Saturday, October 27, 2012

Good Time Girls Gore and Lore Tour – Bellingham – October 27th, 2012

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Good Time Girls Gore and Lore Tour – Bellingham

October 27th, 2012

The appropriately dark and stormy night begins in the radiator warmth of the Black Drop Coffee House, the air redolent with beautiful coffee aroma. 17 stalwart souls have gathered to take the Good Time Girls Gore and Lore Tour of downtown Bellingham. Our Virgil for the evening is the lovely “Francine” (a.k.a. Jane Burleigh), dressed in 1930s attire clothing, who informs us that she perished under one of the local streetcars before “people catchers” were installed. Each of us is given a newspaper style handout full of murder stories and macabre details.

Then Francine introduces Chuck Crooks from B.O.O.O. or Bellingham Observers of the Odd and Obscure. Chuck plays a few E.V.P. (electronic voice phenomenon) recordings from when members of B.O.O.O. were investigating Bayview Cemetery. In one, you can hear some people talking and then an eerie breathy voice saying: “I keep myself awake as long as I can.” I look around at the skeptical faces and note just the tiniest bit of freak-out as Chuck plays it back for us a few times.

Francine leads us out into the elements, down the rainy streets to the Old City Hall building. After a bit of Bellingham history, she shows us where the entrance to the basement jail once was, just beneath the Mayor’s office. A reputed story goes, she says, that one night they arrested a strange man, presumed to be intoxicated, and placed him in a cell by himself. The next morning they came in to discover a painting of Leonardo’s Last Supper on the walls… painted in the man’s blood. Nice.

Just next door at the old Fire Department, Francine directs our attention to Bellingham Towers and cheerfully told us about how in April of 1929 the fireman witnessed a man, despondent over stock market losses, commit suicide by jumping from the upper floors. I enjoyed how she added that the fireman responded, you know, to go “clean up the mess.”

We then walk down to the corner in front of Old Town Café, where Francine informs, with evocative photographs that we pass around, that there was once a Funeral Home in this location. She provides an entertaining history of embalming and makes certain that we note the presence of the woman in the picture. Necessary, she says, to prepare the female corpses with propriety. We walk a down the street a bit, almost to the front of Old Town, where we are told about an assortment of ghostly occurrences, from plates levitating to the persistent odor of smoke at certain times of the day.

We are now only about halfway through the hour-long tour. I look around at the other members of the tour and can see that all of them are intensely caught up in the weird, the gore and lore, of Bellingham. No one seems to mind the rain. If anything, it adds to the atmosphere. It is a wonderful to be led around by an informative and entertaining guide through the city and stand immersed within its history. I am tempted to recount all of the fascinating dark history that I was shown that night, but I will leave that to the Good Time Girls. Suffice it to say, that gore got gorier and the lore even more interesting.

The Good Time Girls offer a variety of historical activities throughout the year here in Bellingham: most notably, the Sin and Gin tour, exploring the colorful history of brothels in the early days of the city. Each of these now also has a Fairhaven version, which has gotten high praise. They also produce Wild West Variety shows, involve themselves in a many charitable shows and have an enchanting Victorian Christmas Caroling tour in December. I have only the highest recommendations for all of their productions. The Good Time Girls bring the lesser known, but far more interesting, aspects of our local history to vivid life and, by doing this, help to create a richer character of the city that we all live within. The local schools and colleges should take note and start incorporating GTG tours into their curriculum. They make history fun, exciting and… yes, very sexy.

Update: Please check out the Bureau of Historical Investigation for more information

Related on Bellingham Reviews:

Bureau of Historical Investigation
Bayview Cemetery
Washington State Archives

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sarah in the Wild at Honey Moon and Sarah Goodin’s New EP and Spinner Productions

Sarah in the Wild - Honey Moon

October 19th, 2012

There are few singers who can compel a buzzing capacity crowd into instant silence. Fewer who can keep them quiet and suddenly reverent. Even more rare, are the one or two that can charm each listener to feel they are being singularly addressed. Sarah Goodin is such a singer. She is behind the microphone at the Honey Moon. The rich and subtle registers of her voice thread golden through an a capella Nature Boy. The words hang in the air like Chinese lanterns, rising with fire, lingering like ghosts.

The occasion is the debut of her new band, with the, perhaps provisional, name of Sarah in the Wild. Sarah handles vocals and guitar. Cade Capp is on drums and Jake Werrion plays bass. From the number of people in attendance, there is a high level of anticipation to hear what they will sound like. Sarah is opening with a solo set before Cade and Jake come up to join her.

She takes possession of the next song, Call It What You Will, by the inimitable Joe Pug. She follows this with the title song off of her recent EP Sleep. A plaintive invocation to insomnia and deep night desire, the song seems simultaneously like an ancient prayer, a lullaby to a child or a note written to a lost lover. You imagine Durer’s Angel of Melancholy quietly humming this melody as the sands of time run out. Next up is an almost joyful reading of Tennessee Waltz full of haunted Appalachian ache which prompts a lively interaction with the crowd. Her rendition of Eliot Smith’s Between the Bars is simply beautiful: the juxtaposition of the female voice in the male role, singing the drinker’s song, the late night lonely promises of empty hope and broken dreams. These are the sorrow filled songs that Sarah Goodin can sing like no other.

