Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs – Alone in This Together

In my last review of Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs I promised a follow up about how their album would have a living room sound to it–meaning intimate and minimal studio intervention in the music.  So I’ve been waiting to talk about that while the band fine-tuned their album before release for over a year.  Definitely worth the wait, the album, Alone in This Together, has been out for a couple of months, along with a video.  Meanwhile, the band has been busy with a west coast tour, planning an upcoming east coast tour and even some small portion Star’s boots and maybe some elbows and knees of other band members made an appearance in a Rolling Stone photo while they performed with Pearl Jam for PJ20.  Now that’s rock and roll.  Speaking of the living room, here is the band jamming on children’s instruments at Keith Ash’s (bass) house where the band was hanging out together for a barbeque.

Back to the album. I believe that had I listened to the album at the time of the first interview, talking about the living room flavor would have made a ton of sense. While it is, as promised, intimate and not at all overproduced, enough hard work and I assume, massively creative energy has influenced what this album has ultimately become.  What I hear when I listen closely, is a sophisticated layering effect that I usually find in great bluegrass.

Don’t get me wrong, the album sounds nothing like bluegrass.

But I draw the analogy because like great bluegrass, skilled musicians take us on a ride full of pleasant surprises, full of complex and unexpected arrangements.  However, unlike Bluegrass, the overall effect of this ride is subtle.  Noticeable, yet subtle.  And actually, I didn’t notice it at first.  Initially, I was swept up by the vocals and the lyrics as you might be–you’ll want to know more about what she is saying; you’ll sit still and imagine the situation that provoked those words to come together the way they did.  See what I mean in the track titled Gold and Silver:

Love could never live here
In a house that is so cold
The windows bolted down for good
The window panes are dull
The floor it creaks with every step
And echoes through the air
‘Til it’s swallowed up by silence
Through the cracks and down the stairs

-Alone in This Together, Star Anna & The Laughing Dogs

And have a listen to Star’s vocals, which are frankly just becoming indescribable for me.  Flipping through a thesaurus for hours wouldn’t give me the right words.  The effect of her vocals on her fans (if I may say so) is more of a gestalt experience—the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

Back to the subtlety.   Now that you hear how down right awesome the title track is and recognize that  you are also, in fact, hearing is Mike McCready of Pearl Jam on guitar, the word subtle might be a confusing description.  Here’s what I mean:  you can sit on a plane and listen to this album four times in a row (yes, I did this) and sometimes you really notice how the guitar (Justin Davis) goes left while the keyboards (Ty Bailie) go right and something interesting is happening with the drums (Travis Yost), or you connect to the lyrics—your mind winding down a road you took once and the nostalgia it still evokes in you.   Still another time, you listen to the album while you read and it just works without you noticing much at all.  As Peter Griffin might say, it doesn’t insist upon itself.  But it is there for the taking.  I never have exactly the same experience when I listen to Alone in This Together.  I think that speaks to the depth of the album.  Star and the dogs are never self-conscious or affected personally or musically.  As I mentioned before, they are deep, genuine and just all around great people to meet.  And maybe that is what Justin Davis (guitar) meant when he described the album as having that living room sound.  Could be it…provided that your living room has Star’s unflinching and smoky vocals, a talented band that loves doing what they do together and guitar accompaniment by Mike McCready of Pearl Jam.  So yeah—I definitely need a living room upgrade.

Listening to Alone in This Together, or any recording of the band, for that matter,  leaves me with an intense craving to see them live.  The album is great.  Instantly a favorite.  I have two.  No shit.   I bought one, got one as a gift and I’m keeping them both. However, listening to this album just allows me to get a fix in between the few shows I can make in Seattle.  Much to their credit as musicians—this is a band that is best live.  Which brings me to their east coast tour.  If they are going to be anywhere near you—buy tickets.  Go see them.  Show the hell up.  Anyone who has seen them will back me on this.  You can not miss them if you are lucky enough to be anywhere within a 3 hour radius of them.  Even if they are planning to play children’s instruments (probably not).  Do it.

Here’s a little taste of them live with Mike McCready at PJ20.

Here are their tour dates.  Get out your calendar.

