Enjoying Indie Singer/Songwriters in Seattle

I try to never take for granted that we are lucky to live in a city with such a vibrant music scene for all ages that ranges from superstars visiting us like Bruce Springsteen and The Who to hard-working talents that you have probably never heard of but should check out.  Thom and I try to support all levels, attending at least one concert a month for date night.  This fall we get to experience some fantastic indie artists who put their heart and soul into their work. Being a musician is not a easy life for most but I appreciate them all!

One of the smaller venues with phenomenal acoustics is Columbia City Theater with only 100 or so seats so you get to be up close and personal with the acts.  We’ve seen Griffin House there (and he comes back to play 12/1-go!) and last night we got to see Sean McConnell, who had been Griffin’s opening act last year but now is launching his Ghost Town tour as the main act showcasing his new album, which we bought on vinyl, of course.

Can I just say that Thom’s vinyl collection is out of control?  Soon, new furniture will be required to house it all which could be an issue as we look to downsize yet again in the future. We are looking at properties to buy in West Seattle, close to Easy Street Records which might be very, very bad for our budget if Thom can just stroll over every day looking for new vinyl.  He even, perhaps jokingly, said he would get a job there just to have more time perusing the inventory.  OH. HELL. NO.  After we put in an offer on a condo on the main drag in West Seattle yesterday, we ambled by East Street just in time to catch Sean do an in-store appearance before his concert.  He took one look at me, stared and said, “I remember you!”.  So funny and no, I am not a stalker, but on a recent girl’s weekend with my sister in Chicago, we had talked to Sean after he opened for Kris Allen at City Winery.  I had told Sean that I had asked my barber to recreate his hair style on me when I went with the shaved on the sides #3 blade look.  We’re twins now, don’t you know!

But I digress, so back to the music scene.  Sean’s opening act, Andy Davis, was good and connected to the friendly, easy-to-engage audience especially with his piano tunes.  He congratulated us on our clapping skills as everyone in the place quickly took direction to get involved with his quirky and awkward-at-love songs.  I hate a stiff crowd so it was fun to enjoy the concert with other people who appreciate good tunes with some spirit.  Sean even later commented that it was refreshing to play a venue where the focus is music vs. people eating/talking/ignoring the music. Playing bars with drunken patrons is probably not his favorite venue.  Just a guess.

In the 95+ degree heatwave and a theater that was only somewhat cooled off, Sean laid it all out on the floor with his soaring, clear vocals and original lyrics that spoke to the hard life of a musician.  He and Andy are driving a van around the West Coast from Seattle to Boise (9/3 at Neurolox-Boise friends, go!) for a total of 12 cities in two weeks.  Damn, they work hard for their money.  As Sean sings in one of his songs, “One Acre of Land”, he offered his wife the opportunity to be with a broke artist who would devote himself to her despite the lack of money.  Who could turn down that offer?   His lyrics really speak to Thom and I, especially “Best We’ve Ever Been” when he sings, “And damn girl, we look good.  Yeah baby we’re the best we’ve ever been.” and explores the adventure that life can be when you have a partner you love.  That’s Thom and I-no slowing down!  Check out Sean’s vocal stylings: 

Coming soon this fall is Foy Vance, who opened for Elton John this summer on his European Tour, and who will grace Columbia City with his presence 9/28 on his Wild Swan tour. You can bet Thom and I will be there to enjoy his music before he hits it big.  Ed Sheeran signed and produced Foy’s latest album and he has gotten great media coverage in the U.S.  We will have just come back from our Ireland vacation and will be in the mood to let this Irishman entertain us.  Get out there and enjoy some Seattle music.  Cheers!

Seattle Speakeasies-Cheers!

“Go to the far side of the room.  Pick up the phone and identify yourself.  We will come and get you at the metal door.” Thus, our speakeasy adventure in Seattle began on a hot Friday night.

Interesting that speakeasies are, by nature, supposed to be secret and exclusive but they are trending all over social media these days.  Our first stop, Needle and Thread, was recommended by several people at work, so off we went for a taste test.  Reading up on the speakeasy protocol, I learned that you can call in advance to secure a RSVP in this very small (probably 20 people max) prohibition-style experience.  Just calling to get the RSVP was fun-you leave a message (no more than 7 days in advance) after hearing the strict rules–if you are lucky enough to get a call back, you better actually PICK UP THE CALL to talk to the host or you won’t get in.  Done.

Promptly at 5 p.m. when the parent bar, Tavern Hall, opened, we were at the phone calling upstairs to gain entrance to the speakeasy, Needle and Thread.  Dress code:  “Keep it classy”.  Not sure what their definition of “classy” is but Thom was rocking his porkpie hat and looking very hipster.  When our friends arrived after fighting the horrible Friday Seattle gridlock, our drink master interviewed us on our cocktail/alcohol preferences as there is no menu and they warn you in advance not to expect an appletini to be made in their establishment.  There ARE speakeasy standards after all and only custom cocktails served, thank you very much.  Prepping for our trip to Ireland in the fall, I’m leaning into whiskey to be better equipped to take on the true Irish experience.  Our host got it right, creating for me an iced cocktail created with Irish Bushmills whiskey, orange liqueur, cherry herring and lime juice.  Tart and sweet and very refreshing on a hot day in a bar where ceiling fans provided the only air conditioning.  We drank up, chatted politics and then headed down Pike St. to our next speakeasy experience.

