Inaugural Band Crawl

2011 Critical Sun Recordings Band Crawl  

She says she’s an “Operations” person, or just an office person, but if you spent just 5 minutes with Elizabeth O’Keefe, you begin to realize, she’s an artist as well. She’s a “Director” of Operations, and on Aug 6th, she – along with Critical Sun Creative Director Jim Watkins - directed with their team, an event that blew away the hearts and minds of those whom were not only attending, but those in performance for Critical Sun Recordings. This fledgling, but powerful label, held a benefit for “Music Aid Northwest,” an organization that helps fund public school music programs throughout Washington State. The brainchild of Mr. Watkins, this was no ordinary benefit, but an undertaking of massive proportions when in consideration of the sheer accuracy and dedication it took for all staff and performers alike. We were along for the ride and this is just an ounce of what we were able to capture.

Walking into the Ballard Loft at 11AM on a Saturday morning kind of makes one reflect on priorities. I had to question why I was attending a “Band Crawl” beginning at 11AM anyway, but all reservations immediately swept themselves under the theoretical rug when I witnessed Mr. Rob Marcus and crew sound checking. His presence held weight, and his demeanor was sincere. His guitar, a Takamine; I play a Takamine. I liked this guy from the start. As Rob began to play, he thanked the lookiloos and passersby for coming in, he knew he was the Genesis and what was to become a day filled with firsts. Mr. Marcus revealed himself to be quite a proficient and technical artist. With Matt Nathanson’esque feel, Rob hooked you in with feel good tones and heartbreak lyrics. By the time he had finished, I was ready for the mid set conversation, crawl, the artists were allotted only half an hour at each venue, thus packing up and moving on to the next, but not before he and his band belted out “Marie”, his Swan song to his set at Ballard Loft, and off they went. I caught a ride, I was literally William Miller and getting on the bus for a journey I would never forget.

Our next haven of musical rescue was “The Leary Traveler Pub”. Nestled in a strip of establishments, I must have gone past it maybe a thousand times since its inception 3 years ago. A quaint pub with a feel of old time history, I walked straight into the sounds of Reji Lefluer. Reji had a style. Reji had bravado, and Reji was gonna MAKE you sing, whether you wanted too or not. With so much much to say just in appearance alone, Reji backs it up with a walk-down those strings like he’s strokin a woman on a sweaty summer day. Leaning towards Lenny Kravitz at first, Mr. Lefleur than transports you into an almost immediate mood for Chuck berry with his oversized hollow body Brisby Geetar! Yes, I wrote it as I would have said it at the venue, his energy reminds you that there is nothing tired about this pub, or it’s outside seating, it’s music at its finest. Closing with an immediate favorite, Reji has us all singing Bob Marley and remembering why we sing, because we can, so I stay.

She stepped out of the cab, and into my life, Stacey Meyer just does it that way. Like an astounding entrance onto a fully lit stage, The Leary Traveler might as well have been The Key Arena, because that’s how pro “The Furniture Girls” are. Like a well-oiled machine, the band sets up for her arrival as though they all have one mind, and it shows. As soon as Stacey says her hellos, she gets right to work! Music starts, drums kick in, and like a scientist, Miss Meyer pushes buttons on her T.C. Helicon “Voice Live Touch”. She’s got this on lockdown as her very powerful vocals drive “The Furniture Girls” into band crawl history. This wasn’t just a crawl anymore; this was reminiscent of “SXSW”, a place where you can literally hear music from every nook and cranny of every artist in Austin, giving every piece of themselves to the craft. This was epic. As she sings, she dances, she moves, she’s fluid, all the while manipulating her vocals as a painter does with color, revealing the layers that were already there, and she has the only brush you need. She’s sexual, driven, and she “Won’t be denied...”. But there’s more to see and hear, and again, I accept a ride to the next venue.

The Ballroom is downright saloon if I have ever really seen it in Fremont. Pool tables, wooden floors, even an outdoor fire pit, I could literally imagine swinging doors being accepted by the permit board of Seattle if ever they asked for it. But the sounds coming from inside as I entered, took me out of the saloon and into memories I’d just as soon keep locked away. But that’s what really good singer/songwriters do, they take your heart, wrench it up and down for awhile, and you surprisingly thank them for it, because you like the pain. P.A. Mathison of “Sightseer” rips me open as soon as I create her file in my brain of all time immediate favorites. Coupled with violin, she strokes her acoustic guitar and poetically swoons with lyrics that profess the truth...”You can’t go back, or keep yesterday in the palm of your hand.” Sightseer becomes my point of no return, I’m all the way in, and there’s no going back now, we shall see this band crawl to its end, so I move on, just as they do. I catch a ride again.

Now I have to admit, you ain’t never, evah, evah, seen somethin like “Down North.” Nevah! The Nabob, the last stop, the final leg of a day filled with surprises, JUST GOT BETTER! Have you ever had a glass of wine, or a beer so good, you HAD to look at the label, find the phone number to the maker, and donate your entire life savings to the mere notion that more will be made, and you had a part in it? That’s “Down North.” Anthony “Renegade” Briscoe says HELL YA I’m tired, HELL YA I’ve been goin all day, but HELL YA you’re at a Band Crawl fo da kids! And he sings it so vibrantly, so amazingly coordinated, and so enthusiastically, that you forget, this is “Down North’s” last stop for the day. Anthony and crew cut the keys like butta, walk the bass line like it’s a heartbeat, and keep the rhythm as though the Godfather of soul himself were present. Not to mention the lead guitarist rippin’ his highs with a longevity that you cannot help but reference to unmentionables. This is what dirty feels like, and it hurts so good! “The chick is WILD!” Anthony sings, and that’s when all is let loose, and he moves like a ballet dancer, mixed with soul, mixed with Michael himself, and no I don’t need to say Michael who, because you know whom I am referring too. And here’s why, Anthony is classically trained as a ballet dancer, exponentially talented as an artist, and extremely motivated to motivate you.

This my friends is why the 2011 Critical Sun Recordings Band Crawl stands alone. A giant among mere mortals, because we gaze with awe and appreciate so much about what they have accomplished, and chose to do on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Seattle no less. So yes, Elizabeth O’Keefe is not just an “Operations” manager, she is the bringer of all things good, and the connector of pieces to a greater puzzle, because she had the guts to say why...because we have too.

Blog By:

Thomas Starks

Music Director for Seattle Night Out Radio Acoustic Channel


Inaugural Band Crawl Benefiting:

Music Aid Northwest


Participating Pubs:

Ballard Loft

The Leary Traveler


Red Door Alehouse

The Nabob Bar

Floyd’s Place

Belltown Pub

Participating Bands:

Furniture Girls

Rob Marcus

Reji Lefluer


In Cahoots

Down North

The Januariez.

Thomas Starks
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