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Washingtones Records swims against the tide

Bellingham-based record label aims to promote local arts and music

Brooke Bates is one of the musicians working with the new label
Brooke Bates is one of the musicians working with the new label
By Jesse Stanton CDN Contributor

In the age of the infinite jukebox, with everything ever recorded available instantly, music has in many ways been devalued. A new local label called Washingtones Records is doing its best to swim against that tide, putting out lovingly crafted releases in both digital and physical forms from a small, tight-knit group of friends and collaborators. 

The label was founded this year by local musician Sam Chue. Unfortunately, the origin of the project is rooted in tragedy. Chue’s wife, Victoria Sprong, herself a great music lover as well as local burlesque icon, died last year in an accident after the couple was hit by a drunk driver.

As he grieved, Chue realized one of the ways he wanted to honor her memory was to help promote local arts and music. So far, the label’s releases have included the LP “Tame” by anti-folk singer-songwriter De-Esser (which I wrote about earlier this year); a Halloween cassette EP by country/folk oddball Cascade Cody, titled “Satan Lives in Candy Bars”; and an album by the label’s creative director, Tim Mechling, called “The Vandal Hands of Man.”  

photo  Sam Chue, right, with his late wife Victoria Sprong, founded the new record label this year. Sprong died last year after being hit by a drunk driver. As he grieved, Chue realized one of the ways he wanted to honor her memory was to help promote local arts and music. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Holodnick)  

Looking forward, they’ve got another EP by Mechling coming, this one with a “nightmare clown” theme, and they’ll be working with singer and songwriter Brook Bates on her upcoming album release. (Cascade Cody also has a show coming up, Saturday, Nov. 25 at the Brown Lantern in Anacortes, if you want to hear those songs live.) All the recordings are also available digitally, of course, and they also have videos to accompany them. 

In addition to their own releases, they are also doing a valuable service by writing deep-dive album reviews of other local releases. It’s great to see someone doing writing like this, giving close attention and historical context to albums that wouldn’t otherwise get that treatment. 

Though the Washingtones Records’ releases have been mostly in an alternative country/folk vein, the reviews are all over the place. When you put all these contributions together, you see these folks are doing what they do not for money or clout, but because they genuinely love music and want to increase the opportunities for local musicians to be heard and appreciated. It’s a wonderful contribution, and I can’t wait to see what they do next. 

Music news

Speaking of documenting a scene, we are fortunate to have not one, but two, video series that are filming our local music scene with high quality, multi-camera, live performance videos. The Subdued Sessions series has been releasing a steady stream of videos, mostly solo acoustic performances in beautiful settings. The Freshwater Sessions don’t release as often but their videos are longer and feature full-band performances.

The latest has the Rhetorician performing with a full band, The Duper Humans (aka the members of Supermissive), creating a hip-hop/funk/rock/jazz fusion. Supposedly they’ve got a whole album already recorded with that lineup, which I hope sees the light of day soon.

Big show announcement at Western Washington University: Indigo de Souza will be performing at the Viking Union on Tuesday, Nov. 28 with Babehoven. De Souza just released a Tiny Desk Concert last month, so if you aren’t familiar with her music I would suggest checking that out to see if her beautiful, emotionally raw songwriting might appeal to you. 


Believe it or not, it might already be time to start thinking about New Year’s Eve. The Bellingham Firefighter’s Community Ball just announced that they’ll be returning to the Hotel Leo this year, with a headlining performance by none other than MarchFourth Marching Band. That should be quite the event. 

Finally, I wrote in this column a few months ago that one thing our local scene was missing was events like the Band Lottery or the Make.Shift covers show that would bring musicians together and possibly spark some new bands. The Band Lottery has already come back, and now the Valentines covers show is coming back, too! If you want to put a band together for it, you have until Friday, Dec. 1 to apply. The shows happen Feb. 9 and 10. Check out Make.Shift’s social media for details. 


photo  The Walrus will host a Beatles Tribute Night Friday, Nov. 24 at The Blue Room. Kids are welcome at the all-ages event. (Photo courtesy of The Walrus)  

JESSE’S PICKS 

Beatles Tribute Night
7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 24, The Blue Room
If your family is still spending time together the day after Thanksgiving and you’re looking for an event people of all generations might enjoy, might I suggest a tribute to the band with the most fans of every age? On Friday, Nov. 24 at The Blue Room, you can all enjoy a Beatles tribute night put together by the folks in The Walrus, who started out as a Beatles tribute band many years ago before diversifying. It’s an all-ages venue, so you can bring the kids. 

Cytrus
9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25, Wild Buffalo
Seattle’s Cytrus returns to the Wild Buffalo for a night of funk and disco jams, heavy on the percussion and synthesizers, a style they refer to as “psychedelic powerfunk.” Openers at the Saturday, Nov. 25 event include locals Smooth Kiwi, whose music is perhaps not quite as funky but still pretty psychedelic, with a stronger element of pop songwriting. 