After wandering the block looking for Foreign National, I spied an unique door tucked away between other restaurants-found it!  Through the layers of beads and velvet curtains, we quickly hopped into a communal booth with strangers as the space is limited and in high demand.  While we sat and enjoyed our cocktail creations, other bar patrons streamed in looking in vain for seats in this trendy bar.  I went for the Foreign National house cocktail made up of pisco, Amaro Montenegro, honey, sour orange served with an egg white frost on top.  Petite and delicious.  Our friends had the complex cocktail named Osaka #1 consisting of Suntory Toki whiskey, vermouth blanc, lemon, yuxu, orgeat, ardbert spritz and anise smoke.  WOW-I have not a clue what most of that stuff is but I got a taste of it and it was interesting to say the least.

I loved the speakeasy ambience with the small interesting spaces filled with people who value quality booze concoctions over quantity.  I can’t wait to check out other speakeasies in Seattle (list below) and in NYC when we visit our favorite city in the fall.  Cheers!

Foreign National, 300 E. Pike St., Story in Seattle Times:  http://www.seattletimes.com/life/food-drink/foreign-national-is-this-the-best-new-bar-in-seattle/http://www.foreignnationalbar.com/http://www.yelp.com/biz/foreign-national-seattle-2

 Needle and Thread at Tavern Law, 1406 12th Ave., RSVP 206-325-0133, http://www.mccrackentough.com/tavernlaw/http://www.yelp.com/biz/needle-and-thread-seattle?osq=speakeasy

 Bath Tub and Gin, 2205 2nd Ave.  http://bathtubginseattle.com/;  http://www.yelp.com/biz/bathtub-gin-and-co-seattle?osq=speakeasy

 Knee High Stocking, 1356 E. Olive Way,  http://www.kneehighstocking.com/;http://www.yelp.com/biz/knee-high-stocking-co-seattle?osq=speakeasy

Many thanks to Karmann K. for sharing her photos of the evening’s adventure!

 

 

Booze and smoky butter!

Canon, a self-described whiskey and bitters emporium, is definitely deserving of all the buzz and accolades it has earned, including being named one of the best bars in the world by Drinks International in 2014.   Even at 5 p.m. on a Monday night, within minutes after opening, the intimate charming bar was packed with booze lovers.  Count me in!  Perched at the corner of the bar to closely watch the bartenders in action, they did not disappoint and treated us to a show indeed.  Boasting the largest spirit collection in the western hemisphere at 3,500 labels and counting, I just had to ask Hailey, our bartender, how on earth they kept track of where each bottle went.  Out came the iPad with a library of all their spirits by shelf.  Spirit search time!

Canon's wall of booze
Canon’s wall of booze

I was overwhelmed with the huge “lavish libations” menu and had to take some time to choose what to try.  My friends had been to Canon before so went right after some favorites-the “Campfire in Georgia” and the Truffle Old Fashioned.  After lighting up some cinnamon French oak on the plate with a mini-blow torch, Hailey dropped the glass cover over the drink concoction of mescal, peach-habanero shrub and fresh oj to infuse the cocktail with smokiness galore.  Quite the production:

The smokiness theme continued with the Khaleesi Cocktail that features “dragon’s blood smoke” (not kidding!) which is blown into a glass skull and then transferred into a mix of canon high west rye, bourbon, punt e mes, strawberry, and tonka bean.  WTF!  Exotic ingredients that added up to a tasty cocktail for my friend that I got to taste.  Thanks K!

Me and a bottle of aged booze!
Me and a bottle of aged booze!

Now, for my cocktail selection, I decided on a slut theme, starting first with the aged cocktail list offering of the “Hanky Panky” made up of gin, sweet vermouth, fernet branca, orange zest and aged in the cutest little bottle for three years.  Yes, you swig the Hanky straight from the bottle!  That went down just fine and I followed it with The Tramp consisting of Plymouth sloe gin, giffard apricot, fresh lime juice and dry sparking wine.  Less serious but highly entertaining sipping out of a glass this time.  Classy.

With all that alcohol, either load up on some carbs before you go or, better yet, order a basket of bread with smoked butter.  DAMN.  The booze was awesome but the smoked butter was heaven on a baguette.  They have other nibbles including smoked salmon, squash, beef, etc.  Needing something other than bread, I ordered the bourbon nuts.  With one bite of warm caramel corn/pretzel/bourbon smoky nuts, my taste buds swooned again.   I loved their warning on the food menu:

“Alcohol, eggs, sex, undercooked foods and most enjoyable things in life can and will kill you if you give them enough time.  Live life to the fullest until then.”  Amen, Canon.  I’ll be back.

