Failing Winter, Empire Brass and others

Volcano scribes tell you where to go

By Volcano Staff on December 6, 2007

Friday, Dec. 7

CLASSICAL the empire brass

Tuba players are always getting the shaft. Their instrument can weigh almost 30 pounds, they rarely get to play a song’s melody, and they can’t help but sound like a sea lion with too much fiber in its diet. But The Empire Brass Holiday Pop Spectacular concert sponsored by the Tacoma Philharmonic, changes everything.

Enter Kenneth Amis — Empire Brass tuba player. He’s been playing the oompah parts and the long notes since age 15. His accolades since are too long to list.

Sure, The Empire Brass is a quintet, but I’m talking tuba folks. A holiday concert is a chance for the tuba to play beautiful music — “The First Noel,” “Alleluia,” and on and on.

The Weekly Volcano salutes you, Kenneth Amis, tuba player. — Suzy Stump

[Rialto Theater, 7:30 p.m., $25-$35, 310 S. Ninth, Tacoma, 253.272.0809]

Saturday, Dec. 8

STRING SWING the tune stranglers

I dig it when a band expands my musical universe and forces me to discover artists I’ve overlooked; the Tune Stranglers have succeeded at doing so. The band’s list of influences is a bunch of strangers. I mean sure, I’d heard of Earl Scruggs and Bob Wills, but Stuff Smith? Yes, the Stranglers have dug deeper than most bands ever have and play an authentic brand string swing that transports their audiences back to the dustbowl of the 1930s.

Comprised of Scuff Acuff (washboard, lead vocals), James Schneider (banjo), Eliza Welch (fiddle), Boom Boom “Sweets” Levine (bass), and Rich Sikorski (lead vocals, guitar, ukulele), the Olympia-based acoustic unit incorporates bluegrass, country swing and vintage string jazz. All very accomplished musicians, they placed first place at the Northwest String Summit in 2006. As a live act, the zany quintet creates a relaxed atmosphere and probably wouldn’t mind if you showed up to gig in your underwear or at least kicked your shoes off.  

The Stranglers have three live discs to choose from. Their latest, Stranglyn, was recorded in Brooklyn, N.Y. The rousing set features 14 tracks of Depression-era swing with all its charm and innocence. — Tony Engelhart

[Ben Moore’s Restaurant, 9 p.m., no cover, 112 W. Fourth, Olympia, 360.357.7527]

Wednesday, Dec. 12

POST PUNK failing winter

The genius of ‘70s punk acts was not their musical talent, but rather it was their ability to construct short and simple songs with authority and force. The short life of punk was emulated by countless bands who wanted to combine musical muscle with the rebellious spirit of the genre. I’m fairly confident in assuming that Failing Winter had this mantra in mind when they formed in 2002. While the Olympia-based trio of Jamie McPheeters (guitar/vox), Chad Maurer (bass/vox) and Tex (drums) also list classic rockers Led Zeppelin and Rush as influences, their core sound is closer to the Clash on crack and coffee.

Like most guitarist in a trio, McPheeters relies less on chords and more on catchy licks, which is most likely the Zepp connection. Maurer’s bass playing does much more than drive the rhythm; it also acts as a lead instrument, hence the Geddy Lee correlation. Throughout all the band’s three-minute songs, there are intricate and melodic change-ups as well as inventive and complex chord progressions. In other words, this aint your parents’ punk.

The band’s first release came in 2005. The self-titled disc was a precursor to what the band had in store for their latest release, 2007’s This is Not an Album. — TE

[Hell’s Kitchen, 9 p.m., with One Last Look, Red White & Die and Y.I.A., 9 p.m., $3, 3829 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.759.6003]

Thursday, Dec. 13

FOLK ancient victory open mike

Open mikes can be an awesome way to discover new talent or a complete disaster. If you’ve ever been to a comedy open mike, you know. However, Chris Lunn’s open mikes only attract the crème of the crop in acoustic music and never leave the audiences embarrassed and cringing.

Chris Lunn, a folkie from the 1960s, started his open mike series during the Dylan-era when folk music was politically conscious and highly controversial. The first of these were held in Palo Alto, Calif. After his return to Washington, Lunn started the Court C Folk & Blues Workshop; this later became Victory Music. This attracted many performers, including the great Jim Page, to relocate to the Northwest.

The third is a quarterly series, the Ancient Victory Open Mike brings together performers from Lunn’s open mikes from the ‘60s to the ‘90s. The first two were rousing successes as more than 50 musicians, including Tim Noah and Mike Dumovich from the 1969 open mike, filled the cozy cafe. The total number of on-hand musicians from this almost four decade series looms at around 3,000, so there will be no shortage of talent. — TE

[Antique Sandwich Co., 7 p.m., all ages, $3-$5, 5102 N. Pearl, Tacoma, 253.863.6617]