Seattle-based trio Dude York has always had a spark of something special about them, but it's been fascinating to watch them really identify their strengths and push them front and center over the years. In this respect, their biggest breakthrough came when they brought Claire England on board, eventually resulting in 2017's Sincerely, their debut on Hardly Art. With the lineup solidified – Peter Richards on guitar and vocals, England on bass and vocals, and Andrew Hall on drums – Dude York announced themselves as an undeniable force, and purveyors of electrifying power-pop.
The Los Angeles two-piece KOLARS is positively thrilling, surging with a sound that reaches back to '50s rock and drags it through '60s experimentalism, '70s disco and conceptual boldness, '80s post-punk and sheen, and the widescreen dazzle of arena artists of today. That KOLARS is able to make all of this play as well as they do is something like a magic trick, never selling out any of their inspirations, but rather combining them in ways that might've felt impossible before you heard them.
It’s been a great season for us at Alma Mater. Tons of events, shows, art, and good food/drinks. We’re continuing the good times with more fall shows and have compiled a playlist to maintain our excitement!
Check out our Fall Time playlist to hear some of the bands coming through (or who have recently played) at Alma Mater, with a few songs from bands we just enjoy listening to sprinkled in.
We are looking forward to having local artist and Hive tenant, Tim Mansen, host and teach a 5-week class on Tone Design beginning Wednesday, November 6th. The class will explore how artists of the Renaissance used tone (light and dark) to portray drama and emotion in their epic paintings, following a class application of these principles by making a series of small paintings based on the art works of some of the masters of design.
November is here, and we are excited to showcase the work of Tiffany Hammonds. Her exhibit, ‘Figments of Features’ will be showing for the entire month and free to the public inside our Milk Gallery, located in the entrance hall of our building.
Read more about the artist and exhibit, and join us in celebrating her work on November 1st, at 7pm, where there will be 150 micro portraits available for purchase, along with live music, live painting, singing, and dancing.
Some of the most fun we have at Alma Mater is when Laughing Mater rolls around. The monthly comedy night has brought some of the funniest comics from around the country to our neck of the woods, and this month presents an embarrassment of riches. That's right, this weekend we'll be having not one, but two nights of Laughing Mater, so your Saturday and Sunday comedy plans are basically settled.
You may have noticed that we've recently been working to have more music coming through the gorgeous confines of Honey. Though the venue is intimate, and the atmosphere is warm, we've been focusing on having this be more than just a spot for your traditional coffeehouse acts. Coming in November, we've got a couple shows that will sonically test Honey, in all the best ways.
We love all kinds of music at Alma Mater, and especially the way that live music can bring people together. It's fair to say that we've all had experiences at rock shows where we feel united in chorus with everyone in the audience, and there are few things that live up to that sensation. When it comes to more traditional forms of music, though, some people find themselves to be a little intimidated – whether it be classical music, opera, or any other art form that can be perceived as stuffy or exclusionary.
It's not as if the Pacific Northwest has ever really been starved for musicians that have a knack for writing indelible melodies and crafting ebullient pop songs, but it was still something of a thrill when Seattle five-piece Ivan & Alyosha burst onto the scene. After releasing a couple EPs, Ivan & Alyosha came out with All the Times We Had, their proper debut LP, in 2013. Much of the writing about the band highlighted the Beatles-esque tendencies they have, which is fair, but Ivan & Alyosha are about so much more than worshipping Paul McCartney – their music emerged from the outer edges of the late '00s Seattle folk revival, exploring similarly rootsy territory, but finding equal inspiration in iconoclasts like Harry Nilsson, Andrew Bird, and Alex Chilton.
Authenticity is the beating heart at the center of good country music, defining the careers and music of folks like Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Iris DeMent, Willie Nelson, and so many other outlaws of the genre. When a country artist sings stories of wild honky-tonks, hard-luck loners, highways stretching off into the horizon, we want to believe that they not only talk the talk, but walk the walk.
In theme with this changing season and month, our Milk Gallery is featuring Madame DuPree’s creation/curation titled, ‘Den of Uniquities: A Morbidly Curious Collection’. See it all month for free, and read Dupree’s narrative about the exhibit!
From the first moments of “Lantern,” the title track of his upcoming LP, Dain Norman makes his intentions clear: he's obsessed with the period of time when rock and roll was coming into its own, transforming from the amped-up boogie of the '50s to the more sophisticated melodicism of the early '60s and the British Invasion. Starting out with the “Bo Diddley beat,” which serves as a calling card of the '50s, Norman layers Beatles-esque vocals on top for a purely infectious tune.
In the '80s, there was something of a fabled comedy boom, where any city of marginal size featured more than its fair share of clubs where you could see stand-up comedy on any given night. Like many other booms, this one was met with an abrupt end, but with it, the rise of the alternative comedy scene of the '90s. Suddenly, comedians looking to explore avenues of expression outside the confines of boozy clubs could make their own nights in untraditional venues, free to experiment with the nature of stand-up.
