Archive for August, 2018

After a jam-packed couple of days, Sunday, August 12 offered a bit of respite. I slept in (till 7…hey, I’m old) and ventured off to get some breakfast. There are a couple of ballfields near where I stayed in Queen Anne, so I went over there to play guitar for a while.

Then I headed down to the waterfront to embark on a seaplane ride! I’d checked a bunch of other stuff off the life list: sea kayaking, white water rafting, bi-plane ride, hot air ballooning, skydiving, so I had to finish it off. As there are a ton of seaplanes coming and going from Lake Union, it made sense to try it here.

I scheduled an 11 o’clock flight with Kenmore Air, a company that also makes commercial flights to the islands and Canada. I headed down a boardwalk toward the plane. As I was first in line, the pilot asked me if I was alone. I said I was. “Ok, you ride up with me then.” My inner 12 year-old bristled with excitement. Riding in the cockpit with the pilot! So cool!

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(Our pilot just prior to take off.)

And it only got cooler from there. The pilot told me not to touch the window or the pedals in front of me and we began to taxi on Lake Union. It seems like you have to dodge boats and stuff to take off, but not really. The flight was so smooth, as was the landing. And to see Seattle close from the air! It doesn’t get much better than that. If you haven’t done this, please add it to your own list.

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After the plane ride, I decided to walk from the waterfront back to Queen Anne. It’s only about a mile or so, but it’s pretty much straight up hill. That’s ok, workout was good…made me earn my burger and beer at the Paragon on Queen Anne Ave. Excellent.

After playing some more guitar, I Ubered it over to the Conor Byrne Pub in Ballard for my Seattle open mic debut. A couple of friends stopped by which meant I couldn’t chicken out…although I thought about it. This open mic was quite different from ones I’ve experienced back home. I arrived about 6:30, with sign-ups starting at 7:30. A number of players started trickling in as it got closer to sign-up time. I had no idea how it worked so I asked a few folks sitting up front. They were super nice, telling me to talk to the host who would get me on earlier since I was a first-timer. The host, I forgot his name–sorry, was also quite gracious and handed me a small tile with a number on it. They call your number and then you sign up for a two-song slot. I went on at 8:20.

When the time came, I made my way to the stage with my baby Martin, my travel guitar. As I sat down to play, my hands were literally shaking as one of my friends in the audience was Love Battery guitarist Kevin Whitworth.

Played two songs: Led Zeppelin’s Going to California and Mad Season’s River of Deceit. I would say they were average performances but the crowd reaction was positive. I even got a “Yeah!” which is a good thing. (I’ve heard if you receive any combination of 17 “Yeahs!” and “Woos!” you get a Nick Foles bobblehead.)

Afterward, Kevin said he enjoyed my rendition of Going to California quite a bit, even more than Zeppelin’s version and suggested I record it. I was stunned, humbled and a little embarrassed. I don’t take compliments very well (I don’t take criticism very well, either.) I mean Kevin is one of my guitar heroes and for him to think I didn’t suck, well that meant a lot.

I took in several of the other musicians (everyone was very good), enjoyed a beer, and felt an occasional breeze coming in from the propped open door. It was like 60 degrees out. Absolutely delightful.

My flight would leave the next day, but I’d depart Seattle with a big smile on my face. I’d have to say this has been the best trip there ever.

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So I woke up in Queen Anne on Saturday, August 11, excited for the day ahead. The owner of the Airbnb unit recommended a nearby bakery for breakfast sandwiches and pastries. So I ventured over there only to find a) they didn’t have any breakfast sandwiches; b) the pastries sucked; c) the coffee sucked; and d) it was ridiculously overpriced. After that I made a mental note to get future breakfasts from Safeway, which was a couple blocks away from the bakery. (Did that on Sunday…got two fantastic donuts, a coffee from the in-store Starbucks…which was also very good…the total was 5 bucks, versus 13 from the rip-off bakery.) But I’m pretty sure you didn’t come here to read about my choice of breakfast places.

Afterward, I Ubered over to Capitol Hill to meet the Thrown Ups’ Leighton Beezer for breakfast (yes, a second breakfast…fuck it, I love breakfast) at the Coastal Kitchen. Leighton, as always, was brilliant and entertaining. I can’t remember exactly what we talked about. Well, music, but I can’t remember specifics. Oh yeah, we disagreed on the gutsiest call Eagles coach Doug Pederson made in the Super Bowl. He went Philly Special…fourth and 1 at the goal line near the end of the first half. I would rank that second. I think the ballsiest call came later when New England briefly took the lead. The Eagles had a fourth and 1 at the Patriot 40. The coach’s manual tells you to punt, force the quarterback to start at his own 10 and let your defense do it’s job. But Pederson had a feel for the game. He knew his defense wasn’t stopping Tom Brady in the second half whether he started from the 10 or the 40. So he went for it with Nick Foles tossing a pass to Zach Ertz to extend the drive. The Eagles ended up scoring a touchdown on that drive, so yeah I’m going with that one.

