where the music matters

it was a whirlwind of all things local and seattle-y. shows, random interjections with famous people (famous in our world at least), sporadic views of the needle, visiting the mother ship, lots of mountains, lots of coffee, and a houseboat full of love. the octopus of love, to be exact.

the trip started with an uneventful flight, leaving me wondering why I was taking a five day vacation a week and a half before christmas. there were cards to mail and scarves to finish and many visits still planned along the consumption superhighway as designated during this particular month of the year. with a to-do list as long as my arm and no plans to touch it until hitting jfk again, we landed in the foggy night with no more than a little bump and it was off to baggage claim.

I love kristin endlessly, as she called me while wandering though the belts of duffle bags and golf clubs, pretending to still be outside, saying she didn't know when I asked if she was right behind me. it was so gorgeous to see her in the flesh, she had become almost intangible with most of my contact through typing and phone calls. hearing and seeing her simultaneously was reminiscent of meeting john and cheryl, only with an old perfect pair of jeans kind of comfortable familiarity angle instead. I felt her fleece against the side of my face and smelled her hair and we giggled and sat on the floor to wait for my bags.

it took until the next morning for it to compute that I was in seattle, with kristin, on the boat. I had slipped into the vortex of travel and it felt like I wasn't three thousand miles away somehow - and as it sank in I curled my toes at the thought of days and days ahead, of good shows and time to just do nothing together and hoping that the weather would hold out. we had breakfast at the jitterbug with deb, janet, and deb's daughter that morning, with stellar cheddar chunks on a fancy egg sandwich and the best granola I've ever had in my life. homemade, with whole peeled hazelnuts in it. I managed to hold off until the next morning when I ate it with warm milk and strawberries - I could barely contain myself. we left breakfast with "see you at the show"s and "so glad you're here"s and such, and headed straight to the laughing buddha.

it's almost like I've got to pierce or tattoo or otherwise alter myself in seattle, like being there begs for it. last time it was my nose, and the hair followed at home soon after. I've wanted to do the inside of my ear for a while, and before I knew it I was laying on the table wincing. it's totally perfect, the same gauge as my industrial, with a hematite ball - I absolutely love it. after that it was off to solstice for some girl time, really getting to talking about stuff - I love that the closeness between kristin and I has re-evolved, where I can tell by a sigh or a tone when she's not alright, where I know when she wants to talk and when she doesn't - we splayed on the leather couch with tea and nowhere to go for a while and just hashed some stuff around... there's no more perfect afternoon than that. I caught up on some calls for a bit and we left, I can't quite remember where we went... bubble tea? or was that another day? no, that wasn't the first day. I don't think.

later that night we had plans to meet up with mary jones and tom brosseau for dinner before he played - they are in my phone, after all - and we pulled it together and headed over to hattie's hat for seven o'clock. mary and tom came about a half hour later, and it was so good to see them - and tom's just so great, putting his arm around me and asking how I'm doing, and really listening, and not feeling like a famous guy at all - he's just feisty and funny and warm and sweet and honest all at once. apparently we needed to wait for some "friends" to eat, pete and brandy, who rolled in and shuffled us up the street for thai food.

pete wound up being pete that happens to be the president of loveless records, and in a band that made kristin and steve blink - mellers? mullers? (sorry, dude. I spaced it - email me.) brandy was his girl and a singer in her own right. we had satay and tom took my bracelet off and told me it smelled like me. a little while later he played, I shot a few black and whites, and all of a sudden it was late and we were leaving among tough girl rockabilly roller derby winners covered in bacon stickers. I kissed tom on the cheek, knowing it would be a while until I saw him. he promised to call. we headed back to the boat for the night.

and all of that was just the first day.

thursday brought the promise of sushi with mark and lori, and the meeting of the infamous willie. (hi, I'm an overly intelligent slightly obstinate border collie. because that's just what I do.) kristin and I filled the day with puttering, maybe this was the bubble tea day? I think it might have been. and the granola and the old navy that's better than ours and sparkles from the makeup store and weeping like a little girl through parts of pride and prejudice at a movie theater reminiscent of york square. only better. and in seattle. there were mountains and two red mustangs and we gathered mary and sake and edamame and headed out for dinner.

