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Underground’s underdogs

FRIDAY, JULY 6, 2012

Pegasus Dream’s EP release party puts spotlight on overlooked music scene

Pegasus Dream, Summer in Siberia and David Plell & the Ultra Peach live worlds apart, in terms of musical style and genre.

Aside from their Spokane roots, about all these three bands have in common is sharing space in the peripheral corner of obscure music that can’t be easily described. Most attempts involve stringing together a series of subgenres in prefixes like post-, pre-, prog-, and experimental.

This is far from mainstream music, and deliberately so. That’s part of the allure.

This is underground subculture and these three bands are torchbearers of anti-pop and its coming of age in Spokane, a town-sized city that is often self-perceived as a sort of fickle farm league for the arts, a place where venues come and go like the tides and bands are encouraged to move to Seattle or Portland if they really want to “make it.”

In Spokane, like any place, the stewards of local music – promoters, venues, media outlets and especially fans – rally around the underdogs, give them a boost, keep them afloat until they move away and welcome them home when they come back. 

The Pegasus Dream EP release party on Saturday at Mootsy’s is another example of Spokane’s stellar, albeit often overlooked music scene.

In some unashamedly smaller circles, this will be one of the defining shows of the summer of 2012, guided by Platform Booking, the driving force behind the Terrain exhibition gala, the monthly night-at-the-museum BeGin soirees, the Volume Block Party, and the re-design for Elkfest as a multi-day regional indie-rock festival.

Friday’s bill is a condensed version of equal caliber, revealing the ongoing adventures in rock ’n’ roll for the Spokane band that moved to Portland, the Spokane band that moved to Seattle and the Spokane band that stayed home.

Who: Pegasus Dream

What: Psychedelic, indie, dance, electronic, experimental, pop

Where: Portland-by-way-of-Spokane

Pegasus Dream started as a duo that was a popular attraction at sundown on the patio at Caterina Winery. Guitarist/vocalist JT Lindsey and keyboardist/vocalist Andy Carlson have since relocated to PDX and expanded to a trio with the addition of drummer/producer Jeff Bond.

Their new record, “In Absentia,” finds the band exploring a more organic sound as they experiment with a less-is-more approach to orchestration and arrangement. Pegasus Dream toys with the idea of absence to establish presence.

In some ways, that sentiment is indicative of how Carlson feels about Spokane since moving away three years ago. Every summer he comes back there is seemingly new crop of venues and the old ones have either closed or stopped housing live music.

“We played the opening kickoff weekend of the new Empyrean (after it closed the first time) and we also played the very last show at the new Empyrean (when it closed a year later),” Carlson said.

Who: David Plell & the Ultra Peach

What: One-man-band with singing, glockenspiel, acoustic guitar, drum machine and loops.

Where: Seattle-on-his-way-back-to-Japan

David Plell is finishing up studies in Japanese before he moves to Japan next year. 

In the meantime he’s launched a new solo project while living alone in a condo with no Internet on the West Side of the mountains.

“For 10 days I wrote one song per day. I didn’t have a job. I’d wake up and hit a series of notes on the glockenspiel. I wasn’t very picky. The machine is melodic enough…,” Plell said. “I put (guitar) melodies over that and recorded my little glockenspiel thing I made and I’d go to a doughnut shop or a cafe and think of lyrics for the rest of the day.”

The lyrics are generally dark but the music is conversely bright. It’s sort of like the blues … with a glockenspiel.

“I like to present these things in a way that sounds like lollipops and candy canes,” Plell said.

The name of Plell’s new EP, “Ask for Dust” was derived from a session of refrigerator magnet poetry, which is a fitting analogy for how Plell sees his place in unpopular music in the context of Spokane.

“Let’s talk about poetry and popular formats of poetry. Up until a certain point they were sort of like genres in music. They led people to do a thing a certain way and give an idea of what poetry or music should look like. As Americans, right now everyone is really into not following the format. In that way, I’m a conformist,” Plell said. “When I play shows in Spokane I get really nice people saying they’re surprised that I was from here. People just don’t expect good music to come out of Spokane. I love playing in Spokane because it’s lacking obscure-genre bands and that gives me an edge. In Seattle people don’t pay as much attention to someone doing something weird because there are a lot of people there doing weird things.” 

Who: Summer in Siberia

What: New Wave, alternative, experimental

Where: Spokane-by-way-of-Spokane

A new band with familiar faces, Summer in Siberia played its first show at the 2011 Terrain gathering. Last month SiS was one of 30-plus bands to play the Volume Block Party.

Later this summer SiS’ founding frontman Justin Hynes brings back his former bandmates for a Flee the Century reunion presented by Platform Booking.

After FtC members went separate ways, Hynes wanted a departure from that group’s abrasive vocals. The result is Summer in Siberia, which Hynes described as a cross between Tears for Fears and Van Halen.

The stylistic shift is similar to the evolutionary nature in the local music landscape, whether it be the ebb and flow of venues or social media’s virtual migration from MySpace to Facebook.

“MySpace was directed toward musicians and it was so easy to get fans. It’s so much harder to get fans on Facebook. Maybe they’re afraid bands are gonna blow up their newsfeed… Now MySpace is a digital graveyard,” Hynes said. “The music scene has changed such a ridiculous amount since Flee the Century. Music is free. That’s just the way it is. But right now is such a good time to come out with experimental music. People are embracing it more. We’ve lost a lot of venues but Mootsy’s will always be there for everyone. Patrick (Kendrick, from Platform Booking) cares about music so much. He gives it everything he has and he never gave up. He’s had multiple chances to call it quits but he stuck it out and we keep coming back.”

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