After a short break, the highly anticipated band gathers together. Jake and Cade lay down a deep slow beat, throbbing bass line, hooking straight into dark voodoo centers in the brain. Sarah snarls out the wicked lyrics of Dylan’s Man in a Long Black Coat: “Somebody said from the bible he'd quote / There was dust on the man in the long black coat.” The band ignites the song into a slow burn with rising intensity and back into the tribal voodoo beat.  The crowd erupts into a huge applause.

Everyone knows that Sarah Goodin is a great singer. And there might have been a few – but not really - that worried how she would translate into a band. Now, one song in, there is no doubt: Sarah in the Wild, the band, is great. They follow with a set composed of the songs from Sarah’s EP and ones that will be on her forthcoming full length album. Icarus Into the Sea is a beautiful set piece, luminous with lyrical intensity. Home is transformed by the band, Cade’s drumming like tribal poetry: at just the right intensity with just the right rhythmic complexity. Jake’s bass steady and pure, out in front, reminiscent of Mark Sandman’s sound in Morphine. They sound tight and well practiced. They sound like a band you could listen to all night.

They finish with a cover of Radiohead’s Creep which is so good that it drives the crowd into a sort of Bacchanalian frenzy. Everyone is singing, dancing, smiling, laughing, enraptured by the beautiful music of Sarah in the Wild. At the end, there is an obligatory encore with M.Ward’s Big Boat. Then: sustained applause. Everyone left wanting more. As the musicians lay down there instruments, I watch as a surge of fans and well-wishers surround them with congratulations and gratitude. In the back corner is a beautiful older woman with her eyes closed, smile on her face, lost in the memory of the music. There is more laughter than words. Good omens abound.

Poster by S. Casey

Sarah Goodin’s New EP and Spinner Productions: Good for the Soul

I am sitting in the heart of the Spinner recording studio talking to Sarah Goodin, Dave Brown and Brett Steelhammer about the process of recording Sarah’s new EP, Sleep. With the larger recording rooms still under construction, this smaller interior space feels like a comfortable living room filled with state of the art recording equipment, empty coffee cups from the Black Drop and a pile of pillows in the corner. You get the sense that Dave and Brett spend a lot of time here.

In 2011, Spinner was commissioned to produce a new Sea to Ski promo and Sarah was brought in to sing. Feeling a good connection with Dave and Brett, she approached them later to help her record some covers for a CD to sell at her performances. “It was easy with Sarah because her ideas and songs came through quickly,” said Dave. Sarah could only afford to complete one cover, the Cole Porter standard, “So Nice To Come Home To.” Dave and Brett were impressed at how much “she made the song hers.”

Knowing a good thing when they heard it, Spinner then approached Sarah about doing an EP of original material – “off the clock.” Over the next 5 months, they began working on the 4 song EP, Sleep - each of them juggling children, school, work, other artists, in order to make time to finish the project. Sarah says, “It was hard because I wanted to be here more. I would be in class thinking about the songs. And I would be at home getting ready to fall asleep and thinking about the songs.” After a moment she adds, “I can’t imagine working with anyone else. These guys have been incredibly patient with me. I have been able to be a part of every step, of every process – even when they may not have wanted me to be. They let me watch and it has just been incredible. Because I feel like these are my babies, these are my own songs.”

Dave emphasizes the collaborative nature of the recording process, “the exciting thing is that we were able to help produce Sarah’s music, to bring it from the 2nd to the 3rd dimension and still let it be Sarah Goodin, the songs she wrote. Sarah is what ties the songs together.” Brett says, “She is so good at putting emotion into the vocals, her songs are so genuine that I know that when I first heard them, I thought this is definitely something that people will like. The major challenge is getting the release out there and getting it to stand out amongst the thousands and thousands of other releases.”

Spinner and Sarah produced a beautiful video for the single, Sleep, which chalked up over 1200 hits in a short time. Dave says there will definitely be more videos for the EP. And, along her many local performances, there is a West Coast tour in the works.

Sarah tells me: “What is so amazing to me is that I came in here initially just to record some music. I didn’t know anything. I thought I would just sit down and play music and then I would be ready. But Dave and Brett are not just good at recording. The video is amazing. And the fact that they had the vision to do something like that and it wasn’t hokey and cheesy. It has just been so amazing.”

When asked about the financial aspect of investing so much time and energy into an artist, Dave tells me that what is most important is to first “work your ass off. Get the best quality. Be true to the music. And the money next. Good things follow. To work this way, not worried about hourly rates and financial pressures, off the clock, it is your own personal time and you are interested and invested in what you are doing, that is a cool way to work.” Brett adds appropriately, “it is good for the soul to put an EP out.”

The result of this labor of love is a beautiful, textured and elegantly produced set of 4 stunning original songs by one of the most talented singer songwriters in Bellingham. You can tell that the creation, performance and production of Sarah Goodin’s music is the foremost concern in every element of the EP. As it should be.

Sarah tells me: Recording this EP has been the best, the most fun, the most inspired I have ever been. Hands down ever and I think it is only going to get better.”

This article originally appeared in What's Up!

Rejected Poster - S. Casey

Rejected Poster - S. Casey

Rejected Poster - S. Casey - Tribute to Wynn Bullock

Rejected Poster - S. Casey