Going Their Own Way…

Several months back, Big Word Ben gifted me a much belated birthday present: tickets to the 2018 Fleetwood Mac tour.
Not a bad gift, right?

There was much scandal and speculation about this tour, dubbed An Evening With Fleetwood Mac, after it was announced that Lindsey Buckingham would not be touring with them. Point in fact, the rumor mill – oops, rumours mill – was reporting that he had been fired from the group.

Again.

The rumor ripples of this announcement were fast and choppy. Buckingham is their male vocalist as well as lead guitarist. The last time I had seen Fleetwood Mac he had easily done over half of the vocal heavy lifting.

Christine McVie had just returned from about 15 years of retirement – at 71! – for the last tour and was easing her way into the band’s routine last time around, so it’s not like they aren’t used to changing up the batting order for their shows.

Still, as the “young one” in the band – he and Stevie were ~66 last time the group came through Portland – he had been the real mover and shaker on stage. Stevie did her trademark twirls, but for the most part, her dancing was in place, usually with her feet planted and just consisted of some pretty wild upper body gyrations. Lindsey, on the other hand, had been out to make a point. Jumping around stage like a flea and spinning, squatting, kicking with a true frenzy. It was kind of annoying since it looked like he was showing off to some degree, but also made the show a real visual presentation.
So, what’s it going to be like in 2018? Lindsey and Stevie are both 70, Lindsay isn’t coming, Christine is 75, John and Mick are sitting pretty in the shadows at the back of the stage, as usual. Well, except for Mick’s crazy audience shout-back solo at the midway point. For the record, that was and is still a pretty amazing part of the show.

Filling the bill and rounding out the band, it was announced that Mike Campbell from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Neil Finn from Crowded House/The Finn Brothers/Split Enz would be taking on the guitar work and male vocals.I was left quite curious whether this would still be a really heavy male vocals show, though. Newcomers notwithstanding, the band ended up leaning on Christine for what I would call about half of the vocal numbers in the Portland show. Now, there’s a reason she was not the primary vocalist in the band in the first place – but as much as I’ve always loved her one or two numbers on each album and even her solo work – at 75, you could tell her voice was getting tired during the two hour show.

But keep in mind, that’s about half the singing in a two hour show…down from a three hour production with Lindsey.

I was ok with the shortened show, because I’m older, too. A three hour show starting at 8 PM makes me tired just thinking about it.

Plus, as it turns out, in addition to Christine leading the vocals charge, the band also chose to steer fairly clear of the Buckingham library. For the most part. Neil did some great lead solo numbers as well as sharing some duets with each of the ladies.The show ended up being a walk way down Memory Lane, for the most part, though, with a great deal of what I would call deep tracks from the Peter Green era of the band.
I was fairly impressed with the band’s effort to acknowledge the stand ins for Lindsey throughout the show, too. It wasn’t just a “hey, here’s these guys” type of situation. After Mick’s World Turning drum solo at halftime, he came to the front of the stage and talked about the next number. It was a song, he said, “that he heard at a time he needed to hear it”, which was an interesting turn of phrase. I was pretty surprised when he went on to introduce Neil to sing Don’t Dream It’s Over, arguably Crowded House’s biggest hit. It was actually a highlight in the show for me as an audience member and as a HUGE Crowded House fan.Big Word Ben seemed to know about this number in advance and warned me, “Just wait until the halfway point”, which I didn’t fully understand until Stevie wandered out onto the stage toward the end of the song and joined in.
It was exciting. Hearing these two voices working together to recreate something I was so familiar with. Until Stevie basically fell off the stage trying to keep up with Neil. He’s only ten years her junior, but it demonstrates the truth behind the old adage about teaching and old dog new tricks. After the number, she kind of joked about her effort, but it was just super unclear whether she forgot the words or if she just got lost.

Here, have a little levity that I found in my Google suggestions while digging around for pics and info for this entry:

My answer to that question:

Attempting this number.

But I am still one to give an E for effort, so I was ultimately happy that they had at least tried to integrate the newcomers.

The back half of the show included a bit more visibility overall for Stevie, so it was good that she had an opportunity to redeem herself after the Crowded House number. Again, though…at 70, she’s not so much the twirling hippy girl she once was. You could tell that her dancing was more an exercise in remaining upright versus it’s former lost in the moment self. The same was evident with Christine when she left her keyboard and came forward for some maracas work during a solo number of hers. Both were very stiff hipped in their movements, which I noted, before immediately reminding myself of how I must look when I get off the couch to pee during a Netflix binge. Yeah, “Shut up, Me”. Both get high marks from me for just showing up, that’s for sure!

We got to the end of the show, with the band being led off the darkened stage by stagehands with flashlights…gotta be careful to not trip on a wire going across the equipment-packed stage. Hips are expensive!

People immediately started leaving as soon as the lights dimmed. Big Word Ben indicated that he didn’t think there was an encore, either, by way of explanation. It’s rare to see that many people take off after a curtain call. Usually it’s just the competitive drivers or people who have to work super early. This audience was moving. We were soon the only people in our immediate area. We chatted briefly about the show. How the set list was so different without Lindsey, but both still glad to have added another notch to our Fleetwood Mac Concert Belts. Mine is nowhere near as long as his, but he’s got a few years on Neil, so I chalk it up to him just having more opportunities.

