It was a very different Seattle back in 1999. Back then, the Rocket, a now defunct bi-weekly rock paper, was dropped off at every record store on the Ave. A fresh-faced Death Cab for Cutie had just released their debut full-length, Something About Airplanes, and you could often catch them playing Eastside senior centers and WSU dorm lobbies to enthusiastic but small crowds. On the weekends, my friends and I would drive my navy-blue Ford Tempo to Bellingham to see Juno play a cramped house/art space, while back in the big city, the infamous Teen Dance Ordinance was still very active, limiting the all-ages music community with its ridiculous restrictions, much to the disgust of many.
Also in 1999, the band Waxwing were just starting to hit their stride after releasing their Second Nature Recording debut, For Madmen Only. Only in retrospect is it obvious that Waxwing were before their time. The group, featuring Rocky Votolato on guitar and vocals, younger brother Cody Votolato on guitar, Andrew Hartley on bass, and Rudy Gajadhar on drums, exploded with a dramatic, turbulent blend of rock, folk, and country. After their debut, they released the beloved One for the Ride, a record that switches from delicate to furious at the snap of the fingers. The familiar sound of Rocky's worn croon was replaced with relentless hollering, and haunting guitars grew into walls of sound, as each song burst with raw emotion. The records were good, but the live shows were great, as the boys physically drained themselves to deliver as much intensity as physically possible.
Sadly for the fans, Waxwing have been inactive for a number of years now. Rocky has his family and a very successful solo career; Cody's other band, the Blood Brothers, have exploded on a national level... obviously the schedules are packed. But instead of fading out, Waxwing have decided to finally and officially call it quits by playing two last shows this weekend—Friday, December 16 at Vera Project and Saturday, December 17 at the Old Fire House in Redmond.
Their exit comes at a fitting time, as the music landscape is starting to take a turn again. Grammy-nominated Death Cab now grace the cover of Spin, selling out multiple nights at the Paramount, and the Vera Project is also celebrating a change as they wrap up a successful run at their current space on Fourth Avenue (details on the organization's new location will come in the New Year). Both shows are all ages, they start at 8:00 p.m., and they feature Slender Means and Neon Blonde—a new project featuring the Blood Brothers' Johnny Whitney and Mark Gajadhar. To get an idea of what Neon Blonde sound like, try to picture a fucked-up electronic burlesque show. MEGAN SELING