Foy Vance takes the stage

Foy Vance is a brilliant artist.  His vocals soar and lyrics inspire.  Moving from piano to ukulele to guitar, Foy without a band at The Triple Door was a totally different experience than when we last saw him at the Columbia City Theater.  Less rocking and more talking.  He opened the show with Free Falling, a Tom Petty tune, and finished with a haunting Irish song in acapella.  Awesome.

A Northern Irish musician and singer-songwriter, he was signed to Glassnote Records in 2013 and has been touring non-stop.  The Triple Door gig was his next to last U.S. stop before a well-deserved break to go home.

Clink, Clink, Clink.  W.T.F.  Foy was not amused.  Clearly used to playing larger venues opening for artists like Ed Sheeran, Elton John and Josh Groban, you could tell it was painful for him to sing and endure the irritating noise from the audience dining.  “Are you still on the first course?  Entrée? Dessert?”  Will it never end?  Clink, Clink, Clink.

Inspiring singalongs on a few songs, the sold out crowd knew the words and didn’t want to stop being Foy’s back-ups.  When one patron yelled out “More”, Foy let him know that he was not a “fecking jukebox” and that was that.

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I do love The Triple Door because the seats are comfy and they pour an amazing strong and plentiful Old Fashioned.  However, the crowd can be noisy when enjoying their food and tend to chat as most tables seat 4-6 and encourage groups.  Of course, we were at one of the counter tops and the guy next to us thought we had paid to hear HIM sing not Foy.  Wrong!  I quietly protested by covering my ear closest to him with my middle finger to block out his musical stylings.  I wonder if he saw or cared.  Probably not but it made me feel better.

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Next time Foy needs to share his artistry at The Moore or The Paramount.  No delicious shrimp noodles but better acoustics and focus on the really important thing.  His gorgeous voice and storytelling.  Until next time, Foy, cheers!

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London Shopping-Vintage to Vinyl

Eleven miles and 25,000 steps later, we had walked ALL over London.  Literally.  We embraced “shop till you drop” and had fun doing it.  Starting at our historic boutique hotel, St. Ermin’s, at noon after sleeping in (jet lag sucks) we walked to Notting Hill.  Yes, that Notting Hill but, alas, we didn’t run into Hugh Grant.  Buggers!BC655D29-FC10-4252-920C-07883DB7450F

This terribly charming area has shops galore including Portobello Market, a street filled with stalls featuring furs, teapots and more.  But first, it was National Record Store Day and we were looking for vinyl and lucky enough to stumble upon the Music & Goods Exchange.  Searching for treasures among the used vinyl, I found “Stompin’ at the Savoy”, a compilation of 19 classic cuts from the archives of the Savoy featuring pioneer jazz, be-bop, rhythm and blues.  Dedicated to and featuring Charlie Parker, the tracks are from 1940-1960.  Thom picked up singles from Elvis Costello as much for the covers, which we will frame, as for the music. Can’t wait to spin some tunes when we get home!

I love bookstores second to none so imagine my excitement to not only find the original bookstore featured in the movie, Notting Hill, but we also found a great sale at another bookstore.  Picking up a “Royal Snap” very British card game, I now have a plan to play cards with Mia next time we go to Boise.  “Albie and the Space Rocket” was another purchase.  “It seems like just another ordinary night to Albie until he wakes up to find…penguins stealing the furniture, moose tangoing in the toilet and zebras asleep in the kitchen cupboard.  But who has left a trail of baked beans?”  Can’t wait to read this silly tale of adventure to Mia!  Of course, I’ll have to explain what a “bloke” is and so on.  Love those British terms especially “cheeky”.   I got Thom “From Churchill’s War Rooms” as he plans to visit the actual war rooms while I am working this week.  Booorrring! He knows that would not be at the top of my “go do” list so off he goes by himself.   Yet another bookstore we stumbled on wasn’t open but we read the sign by the door which shared that this shop was the inspiration for the travel bookshop featured in the movie.WP_20170422_19_16_40_Pro

Finally reaching Portobello Market, we navigated the crowds to find Mary’s Living and Giving, a thrift store that benefits Save The Children.  I had read about this amazing shop and it did not disappoint.  From Kate Spade to DVF, there were bargains galore and a friendly clerk to assist.  I’ve decided to start a new tradition and get Hannah vintage fashion wherever I travel and this time she’ll be gaining a black sheath with fringe and zipper treatment.  Super cheeky and all proceeds to a worthy cause!