All that said, I certainly didn’t feel robbed when the lights came back up and the group returned to the stage. Quite honestly, when Freefalling started, I felt like the show was just made. What a perfect way to ice this cake. Stevie nailed a rendition of one of Mike’s former bandleader’s biggest hits while a slide show played behind the band. It showed lots of concert pics of Petty, who had died just over a year earlier at only 66. It was also a very poignant reminder of the connection between the two bands. Mike Campbell joining for this tour was the top of mind connection for most, but then there was the Leather and Lace duet between Petty and Stevie, too. The picture show behind the stage reminded us all of just how much history there was with Stevie and Petty touring together over the years. I think most of the people left in the arena ended up pretty choked up by the end of the song.

At the end of the show, we were left with quite a different Fleetwood Mac experience. We were able to get a good debriefing in during the walk down to Old Town, were BWB had parked. Old Town is just a hop, skip and river from the Rose Quarter and at 10-ish at night a 15 minute walk over the bridge versus waiting to exit a parking garage for who knows how long or even waiting to board what were overflowing MAX train cars for a one-stop ride over the bridge. We talked about everything I discussed above and both agreed that different or not, it was still easily worth going.

The one thing that surprised us both? The show was billed as starting at 8 on the tickets, 8:15 on the Rose Quarter website and by golly, that show started just as we found our section at 8:15!

A rock band starting on time? Yeah, these guys are getting to a point where bedtime is important. But they still deliver a show worth seeing!

Going Their Own Way…

The Motion On The Ocean

As Pride month draws to a close, I feel the pressure mounting to mark complete a commitment I made to myself at the beginning of the month:

Finish up my thematically Gay drafts.

Having posts in draft status is part of blogging…at least for me. I haven’t found a great alternative for maintaining an idea pipeline for my writing. I know that my memory is probably only a slightly better option than scribbling ideas on toilet paper and storing them in the city’s waste management system.

So, I have drafts.

And they make me absolutely crazy!

I started this month with nearly 20 drafts. I like to keep the number of drafts around half that. It makes me feel like I’m both productive and in control. But put a cap on creative ideas, right?

Bad idea.

So, I allow myself latitude.

That said, since the start of June, I’ve gotten the number of drafts down to 13, including this one. It’s a memory lane type of piece about a bar that I used to go to: Ripples. So, completing it would be a double whammy achievement; crossing a draft off of the to-do list and completing my gay themed pieces during Pride month.

I was a little surprised to see that I have five gay oriented drafts in my pipeline still after publishing 10/27 days this month. The oldest is from May of ’16…I’ve told you, I put the “pro” in procrastinate.

So, shall we?

When I lived in Long Beach, CA – an important designation given so many states’ pride in the length of their oceanfront municipalities…WA, MS & CA are just the three that come readily to mind – I had two bars that I frequented: Ripples and Silver Fox. I’ve written a little about (a lot, TBH) the Silver Fox – the bar, not the bestie – since it was the first gay bar I went into as an adult. You can get a taste of those entries here and, well, here. Since my best friend is nicknamed The Silver Fox and is an unwitting star in so many of my exploits and (mis)adventures, I thought I’d give you a couple links versus making you scroll through the hashtag results. However, I’ve never really dedicated any significant time to recalling Ripples. Just a random thought here or there.

And it was such a formative piece of my coming out process. I mean, in the first place, this was back in the days when being gay was still kind of an underground experience. You came out, but frequently that was met with a grudging acceptance versus a celebration. People tolerated my sexual orientation and said things like, “I don’t care, just don’t rub my nose in it”.

So, the obviously cared.

Gay bars were places where we could let our guard down and be comfortable. I imagine that what I felt walking into a gay bar back then was similar to what a woman feels when she takes her bra off after a long day.

Just guessing.

But on top of that, it wasn’t just a bar, like the Silver Fox. It was a venue.

I was lucky enough to live across the street from it. Situated at the corner of Granada and Ocean in Belmont Shores, I had it made – across Granada, Ripples; across Ocean, the gay beach.

So, what’s this venue all about? Well, it’s been 20 years since I set foot in the place, and I started this blog post when I learned that the bar was up for sale…for something like $5 mil.

That’s the price of oceanfront commercial property in Cali these days, I guess.

But that’s the joint: Ripples, aka: the motion on the ocean. A basic bar on the main level; tables and chairs on one side, pool table on the other, his and hers-turned-his-by-circumstance bathrooms and then an enclosed patio. The upper level had another bar and then a huge parquet dance floor.

The best possible start to any week or end to any weekend was their Sunday Beer Bust, even older gays called it a Tea Dance. Pay $5 at the door, get a wristband and plastic party cup and drink all afternoon. I think the beer bust was something like four hours, maybe 2-6? Plenty of time for brunch, gym and/or the beach beforehand. But you wanted to get there early, before the line went all the way down the block…but not so early that you were too early.

In a fit of coincidence, both of my favorite bars in the LBC were owned by Johns. One was literally a Silver Fox, the other was a stocky, jocular Hispanic guy. When I met Barbie – the owner of Purr in Seattle – she reminded me of John. They both provided this space that was an extension of their generous and caring spirit.

That reinforcement of the feeling of a safe space for gays was taken a step further here – you felt like part of the family. As a matter of fact, John’s sister set up each week on the patio with a Mexican buffet dinner. Grilled (right there on the patio) chicken, refried beans, rice, salad fixings. Not a bad way to end the beer bust, right?

