LA --> Seattle --> Portland. See you there!
This took me forever to post, but as promised, my full review of City Arts Fest.
The 4-day music and art extravaganza City Arts Music Festival shows that Seattle offers more than grunge these days. After a long, hot, Indian Summer, October in Seattle felt particularly crisp. The beginning of the month saw a continuance of the warm, sunny weather, which then moved into an autumnal chill usually reserved for the East Coast. It’s important to set this mood of the death of summer to the fresh fall air to accurately describe the good spirits going into the third annual City Arts Festival presented by Heineken.
Just a week before Halloween’s mad dash for candy, the city opened its doors to the musical intrigues of David Byrne and St. Vincent, Mos Def, and local heroes such as Jonathan Russell of The Head and the Heart. Venues were scattered throughout the city accessible both by a clean public transit system or a hop in a cab. Interlaced with the musical festivities were art walks and literary pub crawls. In a lot of respects, City Arts Fest, now in its 3rd year, is like a mini SXSW. This is particularly true in parts of town like Capitol Hill, which hosts a vibrant nightlife scene with bars and venues all stretching up the Pike/Pine Triangle. Given the enthusiasm and top notch musical and artistic talent brought in, City Arts Fest has the potential to be a festival stop for out-of-towners as well as the locals. But no doubt that the locals wouldn’t mind keeping this vibrant festival to themselves.
On Wednesday, October 17, crowds lined the streets to see the sold out David Byrne and St. Vincent show, where they showed off their new album, Love This Giant. In Capitol Hill, the air was chill and the skies were splotched with clouds that hadn’t yet started the rain season (which is basically the entire year). It felt as though it were Halloween for adults – walk down to the local pub, have some drinks and some food, catch an amazing band and then stumble on to the next place. I ended up at Neumos Crystal Ball Reading Room, which is in a building complex that also houses Moe Bar and Barboza – all three places hosting bands. Pike Street Fish Fry – battered, delectable goodness – is also part of the building and helpfully supplied the drunken masses their greasy bar food. Inside, there wasn’t a corner to squeeze into as every available space was filled. After barely entering the large room, horns sounded and the lights dimmed as Brother Ali came exploding onto the stage spewing some seriously fast rhymes (I literally have no idea how this man breathes) and the crowd went absolutely insane. The first half of his set was dedicated to new songs from his album, Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, which can only be described as sort of a ghetto Americana with Brother Ali himself looking like some sort of Amish biker. It was political and absolutely brilliant – both his lyrical abilities and his command of the crowd. Some of the songs such as “Stop the Press,” he mentioned casually to the crowd that he wrote on Capitol Hill itself and peppered his stage presence with calls to the 206 area code. His best song of the evening, “Work Everyday,” was poignant for the crowd of largely 20somethings in that it dealt with the upcoming election, an inability to pay bills, and the soul crushing weight of student loan debt. The talented rap artist was perfectly suited to the venue.
The next evening was marked by the first rain of the season and was appropriately more mellow with performances by A Fine Frenzy, Joshua Radin, and an Elliott Smith tribute show. The crowds were a lot lighter, not many wanted to brave the rain. The performances I attended Thursday were standard fare indie rock with whimsical vocals and swaying crowds. Friday was much more exciting. I started the evening in the basement of the Neumos complex at a speakeasy style bar called Barboza. I was in attendance to catch local Seattle band Howlin’ Rain. However, the times were off and I caught the last thirty minutes of the Fox and the Law set, another Seattle band and had no idea I wasn’t listening to the band I had come for. Fox and the Law weren’t bad but it was hard to enjoy their set as the instruments drowned out their vocals, making the sound incohesive. When Howlin’ Rain did finally show up, I was treated to a soulful set that had bits of ’80s wailing going on. Howlin’ Rain rocks like The Black Keys and Alabama Shakes met up in 1983 and had a metal jam session. This is definitely a band to look out for and I hope to see them more on the festival circuit this year.
I culminated the evening across town at the Showbox Sodo, a massive factory-esque building attached to a bar and grill. The main event was Ghostland Observatory, a band that you can never see without having an amazing time. The fog machine was on full power making it kind of hard to breathe as the recycled air was musty. Ominous red strobe lights lazered out into the crowd and drummer/synth player Thomas Turner came out in his Elvis/Dracula cape as the crowd went crazy. Singer Aaron Behrens exploded onto the stage in a cowboy hat and southwestern hipster attire (minus his usual long braided ponytail) and started things off with a bouncy rendition of “Glitter,” off their album Codename: Rondo. Even in the spacious concrete and brick building the bass vibrated into your throat as the crowd absolutely lost it. Behrens is one of the most exciting performers in indie/electro. He has intense energy – he can run around, dance, kick and punch the air and then start spinning for extended periods all while maintaining a certain Freddie Mercury wail to his voice. Their set continued almost two hours and they played all their big hits including “Sad Sad City,” “Heavy Heart,” and “Robotique Majestique.” They definitely won the festival for most energetic, getting listeners on the dance floor.
