AndyO Blog

Monday, June 25, 2007

Lake Chelan - Day 2

Everything started off well enough today. I took the boys to an amazing breakfast at the Campbell's restaurant (one of the best breakfasts anywhere). After that, we walked into town to Radio Shack. I wanted to buy a video cord so we could attach our DVD player to the flatscreen TV in the hotel room. While we were there, I saw the coolest indoor helicopter and had to have it (only $60 dollars!). 
On the way back to the hotel, I stopped at Riverwalk Books and bought Drew a Spider-man pop-up book and another book that included a tube of plastic dogs. He wanted to open the tube of dogs right in the store.
Cam flies the indoor helicopter We got back to the room and started up the indoor helicopter immediately. It took a while, but Cameron got the hang of the controls. I tried to hook up the DVD player to the TV, but it didn't work very well. I realized I needed an audio cord now. Then Drew had a meltdown. I thought it was time for a nap, but he faked me out.
By 3:00, I was completely burned out from Drew's constant screaming and Cameron's complaining that his helicopter wasn't charging fast enough or that he wanted me to take him swimming. Brenda finally came back at 4:45 or so, and I ran out of the room to get away from the chaos. I took my computer and went to the upstairs cafe at Campbell's to eat a cheeseburger while surfing the web. Then it was back to being a parent.


posted by AndyO @ 10:32 PM   0 comments

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Lake Chelan - Day 1

We drove to Lake Chelan today from Seattle, a 3-1/2 hour drive of mountains, forests, and finally rivers and lakes. Drew slept for about half the drive, and Cameron just looked out the window.

As we passed Wenatchee, I saw the purplish clouds hanging over the area we were driving to. And sure enough, we were soon driving through a storm -- the kind that prompts you to put the windshield wipers on "high."

Once we got to Campbell's at Lake Chelan, the rain stopped and was replaced by high winds. Brenda went to the lobby and checked us in, and Cameron and I unloaded the car (no small feat with the amount of bags we travel with). This trip had two purposes: business for Brenda, and vacation for the boys and me. And from the moment we arrived, Brenda was working.

We got another waterfront room, which is a mixed blessing. Once Drew sees that water, he wants outside. In the picture below, our room is where the red arrow is pointing:


When you walk out the sliding glass door and go a few steps, here's the view:


I took the boys to dinner in the upstairs cafe at Campbells, and because Brenda's had a meeting cancel she was able to join us. After that, Brenda had more work to do and I hung out with the kids in the room.

Of course later it took us until 11:00 or so to get Drew to sleep (he always does this when he takes a nap).


posted by AndyO @ 8:16 PM   0 comments

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Police - Seattle, WA - Key Arena - 6/7/07

Read my 6/6/07 review here.

On the second night to see The Police, I was running late. Dale, my brother-in-law, was waiting for me outside the Sonics store, and I was still driving.

"I'll be there in 10 minutes," I said to him on my cell phone.

I drove to the same parking lot as the night before, a few blocks away from the arena, and they had inexplicably raised their parking rates from $5 to $10 for event parking. This was actually a great deal; all the other lots were set at $20. This might be what you'd expect in some of the bigger cities, but that's astronomical in Seattle.

I met up with Dale. I pointed out that the people who had been there the night before with "the end is near" signs were gone. I wondered if they had met their proselytizing quotas. We walked inside the arena.

As Dale and I walked around the arena, a burly security guard eyed us and said, "Can I help you find something" in a suspicious and condescending tone. Dale and I looked at each other, wondering if someone had put "kick me" stickers on our coats. Or was it because the guard knew I had a mini-DV camera hidden in my coat pocket? (I had decided to take a few "memories" for myself that night.)

As I ate a foot-long hotdog, and Dale drank a beer, he told me about seeing Fiction Plane at Silver Platters in Seattle that day. Evidently the turnout hadn't been great, so that allowed him to talk to the band more. He also filmed the entire performance. We both thought this band was headed for great things.

We walked through the masses to our 200-level seats (a far cry from my amazing seats the night before), then sat down and watched Fiction Plane play through their set. These seats were on the first row of the 200 section, so you're on a bit of an overhang. When I'd squeezed by our neighbors into our seats, I had that familiar feeling I got when I was in high places -- but I knew I'd get used to it.