For all of us gays, watching our straight counterparts dating, marrying and starting a family, this weekly ritual provided us with something alien to our lifestyle: family. We certainly weren’t likely to be starting one of our own, so this situational family – chosen family or logical versus biological as Armistead Maupin puts it – provided a tether to a normal type Sunday dinner with the family.

Albeit a Sunday dinner with an admittedly debaucherous edge!

I think it was this tether to reality that afforded my generation of gays to have their Peter Pan Syndrome and not grow up without becoming full on Lost Boys in the process. Anymore, what I observe of gay men barely even resembles a Lost Boy and is careening dangerously toward Lord of the Flies type madness.

But I digress. Go figure.

Think about it, Friday and Saturday nights, you come to the bar and have some drinks with your friends, cut loose on the dance floor, shoot some pool…unwind from your week. Maybe you connect with someone and have some sexy times. Maybe you don’t, but come 2 a.m. you hit the sidewalk sale after the lights come up for a last chance at getting your rocks off.

Come Sunday afternoon, you’re back to end the weekend as a community. Delighting in sending your friends back to their 9-5 closets for another week. Not missing a chance to see who shows up with their Friday or Saturday night trick turned possible relationship.

And if you aren’t ready to call it a weekend when beer bust ends at 6, there was usually a show upstairs after. If you didn’t mind paying for drinks, well…the entertainment was always worth the price of another drink or two. At least once a month you could count on seeing The Campers, a bearded drag troupe that would play out scenes from camp movies, lip syncing the lines while hilariously acting them out. My favorite were their Baby Jane scenes.

So good.

Also, familiar. Or, fagmiliar if you’ll allow the Chrisism.

The standing room crowd would usually recite the lines along with The Campers.

One of the other faves, although less frequent, were the Del Rubio Triplets.

Edie, Millie and Elena…this was the late, late 80s and early 90s, and these sisters – born in 1921 – were in their late 60s and early 70s serving up acoustic guitar covers of Devo’s Whip It in sequin and lame short skirts and cowboy boots to a raucous crowd of buzzed and tanned beach boys.

God, it was so awesome! I think all three sisters survived into their 80s. If I recall correctly, Millie even lived to be 90. They were famous for their Christmas shows, appearances on evening talk shows and cameos in movies like Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, but I’ll always remember them for their shows at Ripples.

And, while I could always stop in for a cold one after a long day at work or hard day of sunbathing across the street and rely on some friendly chat with the bartender or other transient barside resident, it’s those events like beer bust and the shows that set it apart from just being a bar for me and made it a haven.

I could go on and on about the motion on the ocean, but maybe those are stories for another time. The month is nearly over, after all…

The Motion On The Ocean

Indigo Girls

“Well, that can’t be a coincidence”, I thought as a CD title caught my eye in my local Long Beach music store. The album in question was simply titled Indigo Girls. It was on sale, so being a newly-ish minted gay, I bought the CD in a show of solidarity.

My rationale?

Cyndi Lauper talks about it in her 1983 song She Bop…

“Well, I see them every night in tight blue jeans.

On the pages of Blue Boy magazine.”

Blue Boy magazine was a glossy tribute to twink pulchritude. A gay porn magazine, in other words.

Indigo is a shade of blue.

I’ve apparently been jaded forever. But just the right amount. Maybe it’s just in my head that a gender pronoun and shade of blue equals some gay code – indeed, to hear them tell it, they went shopping through the dictionary for words that resonated…indigo struck gold for them for whatever reason – but in my music store, this CD priced at $7 resonated with me.

I’ve been a fan ever since.

I’ve owned every album.

Committed more song lyrics to memory than I thought I had the capacity for.

Lost my shit in the theater when they showed up as extras in Boys On The Side…embarrassing my friends by frantically whispering, “That’s the Indigo Girls!” in the darkened theater.

Seen them in concert in a half dozen cities on two continents..

My favorite performances being their zoo concerts. I’ve seen five zoo shows here in Portland and two more at the zoo in Seattle. The crowds at the concerts used to skew heavily lesbian, given their sexual identities. Once Lilith Fair took the music world by storm and sent female singer/songwriter types on a never before seen trajectory of success, those crowds started to straighten out.

My concert attendance started to fall off then, too. Where I’d always loved the live music experience Indigo Girls concerts provided, it was also a safe environment for me as a gay man…to flirt. Safe, because other guys there were like minded, both in bed and in musical tastes. It was as good a starting point as any for selecting a mate, right?

Never happened.

Matter of fact, the closest I got to an Indigo Girls concert love connection was attending shows for a few years with Sacha. You’d have thought that the Valentines Day show we saw at the Aladdin Theater would have put me off their concerts, but I was a super fan and after that show where Sacha and I argued through the entire thing…well, I started going mostly alone or with girlfriends.

No, what put me off was the intrusion of straight men at the shows. I’d loved the strong female vibe I encountered at their live shows. It was such a safe feeling.

A generous space.

When I looked up at one concert and saw my handful of musically like minded gay men replaced with straight guys who were canoodling through the concert until fuck time…I was done.

Until

A few years back, IG got together with a symphony.

It was crazy.

Rib and I went down to Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle and saw this show. Indigo Girls backed by the Seattle Symphony.

By “crazy”, I mean AWESOME.

Their music lends itself to the process. It’s always featured eclectic instruments, so switching to classic orchestral instruments wasn’t a huge stretch.

The Girls are storytellers, so watching their show always included an intimate glimpse into their music and personalities. My favorite story of this night was the story about the symphony performance itself.

