Reflections on Seattle

Posted: September 8, 2017 in Uncategorized

My other post title was “Sick Of Seattle”, a Smithereens song, but that seemed wrong because I am not.

 

We took a post-summer/pre-school (my wife is a hot co-ed) trip to the PNW to see what was up.  And it was Bumbershoot!

OK.  Tickets to Bumbershoot.  at least $150 per day.  Tickets to Summerfest:  AT MOST, $18 dollars per day, many days free with admission promotions.

Bands:  Bumbershoot has a very narrow array of bands, from a supposedly alternative point of view.  15 or so bands over 3 days.  Summerfest?  800 bands over 11 days, encompassing every genre known to man, and some we made up on the spot, like non-ironic polka hip-hop.

Grounds:  Summerfest is on a dedicated, permanent built facility with actual real toilets.  Bumbershoot is kind of haphazard with many ports-potties.  Also, Summerfest sports decent food from local vendors.

But we were staying north of downtown, across Lake Union near the college area, and we were able to avoid most of the idiocy.  Although I ripped the hell out of my shorts getting into an Uber on the way downtown, and came THIS CLOSE to purchasing a Utilikilt to cover my shame.

We had an amazing stretch of wonderful weather.  warm and sunny, very little rain to speak of.  Even some hot.  Almost all shorts weather, and we took advantage.  We took a boot tour around the bay, we went to Mount Rainier to see the asphalt trucks going up the mountain to deliver their spawn and return to their wintering grounds.

We took a tour of the underground aspects of the old parts of Seattle, which involve poop and prostitution and look much like the underground parts of Milwaukee, except with more headroom.  We did TWO comedy shows at the Underground comedy club, which were much fun, and observed Mental Illnesses on Parade in the Pioneer Square area.  We also mocked the Seahawks fans for the upcoming loss at Lambeau.

The food was great.  Seafood is the choice, but it is all so good.  Our first stop was a cafe called CITIZEN which gave me coffee and my wife a Bloody (not even close to a Milawaukee Bloody, but we allow).  I had some squid.

We saw many great things of art and commerce.  We toured the Boeing plant.  We saw the AMAZING museum of Flight, which had a newly redone Apollo display, and I could have happily spent a whole day there -Space stuff, a Blackbird, a P-38, a Mustang, a Concorde….

We also saw amazing art.  I love the Space Needle, fuck you if you think it is cheesy.  It is as cheesy as the St. Louis arch, and both are expressions of hope and ambition when this country gave two shits about the future.

The Experience Music Project has been re-purposed as the Museum of Pop Culture- MoPOP- and it is valid.  It is the second Frank Gehry I have been in; the first was the Toronto museum that I feel is a wonderful and sublime alteration and this one is the first crumpled paper model building of his I have been in.  And, as an architect, it is… underwhelming.  The outside is something you can’t see from any vantage point, not even from the Space Needle,  From the interior it is functional enough, but a museum is easy:  a series of sizable spaces with lighting and some circulation to the next series of sizable spaces.  The structure was sprayed with an orange-red color that only made sense in the Star Trek exhibit.  At least Frank did some color on the exterior for once.

So, the exhibits in this museum were actually, pretty great.  The guitar history exhibit was amazing, although I cared less about the ‘famous guy played this guitar’ section than the section that showed how electric guitars evolved.  The David Bowie section was great.  The Sci-Fi  section was also great, and the Star Trek display was seventeen kinds of awesome.  Regrettably, we were too tired at this point to do the add-on for the Jim Henson exhibit.

We also saw a permanent exhibit for the glass artist Chihuly.  How work is evocative and amazing and I can’t imagine how he hasn’t sued Frank Gehry for stealing all his early forms.  But I was especially taken by his charcoal sketches that made his early works, it reminded me of my discussions with former Friend of Zombie Jennifer about smudgies.  But I love his vitality in those sketches;  and later the he had physical disabilities that did not allow him to do the glass sculptures, he did multi-media descriptions of the work he wanted to do.  Look at this:21151446_10210030486699025_1808713031272769571_n

We had much coffee, and much beer.  And I will tell you this: the beer and coffee in the PNW are not, in any conceivable way, better than the beer and coffee in Milwaukee.

I will say that seattle has a different focus from us white assholes.  Seattle has many more Asian folks walking around.  far fewer African Americans.  did it bother us? not a bit.  We are liberals, and hearing someone speaking another language in our earshot is hardly anything we give a shit about.

We were white folks in a culture that say white is the default. How hard is that?

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Milwaukee Music summer continued tonight with a YOOGE bill at the BEEMO Pavilion, which looks like this and seats about 5,000 with standing room for 5,000 more:

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It’s about the middle of a tour called “From Boston to Berkeley”

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A tour between two longtime friends and collaborators, Rancid and Dropkick Murphys; with additional acts Jake Burns (from Stiff Little Fingers) and the Bouncing Souls.