After Fiction Plane, Dale coaxed me into meeting the band at the meet-and-greet in the foyer. When we were standing in line, he said, "You want a picture with them?" I said no. "Why not?" I'm not a picture guy, I answered. "I'll tell you what: I'll get in the picture, too," he said. I told him no again. "Some day these guys might be huge, and this might be your only chance to meet them and get a picture," he said. "I won't even send you picture. I'll keep it encrypted on my hard drive."

I finally said OK (it was obviously the only answer).

When it was our turn to talk to Fiction Plane, I asked the drummer what kind of drums he was playing. (I had assumed they were Tama Starclassics, but I wasn't sure.) He answered, "Tama Starclassic Bubinga wood." I knew as a fellow drummer that this was some of the most exotic wood in the world. "I've never played this kit until this tour," he said. I wondered if Stuart Copeland's endorsement deal with Tama meant that Pete would get a kit like this. (Thanks for forcing me outside my comfort zone, Dale!)

L to R: Dale, Pete Wilhoit, Seton Daunt, Gordon Sumner, AndyO

We got back to our seats and waited for The Police.

They played the same set as the night before, except they didn't play "Murder By Numbers." The energy level of the band seemed to be much higher on this night, as evidenced by Andy Summers doing his scissor kick in one of the songs. Their playing also seemed more precise.

The Police. Photo by Dale Peterson Sitting above the crowd in the 200 level allowed me to hear the crowd singing along with each song. The stage and light show were also more dramatic. I finally got the nerve to pull out the video camera and film a few songs. I didn't pull out the LCD view finder, so I had to aim with the small viewfinder on the top. This made my camera work shaky. Plus, sitting on the edge against the high wall made it harder to get a great shot of the band. (When I watched it later, I was actually surprised how great the video came out .)

The set went by much faster than the night before. I attributed this to "relativity." For example, when you don't know a road that you're driving on, it seems to take more time to drive it. The same is true for concerts. 

The Police - photo by Dale Peterson When it was all over, I was happy I'd finally seen one of my favorite bands. Sting, Stuart, and Andy still had a lot of magic left between them, even if their playing together wasn't always perfect. I know 10 or so shows into the tour, they're going to be a force of nature.   

If you wonder why The Police are such a big deal, take a look at this picture. They're not paying any of us to sing along with them (I think this was during "Can't Stand Losing You"); but everyone is singing and having a great time. And that's what entertainment is all about.


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posted by AndyO @ 4:55 PM   0 comments

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Police - Seattle, WA - Key Arena - 6/6/07

This was the first of two Police concerts in Seattle.


Like most fans, I never thought I'd see The Police play a live concert. They broke up at the height of their fame in 1983, when I was still in high-school (I know, that dates me), and Sting went on to a successful solo career. I saw him on the tours for these albums:

I always enjoyed seeing Sting, and it was great to hear him play those old Police songs with some of the finest musicians out there. But in the back of my mind, I was always wondering what it would have been like to see him with Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers back in the day.

On Wednesday, June 6, I found out.

Sidebar: Stewart Copeland

I guess something important to know up front is that Stuart Copeland is one of my favorite drummers, right up there with Neil Peart of Rush. No two drummers have influenced me more. I've followed Copeland's solo career, from his soundtrack work in "Rumblefish" and "Wall Street" to his more recent work in Oysterhead with Les Claypool. Copeland has made an indelible mark on drumming with his hi-hat technique, a "controlled chaos" style that touches on Keith Moon of the Who, and his unique blending of Ska rhythms with rock. If I were to pick two favorite Copeland tracks with The Police, I guess I'd go with "Can't Stand Losing You" and "Spirits in the Material World." The former I played with a band in college; I still remember learning his 3-against-4 sidestick rhythm (something I still use today). The latter includes some amazing hi-hat work and a wild bass drum placement during the verses (try playing along some time).

Fiction Plane

On Wednesday, I drove down to Key Arena with Brenda. We were able to sit down at Michelangelo's in the Seattle Center House for a quick Italian dinner before heading over to the arena.

As a Best Buy Rewards Card holder, I was able to pay an exorbitant amount of money for two tickets. (If you must know, $225 per ticket -- the most I've ever paid for a concert ticket). As we walked into the darkness of the arena halfway through Fiction Plane's opening set and saw how close we were to the stage, Brenda and I looked at each other and smiled. These were amazing seats!

