Will Wakefield and the Congress Hotel

Ink 19

Will Wakefield and the Congress Hotel Apt. 306 Wakefield Records Seattle's Will Wakefield definitely has a talent for taking sonic snapshots of the conflicted characters lurking inside his head. However, the singer/guitarist doesn't let his heightened abilities get the best of him in his third album, Apt. 306, which offers some of the best songwriting I've heard in quite a while. Seemingly inspired by the best lyrical storytelling to be found in the 1970s, Wakefield and the Congress Hotel often choose the high road without alienating the average listener. Often raucous, sometimes sublimely refined, Apt. 306 blurs the line between blues-rock and jazz-rock; it's a supremely suitable companion for a quiet evening of cigarettes and scotch, or for a Saturday afternoon drive in search of misadventure. Wakefield grew up in a rural prison town northeast of the Emerald City before heading to Boston to attend Berklee, which could partially account for the album's mixed bag of influences. Another reason for the organic, yet sophisticated sound could be that the band's talents and diverse interests probably match that of the frontman's. The rhythm section (Mike Stewart, B; Ty Creighton, D) is top-notch, while never flashy, while Chuck Edwards' lead guitar seems to be always in the right place, at the right time, with just the right tone. Nathan Spicer adds a shimmering layer of keyboards and organ to the cake, and the result is very, very tasty. While the impossible-to-pin-down Congress Hotel can lean towards a meatier Toad The Wet Sprocket for one song, early Toto ("Hold The Line," not "Africa") the next, the 12-track CD's two best songs draw instant comparisons to those kings of intelligent pop, Steely Dan. The late-night lament, "Katherine" ("It's the last time you'll order coffee at three a.m.") could have been written for Donald Fagen's The Nightfly, and one would almost expect a cover of "Deacon Blues" or "FM" to follow the band's wistful power ballad, "Frankie The Drifter." Besides sharing a cynical lyrical attitude and the uncanny ability to place the listener inside dimly lit diners and smoky bars, Wakefield's vocal phrasing can occasionally be eerily similar to Fagen's. While the former's pipes sound nothing like the latter's, Wakefield remains a gifted, distinctive singer whose voice is definitely the band's sixth instrument. With and without the Congress Hotel, Wakefield has prowled about Seattle for most of this century, receiving local airplay while honing his craft. This independently released, yet superbly produced disc has proved that his creations deserve to be heard elsewhere, everywhere.

Spokane Sidekick

Some bands make a lot of noise, some sing about ho’s, blow and 40s, a few don’t sing at all. Luckily there are a handful of musicians that send their message through songwriting – bands like Counting Crows, Ryan Adams, and Death Cab for Cutie – through tales of life, love, loss and happiness. Will Wakefield and The Congress Hotel belongs with this group of songwriters. Th is fledgling Seattle band will perform on Saturday, October 14th at 9 p.m. at the Blue Spark. Cover for this 21 and older show is only $3 at the door. Will Wakefield, songwriter for Th e Congress Hotel, has been involved with music almost all his life, heavily influenced by his father William. The band’s name is a throwback to his father’s old group, “Th e Congress Hotel Blues Band.” With a musical parent, there seems to be only one possible outcome for their unsuspecting children – they will grow up to become musicians, for better or worse. While the outcome is the same, the path is unique – Wakefield chose a smart path that has landed him increasing success. Honing his skills on the Seattle club scene while in high school, Wakefield went on to earn a degree from the Berklee School of Music in Boston (I’m glad to see that at least one person in this world is putting their degree to use). Returning to Seattle, he found a job at Sub-Pop records and started performing solo gigs around the city. By coincidence, he came across a wandering band severely lacking a front man – the two entities combined forces and the formula was complete. The storyteller-type lyrics of Wakefield are carefully blended with the chord heavy rock of Th e Congress Hotel to form non-obtrusive music that both showcases and enhances the songs’ narrative threads (translation: you can hear what Wakefield is singing about without getting distracted by overbearing instrumentation). The songs, including those on the bands upcoming release due out on November 11th, are the stories of Wakefield’s life – a story he will tell you one song at a time. Will Wakefield and The Congress Hotel will be making a stop on their Pacific Northwest Tour in downtown Spokane at the Blue Spark, 15 S. Howard Street. While you’re there, be sure to order the SiDEKiCK “Drink of the Issue,” which can be found on page 23 of this issue.