The symphony had been practicing their set independently. The Indigo Girls, of course, had the material down. But they never practiced together until the day of the show!

The Indigo Girls roll into town – I am pretty sure this was before Amy married a girl from Seattle, so she wasn’t a randomly occurring celebrity in town yet – do a couple numbers with the orchestra and then peace out until showtime, hoping for the best.

Why is this anything important to know?

Well, Today I Learned on the Facebook that there was a symphony album coming out. Twenty-two songs, with a video of Galileo to kick it all off.

I.

Was.

Excited.

I watched the video a couple of times. It’s not their best live performance, but I can only take their word for it when they talk about the humbling experience of putting your voice in front of a giant machine like a symphony orchestra.

Viewed through that filter? This is incredible. If nothing else, it elevates the majesty of the stories their songs have always told.

From almost 1990 to almost 2020…these ladies have been and have made an enormous impact on my life. I jokingly say that at the end of my life, my relationship with my cell phone carrier will be the enduring relationship of my lifetime.

Compared to my musical relationship with Indigo Girls (they prefer no article in their band name) and Melissa Etheridge, the more accurate statement would be that the relationship with these two acts shaped the adult gay man that I became and one of the significant relationships of my life.

Interesting recipe, equal parts family, catholic school and music subculture equals…me. What an arc it’s been for us both.

And I can’t wait to hear this album!

Indigo Girls

My First Sound Check

You’d think at my age, I’d have done just about everything I ever wanted to do at least once.

Not so, my friend.  Not so…

For instance, I’d never been to a sound check for a live show before.

Sure, as a baby queer in high school, I had been in choir and drama club, watching judgmentally as the unbeloved tech folk set up their lights and sound.

Yeah, when I was in college and exploring the fraternity option, I day drank shit keg beer and blurrily watched as Otis Day and the Knights phoned in their pre-show prep at the Pike House.  Hey, it was a kegger-cum-concert.  I was more interested in figuring out if I could pass in a fraternity at KSU without getting the shit kicked out of me and disappearing sometime mid-rush week at the time than in the pre-show goings on of that band from Animal House.  Naturally, my focus was stretched as I further divided my attention by lustily considering my potential frat brothers and fellow pledges…yeah, I was gonna end up dead.

Nonetheless, I ended up seeing Otis Day scream into the mic a few times prior to the show, but it wasn’t a super complex sound system we were dealing with.  It was the backyard deck of a frat house, after all.

So, when my bestie-neighbor from Seattle called me and invited me to a show that one of her bands was doing here in town, I was in.

D-Slice and I possibly share a single liver.  Or were both cloned from the same one…they’re doing that, you know.  There’s a reason I don’t look like my brothers and sister!

As a human, she’s top notch.  As a neighbor, she’s kinda like a Julie McCoy.  I first met her when our apartment-turned-condo opened and several of us first wave residents moved in simultaneously as the housing market verged on its infamous 2008 crash…effectively stranding us all in a partially sold 146 unit building.

I would bet that there were only about 60 units occupied during those early years.  If I had a better – less muddled – memory, I could be more specific.  Alas…

Yet, this small group of us housing market castaways bonded.

What began as drinks in the community room, or the laundry room – usually bemoaning the fact that the sales office promise of a roof top deck had not yet become a reality – between a few dozen regulars evolved into progressive parties, moving from one unit to another on a host floor.  D-Slice upped this game by going private.  She resurrected a past event of hers that she called Free Drink Friday from a former residence…perhaps a college dorm, who knows?  What I do know is that the rules were pretty simple:  she starts us off with a few bottles of wine, some beer and/or whatever randomly occurring bottles of liquor she has in her unit (shut up, Diezel) and maybe some light snacks or a pizza or two.  Attendees can BYOB if they are so inclined or just show up and suckle off the provided well.  The party would go until quiet hours kicked in or the booze ran out.

Easy-peasy.

D-Slice, being a kindred spirit – key word:  spirit – was not one to let quiet hours stand in the way of a good time.  A few of us cooler neighbors would stick around and bat clean up after everyone else left.  With the booze, not the actual clean up, fuck that.

During one of these late nights, as D-Slice and I were the sole stragglers, we realized the booze-fueled brilliance of our drunken wit and wisdom deserved an audience.  Just like that, the Podcast was born.

Not the actual podcast phenomenon.

I assure you, we are not responsible for the low key craze of data-plan-eating streaming talk shows, no.  Our Podcast was pretty much just code for us hanging out, drinking and chatting.  Occasionally, we’d invite another friend or neighbor and call them a special guest.  Others, one of us would call a special session Podcast to debrief a specific situation or, more likely, shituation.

More often than not, my favorite part of our Podcast was its inevitable end.  Not because I yearned for the finish…no, it was the finale itself.  What I came to call Flooraoke.

I’m sure you can figure it out.

But at some point, we’d add in some music to the mix of our easy conversation and as the evening wore on and we became slightly worse – or better, depending on your criteria – for the booze, the focus on the conversation would wane and the attention to the music would take center stage.  Center floor, at any rate.  I’m no singer, but D-Slice has put out a few independent CDs and been a part of several bands since I’ve known her.  As gravity pulled us toward its inevitable victory, I would end up slumped in a chair while D-Slice put up more of a fight and ended up heroically sprawled on the floor in her ignominy.

Then, the magic would happen.

Some song would just spark her fire and she was zoned and in her zone, singing toward a gloriously undignified slumber.  After a few songs, I would make my own way home to bed, warmed with the already slipping away memories of the past several hours.

