music, Washington 1 Comment »

This past weekend I did something for the first time; I attended SteamCon, the steampunk convention in Seattle.  I had only an inkling of an idea what to expect, but I have to tell you that it was amazing.

I found out about it when PolishCellist (her name is unusual and therefore requires a pseudonym for blogging purposes), with whom I play accordion, was asked to perform there.  I’m pretty easily put off by large crowds, but I’m familiar enough with the ideas of steampunk (I have a handful of friends who are super into it), and I’m definitely familiar with the type of circus and cabaret culture with which it shares many similarities and ideologies, so it sounded like it would be, at the very least, an interesting experience.  Plus, we had free all-weekend passes.

I’m interested enough in anime and cabaret and stuff that I knew the convention would be full of more than just teenagers dressed like comic book characters, but I have to admit that the wide range of ages was a surprise to me.  Young and old alike roamed the halls and congregated in the lounges and rooms, and the garden area by the pool.  There were whole families, each clearly interested in different aspects of the culture.  If you’re not familiar at all with steampunk, look it up it stems from the idea that the Victorian Age was the height of creativity, and culture, and technology.  There are a myriad of sub-genres within that simple idea, though.  There are people who simply like to dress in Victorian style, and there are people who are fascinated by the elaborate gadgets that were created before electricity was in common usage.  There are people who are interested in cabaret music, and people who are interested in the popular entertainment of the time, such as burlesque and circus acts.  There are people who build weapons using this antiquated technology, and there are people who build elaborate mechanical body parts for themselves.  There are people who are into early flying machines.  There are people who are inspired by the Gothic and vampire novels of the time.  You can see how there’s plenty of room for interpretation, and all can fit under the umbrella of steampunk, albeit some more naturally than others.

The best thing about a convention like that is the people-watching.  Just about everyone was dressed stunningly.  It was interesting to see the lengths to which people would or wouldn’t go.  One girl wore a beautiful blue ‘peacock’ dress, and one guy simply wore a polo shirt and jeans with his aviator goggles.  One guy doctored up an electric guitar, and a husband-and-wife team (who led one of the panel discussions) arrived with an amazing brass electro-mechanical dog that could actually roll under its own power and lift its head, and probably did various other tricks as well.  Its eyes were lit up in blue.

There was an art room, which did double duty as a silent auction.  There were pictures and sculptures, as well as the requisite gadgetry.  The antique bicycles modified into antique motorcycles were particularly well done, I thought, and as a typewriter enthusiast, I love the fact that people have figured out ways to modify them with USB connections, so they can be used with their more modern counterparts.

I feel sorry for the ‘regular’ people who just happened to be staying in those two hotels at the time this was all going on.  It was hilarious to watch and overhear people on their cell phones trying to describe what they were witnessing.  “It’s some sort of convention,” they would say, “or maybe a fashion show. . .”

All I can say is that it was a total blast, and I’m hooked.  I’m into old music, and antiquated technology, and I do love to dress nice.  My usual attire owes more to the 1970’s than to the 1870’s, but there are enough cool places in town (not to mention garage sales) that it wouldn’t be too hard to find clothes.  It would be nice to go to a different meet-up at a turn-of-the-century hotel or club or something, rather than the ultra-modern hotels.  Not that there’s anything wrong with those hotels; it should be noted that they did a tremendous job of hosting the enormous convention.

I think it would be funny and awesome to buy a cheap cello and doctor it up.  I would never do that to the cello I have, but it would be a great experiment on a different instrument.  Maybe a violin would be better, since it’d be a lot cheaper, not to mention easier to carry around as a prop.  Only problem is, I don’t know how to play violin, and I know I’d get tired of constantly having to refuse people when they’d want me to do something with it.  Cello for the win (I accidentally typed ‘wine’ just now), as The Kids Today would say.

Why don’t I have any pictures in this entry, I can feel you asking, after gushing about how amazing and beautiful everything was?  Because I couldn’t find my camera when I was packing.  After I got home, it turned up in the glove compartment of my car, buried under CD’s, where I had left it the other day.  I wanted to punch myself in the face when I saw that it was in the car with me the entire time, and I didn’t even know it.  Curses!