Saturday, was the fourth and final day of City Arts Festival. It was raining again but more people seemed to be out. I hedged my bets on getting into The Moore Theater Downtown so that I could see Devotchka playing with Seattle Rock Orchestra. Out of all the venues I’d been to over the past four days, this was the only one that was seated – in fact, I felt like I was out on Broadway for a night at the theater. The stage was small and every inch was covered by seats, music stands and carrying cases. There were at least 50 people on this small theater stage and that was before Devotchka even came out. As a recent transplant to Seattle, I had heard of Seattle Rock Orchestra but had not yet been to one of their performances. The most striking thing about these musicians (although this might be obvious due to their name) is how young they are. You usually don’t see younger adults as the majority in an orchestra. That alone was inspiring. The lights dimmed and Devotchka came out – separated from the orchestra by a thin plastic partition. As all of the musicians onstage collectively began playing their instruments it was like immediately being transported to a film scoring session. The beauty of a full body of musicians playing as one is almost ethereal and otherworldly. Having only heard Devotchka records and film work it was amazing to see them live in that each member played several instruments – Jeanie Schroder I must mention because the girl was clicking her high heels to the beat while carrying around a giant sousaphone (tuba on steroids). Unlike a night out listening to classical music, Devotchka’s body of work spans everything from gypsy, folk, indie rock to mariachi and cabaret. As one of the closing bands of the festival, they were hands down my favorite performance because of their sheer artisanship as musicians. Seattle Rock Orchestra definitely has my patronage now as well.
Seattle’s City Arts Festival is not only a fun celebration of music and art in a city immersed in both, but it is a serious contender to become a premier destination on the festival circuit. There are so many fun events and the cost… $55 dollars gets you a wristband into all the music shows. An art band is separate. If Coachella is getting old and making you broke, why not check out Seattle? See you all there next year!
I have not been writing at all the last few weeks, which I'm sure those who follow are surprised about since I can never seem to shut up. Suffice it to say I've been sick and miserable with no sign of improvement, so I'm lazy. OK?
Before I was bedridden (I'm not really bedridden I just cant seem to handle being outside for more than an hour at a time), the music magazine I've been writing for since I graduated college six years ago got me a press pass to the Seattle City Arts Music Festival. I was really excited because I haven't been to Coachella in two years because I'm mad at them, couldn't go to Sasquatch this year because I had to be a good friend and go to a bachelorette party in NYC (not complaining), and worst of all! British Airways gave me a free ticket to England for some random Facebook contest and I was all set to go to Bestival on the Isle of Wight and the evil corporation that they are promptly blacked out basically the entire calendar so I didn't get to go at all. THE PAIN!
But I digress. Seattle City Arts Music Festival! I moved to Seattle in May and I have to tell you Seattle, I am impressed. Your rain situation is not so bad as I was told and you kick San Francisco's ass (last city I lived in which I don't like to talk about because I hated it) in the bands you bring in as well as your bars and nightlife. Also, you're not freezing in the summer which was another big no-no for SF. Even though I'm sick, I knew I had to suck it up and take in as much of the festival as possible. Last night I went to Neumos Crystal Ball Reading Room and caught Brother Ali. I'm not really a rap person but dammit that guy was awesome. His songs actually had a point (like politics!) besides dropping dubs on bitches and other such rap nonsense. Also, I don't know how he breathed because he was just spewing the words out and took no breaks. Because he gave no fucks. And the crowd loved him for it. For my part I stood up against a wall in the corner with easy access to the exit/bathrooms and had sour lozenges in my pocket to dispel the nausea. I also was smart and brought one of those plastic fruit bags from the grocery store in case of a surprise puke attack, but thankfully I didn't need it.
I'm writing a review on the festival at the end of the week so I'll post more details then. Tonight I'm hitting up A Fine Frenzy, Joshua Radin and possibly the Elliott Smith Tribute Show as well as EOTO. The last two are largely dependent on how sick I am, although so far today I seem better. Maybe I'll see you there? I'll be the one standing in the corner with a plastic bag sucking on lollipops.