Tim Armstrong from Rancid started a record label called Hellcat back in the 90s, and the first band he signed was the Dropkick Murphys.  These guys go way back, and it showed; for the encore, both bands came out and played four covers:  Cretin Hop, Folsom Prison Blues, Take ’em All, and I Fought The Law.  But I get ahead of myself.

We started the night with a miscommunication and missed most of Jake Burns set; a shame, because he closed with Suspect Device.  Oh well, SLF is returning to a 300 person club in fall, I’ll catch up then.

The Bouncing Souls are an energetic, three chords punk band from the East Coast and plenty fun.  The stage crew look really awesome; they managed the stage changes with no fuss and minimal downtime.  There’s a lot of music to get through!

I was a bit surprised that Rancid was not the top of the bill.  I guess to me, Rancid always seemed like the more established, more prominent band with a classic album under its belt – the stellar “…and out come the wolves”.  But no matter, no matter.  Because here’s the thing; both bands play with all their hearts and all their blood, thundering punk music inflected by ska in the case of Rancid, or Irish music in the case of the Murphys.  They charge through their sets with abandon, spit and fire and devil take the hindmost.

Rancid stormed the stage, and played an excellent mix of new and old.  My buddy Rory wanted them to play Timebomb as a closer, to bookend the Old 97s who close with their song of the same name, and he was only close.  He insisted I tell him what it would be, and hated me when I told him.  Spoilers suck, even for punks, I guess.

He also mocked me when he saw me working my phone in the middle of the Dropkick Murphys show:  “are you blogging?”  “no, just downloading the new album”  “yes, modern technology is wonderful”

Our seats were in the bleacher seats sections, which are still not bad in this venue, and because I am an idiot we went into the wrong section but nobody ever showed up to make us move so we had decent seats.  AND we were directly behind a man and his 9 year old son, who rocked out through the show until he was ready to stop rocking and go to sleep.  I have been there, believe me.  We took a photo for them with the band in the backdrop and asked them whether the Youngling was a drummer or a guitarist; Dad grinned and said “we go back and forth”.  Parenting Level:  Platinum.

Dropkick Murphys had an extensive musical intro, and maybe cut that back, guys?  But then hit the stage and fucking EXPLODED.  There was a bit of usual time for the sound guys to boil it down, but man, they were good for a forty-seven person show.  Well, it seemed like 47 people.  SO MANY.  Playing guitars, and basses, and pipe, and chest-piano, and bagpipes, and more guitars, and loud voices….

Of course they played Barroom Heroes, of course they played Shipping Up To Boston.  But the new songs were EXCELLENT as well, especially Blood.

My good friend Rory, who has seen EVERYBODY, has never seen any of these bands and kept thanking me for getting him a ticket.  Although he admitted that he was having some difficulties acclimating to his medical regimens and was a bit more than goofy, especially when walking (I will testify that he was not drinking).  I reminded him that in a short while, he bought us tickets to see Luna on my birthday, so it is even as fuck.

I spoiled it up above, but the bands did a gathered full stage encore of everybody available.  To me, the most amusing thing was that the wings of the stage were filled with people watching the shows, dancing along, and shouting on the choruses.  Friends and family and other bands they know who want to be part of an amazing show.

Local Zombie favorites Whiskey of the Damned have opened for the Dropkick Murphys, and if they weren’t in the midst of their own work tour, they would have been here and maybe on this stage….A stage where the band brought up almost anyone from the pit for the final song.  It took longer to clear the stage than it did for the song….

And then everyone was in for the encore.  The stage was filled, and it was cover songs that meant great things to everyone.

It reminds me of the time in Ireland.  the Refusal to allow badness to stop your willingness to enjoy life.  A few years back, I had some very bad times on my own behalf, and much darkness.  And one point, I wondered if I could ever find a place I could find joy in music ever again.  And then, in the midst of one of the worst oppression in modern time, everyone found life in drinking and  music to help them find expressions of life…

Like I said I wondered,  But I recovered, I went to Summerfest, I found the Mekons, and it is such that punk makes me feel alive again.

HERE I AM.

 

And it did, too.  The Fainting Room (which included a Whiskeybelle) started a little past 8 PM.

Continuing the Milwaukee Music Summer, tonight was an album release party for the Wooldridge Brothers at local java joint Anodyne Coffee Roasters.

I have been a fan of these fellas since they moved their entire band from Indiana to Milwaukee to be part of the thriving music scene here in 1984, and they were called the Squares.  Of course, that scene fell apart, as did their band (although members of that band are still making music here) and Scott moved to Minneapolis.  But the brothers continued to work together, landing songs on TV shows and films, releasing fine albums.