As a little aside, I have to confess that after dressing quasi-Victorian for the weekend, it was really nice to slip into a comfortable sweater and jeans today.

P.S. – If you should ever find yourself passing through the tiny town of Nisqually, Washington (an hour or so south of Seattle), you owe it to yourself to stop in at Norma’s restaurant, for a great time and an amazing burger.  I don’t eat very many burgers, let alone recommend them, so that ought to be a pretty good impetus.  While we’re on the subject, Violetta and The Hop and Vine here in Portland have excellent burgers as well.   Seek ’em out.

P.P.S. – I hate to end this entry talking about burgers, even really delicious ones, so I thought it would be funny to tack on this completely unnecessary paragraph.  I stand by my decision to do that, even though it doesn’t add anything to the blog.

P.P.P.S. – There is no third post script.  Please move along.

P.P.P.P.S. – There’s also not a fourth one.  Sorry.

P.P.P.P.P.S. – There IS, however, a fifth post script, and this is it.  There will not be a sixth, unless I decide to add one later.  Who knows, maybe I will.

P.P.P.P.P.P.S. – Yup, looks like I did add a sixth one.  Okay, now I’m really done.

P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. – Or AM I?

[Edit:  P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. – Here and here are some great pictures (including some of the dog!), many of which are from the fashion show on Saturday, which required a separate $50 ticket to attend.  Also, PolishCellist is in a couple of those pictures.  HINT:  She is without her cello.]

trip to Whitefish

music, Oregon, pictures, Portland, Washington No Comments »

Just got home from a gig in Whitefish, Montana.  First time I’ve ever been there, and I have to start by saying that it’s a supremely beautiful little town.  It was my first gig with ModeratelyFamousBanjoPlayer, and despite the fact that it was very loose and unrehearsed (I’d never even met the drummer before, let alone played with him before), AND despite the fact that Southwest Airlines’ baggage handlers banged up my accordion enough that it needs to be repaired now, AND despite the fact that the stage was a truck trailer which bounced around so much that my acoustic guitar fell off it and got a nice big war wound on it, AND despite the fact that we got up at 5:30 a.m. (Mountain Time, which felt like 4:30 Pacific Time!) this morning to drive back to the airport at Spokane, AND despite the fact that I got stung by a bee (how random is that?) at the rental car place in Spokane. . .it was a triumphant show.

No pictures to speak of, unfortunately, because we were on such a tight schedule the entire time, and we were always either in the car, at the gig, or in the hotel room.  Okay, well, here’s what I mean.  This is Mount St. Helens from the airplane. . .


. . .and here’s ModeratelyFamousBanjoPlayer in his solo set.


After he was done, we all ate dinner (of delicious fish tacos!) and then set up the rest of the equipment for the full-band evening show.  I have to give extra-special thanks to SoundGuyToby, who came through with an accordion for me after I found that mine had been damaged by Southwest Airlines’ rough handling during the flight over.  He absolutely saved the gig for me.  The show would have been accordion-free without Toby.

Oh yeah, and the guitar.  The stage was a truck trailer, which bounced around like crazy while we were playing.  My acoustic guitar was sitting next to the edge of the stage, and and one point it tipped right off and landed directly on the metal bar that connects to the hitch.  So it has a huge wound on it, right on the front corner, in one of the most visible places it could possibly have a wound.  I hope to gawd that it can be fixed.  I’ll never be able to sell it for anything close to what I paid for it now.  SUCKS.  It still plays fine, though, and that’s what counts, but that just sucks.  Combine that with the accordion repair and this one gig is really gonna set me back.

I also need to mention the people we met.  They were sweet, accommodating, friendly, drunken, and a metric ton of fun.  After the show, we got a lot of handshakes and “Oh MAN you guys were great.  Thanks so much for coming all the way out here!  We had a blast. . .”, etc.  We also got invited to quite a few parties afterwards (“There are bikes enough for everyone!”) which we had to respectfully decline, unfortunately.  It seems like a great town, especially if you’re an outdoorsy person.

We got to our hotel rooms around 10:30 p.m., then I took a shower and spent the next four hours watching a TV show I’d never seen before called Ice Road Truckers.  You’d think it would be the most boring show in the world, and maybe it was just my mental and physical state at the time, but I was riveted to that crazy show.  It was surprisingly suspenseful.

