Do you know how excited I was to see Mikal Cronin play here in Seattle last night? VERY MUCH, I WAS. I had waited with great patience since seeing him perform his own material on 2012's Bruise Cruise, when I was so super-thrilled that I went up to the pleasant, shaggy-haired lad afterwards and babbled my enthusiasm in what I suspect was a particularly froth-mouthed, googly-eyed way. Do you know WHY I was so excited? Because I was thinking, man, this guy is a marvelous songwriter and things are going to go very well for him...if only enough people know about him. "Come to Seattle!" I implored him, "I will bring everyone I know! I will...I dunno, bake a cake! Anything!" Bless his little Cronin heart that he didn't have the red-haired photographer woman tossed off the ship into the Atlantic for over-fan-ing.

Actually, I've seen Mikal quite a lot since February 2012 and now -- playing bass for the perpetually-touring Ty Segall, another one of my very-favorites. He and Ty, friends of long-standing, have tremendous chemistry and rapport onstage, mirroring and complementing each other perfectly, which makes for exciting and rock-solid shows. I waited and waited to hear when there would be a follow-up album to Cronin's wonderful self-titled 2011 solo debut, and as the months passed by without much word, I admit, I was gettin' a little worried. But that was silly thinkin', Lincoln, because if I can hear what a talent this dude is, you betcha other people can too. Cronin was signed to indie giant Merge Records, which just released MCII, a sparkling collection of classic pop songs, with enough of that garage rock edge to add spice to the sweet. Cronin has done his songwriting homework (quite literally, as he recently graduated from the California Institute of the Arts with a music degree), yet what he produces sounds amazingly fresh, and not at all studied. Hooks? Tons. Harmonies? Delicious. Melodies? Memorable. Lyrics? Smart and personal. He just knows what goes into making a great song, ones that people want to sing along with and listen to over and over again.

I arrived at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard just as locals Dude York were playing the last notes of their set, late after lingering over dinner at Bastille with my friend Kitty, pardonnez-moi. Before going to the front to shoot, I stopped at the merch table where Mikal was merching, because any touring musician knows: A.B.M. (Always Be Merchin'™, Finberg/Welbourne). I picked up a single, re-introduced myself, and had a nice chat which included me asking him to draw a dog in a party hat on the single. What a cute doggie!

I mentioned that I thought it was really brave to release a prettier, poppier, and more complex album that perhaps people most familiar with him via Segall or his earlier work with in the Moonhearts and other fuzzed-out bands would expect. He nodded. "It's a little scary," he admitted, as he put the finishing touches on the party pup. But that's another thing I like and admire about Cronin -- he made the record that he wanted to make. Many artists in his position would not have had the guts.

I managed to squeeze in to get a good photo spot in the front of the stage as Shannon and the Clams were setting up. I had also seen Shannon Shaw at Bruise Cruise as part of the "garage rock supergroup" The Togas, but had never seen her with her own Clams before, so's I was all stoked. Shannon has one of those gritty, original rock n'roll tough-femme voices -- think Wanda Jackson or Brenda Lee with deeper oomph. The Clams head straight into the stripped-down heart of rock and give it a quad-bypass in the process. There's a little rockabilly, a smidge of doo-wop, a touch of early-'60s girl group, and a commercial-sized dumpster full of raw punk, too. They've just put out a new album on Seattle-based Hardly Art called "Dreams in the Rat House," so check it out!

(As always, click on the photos to enlarge and click on the Flickr set link for more photos!)

What can I say without going further into full froth mode again?? Mikal Cronin and bandmates just ROCKED! The wait was more than worth it, and the band delivered a joyous set that had everyone (including me) dancing and singing along the whole time. YouTube uploader Thomas Bombach recorded this, "Weight," from MCII! Dude musta been exactly to my left. Thanks, Thomas!

Here are some of mah photos! Oh mah gosh, I had so much fun! I had to stop singing and dancing to take these. Briefly!

Mikal Cronin Tractor Tavern Flickr link

Thank you so much Michelle Cable at Panache Booking, Tractor Tavern, Kitty Page Amsbry, Shannon and the Clams, and Mikal Cronin and band! Come back sooner!!!