It was a typically bizarre Monday night open mike at Blue Spark this week when I ran into Aaron Bocook, who fronts the Spokane band Shantasina.
We were both going in to check out a synth-based two-piece called My Pinky Has A Name.
At the entrance we were met with three out-of-towners who approached looking for something to do, led by a short, stocky guy in a Slipknot T-shirt.
Wearing more tattoos than clothes and a Tacocat T-shirt, Bocook said to the Montana crew, “You guys should come in and listen to this beautiful woman sing – for free. It ain’t going to be no Slipknot, but …”
It was an easy sell.
We all walked in and My Pinky Has A Name began. The singer, Hannah Reader – looking a bit like Sean Young in “Blade Runner” – started in with a solo tune on her Yamaha keyboard, then slyly inserted a section from Radiohead’s “Creep.”
The crowd showed some love, especially Montana Slipknot T-shirt guy: “I love you. I want to have your children,” he yelled above the applause.
This is indie rock.
Earlier the same day Bocook and I met for a pint on the patio of Isabella’s to discuss the run of “indie rock” shows happening at Caterina for Indie-Rock Week at the winery.
Take Bocook’s Shantasina – a punk-tinged stoner prog-rock band – compared to Reader’s My Pinky Has A Name, a sweet synth and drums, for instance.
None of the bands playing at Caterina next week sound remotely similar, yet they are all indie rock.
And some of them are so indie that they are punk.
“To me punk rock would sound like the Misfits and the Ramones, but then there’s Bob Dylan that doesn’t sound punk-rock at all but has the most punk-rock lyrics of all time,” Bocook said.
Thirty-five years from now some poor sap will be taking a music history 101 course and after the grunge and gangsta rap chapters, when they get to indie rock, it will show examples like Modest Mouse, Built to Spill and Sonic Youth, who all managed to release albums on major labels while somehow still retaining indie-rock cred.
Perhaps a better descriptor would be anti-pop, or pop-progressive, as even some of the most indie bands have pop elements and a record deal.
The series of shows at Caterina next week is yet another example of indie rock’s trouble with labels.
What is indie rock?
Tuesday: Shantasina, Room 101, Born Again Abortion and Andy V. ($5) – Andy V. simultaneously plays a Flying V, a drum kit with two pedals and one stick, and harmonica.
Thursday: Wayne Patrick, Caroline Francis, Mesa Drive, My Pinky Has A Name ($5) – My Pinky’s instrumentals come off as synth-prog waltzes.
July 18: Seven Years Absence tour kickoff with Garage Voice and Starflight Ambush ($5) – Garage Voice possesses strange inklings of lounge and jazz, but it works; Starflight Ambush is a blitzkrieg of shifting instrumental dynamics and compelling vocals.
July 19: The Globes CD release party with The Lonely Forest, Don’t Tell Sophie and Mon Marie ($6) – Originally from Spokane, the intriguing Globes headline a fitting finale for a week of non-compromising musical integrity.