It is an amazing memory, these Poscast sessions.

So, hitting her show in Portland was a no-brainer.

Initially, I’d been worried about the show keeping me up past my bedtime for my early morning work alarm.  Turns out, the disclaimer that I might not stay for the whole show was unnecessary.  It was an afternoon show with the Heart Shaped Boxes.

Nonetheless, my disclaimer about leaving early had set the pre-funk ball in motion.  No need to derail that plan simply because the show was starting earlier.  In true rock star fashion, we just started drinking earlier…which is how I came to be at her sound check.  

I hopped out of my Uber on the corner of the block that the bar she was performing at was in and walked back to the door.  There, I was met by a heavy metal David Cross type guy.

But, once inside, the bar proved to be a pretty small collection of nice staff members with properly spelled tattoos.  Not  a bad place to spend a Saturday afternoon.

I was introduced to the other Boxes, all of whom I knew from the Facebook, D-Slice had met them all through a rock camp for girls where they were all camp counselors.  

Ok, it’s cooler than that makes it sound.  It’s called Rain City Rock Camp, if you’re so inclined google them and maybe donate.

Other than the HSBs and the staff, the bar was empty, save for a lone young man with the long, straight hair and basic black jeans and tee metal dude dress code.  He was sitting on a table, facing the back of the bar, doing some finger work on his guitar to warm up.  I assumed he was with the opening act, and said as much to D-Slice.  She said she wasn’t sure, she hadn’t been involved in the booking, she just went where she was told to be when she was told to be there.

Not a bad gig.

It was then that she excused herself for her sound check work and the metal dude turned on his table so that he was facing me.  D-Slice said I should go say hi and buy him a beer before leaving me to sip on my own.  We both knew I wasn’t going anywhere.

I sipped and watched each band member go through the mic checks and other asundry settings as each coordinated not only how their equipment sounded but also gave feedback on how the rest of the band sounded to them…which is important, although I’d never given it a thought.  In retrospect, it probably explained a lot about some of the shittier live shows I’d been to.

Meanwhile, metal dude sat across the bar from me, giving me deadeye while mutely jamming on his tabletop perch.

Other patrons started filtering in for the show.  Prudently, I ordered another beer before it got crowded.

I was meeting other musicians that knew D-Slice from the time she’d spent collaborating with the Portland version of the girl’s rock camp.  Apparently, this show was a fundraiser for them.  

I briefly felt bad about getting my cover comped by D-Slice. It passed…I mean, really, how often do you get to say, “I’m with the band” when you’re me?

I was surprised to look across the bar and see one of my high school classmates.

I joke.

That fella belonged to one of D-Slice’s band mates, who is also in two bands. Her name is TRex, hence the mascot that travels with her.  This other band of hers, Shower Scum, did a tribute song to The Donald.  Don’t worry, I may have misused the word “tribute” since the song was called Fuck You! Needless to say, the song went over like gangbusters in Portland. 

There was lesbian couple in the audience.  Very chatty and sociable.  In true Portland fashion, they brought their toddler.  In even truer Portland fashion, one mother’s outfit matched his outfit…which was a very hipster take on Oshkosh B’gosh overalls.  

Initially, I’d judged the dykes tyke’s presence in a bar pretty harshly.  Then I remembered grade A lesbian parents were, of course, above my reproach.  My reminder came on the form of his accessories:  construction yellow ear protection.

How damned adorable is that?

I just sat there and watched him switch between toddling between his parents and bouncing on one of their hips or the other’s as I watched a couple of the acts before Heart Shaped Boxes.

The opener.

TRex’s second band.

The metal dude’s band:  featuring a chunky girl with the blue hair and an awkward drummer with the mis-matched Star Wars socks.  Both of whom were probably only in  the band because they were in love with the aforementioned long-haired rocker that turns out to be their lead singer…

Suddenly it hit me, this was a benefit for a girl’s rock camp.  

Sleep away camp for girls that like music.

It was a daytime show on a weekend.

The awkwardness of the metal dude’s deadeye stare and the googly-eyed quality of the stares he got from his band mates.

Shit.  This whole band was underage.

I ordered another beer and moved closer to the front door.

D-Slice and the rest of the HSBs did their set and it was good!  Really good.  I loved knowing the arc her performing had taken since her first solo CDs – all of which I still have.

After her set, D-Slice and I found some time to squirrel away to the sidewalk parklet seating for another beer and some undistracted conversation now that her work was done.  We caught up on current life events – hers was going better than mine – and relived some of our greatest Podcast hits.

It was too short, of course.  Her band mates were her transportation and they were anxious to get back to the airBnB for some R-n-R after the show.

But, our decade long friendship had stood the test of being apart for a couple of years and fallen right back into that easy camaraderie that made it so precious to me.

I left the bar on that high, with a side of pride at not accidentally hitting on a teenaged boy.

Plus, it was a daytime show, so I was rested for work the next day.

And what the hell happens the following day on my way home from work?  A long-hair rocker dude sits down right next to me on the MAX.  I figure this is either the universe telling me something or at least dangling something different in front of me.  Maybe telling me not to be too closed minded when declaring the dating and mating seasons of my life closed?  I mean, really, D-Slice and I are unlikely friends.  She is a rocker, sleeve tattoo and all while I’m someone you’d easily mistake for an accountant.

Alright, universe, I’m listening.

