“People, you’ve got to be careful… know not what you do…”
This cautionary line, from Bottomless Pit’s “Dead Man’s Blues,” is one of several off “Hammer of the Gods” — the 2007 debut by the Chicagoan group, which co-headlines The Sunset Tavern in Ballard Saturday with locals Kinski — alluding to singer-guitarists Tim Midyett and Andy Cohen’s late friend and longtime Silkworm bandmate Michael Dahlquist. The drummer died in 2005, when a woman attempting suicide rammed her car into his.
“Hammer” and its 2010 follow-up “Blood Under the Bridge” “were about the experience of losing Michael,” Midyett says. “We didn’t talk to [journalists] for a long time because I didn’t want it to be an off-the-cuff thing. I wanted whatever we said to be very precise.”
Midyett and Cohen began Silkworm in 1987 as music-obsessed teenagers growing up in Missoula, Montana. They then relocated to Seattle, met Dahlquist, toured relentlessly throughout the ‘90s and ultimately settled in the Windy City, releasing four LPs on seminal indie Touch and Go and forging an ongoing partnership with engineer Steve Albini, of Big Black and Shellac fame.
Stylistically, Silkworm dealt in jagged guitar rock with post-punk inclinations recalling California’s Minutemen and weirdo pop sensibilities akin to England’s XTC. Its records — nine in total — didn’t move tons of units, but found a fiercely dedicated following. Filmmaker and fan Seth Pomeroy’s 2013 documentary “Couldn’t You Wait?” told the trio’s story.
Bottomless Pit formed mere months after Dahlquist’s death. “I’m actually shocked we started up again that quickly,” says Midyett, “but it happened. Andy and I had a few songs that were a product of everything we’d been through, but needed friends who understood… to help flesh them out.”
Eventually, the pair hooked up with a bassist, Brian Orchard, and a drummer, Chris Manfrin. Last year, they issued “Shade Perennial,” their third album together.
It’s still more melancholic and less explosive than any Silkworm record, but “Shade” finds Midyett and Cohen sounding looser and livelier than they have in years, evolving while keeping Dahlquist’s memory close at hand.
The title, Midyett explains, “is a gardening term for flowers that thrive in the shade… that are always growing. We’re always around, but the music we make isn’t overly cheery, so I thought it was appropriate.”
As for his and Cohen’s deliberate approach to songwriting, “we understand it’s personal and microscopically detailed in a way that isn’t for everyone. People like drama… they like art that makes mountains out of molehills… and we don’t do that.
“We’re content just to look at the molehill and break it down.”Bottomless Pit, Kinski, Bali Girls
9:30 p.m. Saturday at The Sunset Tavern, 5433 Ballard Ave. NW, Seattle; $12 (206-784-4880 or sunsettavern.com)