mark and lori are so nice, and so warm and welcoming, and it just felt like the perfect local seattle apartment with a few typical but interesting local seattle couples, and a border collie and a guest from far away and booking agent thrown in for good measure. there were christmas lights and handmade rolls and perfect music on the stereo, then some tom brosseau and fireside and views off the back porch and "we'll have to do this again"s and "totally look me up when you're out east"s and couch offerings and huggings. the spread was ridiculous and the night was just right. queen anne is fabulous, like all the other little seattle sections, with its own distinct personality and types of shops and windy roads that stop and start and hills and lights and greatness. we stole some shots in the dark before heading back to wrap up the second day.

friday brought one of the big money shots, the first night of two shows in a row at neumo's. wrens double whammy and overall gorgeousness. the daytimes are a blur, I'm trying to remember where we went... I had on a goldspot t-shirt, and around four we were at freemont coffee typing furiously, but the day... shit. hang on a second. oh! right. the station tour, for one. we saw deb and janet and john in the morning, in the afternoon. the vault and the instudio studio and the offices and the people and the dj booth and the conference room - it was a total mothership experience. it's where it all stems from, where it all happens, where everything starts for us - for me, at least. it's where putting little labels on things becomes the most important task of the day, because it's what needs to be done to further the thing you believe in. and it's also where we got posters and flipflops (yes, kexp flipflops) and invitations - so casually - to come to the vip party before the gig. lisa, kevin cole's assistant, uber-woman extraorinaire, guestlister of the privileged and few. one of my new favorite people to have met at kexp. we left the building skipping and reeling and loaded with schwag. the full connection of actually being in seattle happened at that very moment, and we started pulling the day together for gig #2.

I still can't put together what else we did during the daytime - more errands maybe? oh, the water was out and we had to go to the gym so kristin could shower, and then some puttering I think - and yes, the station, and then super goodness freemont coffee with panini and tea and - well, I'll just let kristin tell you about it.

nighttime fell with caffienated beverage a-flowing and mary jones in tow. she had me for a plus one, and when I asked cheryl if we could work or volunteer so everyone could go, she just added kristin and steve. and then we all got listed for the party. so we went. super goodness pcc food spread, shower radios, elbow rubbing, and hellos with cheryl. we drank bawls and ginger soda and I gawked at the venue and at the knowing that the wrens were either in the building, or somewhere in the very near vicinity. I got to spend time with janet and deb, we spotted greg and his wife for a moment, and I was smiling so much the whole night I thought my face was going to break. brain matter was dripping out of my ears, the music was perfect, and we went on with the show.

we caught the purrs, who were generally and technically good but didn't do much in the way of "slaying us", as mary jones would put it. then we chilled upstairs for some of emergency, and I wandered down to catch the end of the set and ran right into andrew. we chatted for a bit and I looked around for deb and janet, and andrew was all, just go downstairs, I'm sure they're down there. I was traumatized and elated, and had him lead me down in case I fell over or got asked who I thought I was by going downstairs - and there they were, sitting on the couch, not five feet away from kevin whelan and charles #2, sipping their drinks. I was all kinds of "I have arrived" and hung out until the okkervil river set with them, so happy to be there. and a kexp photographer took what is quite possibly the best polaroid I've ever seen of me and deb. well, it's the only polaroid I've ever seen of me and deb, but we just looked so cute - and I hate being photographed.

