If you have been following our website or our social media even remotely in the last few months you probably have seen the name Ex’s With Benefits tossed around quite a bit. We even made the bold statement that their recently-released album ‘BAD HOTEL’ might just be the Seattle album of the year. So far it’s still the frontrunner, at least for this writer. And after seeing them at the CD release party Friday April 10 and watching the reaction of the crowd as Dmitra Smith scowled, growled and wailed, it’s fair to assume I’m not alone in that prediction.
Prior to EWB, though, were two bands out of Seattle that you should know about as well. First band to take the floor and plug in on this sideways-rain-soaked night in Seattle was The Grindylow. This band is heavy as fuck and is an absolute throwback to 1987, which was fitting since the drummer for Ex’s With Benefits is Alex Vincent, who in 1987 was sitting behind the kit in one of Seattle’s more popular bands, Green River. In fact the last time I saw Alex Vincent play the drums live was in 1987.
The Grindylow is not concerned with dance moves or looking pretty. Rather, they have on their minds a plan for the best way they can launch an all-out assault on your ear canals. With a sound that mixes grunge and hardcore punk with a dash of thrash, the Seattle trio turned The Piranha Shop into their practice pad and let loose a volley of riffage in front of a hundred rockers. With a bubble machine (which by the way this should be mandatory at all shows within the city) spewing in front of the band, they let loose on quite an entertaining set. One of the songs they sang was a ripping, not-so-tongue-in-cheek stab at the mechanical behemoths that dot the Seattle skyline. These grizzled veterans are fun to watch, fun to bang your head to and the crowd loved their set.
The next band was also a trio but was almost the polar opposite of The Grindylow. Hearts Are Thugs don’t use a bass player or a live drummer, opting instead for a drum machine, combine that with a couple of guitars and a frontwoman and you have a great combination. The swagger of frontwoman Erin Bednarz is addictive and she has a great voice that can be equal parts delicate and ferocious at the same time. Throughout the 7-8 song set Greg Collinsworth(Guitars) displayed exceptional guitar skills while his brother Brandon laid down the foundation on the synthesizer and drum machine. They call their music Riot Pop and we wouldn’t disagree with that title. They utilize whatever electronic devices they have at their disposal to create a strange and unique sound and they are fun as hell live. Definitely recommend checking them out.
Last up was the band for which the party was thrown. People came from as far away as Walla Walla and Utah to see Ex’s With Benefits perform the songs from their critically acclaimed album ‘BAD HOTEL’. The Piranha Shop probably could have fit a few more people in there but with the around 100-150 that had piled in, it was perfect. The Piranha Shop located on First Ave in the shadows of Qwest Field proved to be an excellent choice of venues. This show needed that old school warehouse feel to it, the dirty wooden floors and sparsely decorated walls only added to the atmosphere.
There is a certain beauty about seeing a band play songs from an album you’ve had on heavy rotation. Ever since I heard the first few notes from Ex’s, I have been hooked. Yes, I went total fan-boy, and seeing them closed the deal. They are a fantastic band. Dmitra Smith is an incredibly energetic, vivacious, dynamic woman and when she has a mic in her hands she is not just there to sing but to preach. And preach she did. She used her powerhouse vocals as a weapon of mass attraction and attacked the audience with a 12 song barrage of pure, raw power punk, with just a touch of pop and enough grungy rock to make almost everyone move.
Hardly a head wasn’t bobbing on songs like “Hey You” and “You Didn’t See”, which are fun and exciting tunes that would have rivaled anything in that genre that came out in the early 80’s. Smith says this is the album she’s wanted to make since she was 14 and watching her live it’s evident that she’s extremely proud of the work they did on the project. This was a special night for another reason as well. Although she lives in California now, it’s quite clear that Smith loves the city she grew up in, and Seattle has a lot of love for her as well.
Bassist Dave Place violently hammered on the bass as they ripped through the 12-song set. He teamed up with ex-Green River drummer Alex Vincent to give these songs a killer low-end. Guitar badass from France, Pascal Faivre deliciously shredded over the top of the bass and drums song after song. One of my favorites to hear live was a song called “Indefinite Detention”. The song is a filthy throwback to the sound that made Seattle famous and made everyone in Seattle hate all the people that made Seattle famous. The song sounds like a mixture of Gruntruck (a band that should have been way fucking bigger) and also a certain song by Corrosion of Conformity called “Clean My Wounds”. The band absolutely killed this one live and the audience loved it! Vincent’s drum pace on that song is frenetic, almost challenging Place and Faivre to try and keep up.
The show ended with a blazing punk-influenced number called “Wall Street” that allowed the band to air it out one more time before calling it a night. When the song ended, Drummer Alex Vincent threw his sticks into crowd and trashed his drumset, a fitting way to end a spectacular night on a beautiful rainy Seattle night.