Oh yeah.  In the four hours during which I actually slept, I had a horrible dream in which three different friends (each of whom I know in real life) told me either to fuck off or “Y’know what?  Go fuck yourself,” and gave me some very specific reasons why they thought I should do that.  One even went so far as to add, “God, it feels so good to say that!”   It wasn’t the best dream I’ve ever had.

So I napped in the car, and then we flew home.  A very nice couple from Spokane sat next to me on the plane, and the guy was actually from Whitefish, so that was a nice coincidence.  They even gave me a copy of Rolling Stone magazine (“Would you like this?  It’s a good one. . .”) just before we landed.  It’s one of the issues with Barack Obama on the cover.


So that was pretty cool.

I’m just glad to be home.  Usually when I’m traveling, I’m much more ‘in the moment’ than I was this weekend, but it was busy enough, and with all the instrument issues it was stressful enough, that I was emotionally done last night.  I wasn’t bummed out or anything, I just wanted to be home so that I could take care of these things that need to be taken care of, and now I can do just that.

I’m going to start with myself.  First a nap, then a shower, then I’m going to a dinner party with a couple of friends.  I’ll worry about the accordion tomorrow.

sea lions in Astoria

music, Oregon, pictures, recording, Washington No Comments »

On my way home from a three-day trip to my dad’s house at the coast this weekend, I drove back through Astoria because the other beach highway, across the river in Washington, is normally much faster, but this time was beleaguered by a series of construction projects, which added about an hour to the trip over.  I love Astoria anyway, so it doesn’t take much for me to want to drive through it.

I drove over the bridge this time, which I rarely do, because A) it goes to a part of Washington that I rarely visit, so driving over it is unnecessary, and B) it’s frickin’ HUGE, and kinda makes me nervous if the weather is anything less than perfect.  Next time I go over it, I want to mount my little camera onto my car’s dashboard or windshield somehow, in order to make a video of the river crossing.  It takes about five or six minutes (at freeway speed!) to drive across the bridge, and when you go up the span and start pulling into Astoria, you are rewarded with a beautiful and unusual view of the town as you go around the curves.  It’s really stunning, but you can’t really drive a stick-shift car around a bunch of curves, pay attention to traffic, and operate a camera all at the same time.

This time, the Astoria Column was finally open, after being closed for renovation for the last two years.  Climbing the steps to the top can really make you dizzy if you’re not careful.  I got up there, took a quick picture for Facebook. . .


. . .and enjoyed the beautiful scenery (but the pictures weren’t very exciting this time), then climbed back down to find something to eat.  Spent a while at a grocery store, but the deli was ridiculously expensive for what you got, so I headed down the road to a pizza place.  On the way, I heard barking coming from the river, so after I got my pizza, I turned back and headed for the marina.  I drove my car onto the pier (which is allowed, by the way; there were many others out there too) and found a group of sea lions sunning themselves on one of the smaller piers.  Most seemed to be asleep, but some were fighting and knocking each other off the pier, and others were awake and enjoying the warmth of the beautiful sunshine.

sealions2 sunning sealions

The weather was perfect, and it was so nice to just walk or drive to the different ends of the huge cement pier and enjoy the views of the town and the river from out there.


Got home and spent the next two or three hours working on Iron Horse songs.  I had to go through our old tapes to find things I can use as part of a retrospective we’re going to make, and I also was looking for our old studio tapes, which are divided up into individual tracks (guitar, drums, vocals, etc.) to use as sound effects for one of the songs we’re recording.  It’ll be hilarious and cool if it all works out, which I have every reason to believe that it will.

In other news, I have two rehearsals (three, if you count the one that happened yesterday morning) and three gigs this week, as well as meeting up with three or four friends (on different days), AND another day trip to the beach on Friday to see some friends from California.  So I’ll try to keep up on BFS&T, but don’t be too surprised if it’s another few-day stretch before I’m back here again.

parties, more parties, and Beacon Rock

beautiful, blogging, music, pictures, recording, Washington 1 Comment »

It’s been another of THOSE weeks, hence the silence around these parts.

