Category Archives: Tacoma Music

Guest Post. Concert Review: Stephanie Anne Johnson


On May 22, 2015 I had the pleasure of listening to Stephanie Anne Johnson in her performance entitled, Jazz Life Evolution at the Tacoma Youth Theater, located on Broadway in Tacoma. The intimate performance began before a small audience as she sang favorites such as The Girl From Ipanema, Henry Mancini’s Moon River, Billie Holiday’s Them There Eyes, and a moving performance of Georgia On My Mind. As she invoked the musical stylings of Ray Charles and Billie Holiday, her smooth and melodic voice rang. She ended the first act with a song from her Portland Opera performance of Show Boat, Can’t Help Loving That Man of Mine. The first half of the concert provided audiences with delightful songs that provoked them to dance in their seats when she kicked up the pace and sway to and fro when things slowed down.

In addition to performing jazz classics, Johnson also entertained the audience with performances from musicals such as Porgy and Bess and The Wiz. It was hard not to mouth the words to Summertime. Her stand up bass player, Nate Omdal, collaborated with Johnson to arrange a stylistic version of My Man’s Gone, taking George Gershwin’s song and adapting it to their cool style of jazz. Omdal had also wrote charts for the show.

The jazz quartet accompanied perfectly with her soulful voice. In addition to Nate Omdal on the stand up bass, the jazz quartet included: Chris Carlson on the drums, Todd Hollenhorst on keyboard and Navarre Herrara on guitar. Their performance synced with Johnson’s amazing voice and provided excellent stage presence before the audience.

No one in the audience would be able to forget Johnson’s incredible closing song from the musical, The Wiz as she sang Believe in Yourself. With heart and soul, her love and passion for music filled the air from the beginning to the end of her final performance, moving eager listeners to hear the message in the song. Applause lingered as she exited the stage, hoping for an encore performance. With her second album entitled Hollatchagurl, and her appearance on The Voice, one can expect to see an up and coming successful career for Stephanie Anne Johnson.

– Renee Lishka

Renee Lishka is a graduate from the University of Washington Tacoma. She lives in Tacoma with her husband of twelve years, two daughters Laura and Emmy and a cat named Bentley.

Valentine’s Day Massacre At The Narwhal


I’ve written about both Creative Colloquy and The Nearsighted Narwhal before. Creative Colloquy is a local group that posts original content on their website and once a month performs public readings at the B-Sharp Coffee House in Tacoma’s Opera Alley. They’re next gathering is on February 23rd. The Nearsighted Narwhal is a shop on 6th Ave. where you can find dozens of self-published zines from all over as well as books and CDs from local authors.

These two have joined forces to release Valentine’s Day Massacre at the Narwhal, a full length CD album of short stories and music all done in the noir pulp fiction style of the 1930s and 1940s. It’s available starting today at The Nearsighted Narwhal or you can purchase a digital copy at this link.

Full Disclosure: I have worked with both Creative Colloquy and Nearsighted Narwhal. I’ve been a featured author and contributor for Creative Colloquy. My book, Ruin Your Life is available at Nearsighted Narwhal and I have a zine coming out that I collaborated with the Narwhal’s Ossaín Ávila Cárdenas. And there is one track on Valentine’s Day Massacre at the Narwhal that is a short piece written and performed by me. This is all to say that my opinion is not entirely unbiased.

Valentine’s Massacre at the Narwhal is part noir anthology, part concept album. There’s a loose narrative tying the stories together along with short musical interludes by The Happy Sinners and The Bad Things. Each story is performed by the author with accompanying sound effects by Ossaín Ávila Cárdenas.

It starts off with a man picking up a hitchhiker. To pass the time they tell each other stories. Each story is the sort you’d find in hardboiled detective novels or paperback pulp fictions.

William Turbyfill’s Dime Store Shoes tells the tale of a dead woman and a detective who has seen too much death.

The Happy Sinners follow this up with a haunting rendition of St. James Infirmary.

