SIFF 2011 Day 09: Listen Up

One of the highlights of this festival for me was seeing Sound of Noise, a Swedish film about music appreciation, if you will. Written around a group of renegade musicians, it is a presentation of a work for “one city and six drummers” in four movements. The musicians’ comic foil is a tone-deaf policeman from a family of accomplished musicians. There was very little in the way of plot, but who cares when you can watch the masterpiece unfold in Malmö? Instruments were front-end loaders, jack hammers, electrical cables, respirators, and even a human body. For someone like me who responds to percussion, it is a sonic delight. Hopefully Sound of Noise will see at least a limited run in theatres outside the festival circuit. If not, look out for it on Netflix.

My Day With DeVotchKa

Saturday May 3rd was my day with DeVotchKa. It started early, for a Saturday, at The Triple Door. I took DJ Gort as my plus-one for a KEXP Club Concert. I’ve been to several of these events over the last few years, and they do not disappoint. The Triple Door is made for music. The seating is dinner theatre style – a lot of half-moon booths with tables facing the stage. The walls are wood and the acoustics are heavenly. It sounds so good in there, I was a tiny bit afraid I’d be disappointed later that night. They played a few from the new album and a few “oldies”. Lead singer Nick Urata wasn’t very talkative, which is a shame. It’s such an intimate setting, it begs for some witty repartee. Gort managed to fall asleep, the sounds were so soothing. You can listen to the performance through the KEXP website (May 3, 4:06 PM).

After the performance, we caught a matinee showing of the new Pacino film “88 Minutes” where Gort fell asleep again. I don’t blame him, though. The movie was horrid. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it really was not good. What made it worse was that it was set in Seattle. Some scenes were actually filmed here, and most were not. No rhyme or reason to that, either. I almost feel like they filmed as many days as they could in Seattle, then when their permit ran out, they headed north to Vancouver. It seemed sloppy, and the script was dumb dumb dumb. (IMDb says it was all filmed in Vancouver.)

Went back home for a nap, then headed down to the Showbox Sodo. This was my first time in the venue for a concert. I had been twice before for AIS student fashion shows. I got there after doors opened, but still managed to get a nice spot next to the stage. The opening act was singer Basia Bulat, a sweet looking blondie from Canada accompanied by a violist, a cellist, and a ukulele player. Ms. Bulat kicked some improbable butt on a zither (aka autoharp) while singing her own songs. She also played acoustic guitar on about half of the songs. Her sound was a little folk, a little country. Not exactly my cup of tea, but I was impressed enough to buy her cd for my sister today.

Bulat and band left the stage, then after what seemed like forever, an acrobat leapt across the stage tossing silk flowers into the audience. Upon her exit came DeVotchKa and they played. They had pretty much the identical setup as they did at the Triple Door. Here they had an electronic keyboard instead of a piano. Their roadies had notebooks telling them where every instrument, every microphone, every music stand and chair should be. One guy in particular seemed to be in charge and he was meticulous. I hope he’s getting paid well.

I had a very good position at stage left where I could watch the string section pretty much up close. I am fairly sure I developed a crush on Tom Hagerman that night. The intensity and apparent ease he displays on the violin is breathtaking. A second violinist plus Bulat’s violist and cellist made up the quartet. I’m a sucker for strings, so I was quite captivated. DeVotchKa started out with older songs from previous albums. Energetic and flawless, if I were a different person, I would have been dancing along. It was quite a delight to see Jeanie Schroder doing knee bends in time with the music with that shiny sousaphone wrapped around her. They got some new songs in as well in the hour they were on stage. They exited but the show was not over.

AlexandrA, an aerialist, came out onto the floor not more than 10 feet from where I stood. Her cloth (for lack of the correct term) had been let loose from the scaffolding and she climbed on. Twisting and turning, wrapping and flipping, she performed her tricks for us as the band snuck back to play for her. When she was done, the band played a few more songs. This was followed by an encore consisting of a 10 or 15 minute jam of “Such a Lovely Thing”.

By the end, I was hot and I was exhausted. But I was very satisfied.

