Matson on Music
Concert preview: THEESatisfaction at Neumos 02/09/10
Posted by Andrew Matson
"Thee Trip" by Helladope (Tay Sean and Jerm) feat. THEESatisfaction
"Icing" by THEESatisfaction and OC Notes
"Magnetic Blackness" by Champagne Champagne feat. THEESatisfaction
Almost exactly a year ago, local "psychedelic space-rap/jazz" duo THEESatisfaction played Neumos for the first time. It was one of Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White's earliest concerts as a group, and the girlfriends only had seven or eight songs in their repertoire. They were nervous as all get out.
Now they're seasoned vets who love performing, and regularly light up stages from the Central District to Belltown, Capitol Hill to Ballard. They work rooms with confidence that says, yes, Seattle will accept gay, Afrocentric musicians that vocalize jazz over low-key hiphop instrumentals and dance like New Jack Swing hippies.
The women, in their early 20s, headline Neumos this Tuesday, Feb. 9. It's their second show at the venue since their oh-so-green opening slot last year.
Now, local press is all over THEESatisfaction, from this publication to local weeklies to area blogs. Among fans, every song that hits theesatisfaction.bandcamp.com — the place to go on the Internet for the group's music — is rapturously received. Music lovers of all ages and genre predilections are abuzz, becoming repeat concert customers, bringing friends so they don't have to keep explaining this weird, awesome thing for which there is no comparable variable. KEXP plays the group's hits, especially the wilting, mid-fi "Icing" and skeletal "Magnetic Blackness," a collaboration with local rap group Champagne Champagne and our city's current #1 black power jam, slated for limited release on 7" vinyl in the near future. Area director Lynn Shelton ("Humpday") prominently features the group in her soon-to-be-released webisodic series for MTV.com, which is a bigger deal than it sounds; the show even uses "Magnetic Blackness" in its now-virally-circulating trailer. And forget about all the artists trying to collaborate with THEESatisfaction these days. The list has grown from friends and respected colleagues to strangers and hangers-on. Everybody wants a piece.
It's not hard to understand why. On record and on stage, the couple is a striking picture of modern love: Black, gay, ecstatic, depressed, tripped-out and humorous. The complexity hits pleasingly and all at once, disorienting and life-affirming.
"Hopefully it makes you feel more comfortable, and you can just say what you're feeling," says Harris-White.
The group comes across hiphop-y, owing primarily to its stage setup of two microphones and a DJ ("Chocolate Chuck," Harris-White's brother, a University of Washington student) and routine concert placement next to local rap acts. But the women are trying to play more diverse bills these days, and don't consider their music hiphop. They call it "afronautical," or "intergalactic soul," or the aforementioned "psychedelic space rap/jazz."
They're children of the hip-hop genre, though. Both were profoundly influenced by pioneering jazz-rap group Digable Planets, whose MC Butterfly (Ishmael Butler) hails from and lives in the Central District, and these days fronts the artistically abstract, unapologetically Black-centric Shabazz Palaces, a group Harris-White and Irons both think is pretty much the best thing ever.
Irons remembers her dad dancing around the house to Digable Planets' "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)," a 1993 spoken-word style crossover rap hit that was essentially about being black and cool.
"I think everyone's parents did that," says Harris-White, though they most certainly did not.
She says she wasn't forced to read Malcolm X growing up, but his books were around the house. She and Irons both identify their parents as very active and involved in their communities — school, government, and (Christian) church. Although coming out of the closet was rough, neither Harris-White or Irons were shunned at home for their sexual orientation.
"They love us and support us," says Irons, who also says she would marry Harris-White right away if Washington State allowed it. "They just know that we're different."
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