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guantanamo baywatch

The 5th Annual Freakout! Fest comes back tonight

Triple city-based indie label Freakout Records has been churning out some pretty fine electronic, psych and lively rock from three out of the four corners of the states. Operating out of Seattle, Los Angeles and New York, Freakout has taken to occupying various venues in Ballard for its festival since 2012, with artists of their own catalog, as well as other artists scattered around the Northwest and the country. Freakout! Festival returns again tonight, and its bill is as stacked as ever.

Co-presented by The Stranger, Audioasis on KEXP and supported by Killroom Records, Treefort Music Fest and Artist Home Record Club, Freakout! Fest will be hitting up its usual Ballard staples like Conor Byrne and Tractor Tavern, with Sarah Gerritsen and Roadkill Ghost Choir kicking things off with some early sets. Tonight's hip hop will be fulfilled by up and coming lyricist Taylar Elizza Beth, with some dark stoner psych coming from Blackwater Holy Light. Energetically folky blues comes from Battleme, who are out on tour supporting their new Cult Psychotica release, while Charms and FKL bring more of a dancey feel to a couple of the headlining spots.

Much of Saturday's bill recalls a warmer, more carefree season thanks to some surf-drenched sets from Baywitch, The Shivas and Guantanamo Baywatch, The White Tears and Pearl Dragon is Dead are collaborating on their performance at the Conor Byrne, Porter Ray and Jus Moni killing it in the rhythm and rhymes department, and Kelli Schaefer and Maiah Manser representing for solo noir pop.

There's so many more acts to see, thank goodness they're all playing on the same street. You can find more information about the artists, venues and tickets over at the Freakout Records site.

Guantanamo Baywatch defies genre with new album

Portland’s favorite power trio Guantanamo Baywatch has made a big leap since the days of their previous album, Chest Crawl. Most notably, there is an almost complete disappearance of their trademark surf sound. On their new record, Darling…It’s Too Late, the band has made the transition so easily it’s as if this shift of direction was where they have always been headed.

The album is a myriad of varying genres and styles, sounding like a tribute to the golden age of early Rock ‘n’ Roll. There are still quite a few instrumentals here, even the occasional glimpse of their old selves as on “Raunch Stomp” or “Mr. Rebel,” but even then they’re injected with a grittiness closer to country-fried Rockabilly.

The production is bigger and cleaner, and the band sounds more confident than ever, with Jason Powell’s vocals coming to the forefront for the first time where it had previously been buried or served a secondary role to his guitars. The guitars, as always, still play an integral part to their sound as does the thunderous rhythm section, especially shining on “Beat Has Changed” with a solo not unlike something from early Ricky Nelson.

The record feels like a glimpse into the world of pop music and Rock ‘n’ Roll in America during the late 50s and early 60s. The band explores everything from Country gospel à la Don Gibson on “Boy Like Me” to R&B torch songs on “Too Late,” and the Live at The Whiskey a Go Go swing of Johnny Rivers on “Sea of Love.” In fact, it’s like the band’s history lesson ends just before the advent of the British Invasion. The album even closes with what appears to be the sound of the Fab Four on the not-so-distant horizon with “Do What Want You Want.”

While their albums and singles have always been stellar, Guantanamo Baywatch up until now has always been best experienced as a live band. But Darling…It’s Too Late is a statement, proving they can be just as potent of a force in the studio. Every second of the record feels like it was handled with care and made with a deep enthusiasm and love for music. Darling…It’s Too Late is out now on Suicide Squeeze. 

-Cody Alexander

In Review: Guantanamo Baywatch at Mississippi Studios 5.23

I feel uncomfortable admitting that I had never seen Guantanamo Baywatch before. The songs performed were largely instrumental, high intensity surf rock. Gazing at the drummer proved to be a show in itself, with his countless expressions exhibiting euphoria, tension, rage and contentment. It was amusing to overhear the bassist ask the rest of the members to slow down due to exhaustion. It made sense though, as their speed was beyond physical comfort. This rush coerced everyone else in the room to dance, push, shove, light up and drive the bouncers crazy. The interaction from the audience was incredible. Lights were blaring through the venue, creating a tunnel of “you’re being escorted out” beaming for several people finalizing their destructive ways. It was nice to finally see this band, since they rarely play Portland. They did it proper, as Mississippi Studios was nearly torn apart.

- Colette Pomerleau


Guantanamo Baywatch On Tour After Releasing "Chest Crawl"

Currently touring the US until the end of July, local garage-surf trio Guantanamo Baywatch were kind enough to drop a new album right before they headed South. "Chest Crawl", released May 22nd, features a screeching cover of Paul Anka's 'Diana', some slimy doo-wop, sexually explicit themes de rigour (Massage My Taj?! Excellent!): take it or leave it, it's deliciously trashy!

They've kept their instrumental 60s garage-surf recipe, its exotic touch of string vibratos (think Miserlou) and many a high-pitched slides, but went further back in time to the Golden Age of rock 'n' roll to find the vocals, more prominent than on their past releases. The result? A nonchalantly noisy take on 50s melodic patterns filled with pathos, "ooh oohs" and those Trashmen/Cramps bursts of nonsense which, if you can indulge lo-fi one more time, and don't happen to cringe at the rolling sound of surf, should do the trick for some ol' hip-shaking antics.- Tracy Mamoun


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