10/14/11 Great Falls MT- Machinery Row
10/15/11 Bozeman, MT – The Filling Station
10/16/11 Spearfish, SD – Back Porch
10/17/11 Sioux City, IA – Chesterfield Live
10/18/11 Des Moines, IA – Mars Cafe
10/19/11 TBA
10/20/11 Chicago, Il – The Hideout
10/21/11 Milwaukee, WI – Shank Hall
10/22/11 TBA
10/23/11 Cleveland, OH – Brother’s Lounge
10/24/11 Buffalo, NY – Mohawk Place
10/25/11 Albany, NY – Valentine’s
10/26/11 Allston, MA – O’Brien’s Pub
10/27/11 Brooklyn, NY – Southpaw
10/28/11 New York, NY – Piano’s
10/29/11 Hoboken, NJ – Maxwells
10/30/11 Philadelphia, PA – The Fire
10/31/11 Asbury Park NJ- The Saint
11/01/11 Washington DC – The Black Cat
11/02/11 Chapell Hill, NC – The Cave Tavern
11/03/11 Atlanta, GA – Smith’s Olde Bar
11/04/11 – TBA
11/05/11 Kansas City, MO – Czar Bar
11/06/11 Lincoln, NE – The Zoo Bar
11/07/11 TBA
11/08/11 TBA
11/09/11 Boise, ID – The Reef

Purchase their album and visit their site www.staranna.com.

Check out my work at www.keeshadavis.com and www.simfotico.com.  I am a professional photographer and do freelance web design while I juggle a full schedule at the University of Washington as a Ph.D student in Education.  Photos of Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs copyright Keesha Davis, Simfotico, LLC.

Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs—Your New Favorite Band

You may not have heard of Star Anna yet, but you will.  And if you have and have been fortunate enough to see them live, you know how damn lucky you are.  Star is well-known around the Seattle area as a talented vocalist with a heavy duty soul.   Star and her music (pretty much one in the same) are powerfully raw, lovely and tender, shy and ready to put it all out there in all the right ways.  I was lucky enough to see Star Anna and her band the Laughing Dogs play at the Historic Columbia City Theater in Seattle on July 23, 2010.  For those of you who don’t know about the theater, apparently Jimi Hendrix played there before anyone had heard of him.  The distinct possibility of being able to draw a parallel between Hendrix’s and Star Anna’s humble Washington beginnings to eventual well-loved rock legends sometime in the near future had gotten me all giddy for the show.   I don’t exaggerate (well, sometimes I do, but not right now) when I say that the entire night I had the strong feeling that I was watching my favorite local band at the beginning of a new road…on the verge of making it big.   I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more right now.  I’m not the only one.  A quick look at their website will show you that the legendary Mike McCready (Pearl Jam) and Duff McKagan (Guns ‘n’ Roses) are right there with me.   In fact, September will find the band in Stone Gossard’s (Pearl Jam) Studio Litho to record their third album, featuring McCready.  Plenty more about their upcoming record in part two of this series.  Needless to say, you’ll want to buy it as soon as it comes out.  Here is a video taken by Layne Freedle (Outlaw Digital Media) of one of the new songs, For When I Go, that will be on that record. Continue reading “Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs—Your New Favorite Band”

Solstice in Seattle at the Fremont Solstice Parade!

The Fremont neighborhood in Seattle, AKA, The Center of the Universe, celebrates a not-so-sunny but still AMAZING summer solstice with their annual parade. If you haven’t been…well, you’ll want to after seeing how well they do it up!

The Fremont neighborhood in Seattle, AKA, The Center of the Universe, celebrates a not-so-sunny but still AMAZING summer solstice with their annual parade.  If you haven’t been…well, you’ll want to after seeing how well they do it up!

I am currently working as quickly as I can to get all of my photos that are for sale up on the Keesha Davis Photography website.  The site will have a shopping cart and many, many galleries to enjoy.  I will let you know what the url is when we are ready…stay tuned!  In the meantime you can check out my work at www.simfotico.com and on my Facebook page, or on my Flickr page.

Here are the links to more solstice photos.

With nudes

Without nudes

Check out their website for more information!

http://www.fremontfair.org/

Not Getting Much out of Your Networking? Maybe Your Expectations are Too High.