Fantompower
9 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 21, Ramble Tamble 
Producer fantompower is, as far as I know, the most popular Bellingham musician on Spotify, by some order of magnitude. His mostly downtempo instrumental hip-hop beats, frequently categorized as “lo-fi” or “chill hop,” are on the playlists of fans all over the world. He’s mostly what they call a “bedroom producer” and doesn’t perform live very often, but on Tuesday Nov. 21, he’ll be the featured artist at Ramble Tamble’s weekly hip-hop night, The Elevator Club. 


LIVE MUSIC LISTINGS

Tuesday, Nov. 14

  • Aslan: 8 p.m., Jazz Night
  • Beach Cat: 6 p.m., Michael Dayvid
  • Blue Room: 8 p.m., Jam:30 (open jam night)
  • Culture Cafe: 7 p.m., Open Mic
  • Menace: 7 p.m.,  Invitational Blues Jam
  • New Prospect Theatre: 7 p.m., Caitlin Canty, Joachim Cooder
  • Ramble Tamble: 9 p.m., Elevator Club ft. Yogirlcallmesenpai (hip-hop)

Wednesday, Nov. 15

  • FireHouse: 6:30 p.m., Jerry Steinhilber Trio (jazz)
  • Honey Moon: 8 p.m., Open Mic
  • Ponderosa: 7 p.m., Jazz Night ft. Toby Bruce
  • Rockfish: 6 p.m., Ireland Woods
  • Shakedown: 8 p.m., Terrapin Flyer (Grateful Dead tribute)
  • Stones Throw: 6 p.m., Michael Dayvid
  • Underground Coffeehouse: 7 p.m., Cuttlefish

