Saturday, November 27, 2010

Seattle Holidays

The view up 5th Avenue with the Monorail on the left.

The "Bon Marche" Star and the Tree Lighting at Westlake Center.

The Paperboys at Triple Door

It’s official: we’re in The Holidays.

The Day After Thanksgiving is always a holiday in itself. That’s when the Tree Lighting happens downtown, and it seems like the whole city is celebrating. I like meeting for cocktails at the Fairmont Olympic in the afternoon. Built in 1924, this venerable old hotel used to host bear hunters visiting the northwest. Its splendid Italian Renaissance-style colonnade and vast high-ceiling lobby make it the perfect festive meeting place. The 25-foot Noble Fir, centered in the grand living-room like lobby, is probably one of the most beautifully decorated trees in the world. You can purchase one of the other, smaller contenders, artfully decorated trees up for auction, placed around the lobby.

Amidst the busy shoppers coming and going, friends meet for signature cocktails and honor the tradition. I like the Olympic Gold martini with a little infused ginger. The Glacier Blue Martini is festive and icy. Or the “Absoluley” which gets harder and harder to say.

A half hour before show time, we bundle up and walk the few blocks over to Westlake Center. There we join thousands of revelers to watch local newscasters MC the old-style variety show of musicians and carolers, and we sing along as they perform favorites like “Silver Bells” and “Here Comes Santa Claus…Vixen and Blitzen and all his reindeer, pulling on the reins...”

And then the star on the top of the old Bon Marche (now Macy’s) building starts to glow…and the rays light up one by one, and then, the crescendo, the star is lit, the Big Tree is lit, and the fireworks go off! !!!

That’s the signal to find a great place for dinner. We sample the exceptionally good food from the Wild Ginger kitchen while seeing the entertaining Vancouver-based The PaperBoys at Triple Door. What they may lack in originality, they make up for in sheer verve and enthusiasm.

It’s great to be home for the holidays!

Stay tuned: a new weekly Jam Night at 88 Keys in SoDo this coming Wednesday!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

New World Music

Music Genres-in-a-Blender

There’s a new kind of music that’s popping up all over the place. I’ve seen a few bands recently that exemplify this genres-in-a-blender sound: Handful of Luvin’, Still Time, Railroad Earth, and coming up on Thanksgiving weekend: Vancouver-based The Paperboys at Triple Door in Seattle.

Where do these guys get off, saying things like, “we’re Irish Jigs and Reels and a good dose of Country and Bluegrass, with healthy servings of Ska, Soca and African Highlife, White Boy Reggae, strains of Soul, Pop and Funk, mostly accoustic although electric, Pop music, Good music.”

Well, from personal experience, I can say that most of these bands deliver. It’s only in the past few years I’ve seen a real love for--and resurgence of--electric violin, mandolin, and yes, even the sometimes scary Banjo (“Run! Run away!") It’s interesting to hear young musicians master these nostalgic instruments. And create soulful, original music that yet somehow harkens back in Time.

In fact, with just a bass and a banjo, Bubbles and Fog take old rock classics from the likes of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd right into the bluegrass arena with their amazing amalgams. If you get a chance, catch them Wednesday nights 7-10 p.m. at the Old Village Pub in Lynnwood, corner of 76th and 196th.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Average White Band

Average White Band members: Onnie MacIntyre; Klyde Jones;
Rocky Bryant; "Freddy V" Vigdor; Alan Gorrie

Alan plays soulful guitar as well as holding down the Bass line

Versatile, talented Klyde Jones--there's no instrument he can't play

Klyde and Alan with the boys at Jazz Alley

Play that funky music, White Boy!

AWB has been around so long. The only original members are Scotland-born Alan Gorrie, vocals and (rockin’) Bass, and Onnie MacIntyre, lead guitar and vocals.

