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"Every performance a surprise party"

It may be significant that a band called "Awesome" recently warmed up the Showbox crowd for the Presidents of the United States of America, as "Awesome" might be the next PUSA.

Well ... that's a pretty weighty label to lug around Seattle. And, to be fair, there are some pretty major differences. "Awesome" (yes, the name of the band includes the quotes) is certainly amusing, like PUSA, but more weird-arty-intellectual-gags funny, in the mode of They Might Be Giants.

What we have here are people playing mandolin, typewriter, bass, trumpet, banjo, theremin-violin and accordion: respectively, John Ackermann, Kirk Anderson, Basil Harris, Evan Mosher, David Nixon, John Osebold and Robertson Witmer.

These seven also sing, often in high-pitched harmonizing, like a barbershop band on acid. And the lyrics are pretty out there, stuff like, "if you could read hair you'd know the future too."

While musical influences range from David Bowie to Devo to Ween to Zappa to the Beatles, there is another major influence: theater. The players have extensive experience in theater, mostly comedy, and came together to form a theater-based rock band three years ago.

Since then, they have been electrifying Seattle theaters and music clubs and are in the midst of recording a second album. The first, "Delaware," started as a musical theater show, presented at Re-Bar. They've also done a show at On the Boards; this year, after ricocheting between the theater and pop-music worlds, "Awesome" seems to be trying to focus its ADD energies on music.

"We've been invited to do more club shows recently," Osebold affirmed, via e-mail, "and they're easier to put together with just a few rehearsals. It's also fun to perform on the fly! While performing one-offs at clubs, we're always working on one or two Longer Term Projects ... Additionally, we're ready to re-inject more theatricality into our live shows, beginning with our performance at the Rendezvous' fifth anniversary on March 30."

Does "Awesome" feel the need to be totally unpredictable?

"I think we need to keep surprising ourselves, by trying things that push us in different directions and into new venues," Witmer answered, also through e-mail. "Hopefully that will be amusing for our fans, and keep things exciting for us as a group."

"When we've stopped evolving and coming up with new ideas that surprise ourselves," Osebold added, "we may need to consider packing it in."

No worry about that, in the near future. "Awesome" hopes to expand its audience with touring this year, while still keeping the locals entertained. In a much smaller venue than the Showbox, "Awesome" will fire up its creative engines at Ballard's Sunset Tavern on Saturday (10 p.m., $7).

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/musicnightlife/2003595843_nite02.html - Tom Scanlon, Seattle Times

"Seattle Times Shortlist"


Even book critics have pop-band crushes. One of my latest is Seattle band Awesome, whose 2005 album, "Delaware," offers stunning vocal harmonies, an eclectic blend of musical styles and some highly dubious spoken-word facts ("Fact: Waves experience pain when they crash"). They have a new album in the works, and their next club gig is at Ballard's Sunset Tavern on March 3 (206-784-4880 or www.awesometheband.com).

Michael Upchurch, Seattle Times book critic - Michael Upchurch, Seattle Times

"Writers will shine in an Awesome musical light"

None of it would be worth much without the blazing talent of the band. Two months ago, Frizzelle asked Seattle musicians collectively known as "Awesome" to write songs based primarily on Foer's novels, "Everything Is Illuminated" and his current "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," set in post-9/11 New York.

Quotation marks are part of the band's name, as none of its members would use the word without the distancing effect of irony. Once "Awesome" got the rhythm of Foer's dense schematics, Frizzelle asked members to complicate it with references to D'Ambrosio's cleaner, leaner lines.

"Awesome" is indie rock with musical muscle and theatrical roots. Nearly all band members have acting experience or at least experience in theaters as sound engineers. They're best known for the eccentric cabaret known as "Delaware," a musical exploration of the idea that we shouldn't necessarily accept the reality of places we've never been, such as, in the band's case, Delaware.

"Awesome" will present "Delaware" again this fall at Re-bar. Frizzelle happened to catch the first run, which is why The Stranger commissioned the band to provide Foer and D'Ambrosio with a musical context.