Engagement party, lots of ‘party’ parties, movie night or two, tons of recording, it’s just been a blur.  Last night was a friend’s birthday party, which was followed by a ‘party’ party, and tonight is two friends’ wedding (You may remember the bachelor party from a couple weeks ago. . .?), which is to be followed by – what else – a huge party.  The vast majority of people who will be there are also professional musicians, so I’m anticipating a ‘jam’ of acoustic instruments of all kinds.  I’ll be bringing my accordion, for sure, and my camera as well.

I don’t usually talk about this, but the weather here in Portland has been stunningly beautiful lately.  One day it was so lovely that I ditched rescheduled a rehearsal and hit the road in the afternoon so that I could go for a hike instead.  I ended up at Beacon Rock, which is along the Washington side of the Columbia river, about an hour’s drive from here.


It’s 850 feet high, and you get to the top by way of a steep trail that was engineered by one of the people who built the Historic Columbia River Highway.  The trail is about a mile and a half long, and it’s a surprisingly difficult walk.

thistrail beaconrocktrail

beaconrocktrail2 dickjuice

Nothing like a bunch of tasteless graffiti (“dick juice”) to bring you back to reality.  Anyway, here’s what the view from the top was like, on that particular day.  This one is looking downriver, toward Portland. . .


. . .and this one is looking upriver, uh, away from Portland.


There’s a plaque at the bottom of the rock which tells an Anglicized version of the rock’s history.


It was a lovely day, and a lovely random trip.

And now it’s time to get ready for the wedding.  I have to leave in an hour and a half, and I still need to shower and all that.  Today is equally beautiful, and the ceremony is being held out in the forest.  It promises to be a really great night.

daydreams of Emerald City

blogging, funny, pictures, Washington No Comments »

I got up three hours earlier than I normally do today, for no particular reason.  I was going to say that I got up early today, but I do realize that nine o’clock isn’t exactly early, by most peoples’ standards.  I have nothing in particular to do (until later, anyway) so I’ve been dinking around online.  I took one of those Facebook quizzes that said, “Where should you live in Washington State?” and the answer was not at all a surprise.


Since I’ve been up there so much recently, I know some of the neighborhoods that I’d like to live in, so I went to the Seattle page on Craigslist and looked at apartments in those neighborhoods.  I started to daydream a bit, and even went so far as to look at musician and job ads as well.  I imagined what my life would be like if I had a cool live/work loft in Ballard, or an upper-story apartment with a view of Lake Union and the Space Needle in Eastlake, or a funky cool place behind GasWorks Park in Wallingford.  I decided I needed some coffee, and my daydreams must have been a good bit deeper than I realized, because as soon I walked outside, I was somewhat surprised to find myself on my usual street, in my usual neighborhood.

I called one of my Seattle friends to tell her about this odd feeling.  Coincidentally enough, she’s going to be moving down here to Portland pretty soon, so I imagine she’s feeling the same, albeit in a much more tangible and genuine way.

For the record, there aren’t too many cities in Washington in which I’d want to live.  There aren’t too many cities in Washington, PERIOD, come to think of it.  The only ones of any real size are Seattle, Olympia, Spokane, and Tacoma.  I’m not going to count Vancouver, because it’s really more a suburb of Portland than it is its own entity, despite the fact that it was founded and settled long before Portland was (or even before Vancouver, B.C. was).  Be that as it may, I could happily live in Seattle, or maybe the state capitol of Olympia, or one of the pretty little towns on the coast, or maybe even my adopted home-away-from-home of Port Townsend (if I was already married and I/we had a self-sustaining career) but that’s about it.

I need the pace and opportunities that only a city can provide.  I have a good thing going here in Portland, and I’m certainly not in a hurry to leave any time soon, but I have to admit that there are times when I feel like living in a bigger place would be a good idea, whether it be Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, or even New York. The problem is that Portland’s almost too awesome.  The secret’s getting out, and there’s so much art and music and culture happening that it keeps attracting more and more people here, all trying to eke out an existence in this relative oasis, and the resulting glut makes it more difficult for all of us who are attempting to make a living at a creative career.

For the time being, however, I’m happy and relatively successful here, living the kind of life I want to live.  But I do still daydream, and I still have lots of my life ahead to make changes, big and small.