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The other night, I rolled into Big Daddy’s for drinks. I go there because it’s a good neighborhood joint, but it’s primarily a karaoke bar, so I don’t go for music. This is gonna come as a surprise to exactly no one, but the music circles I often run in can be snobbish. To these people – and I include myself – the meaning of music is something to be scrutinized, discussed, debated. It’s a thing whose import runs so deep that it becomes a matter of identity. Such a context can be a dense philosophical onion marked by hyper-sensitivity to opinion, and once in awhile pleasure is an unintended casualty.

On this particular evening, even though the scene occasionally resembled a choir of yowling cats, a thought crystallized in my mind after I scanned the crowd with more attention than normal. The tables were filled with regulars who were remarkably diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity and personal style. Unusually, beautifully diverse, in fact. It struck me that the love for karaoke – the simple but daring act of sacrificing your self-consciousness and possibly your dignity for the catharsis of singing your favorite jam before an audience – was likely the only thing that united a big portion of these people.

Rock, soft rock, pop, country and R&B all played, and I know no one there was into all of these styles. Still, they listened and cheered. It was then that I understood the cultural power of karaoke. It’s often derided, but anything that can cut through sociological walls like a Ginsu through hot butter is all right by me.

The Beat

Anyway … brow furrowed, nose up … the doctor’s back in.

OK, we accept that punk rock changed the world. In its umpteenth generation, punk is now omnipresent in the mainstream psyche. But in hijacking punk’s image, commercialism has all but leeched its ethos. What better way then to reconnect and restore than a face-to-face encounter with a notable first-wave act? None, Mami, so I checked in on The Vibrators Oct. 7 at Back Booth. Emerging from the seminal UK scene when most of you were either in diapers or just a lecherous sparkle in your father’s eye, these ’76’ers are one of punk rock’s longest running bands and they kicked live. It’s interesting, though, that through the years they never bothered to get better at playing. It doesn’t get much more punk than that.

Same goes for Iron Cross there on Oct. 13, only more so. Due respect to them for their historical significance as one of America’s first Oi! punk bands but, man, they were not good.

The Booth saw commotion of a decidedly artier sort Oct. 8 with Austin’s the Octopus Project whirring their noises and textures about the room. Despite a sound adorned with capricious bells and whistles, their electronically juiced indie rock was full and enormously propulsive. They went at their instruments with spastic abandon and intensity. Yvonne Lambert was the only musician who kept a cool mien but that’s probably because she manned most of the electronic gadgetry. Add in her strikingly starched look and it was like a fembot backed by a garage band.

It’s always good times when someone busts out a theremin like she did. Sure, she was accomplished at the instrument, but all I wanted to do was climb onstage, push her outta the way and start bustin’ some kung-fu in front of that puppy. But (sigh) I didn’t. Being a gentleman sucks sometimes.

Seattle’s Rocky Votolato played Oct. 10 at the Social. I’m all about the twang, so his aesthetic is totally up my way. For some reason, though, his music has always been hit or miss for me. It’s pleasant and goes down smoothly enough; it’s just not always melodically punctuated enough to leave a mark.

Live, he and his band sounded convincing enough. Things fell into place when the gorgeous wilts of the pedal steel entered the mix. I know I always say that but, in my personal heaven, beer would be free, women would walk around nude and pedal steel would constantly play in the background. We all have our weaknesses. Hell, add pedal steel to smooth jazz and I’d subscribe. OK, now I’m just being retarded. But overall, it was as nice of an alt-country set as we can expect from the Northwest, I s’pose.

Better pop your rock & roll blue pills ’cause next week is gonna be action-packed. Go get you some.

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About The Author

Bao Le-Huu

Music columnist.
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