with Focus North and June of 44
The Breakroom, Seattle, WA • July 20, 1999
Eleven PM and Focus North fades out into a background rumble. I had been hoping to see Black Heart Procession play this evening, but seems they had encountered some van troubles… and Focus North stepped in to fill that empty space. The Breakroom is feeling like a Friday night, though it’s only Tuesday. It’s summer in Seattle and this club is packed. While most of the crowd is awaiting the majestic June of 44, I feel my heartbeat in expectant jumps, anticipating Rye Coalition.
Focus North set the stage with indie jazz drum roll style, and now Rye Coalition stands level… staring the crowd down, and kicking out a rage that screams with some joy of life that gets your gut. It was almost more interesting to watch the reaction of the crowd than the almost-too-rock ‘n’ roll stage antics of lead wailer man Jon Gonnelli, though at times I couldn’t take my eyes off him. The audience, though… they seemed to either love this band, or hate them. A few people just left after the first song, but a week after the show I was still hearing some rave reviews from the newly converted. Rye Coalition is hard. They’re bright and heavy, melodic and punk touched. Comparisons to Fugazi, Jesus Lizard, and Fear float through the air as they play, and the beer keeps everyone in the mood.
There were some unheard comments made by the band between a few of the songs, but the packed floor just wanted more… more music. We were smiling as the drums pounded into us, raw and tight, through songs like “The Prosthetic Aesthetic.” We were smiling as we were hit by sprawling guitars and bursts of keyboards, and we were grinning as Jon stood on the monitors and yelled “Push!” over gyrating hips and bare bones drum and bass through an extended chorus of “The Lipstick Game.”
If more people had any idea who this band was, what this band sounded like, I’m sure they could’ve been headliners, instead of working the crowd up into a frenzy before the main attraction steps up to bat. I lost count of the times that I heard the phrase “So who are these guys?” being uttered by radio manipulated alterna-jocks who knew that June of 44 were supposed to be a hip band to be into. Me? I think June of 44 are brilliant, but for one too-short set, my ears and soul belonged to Rye Coalition. They stormed, they moved, they screamed and yelled and danced, and sang strong. The ferocity of the music balanced by pure melodic grace, and love them or hate them, the impression they left will last longer than the sounds of the other bands that shared the stage on that hot Tuesday night. ◼