Crosscut Tout: KEXP's free concert series

The radio station will put on free rock concerts through August at Seattle Center, providing a preview of the scene it hopes to create by moving to the site.
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The radio station will put on free rock concerts through August at Seattle Center, providing a preview of the scene it hopes to create by moving to the site.

Local radio powerhouse KEXP begins its second annual Concerts at the Mural series Friday (Aug. 6), and by coincidence this year's event offers a glimpse of what the station could do with the space if it prevails in its bid to relocate to the Seattle Center. The free shows run through August at the center's Mural Amphitheatre, and they feature some of the best pop, rock, and hip-hop musicians Seattle has to offer. Performers include Victor Shade, Grand Hallway, the Head and the Heart, Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band, and more. The concerts are not only a great way to see local music for free; they also make for a timely lead-up to Bumbershoot, which takes place at Seattle Center and boasts the Mural Amphitheater as a stage. KEXP'ꀙs lineup this year showcases the local music scene'ꀙs embarrassment of riches — groups with plenty of breakthrough potential. Of course, KEXP isn'ꀙt the only radio station to host free concerts at the Mural Amphitheater. Older scenesters will recall that back in the 1990s KISW'ꀙs weekly Pain the Grass shows featured free concerts by local rising stars including Pearl Jam, Gruntruck, the Posies, and other bands that became local and national legends. The highlight of Friday'ꀙs concert will be chamber pop eight-piece Grand Hallway. If the group's recent performance at the Capitol Hill Block Party is any indication, its music will make a good kickoff to the Mural series — vibrant and full of life. Also appearing Friday are Gabriel Mintz and Elliott Brood. The following weekend KEXP will host shows on Friday and Saturday, the second day acting as the station'ꀙs eighth annual summer BBQ event. The first concert will include a group of locals called Brite Futures, although you may know them by their former name, Natalie Portman'ꀙs Shaved Head. Apparently the real Ms. Portman didn'ꀙt appreciate the band'ꀙs tongue-in-cheek reference, so the group changed its name to avoid legal repercussions. Its rather humorous video explaining the change is worth watching. Performing with Brite Futures will be Noddy and hip-hop trio State of the Artist. Most concerts at the Mural run from 5-8 pm, except for the BBQ, which goes from 2:30-9 pm. The BBQ lineup is topped by Portland noise rock band Quasi, which features former Sleater-Kinney member Janet Weiss, perhaps the hardest-hitting female drummer in rock. Also performing are locals The Lonely Forest, who are on the verge of releasing their heavily anticipated sophomore record. The record will be the first album on Death Cab For Cutie guitarist Chris Walla'ꀙs label. Hipster favorites Dinosaur Feathers and The Joy Formidable will take the stage as well, and rounding out that day'ꀙs lineup will be hip-hop act Victor Shade, the rapping superhero alter ego for Common Market'ꀙs Ra Scion. The Aug. 20 concert will combine the indie pop of Say Hi with the dance-party frenzy that is Head Like A Kite. The latter put out one of my favorite local albums of the year (Dreams Suspend Night) and they bring a fun, four-on-the-floor groove with them whenever they perform. The series closes out Aug. 27 with the double bill of Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band and the Head and the Heart. Aside from having one of the craziest names in rock (the group'ꀙs 16-year-old prodigy of a drummer gave the band its name when he was 13), MSHVB is one of the more musically interesting local rock bands. They fuse elements of pop, metal, progressive, and several other sub-genres of rock to create a sound that comes across as a warped and winding version of Modest Mouse meets Built to Spill. While MSHVB is the main attraction that night, don't miss the chance to see The Head and the Heart. The band is winning over crowds everywhere it plays, and its self-titled debut is outselling national acts like Eminem and Lady Gaga at local record stores. I caught them live for the first time a few weeks ago at Capitol Hill Block Party and I was sold after just one song.


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