Last week, during their annual run at one of my all-time favorite venues, Jazz Alley in downtown Seattle, AWB tore it up with classics like Cut the Cake and Work to Do. A shout-out to Klyde Jones on, get this: Guitar, Bass, Keyboards, and Vocals. Is there anything the guy can’t play excellently?? And of course, my fave, Alan Gorrie, with James Bond-like savoire faire, who makes playing his 5-string bass look and feel smooth and easy. He soooo reminds me of dinosaur rocker, Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople fame, who crossed over into punk and new wave, and later played bass with Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band.

From AWB's website: “AWB are widely regarded as one of the best soul and funk bands in the history of music. Though perhaps best known for their timeless instrumental mega-hit Pick Up the Pieces the band's strength actually lay in their consistently accomplished song-writing, stretching across several gold selling albums and multi-Grammy nominations for the legendary Atlantic Records. Somewhat incongruously, given their Scottish roots, the six piece took the influences of their R&B heroes - people like Marvin Gaye, James Brown, Donny Hathaway and others - and developed their own 'authentic' sound which was eagerly adopted by black audiences in the US and elsewhere.”

And, I might add, eagerly adopted by white audiences. They continued the cross-over accelerated by Motown, bringing Soul and Funk to some white audiences that might not otherwise have grooved on it. Luv, Luv, Luv these guys!

Monday, November 15, 2010

More Favorite Things

Barbara Bixby, Jewelry for Rock Stars
I can’t help marveling at this fabulous line of jewelry from Barbara Bixby. The silver work is amazing, and I especially like her inventive use of materials: coordinating clear stones with opaque, interesting color combinations, and popping little 18k gold elements here and there, which is her signature.

Barbara is a lifetime groupie, married to a musician who is well known in the rock and recording circles, Frank Carillo. He’s an accomplished guitar player, and has played with many greats including members of Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, J. Geils Band, Cheap Trick, Van Halen, and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. As a songwriter, his list of collaborations is equally impressive.

You wonder if Barbara needed something to do while Frank was on the road—well, she got busy and the world discovered a superb jewelry designing talent. Her aesthetic is very Rock n' Roll, with whimsy and castles and gypsies thrown in. I’m not as fond of her Indian-inspired bodhisattva pieces as much as the stunning silver chains and gorgeous, architectural pendants and rings. I can see groupies and rockers of all ages wearing her designs! Check out her couture line, too.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Rock Star Architecture in Seattle

Steel Stair, DeForest Architects,

Port Townsend Residence, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Architects,

Coleman Triplex, Workshop AD Architects,

Suncrest Residence, Heliotrope Architects,

Bodega Residence, Cutler Anderson Architects,

The AIA (American Institute of Architects) Honor awards can sometimes be a yawn, especially when they beat the deader-than-dead horse of Sustainability. But at this year's ceremony on November 8, the S-word wasn’t even mentioned; instead, the focus was on beautiful, useful design that honors the soul of its inhabitants.

Maybe it had something to do with the soulfulness of the multiple-award winning judges, all formidable architects in their own right:

  • Jim Jennings, from San Francisco, “quintessential bay area modernist”
  • Sheila O’Donnell, Hon. FAIA, from Dublin, whose watercolor studies, which explore and develop architecture concepts from landscape to material, have been widely published and exhibited
  • Gilles Saucier, from Montreal, whose work as a photographer has fine-tuned his approach to architecture

The honored projects ranged from single-family homes to large commercial buildings. My favorites are the homes that embed themselves into the fabric of the landscape upon which they are sited. There is no real distinction between “inside” and “outside” in the experience of being there. I imagine myself living in these airy, clean spaces, enjoying rich woods, and modern concrete, steel, and glass. The silent peacefulness of being one with a place in time and space.

The real stand-out of the evening was the see-through staircase. It turned the typical aesthetic upside down: usually the stairs themselves are solid, while the railing is see-through. In this delicious design, it’s the reverse: the stairs are made of steel mesh that you can look right through, and the railing is a solid sheet of steel defining and constraining the core. The owners wanted to be able to see their art through the stairs. Mission accomplished!

