The Beat Goes On

From backyard jams to an album release

Jay Irwin and the G.P. Sunsets incorporate roots, folk, rock
April 4, 2023 at 5:00 a.m.
Jay Irwin and the G.P. Sunsets formed during the pandemic out of a series of backyard jams.  They've just released their first album, “Blessings and Close Calls,“ and will be celebrating it with an album release party Friday, April 7 at Honey Moon.
Jay Irwin and the G.P. Sunsets formed during the pandemic out of a series of backyard jams. They've just released their first album, “Blessings and Close Calls,“ and will be celebrating it with an album release party Friday, April 7 at Honey Moon. (Photo courtesy of Jay Irwin and the G.P. Sunsets)

By JESSE STANTON
CDN Contributor

Jay Irwin has been kicking around the Bellingham music scene for many years now. Some of you might be familiar with his vocals, songwriting and guitar work in groups such as Clambake or Sons of the Widow James.

During the pandemic, the musician formed a new group out of a series of backyard jams. Collectively known as Jay Irwin and the G.P. Sunsets, they were finally able to start playing live in October 2021. Now they’ve just released their first album, “Blessings and Close Calls,” and will be celebrating it Friday, April 7 with an album release party at Honey Moon.

Back in the early 2000s, Clambake had a country-ish side project called The Pulltab Playboys which included Elizabeth Elton on violin. She reconnected with Irwin in this new group and brought along her Lindsay Street bandmate Robin Elwood on accordion. (Conflict of interest disclosure: I’m also in a band with Elwood.) 

Together they spin all sorts of riffs and countermelodies around Irwin’s voice. Brian Rapp holds it all together on the bass and contributes some mandolin, and everyone sings harmonies. The album incorporates a variety of roots, folk and acoustic rock styles. Irwin’s lyrics have a tendency to surprise listeners, most notably on “Wanted: Quiet Place in My Mind,” which includes a whole verse about a chess match and somehow manages to make the topic seem entirely natural.

The title track, however, is the clear emotional centerpiece, a melancholy look back at mistakes and missed opportunities set to a gorgeous instrumental melody. Each song has its own distinct identity, but they are all compelling journeys through a mixture of memory and metaphor.

One other great local release to tell you about this week: Bird Senses Danger was a promising young indie band that put out two great EPs over the past few years. Unfortunately, the band's lead singer has moved back to Olympia, bringing an end to their run, but they managed to properly document their off-kilter pop sound for posterity with an excellent full album, “oh, to be a bug for just one moment.” It’s a shame we’ll never get to see what they might have achieved with a little more time together. 

For anyone involved in the local music scene and interested in making it as safe as it can be, Make.Shift is hosting an interesting series of workshops over the rest of the month for anyone involved with putting on shows. Topics include conflict resolution, accountability and supporting victims of sexual harassment. 

Finally, two more show announcements from the Northwest Washington Fair. Los Chicos Del 512 will be doing their tribute to the music of Selena on Sunday, Aug. 13, and Christian rockers NEEDTOBREATHE will be appearing on Wednesday, Aug. 16. 

In last-minute news,  the NW Tune-up Festival announced its lineup for the second edition of their festival, scheduled for July 14–16 on the Bellingham waterfront. Headliners include Portland indie-poppers STRFKR, New Orleans funkateers Galactic, and big-beat electronic vets The Crystal Method. The local scene will be represented by Hot Damn Scandal, Smooth Kiwi, and Harbor Day, with Robert Sarazin Blake playing short sets and doing interviews with the musicians. This year they will also have “twilight” passes available for music fans who aren’t interested in mountain biking.

photo  Indie rapper Dizzy Wright headlines a night of hip-hop music Tuesday, April 11 at The Wild Buffalo in Bellingham. There will also be a meet-and-greet and photo opportunities with Wright and Jarren Benton. (Photo courtesy of the Wright Road PR Firm)  


Live music listings

Tuesday, April 4

Archer: 7 p.m., The Piper’s Despair (Irish folk)
Aslan: 8 p.m., Jazz Night
Boundary: 6 p.m., Paul Klein on piano
Culture Cafe: 7 p.m., Open Mic
Greene’s Corner: 6 p.m., Open Mic
Menace: 7 p.m., Invitational Blues Jam
Wild Buffalo: 9 p.m., BoomBox, guests (electronic/rock)
Zeeks: 6 p.m., Open Mic ft. Dylan Daugherty