Around the corner, we found another vinyl store, Rough Trade, where we browsed until we were informed that closing time was upon us so basically, “GET OUT!” Now dark, we started our long journey home.  Walking in front of a group of millennials at one point, we chuckled at their conversation discussing a game they like to play in the pubs called, “Daddy or Sugar Daddy?” asking women with older companions to share the truth.  Wonder how many cocktails they get thrown in their faces while playing this cute game.  I’m betting quite a few.

At one point along a lonely, creepy stretch of road, I was ready to try to hail a cab.  My back hurt, my feet ached and I was a little bit scared.  “Princess Snowflake get your ass moving” was my compassionate husband’s response to that idea.  Hitting 11 miles on my overworked Fitbit, we finally arrived back at St. Ermin’s.  Time for an adult beverage.  Cheers!

Rainy Day in Seattle

The grey skies are endless in Seattle in the winter but that doesn’t stop us from exploring and having fun.  No way does rain deter true Seattlites-wet is the norm.  So hoods up and off we went!wp_20170204_13_25_12_rich

First up, fueling up on Marionberry Pie Greek Yogurt at Elenos at Pike Place Market. Yum with a capital “Y”.  Okay, so not exactly diet food but Thom and I endulged in a small container, perching at the counter at the market with a view of the ferris wheel all lit up in pink.  Too soon the yummy, creamy treat was consumed and it was off to the Seattle Art Museum.  Taking in “Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series”, this journey illustrates through 60 paintings the mass exodus of African Americans from the rural South to the industrial North in the decades after the First World War.  Stunning.

Artist Jacob Lawrence made Seattle his home and was a professor at UW, actively painting up until his death in 2000.  The MOMA in NYC and The Phillips Collection in DC jointly own his series.  They decided to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jacob Lawrence by coming together for the first time in two decades on the West Coast to present this special exhibit.  Check it out.  Thought-provoking artistic experience.

Reading the story behind each piece, I was struck that our society has not radically advanced from this time in history.  We still see discrimination and the struggle to be treated equally.  We must keep up the fight for equality for all.

After a quick walk through the rest of the second floor, we hopped on the C bus to West Seattle to indulge in another one of our passions, music.  If you haven’t checked out Easy Street Records yet, GO.  Not only for the vinyl selection on the 2nd floor but just to soak up the vibe of good music, good people and good food.  Our old car doesn’t have Bluetooth but it does have a CD player so we have been indulging in buying some music to listen to with the top down this summer should the rain ever stop.  With CD’s from  The Clash and Jonny Lang in hand, we also got a “Greetings from West Seattle” t-shirt for me to wear to the Springsteen concert in Auckland, NZ.  Two more weeks and then we’re off to the South Pacific for rock and beach time.  YOLO!

 

Hangin’ with Bruce…Truly The Boss!

“This will be the best 4 seconds of my life.”  Really???  My husband made this pronouncement this morning in advance of the upcoming meet and greet with Bruce.  What about…hmmm…the birth of your children, marrying me, etc.?  “Okay, the fourth best 4 seconds of my life.”  Better.  “What AM I going to wear?”  Oh, Thom, settle down.  Bruce is just a normal guy.  “No.  He.  Is.  Not.  He is THE BOSS.”  Okay, I get it and so the day began.

