Spirit Award and Happy Times Sad Times at Cascadia Brewing Co.
Olympia, WA

November 9, 2017 | Review by Jessica Peterson

Photo by Jessica Peterson

After three hours in rain-soaked, rush hour traffic, I made it to Cascadia Brewing Company in Olympia for a gig featuring Happy Times Sad Times and Spirit Award. Having seen both at their own shows plenty of times in their home base of Seattle, going out of the way to Olympia was a small price to pay for the rare treat of seeing them play together.

Erina, the local opener, warmed up the intimate yet industrial space for the out-of-towners. The soulful three-piece is fronted by guitarist and vocalist Jessie Branch, with Erik Gordon on drums and Nick Rawson on bass. Branch’s smooth, acrobatic vocals meandered over delicate percussion, dreamy guitar riffs, and the comfort of steady, relaxed bass lines created a coziness that everyone needs in early winter. Their sound is jazzy with a sweetness that could only come from pop influence, keeping you tranquil yet craving more. By the end of their set, the space felt rosy and welcoming, like waking up from a good dream.

If Erina was the cozy warm-up, then Happy Times Sad Times was the squeeze of lighter fluid that set the room on fire. They began their set at a slower pace that complimented Erina’s gentle style, making a smooth transition despite the two bands having very different sounds: Erina is soft and dreamy, Happy Times Sad Times is rowdy and trashy.

Happy Times Sad Times formed in 2015, originally a duo featuring lead guitarist Roger Hutchins and drummer Jacob Tice, but has since doubled in size with the additions of bassist Dylan High and Aniela Sobel on keyboard and rhythm guitar.

Tice’s drum beats are heavily influenced by electronic music, which instills a damn near uncontrollable impulse to dance. Sloppy, gritty riffs from Hutchins mix with this energy to generate a sound that is deliciously grungy. To aid in that grunge there is a chewiness that comes from High’s bass and a supplementary heartiness of Sobel’s guitar. And speaking of Sobel, the newest member sprinkles even more celebration and sunniness into the band’s sound when she hops onto keys, harnessing the feel-good sensation HTST is striving for.   

While they are perfect for bringing the party to whatever show they play, Happy Times Sad Times are more than boisterous. Heartfelt, interesting and relatable subject matter sung with sincerity, riddle their songwriting. Their first full-length album, titled New Album, covers topics ranging from gentrification to anxiety, from sobering up to Nikola Tesla. They seek to uplift, to inform, and to commiserate. Their music is a muddy rain puddle you can’t resist splashing in.

Happy Times Sad Times brought to Cascadia characteristics that you can expect at any of their shows. These characteristics are things like a fake flower-covered stage, engagement with the crowd (more than banter but not quite conversation), and of course, energy. The aforementioned slow start lasted for a song and a half, where it whiplashed into a lively set that got the blood in the room pumping. They maintained this fervor with their third song, the catchy and therapeutic self-titled jam “Happy Times Sad Times.”

The song is about, well, happy times and sad times— two ends of the emotive spectrum and appreciating what comes with both. Happy times, sad times/I’m feeling everything. These straightforward lyrics come across as touching in Hutchins’ balmy tone, and when carried by the ruckus of the rest of the band, it’s clear their intention is to focus on the good of it all.

They followed this with an addictive thumping bass line played by Mike Sampson, subbing for High that night, leading into the emotionally-charged “Bombs.” Tice takes lead vocals in this song, his sonorous rasp singing lyrics that are driven by imagery: I keep one eye on the hand in your pocket/what’s done is just what’s gotta be/until your eyes roll back into their sockets/and red roses grow from out of me.

There’s something about “Bombs” that makes you want to not only dance, but dance with everyone in the room because you’re all experiencing something cathartic together. It’s bright, with the kick drum beating at the same tempo as a heartbeat and harmonies that leave goosebumps. At every Happy Times Sad Times show I’ve gone to, the air in the room feels different after “Bombs,” and the Olympia show was no exception.

The energy of their set peaked with the ragers “Kinky” and “Sunday,”. They closed with fan favorite “My New York,” a song about gentrification in Seattle and the superficial changes that come with it. This one always rouses appreciative cheers.