I didn't want to be all, hey, remember me? to any of the wrens, so I just kind of laid back and did get up to say hello to charles #2. a few moments later kevin, two feet from me at this point, erupted with a "hey kiddo!" and in that moment I didn't care if he didn't remember my name, it was just so cool to be remembered, period. not only that, but he and greg both were like, weren't you just coming tomorrow night? and I thought I was going to leap out of my skin. deb and janet, well aware of my wrens affliction, watched from the couch with grins - and my night could have ended there and been just fine.

we positioned ourselves upstairs next to the stage for the okkervil river set, where I got the same little double take from charles, the "hey, I remember you, but not your name, but hey, hi" kind of hi, which was enough for me. we watched okkervil put on a sick set, tight and live and perfect. multi instrumentalists and the wonderful polariod guy from downstairs handing me these big gorgeous lenses going "try this one!" and "here, use this!" and me standing on the side of the stage taking pictures that were making me want to quit my day job.

and then the wrens played.

looking back I keep comparing it to saturday, which was not only a more energetic set but a second night in a row of mindblowing goodness, but it was a great set in its own right. it's still hard, even after seeing them a few times now, to put it into words accurately - there's really nothing quite like it. you're talking to these guys, who are the nicest guys you'd ever want to meet. they're humble and sweet and they listen and hang out like you've known them for a while, at least a little while. it's almost time for the set and you go out to get a good spot in front of the stage while they disappear to get ready for the show.

and then - this thing happens. this thing where those nice guys retreat into the shells of the musicians on stage, and a switch flips somewhere... all of a sudden that guy you were laughing with downstairs is screaming his head off and disappearing into furious perfect chords and jumping all over the stage. they quiet down for a moment, and then blow the roof off of the venue. and you can't stand still, and it runs through your veins, and it goes on for an hour at least. and in my case it ellicits pictures that come out so good that, as mentioned, they make me want to quit my day job:

we were around for a few minutes before we started getting shushed out of the venue, but not before I could sit with cheryl waters on the stage for a few minutes to talk about the set. there had been a guy in the close vicinity, chatting with a few of the members of okkervil river and this girl I had seen at the wrens set in new york. he seemed the band-y guy type, and I asked cheryl who he was.

"him? that's john roderick."

my heart exploded. "shut the fuck up!" I whispered.

"john! come over here and meet my friend victoria."

he started walking over. under my breath I'm going, omigod cheryl stop it stop it are you kidding and she's grinning and john roderick is standing about eighteen inches away from me before I can run my fingers through my bangs.

"hi." cheryl gives him a big warm hug.

"john, this is victoria. she's here from the east coast for the benefit and to see some friends."

he shakes my hand. "nice to meet you." smiles.

my brain is now literally coming out of my ears for the second time that night. I wanted to tell him he was brilliant and my hands miss you and I'm writing a book where I meet you by accident and you're in love with my friend who lives on a little houseboat that looks like a cupcake and I drew them a heart and -

cheryl saves the day. "can you imagine, victoria being jealous of little old us, getting to see you on new year's eve!"

he's still smiling. "naw, we're just going to play a bunch of covers."

kristin and steve appear. "I'm going to have to sell my ticket then," kristin quips, grinning. she'll inform me later that john was standing right behind me the entire set.

I feel obligated to make introductions. or maybe that just happened in my head. no, I think it happened out loud. can you fucking believe it? john, these are my friends kristin and steve. john roderick. hi. I think I love you, just a little bit.

fate (and one of the bouncers) whisked in at that moment and took us out on a high note. we tumbled out onto the sidewalk, reeling from the goodness. holy wrens. holy kexp party. holy shower radios. backstage and long winters and cold hilly walks to the car and neumo's and djs and bliss.

and we got to do it all again the next night.

saturday came too early but with giggles and leftover showness. we piled into the car, grabbed a latte and we were off to paws where kristin volunteers. we picked up her friend chris and headed off for the land of cats in cages, some sad and some not, wanting to love them all. it was neat to see a place like that from the inside out, and even though I wasn't allowed to really play with all the little babies it was still fun. I fell in love about twelve times and around one o'clock the sleep caught up to me. I made some calls from the car while kristin and chris finished up, and we were off.

the daytime is a blur again, pressed out of my mind by what was to follow that night - for the life of me I can't recall what went on from 2 until 5. there was some time on the boat, and showering and such, but I'm drawing a blank on the rest. I'll come back if I remember it. anyway, evening rolled around and I decided to hit a meeting before the show. kristin woke up from her semi-nap to come wtih me, and it wound up being awful - I mean, meetings are good and all, the fact that we go and stuff, but - I tried to remind myself that saturday night meetings at home weren't exactly the best, and that it was good that I showed up - all that being said, we hightailed it out of there at the break. kristin left me at neumo's with kisses and good wishes, and I found my way in.