Social media is powerful and Thom and I are wired almost every hour of the day so we found out quickly that Bruce Springsteen was going to make Seattle one of the few stops on his book tour to promote his new autobiography, Born to Run. WOW.  At exactly 10 a.m. several weeks ago, we both were logged in to Elliott Bay Book Company with fingers poised and pounced on tickets (cost of the book) to get a ticket to meet Bruce, get a photo and a pre-signed book.  Sold out in several minutes, tickets were later going for up to $600 on StubHub and wannabes were circling the lines today to meet Bruce begging to buy tickets or be the “plus one” for a ticket holder to meet Bruce.  No way!

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Thom making friends in line

I have to say that Elliott Bay Book Company had a big challenge and they did an awesome job communicating the rules often and in advance of the big event, as well as being staffed well, organized and friendly on the big day.  We arrived at 10 a.m., 2 hours prior to the start time of the event and promptly got into a line with hundreds of others already lined up.  We promptly fell into conversation with a lovely couple, Ollie and Fletcher, who had come up from Northern California and Tacoma.  Fletcher told us stories of her dad’s love for Bruce and how, though her car had just been stolen and she was busy finishing up her degree, they had made time for this experience. Their dream is for Ollie to retire from her job and stay home to raise the kids they hope to have.  They were lovely and I hope their dreams come true.

Finally, as the line moved forward, we got our blue wristbands and hands stamped in the bookstore and moved to another line, the “blue” line.  By this time, we were two hours in and nature called. so off I ran to the nearest coffee shop while Thom held our place in line and made new friends, some old rockers who knew every Bruce song.  Making it back in time to continue our journey towards Bruce, Thom was still in an altered state, so excited to meet his rock hero.  We debated what to say in our 4 seconds with Bruce.   Thom settled on thanking him for writing the songs that made up the soundtrack of his life-from the heart and meaningful.

As we gained entry to the bookstore and out of the rain that had started, we saw signs proclaiming “180 more steps to Bruce” and so forth and posters where you could share your favorite song, where you were from, your favorite Seattle sight/restaurant, etc. to keep you engaged while inching closer to The Boss.  They even provided a “Spruce for Bruce” mirror to make sure you were still looking good for your photo opp.  Great job, Elliott Bay, you pulled off a wonderful experience for everyone.

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The bookstore staff quickly checked belongings and took your camera/phone from you so you were unencumbered and they could take the picture.  Bruce was warm and friendly just like I thought he would be.  Instead of a heartfelt comment, I chose to be honest but made him laugh with a sincere compliment, “You are TOO CUTE!” and then followed with a plea to keep the pressure on Trump.  Seriously, HRC needs all the help she can get.  He chuckled and hugged me tight and then we were done.  It was truly a great 4 seconds.  Afterward, we hopped over to EDM to get his new album that is the musical companion to his book that features 5 previously unreleased songs called, Chapter and Verse.

Bruce, it was great meeting you.  You are a spectacular talent and inspiration to generations of fans, including me.  Thom loves you too.  Well done.

Crazy American Political Race as Viewed by an Irishman

“I’ve got 300 euros bet on Hillary.  She’ll win.”  The Irish vinyl shop owner filled us with confidence after a hearty political debate.  “Hope to God you are right!” I replied.  ireland

Thus ended a very spirited conversation that began the moment we walked into Spindizzy Records in the heart of Temple Bar in Dublin.  (http://www.spindizzyrecords.com)

I overheard a customer and the shop owner reflecting on the crazy election race we find ourselves in where a reality show guy could be President.  “Are you people out of your fauwking minds?”  Why, yes, in a world where Trump could be elected as our leader, a basket of the voting public is obviously uninformed and looking to be saved by Cheeto Jesus.  Like he cares about anyone but himself.  Not.

I weighed in and said that realistically he could win and then Mr. Vinyl made a mistake.  He said that Hillary wasn’t much better than Trump so it didn’t really matter.  Oh NO he didn’t!  Thom took up the conversation then stating Hillary’s qualifications and defending her honor.  Is she perfect?  Nope.  Neither am I but seeing that Trump is a psychotic, pathological lying racist among other things, while Hillary has the skill and the ability to be our leader, it is very much a clear choice who to vote for.  Trump can not and should not win.  Period.  Mr. Vinyl listened and agreed reluctantly and reinforced that Irish politicians are incompetent so he shouldn’t be talking about American politicians as being any better. He watches the election results like he watches our Super Bowl-both with bets placed.

