Friday, April 23, 2010

Where Were You?

The End Times played their final show on Friday April 16 in a dark loft snuggled deep in the mixed-industrial spaciousness of Georgetown, a south Seattle neighborhood where the soot and jet-fumes set the right mood for the trio’s stark, Southern gothic sound.

Patrons sat quietly, leaning in as Abi Grace sang, supported by Fred Beldin’s acoustic guitar strums and the woozy curls of slide guitar from Tyson Lynn. The End Times show felt like a church service -- a little Robert-Mitchum-in-Night-of-the-Hunter, but mostly comforting in a “we share your pain” way.

Grace’s voice has the specific charm of the graveyard cherub -- she’s plenty sweet but the words she’s singing ain’t necessarily so. And as Beldin and Lynn hunkered over their instruments, the whole procession felt like the sharing of some secret that the audience knew they needed to hear.

Seeing this line-up of the band again is about as likely as seeing Elvis at the Stop-n-Shop, but that shouldn’t prevent those who never witnessed a live performance from picking up The End Times LP (or buying the download).

This is folk, for lack of a better label, but not of the life, love and unemployment variety. Sure, These Are the End Times could class up your local coffee joint, but you’re better served spinning this on those mornings when you sit in the kitchen and sip something stronger than French roast. It’s thinking music for the wandering mind.

Good work End Times. Seattle still needs you, so thanks for the document.


Post Script
Opening band Pillow Army did their Americana-pop thing -- a surprisingly loud collection of stringed instruments, drums and sometimes flute. If you thought the orchestra nerds from high school didn’t dig the rock, Pillow Army has something to play for you. Bookending The End Times on the late side of the night was The River Empires, an Albany, Oregon outfit (drums, bass, keys/guitar, vocals/percussion, vocals/keys/et al.) that knocked out an impressive set of chamber pop that edged into mid-‘90s Britpop territory. Quite good and a shame that they not only played to a mostly empty house, but had to pack up and drive for four hours back home after their set. Ah, the rock & roll lifestyle.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

"Listen; there's a hell of a good universe next door: let's go."

If you meet them at the right point in your life, certain people retain a sort of permanent cool. Reality be damned, a strong first impression can forever shade the way you think of another person.

For me, Scott Burroughs will always be one of those characters. He was, literally, my big brother’s cool friend -- a scarecrow of a teen, months away from daring the 1979-era Tacoma, Washington population to not stare at his mohawk. Scott was a triple threat: black, punk and disarmingly sweet.

Wig Out! magazine would run a tiny cartoon of “Reverend” Scott Burroughs sometime around 1984, with text reading, “often imitated, never duplicated.” They were referring to his skateboarding skills, but those words could just as easily apply to the man himself. Even with the ‘80s in full swing, daring to be different along the Seattle-Tacoma corridor still had shock value, and Scott seemed ahead of the curve in that regard.

In the mid-‘90s I saw him in person again for the first time in years. We were crowded on the floor of a now-defunct music venue watching the first “reunion” performance of The Specials. (Still no Terry Hall, but nobody was taking any chances.) With his giant dreadlocks, colorful clothes and wide grin, it made perfect sense to see Scott there. That first Specials album can’t be separated from my appraisal of Scott Burroughs and other things that remain unimpeachably hip.

His life was not without troubles, though I know little of those. To me, Scott remained a sort of superhuman presence thanks to the power of memory. Of course, he performed in numerous bands, most recently playing bass and singing in Thankless Dogs.

The last time I talked to Scott was at a wake, oddly enough. He genially tolerated my aging father’s bad jokes and loud conversation. He was nothing if not a gentleman, and I’m sure, entirely human, no matter what I think. But I still think Scott Burroughs is one of the coolest people I’ve ever met.

Good-bye, Scott.

Kris Kendall didn't know Mr. Burroughs would be going so soon, or he might have told him this in person. Well, you never know.