'Tis the season to be thankful for charitable acts from commercial enterprises—complimentary drinks/stuffed mystery meat at company parties, bear hugs from tanked Santas, and free overstock Advent calendars at your local grocer. For underground-music heads, goodwill came courtesy of Red Bull, the energy drink that's been ratcheting the adrenaline levels of novice electronic-music makers in Seattle for the past month. The international traveling Red Bull Music Academy landed in the U.S. recently for only the second time in its history, with headquarters in Belltown from November until the end of last week. A global student base (all attending on RB's dime) was treated to guest lecturers, studio time, and live performances. But on December 6, the public was treated to a very special free show, ArRange. Legendary arrangers collaborated with underground hiphop and techno producers to create new-school jazz fusions. The pieces gained momentum as the night went on, with the final couple songs stretching out into some interesting interstellar funk, as visual artists provided spontaneous interpretations of the music. Not only did the crowd get in gratis, but Red Bull donated $5 for every person in attendance to the Vera Project.
Free is also a very good price for a vacation. I've heard from a couple of excited Sub Pop employees that cofounder Jonathan Poneman is taking the label's entire staff to New Zealand—on his own dime. Now that's a holiday bonus—complete with dual itineraries for those enticed by glowing worm caves and those who want to sit on their asses to soak up the riches grunge and Ben Gibbard have bequeathed their generous boss.
KEXP's acquisition of a second radio frequency in Tacoma was no free ride, however. In fact, as the Seattle Weekly reported in a well-researched, well-written cover story by Nina Shapiro last week, "The Expensive Expansion of KEXP," the move to broaden the station's influence was actually costly on multiple levels. The music community is buzzing with the Weekly's reports that, while the salary of executive director Tom Mara increased by $20,000 and morning DJ John Richards's annual income ranks around $120,000, the financially strapped station has had to borrow money from the University of Washington and EMP. While the station, with its independent music and community focus, still has many staunch supporters, just how KEXP will rectify these financial—and public relations—woes is the current talk of the music town.
The Cha Cha has long had its stronghold in local gossip, and that's about to spread all the way to L.A., as artist Kevin Willis opens a second Cha Cha in Silverlake. DJ Cherry Canoe (Kerri Harrop) was on the scene, along with guests Spike Jonze, David Cross, Alicia Silverstone, "Weird Al" Yankovic (!?!), and members of the Melvins, Tool, and the Lashes. Canoe also reports that the bar officially opensDecember 14, and SoCal boozers can check out a giant mural on the Cha Cha wall of the Last Supper as attended by apostles in Mexican wrestling masks taking tequila shots. Proper.