So far we’ve talked about breakfast and football, so you’re probably wondering, “Isn’t this a music blog?”

Yeah, it is. And Saturday was the biggest day of the Sub Pop 30th Anniversary weekend with a day-long outside party planned in West Seattle featuring a ton of bands. In particular I wanted to see the Fastbacks and Mudhoney (shocking, I know.)

The party would take place along Alki Beach in West Seattle. If you are familiar with the geography of the region, you’d realize you have to cross Puget Sound to get to West Seattle from Seattle. You can drive over a bridge or take a bus, but the issue was the crowds. The streets of West Seattle would be shut down and about 25,000 people would show up. So both Sub Pop and King County suggested taking the Water Taxi over, which I did.

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(Folks queuing up for the Water Taxi to West Seattle at Seattle’s Pier 52)

That was pretty cool…about a 15 minute crossing to West Seattle. After we disembarked, there were free shuttles which took you to the festival, which was massive. Four stages: Loser, Harsh Realm, Flippity-Flop, and Punky (kind of disappointed there was no Lamestain stage.) I do have to tip my cap to Sub Pop. They did this thing right. Free admission, plenty of places to grab something to eat. You could get drinks, too–places were of course packed–but drinks were attainable, and there were plenty of porta-potties.

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(View of Seattle from the Water Taxi)

I was supposed to meet my writer friend Dave O’Leary at the Cactus, which as it turns out, was at the other end of the festival. It’s just that I kept running into people I knew…James Burdyshaw of Cat Butt, Daniel House of Skin Yard, Chad Channing of Nirvana and his girlfriend Justine Jeanotte, formerly of Before Cars and Paundy. As a result, I was quite late meeting Dave, which prompted this FB message exchange:

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Since I’m apparently Mister Popularity in Seattle (not really, but I keep telling myself that), we eventually made our way down to Dave at the Cactus to have a few drinks before the Fastbacks were to take the stage around 5. I’m chatting with Dave, Chad, Justine and some others and we found ourselves making small talk with strangers near the bar…”Where are you from?” kind of thing. One lady, who was from Ohio, turned to Chad and said, “And where are you from?” I wanted to grab her and say, “Where do you think? He’s from here! He was in Nirvana for crying out loud!” But Chad being Chad, he was totally gracious about it.

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(Kayaks on West Seattle’s Alki Beach, viewing Seattle’s waterfront)

Here’s the thing, though, that I discovered about the Sub Pop event. It seemed that a lot of people there were casual fans. I saw a lot of folks sporting Pearl Jam t-shirts, since PJ had just played two shows at Safeco Field.  I noticed that when we went over to check out the Fastbacks. There were so many people I felt like I was at a stadium show. I remember seeing them in West Seattle for their reunion gig in 2011 and I think I stood about 20 feet from the band. So that kind of sucked. I mean, it was fun and all, but I got the feeling that many of the fans were there to just take everything in as in, “Hey we came to see Pearl Jam. There’s this music festival over the weekend. Let’s take the kids over and make a day of it.”

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(Somewhere back there are the Fastbacks)

Mudhoney was also packed, but I made my way forward to listen to a few songs and get some decent pictures. I expected the crowd to go nuts during “Touch Me I’m Sick,” and some of them did, but a lot were looking at their phones. Seriously, folks? It doesn’t get much better than Mudhoney playing Touch Me I’m Sick live.

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(Fucking Mudhoney!)

I did get some compliments on my “Oh Lordy I hope there are tapes” t-shirt…one coming from a Sub Pop employee. So that was a hit.

After that show and some more drinks, we headed over to West Five, a bar where Matt Lukin (ex-Mudhoney) hangs out and Bruce Pavitt (ex-Sub Pop) was supposed to DJ. We decided to walk, which was quite the adventure and significantly longer than we had planned…maybe 2 1/2 miles, most of it uphill.

Had some dinner, said a brief hello to Matt and then headed out before we could chat with Bruce. There were more shows to be had…the un-official after party at the Parliament Tavern, also in West Seattle, featuring Swallow supported by the Derelicts and Blood Circus. This was another two mile trip. The walk itself became amusing. I think sometimes one has to appreciate the journey. See below for what I’m talking about.