Eels at the Showbox

Friday night I had the pleasure of seeing Eels perform at the Showbox (at the Market – Cat Power was down at SoDo). A great night overall.

I coerced a coworker/friend to pre-funk with me at the Green Room while I waited for the show to start. They no longer have fried okra on their menu, but their mac-n-cheese is pretty good. I waited until the line had subsided to go in, which turned out to be good timing. I had just enough time to buy a hoodie (with the little bird on it), buy another drink, and find a good vantage point before they turned down the lights.

There was no opening act. Instead, they projected a BBC Scotland documentary that Mark Oliver Everett made about his late father, physicist Hugh Everett III. Fascinating portrait. And even though physics was never my strong point, all the science talk made me giddy.

After the film ended, Mr E (Mark) came onto the stage with his band, “the Chet”. I assume this to be Chet Lyster, who is listed on Eels Wikipedia page as one of the former members. The Chet played accompaniment on most songs, and on quite a variety of instruments. Lap steel, theramin, drums, guitar are the ones that come to mind. There might have been one or two others. E played guitar mostly, switching between two guitars for each song. When he wasn’t playing guitar, he played piano. And at one point, he did a cool little switcheroo with Chet on the drums, where he stepped in – literally – and took over without missing a beat.

They played for probably and hour and a half, it seemed, including two “encores”. A very fine performance. Afterward, I didn’t have bus fare, so I walked home in the near perfect weather. A pretty good ending to a wonderful night.

My X-perience (yuk, yuk)

I went to see X perform at the Showbox last night. I figured since I paid $40 for it, I should go ahead.

I got there just before doors opened at 7. I took up a seat in The Green Room with my vodka tonic and watched everyone go in. Last night was the all-ages show, so there was quite a variety of people attending. Little junior high kids with their parents, high schoolers, college kids, middle-aged peeps and the elderly. Who doesn’t like X?

The openers were the Skybombers and Mark Pickerel‘s band, and I assumed they would be playing in that order.  I had no idea who the Skybombers are, so when I heard the music start downstairs, I stayed put for a second drink. Figuring I should give them a little bit of a listen, I headed in to the Showbox for the end of the set. Dang it if it wasn’t Mark Pickerel on stage.  I got to hear 2 or 3 songs at least.

The Skybombers are a very enthusiastic quartet from Melbourne, Australia. Hugh, the lead singer, reminded me a little of Jason Schwartzman in Rushmore. The guitarist, Sam, looked like a baby Roger Daltrey, but maybe a wee bit taller. Ravi played a pretty mean bass. And poor Scottie was off in a shadowy corner, keeping the beat. They had good energy, and a few catchy songs, but I won’t be buying their album.

I held my ground near the stage. Not within spitting distance, thank goodness, but close enough for a very good view. Finally X came out to play. Exene was dressed in a black maid’s dress with a multi-color printed apron. She looked very much the sweet ol’ lady (which she will be in the fairly near future).  Billy Zoom winked, smiled, and generally mugged for the crowd and their cameras. DJ Bonebrake wore a Jack in the Box t-shirt (I missed a good chance to take a snapshot). And John Doe was . . . John Doe. They played all the favorites as if they really did want to be there. It was pretty nice to see.

I ended up being on the edge of the “mosh pit” as it were, a place I haven’t been for quite a few years. It was sometimes annoying, sometimes invigorating to see the mixed crowd slamming, skanking, whatever it was they felt like doing. There were tiny little girls and tall, hulking guys all plowing into each other. No one got hurt (not like the old days). Maybe tonight at the over 21 show someone will at least get a busted lip.

I couldn’t convince myself to take my digital camera with me, but I did manage to snap a distorted pic of John Doe during the first song.

John Doe

Time to Make the Donations . . . to KEXP

I just finished my 2nd shift at the KEXP spring pledge drive. I try to give my time and a little bit of my money because I think that this radio station could be the best on the planet. I wouldn’t say that they have music for every single person, but they cover a lot of bases. They are part of the NPR network, chartered through the University of Washington, and are a non-profit organization. They have full control over what they play on the air. And while a large part of their programming is what some might deem as “college radio” (for good reason, really), they also have many specialty programs that include an all-African show, a rockabilly show, gospel, blues, hip hop, all local, etc. There are very few times that I’ve turned on KEXP and couldn’t get into what was being played.