I just found out that I will be vending my delicious little scents at Etsy Rain's Holiday Handmade Show on Black Friday at the Seattle Center. Yup. My first craft fair. And it's on Black Friday. Go big or go home, y'all. I'm still waiting to hear about a second show I applied to which, as fate would have it, is only two weeks later. I'm going to be a busy little perfume bee the next three months which is actually good because it will distract me from the depression everyone has been telling me I'll experience due to my first winter in Seattle. It's just win win.
If you're in Seattle and want to shop handmade this holiday season, maybe check out Etsy Rain's show. We can talk and become best friends, you read my blog after all.
I went to Pike Place Market this morning, after a lovely breakfast of coffee and doughnuts at Top Pot, to get rose petals so I can make fresh rose water. I've been experimenting with different floral waters, so far Chamomile being my favorite, and thought I'd give the old reliable rose a try. There were a billion nerds there for PAX.
I complain here often about my lack of photography skills and lack of an iPhone with Instagram capabilities to mask said deficiencies with cute filters that make everything look like vintage polaroids from 1978. Well, yesterday I found a way to ninja Instagram onto my three year old Android phone that refuses to allow me into the app marketplace. How did you do this? Ask all the other people who use dinosaur technology. I went to Google Play (I have no idea what that is) and it asked me if I would like it if they downloaded Instagram to my phone. Why yes Google, I would. I'm ok with invasion of my privacy by a corporation like Google when its apparent that they take the time to listen to my internet rants and then psychically fix them.
What does this mean for you? You're probably asking. It means you can expect more photographs from me in which you can actually see the details of the picture. This is awesome news if you like my tutorials. Not so awesome if you don't like photographs of cats. Because I'm home all day and they do cute things. I take pictures. Deal with it. Here's what I've been up to in the last 24 hours since Instagram set me free:
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And yes, all of these photos were taken within a 5 block radius of my apartment. I live in a bomb ass neighborhood, yo.
Warning: I'm going to use the word "badass" like 50 times because there is no other word to describe the awesome that is Doc Maynard. I'm supposed to do a tutorial today, but, well, I'm just so excited to introduce my men's colognes that I couldn't wait to share a little history lesson behind the inspiration for my first cologne.
I first heard about Doc Maynard when I read Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. Seriously, if you like steampunk, alternative history, zombies and badass female heroines, you need to get on that stat. At that point, I didn't live in Seattle, I was still in either Los Angeles or San Francisco I don't even remember, so frankly nothing outside of that had entered my mind and I just thought he was some made up character. NOT SO!
After I moved here, I got really interested in local history because there's a ton of it and, well, BONESHAKER!! I went on the Underground Walking Tour (yes! you can go underground to old Seattle that burned down) and that was basically a love song to Doc Maynard. So who was this mysterious man with the name straight out of Tombstone or something?
Doc Maynard was a frontier doctor and friend to the Native Americans, famous for becoming one of the founding fathers of Seattle. After losing his fortune in Cleveland, he bade farewell to his family promising to send for them as he made his way to California seeking a new life. He totally didn't send for them though because he found out his wife cheated on him... but he didn't want to totally screw her over so he stayed with her for a time (nice guy!). On the trail to Oregon he used his medical knowledge to help fight cholera which proved fortuitous as he met the love of his life, the widow of the wagon train leader, Catherine Broshears. He accompanied her to Puget Sound where he got involved in logging and swindled San Francisco for 10 times what he paid amassing a small fortune. But it was city building that interested Doc Maynard saying that he wasn't interested in wealth, just building the greatest city on earth. He opened a store, became Justice of the Peace, befriended local Native Americans, helped start brothels (he felt vice was necessary on the frontier) and even petitioned for a separate Washington Territory. It was at his urging that Seattle was named for Chief Seattle, leader of the local tribe and his bestie. At that time, Seattle was an upstart little village that made its fortune first with logging and then ultimately being the last stop for supplies on the Alaska Gold Rush Trail. Jesus, this dude was awesome, I need to visit his grave. Writing this I was getting jealous of such cool state history but then I remembered I'm from New York.
Aaaannnyway, I make my fragrances with historical and literary figures in mind and when I decided that I wanted to venture into colognes... Doc Maynard was the first person I thought of (actually second behind King Henry VIII but I haven't perfected that yet). This cologne is a tribute to Seattle's original badass and brings to mind sasparilla and old saloons. The sassafras lends a root beer scent while the underlying juniper berry (used to flavor gin) smells fresh and clean. Layers of moss, sandalwood and tobacco round out this cologne.
I LOVE HISTORY!!