There are few things that I will drive to two states and two countries in three days for. But at the moment, I can really only think of one – and that’s my favorite band We Are Scientists.
Six years ago, I saw We Are Scientists for the first time at Neumos. All these years later, I had the chance to see them three days in a row all throughout the Northwest – Portland, Vancouver BC, and Seattle. Some people told me, “You’re living the dream!” Funny though, because I didn’t really get a chance to dream at all since I didn’t sleep much in those three days. Lots of driving and late night editing sessions occupied my time, and my motto for the weekend – I’ll sleep when I’m dead.
We Are Scientists, or more colloquially known as WAS, just released their fifth LP this year – TV en Francais, their first full-length since 2010’s Barbara. And dare I say – TV en Francais might be my favorite album of theirs since 2005’s With Love and Squalor. It’s pretty darn good, so that made me more excited to see WAS.
Starting off the three day marathon in Portland at the Doug Fir Lounge, supporting WAS were Scottish punk trio PAWS – whom I knew literally nothing of before stepping in the Doug Fir that night. I grew to fall in love with this band over the course of the three days. They brought something back that I hadn’t heard in years – honest-to-god punk music. It was young and raw and angsty and perfect. No wonder their new album is called Youth Culture Forever (and it’s also fantastic and I strongly suggest you check it out). There has never been an opening act for WAS that I didn’t like, and this time it was no different.
A new drummer joined WAS – Keith Carne. As if having Keith Murray wasn’t enough, they apparently needed two Keiths. His enthusiasm was fabulous to photograph, and he’s a really great drummer too. Those guys haven’t kept a drummer around for a while in a long time, so I hope they keep this guy around.
The set list that night was as flawless as it could get – we got all the hits, and some unexpected songs that I had never heard them play live in all the years I’ve listened to them. “Lethal Enforcer,” a cult favorite with diehard fans off 2008’s Brain Thrust Mastery, sent my friends and me into a tizzy. As someone that listens to songs over and over, I found myself connecting with the new songs more than I ever have before, which made the shows that much more powerful.
The next morning started early. I hit the road from Portland to Vancouver at 9 a.m. and didn’t hit any traffic getting into Canada – thank god. When I arrived at the Electric Owl that night, I went up to Keith (Murray), “Fancy seeing you here!” He just smiled and laughed. I had never been to a show in Canada, so seeing 19-year-olds buy drinks was weird, but the crowd was so lovely and inviting. I met a couple of girls who asked me about my camera, and they told me that they were there mainly for PAWS. A Scottish punk band has a loyal following in Vancouver, Canada, eh? Sweet. It being night two, I was able to fully enjoy the power of PAWS – the likeable trio of grungy Scotsmen.
That night was also Keith (Carne)’s birthday, so not only did the set get even better from the night prior, but they also had cake. Everyone loves cake. Everyone loves birthdays, so it was a grand ol’ affair.
I left Canada even earlier than I’d left Portland the day before – I seriously had to work a 6-hour shift at my job before going to the Seattle show and I needed to be there by 1 p.m. I made it on time, in case you were wondering.
But that night at the Croc – those boys were on my turf. It was an all-ages show, so already the crowd was energetic as hell. Youth does that to you. And speaking of youth, PAWS played their best set yet. Apparently Seattle is a lot like Glasgow, and last fall when they did their own tour, KEXP gave them so much play that the radio station got a “thank you” in their album’s liner notes.
PAWS finished their set, and after a couple Lord of The Rings extended editions, Chris Cain, Keith Murray, and Keith Carne finally took the stage, and yet again – they didn’t disappoint. Murray flailed around with his guitar, screaming into the mic with more emotion than I’ve ever seen from him. Carne grinned wildly the whole time, seeming more excited than me. Cain led the familiar banter that makes me love them so much – quite earnestly too.
“Okay Seattle, there are some things that I’m going to need you to help me find. We have a day off tomorrow, and I need a feather boa and a rubber horse head. I need someone to tell me where I can get these items by the end of the night. Can we do this Seattle?” By the end of the night, people had actually come up with suggestions for them; shouting out costume shops around the city.
That is honestly what keeps me coming back to We Are Scientists – the rapport with fans. They are always sarcastic, but never condescending. And when you can throw it right back in their faces, there’s nothing better than getting one of them to laugh.
As we were all leaving, I said a fond farewell to my favorite band in the world.
“You best come back now, ya hear? And sooner than four years this time?” (Turns out they’re playing Bumbershoot in August, so that’s certainly sooner than four years.)
And after three nights of pestering them to take a band portrait, I finally got them all in one place in the rain at 1:30 in the morning, in front of the dirtiest van in Seattle.