I stopped to see janet, and promptly loaded up on some schwag - the sick poster for the event we'd seen all over town, a little blue kexp shirt, and because I've got all these connections now I even got to stash my coat behind the table. I went out onto the floor to dig the divorce, and they were just stellar. really animated and killers-y but better, tight and original and commanding. I wound up on the floor next to cheryl and andrew. cheryl turns to me at the first break between songs and tells me we'll find lisa so I can get a wristband to go downstairs. I remind her that I love her a little bit, and lisa shows up. I watch cheryl gesturing and wristbands appear like magic. bliss, stamped wrists, yellow bands and photographs to prove it. the night could have ended right then and I would have been happy. I would say that eight more times before the end of the show.

deb showed up and we messed around, listening to the rest of the set and waiting for janet's dues at the schwag table to finish up. thoroughly ready for the night ahead, we gathered all our stuff and stashed it in a shower stall down at the end of the bathroom section downstairs and flopped on the couch. band members and free beverages abounded and the night started to take shape. we ate cookies and took pictures and made jokes and loved everything. wrens started to sporadically appear, so we stood up and pretended to be witty and involved deep in discussion so that we wouldn't start panting at the sight of them.

it turned out to be completely unneccesary. for the second night in a row, kevin came right over to me and said hello. and for the second night in a row, I was totally beside myself that members of like, the greatest band, possibly ever, not only remembered who I was but also made a point of saying hi. cue another I could die right now and be fine with it moment. and then it got better.

so we're shooting the breeze, drinking coke out of glass bottles and talking about the divorce and I tell kevin that I'm going to try to make it out to the show at the bowery next month. and he's all, oh, you are totally in, in fact why don't you come with us to philly too - and I'm like, well, that's kind of a bitch to drive from new haven, and he's like, no, I mean, come with us. I'd love to have some pictures where we didn't look like dorks, or whatever it was he said. all I can remember of that moment is how he smiles all the time when he's talking. and then we start the "are you serious / are you kidding" game.

me: are you serious?

kevin: yes.

me: are you kidding?

kevin: no.

me: like, come with you? like, with you with you?

kevin: yeah! we're like, friends now.

me: like, come to the house and get in the van?

kevin: yes.

me: are you serious?

kevin: yes.

me: you're serious.

kevin: yes.

me: you aren't kidding right now!

kevin: no! it'll be so fun.

me: (to deb and janet) he's totally not kidding right now.

janet: no, he isn't.

at this point, we're all grinning like idiots.

me: do you realize what you're doing to me right now?

kevin: just come! we'll have a great time.

me: shit, I can like, rent some good lenses and stuff -

(enter charles)

me: hey charles, I might like, come with you guys to shoot the new york and philly shows.

charles: oh, right on!

me: kevin was all like, in the van.

charles: oh, yeah. we always have room in the van.

me: you guys really aren't kidding right now.

charles: (realizing my head is exploding) no, it's really not glamorous. wait until we start farting and blaming it on each other.

me: are you guys really serious?

charles: sure! that would be fine, you know. you can totally come in the van.

janet: (totally on cue) see victoria? it would be fine.

kevin: yeah, we're at (gives street address), and you can just like, come there, and we'll all go.

me: when do you guys leave?

kevin: oh, like, sometime in the afternoon probably. it's easy, you just take the g w...

