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Seattle in the Slope


When I found out Seattle's Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band - who grabbed my attention earlier this month at Bumbershoot - was playing Union Hall this past Saturday night, I immediately skipped down to 5th Ave. and hopped on a B63 bus. Which, even with the twenty minute wait, was a lot shorter than a 3,000 mile flight.

When I got there around 9:30, the bocce courts were in full swing but the basement was nearly empty (despite the fact that doors were supposedly at 8p.) Fortunately, I noticed lead singer/songwriter Benjamin Verdoes and his bandmate (and wife) Tracy Eggleston hanging out at the merch table by themsleves. I introduced myself, saying how much I enjoyed their set at Bumbershoot.

"Oh, you saw that show?" Benjamin laughed. "We were actually really tired that day."

"We had just come over that morning on the 5am ferry,"Tracy explained. "We finished playing a show in Victoria at 1am the night before." 

"But, we really wanted to play Bumbershoot," Benjamin said. "I mean, it's our hometown."


The five-piece (which also included Matthew Dammer on guitar and Jared Price on bass) barely fit on the small stage: more than once, Tracy pulled had to pull her supplemental snare out into the audience to avoid getting knocked into her keyboard. But, even with her that close, she was overshadowed by the torrent unleashed by Benjamin's adopted brother Marshall, who started playing drums with MSHVB when he was 11 (he's now 14).

"Marshall actually named the band," Benjamin told me. "I was playing in another band (In Praise of Folly) when I promised him we'd start a band once he got good enough to play out. So, eventually he did, and I told him to come up with a name for the band. He kept coming up with all these stupid names that didn't work, until finally one day, we were driving along, and he just blurted out: 'Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band!' 'Ok, that's what we're calling it!,' I said, thinking it would last maybe a couple of months. And we've been together over two years now. I guess we're stuck with it."

Before their last song, "Albatross, Albatross, Albatross," Benjamin invited the audience to "move around a little, if you feel like it." With its wild mix of helicopter-like electronics, tribal bass drums, and spiky guitars in mixed meters, it might not have been the best choice to get people up and dancing. Nor did it help that they probably scared everyone stiff with their own wild thrashing. But, c'mon Brooklyn, when are you going to loosen up and show some love? Bands this good won't keep coming back if you don't. (More pics below.)