Jenni Prange Boran’s Pro is a story about a career convenience store robber who encounters something new.

Dressed to Kill by L. Lisa Lawrence takes a married couple’s Valentine’s Day kink to the extreme.

At this point we go back to our driver and hitchhiker still getting to know each other.

And then it’s time for the melancholy fun of The Bad Things with Can’t Get Enough of Love.

The dark stories continue with Ashes to Ashes by Christian Carvajal, a genuine LA Private Investigator story with a femme fatale accused of killing her husband.

LTR by Gregory Knight Miskin tells the story of a couple with a deadly intimate hobby with dark humor.

There’s a nice musical interlude in the form of Witness Statement by Dennis Ellis.

Next up is my own contribution to the album, a short story called Run Away in which a desperate man writes a goodbye letter to his mother.

Michelle Biddix-Simmons’ story Masterpiece has everything you’re looking for in a noir story: private detectives, mob bosses, and a woman as beautiful as she is deadly.

The album ends with along with the hitchhiker’s ride and The Happy Sinner’s sultry rendition of Mac The Knife.

As a participant in the album, I can’t give you an objective review of the album. I can say that it was a lot of fun helping create it and I enjoyed listening to these stories and letting their words create images in my head. The radio show is almost a lost art. This album does its best to reclaim it.

If you’re interested in listening to Valentine’s Day Massacre at the Narwhal, you can buy physical copies at The Nearsighted Narwhal at 2610A 6th Ave. or you can stream it for free or purchase a digital copy at this link.

– Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With Stephanie Anne Johnson From The Voice!


Welcome To 5 Question Friday. On Fridays I ask five questions of a Tacoma local. This week’s participant is Stephanie Anne Johnson. If you’re a frequent viewer of The Voice on NBC her name might sound familiar.

I’ve known Stephanie for many, many years. In addition to being enormously talented, she’s also just an awesome person. I consider her a good friend who I rarely see. Now that she’s on national television, I expect that’s going to be even truer. But she was nice enough to take time out to answer five questions for the return of 5 Question Friday. Here’s Stephanie:

1. What made you decide to go on The Voice?

I chose The Voice because I was very attracted to the concept of not being judged on outside appearance. I like to think that the best parts of me aren’t parts you can see with the naked eye.

2. What has been the most surprising thing about this experience so far?

For some reason I expected this process to be easier because I’ve had years of training and experience. I thought that might give me an edge over other contestants but none of that really seems to matters. It all comes down to how you sound on that particular song on that particular day.

3. What’s something you haven’t done yet with your music career that you’d like to do?

Please, I’m an animal. I want to do everything. I want Broadway. I want the West End. I want to travel land and sea playing songs I wrote. I want Grammy’s. I want to play college campuses, concert halls and your living room. I’m rather zealous about performing if you couldn’t tell. But basically I just want to travel and sing and continue to pay my bills with the fruits of my rocking.

4. Who are some of your other favorite local acts?

Ummm, well, I really like Steve Stefanowicz. His fingers are positively educated, great guitar and mandolin player! He played lead on my last record. Bill Leach out in that Auburn area, guitar player, gear head, brilliant producer/engineer. Zach Fleury is awesome, he was the lead percussionist on my 2nd record. I hear good things about Ben Union. Ethan Tucker and his band are awesome. Allen Stone I love. The Head and the Heart. Kim Archer knows her stuff really well. She’s mentoring this group called the Whoppie Cats, nice girls, great vocals, great slide guitar. Billy Shew, Junkyard Jane, Bennet Pullen, Eric Robert, Raphel Tranquilino, Mighty High, Kareem Kandi, Gina Belleveau, James Coats, Kurt Lindsey not to mention Vicci Martinez, Emily Randolph or Austin Jencks. And don’t think I couldn’t go on. Basically there’s a lot of good live music in your house. Get out of your house right now and find some good music. Go, go right now!

