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Uncle Bonsai Bio

Bio:

“A folk-pop trio from Seattle, performs funny original songs whose exquisite musical detail and subtle needling wit attain a level of craft not often seen in pop” -- NY Times

The Seattle trio Uncle Bonsai performs original, contemporary folk/pop music. With their soaring and intricate 3-part vocal harmonies and biting humor, accompanied by only an acoustic guitar, Arni Adler, Patrice O'Neill, and Andrew Ratshin deliver poignantly unflinching portrayals of life, love, and a guy named Doug. The trio's influences range from the Beatles to Stephen Sondheim. Some say Zappa cross-bred with Peter, Paul and Mary. Loudon Wainwright III, the Roches. Three tightly tiered and adhered voices, acoustic guitar. That's it. Nearly naked folk-pop for everyone.

Uncle Bonsai's acoustic folk-pop songs are almost one-act plays or short stories, resisting strict pop, folk, or singer-songwriter categories. Consequently, in the '80s the trio paired with a wide range of artists --- Bonnie Raitt, Suzanne Vega, Tracy Chapman, They Might Be Giants, The Persuasions, The Bobs, and Robyn Hitchcock -- reflecting a diversity of categorization. In addition to their regular appearances at clubs and festivals, the group stretches the boundaries of "folk" music, appearing in theaters and concert halls throughout North America.

Now entering its 31st year, Uncle Bonsai continues to perform and release new material. In mid-2013 the group will release its first ever book, "The Monster in the Closet/Go To Sleep," two of their most popular songs presented as a "children's" book, with artwork by members Arni Adler and Patrice O'Neill, which will also include a recording of the songs. Their most recent audio release, "The Grim Parade", is a collection of live and studio performances of songs focused on the passing of time, the passing of genes, and the passing of pets -- the truth of everything seemingly buried somewhere under the family tree.

History:

"The group has achieved an almost cult status...their music ranges from irreverent to ironic, from satirical to sad. And despite the folk tag, their music defies categorization as it incorporates elements of jazz, pop, broadway, reggae, and classical." - Associated Press

Uncle Bonsai formed in 1981, when three recent graduates of a tiny college in Vermont migrated to Seattle and found each other in the want ads. Though strangers on the campus of only 600 students, the three quickly came together when one of them put out a call for a folk group to sing sea shanties.

Instead, Andrew, the group's guitarist and primary songwriter began writing new songs for the trio, creating a sound that soon became the trio's trademark: high soaring and intricate harmonies, (often biting) humor, and poignant, unflinching portrayals of life, love, and an everyman named "Doug."

The first "show" --  busking outside the gates of the Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle – amassed seven dollars apiece, enough to cross the gates onto the grounds in 1981. A year later, Bonsai opened for Firesign Theater, the first of several Bumbershoot and other festival appearances across North America.

When Seattle's KEZX radio played Bonsai's first recording, "Suzy," sold-out houses in the Pacific Northwest followed. Over the next eight years, Uncle Bonsai motor-homed its way around the national folk circuit for club, theater and festival engagements, frequently playing at New York's The Bottom Line, DC's The Birchmere and San Francisco's The Great American Music Hall, among others. The trio received accolades from national press and released three critically acclaimed recordings, A Lonely Grain of Corn ('84), Boys Want Sex in the Morning ('86), and Myn Ynd Wymyn ('88).

Uncle Bonsai's acoustic folk-pop songs are almost one-act plays or short stories, resisting strict pop, folk, or singer-songwriter categories. Consequently, in the '80s the trio paired with a wide range of artists --- Bonnie Raitt, Suzanne Vega, Loudon Wainwright III, Tracy Chapman, They Might Be Giants, The Persuasions, The Bobs, and Robyn Hitchcock -- reflecting a diversity of categorization. In addition to their regular appearances at clubs and festivals throughout North America, the group stretched the boundaries of "folk" music, appearing in a number of theaters, including a run with the improv group None of the Above, for shows at Seattle's A Contemporary Theater.

In 1989, Bonsai the group decided to take a break, but not before performing one final show, a benefit concert before an audience of 8,000 at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.

Eight years later, the trio reunited for one night only, to perform and record the "Doug" release and, following up on the success of that evening, which sold out within hours of being announced, started performing bi-annually, writing new songs and winning over new fans. Just a year later, the group recorded a series of live concerts that became their eighth release, "Apology." Performances throughout the Pacific NW region, and a number of concerts in favorite national clubs, convinced the group to start touring again.

In 2007, Patrice O'Neill joined original members Arni Adler and Andrew Ratshin, and three years later, Uncle Bonsai released The Grim Parade (2010), a collection of live and studio performances of songs focused on the passing of time, the passing of genes, and the passing of pets -- the truth of everything seemingly buried somewhere under the family tree.

 

THE NEW BOOK!

BOOKS

THE NEW FORUMS!

FORUMS

THE NEW CALENDAR!

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THE NEW BLOG?

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THE STREET TEAM!

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AND SOCIAL MEDIA?

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