“Don’t move here,” Hutchins sings during the song’s hook. “It rains all the time.”

And rain it did, beating on the windows behind the band where hooded, chilled passerbys paused to listen for a song or two. It rained through the last few strums and cymbal crashes, and it rained while Happy Times packed their gear.

Of course, it rained during Spirit Award’s set, too.

Fronted by guitarist and vocalist Daniel Lyon, Spirit Award got their start in 2014. To indulge my need to gush, they are one of the tightest and best-rehearsed bands I’ve ever seen. Their shows are captivating, dialed in, and showcase the incredible technical skills of each member: Lyon’s shimmery guitar riffs and shrewd use of effect pedals, bassist Christopher Moore’s gummy yet polished lines, and drummer Terence Ankeny’s deft handling of the beats. They’re professional. They play clean. They are intentional about the experience their audiences have. In short, they have their shit together.

Coming off their West Coast tour that night, they played expertly. They adjusted the lighting of the space for their set, turning off the overhead lights and placing a single, small lamp on the floor, casting a campfire-like glow from the middle of their setup and making each member of the band look like a shadow.

We were lucky enough to hear a new song from them as their opener. Heavier than the songs from their newly released album, Neverending, this one was almost reminiscent of Black Sabbath. Slower tempo, full, searing, but with that psychedelic touch Spirit Award gives to all their songs. The contrast of Lyon’s deep vocals with the shiny guitar tone makes for a sound that is as full as it is fizzy.

The meat of their set put us all into the dance trance that fans know and love Spirit Award for. They meandered through the tracks on their album, hypnotizing all of us with songs like “Fields,” “Summer,” and “Running.” And the titles of their songs fit the dream-like experience they create for their shows. They transport you to an entirely different place in your head, so you feel things that you would feel as if you were running, or in a field, or if it were summer: freedom, exhilaration, and bliss come to mind.

Their final song, “Las Vegas,” sounds huge. It hits you square in the chest, and its lyrics are stirring. I don’t need your protection/Forcing me to be a weapon/I don’t need something that’s perfect/I just want something that’s worth it. It travels from a simplistic, haunting intro of bass, drums, and vocals, then snaps into a cacophony of heavy, brash strumming. This is especially gripping when played live, when the noise really comes out of nowhere and fills the room. From there it moves back to a more minimized sound, but the whole song is full of swells and deflations, which is part of the magic of it all.  

At the end of “Vegas,” Lyon used a looper to keep the guitar sound flowing, slung his guitar over a member of the audience (in this case, Tice from Happy Times Sad Times), and took a seat at the drum kit alongside Ankeny to finish the show off with extra hands on the drums. One of the reasons a Spirit Award show is so memorable is because they put unexpected, unique twists on their sets that make going to a show a wholly different experience than listening to the album at home. They make it worth your time to check them out live.

Back to their album, though. Neverending was released October 6th on Union Zero, after about a year of recording, mixing and mastering. It consists of 10 tracks of hypnotizing goodness, starting with “Summer,” which the band also released a video for earlier this year.

The production quality of Neverending is about as close to impeccable as a band could hope for. They made it sound effortless, but you can tell that there was a lot of time and care put into this record. It sounds fermented, like it spent all that time aging into the tangy final product it is. It is available for streaming and download on Bandcamp, and you can also order it on CD or cassette. Spirit Award will be releasing it on vinyl in January.

To sum up, it was a fluid, solid night featuring bands that were different enough to create variety, but had enough in common that they complimented each other. Each band left their own distinct mark on the show, be it the soothing jazziness of Erina’s set, the enlivening joy of Happy Times Sad Times, or the slow burn of sustained energy from Spirit Award.

Although a Spirit Award and Happy Times Sad Times show is usually a rarity, they’ll be playing together again at Spirt Award’s vinyl release show for Neverending at Chop Suey on January 12.

