Live Concert Photography: Karl Blau with Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band and Heatwarmer at Rough Trade 1/11/18
Karl Blau is an Anacortes, WA-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, who over the course of his 20+ year career as a musician has developed a now, long-held reputation for an eclectic, genre-defying approach as his sound routinely incorporates elements of folk, dub, R&B, Bossa nova, grunge, hip-hop, drone and worldbeat among others, as well as being a member of the Knw-Yr-Own/K Records collective. Along with that Blau has played in a number of bands including D+, Brothers Blau, Captain Fathom and Your Heart Breaks, and has collaborated with a number of Washington-based musicians including The Microphones‘ Phil Elverum, Mount Eerie, LAKE, Earth and Laura Veirs. And additionally, Blau has released material through his Kelp Lunacy Advanced Plagiarism Society monthly subscription service.
And although Blau has writing, recording and releasing albums for over 20 years, he hadn’t received European distribution until 2015 when renowned indie label Bella Union Records released Introducing Karl Blau, which was considered by many — including album producer Tucker Martine, as shining a light on “one of the great hidden treasures of music.” Interestingly, Introducing featured gorgeous, lush covers of Nashville country/soul; however, his latest effort Out Her Space continues an ongoing collaboration with Spacebomb Records‘ founder Matthew E. White that goes back to 2009.
As the story goes, Spacebomb Records’ Matthew E. White had asked Blau to helm the recording sessions for his band Great White Jenkins. When White started Spacebomb Records in 2012, he envisioned the label as having a house band in the style of old school Stax Records and Motown Records. After White started the label, he called Blau to collaborate once again on an album — the critically applauded Big Inner. As the story goes, after hearing the Out Her Space demos, White suggested that the Spacebomb Records house band, centered Cameron Ralston (bass), who’s now a member of Fleet Foxes; Pinson Chanselle (drums) and White (guitar, synth), along with Megafaun’s Phil Cook (piano) and a cast of collaborators, who contributed horns, viola and backing vocals — with the album material being something of a cousin to its predecessor.
The album thematically speaking plays with humanitarian themes, against a backdrop of self-immolating American politics; in fact, as Blau explains in press notes, the album’s title was inspired by an “overwhelming feeling to point out that men, in general, need to listen, to stop being so assertive and get out of her space, let her balance again. Chill out dudes, rather than lead us over the cliff.” Sonically speaking, the material, as you’ll hear on album single “Beckon” is a languid and shimmering track that draws from 70s AM rock, classic soul, funk and Afropop with a slick, carefully crafted hook.
Earlier this month, Blau played a career spanning set at Rough Trade with Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel and Heatwarmer. Although my trusty Canon T1i died during the show, I was able to take as many shots as I could with it, along with some from my new iPhoneX. Check out the photos below.
Chris Forsyth is an acclaimed Philadelphia, PA-based, guitarist, composer, solo artist and bandleader, who’s been long active in underground/indie rock circles and although he’s collaborated with the likes of singer/songwriter Meg Baird, trumpeter Nate Wooley, analog synthesizer player Koen Holtkamp and choreographer and a recipient of the 2011 Pew Fellowship in the Arts, he may be best known for leading his own band, Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band. And since 2013, the critically applauded act has developed a reputation for cinematic yet forward thinking and gritty guitar rock that has drawn comparisons to Television, The Grateful Dead, Popul Vuh, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, and Richard Thompson while receiving praise from the likes of NPR Music, The Quietus, The New York Times and others.
Comprised of founding members Luke Bergman and Aaron Otheim, along with Evan Woodle, the Seattle, WA-based trio Heatwarmer opened the night with an 80s yacht rock meets indie rock sound. Interestingly, the act can trace their origins back to 2009 when its founding members met in a jazz combo class at the University of Washington and bonded over their interest in jazz and classical music, as well as Disney soundtracks, John Williams and Enya. As the story goes, Bergman was inspired by Otheim’s dedication to writing original material and followed suit — and as they began to collaborate, they discovered a shared fascination with sounds that owed a debt to X-Files and Twin Peaks. Bergman and Otheim then recruited Woodle to complete the band’s lineup, and since then they’ve developed a reputation as one of Seattle’s finest live acts.