I liked that. I’d like more.

Bogie & Bacall at the Grand Illusion Cinema
The Big Sleep - In the Book Store I suppose I’m a little late writing about this, but the Grand Illusion Cinema over in the University District is showing all four of the films Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall made together. Last week they kicked it off with To Have and To Have Not, the first film they did together. They are showing one film a week, and this week’s film is the Big Sleep. It’s up their with Double Indemnity as the best of the Film Noir Genre. How often do you get a chance to see an old classic in an actual movie theatre? I’m gonna really try and get over there to see this on the silver screen. Dark Passage and Key Largo will be shown over the next couple of weeks, but the Big Sleep is the best of the four!

Indie kids can dance!

Hot Chip at Neumo’s, Seattle
Tuesday, 14 November 2006

Hot Chip

It was a full on dance party last night at Neumo’s. You actually had to try not to dance, they were so good. Neumo’s was nearly sold out, and everyone seemed genuinely excited to see this London group perform.

Hot Chip have figured out how to make electronic music exciting, at least from a live perspective. Put 5 guys up on stage behind a boat load of keyboards (every one had /played a one) augment with a few other instruments like a guitar, cow bells, shakers, and some tiny bongos. And, oh yeah hide a real live drumer behind you. (I honestly didn’t know they had a drummer up their until near the end of the show when they thanked him). So instead of pushing a button on a computer, they actually play music that sounds like it’s coming out of a computer.

They kicked the set off with some killer percussion in Shake a Fist (I think) and then went right into Boy from School. The crowd was just eating it up, I’ve never seen an audience in Seattle actually dance. It was totally cool! They threw in a couple new songs that sounded okay, but not as fleshed out as stuff from their album the Warning. When they did No Fit State they included a few lines from New Order’s Temptation which I thought was pretty cool.

The encore had the place jumping, they started with Careful and then ended with Over and Over. No one left dissappointed, and it was good to step out onto the cold Seattle air after spending an hour and half in a hot room.

What’s so Funny about Beer Tasting? or 19th Annual Phinney Beer Taste

Paraphernalia from the Phinney Beer Taste

After having such a great time at this past summer’s Phinney Beer Taste, I decided to check out the fall/winter version of the same event. I have to say how impressed I am with the way the Phinney Neighborhood Association puts this event together. They only sell a finite amount of tickets, have some really great sponsors (74th Street Ale House for this one), put together a great selection of beers and breweries, and hold the event at the historic 1904 John B. Allen Elementary School (Live music and food was also provided).

Quite a few more people showed up for this one compared to the summer tasting, but to compensate there were about 8 more breweries. A lot of the breweries were sporting their winter brews. Winter brews are usually Strong Ales with a bunch of nuts, berries, spices, and you name it thrown in to celebrate the season. To me, many of the winter brews taste like I’m the liquid version of a fruitcake. That said, I did try my fair share of winter ales last night and I actually like a couple of them.

Hands down, the best beer of the night went to Diamond Knot’s Industrial Ho Ho Ale. They were serving it on cask, so they had a leg up on everyone already. But this beer didn’t over do it with any one thing, it was just a solid strong ale with good hops and a bit of malt to smooth it out. I went back for seconds for this one, because finding any Diamond Knot on tap around town can be a difficult endeavor.

First Runner Up was the Anacortes ESB. This was a very nice beer that went down very easy, had a good complex taste and not too much alcohol.

Second Runner up for me was Fish’s Winterfish Seasonal Ale. If I had to compare it, I think Sierra Nevada’s Celebration ale would be a good reference. Good, but not outstanding.

Best costumes for the night went to Baron for their Leiderhosen, their doppelbock was well liked too.

Award for beer that tastes like a port wine went to Harmon’s Strong Seasonal Ale. A little of this went a long way. In fact I challenge anyone to actually sit down a drink a full pint of this stuff. It had strong (and I do mean strong!) undertones of cherries and currants. Good stuff, but I’d call it a desert beer.

One disappointment was Lazy Boy’s Mistletoe Bliss. I was really impressed with their IPA earlier this summer, but their winter brew just didn’t have that much of a bang, in fact it was down right dull. Maybe it was a bad batch, I’ll give ’em the benefit of the doubt on this one.

A good time seemed to be had by all. Especially since we could walk home from the conveniently located Phinney Center!