The other neat thing about the station is how far reaching their programming is. The letters “EXP” in their call sign refer to “experimental” and they are dedicated to not only expanding the horizons of their listeners, but expanding the ways in which to reach their listeners. They are streaming, they have online archives, they have podcasts, and live remotes. I could go on, but I think it best that you experience the station yourself. In Seattle, you can tune to 90.3 FM, and everywhere you can go online to In March they will be broadcasting on a radio station in New York City. Give them a listen, and maybe a little moolah.

This is a sticker I saw on the wall at The Funhouse on Friday. It’s a mock of the KEXP bumper sticker. That says something.

Advice Regarding Tickets to the Showbox

It’s been awhile since I’ve been to the Showbox (at the Market), and I’ve yet to go to the new Showbox Sodo. In fact, it might have been for the Decemberists show in October 2005. I don’t like the Showbox (at the Market).

A few weeks ago, though, I signed up for their mailing list, realizing that I’m probably missing out on some musical acts that I would gladly put up with my dislike of the Showbox (at the Market) in order to see. A couple days ago, I got an email announcing a special pre-sale for the band X’s reunion tour at the end of March. In that moment, I decided that I must buy my ticket then and there, so as to guarantee my attendance at the show. I am a bad judge of a musical act’s popularity so I must assume the shows will sell out.

But let me get to the advice. Unless it is virtually guaranteed the show will sell out, or if you are in another state or continent when the ticket sale goes on, DO NOT buy your tickets to the Showbox (either location) online. Always, always go to the box office at the Market location and buy your tickets. I remember thinking it was highway robbery and false advertising that the Showbox adds a $2 service charge when you buy your advance tickets at their box office. But that is nothing compared to the continued rape by Ticketmaster.  You’d think they would have learned their lesson, but it seems that after all the hubbub over the years, they have actually raised their fees.

I bought one $25 ticket and paid almost $40 total.  How? Ticket price $25 plus “convenience charge” of $8.25 (should not be more than the $2.50 round trip bus ticket I would have paid to get to the box office) plus “order processing charge” of $5.36 (they must use monkeys and abaci) plus $0.42 tax. Tax on what is unclear, as is the rate of the tax. It’s not Seattle sales tax on any of the charges.

I went ahead and bought the ticket because I want to be sure that I go see X for once in my life. And I know how I am – I will be able to come up with all sorts of things to do that will prevent me from going to the box office. And by the time I do get there, the show will be sold out. But never again, I say! Always, always buy your tickets at the box office! If you ever hear me say again that I bought a Showbox ticket online, you have my permission to punch me in the stomach.

Top 10 of 2007

It’s the end of the year, and everyone is thinking back to all the good stuff and bad stuff from the last 12 months. All the DJs are putting out their Top Ten songs and albums of the year. There are probably Top Ten news stories in various places. Top Ten This, Top Ten That. I thought I might make my own list. So I thought and I thought, for at least five or ten minutes, but nothing came to mind. Well, one thing did come to mind – the Top Ten Indescribable Things That Happened in 2007 That Made it Unique From All the Other Years I’ve Been Alive.

For instance, I started this blog in 2007. I got the Tassajara Bread Book this year after seeing the film How to Cook Your Life. I played Quake again after like 10 years. I used Flexcar. My buddy Alex finally came to visit me after years of my badgering. I bought a new DVD player. The QFC opened two blocks from my apartment. The Tower Records two blocks away closed then became a Silver Platters which I never go to. (I rarely went to Tower, either.) The only marriage for which I’ve been a member of the wedding party (since my sister’s when I was 18) ended in divorce. I finally bought rain boots after living in Seattle for nine years.

I think that’s 10 things. I don’t know if that’s Top or Bottom, and I’m not sure what the long term effects of those things are – hence the “indescribable”. But they happened. And who cares?

So here’s my real Top Ten.

The Top Ten Wasabi Peas of 2007:

Top Ten Wasabi Peas

And then there were none.