The AIA can help you find a Seattle architect to build your dream home.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My Favorite Things

Heidi Daus designs this dramatic necklace, with faceted jasper beads
and carved onyx scarab.

Rachel Zoe's fun faux is "Major for Fall"

Kathy Van Zeeland's Rock n' Roll handbags.

Judith Ripka's spectacular sterling curb bracelet.

With the holidays coming, maybe you'll forgive me for featuring some of my favorite finds and gift ideas. In my travels I’ve come across some real treasures that give me joy whenever I wear them, and I’m constantly asked “Where did you get that?” My good friend R.A.B. and I laugh, but we’re serious when we say we’re no longer buying anything that isn’t Rock n’ Roll.

A few years ago, I discovered some beyond-great crystal jewelry designed by Heidi Daus. It’s exquisitely crafted, in a heavy bronze finished metal, and conjures Art Deco and flora and fauna in all their sparkling majesty. Amazingly, she features a line on HSN that’s priced at a fraction of what it would be out in the retail market. Heidi is passionate about her work, and it shows in every beautifully-crafted jewel. These pieces have whimsy and “POW!” all at once. Serious star power and Rock n’ Roll glam.

Ok, when did Fur become cool again? I’m sorry, I know they’re already dead, but I wouldn’t even wear a vintage genuine fur. Why would you carry that bad Karma when you can own fabulous faux creations that look better than the real thing, for pennies on the dollar? Rachel Zoe, famous celebrity stylist, has a great line of “fur” vests on QVC that are so cute and fun to wear. I like the shorter “Fox” ones with the luxurious collar and hidden pockets. I also like Kathy Van Zeeland's handbags; if you live in Dubai or Paris you're in luck, or you can shop online and save thousands of dollars.

I’m going to need to hide my credit card from myself, because QVC strikes again with the famous and ridiculously successful Judith Ripka sterling jewelry. As if her two stores on Madison Avenue weren’t enough. I really think her exclusive line of sterling jewelry for QVC is some of the best, most versatile jewelry available today. It’s very “Uptown” while still Rock n’ Roll.

So, Girlfriends (and Guys—hint, hint!), go easy on the plastic, and have some fun getting glamorous things for the holidays. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bob Rivers, Seattle Radio Icon

Friends and fans show their appreciation

Bob Rivers sits in on keyboards; Dudley Taft on lead; Terry James Young on bass

Spike says a few words of thanks

When the news started leaking out that Bob Rivers’ contract was not being renewed by CBS, it turned Seattle radio upside down. For more than a decade Bob Rivers' morning show on KZOK 102.5FM has been as much a part of our mornings as my double espresso hazelnut latte. He's practically an institution, and has been an important supporter of our local musicians' careers. Blatherwatch says, "This is big. He's big. The word Iconic comes to mind...this starts all manner of speculation: will he go to KIRO?"

Cory Dietz’ Radio Blog notes how Bob began to gain notoriety with song parodies he called "Twisted Tunes" for WAAF in Boston. They were so clever, ABC Radio offered to syndicate them in 1987. And he's been rocking entire cities ever since.

For me and the rest of his fan base, it’s been a few weeks of parties and farewells and celebrations of new beginnings. Spike and the Impalers, Magic Bus, Dudley Taft, Terry James Young from Rail, Roger Fisher from Heart, and many other local musicians have been paying tribute with appearances around town, including gigs at Snoqualmie Casino and other cool venues. One of my favorites was the bash at King Cat Theater last Thursday, a groovy '60s former movie theater, with swank lobby and interesting angles, and a big raked movie theater-cum dance floor.

Another event, the Bob Rivers Listeners Appreciation Night, happens 7pm Thursday Nov. 4 at Tulalip Casino, with Magic Bus featuring Lynn Sorenson on bass, Lloyd DeBar on lead guitar, and special guests.