Spirit Award:

www.spiritaward.bandcamp.com
www.facebook.com/spiritawardband

Happy Times Sad Times:

www.happytimessadtimes.bandcamp.com
www.facebook.com/happytimessadtimesmusic

Erina:

www.erina.soundcloud.com
www.facebook.com/sweeterinamusic  

Spirit Award and Happy Times Sad Times at Cascadia Brewing Co.
Olympia, WA

November 9, 2017 | Review by Jessica Peterson

Photo by Jessica Peterson

After three hours in rain-soaked, rush hour traffic, I made it to Cascadia Brewing Company in Olympia for a gig featuring Happy Times Sad Times and Spirit Award. Having seen both at their own shows plenty of times in their home base of Seattle, going out of the way to Olympia was a small price to pay for the rare treat of seeing them play together.

Erina, the local opener, warmed up the intimate yet industrial space for the out-of-towners. The soulful three-piece is fronted by guitarist and vocalist Jessie Branch, with Erik Gordon on drums and Nick Rawson on bass. Branch’s smooth, acrobatic vocals meandered over delicate percussion, dreamy guitar riffs, and the comfort of steady, relaxed bass lines created a coziness that everyone needs in early winter. Their sound is jazzy with a sweetness that could only come from pop influence, keeping you tranquil yet craving more. By the end of their set, the space felt rosy and welcoming, like waking up from a good dream.

If Erina was the cozy warm-up, then Happy Times Sad Times was the squeeze of lighter fluid that set the room on fire. They began their set at a slower pace that complimented Erina’s gentle style, making a smooth transition despite the two bands having very different sounds: Erina is soft and dreamy, Happy Times Sad Times is rowdy and trashy.

Happy Times Sad Times formed in 2015, originally a duo featuring lead guitarist Roger Hutchins and drummer Jacob Tice, but has since doubled in size with the additions of bassist Dylan High and Aniela Sobel on keyboard and rhythm guitar.

Tice’s drum beats are heavily influenced by electronic music, which instills a damn near uncontrollable impulse to dance. Sloppy, gritty riffs from Hutchins mix with this energy to generate a sound that is deliciously grungy. To aid in that grunge there is a chewiness that comes from High’s bass and a supplementary heartiness of Sobel’s guitar. And speaking of Sobel, the newest member sprinkles even more celebration and sunniness into the band’s sound when she hops onto keys, harnessing the feel-good sensation HTST is striving for.   

While they are perfect for bringing the party to whatever show they play, Happy Times Sad Times are more than boisterous. Heartfelt, interesting and relatable subject matter sung with sincerity, riddle their songwriting. Their first full-length album, titled New Album, covers topics ranging from gentrification to anxiety, from sobering up to Nikola Tesla. They seek to uplift, to inform, and to commiserate. Their music is a muddy rain puddle you can’t resist splashing in.

Happy Times Sad Times brought to Cascadia characteristics that you can expect at any of their shows. These characteristics are things like a fake flower-covered stage, engagement with the crowd (more than banter but not quite conversation), and of course, energy. The aforementioned slow start lasted for a song and a half, where it whiplashed into a lively set that got the blood in the room pumping. They maintained this fervor with their third song, the catchy and therapeutic self-titled jam “Happy Times Sad Times.”

The song is about, well, happy times and sad times— two ends of the emotive spectrum and appreciating what comes with both. Happy times, sad times/I’m feeling everything. These straightforward lyrics come across as touching in Hutchins’ balmy tone, and when carried by the ruckus of the rest of the band, it’s clear their intention is to focus on the good of it all.

They followed this with an addictive thumping bass line played by Mike Sampson, subbing for High that night, leading into the emotionally-charged “Bombs.” Tice takes lead vocals in this song, his sonorous rasp singing lyrics that are driven by imagery: I keep one eye on the hand in your pocket/what’s done is just what’s gotta be/until your eyes roll back into their sockets/and red roses grow from out of me.

There’s something about “Bombs” that makes you want to not only dance, but dance with everyone in the room because you’re all experiencing something cathartic together. It’s bright, with the kick drum beating at the same tempo as a heartbeat and harmonies that leave goosebumps. At every Happy Times Sad Times show I’ve gone to, the air in the room feels different after “Bombs,” and the Olympia show was no exception.

The energy of their set peaked with the ragers “Kinky” and “Sunday,”. They closed with fan favorite “My New York,” a song about gentrification in Seattle and the superficial changes that come with it. This one always rouses appreciative cheers.

“Don’t move here,” Hutchins sings during the song’s hook. “It rains all the time.”