Turns out, it was the exact same metal dude from the day before and the universe was just giving me the one fingered salute or trying to get my ass thrown in jail.

But, seriously…what are the odds?

My life, I gotta tell ya.

My First Sound Check

Adam Ant

I’m old.  I forget things.

Like that I bought tickets to this February concert back in September.

It popped up on my calendar as a reminder and I was all, “Yeah, I should have bought tickets to that.”  Then I corrected myself from the plural to the singular since I recently committed to focusing on – well, anything but dating for the foreseeable future.

But something was tickling the back of my brain and a few hours later, I went into the email account I use for buying stuff just to be sure.  And, sure enough…there was a flagged purchase confirmation for Adam Ant.

Ta-da.

A few days later, there I was Uber-ing over to the Revolution Hall to meet up with Little Buddy and Vulture and their plus ones.  LB brought her daughter and Vulture brought his recently christened fiance.  There I am in all my single pride.  I arrived after they ordered, and I had left myself enough time to join them for a beer while they ate.  It was inadvertently shrewd planning on my part.  I was coming from work, so it was a tight run from the airport to home to the venue.  I think the space is nice…albeit a little tight for a restaurant attached to a concert hall.

Plus, can we please start getting away from all of this post industrial cum modern design?  Or at least start employing a little better sense of the end use of the space when we do use it?  I mean, is there no such thing as a post industrial carpet design?  This place with its polished concrete floor was noisy!  That can’t be good for the servers’ legs.

And, I know I’m getting off topic and careening toward my Early Onset Grumpiness tendencies at a reckless pace, but I only bring it up since I’m writing this after standing in line at Tilt to buy a pie on – wanna guess?  Polished concrete floor.

This follows my incredible dinner with The Silver Fox last night at Danwei Canting where we made it just in time for frigging family hour.  I actually looked across the table and said to The Fox, “This place could use a carpet.”  Of course, this was right after some kids at a corner table started screaming and startled another mother, causing her to knock over a – go figure – metal chair onto the…polished concrete floor.

Yawn.

But,I think that burst of grump will serve as a nice warm up to fully appreciate what happened upstairs while we were standing in line to get into the venue.

First of all, Little Buddy’s lovely daughter is by far the youngest person around – we’re talking by a couple of decades – including the kids taking tickets.

I’m chatting with Vulture, which according to LB, we do rather loudly and animatedly when we get together.  I hadn’t realized this, but we see each other virtually every day…an actual in-person audience with Vulture is not to be taken for granted!  Gotta make the most of it.

old-tattoosWe’re talking about tattoos.  I think I overheard someone else talking about it and I was off and running.  We discussed how they seem to be more of a body modification, like piercing, than the meaningful and thoughtful pieces of body art that were frequently still shocking to our generation…but they weren’t as overt, either.  I think the word I used was discreet.

I get on about how I’m easing my way into the acceptability of tattoos on the neck, above the collar line.  I had this really nice guy that worked for me who showed up for his interview in a dress shirt and tie, just peeking over the edge of his collar was a tattoo that looked like it had been scrawled on in prison.  Not the best first impression for a judgy old bastard like me.  He interviewed really well.  I had asked him about the tattoo, and explained that tattoos weren’t frowned upon, but in order to maintain as credible an environment as possible – since we were selling high end espresso machines – would he accept wearing his collar closed.  He said he would…and then told me that his tattoo was his daughter’s name.

His daughter who had passed away as a toddler.

So, y’know…I felt like a real jerk.

I still went back and forth about whether he should get the job.  Ultimately, he was the best qualified of our candidates, so I gave him the position.

He disappeared a few months later.

pikachu-tattooAdd that experience to what I went through with The Broken Poet with his Pikachu neck tat and I think I come by my reluctance to accept overtly placed tattoos honestly.  There’s a lil example of what a Pikachu looks like, in case you need a refresher…no pics of the BP, sorry.  Although, the guy in that pic is a tasty lil nugget, eh?  I wonder what’s wrong with him.  By the way, can anyone tell me why people lose their shit over this Pikachu fella?  We’re talking about people who should be looking forward to being adults and being taken seriously…yet they won’t let go of this childish imagery.  I think it’s self sabotage, but I’d probably just bore you talking about that.  Plus, I think I’m already pretty far off topic.

Back to Vulture and I, chatting away about how out of control tattoos have gotten.  They seem to be less meaningful these days and more of a way of compensating for…I have no idea what.  I realize that I’m probably being listened to by people who are exceedingly tattooed as we stand there in line…nevertheless, I persist, moving into how when taken in the scheme of facial tattoos the neck tattoos look almost modest.

Almost.

But nothing says “Bad Judgement” like a facial tattoo, I speculate as the line starts moving forward.

We get inside and find seats.  Vulture and I somehow separated.  Little Buddy tries to steer around the leaning over people to shout at each other above the music mess that could become, but we wouldn’t have it.  There’s just enough time to get a beer at the upstairs bar before the Opening Act comes on.  The crowd isn’t too densely populated.  There’s a few seats available and the mosh area in front just has a few stragglers standing around.  It’s an all girl band, which prompts me to take a moment to text D-Slice up in Seattle, since she is in an all girl Nirvana cover band.  They are a little hard for my taste, but it’s a good opening band, getting the crowd energized with songs like the one that I can only assume from the aggressive hand gestures is called “Fuck You”.  The guitarist looked like a wuzzle (copyright:  LB) of Sia and Myrtle Snow from American Horror Story:  Coven.  Her hair was probably 18 inches long, curly and radiating outward from her head.  It was pretty amazing to watch.

adam-antThe Opening Act finishes up and his Adam Ant-ness takes the stage.

