photos + words: Everly Jazi
In a grand theater with plush seating, right off the busy interstate, Seattleites at the Paramount listened to Neko Case and her band perform “Curse of the I-5 Corridor,” a 2018 release off Hell-On.
Before the 22-song set, opener Dan Bejar performed as Destroyer. Bejar leveraged his popularity, opportunely with a crowd already fascinated by his nook of the indie rock scene, to play both old and new. On 2001’s “Virgin with a Memory,” he forgot some chords, recovering by the next verse. It could be afforded, though, since his simple, white-shirt presence, captivated.
“I will not forget the chords to this next song. It is brand new and I’ve got nothing left to prove, so there are just three chords,” Bejar assured the crowd, launching into unreleased “Cue Synthesizer.”
The song’s lyrics, pretending to cue different instruments to join in, exemplified Bejar’s casual, yet brilliantly dynamic performance style. His idiosyncratic, aggressively (not secretly) Canadian voice paired well with the crescendo and diminuendo of his single acoustic guitar. The chorus of the song was woven with a cantankerous scat that worked surprisingly well in its delivery.
Tracks took on different forms in the solo performance, like “Tinseltown Swimming in Blood,” which had a slower pacing and a few mumbled lines. On “Times Square,” strong but soft vocals were matched with the bridge’s minor melodies, chords not prominent on the studio version. With the end of the jam’s high-energy chord progression, Bejar gave a full-body bow.
Case took the stage with five large wasps nest props looming over her head. Her skeleton pants served as reminder of the core of our species as she sang “Pitch or Honey.” The band played well-arranged pieces, fitting nicely together in a harmonious layered manner. Jon Rauhouse played his psychedelic pedal steel tones under the light of an old lamp as a collectively raspy chorus rang in from Case, Shelley Short and Rachel Flotard on “Winnie.” The song went through more emotions before ending with Case’s clear vocals, enunciating her lyrics with an individual piano chords in the background.
Throughout the set, Case played various guitars, including a unique tenor, a four-stringed instrument she referred to as “my tiny little angry guitar.” Her tracks were demanding and heated, but very confessional at the same time. She dedicated “Calling Cards” to her many bandmates from the handful of bands she plays with, saying she wishes all of them could hear her poop jokes on every tour. The piercing tone of the guitar and the calming vocals carried the fun melody. The kit’s kick drum combined with a dance beat as the band jumped into “Bad Luck,” sunny vocals layered with the many fills and wood block from the percussion section.
On “Look for Me (I’ll Be Around),” the mood changed to a slow shuffle. Case turned into a jazz club singer, and mysterious chords danced around on the keyboard. As things went along, the audience became more engaged, often standing up from their seats or yelling out requests. When one in particular was called out, Case said, “I only play that in Tacoma. I have an actual contract that states it.
Guitars started intensely strumming for “Man,” drums quickening and the band changing into five guitars and a bass. The enthusiasm led to a five-song encore, starting with the title track from the newest album. As Case sang, “My voice is not the liquid waves, the perfect rings around a heron’s legs,” the wasps nests started to move mechanically. The chords rang in a cryptic minor way under more cheerful vocals in the chorus and Case screamed into the microphone.
The band strummed on, the audience danced and the night came to a close.