The Electric Owl is rarely the exact right size for the shows it puts on – either too large for its crowd or too tiny for its bands; in this case both were true. The early-comers, who arrived in time to catch locals Dead Soft open for Seattle’s Lori Goldston and Olympia’s Broken Water, took it upon themselves to fill the space with punk-rock spasms and dancing.
Brian Eno famously said of the Velvet Underground that, while their first album only sold 30,000 copies, “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.” Even though the trio in Dead Soft don’t have a lot of similarities to Andy Warhol’s house band, it’s a testament to their goofy-fun grunge that every time I see them I want to make rock music. Warrior-poet Nathaniel Epp coaxed creamy overdriven guitar tones out of the Owl’s impressive PA, and even if new drummer Graeme McDonald looked a little static behind his kit, the group as a whole had impressive synergy.
On paper, Lori Goldston makes a lot of sense supporting the rock band Broken Water. As the touring cellist for Nirvana from ’93 to ’94, her relationship to the heart of Seattle’s early grunge scene is pretty knotted. Still, her beautiful experimental cello set was marred by North American bar culture, with much of the crowd talking over her eloquent, vividly passionate performance. Goldston’s emotive body language told countless stories as her playing transitioned between minimalist ambience, reminiscent of her early work in legendary drone doom band Earth, and anxious, fast-paced chording that was surprisingly punk-influenced. It’s a shame that Goldston’s performance wasn’t in a more intimate venue, with a more respectful audience.
Singer Kanako Pooknyw prefaced Broken Water’s set with the news that one of her close friends had recently passed away from a drug overdose. While she went on to applaud Vancouver’s harm reduction programs, her broadcast also acted as a sort of warning for the melancholic set that was to follow. Normally, Broken Water is a band filled with energy, weirdness, and snaggle-toothed charm, and it was more than a little difficult to watch the trio play a full set under such grey clouds. Guitarist Jon Hanna curated brittle caked-in-fuzz chord progressions and noisy solos into something almost lush and definitely haunting. With some My Bloody Valentine wall-of-sound references, Hanna moved most convincingly, swaying and rolling with the squeal of his instrument. Even though Pooknyw wasn’t at her absolute best, her hard vocals and tamed aggression made for a convincing performance, even if it only hinted at Broken Water’s joyous punk rock messiness.