The career of Ken Stringfellow is a long and enviable one, most visibly for being half of the creative force (along with Jon Auer) of Seattle indie power pop legends the Posies. While the output of the Posies has slowed down a little bit since the '90s – four albums in the past 20 years, versus five in the 10 years prior – Stringfellow himself has never stopped being busy, having been a part of a revived Big Star, been a touring and recording member of R.E.M., and performed alongside some of the most respected names in modern music (Thom Yorke, Ringo Starr, Patti Smith, Robyn Hitchcock, Nada Surf, and Neil Young, to name a few).
For over 15 years, the Intelligence has established itself as a sardonically witty, bracingly dynamic band, blending garage-punk, New Wave, psych, and noise-rock into a consistently compelling stew. The Intelligence first made its mark in Seattle, setting itself apart from the indie pop, folk-rock, and singer-songwriter journalings that marked the trends of the mid-aughts.
When we recently spoke with Forest Beutel, he was in the middle of a several-days-long catastrophe while on tour. Driving from Denver to Montrose, Colorado, Beutel's van bit the dust, leaving Beutel stranded in the middle of nowhere, three hours from his next stop, and at the mercy of a single local mechanic who's fully booked until October. While Beutel sounded a little weary, and understandably frustrated with the lousy luck that had waylaid his tour, he seemed to be taking it in stride in the way only a seasoned road warrior can.
Black Belt Eagle Scout – the name given to Katherine Paul's brilliantly textured recording project – burst onto the scene, in 2018, with the auspicious debut Mother of My Children. With those eight expansive tracks, Black Belt Eagle Scout won the hearts and minds of music fans who long for a sense of melancholy to come along and envelop them in noise and quiet. Black Belt Eagle Scout mostly explores darkly moody, ambient waves of sound, but also takes the odd detour into humming, guitar-rock churn. No matter what musical direction Black Belt Eagle Scout goes in, though, the constant element is Paul's finely observed, disarmingly honest lyrics.
Luz Elena Mendoza, the singer-songwriter behind Portland-based band Y La Bamba, has proven herself to be one of the more restlessly inventive artists in indie rock today. Watching Mendoza grow – and, through her, seeing Y La Bamba grow – has been an enervating experience. While Y La Bamba has always been presented through the prism of Mendoza's perspective, the form of the music has expanded into something positively kaleidoscopic, dazzling in both tone and vision. What started as a serenely beautiful solo project has steadily blown up into something much richer in scope.
There are some performers who exist as such whirling dervishes of energy that it's impossible not to get swept up along with them. Anti-folk artist Ed Hamell (AKA Hamell on Trial) is such a performer: equipped with an acoustic guitar and reams upon reams of biting lyrics, Hamell sometimes feels more like a runaway train than a singer-songwriter. To see him onstage, furiously strumming his guitar and spitting line after line of beautifully barbed words, you wonder if the power of his manic music is enough to burn the place down.
Summer’s slowly on its way out, no matter how long we try to extend it. But all that means is the next best season is on its way with more rad shows to look forward to! Check out our playlist and see if there’s anything that stands out to you, and read up on a few of our favorites coming up!
barry johnson returns to Tacoma for another visual art show at Alma Mater featuring a brand new body of work featuring paintings, installations, sculptures and mixed-media work. This entire new body work was created in 2019 and is focused on identity and the Black experience within the U.S. barry's work, created entirely with house paint, was created in the wake of events happening in the political landscape, results of police brutality and social injustices and were reimagined on canvases.
Titled, 'Insterstice: Between Magic and Reality', Le'Ecia Farmer's exhibit explores various mediums of art from textile to painting. Read their artist statement below, and come see the exhibit for free all month!
To commemorate this 2019 summer, we’ve compiled a couple of playlists with some of the bands we’ve been lucky enough to host here at Alma Mater. We’re forever grateful to work with such a diverse range of talented musicians, and are looking forward to continuing the endeavor to bring Tacoma great live music.
If you’ve been to or walked by Alma Mater, you’ve seen what they call, The Slug. At night, it’s colorful and lit up, but its daytime presence is definitely not unassuming. With its glossy, yet textured exterior, and polk-a-dotted tentacles, the stools that live underneath this creature makes for a very curious spectator. And those who brave the interaction with the Slug, more often than not come out with some very rewarding and Instagram-worthy evidence. Its creator: Tacoma artist, Steve LaBerge.
Beginning June 10th, Alma Mater will house another one of Steve’s projects, called the TVs, which will also be an interactive piece created with twenty local artists. We’ve sat down with Steve to learn more about him and his work.
If you’ve been with us since Alma Mater’s first official day of business, you’ll likely be familiar with Lucien Vedego, if not already well acquainted from the various ways he engages in Tacoma’s creative community. He helped open our building as a barista and server at Honey Cafe, has participated and collaborated in many of our events and shows, is currently curating July’s art exhibit in conjunction with Tacoma’s Pride Month, and is currently holding an artist workshop series called Metamorphosis. Beyond that, he’s been wonderful to be around and learn from, and for that reason, we’ve decided to sit down and interview him, so you can get to know him, too!
Spring is in full force around around Alma Mater. We’ve spotted the bunny that lives in our parking-lot-turned-green-space and and the red clover in front of the building has bloomed in a vibrant display of crimson. The bees are hovering around the wildflowers on the roof and we’re all savoring the warmth of the sun showing its face here and there. As spring hits its stride, we’re embracing its fruits with new menus!