what Ledford reminded me of – my parents’ music, but still cool. Ledford had an easy vibe, like much of today’s “alt country” but without all the fussy arrangements and overwrought lyrics. Paired with the simple bluesy guitar hooks, Ledford’s voice was pleasant and again, a perfect ending to a misty Sunday evening in Ballard.
review & all photos by Abby Williamson