Fiction Plane at Key Arena

Brenda went out into the foyer to get water while I stayed and watched Fiction Plane. I'd never heard them before, and I was surprised how much I liked them immediately. The melodies were catchy, the songs interesting, and the singing unique. I knew the guy singing and playing bass was Sting's son, Joe Sumner, but knowing this actually raised my expectations. Fortunately, Joe seemed to possess much of his father's singing and songwriting talent, yet he was doing his own thing. He also had two excellent musicians playing with him, Pete Wilhoit on drums, and Seton Daunt on guitar. It would be a difficult job to open for a legendary band like The Police, but these guys pulled it off.

Enter The Police

During the break, we walked around Key Arena and ran into my brother-in-law, Dale, who is a huge Sting and The Police fan. He had just had a picture signed by Fiction Plane at a meet-and-greet in the foyer. He'd already seen two shows in Vancouver, B.C., and he was excited about seeing them again.In fact, he told me if my brother didn't want to go to the show the next night, he would buy the ticket from me.

The Police stage before the show

We went back to our seats and waited. The Wailers song "Get Up, Stand Up" blasted out of the PA.

Finally, the arena went black, and Stewart Copeland walked out to his percussion stage, which was on an elevated platform behind his drum kit, and started warming up a massive Paiste gong. He hit it hard, and then jumped down to his drum kit. The familiar "Message in a Bottle" guitar riff started up, and the crowd went crazy. I had a moment seeing the three musicians on the stage where it almost seemed like a dream. After all, Sting said The Police would never get back together.

The first few songs

The Police came out playing some of their biggest hits: Message in a Bottle, Synchronicity II, Spirits in the Material World, Voices Inside My Head, and Don't Stand So Close to Me. From my seat, it seemed like it took them until Don't Stand So Close to Me to start playing really well together. This was the fifth show on their world tour, so you can understand that they might be working out the kinks. Stewart Copeland's blog about how their second show in Vancouver, Canada, "sucked" makes you wonder what's going on -- but as he said in the blog, "Screw it, it's only music."

Favorite Moments and observations

  • Stewart Copeland had a percussion riser behind him that literally lifted up above his drum kit. He's one of the only other rock drummers who plays orchestral percussion (Neil Peart in the 1980s being the other). Songs like "Wrapped Around Your Finger" and "Walking in Your Footsteps" that include a lot of percussion were some of my favorites. Typically Copeland would start on the percussion -- and arsenal of crotales, marimba, bells, tympani, gong bass drums, rattles, and just about anything else he could fit up there -- and then jump down to his kit. Sometimes he made it just in the nick of time.
  • The jam-band style on several of the songs, including Walking on The Moon, Walking in Your Footsteps, and Roxanne was really interesting and fresh. But while I sometimes get bored in jams from a band like, say, Dave Matthews, I never felt that way at The Police.
  • The stage was oval-shaped and completely open, so you could see around the entire band. Backstage was literally under the stage.
  • The scrim with the dinosaurs in Walking in Your Footsteps was really cool -- the images almost creepy.
  • Sting did a slow "Walking on the Moon" walk around the entire stage during a new jam section of that song.
  • The crowd singing along in Can't Stand Losing You. They've played it this way even on the Synchronicity tour, and it still works quite well. I liked how Sting kept saying to his bandmates, "Don't rush me! Don't rush me! We've got all the time in the world."
  • The surprising guitar work of Andy Summers. His solos were especially inventive. And the new rockabilly guitar section of "Walking in Your Footsteps" was especially fresh. Oddly, Summers seemed to be having the most trouble on this night -- missing notes and looking extremely serious throughout.
  • The sea of people taking pictures with their cell phones and cameras.
  • Stewart Copeland ran around to the back of the stage and looked up at all he people sitting behind him. He said (and I'm paraphrasing), "Hey! There are people back here! And they're louder than the people in the front. Because they can see what we can see, and it's pretty incredible!"
  • Stewart Copeland's final series of words to the audience, "Whoooooaaaaa!"

When the concert was over, I was exhausted. My voice was hoarse, my shirt soaked in sweat. And I wondered how I was going to do this all over again the next day.

To see more pictures from this tour, go to Flickr Groups: The Police. There are some amazing pictures there!

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posted by AndyO @ 1:24 AM   0 comments