Thursday, June 19, 2008

Federation X: Western American Loud Heavy Power Trio Nonpareil
The roots of Federation X have much to do with a high school age fixation with, and exposure to one of the best bands to emerge from the U.S. scene ever, Karp. The members of Karp were probably about four years older than the average member of Federation X, two of who grew up in suburban Olympia and one of whom was from Yakima,
Washington. Karp started up in 1990, and wrapped things up in 1998. Federation X started practicing and playing together right around 1998/1999.

Karp combined all things heavy, loud and thuggish, and not only stripped away the bullshit machismo that comes with so much heavy music but actively, comfortably participated in a punk scene that featured much more diversity than the average punk scene. Karp grew up in Tumwater, Washington, a former brewery town that borders Olympia, Washington's capitol. Tumwater is to Olympia as New Jersey is to New York, the often unwelcome neighbor whose resident jocks ensured that everybody who's different got the beating that was coming to them. As result, Karp (whose name started as an acronym for "Kill All Redneck Pricks") made music that was simultaneously louder than shit, heavy as a storm cloud, and focused on small town stupidity, state fairs and that sort of thing.

Ben Wildenhaus and Beau Boyd (Fed X guitarist and drummer) began their musical careers in the Teamsters with my brother Ian, and a guy named Ken Baird who played trumpet. The Teamsters came up in a time when Olympia was experiencing an awesome musical renaissance, with groups like Bikini Kill, Unwound, the Long Hind Legs, The Rickets, the Mukilteo Fairies, Kicking Giant, godheadSilo, Fitz of Depression and, especially, Karp playing very regular shows at the Capitol Theater backstage. Karp, of all the above, were the Teamsters' favorites, and they collectively attended just about every show that Karp played in or around Olympia between 1994 and 1996. The Karp guys reciprocated by being cool to the younger dudes, and even offered a touring spot down the West Coast one summer.

After high school, Ben and Beau moved up to Bellingham for college, and met and started to hang out with Bill Badgley, who'd had a similar fixation with Karp, and who'd spent several summer weeks camping out in our family's basement during fests like Yo Yo A Go Go. Somewhere around there, in 1998 Ben, Beau and Bill started practicing, and soon thereafter, Federation X was born. Their first recorded output was a cassette. A self-released/self-titled LP soon followed. I remember hearing the LP for the first time when my friend Frank Milliron was out in Montana for a visit. It was flooringly heavy, but also melodic in the same way Mudhoney were
, but more soulful than smarmy. I was blown away.

Fed X soon began to tour regularly, often with co-Whatcom grungers, the Narrows and North Carolina friends the Cherry Valence. They recorded with Tim Green, Steve Albini, and then back at home in Bellingham with Ryan from 76 Charger. Legendary Bellingham garage label Estrus agreed to release their records. Each release got more focused and incredible. They went to Europe a couple times, built strong a following across the country, and then two members moved from Bellingham to pursue other things. They never officially broke up, but their days of actively touring have unfortunately passed.

Total Fest VII (August 14-16, 2008) marks the sole 2008 appearance of Federation X, and it wouldn't have been possible without the generous help of Missoula's best radio station, KBGA 89.9 FM.