Two words:  The Hat.

Here’s, also, a man that likes his tattoos.

He’s not been one to shy away from theatrical make up, either.

It all adds up to quite a stage presence.  Particularly for a man in his early 60s.  I typically can’t hear much of the words being sung at concerts, unless someone actually paid attention to what was going on at the sound check.  I get the gist of the songs being played, but mostly I just hear bass and percussion.

Still, I couldn’t not watch him perform.  He’s not a great dancer, his big move was stepping up onto a speaker at the front of the stage and bringing the other leg up into an exaggerated step class maneuver.  I mean, that’s nowhere near the jaw dropping bad moves you’re gonna see at a PAt Benetar concert, so he has that going for him.  It was just a magnetism about him that held my attention.

adam-ant-2Well, that and LB’s comment about how much he looked like the lovechild of Capt Jack Sparrow and – god, who did she say? – Edward Scissorhands, maybe?  Maybe it was just Johnny Depp.  But she was right.

The band had two drummers.  Actually, the stage was set up symmetrically with two drum kits at the back and then two guitarists flanking Adam And.  The band members were a melange of humanity and styles.  I had heard talk that one of the guitarists had died recently and that this might have been the replacement guy’s first show.

patsy-stone
Patsy Stone from AbFab

 

On one side of the stage, you had Patsy Stone absolutely killing it fabulously on drums and Keith Urban on guitar trying too hard to look like a rock and roll guy.  On the other side of the stage you had the other guitarist…the replacement guy, who my Little Buddy took quite a liking to.  I couldn’t say I could blame her.  He was nice and sexy.  Your parents’ basic rock and roll boyfriend nightmare.  The fourth member of the band?  I honestly have no recollection of him.  It’s weird.  I totally remember how the stage right side of the situation was like caricatures of famous people playing instruments and the other side was much more normal looking…but the drummer is completely lost to my memory.  Obviously, I’m distracted thinking about the sexy guitar guy…oops.

Now, here’s the best part.  At least in my mind:

If you look closely at the picture of Adam above, you can just make out under his right eye, Adam Ant’s facial tats.

Because:  FML and my life is perpetually spent trying to answer the question “What could possibly go wrong?” in living color.

Adam Ant

Music:  LIVE

This isn’t a bad way to end the “summer” concert season.

I’m sitting at my local watering hole after watching the third stern talking to that Hillary has given The Donald this election cycle and – somehow – they have managed to go from debate viewing to live music in about 20 minutes.

I’m ok with this.

That 20 minutes was just about long enough for me to reflect on a pretty light series of concerts this past summer.  Not dating anyone can tend to stall one’s live music ventures.

Or misadventures in the case of my summer of ’16.

Here’s the rundown:

Temper Trap was good…aside from that basic white girl throwing up three feet from me.  I hadn’t been to the Wonder Ballroom since seeing Feist there in what could have been the last century.  An old grade school pal and too infrequent coffee buddy of mine put the place back on my radar earlier this year when describing the experience of taking her daughter and her friends out to an all ages show there.  Badaboom-badabing, I’m cruising their calendar and come across this Aussie band that I’ve only ever kind of heard of.  I knew one song.

I bought two tickets.

I wasn’t sure if I was being optimistic about finding a date or if I was secretly preparing to indulge my grumpy old man-ness by insulating myself from people who were lacking about three decades too little life experience to safely get too close to me.

It occurred to me later that I sure hoped it was the former because in a General Admission venue, protecting two “seats” could prove challenging.

It was the latter.  A fact that really stung once the poster child for birth control emptied her stomach next to me.

I think by the time I left the Echo and the Bunnymen concert at the Crystal Ballroom a couple of months later I was beginning to realize that it wasn’t the near-unknown or nostalgic bands from my childhood (who refused to play their classics instead of stuff released within the last 10 years, incidentally) that really had me feeling I had squandered the summer’s live music opportunities.  It was the fact that I had squandered the summer’s live music opportunities.  Usually, I can be counted on to randomly pop into a show that I happen by.  And you just know how good that show is gonna be if you can buy a ticket at the box office while the opening band is still playing.  But sometimes you find a real sleeper that you enjoy.

That hadn’t happened this summer.

Mostly because I was still grinding my nose at the Zeeb and that had me working Friday and Saturday nights until 11:00 or later.

And I was insisting to myself that that was ok.

No.

But in addition to missing random opportunities, I had also missed some of my favorite bands that had rolled through town this summer in pretty rare appearances.

Tears for Fears.

Morrissey.  (Sorry, LB…)

Cashed Out, a Johnny Cash cover band.

Willie Nelson.  Yes, I would have loved seeing that old codger!

Countless opportunities to see Life During Wartime, a Talking Heads cover band.

Pink Martini.

So, I’m not sure what my mindset was when I walked into Echo…but I know I had an agenda:  Hear them perform my favorites.  End of agenda.  Ironically, I had tried to get tickets earlier and couldn’t and then the week before the concert there were magically tickets available.

I should have taken notice of that little harbinger.

I get there late, and the place is deserted.  The Little Buddy and her 2.0 are at the front between the stage and the bar.  How can this be bad?

Except.

There’s about a football field worth of empty space between the doors and the minimal crowd.