Thursday, Nov. 16

  • Admiralty Lounge: 7 p.m., Ron Hardesty
  • Bistro at Shuksan: 5 p.m., High Peak Trio (jazz/funk)
  • Brown Lantern: 8:30 p.m., Open Mic
  • Culture Cafe: 6 p.m., Cascade Cody and His Unpulled Bootstraps (country)
  • Farmstrong: 6 p.m., Chris Eger (blues)
  • Mount Baker Theatre: 7:30 p.m., Jake Shimabukuro (Hawaiian)
  • Thirsty Badger: 7 p.m., Open Mic
  • That’s What I Like: 6 p.m., JP Falcon and Friends (folk/rock)
  • Wild Buffalo: 9 p.m., Sully (electronic)
  • WWU PAC: 8 p.m., Srivani Jade Ensemble (North Indian classical)
  • Zeeks: 7 p.m., Tenderpile’s Smile Aisle (jazz)
    Friday, Nov. 17
  • Aslan: 8 p.m., Cardova (funk/R&B)
  • Bistro at Shuksan: 5 p.m., Thomas Harris Quartet (jazz)
  • Blue Room: 8 p.m., Culloden, Mad King, Deep Contact, Yellow Peddled Flowers (rock)
  • Downtime Taps: 7 p.m., Charlie Partin
  • Fireside: 7 p.m., Free Harmony
  • Greene’s Corner: 6 p.m., The Problem (jazz)
  • Honey Moon: 8 p.m., Travelin’ Miles (roots folk)
  • Littlefield Celtic Center: 7 p.m., Kevin Henderson & Neil Pearlman (Celtic)
  • Make.Shift: 8 p.m., True Stars, The Nightmares, Biff Got Killed (rock)
  • McIntyre Hall: 7:30 p.m., John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band
  • Shakedown: 9 p.m., Kuinka, Cat Valley
  • Skagit Cellars: 5 p.m., Ted Pickett (Neil Diamond tribute)
  • Skylark’s: 8 p.m., Tenderpile’s Smile Aisle (jazz)
  • Stones Throw: 6 p.m., Neighborhood Songwriters Showcase ft. Simon Evans, Keith Carpenter & Lynn Givler, Michael Medler, Ivy Ficarra
  • Thirsty Badger: 7 p.m., Michael Dayvid
  • Vault: 7 p.m., Veronica North
  • Wild Buffalo: 9 p.m., Noah Gundersen (folk/rock)
    Saturday, Nov. 18
  • Beach at Birch Bay: 6 p.m., Billy Appleton & Vic Smith
  • Blue Room: 8 p.m., Miles Harris, Groovebot
  • Birdsview: 6 p.m., Paydirt
  • Blue Abode: 8 p.m., Ireland Woods & Samuel Harris
  • Brown Lantern: 9 p.m., Tenderpile’s Smile Aisle (jazz)
  • Conway Muse: 8 p.m., Nick Vigarino (blues)
  • Corner Taphouse: 7 p.m., Jupiter’s Trail
  • Edison Granary: 6 p.m., Dream Goats, Marie, The Band (folk)
  • Geheim Gallery: 7 p.m., Estimate & OG Neeks (hip-hop)
  • Honey Moon: 8 p.m., Fritz and the Freeloaders (rock)
  • Jansen Art Center: 7:30 p.m., Dmitri Matheny Group (jazz)
  • Make.Shift: 8 p.m., Grizzly Troubadour, The Fieldboats, No Mars 
  • Mount Baker Theatre: 7 p.m., Across the Spiderverse: Live in Concert (soundtrack performed by orchestra)
  • Old Edison: 8 p.m., The Dirty Pilots
  • Rockfish: 7:30 p.m., The Unknowns
  • Shakedown: 9 p.m., Devin Champlin, Levi Thomas, Zero  True Stars, The Nightmares, Biff Got Killed, Charisma (alt-folk/country)
  • Silver Reef Casino: 8 p.m., Night Ranger (classic hard rock)
  • Skylark’s: 8 p.m., Lost at Last (country/folk)
  • Stones Throw: 6 p.m., Jay Irwin & the GP Sunsets
  • Sycamore Square (1200 Harris Ave.): 4 p.m., Dry Martini (jazz)
  • That’s What I Like: 6 p.m., Michael Dayvid
  • Wild Buffalo: 9 p.m., Noah Gundersen (this show is sold out)
    Sunday, Nov. 19
  • Kulshan: 5 p.m., Katie & Kevin (folk/bluegrass)
  • Main Street: 6 p.m., Open Mic
  • Old Edison: 5:30 p.m., Orville Johnson Band
    Monday, Nov. 20
  • FireHouse: 3:30 p.m., Cindy Minkler
  • Kulshan: 6 p.m., Guitars and Gratitude (folk/country/Americana)
  • Ramble Tamble: 7 p.m., Shady Groove (acoustic Dead/bluegrass)
    Tuesday, Nov. 21
  • Aslan: 8 p.m., Jazz Night
  • Blue Room: 8 p.m., Jam:30 (open jam night)
  • Culture Cafe: 7 p.m., Open Mic
  • Greene’s Corner: 6 p.m., Open Mic
  • Menace: 7 p.m.,  Invitational Blues Jam
  • Ramble Tamble: 9 p.m., Elevator Club ft. fantompower (hip-hop)
  • Ranch Room: 9 p.m., Michael Dayvid
    Wednesday, Nov. 22
  • Honey Moon: 8 p.m., Open Mic
  • Rockfish: 6 p.m., Fidalgo Swing (jazz)
  • Shakedown: 8 p.m., Energy Pyramid, Only Tree, Vance Latta
  • Stones Throw: 6 p.m., Badd Dogg Blues Society
    Friday, Nov. 24
  • Beach at Birch Bay: 6 p.m., Dan Hewitt
  • Bistro at Shuksan: 5 p.m., Thomas Harris Quartet (jazz)
  • Blue Room: 7 p.m., The Walrus (Beatles tribute)
  • Fireside: 7 p.m., Naughty Blokes Trio 
  • Lincoln Theatre: 7:30 p.m., Creedence Revelation (CCR tribute)
  • Skagit Cellars: 6 p.m., Spider Cult
  • Skylark’s: 8 p.m., Whitewing (blues/soul)
  • Vault: 7 p.m. The Song Wranglers (acoustic Americana)
  • Wild Buffalo: 9 p.m., Queen Mother (Queen tribute)
    Saturday, Nov. 25
  • Beach at Birch Bay: 6 p.m., Michael Dayvid
  • Birdsview: 6 p.m., For What It’s Worth (classic folk/rock)
  • Brown Lantern: 9 p.m., Cascade Cody (country/folk)
  • Conway Muse: 8 p.m., Badd Dogg Blues Society
  • Eagle Haven: 6 p.m., Savannah Woods
  • Honey Moon: 8 p.m., Walker Van Wingerden (singer-songwriter)
  • Rockfish: 7:30 p.m. Mark Dufresene Band with guest Joe Cook and Jeff Nicely (blues)
  • Shakedown: 9 p.m., Atomic Aurora, Wet Temple, Done to Death (hard rock)
  • Skylark’s: 8 p.m., Rose and Joel (acoustic covers)
  • Stones Throw: 6 p.m., East Coast Dave (folk/blues)
  • Wild Buffalo: 9 p.m., Cytrus, Smooth Kiwi, Honey Weather
    Sunday, Nov. 26 
  • Beach at Birch Bay: 3 p.m., Tom Sandblom
  • FireHouse: 4 p.m., Ben Thomas Tango Quartet
  • Kulshan: 5 p.m., Lotus Blossoming (jazz)
  • Main Street: 6 p.m., Open Mic
  • Old Edison: 5:30 p.m., Ron Bailey & The Tangents

Before heading out to listen to live music, check with individual venues to make sure the event is still taking place as scheduled. 

Jesse Stanton’s music column, The Beat Goes On, runs Wednesdays. Email: jsbhammusic@gmail.com or Twitter: @JSBhamMusic.

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