5. What are your plans after The Voice?

I want to put a small three or four piece together and I want to travel within the US playing small house concerts. I like the connection I can make with people I might not otherwise meet if not for the music. I like an audience I can touch and feel and listen to. However, keeping my earlier comments in mind, this is only the beginning.

I wish Stephanie the best of luck on The Voice and her future endeavors and would like to publicly thank her for taking the time to join me on 5 Question Friday.

If you know someone who you would like to join me on 5 Question Friday, let me know at

–          Jack Cameron


Funny story. About two weeks ago, I was contacted by someone representing Vicci Martinez. They gave me a link to download her new album a couple of weeks its release date in the hopes that I’d write about it. I downloaded the album, listened to it, and wrote a review. I was going to post that review this past weekend but somehow my computer ate it. So I had to start over.

This turned out to be a good thing. After listening to the album a bit more, my opinion of it has changed. Last year, when Vicci Martinez was on the Voice she was nice enough to participate in a 5 Question Friday interview. And they’d been nice enough give me an early preview of her new album. I didn’t want to make Vicci and her people mad at me but I wanted to be honest.

So my first review talked about how Vicci used to be a barefoot girl with a guitar belting out songs on a small stage in various local venues and how her new album, ‘Vicci’, has such a high production value that you kind of lose that girl behind a bunch of processed music. It was a somewhat easy thing to write. I mean it’s a story we’ve already heard a hundred times where the little indie artist gets signed to a big record label and loses all her indie cred.

I can’t really say how happy I am that I lost that review because I wasn’t really paying attention. This isn’t an artist selling out. This is an artist buying in. Sure, there aren’t a lot of things I like better than a girl with a guitar and a song, but even though there’s production value dripping from every track on ‘Vicci’, each of the songs would easily work acoustically. And the songs themselves are solid.

I know that these days people tend to just pay attention to singles and not the entire album, but I’m going to briefly talk about each of the songs on the album in the order they are on the album. I’m not really a music reviewer and I don’t read music reviews so I have no idea if this is the sort of thing I’m supposed to do or not. Luckily, I don’t care.

‘Vicci’ starts off with ‘Come Along’ which features her costar from The Voice, Cee-Lo Green. It’s catchy as all hell. It’s one of those songs that just sinks into your head and you find yourself singing along without even meaning to.

Next up, is a song called ‘Run, Run, Run’. Vicci has said that this song had a lot to do with her moving from her hometown of Tacoma to LA in pursuit of her music career. I can hear that in the song. And it definitely has a California vibe to it.

‘Out of Control’ is a song about a spiraling relationship. It’s a bit clichéd and not really the sort of song I enjoy.

Luckily, the next song, ‘I Can Love’ is probably my favorite song on the album. Vicci says, “Sometimes we don’t feel our best, and we can let things and people bring us down.  This song is about empowerment and to remind us that we do have hearts and we should use them.” That sounds about right. If you’re looking for a song to lift you out of a bad mood and remind yourself what you’re capable of, this is just what you’re looking for of. On top of that, Vicci’s voice knocks this track out of the park. Great stuff.

After a power track like that, Vicci follows that with ‘Hold Me Darlin’, a sad song about just wanting to be held. I’m a lyrics guy so what I noticed most was that the chorus not only says “I’m sorry.”, it also says “I’m weak.”  That right there is a vulnerable line. I think anyone who has been in a dying relationship can relate to this song.

It’s nice to have some girl-power songs and love songs, but sometimes you just want a song about sex. “Not Washing You Off of Me” is just that. It’s raw, sexy, and just a bit fun. Though there’s a couple points in the song where it sounds like R2-D2 is doing backing vocals. But the nerd in me has no problem with that.

“I Want Your Kiss” is exactly what it sounds like. It’s not so much about sex as it is about wanting and fantasizing. It’s fun and gets points for using the word ‘superfly’ if nothing else.