A couple of years ago, they launched a Kickstarter project (since there’s no music industry anymore) to release two albums; a solo Scott Wooldridge album, and a Wooldridge Brothers band album.  I , of course, supported their efforts, and my support resulted in a producer credit in the liner notes, which is kind of exciting.

Scott’s solo album came out a while ago, and it is fine, in the same vein as their previous records, and it yielded this excellent song:

But they decided to take the band album in a bit different direction.  They took their time and pushed the production levels up, as well as bringing Brian Wooldridge’s guitar solos well forward in the mix, providing an energy and attack that had not been there before.  In addition, their influences -Elvis Costello, Squeeze, the Kinks- are laid more bare than usual.  The result is, frankly, quite startling.

One of the things they did when they realized their schedule was slipping, was create a video for one of the songs, a bittersweet song called “Drive Through Summer” which they recorded in a drive-in theater.  After they filmed it, they realized that the drive-through would provide, if not a concept album, a tone and feeling throughout the album; so they named it Starts At Dusk.  What an evocative name….

We chatted with the Brothers briefly before the show, talking about the new album, other Milwaukee musicians, the show in Minneapolis, and summer family vacation plans.  I had received the album a week prior, as I was a Kickstarter Producer (along with a couple of rare discs of covers and demos) and it was already making quite a mark on me.  Particular standouts are “Waiting It Out” (excellent guitar work by Brian) and “Zero Information” ( think Graham Parker).  It is not to be released online until September; until then it is SOLELY available at Milwaukee Anodyne coffee shops, because there are no record stores anymore.

The show was simply amazing, we were sitting right up front.

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That is actually the Wooldridge Brothers and a Sister-in-Law.  They played almost all the new album too, and we loved it.  It was maybe too short; a tight 90 minutes or so.

Other than the record release, they are mostly relieved to have a project finished and will be focusing on other things for a while, so this may be a rare appearance -although if you live in Minneapolis, Scott plays out relatively often.  In an interview, they said that they hope to be more active in 2018, but until then, there is this absolutely outstanding new album to enjoy.

Up next:  Rancid, Dropkick Murphys, Bouncing Souls and a guy from Stiff Little Fingers.  IN this place:

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This may not be a huge urban enclave, but MAN we have a great music scene.  Yes, yes Big Bastard, if you cut me, do I not bleed music?

All In A Mouse’s Night

Posted: July 18, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

I have a mouse in my office.  Well, to be fair, where there is one there is more than one, so mice.  Meeses.

I guess that’s what happens when a pub occupies the ground floor space in a downtown location, especially near the River.  I guess she didn’t look big enough to be a rat….

So, for me, the question becomes, do I name her and put food out, or go for eviction with extreme prejudice?

Town Cryer

Posted: July 17, 2017 in Uncategorized

A friend of mine was looking through my CDs once, and remarked “Dude, do you think you have enough Elvis Costello?”   I responded saying “can you think of a BETTER artist to be obsessive about?”

After the rampant musical excess of Summerfest, Milwaukee continues to make the most of the all-too-brief summer weather by making every weekend some sort of excuse for drinking outside.  This weekend was Bastille Days, when they shut down several blocks downtown in the shadow of City Hall, and do…French stuff, I guess.  It involves drinking and eating and a forty foot replica of the Eiffel Tower built by the engineering school.

And music, of course.  Friday evening was a double set by perennial favorite local ska-punks Something To Do, who were soldiering on, down one guitar player due to “honeymoon”.  I made a crack that they went through guitar players like Spinal Tap goes through drummers.  HAH!

They played a new song about Richard Spencer, that Alt-right Nazi dickweasel who got punched in the melon on TV, which inspired a spirited discussion on when it is appropriate to punch someone on the melon.  The Internet quickly determined that punching Nazis is perfectly appropriate.

Anyway, this is their most recent single, “Don’t Take That Shit From Anyone”

So tonight, Elvis Costello (as BBBB calls him, Brother Declan) and the Imposters visited Milwaukee for the umpteenth time in recent years.  Seriously, I think we’ve probably seen him 10 or twelve times by now, and he is consistently one of the most rewarding performers, never playing by number or phoning it in.  He especially likes our Riverside Theater, as we’ve seen him a couple of times where for the encore, he sings into the hall using no amplification, just his voice and the conducive acoustics.

For this show, he was focusing on Imperial Bedroom, one of his albums that took me a while to warm up to but has over time and evolution become one of my favorites.  It has a subtlety and complexity that rewards focus and repeated listens.

For this tour, he brought along a pair of singers, Kitten Koroi and Brianna Lee, who really punched up the vocals of the songs.  Especially on the show-closing encore, “Everyday I Write The Book” and when they sang “Alison” with just Elvis on guitar.

