Burn to Shine: Seattle, WA: DVD

Aug 31, 2008

The idea behind the Burn to Shine series is to have a curator in a city find musicians to each record one song in one day. And it is recorded and made into a DVD. Oh, and it’s all done in an old house before the house is destroyed. (Or, in this case, moved.) This volume, the fifth, was recorded in Seattle, which is where I live. Benjamin Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie was the curator. Thankfully, I’ve never seen any of these artists perform live besides David Bazan—and that was never here in Seattle—so it was all new to me.


All that being said, I’ve included some brief thoughts on each of the artists. Please note: none of these artists really exuded any sense of “stage presence” or “put on a good show.” They were performing in an empty living room with sound engineers and fellow musicians standing off in the wings. Thus, none of this is real compelling, visually speaking.


Spook the Horse: A good band to start things off; they were better than I expected with some distortion going on at the end. Typical alterna rock.


Harvey Danger: Yes, THAT Harvey Danger. “Flagpole Sitta” Harvey Danger. These guys were surprisingly good, though. I really liked the song; it had a French horn, and in the middle of the song, the singer broke into “ParadiseCity” by Guns N’ Roses.


Tiny Vipers: Cat Power’s Irish bastard child, come back! I hardly knew you!


Blue Scholars: Hip-hop with some good political lyrics.


David Bazan: I remember when Pedro the Lion was a big buzz band, now I just find this boring.


Benjamin Gibbard: The man himself. For those not in the know, he’s the frontman for Death Cab For Cutie and Barsuk Records. Hey, whaddya know—four of the acts on here are Barsuk artists. He drops a short, singer/songwriter number.


Eddie Vedder: Despite any feelings you might have about Pearl Jam, there’s something kind of cool about seeing a “rock star” like Vedder sitting on a crate in a living room by himself playing his mandolin. It’s real stripped down, that’s for sure. And honestly, as someone who does like a limited amount of Pearl Jam, I’m digging way more on some of the solo work Eddie’s been doing (see the soundtrack for Into the Wild) more than PJ’s stuff.


Minus The Bear: The most “rock” band on here and the only one whose material I owned previous to watching this DVD. They played “Arctic Knights” off of their latest album, Planet of Ice.


The Cave Singers: They use a washboard and one of those hand-held keyboards that works by blowing into a mouthpiece. The vocals were pretty unique.


The Long Winters: Distorted guitar rock and roll. This band seems to be pretty big in Seattle (all these bands are fairly popular in Seattle, but I have heard a lot about The Long Winters as of late) but I never go out and do anything, so I’ve never seen them. They seem pretty cool, though.


Kinski: Instrumental psychedelic rockers without the lameness of most psychedelic rock. Remember: Seattle is Jimi Hendrix’s hometown. At one point, the bass player uses a violin bow to play her instrument. I’m not sure what that does, but it looks cool.


The Can’t See: Evidently you can’t hear, either, because then you’d know that you sound just like OkkervilRiver. But not as good.


Triumph of Lethargy Skinned Alive to Death: Your band name is too long. It is good, however, to see you were able to resurrect the corpse of Buddy Holly to play guitar for you. The whole song was playing the same part over and over and a bearded guy yelled now and then. He did have a nice sweater on, though.


Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter: I see this band’s name all over the place here in Seattle. They’ve got a little bit of an alt-country feel with a female singer/songwriter fronting the band. Not bad.


In the end, it’s good, but as my roommate said: if you didn’t know any better, you’d think that most of the music in Seattle is, generally speaking, whiny indie rock and singer/songwriters (with the exception of Blue Scholars). Then again, what do you expect with Ben Gibbard as curator? But no These Arms Are Snakes or Blood Brothers (they were together when this was made)? I would’ve liked to have seen some more diversity.


As for the house, unlike the houses in the past, it wasn’t destroyed. It actually was moved to a new location in the middle of the night. It’s kind of neat to see. I have walked and driven by the spot where it used to reside. It took me a while to recognize where exactly it was at and picture it in my mind. I would’ve loved to live in a house like that, especially at the location it was before the move. (I have no idea where it is now.) But they had to make way for condos. Fuck you, Seattle. –Kurt Morris (www.trixiedvd.com)