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Best New Rock Artist: Fort Lean

Posted by on March 29, 2013


When my friends and I walked into the Neptune there was a band already opening up for The Joy Formidable.

The Neptune is an old movie theater made into a club.  By far the best venue in Seattle.

The space was full of people already. We worked our way on to the main floor. The prime place to see the band and to dance.

The frontman’s hair looked like mine when I wake up in the morning. Somewhere between Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips and a Japanese anime character.  Einstein also comes to mind.


We have fun making up possible names for this unknown band: Wake Up Hair, Bed Head…  The lead guy is rocking it so hard on guitar that at times it looks like there’s a live animal on his head.

Whatever their name was we liked the set.

They had that bit of Pixies-type gogo beat that made the rock danceable. The melodies were really strong too. The lead singer reminding me (musically only) of Cobain in the way he twists the phrases and tones.

This kicked off what ended up to be the best concerts I’ve seen since Macklemore.

Frani, Me, WInona & Nickole A.K.A. Mt. Dancemore.

Frani, Me, Winona & Nickole A.K.A. Mt. Dancemore.

After the set we went up to the merch booth and asked who they were.

“Fort Lean” was the name and the vocalist and bass player were right there. We talked to them a bit. They are Brooklyn-based and on tour with The Joy Formidable.

Looking them up online now, I have to say the official videos don’t really do the band justice. The moods are melancholy and the concepts seem overthought.

Would love to see a good live vid of Fort Lean playing recently. Anyone have one?

It’s their live sound that makes them amazing.  There’s a driving energy to it all that echoed through the crowd. The uptempo vibe I think suits Fort Lean best.

One of the things that impressed me most was how the band followed the drummer.

Only the tightest groups do this. Something I see all the time in demos is that the other musicians follow the vocalist or guitarist. This puts a lag in the timing and really drags the sound down in quality.

It was so refreshing to see Fort Lean ace the timing like that!

Drummer Sam Utti leads the group on the rock beats while frontman Keenan Mitchell lays out the vocals and guitar.

There’s a quiet urgency to the way Mitchell delivers a song. As if he’s calling out into the dark, but feels that someone is listening.

Check out this self-titled EP from Fort Lean from just this year. It’s got the same vibe that had my friends and I dancing and asking “Who is this band?”

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For more Fort Lean check out their videos and Soundcloud page. You can order the Fort Lean EP at their official website.

Tune in to DJ Michele Myers Friday nights at 9pm on KEXP 90.3FM Seattle, Music historian and producer, Michele’s made over 200 radio stories for KEXP Documentaries. She’s also written scripts, lesson plans and features forThe SmithsonianExperience Music Projectthe University of Washington and NPR.

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