Parting Shot: Why can’t any of the live music venues in town serve some decent beer? Seriously, I think only the Tractor in Ballard has a decent selection on tap. Is it really that hard to have a good local IPA, ESP, Porter, etc. from say a Boundary Bay, Diamond Knot, Bottleworks, or Harmon on tap? I for one am tired of having to choose from either the Euro green bottles or the generic pale ale that most places serve. Do they not make a big enough profit from good beer, or do is it not available from their distributor, or do they just have boring taste in beer? It certainly isn’t because Seattle doesn’t have any good beers!

Notebooks Out!

Billy Bragg at Kane Hall: Saturday, 30 September
billy_bragg2.jpg

For you non-students, Kane Hall is on the University of Washington Campus. It’s a nice auditorium with really good acoustics. Being on campus, the seats even have pullout fold out desks (for taking notes). I was running a bit late, and had never been to Kane Hall before, so I asked directions from some students. It was kind of comical, old guy (me) on campus looking for a building. A couple guys told me it’s right next to the “the flagpole”, and another guy told me to just keep going in that direction (pointing in the direction I was going), you can’t miss it.

I finally found it, walked in and there’s nobody there. Everyone is in the hall seated and watching the opening guy, Otis Gibbs. I felt like I was late for class. The last time I saw Billy Bragg, he had a full band with him, and it was somewhat disappointing. The full band had him attempting, reggae versions of some of his songs, which made me cringe and question my loyalty to the guy. He’s solo this time around, which gave me hopes of him equalling or bettering the shows he did around the time of Talking with the Taxman, Workers Playtime and Don’t Try this at Home.

With a Billy Bragg show, you get equal amounts Billy singing and Billy talking. He made a crack how is manager told him that people don’t come to hear him sing. It’s half true, I think I could sit through a Billy Bragg lecture. There were times tonight when he was talking, that there was complete silence from the audience. He’s funny, thought provoking, and he writes great songs too. Oh yeah, about the songs. We got early stuff like World Turned Upside-down, The Saturday Boy, Like Soldiers Do and Greetings to the New Brunette, but not enough for me. I would have killed to hear The Busy Girl Buys Beauty, and To Have and To Have Not, or the Milkman of Human Kindness. His updated lyrics to Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards made the song even better (no Michelle Shocked backing vocals though). In this setting, even his new songs sounded good, Bush War Blues, his update of Leadbelly’s Bourgeoisie Blues, is a great protest song, and John Barleycorn/England, Half English paints a good picture of the ethnic make-up of his homeland.

It wouldn’t be a Billy Bragg show with out him going off on tangents between songs. He managed to hit on YouTube, Hugo Chavez, goat mating, talking cats, communism, Morrissey, Cheap Trick, and bunch of other stuff I can’t remember. There were a few times that he would keep talking and talking, that I felt like I was a lecture, though a very interesting one.
I guess when a band or artist has been around for so long, you’ll almost inevitably be disappointed in their live show, because they can never play all of your favourites. The best you can hope for is a couple of your favourites. To get all my favorites, I’d have to follow him around on tour, like the Dead.

Interesting tidbit:

During the show Billy was talking back and forth with his sound guy, calling him Grant. I remembered from the last time I had seen him that Grant Showbiz was doing sound for him. After the show I went over and asked him if he was the Grant Showbiz. He said yeah! So I asked him some questions about working with Mark E Smith of the Fall. I wanted to know if Mark is truely as notorious as he sounds. Grant said that he was, but that he was so super creative and always thinking, moving and seeing in 50 different directions, that he could be difficult. He compared him to a fly, being able to see and think about stuff from all around. Made him sound like some kind of mad scientist. He said that he is currently working with Mr. Smith and his new American band on their new record. He sounded optimistic.

Tidbit #2:

When we were leaving, I saw the “flag pole” that the first two guys giving me directions were referring to. It was pretty big, It’s actually the tallest in the state of Washington. No wonder they looked at me funny when I said what flagpole?

Tidbit #3

Read Billy’s tour blog here.

Mojave 3 at Neumo’s, Seattle

Monday, 25 September 2006

mojave3.jpg

Mojave 3 have been around for about 12 years, long enough for me to lose interest in them. I nearly did after their last album Spoon & Rafter. It was uh, how shall I put it, dull. When Puzzles Like You came out this summer I was a bit skeptical, but the sunny upbeat pop on this record easily won me over. To me, Puzzles has a lot in common with their second record, Out of Tune.