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/visualart/220895_foer21.html - Regina Hackett, Seattle P-I

"Awesome vs. Time Itself"

If the seven members of “Awesome” got stuck in an elevator with a kitchen timer, a hubcap, and the lint in their pockets, they would probably be able to write a symphony in 15 minutes—20, tops. And it would be wonderful. They are savantly good at setting out catchy, sad, insane little ditties, or dirges, or arena-rock ballads—really, whatever you want (did someone say polka?)—and putting them onstage, dressed in hilarious premise, delivered with you-can-laugh-if-you-want-to straightness, narrated by displaced voices and aided, in the storytelling, by gorgeous films, or actors in costume, or disappearing geometric patterns of electric tape on the floor.

Their latest show, noSIGNAL, commissioned last spring by On the Boards, had the songs, the hilarious (if anxious-making) premise, the gorgeous film (by David Russo), the costumes (sharp suits), and the geometric pattern on the floor (beehive), but there were no actors except the band itself. This was a simplifying touch. “Awesome”’s previous theatrical experience, Delaware, had lots of distracting actors.

The version of noSIGNAL put together for Bumbershoot is a further simplification of elements: noSIGNAL’s original two acts have been condensed to one and the story’s been slightly restructured. The result is something almost assuredly shorter and better. (The original had damn funny stuff, but it dragged.) The show is about seven characters realizing that they are part of something they don’t understand, but trying to follow along, trying to find the logic in the noise, and in doing so, stumbling onto tons and tons of music, as if they can’t help it. It’s sort of a metaphor for “Awesome” itself, who in a strange way seem incapable of not continuing to produce, like clowns with hands perpetually full of flowers. Minus any scary clownness. They’re just these guys. They are John Osebold, Kirk Anderson, David Nixon, John Ackermann, Evan Mosher, Basil Harris, and Rob Witmer, and they’ll be playing together forever. Or at least until one of them dies.

http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Content?oid=55953 - Christopher Frizzelle, the Stranger

"Delaware album review"

Delaware, the remarkable debut album by Seattle septet "Awesome", starts and ends with a question: "Where did you go when we needed you most?" That recurring unanswered plea casts an air of wistful longing that hangs gracefully throughout this often goofy, charming record. On their twisted journey after what's missing, "Awesome" fills voids we never knew we had with waffles, untrue Delaware "facts," and an overflowing helping of odd instruments that whimsically inhabit their legitimately poignant songs. An ambitious comedic/melancholy concept soundtrack, Delaware plays like one of those old Peter and the Wolf -style kids' records done by a skilled, experimental indie-pop band. It's comfortingly folky in places, jarringly weird in others, and always distinctly dramatic...

...The star of this show is certainly the abundance of beguiling music that fills this record. Delaware may not sell you on the merits of the First State, but it certainly makes a strong case for the talents of "Awesome."
- Kirk Heynen, ThreeImaginaryGirls.com


BEEHIVE SESSIONS - Produced by Jon Auer (2007)
DELAWARE - Produced by Mark Nichols (2005)
FOUR FOR FOER - Produced by Pete Remine and "Awesome" (2005)



"Awesome" aren't the best at what they do...they're the only ones that do what they do. It is hard to say exactly what it is that they do, but I can tell you that in their music, there are traces of Paul McCartney, Frank Zappa, and They Might Be Giants. They take pop hooks and mix them with jazz-fusion breakdowns that stop on a dime. Which is to say it's brainy, catchy, quirky, and arty. It's also theatrical. They have a new album, Beehive Sessions, which was produced by the Posies' Jon Auer and captures all the precision and clarity of their live show. To see them is to be completely awed by what masters and visionaries they are." --Seattle Weekly

Seattle-based band/collective "Awesome" is a septet of indie art-popsters who trace a line of influence from the Beatles to They Might Be Giants to the Decemberists. They are multi-instrumentalists who play guitar, bass, drums, trumpet, sax, clarinet, banjo, mandolin, violin, accordion, theremin, typewriter, and steel drums (and that's just the recognizable stuff). All seven are vocalists as well, which manifests in lots of lush, densely layered harmonies.

Rising from the fertile soil of the alternative comedy and fringe theatre scene in Seattle, "Awesome" began charming audiences in cabarets, art galleries, and dive bars in 2004. Since then they've made two original large-scale theatrical works (one which was commissioned as a new work for Seattle's On the Boards) and expanded their audiences in the indie rock world, earning them gigs with such Northwest luminaries as Harvey Danger, the Long Winters, and the Presidents of the USA, and national acts such as Tapes 'n Tapes, AC Newman (of the New Pornographers), and Elf Power.

"Awesome" is the kind of dynamic creative enterprise you wish you had in your town.
-The Stranger