Aaahhh networking.  The schmooze fest.  Some people love it, other people hate it.  Generally speaking, I tend to think that I would prefer to interface with a computer monitor or at least with a human on the other side of my camera over the excruciating experience of chatting with another human being about my business.  And yet, today at a small business networking conference hosted by the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, I found that I was enjoying myself.  I mean really enjoying myself. I have been to lots of Chamber events in the past and found that people would often look at my name tag title and company to decide whether they wanted to talk to me or not.  When I worked for a particular car rental company, most often the answer was indicated to me by the following process 1) the quick and greedy glance at my name tag 2) the nanosecond of “she can’t do anything for me,” the 3) feigned “see someone across the room” wave and finally, 4) the ever popular, “walk across the room to where the food is” move.   My stomach would churn every time my boss sent me to one of these events.  They are so often superficial, gratuitously self-promoting not to mention just plain old boring.  Not helping matters, years ago, I made it a policy never to drink at a business event so I couldn’t even sit in the corner getting hammered like the other introverts whose bosses attempted to force them to interact with “leads,” “contacts” and non-personal nouns living in the various stages of their business pipeline.   These events turn my stomach because they are by design inauthentic, contrived and approached by many with a selfish attitude—how can I get you as a customer, how can I use you, how can I leverage this contact into something better for myself.

Today was different. I don’t know if it was the change in geography, the fact that I’m a photographer now and people think that is cool or that I really REALLY care about my business compared to how I felt about the old rental wheels company, but today felt unlike any networking event I have attended.  Not only did I enjoy myself, but also I had several genuine interactions with people with whom I plan to keep in touch.  Do I know whether they will end up to be clients, friends or people that I can help out?  Who knows?  And actually, I don’t even care.  If someone wants to keep in touch, isn’t that, in and of itself, pretty valuable?  Aren’t genuine human connections enough?
Continue reading “Not Getting Much out of Your Networking? Maybe Your Expectations are Too High.”

The San Antonio Missions

Since I moved here in November, I have appreciated that Seattle offers some amazingly diverse subject matter for photography.  Whether I am in the mood for urban street scenes or rocky beaches or temperate lowland forests, I can find a new place to explore from behind my lens every day.  That is, every day that it isn’t raining.  After two weeks of pretty much straight overcast and gloom, I found myself thinking about a photography trip I took to San Antonio last September.  My plan was to stay for five days and photograph as much as I possibly could, rain or shine.  So rain or shine, mostly rain, I went out every day, knowing I would enjoy seeing this history-rich city whether I got any strong shots or not.  Each time I set out to travel to one of the historic missions, the sun would shine and the clouds would let enough bright blue sky through to make mental shots I took in transit so stunning that my adrenaline pumped for fear that I would miss the opening by the time I arrived.  Crossing my fingers that the sun would stay, I rushed into the parking lot.  Every time and more specifically, five times, as I pulled in to the parking lot for each mission, the clouds would come together like they had just had the sudden realization that I was some naughty neighbor kid trying to sneak a peek at their lacy undergarments. The rain would pour as I would hide my camera under my coat, sometimes led on down the sidewalk by groups of stray-looking, soaked to the bone dogs. Yet, as I approached each mission, the clouds seemed to understand that I was there to genuinely appreciate the moment and to respect these stunning Spanish sanctuaries.  Abruptly, the fluffy white clouds would turn dark around the edges, would open up to blue sky in and allow the wet sidewalk to become a mirror for the arches and domes above. Continue reading “The San Antonio Missions”

And isn’t it ironic? No, not really.