With five records to pull material from plus a Neil Halstead solo record (no, they didn’t do any Slowdive songs), the band didn’t dwell too much on the new record. This kinda disappointed me, because I really could have gone for hearing the thing in its entirety. It’s that good, I would argue their best. But alas we only got a hand full of songs from it, including the Title track, Breaking the Ice, and To Hold Your Tiny Toes. I was surprised at how much I missed Rachel Goswell’s vocal harmonies on a lot of the songs. I kept expecting to hear her parts, but they just left them out. I wonder if we’ll ever see her touring again?

After last night I should also probably take back what I said earlier about Spoon & Rafter, because they did a version of Bluebird of Happiness from that record that was simply amazing. It seemed totally reinvented, with the band almost sounding a bit like Slowdive with the washes of guitar and strong baseline. I think Bluebird totally stole the show. A couple other older songs also seemed to take on new interpretations from this version of Mojave 3, all of them seeming to owe a bit sonically to the band’s forebearer, Slowdive.

Opening band Brightblack Morning Light have their new record out now on Matador. They seemed like a bit of a joke (they had a mini Stonehenge set up on stage?!), a bit too much free love vibe, a bit of Spacemen 3 / Spiritualized, a hell of a lot of delay on their vocals, no percussion, and slow droning, noodling songs that went on forever. Their stuff probably sounds good if you like to listen to your music with the help of a little weed. I think most of Neumo’s was just trying to stay awake.

photo courtesy of daniel78.

Post Show

M Ward at Neumo’s: 1 September 2005

m ward at neumo's

M Ward kicked off the tour promoting his new record Post War here in Seattle on Friday night. The house was packed, it’s refreshing to know that 800 or so people really like this guy. He’s got this persona of an eccentric uncle that as a kid you’re not sure of, but as you get older you realize that he’s kinda cool…in a weird sorta way.

The band marched on stage to Daniel Johnston’s To Go Home, and then started into their cover version of the same song, which consequently is the second song on the new album. The first thing I noticed was that he had 2 drummers (one of which was Rachel Blumberg). Many bands have used two drummers, the Fall, Can, and the Warlocks all come to mind, but someone like M Ward would probably be the last person I would expect to see use two. Surprisingly, it seemed to work (at least for part of the show), especially for the more rocking numbers. It seemed like the band was really rehearsed for the more upbeat rockers, but the slower numbers seemed to suffer for a lack softness or understanding from the band. Maybe it was the limitations of the sound system, or because it was the first show of the tour, but the slower more intricate songs did not seem to have the detail of sound that you get on record.

My primitive mathematical mind divided the show up into three parts. The first part seemed a bit disjointed, they started out with the Daniel Johnston’s cover and then did Four Hours in Washington…so far so good, but then they did a couple slower ones that didn’t sound too well rehearsed, and then meandered into something else. At this point he almost lost me, but then the band left leaving Ward and his guitarist on stage.

I’ll call it part two of the show.

m ward at neumo's

The duo went through a bunch of songs that started to resonate a bit better including new one Eyes on the Prize and, one song that I can’t remember the name of which had a bunch of whistling that was really nice.

…Which brings us to part 3.

m ward at neumo's

The band comes back out and they rock out. We get Big Boat, Helicopter, Requiem, and as well as some others that I can’t remember. The band really seemed to be in their element during this part of the show…I was in awe at he rapid fire of excellent songs, and hardly a breather between any of them, amazing.

The encore had Ward come out by himself with an acoustic. He stalked the stage hunched over the six string, making it sound like a twelve string. I could have listened to an entire show of him picking a guitar, the whole crowd was transfixed. He could have ended it there, but the band came out for one more song to send everyone on their way.

Oh, by the way, pictures are by me.  I think they’re a bit better than the ones of the Decemberists…but still not great.

Don’t miss the Boat

boat.jpgO

Okay, I will be out of town next weekend so I will be missing the excellent double bill of Seattle bands the Turn-Ons and Boat at the High Dive in Fremont. I guess for that matter I will also be missing Bumbershoot….maybe I shouldn’t leave town….no, I must resist!

Anyway Boat will be returning to play the Paradox on 19 September, so all is not lost. Boat’s new record that is out on Magic Marker Records and is very hard to resist, at least for a pop geek like myself. My first impression of the band was that they were a bit goofy, in They Might be Giants sort of way. But after spending some time with their second record (their first was apparently self released and hand made) Songs that You Might Not Like, it seemed like they had a lot in common with the old Elephant 6 collective as well. Their songs are short, sweet (candy coated even) with a nice diverse set of instruements (lapsteel and cowbells and maybe even a glockenspiel). They’ve got a Myspace page (who doesn’t) here where you can listen to some of their stuff.

I’ll be on a different boat this weekend, one to Victoria .