Tiny Vipers, the Climax Golden Twins and 2% Majesty
at The Triple Door in Seattle
August 3rd, 2007
By Allana Mayer
After three months in the torturous isolation of the Rocky Mountain region, I decided to go for sensory overload and tour the West Coast. One bus stopover in Seattle resulted in my attendance at a club called the Triple Door. Many of you might know that the Triple Door ain’t exactly Lee’s Palace – no duct-taped railings or scuffed dance floor here.
Upon arrival, they took my name and escorted me to my “seat” - a dinner place set for one, a place setting away from a couple along a long bar perpendicular to the stage. Another row was behind us, two lined the opposite wall, and in between were semi-circular booths in descending rows. All seats faced the first performers, 2% Majesty. Kyla Cech, a peasant-dress-clad Rhode Islander with a violin, and Ryan Sullivan, a flannel-shirted beardnik on guitar, serenaded us with alternating lullaby vocals. Some choruses seemed downright acoustic-rock, until she screeched her violin bow up two full octaves and pulled us from our perusals of the drink menus.
After several pleasing but unremarkable numbers, the lights went up for intermission. I received a shock not unlike what an attic mouse must feel when a flashlight blinds it after months of solitude. Families of four occupied booths next to perfectly coiffed hipster twentysomethings. Record store employees in Red Stars Theory t-shirts downed Coronas while underage couples snacked on pricey appetizers. Black-clad servers were in abundance, leading showgoers to “their seats,” pouring water from decanters at each place setting, serving vegetable rolls and stuffed shiitake mushrooms. But apparently scene girls are still doing that black-leggings-under-everything thing, so maybe I wasn’t so out of my element, after all.
As stagehands set up for Climax Golden Twins, a projector inside the incredibly swank AV booth (more like a two-story fortress, really) lit the stage white, save for two black torso illustrations. I ordered a “Cracked Coconut Martini” and marvelled at its icy tartness. Is it really so impossible to imagine an impeccably decorated, anally kept up supper club hosting ten-dollar all-ages gigs in Toronto? Is it?
Climax Golden Twins were a Nick Cave/Calexico-tinged rock trio, heavy on that ridin’-through-the-desert guitar and missin’-my-woman lyric base. Vocalist Robert Millis wasn’t very inspiring, but the lead guitarist, Jeffrey Taylor, took him into balls-out jam mode a few times, so that was nice. The band’s recordings are more along the wandering psych-rock side, but the performance itself was tame at the start.
The projected torsos turned out to be the precursor to a short film that the Twins scored; they performed their compositions, and we were all treated to a screening. Unfortunately, this meant that the guitarist twinkled a few bells and percussionist Dave Abramson vacated the stage entirely, to hit a few chimes off stage left while the obnoxious front-man looped some soft chords. The film was abstract – wine glasses clinking together? Water droplets in extreme close-up? White arcs reflecting into the camera lens, moving and mirroring for five minutes, while slow stills of swirls flashed intermittently? Then the musicians assumed their places, and the singer did his best eerie-Jim-Morrison impression. I absolutely refused to take him seriously. Yet somehow Taylor was charming even when smashing a keyboard with wild abandon. It’s all about demeanour. The youngest son of the family of four was tapping his foot something fierce, though.
Tiny Vipers was an instant swell of noise, a two-chord switch strummed endlessly by Jesy Fortino, a petite brunette who broke into delicate minors and began a gritty wail, as non-Viper accompaniment Ben Cissner finger-picked and foot-tapped. Though the audience was silent and attentive, somehow (maybe because we were physically spaced out instead of crammed into a pit) it seemed too scattered, not focused. There were too many details to attend to besides the performance, too many candles flickering on each table, distracting from the powerful stage lights.
The chanteuse had a certain elfin beauty; seemingly frail, her heavy strumming actually drowned out her sidekick’s electric guitar to nought but a faint hum of static. Maybe she just needed the moral support. I would, reduced to mere dinner entertainment in front of such an audience. The spreading warmth of Tiny Vipers’ melodies would have enveloped the room if it weren’t for waitresses handing out cheques – sorry, Seattle, checks – to the patrons behind me, and bustling past with desserts for the front row. By the final song, though, some echoing pedal effects really blew me away. Could be that the servers were finally getting out of the way, but the music suddenly achieved that lonely-cavern, empty-canyon, desolate-mountaintop depth and expansion that it had striven for during the rest of the set. The Triple Door felt less of a dinner theatre and more of a venue at that moment, a place to be inspired instead of merely amused.
Maybe I was just too thankful to be seeing live music again. I’ve lost my jaded indie cynicism somewhere, and though the Triple Door crowd was setting a good example, I realized how much work it will take to get it back. I suppose, even if showgoers prefer to stand when given the chance to dance, it’s at least nice to be offered the opportunity.