“Let Go” is a sad ballad that is just heartbreaking. I’m not entirely sure if it’s about a dead lover or just dead love. Either way, it’s sweet, powerful, and sad. I’m betting this is the most personal song on the album. The line “If you could see me all grown up, would you be proud, who I am now?” is haunting to me.

“Touch That Fire” is one of those songs that I’m sure a lot of people like but it’s just not my style. I can’t point out anything wrong with it. It’s a solid pop song. I just don’t like it.

The album ends with “Little Faith” which almost sounds like something from the poppy mall music of the 1990s. I was a teenager in the 90s so it gives me this nostalgic vibe that makes me smile.

So is ‘Vicci’ the barefoot girl with the guitar that you remember from way back when? Kind of. Early Vicci Martinez music is to the new ‘Vicci’ album what Avengers comic books are to the new Avengers movie. It’s clear that a lot of money has been well spent taking something many people love and turning it into something even more people will love. It’s not my favorite album I’ve listened to this year, but every time I listen to it, I like it more. And I’ve still got ‘Come Along’ stuck in my head.

‘Vicci’ will be released on June 19th.

Click here to purchase from

– Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With Patrick Smith From Splatterhouse Wreckords

Tacoma has always had a constantly changing music scene. If you go to a random bar in Tacoma on a weekend, you don’t know what sort of music you might find. It could be one lone girl with an acoustic guitar or it could be a full on punk band with a style all their own. Patrick Smith knows that Tacoma is full of great musicians. That’s why he started Splatterhouse Wreckords. He took some time out of his schedule to join us for 5 Question Friday and tell us a little about himself, his label, and his bands.

1. How did Splatterhouse Wreckords get started?

Splatterhouse Wreckords has been a work in the making for a while. The label got its official start in September of 2011 when my buddy and I finally agreed on a name. The first band to release an album on Splatterhouse Wreckords was Tacoma’s own Sok and the Faggots with their release “Shit Happens When You Party Naked.”

2. What makes your record label different from others?

I try to run Splatterhouse Wreckords band friendly. I choose bands that I like.  Having bands on my label that I personally enjoy motivates me to do as much as possible to help that band succeed.  I also don’t believe in changing the direction a band wants to go with their albums. If I trust a band enough to offer them a contract with Splatterhouse, I trust them to make the right decisions in the studio.

3. Who are some of the bands on your label?

Sok and the Faggots – Tacoma

Bass Line Bums – Austin

Load Levelers – Seattle

Angie and the Car Wrecks – Centralia

Latex Willer – Croatia

Here are some of our upcoming projects:

Live split with Angie and the Car Wrecks and the Hard Money Saints.  The album will be recorded on May 19th at the Grayland Community Center. Come check out the show and party with the bands.

We will be teaming up with Psycho a Go Go Records to release a split EP. The album will consist of a band from their label and a band from my label. Both bands will record 5 new songs for the album.

We are also working on our second compilation album. The album will be called “Splatterhouse Massacre 2, Sloppy Seconds” and it will include bands from Splatterhouse Wreckords and other bands from around the world.

4. What excites you about the Tacoma music scene?

Tacoma has a great music scene. I think the thing that excites me the most about the music here in Tacoma is the support bands get. There are some great venues in the Tacoma and greater Tacoma area that know how to treat a band while they are playing. Bands in Tacoma also get a lot of support from the fans. Show goers in Tacoma know how to have a good time.

5. In your opinion, what’s the most underrated band in Tacoma?

I think underground music as a whole is underrated or unrated. Some of the best musicians in the world play in underground bands. That’s why I do what I do. I love underground music and I want people to hear it. I will continue putting out music till I am dead and my ashes are in a PBR can on someone’s shelf.


You can find Splatterhouse Wreckords at:


I’d like to thank Patrick for joining us. And as always, if you or someone you know wants to be part of 5 Question Friday, write me and and tell me why.