And rain it did, beating on the windows behind the band where hooded, chilled passerbys paused to listen for a song or two. It rained through the last few strums and cymbal crashes, and it rained while Happy Times packed their gear.

Of course, it rained during Spirit Award’s set, too.

Fronted by guitarist and vocalist Daniel Lyon, Spirit Award got their start in 2014. To indulge my need to gush, they are one of the tightest and best-rehearsed bands I’ve ever seen. Their shows are captivating, dialed in, and showcase the incredible technical skills of each member: Lyon’s shimmery guitar riffs and shrewd use of effect pedals, bassist Christopher Moore’s gummy yet polished lines, and drummer Terence Ankeny’s deft handling of the beats. They’re professional. They play clean. They are intentional about the experience their audiences have. In short, they have their shit together.

Coming off their West Coast tour that night, they played expertly. They adjusted the lighting of the space for their set, turning off the overhead lights and placing a single, small lamp on the floor, casting a campfire-like glow from the middle of their setup and making each member of the band look like a shadow.

We were lucky enough to hear a new song from them as their opener. Heavier than the songs from their newly released album, Neverending, this one was almost reminiscent of Black Sabbath. Slower tempo, full, searing, but with that psychedelic touch Spirit Award gives to all their songs. The contrast of Lyon’s deep vocals with the shiny guitar tone makes for a sound that is as full as it is fizzy.

The meat of their set put us all into the dance trance that fans know and love Spirit Award for. They meandered through the tracks on their album, hypnotizing all of us with songs like “Fields,” “Summer,” and “Running.” And the titles of their songs fit the dream-like experience they create for their shows. They transport you to an entirely different place in your head, so you feel things that you would feel as if you were running, or in a field, or if it were summer: freedom, exhilaration, and bliss come to mind.

Their final song, “Las Vegas,” sounds huge. It hits you square in the chest, and its lyrics are stirring. I don’t need your protection/Forcing me to be a weapon/I don’t need something that’s perfect/I just want something that’s worth it. It travels from a simplistic, haunting intro of bass, drums, and vocals, then snaps into a cacophony of heavy, brash strumming. This is especially gripping when played live, when the noise really comes out of nowhere and fills the room. From there it moves back to a more minimized sound, but the whole song is full of swells and deflations, which is part of the magic of it all.  

At the end of “Vegas,” Lyon used a looper to keep the guitar sound flowing, slung his guitar over a member of the audience (in this case, Tice from Happy Times Sad Times), and took a seat at the drum kit alongside Ankeny to finish the show off with extra hands on the drums. One of the reasons a Spirit Award show is so memorable is because they put unexpected, unique twists on their sets that make going to a show a wholly different experience than listening to the album at home. They make it worth your time to check them out live.

Back to their album, though. Neverending was released October 6th on Union Zero, after about a year of recording, mixing and mastering. It consists of 10 tracks of hypnotizing goodness, starting with “Summer,” which the band also released a video for earlier this year.

The production quality of Neverending is about as close to impeccable as a band could hope for. They made it sound effortless, but you can tell that there was a lot of time and care put into this record. It sounds fermented, like it spent all that time aging into the tangy final product it is. It is available for streaming and download on Bandcamp, and you can also order it on CD or cassette. Spirit Award will be releasing it on vinyl in January.

To sum up, it was a fluid, solid night featuring bands that were different enough to create variety, but had enough in common that they complimented each other. Each band left their own distinct mark on the show, be it the soothing jazziness of Erina’s set, the enlivening joy of Happy Times Sad Times, or the slow burn of sustained energy from Spirit Award.

Although a Spirit Award and Happy Times Sad Times show is usually a rarity, they’ll be playing together again at Spirt Award’s vinyl release show for Neverending at Chop Suey on January 12.

Spirit Award:

www.spiritaward.bandcamp.com
www.facebook.com/spiritawardband

Happy Times Sad Times:

www.happytimessadtimes.bandcamp.com
www.facebook.com/happytimessadtimesmusic

Erina:

www.erina.soundcloud.com
www.facebook.com/sweeterinamusic  

  • White Facebook Icon
  • White Twitter Icon
  • White Instagram Icon

Copyright 2020 © Dive In Media, LLC.  All Rights Reserved