They played for an initial set for a bit over an hour, and left, then came back for a batch of slower, more focused songs with limited instrumentation, eventually bringing out the band for full throated closers “Man Out Of Time” and “Pidgin English”.

Did I say “Everyday” was the show closer?  Nah, that just set up the band intros, then they barreled full-tilt into “Pump It Up” and then blasted the roof off the joint with    “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?”

Damnit, pretty much every time I see him, that is the finale;  I KNOW it’s coming, I know every line and every chord of that song, I know Elvis didn’t even write it, even if his is the definitive version, and every goddam time it makes me weep.  And in this time, the lyrics seem much less hippy-dippy goofiness, but more prophetic and even more relevant.  Maybe one day Elvis will no longer feel the need to sing that song.  But for one more time, it brought a ray of hope, a bit of sunshine….

Here’s another version.  Apologies for the gratuitous Dave Matthews, and the gratuitous Glenn Frey; perhaps made up for by the Bonnie Raitt, Eddie Vedder, and Mike Mills on the big strong bass.

 

Hamburger Holocaust

Posted: July 11, 2017 in Uncategorized

Woah.  I need a stiff drink.

Just got home from a pre-construction meeting at a chain restaurant.  Won’t say the name, but it rhymes with “Shmed Probster”.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  This is not the type of job I typically do, or want to do.  It is relatively nominal work from my end, and barely required (the mechanical contractors involved surely have a licensed Engineer on staff who could act as Supervising Professional).  It amounts to mechanical work on a duct for a new Type I hood, which has higher requirements than the existing Type II hood.  Oh, I gave the Project Manager the hard sell:  “Well, you could probably save money by having one of the mechanical teams handle it.  I know the architectural codes, but this mainly falls in realm of the mechanical codes.  I’ll probably have mileage and trip charges….” you know, I nearly burglarized the guy.  But he got my recommendation from a former employee of mine who now concentrates solely on residential work, and he said that I was ‘very highly recommended’, so I felt an obligation….Besides, as Geddy Lee once said, ‘hey, ten bucks is ten bucks, eh?’

So, tonight we visited the site, 10 PM no less.  Sheesh.

You see, when I was in high school, I worked several food service jobs.  Fast food, sit-down, fine dining….the one common thread is that wherever you go to eat, you REALLY do not want to see the kitchen.  The best run places have smoke and grease stains ground into the walls and ceilings.  Evening cleaning involved trying to scrub the grease off the floor using boiling water and caustic chemicals.  After closing, I would come home exhausted with a stench of sweat and curdled grease.  My hair never got clean, and my face never cleared up.

When I went to college, I had a Work-Study grant, so I went to the cafeteria, but they were staffed up.  Going to the financial aid office, they went me to the campus library, where I ended up working for the sweetest little old lady named Polly in the Periodicals and Interlibrary Loan department.  Biggest stroke of luck I ever had in college…

And walking into this kitchen, while the crew were trying to do the evening clean, with buckets of water slopped over the greasy floors….brought back those long ago days with a vengeance.

It was weird, and I was glad when I could leave.

Moving Pictures

Posted: June 17, 2017 in Fridge Note, Shovels, Uncategorized

Just a little throwaway post, about nothing much, here.  Filling some time before ramping up for Summerfest, you know.

As an architect, I recognize that we have many traits and idiosyncrasies that point us out for mockery and ridicule, and occasionally lawsuits.  One of the most long standing (and deserved) ones is that we do illustrations of projects that are FAR more flattering than what results after construction.  I remember seeing a series in a book, that showed buildings and spaces filled with happy laughing people, children, pets and ample verdant greenery in a public space, and when complete is was a barren paved parking area with worn late model cars and stained asphalt.

The evolution of 3 dimensional CAD has been helpful on this, but it can also be as big a culprit.  I have seen many illustrations that feature either ridiculously multi-ethnic crowds or faceless white ghost people.  Ghost trees too.  Improbably clean vehicles, and brand-new buses and trains.

But some of you may recall this project, that started out like this a couple of years ago:

4021 shorewood block design

So that project has worked its way to completion, with only one serious snafu (on a project of this scope, 96 apartments, with associated parking and retail space.  Here was a rendering of the project that was presented to obtain approval from the Architectural Review Board:

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And, here is a photo of the final product:

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LOL!  Of course, I put those in reverse order, the illustration is on the bottom.

The biggest fudge on the illustration is that main facade in it is north facing, so the sun position was massaged to provide better shading to show the third dimension.  Also, you can see that as much as I tried to get him to adjust the color balance, he missed accuracy on the material colors.  Although frankly, the rendering is closer to the way human eyesight actually interprets the colors.

Incidentally, the project won a Business Journal Real Estate Award.