Open 5 p.m.-2 a.m. daily, visit Canon, 928 12th Avenue on Capitol Hill in Seattle.  Be prepared to pay $25 in advance to get a reservation.  Don’t worry-it’s pricey so that $25 will go towards the many cocktails and nibbles you will enjoy.  Life is short.  Cheers!

Canon
Hailey mixes up a Khaleesi Cocktail, smoking skull and all!

 

 

Fun Friday Happenings in Seattle!

Despite a busy work day on Friday, I managed to squeeze in some shopping at the new and “only one in the world”  Amazon Bookstore at University Village that just opened up and then joined the “IT” crowd at the Seattle Art Museum REMIX event in the evening.  Fun in Seattle despite a dreary day!

Seattle Art Museum Remix Event on Friday night-dancing, art and music!
Seattle Art Museum REMIX Event on Friday night-dancing, art and music! What’s not to like?

While working at UV, my team and I tried to get into Din Tai Fung for lunch but to no avail–still widely popular (also in China!) this dumpling superstar restaurant had a one hour wait time at 11:30 a.m. just after opening.  WTF!!!  They’re good but they’re just pork dumplings people!  Okay for tourists and leisure shoppers to wait it out but, on a work lunch hour, not so much for us.  So we traipsed across the street to another place that probably loves being so close to Din Tai Fung because it gets people like us who can’t wait.  After some lovely fish tacos, I just had to check out the Amazon Bookstore that was all the rage in recent national headlines.  Thom shared with me some source that quipped, “first they killed the bookstore and now they’re wearing their dead skin”– pretty graphic but true.  As most online retailers are learning, you can make a lot of money online but it doesn’t replace the experience of being able to serve customers face-to-face and hear their feedback.

Each book has a sign with reader review and upc code
Each book has a sign with reader review and upc code
Amazon Book Store at University Village was hopping on Friday
Amazon Book Store at University Village was hopping on Friday

The Amazon bookstore is not a comfortable place-no overstuffed chairs or cafés like Elliott Bay Bookstore, my favorite on Capital Hill, though they do have ledges by the window to perch on uncomfortably while checking out the merchandise.  Message here is:  stay but not too long-buy our stuff and get the hell out for the next customer.  Their hardware takes up the center of the store, Kindles and such, but the true star of the store is the authentic, not electronic, books that beg to be bought and curled up with on a rainy Seattle day. I actually liked how the signs for each book feature a customer review and their endcaps have delightful curated selections like “if you like George R.R. Martin, try these” or “if you enjoy series, try these” which helps guide voracious readers like me who are always looking for new material to consume.  I finally had to put a halt to my Amazon Kindle book habit as it was costing $100ish a month.  I turned to the Seattle online library lending of Kindle books which, while not a huge assortment, still helps feed my reading habit for free.  Reading is one of life’s pleasure however you enjoy it but there is nothing better than a cozy bookstore–just don’t go to the Amazon bookstore if that is what you want.  Try Elliott Bay or Third Place Books!

Elvis Costello would not be happy that his book is categorized by Amazon next to Donald
Elvis Costello would not be happy that his book is categorized by Amazon next to the Donald

On to the evening’s entertainment!  After work I trotted home and changed into my evening attire to check out the Seattle Art Museum REMIX scene.  I found out about it through a Meetup group I joined, Seattle Arts & Culture Events, that lets you know about cool stuff happening around town.  We got a $5 discount on the $25 tickets for the 8 p.m.-midnight event “after hours” at the museum.  We showed up around 8ish and there was line stretched down the block to get in-what a crowd!   This is definitely a place to go not only with a date but also to meet and greet new people, i.e. pick up someone.  The crowd (about 2500 people, mainly 20-30ish crowd) was dressed to the nines-we even saw a stylish guy with the whole pirate ruffled shirt thing going on paired with a jacked and jeans.  Somehow he pulled it off!  Kudos to him! While the majority of the guys were still rocking jeans and major plaid, the ladies were going all out with dresses and fierce heels.  Very rarely have I seen such a display of fashion in Seattle.  Loved the people watching!

Renoir's portrait of Monet, my favorite artist.
Renoir’s portrait of Monet, my favorite artist.

What is REMIX?  A packed house for the quarterly event enjoying adult arts & crafts, bands, drinking (on the lower level only away from the masterpieces) and celebrity-led tours.  We joined Lorrie Cardoso, founder of our meetup group, as she led us around sharing her favorite and least favorite pieces of art.  She was not a huge fan of the golden urinal in the Modern section of the museum.  Agreed.

Our tour guide shows us her "least favorite" piece at the SAM-the gold urinal
Our tour guide shows us her “least favorite” piece at the SAM-the gold urinal

We had planned to enjoy the Impressionist exhibit anyway so this gave us new perspective with her guidance.  Since most of the pieces in this collection are from the National Museum of Art in DC, we had already seen them but Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, etc. never disappoint no matter how many times you are lucky enough to view them.

We were probably the first to leave around 10 p.m. just as the dancing was getting going but it had been a long week and we had a long walk home on a beautiful fall evening.  So thankful, as always, that we live in a great town and are able to enjoy wonderful experiences.