With a good selection of vinyl to browse and politics to discuss, we stayed awhile and enjoyed the conversation.  He recommended a good pub and then another customer weighed in with her choice of a “real” Irish establishment we could go to for music and some spirits later.  Hopefully my jet lag will subside by then-last night I went to bed at 6 p.m., got up at 1 a.m. for an hour or two and then back to sleep until 8 a.m.  Damn.  Missed out on the Irish music last night but am determined to go out tonight after a long nap, of course.  Cheers!

 

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!

Amsterdam Shopping-Boutiques and Books and Vinyl, oh my!

Amsterdam is filled with quaint specialty boutiques in all the alleys and cobblestone streets…a shoppers paradise!  We love to wander in and out and soak up the quirkiness of it all.  So different from the grand, oversized stores in the US, these teeny tiny storefronts are hardly over 100-200 sq. feet–a closet really-but a closet filled with very specialized and focused wares to tempt and delight shoppers. From bead shops to teeth shops to bow ties, they have it all for you in Amsterdam.

The “all things teeth” shop featured every kind of toothbrush, floss, etc. you could imagine with a ferris wheel display in the window.   How cool is that???  Next door, a gorgeous house cat calmly watched over the huge assortment of bow ties in every color and pattern, all tied up and ready to be worn.

Boutiques specialize-bow ties, of course, with a house cat guarding at the shop.
Boutiques specialize-bow ties, of course, with a house cat guarding at the shop.
Toothbrush boutique with a ferris wheel in the window to showcase the goods.
Toothbrush boutique with a ferris wheel in the window to showcase the goods.

Moving on to the Toms Store, which was slightly larger and featured a coffee bar as well, I saw a few items for my Christmas list and Thom’s.  We love their shoes and can feel good buying from them as they give a pair of shoes for every one that is bought.  Great story if you haven’t already read the book that the Toms creator has written about his idea to give back and still run a successful retail business.  Wouldn’t it be great if everyone did this?

American Bookstore had multiple floors and an author signing going on when we visited
American Bookstore had multiple floors and an author signing going on when we visited
Toms...love them and their retail concept.  Give back and provide quality goods.  Sold!
Toms…love them and their retail concept. Give back and provide quality goods. Sold!

Along with the many boutiques, I have never seen so many bookstores–little and big ones–some Dutch only and others, like the American Bookstore, featuring English titles.  Rarely have I seen such an immense and impressive collection of books other than perhaps the Strand in NYC.  Multiple levels with deep stock in each topic, we were lucky enough to happen upon (as we always seem to do) an author event with a writer by the name of Charles Stross, a British writer of science fiction, Lovecraftian (?) horror and fantasy.  He was very articulate and funny–hoping he swings by Elliot Bay Books in Seattle soon!  Alas, the luggage will not accommodate one more item so no books were bought unfortunately.

Books galore at the American Bookstore!
Books galore at the American Bookstore!

Today we visited the vinyl stores in our neighborhood of Jordaan.  There are many in Amsterdam-such a variety that a local magazine had a double spread article detailing the music havens where you can buy vinyl, new and used for $3 to $40 euros.  Quite the large assortment to pick from at places like Second Life Music across from our hotel and VelvetMusic and InDeep’n’Dance both on Rozengracht.  It hurt to watch Thom thumb through the vast crates of music and know he couldn’t buy any to bring home.  Oh well-he has quite collection already so he will live. Harsh but true!

Just make sure you leave enough room in your luggage when you come to Amsterdam so that you can buy some cool jazz or soul vinyl or a stack of books to bring back with you.  Of course, if you are needing a unique toothbrush or bow tie, that doesn’t take up quite as much room so shop away I say!  There is something for everyone here in Amsterdam.