Seattle SmurfsHeading back to Seattle from Bainbridge Island this weekend, I chose a deep red seat on the sunny side of the ferry.  Soon some hipsters, I like to call them Seattle Smurfs, because they wear those wool hats with the extra space at the end, kind of curled over the tops of their heads, sat down near me to discuss why each of them would not be watching the final episode of Lost this evening. The conversation went on for around ten minutes, complete with some whining, some serious arguments about not wanting to watch things like that around other people and the very legitimate reason given by “Started the Series Late and is Still Working Through the Last Season” Smurf.  They all agreed that this was a really legitimate reason not to watch.  The conversation died down until a bald woman showed up.  She was not a Smurf so she was able to directly call them out on the fact that they really just didn’t want to watch Lost with a particular woman whom they all find annoying and were secretly planning to watch tonight without her.   She was a kind of hipster I haven’t categorized yet.  She is rare, but I know she isn’t alone.  There must be some other bald, hippy skirt/motorcycle jacket wearing types out there but I’m not sure what their deal is yet.  There are many different types of hipsters in Seattle…the beardy types with blockish eye glasses who uses the word meme, the pierced punky hipsters who hide out beneath their hoody sweatshirts and listen to their iPod even while they are at a concert, the post-goth-still-pale-but-presentable-for-a-tech-job hipster who just dresses kind of frumpy now, the artsy hipster who makes her own necklaces out of badminton birdies and numerous other types, about whom I am still learning.  All of these guys on the ferry were dressed in the ironic nerdish hipster style.  Ironic, supposedly, because they are wearing nerdy clothing that is actually meant to be very, very cool.  It’s kind of a post-post-modern mix of styles that once existed and are now combined in a new way.  Which anyone with a literature degree from the 1990’s can tell you is really just what we would call a postmodern pastiche, but that is so not hip to talk about anymore now that we are in the post-post-modern era and the postmodern era hasn’t become ironically hip again…yet.  When it does, I am going to be so cool again.  I assume that if I said something about postmodern pastiche in a post-post-modern world in a coffee shop, I would be considered quite hip, ironically, for a middle-aged woman…but only with that “for a middle-aged woman” qualifier because I unironically wear boot cut jeans and old converse with the laces still in during a time when anyone can see that painfully skinny pants paired with brand new converse -no laces are much more hip.  Back to irony though.  Don’t you think that truly ironic things, like the Gift of the Magi story, should leave you chilled, sad, sort of longing for order and better communication?  Okay wait, I was starting to feel that way after listening to those guys talk about Lost.  Maybe they were ironic.  Actually, I’m starting to feel that way just rereading what I have written here.  Maybe I’m ironic.

more at the jump…. Continue reading “And isn’t it ironic? No, not really.”

Thor the Thunder God and Other Loves of my Life

Dad and I were talking the other day about our dog Thor, which in Ancient Norse meant “Thunder God” but in modern Clifton, Colorado English meant “Hide Under the Old Studebaker Bed When you hear Thunder.” Notwithstanding his irrational fear of thunder, Thor was a handsome, super smart Border Collie/German Shepherd mix whom I regarded as my brother.


Thor the Thunder God, Family and Friends
Thor the Thunder God, Family and Friends

Dad and I were talking the other day about our dog Thor, which in Ancient Norse meant “Thunder God” but in modern Clifton, Colorado English meant “Hide Under the Old Studebaker Bed When you hear Thunder.” Notwithstanding his irrational fear of thunder, Thor was a handsome, super smart Border Collie/German Shepherd mix whom I regarded as my brother. He was like Adam Cartwright on Bonanza to Hoss and Little Joe (except in our family, I was nothing like Hoss and Little Joe wasn’t born yet but you get the idea). He was level headed and practical like Adam Cartwright and like Adam, he was my parents’ first child. When I was born, Thor was a full year older and wiser than me. When I was 15, he was 105 years older and wiser than me, despite being a bit senile. He gained this wisdom, I believe, when he left the yard one snowy night and walked to the house of an old grouch bastard who lived a couple of houses away. Old Grouch Bastard threw a rock at Thor, who probably thought it was a ball and tried to catch it. His jaw was shattered and his teeth were mostly broken off into little stubs. Dad followed the trail of blood and figured that this is what had happened although we don’t know for sure. His jaw was wired shut for a long time and he his teeth were an ugly brown mess. After that, Thor learned to temper his Border Collie energy and be a little more cautious and thoughtful. He did what he was supposed to do and a little bit more—he applied his lessons broadly and permanently. His wisdom and ability to anticipate what might happen were just some of the qualities that made him an amazing big brother.