–          Jack Cameron

Art, Ballet, Flamenco and Dirty Rock

Flamenco Master Jesus Montoya

There is always something going on in Tacoma. It’s one of my favorite things about the place. No matter what you’re into, there’s a good chance you can find it somewhere in Tacoma.

Here are just a few options coming up in the next few days:

Thursday December 15th  6:00pm – 9:00pm


Angela Jossy, the self-described Duchess of Downtown has made the Art Bus a monthly event that is always memorable. Tickets are $10. The Art Bus boards at 5:45pm and takes a tour of local art exhibits. She puts this on every third Thursday of the month. At last count, there were 11 seats still available.

For more information, go to

Friday, December 16th  8:30pm – 11:30pm    

Flamenco singer Jesus Montoya with guitarist Pedro Cortes and dancer Savannah Fuentes

At The New Frontier Lounge 301 E. 25th Street

This is something special. Jesus Montoya has never played Tacoma before. If you’re interested in Flamenco music or have never experienced it, this is for you. And the New Frontier has a close and friendly atmosphere. There’s not a bad seat in the place.Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at this link:

For more information on The New Frontier:  

Saturday, December 17th 9:00pm – Late

Midnight Salvage Company, Ten Miles of Bad Road, & Devil on a Leash

At O’Malley’s 2403 6th Ave.

You want a loud bar with good drinks and great music? This is the time and place. Three great Tacoma bands all on the same night and there’s NO COVER CHARGE. There’s not much more you can ask for on a Saturday night.  Ten Miles of Bad Road just completed their tour where they brought their dirty Southern rock to small bars up and down the West Coast. If music was violence Ten Miles of Bad Road would be a bar fight. Midnight Salvage Company brings the sort of rock that should still be on the radio. It’s good solid rebel rock with just a bit of asshole. Then there’s Devil on a Leash with a sound that reminds me of the last bar on a long night that no one will remember too clearly.

December 17th & December 18th at 3pm

Tacoma Ballet’s The Nutcracker

There are plenty of Nutcracker performances all over. However, Tacoma City Ballet’s is set apart as the sole production in the area to follow the story, scenic design, costuming and choreography as it was originally created by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov.

Tickets range in prices from $19 – $60 and can be purchased at

And that’s just a few of the things going on in the next four days. Tacoma is about as diverse as any city in the world. And it’s all right here. People ask me why I love Tacoma, it’s because of things like these.

– Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With Tacoma’s Vicci Martinez From The Voice!

Vicci Martinez

Photo Courtesy of Hurricane of Lions Photography

Tacoma has always had a good music scene, but more often than not, musicians from Tacoma will make it big and will inevitably be linked to Seattle. Not so, with Vicci Martinez. A proud Tacoma native, Vicci recently hit the national spotlight in a big way on NBC’s The Voice. She was one of the final four on the show. And when she didn’t win, many thought she was robbed. Then again, as people like Clay Aiken, Jennifer Hudson and Chris Daughtry can tell you, you don’t have to win these shows to make it big.

This week, Vicci Martinez was nice enough to participate in 5 Question Friday.

1. What made you decide to try out on The Voice?

My gut told me this was going to be something different, and I needed to quit being scared and take the risk. I didn’t want people to be upset I was doing a reality show, singing covers blah blah, but I did it anyway, and what I have learned…your path is your path and don’t ever care what people think…because that’s when you stop living!

2. Where is your favorite place in Tacoma to sing and why?

I love a good old Jazzbones show! Good friends. Good times

3. How has Tacoma influenced your career?

Tacoma definitely grounds me.

4. There are a lot of indie local bands in the Tacoma area. Could you tell us some of your favorites?

I am a fan of Aaron Stevens and Goldfinch!

5. What’s next for you after The Voice?

working working working…. :)

I want to thank Vicci Martinez for taking the time with me to do 5 Question Friday.

As always, if you think you or someone you know would like to participate in 5 Question Friday, email me at  

You can find all things Vicci Martinez at her site: 

Finally, below is one of my personal favorites of Vicci’s

-Jack Cameron