But the opening band hadn’t begun yet, so maybe people were making a legit date night of it and were having dinner beforehand.  And then the opening band began.

I really – sincerely – wish that they hadn’t done that.

I try not to criticize people who do things that I absolutely cannot do.  Performing live is one of those things I cannot do.  This is not to be confused with people who sing Karaoke.  I openly enjoy their shortcomings.  Because I could do the same and wisely choose not to.  You’re welcome.

I will say that this band – Coastal Fish or something – played every song like their plane was going down and they just wanted one more jam together before the end.  But they didn’t seem to be playing together.  They were all jamming and none of their efforts really seemed to be in concert with one another’s.

So, it was kind of painful.

Almost as painful as the VIP section that was directly in front of where we were standing.

And had two people in it.

No, wait…another couple just barely showed up during the opening band’s set.  While the Coastal Fish ignored one another on stage, I got to watch these two couples do the same in the VIP area.  They literally stood about as far from one another as possible.  It was awkward.

But then Echo et al took the stage and…nothing up there really changed.

Ian McCulloch pretty much phoned it in.  I think he really just showed up for the barstool full of cocktails at the back of the stage, which he called a Crystal Ballroom minion up to refill during their set.  He was openly smoking a cigarette on stage.  Once they finally got around to performing Bedbugs and Ballyhoo, I got on my Dancing Horse and left early.

I heard the next day that LB and 2.0 had pretty much done the same.  I had lingered in Lola’s – which is one floor below the main stage – and watched another song on screen, so they may have actually paroled themselves before I left the building.

So, that was it.  2016 was looking like a live music let down for old Xtopher.

Until last night.

There I was, deflecting The Silver Fox’s invitation to The Big Legrowlski to watch the debate.  I wasn’t sure they were airing this one, since I was sure that they had live music scheduled to start at 8:00.  His Foxiness reminded me that the debate only lasted 90 minutes, but I was not sold on the reality of the transition from politics to live music within such a tight window.

Now, I know they can do it.

Plus, he had – in classic Fox style – double booked himself and was going to be leaving early to watch a Portland Timbers match at their stadium up the road.  But after a few grumpy texts and a couple of hours to cool off, his Fox-timism won me over and I joined him there just before the debate.

Is it frightening or funny when the debates are more outrageously bizarre than the Saturday Night Live sketches about them?

I’m going with scary…

But, now it was showtime!

Since I had been abandoned by The Fox, I decided to stick around and see what my little taphouse turned bro-bar could do with live music.img_1533

My advice?  If you have a chance to see John Hull live, do it.  If you don’t, go to his SoundCloud and give him a listen.  Totally worth it.  If you like the same type of music I do.

Which is the best music, after all.

After his first couple of songs, I had a run-in with my own trademark awkwardness when he introduced himself and…oops, I mistook “Any John Hull fans out there?” for “Any John Holmes fans out there?”, which was quite the non-sequitur and caused my head to snap up from my phone in a not-too-subtle manner.

I think he noticed.  I was sitting at the front table.

After his first couple of songs – his own – he performed a couple of covers:

Jason Mraz with some Bob Marley mixed in to incredible effect.  Gotta love an acoustic mash up.

Sting – Roxanne.  Which he really made his own.

For some reason, he decided to ask the crowd if there were any requests.  All three of us.  But he wasn’t talking to his girlfriend, who was sitting at the other front row table.  He was talking to the woman in the back of the room, who occasionally had the bar manager and owner sitting with her.  I had been invited to that table, but passed, because E.O.G. and also, a friend of the bar from the bakery across the street had dropped off a box of their day olds and I was busy resisting that temptation.  I think we all know how that would work out for me if I was within arm’s reach of those poor pastries.  Anyway, Back Of The Room gal choked on coming up with a request, so I suggested some Tracy Chapman.

One great acoustic performer covering another seemed like a legit request.

He didn’t know any titles off the top of his head but gamely told me to suggest one and maybe he could make his way through it.  This is where he met my trademark awkwardness when I inadvertently insulted him by requesting…Give Me One Reason To Stay Here.

Oops.

I think he noticed.

 

Instead he played a Death Cab for Cutie song – I Will Follow You Into The Dark – and proceeded to give us PNW slobs an education in Death Cab trivia.  Ok, one thing a San Diego boy might want to remember is that while, yes…Death Cab is also “kind of” known as Postal Service, they are from Bellingham, WA and we probably already knew that both bands shared a frontman but were in fact different bands.

But the cover was still solid…what this guy might have lacked in trivia accuracy, he more than made up for in just being a guy you want to sit and listen to for a beer or two.

Abdicating music selection to the crowd for another attempt at a random pick, he got Sweet Caroline as a cover suggestion…which I thought was pretty mean.  Not everyone can trot out a Neil Diamond.  Not even the cover bands that I’ve seen can deliver consistently.  Damn if this guy didn’t end up bringing it home.  Even getting the crowd – which had grown to double digits at this point – involved in the sing a long component of the performance.

I know that won’t be my last live show of 2016 – not with the holidays coming up! – but not a bad way to transition out of summer shows and get me excited for what the rest of fall and winter have to offer.

Then I can gear up for 2017 and hopefully put a little intent behind my music experiences and get my live show mojo back!

I feel tempted to go back and capitalize all of the seasons like good grammar dictates they should be, but then I’d be proof reading my work and that would degrade my stream of consciousness style…but I just want you all to know that I thought about it.

Love and pizza, yo!

Music:  LIVE