I keep forgetting exactly when ZZ Top is supposed to grace the junk-food-grazing herds at the Puyallup fairgrounds (for those who care, it's September 21). When they do, it's pretty much a no-brainer that they'll go for early MTV crowd teasers like "Legs" over, say, "La Grange" and the like. (Embarrassing admission: I loved later Top fondue like "Stages" as a kid, so I'm pretty easy to please either way.) But the bearded wonders are still legendary—Billy Gibbons was a huge influence on Josh Homme, who invited him to play on the last Queens of the Stone Age record. What does all this blather have to do with anything this week? I'm getting to that already. Drunk Horse, who hit Seattle on Friday, July 15, are huge ZZ Top fans, and it shows. Their boozed-up boogie blooze comes with its own facial-fungus aesthetic (you practically grow a little tickler mustache just listening to the heavy riffage on their latest release, In Tongues, out on Tee Pee Records). But there's also a little Boston in there, a little Nuge, a little sludge, a whole lotta prog, and all those gooey '70s rock melodies that make you want to hotbox a Ford van and hit a kegger with a bunch of denim-clad hotties. But I digress. Or you can just show up to the Comet on Friday, where the Oakland band will be sharing a bill with Federation X and Big Business. And while you're there, you can congratulate Big Business on their big news, as the local noisy metal duo have been absorbed into the Melvins lineup for a West Coast tour at the end of this summer. That means not only will our own Jared Warren and Coady Willis be opening for the great brain-frying icons, they'll also be playing as part of the band's lineup. Willis tells me the Melvins are in the process of crafting a monster drum kit so he and Dale Crover can create those big-bottomed beats in tandem.
Although she's no longer a NW resident, DIY artist Miranda July put down years of artistic roots in Portland, and therefore counts in my mind as Live Wire column fodder (plus, she was my roommate at UC Santa Cruz our freshman year). One of the great strengths in July's visionary output is her desire to connect ordinary people and ideas in extraordinary ways. The rising multimedia star's critically acclaimed new film, Me and You and Everyone We Know, won the Palme d'Or at Cannes and the Special Jury Prize at Sundance, as well as fierce praise from the New York Times, NPR, and, well, most of The Stranger's editorial staff. The movie weaves together the fates of lonely people looking for new faith in family and relationships—a delicate narrative July infuses with ebullient hope, scenes of awkward flirtations, and sly humor.
In choosing a partner for Me and You's original score, July picked Michael Andrews, a member of Greyboy Allstars and music producer who also composed the Donnie Darko soundtrack. Andrews seamlessly connects July's spoken-word work with original songs and fittingly romantic odes from Cody Chesnutt, Spiritualized, and Virginia Astley. (Astley barely breathes over church bells and birds so resounding they could almost summon springtime from the dead of winter.)
On his own, Andrews wordlessly invokes the themes of July's film, melting the edges of icy minimal electronica with woozy vintage-keyboard notes humming as softly as resting heartbeats. Or he'll glide along in tranquil space-pop mode, pistons of percussion pumping alongside the spun-sugar clouds singer Inara George coos to the heavens. As a stand-alone piece, the Me and You disc is dewy electronica operating in a melancholic, dream-state bliss; heard in conjunction with the film that inspired it, though, this music furthers the simple, yet remarkable themes July sends out like tendrils of subtle inspiration.
On the radar: Bumbershoot announces its complete 2005 lineup this week. Big names include something for the retro fanatics (New York Dolls, Devo, General Public), hiphop heads (Talib Kweli, Common), and a random mash of other stuff (the Locust, Dashboard Confessional, Son Volt, Garbage, DJ Rap, Okkervil River, the Posies, and Earlimart)—among tons of other acts. Complete details at the festival's website. (Bumbershoot's local music lineup looks stellar once again.)
If you're looking for a more, um, intimate end-of-the-summer blowout, the I Sunk Your Battleship crew sets sail with another Elliott Bay Argosy cruise on Saturday, August 27. Rumored to perform are New Fangs, StabMaster Arson, DJ Curtis, and DJ Fits.
Live show of last week: J. Tillman at the High Dive. Although the band's moniker is simply the singer's name, live Tillman expands his beautiful slowcore sound with accents like laptop steel guitar and cello. For such somber music, the stage performance is revelatory, bringing to mind more established acts like Rex and Pernice Brothers. Keep your good ear on this one. ■