Wednesday, April 5

Boundary: 6 p.m., Aaron Guest on piano
Honey Moon: 8 p.m., Open Mic
New Prospect Theatre: 6 p.m., Open Mic
Rockfish: 6 p.m., Joan Penney (jazz)
Shakedown: 8 p.m., Blackwater Holylight, Cold Gawd, Careen (heavy psych/doom)
Stones Throw: 6 p.m. Zach Michaud (folk)
Wild Buffalo: 8:30 p.m., What So Not, Pacifix b2b Ceilla, Emma Ecstasy, Viral (electronic)

Thursday, April 6

Blue Room: 6 p.m., Open Mic; 8 p.m., Jam:30 (open jam)
Brown Lantern: 8:30 p.m., Open Mic
Greene’s Corner: 6 p.m., Michael Dayvid (acoustic covers)
Honey Moon: 8 p.m., Jazz Jam
Lincoln Theatre: 7:30 p.m., Marley’s Ghost (folk/rock)
Sliced: 6 p.m., Dick and Jane (acoustic covers)
Thirsty Badger: 7 p.m., Open Mic
That’s What I Like: 6 p.m., J.P. Falcon and Friends (folk/rock)
Zeeks: 7 p.m., Song Wranglers (acoustic Americana)

Friday, April 7

Aslan: 8 p.m. BJ Block Trio (jazz/funk)
Beach at Birch Bay: 6 p.m. Michael Dayvid
Big Stick: 5:30 p.m., Adrian Clark and Jon Myers
Blue Room: 9 p.m., Paperheart, Dial Up, Drayton (alt-rock covers)
Birdsview: 6 p.m., Brittany Collins (singer-songwriter)
Brown Lantern: 8 p.m., 7:20 String Band
FireHouse: 7:30 p.m., Carlo Fierens (classical guitar)
Fireside: 7 p.m., The D’Vas (classic rock and pop)
Greene’s Corner: 6 p.m., North Country Highway (country/rock)
Honey Moon: 8 p.m., Jay Irwin & The GP Sunsets (folk/rock)
Shakedown: 9 p.m., Rituals of Mine, Glitchlette, Flais (electronic/experimental)
Skylark’s: 8 p.m., Dry Martini (jazz)
WinkWink: 7 p.m., Beautiful Freaks, The Hobby (rock)

Saturday, April 8

Beach at Birch Bay: 4 p.m., Anti-Shock (rock covers)
Bellewood Acres: 11 a.m., Queen’s Bluegrass
Blue Room: 9 p.m., Slayde b2b Lefty, Lord Kuja, Skahzka (electronic)
Birdsview: 6 p.m., Toadmortons (rock covers)
Bourbon Bar & Grill: 8 p.m., Blind Fate (hard rock covers)
Conway Muse: 8 p.m., Mark DuFresne Band (blues)
Fireside: 4 p.m., Singers’ Saturday; 8 p.m., Anissa and Erik (jazz)
Gateway1890: 7 p.m., Thomas Sandblom and Mark Williams (acoustic covers)
Greene’s Corner: 6 p.m., Lindsay Street (Celtic folk)
Make.Shift: 6 p.m., Gold Mouth, Benny Camps, Ethan Lucci, Eon Xodus
Menace: 3 p.m., Emily Freudenberger (folk)
Rockfish: 7:30 p.m., Children of the Blues
Skylark’s: 8 p.m., J.P. Falcon Grady (acoustic rock/blues/folk)
Stone’s Throw: 6 p.m., Katie & Kevin (folk)
Underground: 9 p.m., Kurupt, Luesofire, more (hip-hop)

Sunday, April 9

Bellewood Acres: 11 a.m., Queen’s Bluegrass
Kulshan: 5 p.m. Cardova (funk/R&B)
Main Street: 6 p.m., Open Mic
Old Edison: 5:30 p.m. The Walrus (classic rock and roll)

Monday, April 10

Blue Room: 8 p.m., JoMoMa Jazz Trio
FireHouse: 3:30 p.m., Loch Clark & Bill McDonough (jazz)
Kulshan: 6 p.m. Ivy Ficarra and the Vines (singer-songwriter)

Tuesday, April 11

Archer: 7 p.m., The Piper’s Despair (Irish folk)
Aslan: 8 p.m., Jazz Night
Boundary: 6 p.m., Paul Klein on piano
Culture Cafe: 7 p.m., Open Mic
Greene’s Corner: 6:30 p.m., Old Time Fiddle Jam
Menace: 7 p.m., Invitational Blues Jam
Wild Buffalo: 8:30 p.m., Dizzy Wright, Jarren Benton, Demrick, Reezy, guests (hip-hop)


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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