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When we finally arrived at the Parliament, Blood Circus was just setting up. Ok, most of you know I’m a fan of this kind of music, but I couldn’t take Blood Circus. Perhaps it was the sheer exhaustion setting in. I don’t know. But it seemed like every song wasn’t actually a song, but rather a mediocre riff played at high volume repeated ad infinitum with a solo maybe thrown in for good measure. I couldn’t take much of it and we ended up bailing mid-way through the set. I bumped into Jack Endino on the way out. He said, “You can’t be leaving,” to which I responded, “We have to go.”

Despite some of the travails, the day was a blast overall. Sunday would turn out to be considerably quieter, but just as much fun.

 

 

So it was time. I almost didn’t make this trip, but something told me it had to happen. So off I ventured to Seattle for my annual musical pilgrimage. For those so interested, I decided not to rent a car on this trip. By using a combination of the Light Rail, Water Taxi, and Uber, I saved hundreds of dollars as well as the aggravation of finding parking in Seattle. (Note, if you’re considering Seattle Public Transit, invest in an ORCA card. It’s worth it.)

I got in on Friday, August 10, around noon, took the Light Rail/Uber combination to meet up with the one and only Jim Tillman, who has played bass for the legendary U-Men and Love Battery. Coincidentally, Love Battery’s classic line-up reunited for a show several days prior and played their 1992 album Dayglo in its entirety. Sorry I had to miss that one, but I had to attend my father in-law’s 85th…and I’m glad I did.

I met Jim at Uneedaburger in Fremont, a casual place that serves…well, duh. I had a Philly burger, fries, a beer, and a shake. Yeah, that’s a weird combo, but this is my vacation, not yours.

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(Love Battery, Slim’s Last Chance, August 4, 2018. From left: guitarist Ron Rudzitis, Jim on bass, drummer Jason Finn, and guitarist Kevin Whitworth. Photo by Anna Mehau Parkhurst.)

(At Uneedaburger with Jim and his friend Marie.)

After saying good-bye to Jim, I headed back to an apartment I rented in Upper Queen Anne through Airbnb. Although it was a little out of the way, I enjoyed staying there. Nice, quiet, but within walking distance to Queen Anne Avenue, which has shops, restaurants, and Safeway (more on that later.)

Next on the agenda was beers with my writer friend Dave O’Leary. And where do we meet up? Well, the George & Dragon Pub in Fremont. Of course. The G&D is a British owned establishment that is Dave’s second home. It’s a casual place to hang, have a few beers, and chat with friends.

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It was a beautiful evening, and I hung out with Dave, his wife Allison, and a few friends. I found myself chatting for a long time with Dave’s buddy Bruce about…music. Yeah, surprise, surprise.

I heard Pearl Jam was playing at Safeco field that evening. I didn’t have a ticket, but it’s not my thing, anyway. I like them, but I’ve become spoiled in recent years. I like having a band play right in front of me and not have to deal with enormous stadium crowds.

So I walked about a mile to the Elk’s Lodge where The Tom Price Desert Classic would be headlining, supported by the Young Pioneers and Nunes. I unfortunately missed most of Nunes set, but I did get to say hello to Chris Pugh and Scott Vanderpool of the Young Pioneers. If you don’t know who they are, they came from the Olympia scene of the early to mid-’80s which birthed K Records and Beat Happening. Chris and Scott moved to Seattle after college and formed Swallow (who played Saturday) and Chemistry Set, respectively.

I said hello to Tom Price (also in the U-Men) and Daniel House of Skin Yard. In the back, they were cooking up dogs and burgers and coupled with a beer and good music, what else is there?

I had never experienced the Pioneers before and I enjoyed them thoroughly. They kind of had a punk rock meets British post-punk vibe about them.

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(The Young Pioneers. Note the little girl entering on her left holding her ears. They were kinda loud. Don’t parents provide their kids ear plugs anymore?)

Tom’s band went on next, with him announcing: “We’re the Desert Classic.” I’d seen his band a few times before and they never fail to shred.

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(Ladies and Gentlemen: The Tom Price Desert Classic. Not pictured, grooving along to the TPDC, is Matt Wright, who was in Gas Huffer with Tom.)

Exhausted after a cross-country flight and long day, I Ubered back to Queen Anne and headed to bed. The next day would be a long one, starting off with breakfast with the incomparable Leighton Beezer of the Thrown Ups and then heading over to West Seattle for the Sub Pop 30 Festival.