Blue Turtle Seduction, Jazz Bones, Tacoma, WA- 3/2
Family Spots Blue Turtle in Tacoma
Last night my wife, four-year-old son, and I had a chance to catch the Blue Turtle Seduction, part of this year’s High Sierra line-up, in Tacoma, Washington. When bands play in the Pacific Northwest, they stop in Seattle and Portland, but hardly ever in Tacoma. They planned a gig on a Thursday and Monday night so they could attend a family reunion in Seattle over the weekend. I respect that they chose to play a lesser-known venue to incorporate their family plans, and ours.
We live on an island and have to take the ferry to go anywhere so we left plenty early to arrive at the venue with enough time to feed our son, blow off some steam in a game of hopscotch, and settle in for the show. Lucky thing we had planned so much time ahead. I’ve left concert tickets at home a few times, but this time we forgot my son’s shoes. After a quick detour to Payless outfitting my son in space boots that look like a cross between what Bob the Builder and Napoleon Dynamite would wear, we were ready to head to the club for a night of music.
Jazz Bones provided the perfect family-fun accommodations: plenty of booth seating, psychedelic jazz murals, and gooey pizza. Think Chuck E. Cheese meets The Fillmore. Our son has attended a few shows at outdoor festivals and school cafeterias, but this was the first time he’s seen a band in a club setting. It wasn’t too crowded; the staff and other patrons were grinning seeing the family out for a night of fun. There was no “kid zone” designed to distract kids when they grow tired of listening to the music, so this restaurant was a great opportunity to share a more intense musical, learning experience. Still, when our son did grow impatient waiting for the band, we still had one distraction- ice cream!
Before the band started, my son and I had a chance to play “I Spy” with the various instruments; the bass, drums, guitars and a suitcase of harmonicas. He had a hard time figuring out why the mandolin-shaped instrument had just six strings. I couldn’t put a name to it, but I told him it was similar to the one Kang plays. My son’s summer memories of Horning’s String Cheese, helped him connect the dots. We also made up stories about how those pedals connected to the guitars make strange sounds. There’s nothing heavier than discussing “feedback” with a four-year-old.
When the lights went down, I pushed a bowl of vanilla ice cream in front of my son, giving me at least a few moments to gather a first impression of the band. Opening up with “Tiache,” B.T.S. quickly warmed up into a family- friendly groove. My son shoved the ice cream back to me so I could set him on my knee to clank on his bowl. Within the first few minutes we’re finding the pocket together. This number showcased all the members of the band early on. Previously I only had heard some early recordings from 2003, so I was delighted to hear how the music evolved . In the recordings I previewed, the fiddle sounded much more like Camper Van Beethoven, haunting, twanging, and tinny. Tonight Christian Zupanic’s played with a much warmer style. “Promet/ Do” soared above the crowd, landing in “dawgtown”. The Blue Turtle Seduction transformed to a band of gypsies on stage, kneeling down to give visual and kinesthetic cues as they passed around the tune.
During the song “Bobby”, the smallish crowd loosened up and began bopping to the swampy, reggae beat. Christian’s mando-guitar hybrid made its first appearance of the night to the delight of both father and son. Glenn Stevart took over the vocals here and his soulful voice coupled with the reggae rhythm showed the range of these guys. The variety of musical styles in just the first few songs provided an opportunity to give my son a crash course on “the jam”. A few hoots jumped out my mouth. My son especially enjoyed the yelping part and made me proud by “hawooing” in my ear for the rest of the night.
“Lemonde“ was the highlight for the entire family; the most eclectic song of the night with many instruments being played, including the Pan flute. As he blew an Andean sounding solo, I couldn’t help but think of this sounding like a cross between John Popper and Yani, in a good way. The mix of percussion, pan flute and picking simmered together to make the hottest song of the night. Not only was there a variety of music pouring off the stage, the performers were fun for my son to watch and observe. Glenn Stevart moved like he was scratching beats in thin air between pan solos, Christian nearly lost in the music; eyes closed, fingers nimbly skipping across the strings, and Jay Seals connecting with the audience, feeding off the energy of the crowd and his brother, Stephen low on the bass. The rest of the first set continued displaying Blue Turtle’s ability to change styles while maintaining a fun, danceable groove. I wouldn’t say their style is yet distinctive, but it is refreshing to see a young band take risks, searching for their sound, and bringing the audience along for the ride.
As a parent taking your child to listen, dance and appreciate your music, you’ve got to savor every moment because you never know when the evening will be cut short. As Blue Turtle Seduction wound down their first set, it was past my son’s winter bedtime and we were quickly out the door. Buckling my son into his car seat, he gave a rundown of the highlights before nodding off to sleep. Maybe he was dreaming about The Blue Turtle Seduction this summer, screaming “High Sierraaaa!” in my ear.