By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
PORT TOWNSEND — Songs and stories about being the “odd man out,” plus satire and pop with bite: the band Uncle Bonsai is known for all of the above.
The Seattle-based outfit — Patrice O’Neill, Andrew Ratshin, Arni Adler — is coming to the Key City Playhouse, 419 Washington St., for a show this Saturday night.
Tickets to the 8 p.m. show are $15 at 360-385-KCPT (5278) or www.KeyCityPublicTheatre.org, since this is another in the Key City Cabaret concert series.
George Rezendes of Toolshed SoundLab put together these shows, which are just a bit bigger than his house concerts but still intimate in the playhouse’s cozy environs.
Uncle Bonsai, originally formed 32 years ago, has enjoyed critical raves for its rapid-fire vocals and mixture of song topics. The three sing about love and loss and what happens in between the two; they count among their influences the satire of Tom Lehrer, the Beatles’ harmonies, the high-speed lyrics of Stephen Sondheim and the strangeness of filmmaker Tim Burton.
“The trio officially bills itself as a ‘folk’ outfit,” wrote Michael Upchurch of the Seattle Times. But that label doesn’t quite cover it. “These are nicely edgy, sour-sweet songs, written for grown-ups.”
The group was born in 1981 after two graduates of Vermont’s tiny Bennington College answered a want ad for singing sea chanteys, posted by a third Bennington alumnus. Their first gig was busking outside the gates of Seattle’s Bumbershoot music and arts festival; each band member earned $7 that day. It was enough to get them into the festival, where they would perform as a hired act one year later, opening for Firesign Theater.
The band put out three records during the ’80s: “A Lonely Grain of Corn,” “Boys Want Sex in the Morning” and “Myn Ynd Wymyn.” Then they took a decade-long hiatus, reviving Uncle Bonsai in 2008.
After Ashley O’Keeffe left the group, O’Neill joined original members Adler and Ratshin. “The Grim Parade,” an album about the passage of time, the loss of pets and the passing of genes, came out in 2010.
This year, Uncle Bonsai released “Monster in the Closet/Go to Sleep,” illustrated bedtime songs for tormented parents. A new recording is in the works for spring 2014.
Just one more show remains in this season’s Key City Cabaret lineup: vocalist Sylvia Herold on Friday, Sept. 27.
For details, phone 360-379-0195.