We used to have a drainage ditch running through our back yard. This drainage ditch was dangerous because it was large enough for me to get in, and the culvert pipe it led to was large enough for five year old me to be sucked down. Obviously, I wasn’t allowed to play in the ditch, so of course, every day, I snuck down the yard to play in the ditch. You see, my parents thought I was like Thor, that I would do what I was told and they could trust me in the yard on my own. Mostly, that was true. But the ditch was a powerful lure. Some things are just hard to resist—for some kids it is candy, for me it was soggy dirt between my toes and dirty running water. After all, if you had a good friend and a strong shovel, you could lift a purple bloated muskrat out of that ditch long enough to poke it with a stick, then touch it with your finger before you dropped it and both ran off screaming, “Ew!” Not only that, it felt like a perfect summer day to stand in the ditch close to the culvert where the speed of the flow picked up and you could feel the water rushing around your legs, wondering what that slimy thing that just wrapped around your calf is and imaging it is a skinny fish. So one day I got a little too close to the culvert opening and maybe the ditch was a little too full and I started to get sucked down the pipe. Luckily for me, my big brother Thor had seen this coming for a long time and was always standing by for the imminent rescue. As I lost my footing, he was there with me, pulling me out by my clothes and giving me something to hang onto. After that, I couldn’t get anywhere near the ditch without Thor standing directly in front of the culvert pipe. Not only that, if I tried to get in, he would move his head to block me. He probably saved my life that day, if not the next day when I was already thinking of climbing back into the ditch because I figured I knew where I went wrong and could handle it this time.

More on Thor the Thunder God at the jump… Continue reading “Thor the Thunder God and Other Loves of my Life”

Growing Up Hippie in the 1970’s

If it looks like a hippie, acts like a hippie and smells like…to be fair, Mom wore Shalimar perfume rather than the heavy scent of body odor, vegetarian flatulence, doobies and patchouli that hung in a dense cloud around most of our friends, who, incidentally, could usually be found in a van with curtains in our driveway if they weren’t living in a teepee in another friend’s yard. Or they could also be off in Hawaii living on a naked commune getting some woman with hairy legs pregnant, sending us postcards of said naked pregnant stranger. I remember asking my dad, “why do Frank’s farts smell like that?” “Because he only eats fruit,” dad replied.

I grew up with hippies as parents. Mom will claim that she was not a hippie but everything about her said hippie. Long hair, homemade clothes, homemade food, large garden, no running water, married to my artist dad, from Boulder, Colorado—you get the idea. If it looks like a hippie, acts like a hippie and smells like…to be fair, Mom wore Shalimar perfume rather than the heavy scent of body odor, vegetarian flatulence, doobies and patchouli that hung in a dense cloud around most of our friends, who, incidentally, could usually be found in a van with curtains in our driveway if they weren’t living in a teepee in another friend’s yard. Or they could also be off in Hawaii living on a naked commune getting some woman with hairy legs pregnant, sending us postcards of said naked pregnant stranger. I remember asking my dad, “why do Frank’s farts smell like that?” “Because he only eats fruit,” dad replied.
Take away #1: Real hippies stink. Mom was not a hippie.
Take away #1a: Vary your diet.
Take away #1b: Stay upwind from Frank.

During this time of growing our own food, raising chickens and filling the back yard with giant dye tubs and tables of melted wax for community Batik projects (hippies can’t afford art or nice furniture so they make their own wall hangings and sofa covers) I became this strange person who saw the world the way my genetics made me (overachiever type) while looking at this almost dreamlike world form around me. There were parties where people sat around on the lawn in small groups talking while I diligently pumped the keg and made sure that everyone had a full glass. There were people laughing hysterically then abruptly staring into space. There were women with lazy eyelids putting flowers in my hair and talking about how you could use the pollen from dandelions as eye makeup. Great idea—as a four-year-old allergy sufferer I really appreciated her hippie wisdom/completely stoned out of her mind style thinking. What else has living so close to the earth (read broke and subsequently homeless) taught you? That plant over there makes a great toilet paper? Why can’t I just use toilet paper instead of kill that plant? There is plenty of toilet paper over there in the outhouse.
Take away #2: Don’t take advise about cosmetics and toiletries from stoned hippies.

More at the jump… Continue reading “Growing Up Hippie in the 1970’s”