so that's not verbatim or anything, but that's about how it went. a little while later kevin came back out from the dressing room, to like, get some bread or something. and we started talking again, and he was seriously all like, no, we know you now. you can come and hang with us. and I'm all, like, come to the house. and he's like, totally. and I'm all, and I get to come with you, like, in the van. and he's like, well, it would be kind of silly for you to drive by yourself, and I'm just like, I have to keep pretending like this is normal, and he's all, but it is, in that way that he talks, smiling the entire time. it was totally dismantling. I then realize that we'll be getting home, to their home, from philly at like three in the morning. and that I'll be driving off into the sunrise. and kevin's all, oh, no, if it's late, you'll just sleep and go home in the morning. and I want the floor to swallow me whole. I decide that my new boyfriend may potentially not be down with that. I also decide that eating eggs on a sunday morning with the wrens may potentially be a once in a lifetime experience. and then I decide to table it until that saturday.

we're still grinning like idiots. I realize I need to stop talking before I throw up from excitement. that, and okkervil river is about to play. I catch part of the set and spend the last couple of songs before the wrens powdering up and changing the camera battery and peeing four or five times. they've said that they're in a different kind of mood tonight, and have promised a good set. I secure my spot stage left, check my settings, and wait.

the place is a lot more packed than the night before - it's a wall of people, and I can barely elbow in to get a spot on the front corner of the stage as they make us move around while the bands change places. instead of opening with what's a girl, as they did the night before and the last few times I'd seen them, charles started singing this boy is exhausted almost by himself, with greg chiming in, and kevin and jerry followed suit, and by two-thirds of the way through the song they were on. it felt more like the show at cmj that night - friday was a great set, but saturday just felt a little different. it might have just been me, freshly reeling off of band member contact. bandgasms, as shannon calls them.

so they play so late that the security people start getting huffy, and they have to end the set without this is not what you had planned or she sends kisses, the traditional end of set songs that I'd seen them do almost every time they played. I stand there in front of the stage, leaning on one leg, hand on a hip, mouth half-open, half-amazed, half-smiling. all amazed, really. they file past and deb and janet and I all follow suit before we can get kicked out with everyone else.

downstairs is an explosion, like they know the show was good but they'd never dare say it, or maybe they don't know, because the first thing greg says in the bathroom is "how did it sound?" and I smile and go, "good, really good" and he's like, "good." like he actually thought it may not have sounded right or something - and all of a sudden I don't want autographs anymore. kevin had said it earlier, like, but you get to come and hang out with us, like friends, right? and seemed baffled that I still wanted the poster signed, and then it shifted right there, and I didn't need the sharpie anymore. not in this particular room anyways... so janet and deb all get their things together and we grab coats and hug goodbyes and travel safe-s and see you soon-s follow suit, a sweaty kevin and promises to email and I'm heading up the stairs to leave this part of seattle behind.

I burst onto the sidewalk for the second night in a row, and replay the whole thing for steve. like, come with them. like, in the van. like, come and crash at the house if you're tired, here's the address. and email me at work, we'll make our plans... I'm starting to type in lyrics now in the middle of this, reading through again. I suppose that's not so bad. we rode home and came up the dock to a clean boat with a bed all made for me and little fluffy neva in a ball on top of the heating pad. I ripped out my contacts and fell into it completely. and if the show had ended then, and that's all there was, it would have been enough.

sunday brought homemade breakfast and more local sights, trips to the grocery store and the outdoor market in fremont and thai food and the antique (bus) mall. strings of red stars and perfect blue jeans, a whole house full of everything I'd ever need and all of a sudden I wanted to stay forever. crab rangoons and blue sky and mountains every day, shows every night. houseboats and cat paws and big flowers and bubble tea and kexp. knitting and reading, the tv's really just a magazine and we took a ten minute nap and I could feel you breathing. I missed you before I even walked away, forgetting my posters and wanting to stay forever...

 

  

(sigh)

so that was seattle. keep my seat warm, and save me spot in front of the stage.

loving you madly,

~vvb