Seattle musician Rocky Votolato is a soft-spoken, very kind, very hard-working father of two, born in rural Texas and raised in the Pacific Northwest indie scene (where he fronted the acclaimed rock band Waxwing). In his decade-plus life as a songwriter and musician he has sought to articulate something essential about life, writing songs that seem to have been scratched into a boxcar wall by a worn-out and lonesome ghost. His gravelly, sandpaper smooth voice and introspective lyrics mark him as that most rare of punk-rocker-turned-acoustic-troubadours: Votolato writes graceful, understated, human, unpretentious songs, demonstrating that simplicity is still a viable option for accomplished songwriters. He is playing at the Red Palace this Friday, and joined us for our 5GB series.
What’s the first gig you ever attended?
When I was a kid my dad took my older brother and I to see Def Leopard at some amphitheater in Dallas, TX. They were on the “Hysteria” tour (1988) and the show kicked ass. I remember my dad blasting “Pour Some Sugar on Me” at full volume on the drive to the show:)
When I was old enough to go to shows I had moved up to Seattle and the first show I remember going to was either Jawbreaker or Sunny Day Real Estate in Seattle. It was a great time to be a part of the underground music scene in Seattle and I saw a lot of really great bands in really small punk clubs before they blew up… Treepeople, Engine Kid, Foo Fighters, Built to Spill, Rocket From the Crypt, Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie, Elliot Smith, Red Starts Theory, Murder City Devils, Botch, Fugazi, and too many others to name. I also saw Pearl Jam at a free show they did called “Drop in the Park” and I saw Nirvana on the Nevermind tour in the Seattle Center. Both shows were pretty epic.
What is the best gig that you ever played/performed?
Austin City Limits Festival with Willie Nelson and Tom Petty headlining. It was one of the bigger shows I’d ever done at the time and I had my brother Cody accompany me on electric guitar. I got to see Kathleen Edwards after I played and had such a great time.
What is the best gig you have ever seen?
Radiohead at the SUP Hall in Seattle. It was right before “The Bends” came out and they were playing all the songs from that album… The place couldn’t have held more than 300 people and it wasn’t even sold out. I think the attention and fame that came from “Creep” had kind of worn off at that point and it was before they really blew up in the US. It was my Jr. year in high school and I didn’t even like Radiohead very much at the time, but my girlfriend got free tickets so we decided to go. They kicked so much ass and it was so great to see them in such an intimate setting that I still think that was the best show I’ve ever been to.
What is the gig you would most like to play?
I’d love to play at Glastonbury in the UK or at the Roskilde festival in Denmark.
What would be the lineup for your dream gig?
That’s a tough one… Here’s a list of my all-time favorite songwriters:
George Harrison (RIP)
Playing with any one of these guys would be the perfect bill for me. I like playing solo more than with a band so I’d want it to be a solo acoustic performance in a really intimate venue. Maybe at the Moore Theater in Seattle. Playing there has been a dream of mine since I saw Kristofferson there a few years ago.
Catch Rocky Votolato May 25th at The Red Palace