Chad VanGaalen (All photos by Bebe Besch)
Who says you can’t fulfill all of your dreams? Calgary artist Chad VanGaalen utilizes both his multiple creative talents as an illustrator, and his perhaps lesser known gift as a singer/songwriter. VanGaalen has animated music videos for other artists such as J Mascis, Guster, and Holy F**k, as well as all of his own. He has controlled every aspect of his creations since the first of his eight releases in 2004, Infiniheart. He also plays the drums, guitar, keyboards, and harmonica. On the rare occasion that VanGaalen isn’t tucked away in his home generating more work, he emerges to play a handful of shows.
Backed by a band made up of friends, Chad VanGaalen took to the miniature stage at The Sunset on Friday night in Ballard. VanGaalen filled stage right, towering over the rest of his backup under spotlight in bright green tie-dye. With a set list taped to the back of his electric guitar from which he chose most of the songs from on the spot, he and his friends winged the performance with impromptu humor in between songs. The crowd felt claustrophobically confined as many packed closer to the stage as the performance progressed.
One of the most exciting things about VanGaalen’s set was the mix between newer fast-paced rock songs where he screamed a majority of the lyrics, and a handful of folk and almost country reminiscent songs like “City Of Electric Light.” Early on in his set he played the single from his latest album Diaper Island, “Peace On The Rise.” After many requests for his oldie “Red Hot Drops,” fans finally settled instead for VanGaalen’s performance of “Molten Light” under the disco ball. It was impossible to please everyone though, as VanGaalen has a vast discography of music to choose from (and not everything could fit on the paper taped to the back of his guitar). His encore and performance ended oddly with a solo performance of an acoustic Christmas-themed song. However bizarrely formed as a whole, VanGaalen’s vocals and diversity throughout his show were stunning, and the mixed paces seemed to pull harmoniously from both of the acts who opened for him.
Gary War was all about edge in his performance. Not a word was spoken to the crowd besides the lyrics in his songs – the majority or which were purposefully too tough to understand and make out. His robust energy mixed with psychedelics and heavy guitar were shocking compared to the tame first opener. For a few songs, there were highlighted sections where War would just scream “whoooo!” in shrieks. The bulk of the crowd may not have been ready for this high-intensity performance in which each member swung their curly brunette mops, but there were a few brave folks dancing near the stage. It’s almost like there is an unwritten law at these Seattle shows, where people think it’s not only customary, but proper to stand a great distance away from smaller stages until the main act arrives. Well here’s a secret – that’s wrong! It will be much more enjoyable and less awkward for everyone involved if you go closer to the stage when you feel like it. Many in the crowd obviously were into Gary War’s set but were too timid to move closer. Take the jump, concertgoers! It’s such a shame to see openers receiving cold atmospheres like these when their music is deserving of more acceptance.
The modest Levi Fuller took the stage to start things out on Friday night. “It’s the little things,” might be an accurate description for what made the set so charming, for Fuller and his band are real people like you and I. A few tiny hang-ups and sweet commentary between the genuine portrayal of songs made audience members feel like we were watching from his living room. While warming up, Fuller and his band gave us “a taste” of one of their songs, and when it abruptly ended the crowd was disappointed. It was 15 minutes more we had to wait to hear the rich body of work Fuller had lined up for us, including two songs from a recent project he has been working on called Songs About Books. One of his closing and most captivating songs was “Colossal,” in which Fuller’s band particularly helped to create fullness with passionate backing vocals by bassist Jonathan Wooster (of Argo and Black Swedes). His thoughtful note work and lyricism is matched with experimental elements from Paul Hutzler on the pedal steel guitar, and full time drumming duties by Lindsey Reeves. It’s no wonder that Fuller’s delicate deliveries are so approachable, as he himself is deeply active in our local DIY music scene. Fuller’s thoughtful creations are an example of music Seattle should be proud to call our own.
See more photos and videos from the show below: