Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe February 3rd 2017 Aladdin Theater

This is where my plan should have been. I was delayed 2.5 hours in SFO waiting on the plane to arrive from Denver.

Late in fall bands tend to announce their winter tour schedule. Winter is a good time to see some kick ass bands in small indoor venues. When Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe posted their winter tour they had a tone of dates on the west coast, including a stop in Portland on a Friday. Checking my calendar this was a perfect opportunity to see a show and spend the weekend with the family in Vancouver. I remember booking my flight for this trip while driving down to Asheville to see The New Mastersounds and drink some awesome beer.

While I realize my time was short with the family I certainly made the most of that limited time. It took a lot longer to get to PDX then I wanted. My flight to SFO wasn’t a problem, other than being six hours, it was the connection to PDX that got delayed. The show didn’t start till 9 so there was still plenty of time to see the family and catch the start of the show even with my flight delay. Our plans for Friday kept evolving as my flight status was updated but we managed to make it to Associated. Some really good brick oven pizza and surprisingly tacos as well. The crust was crispy and the flavor combos very unique. After this Bobby dropped Tracy and I off at the Aladdin Theater for the show.

Get down with the get down.

The Aladdin Theater is old, no way around it. Rather small and hasn’t been updated in many many years. The venue certainly shows its age at this point. Late in the show Karl even made a comment about the venue. They took a bunch of promo photos and he didn’t seem particularly happy with the theater as the backdrop. I believe he said they were “to cheap” about finding a more appropriate photo location. I would agree with all the reviews in that the seats suck. When we got in we immediately headed to the small bar to the left which was nuts to butts. The show hadn’t even started and the bar was crowed. Tracy muscled her way to the bar and got a drink while I chatted with some fellow patrons. We eventually grabbed a seat down front and waited for the show to start.

The Main Squeeze was the opening act and I honestly didn’t have much hope for them.  I know you shouldn’t go in with preconceived ideas but still.  When they finished I was totally a fan.  They had a good selection of songs and really got the place going.  They were in the same vain as KDTU so it really fit the night in term of energy.  Eventually KDTU took the stage and I was shocked to see Alan Evans on drums.  I just saw him less then a month ago playing with The New Mastersounds.  It was so cool seeing him playing with Karl.  It is usually Karl that is always sitting in with other bands so it was nice seeing Alan sitting in with Karl for a change.  One thing that we quickly noticed was the band was all very dapper.  Everyone was in a suite and honestly I don’t know how they did it. It was just to damn hot to be sweating in a three piece on stage all while performing. KDTU was on fire that night and really had a groove going. Its been years since I have seen KDTU and I was disappointed at all. I have kept up with Karl’s many other side projects but there is just something about seeing his band that is so satisfying. His 2002 album The Bridge is still one of my all time favorite albums.  What a great performance.

The sign and entrance to Loowit Brewing.

Saturday thankfully was a full day with the family which was exactly what I wanted.  It was a lazy morning with everyone sleeping in but slowly the house awoke and was a hive of activity. Bobby got some work done, Tracy good some breakfast and the kids and I watched the new Ghostbusters.  A true highlight of the trip was sitting at the breakfast table that morning eating with the family.  I remember at one point just starring at the kids.  I have been lucky to see them grow up and cant wait to see who they are as adults.

After a hearty breakfast we started the days activities.  Fist up was Powell’s Books which is the largest independent book store.  They say it is an entire city block but not really.  Even without being a full city block the sheer size of the place is impressive and worth a visit.  While not much of a book worm I found some good station and the rare book collection was cool to see.  I have never seen one of these in any book stores so it was cool seeing some books that are well over 100 years old.  They even have a printing machine to print any book you want to create and for on demand printing for independent authors.

After this Tracy and I started a brewery tour of Vancouver.  They knew I was coming out before Christmas so this was my gift from them to me which was cool.  Fist stop and what ended up the best in my opinion, was Loowit Brewing Company.  They are a small shop in the old section of Vancouver.  Not an extremely deep selection but some real quality stuff including several GABF award winners.  I particularly liked their Tiger Squadron Pale Ale.

Next up was Old Ivy Brewery.  This place really reminded me of Cheers or something from the 80’s.  The place was pretty dead, granted it was around 3pm but it was a Saturday.  We only stayed for one beer here before moving on.  We thought about some food but the next place had much better food Tracy said.  There are a lot of breweries in the area, especially Portland.  Just skip this one and move on to something else.

Heathen Kunkle’s Dunkle

Last stop of the night was Heathen Brewing Feral Public House which is the brewpub for Heathen.  Washington alcohol laws are different from Virginia but what I gather this means is kids are allowed in the place during all business hours.  Here the place was hoping in the early evening hours.  We bellied up to the bar and started right in with several apps and a few beers.  With all the choices I was tempted to do a sampler but stuck to my guns on avoiding them and got a full glass of Kunkle’s Dunkle.  Maybe it was the weather but I have been drinking more porters, stouts, dunkles, anything really dark the last few months.  The apps we got where also very good.

And just like that it was time to head back to the house for dinner.  Tracy was doing a brisket in the crock pot for tacos which was awesome!  She did a really good job with the meat and all the fixing.  I stuffed my face full.  From all the drinking that afternoon I had a slight buzz and was starving.  The appetizers from Heathen where good but this really hit the stop.  After dinner Bobby and I spent some time in the garage catching up.  When you get him alone and really sit down with him, he is really kind thoughtful and has some good insight on life.  With the kids to bed it was time for some adult fun with Bobby this time.

He and I headed out to play some classic arcade games.  We first tried Ground Kontrol but as we pulled up there was a line out the door waiting to get in.  The weather was cold and drizzly, we were not about to wait in a line to play some video games.  Google to the rescue we found QuarterWorld across town.  Unfortunately there was a small cover to get in but totally worth it.  We played classics like Joust, Fix-It Felix Jr., Space Invaders, TMNT, and Galaga to name but a few of the offerings.  Oh and did I mention pinball up the wazoo.  We played so much we actually closed the place down at 1am.  After a long night of gaming you work up an appetite so we headed down the block to Zack’s Shack for some awesome hotdogs.  They actually don’t close till 3am on the weekend so it worked out perfectly before heading back to the house.

The next morning came way to early.  Three nights straight of non-stop activity was finally starting to catch up to me.  The kids had a church function they couldn’t miss so Bobby took the kids and Tracy dropped me off.  My flight left PDX at 1:30pm unfortunately with a 6 hour layover in SFO.  When I booked my ticket I didn’t realize I would be flying during the Super Bowl.  Thankfully I landed with plenty of time before the start and enough after to enjoy the entire game in the United Lounge.  While the audio was hard to hear it was easy to follow the action.  At the half I really thought Atlanta was going to have a blow out so to see the Patriots come back and win it was pretty amazing.  I am not a football fan by any means but that was a great game to watch.

My free ticket almost wasn’t worth it.  My flight didn’t leave SFO till 9:30 or something like that.  I arrived early actually just before 6am.  A quick Uber ride home and I actually had time for a quick nap before getting ready for work.  I was surprisingly awake all day despite my whirlwind weekend on the west coast.

I think in the future I will take more of this shorter style of vacation.  It saves on vacation time and costs less.  This will allow me to visit more places and see more things then if I stayed a week in one or two places.  The hardest part of the trip was not being able to spend more time with the family.  I think keeping it busy with everyone and doing individual things was a good way to do it.  I hope to go back sooner rather then later and of course Bobby and Tracy encouraged me to stay longer next time.


Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe
Friday, February 3rd 2017
Aladdin Theater – Portland, OR

Set start at 10:21pm

  1. etc

Set over at 12:04am
House lights at 12:28am

Art on the Wall and in Motion

I have been on this kick of seeing art museums.  One I have never been to is the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn.  This is definitely a modern art museum and different then many of the others I have been to.  After my disaster getting to the city I was ready to relax with a little fine art.  Metro was performing Safe Track and the stations between Rosslynn and Farragut West were closed.  They had buses running between the stations so I wasn’t worried.  I got as far as Ballston I think and then it was a 30 minute wait for the Orange to talk me to Rosslynn and then who knows how long on a bus.  I was so feed up I took the train back to Wiehle and just drove into the city.

First stop was the Hirshhorn.  Walking into the place they had a new exhibit on display in the lobby all about orchids.  This giant wall filled with all varieties of orchids from the classic ones you get in the grocery store to some exotic weird ones I had never seen.  Off to the second level.  Unfortunately this was completed walled off for the installation of a new exhibit so in a manor of speaking, half the gallery was closed.  This just left the top floor for me to visit.  The exhibits in general are pretty good.  Being modern art many of them are experimental and some just plain weird looking.  One thing I liked was the variety of mediums on display.  They had photos, giant wall murals, and a variety of sculptures.  Once was a small window high up with bars simulating the view from prison looking to the outside world.  All of it was not nearly as weird as my visit to the National Gallery of Art East Building a few weeks back.

The lower level was mostly import autos.

Having been disappointed so far with the train ride and the closure of most of the museum I was still looking to do something.  I made a quick stop at the Smithsonian Castle to see what they have to offer.  The place was busy but much smaller then I was expected.  This is really just a showcase for the history of the institution and a display of all offerings the Smithsonian has at its other museums.  Cool but you can see everything in 30 minutes or less.  Then I remembered seeing an advert on the train about the Washington Auto Show.  I had never been and thought it would be a cool thing to do the rest of the afternoon.  I quickly bought my ticket online and headed north to the convention center.

On my way north I was rather parched so tried to find a place to eat.  I found a cool spot but as soon as I walked in the place was smashed, even the bar.  There were several couples waiting to be seated so I did a quick u-turn and headed out.  I figured being after 2pm I would eat anywhere without a line.  Continuing my walk I stopped at Silo for beer and brunch.  I have been here before and was really impressed with their food and beer selection the last time.  My current visit was no different.  I caught some soccer on the TV and had a classic omelet with a few Off Color Troublesome beers to wash it down.

The auto show was the big adventure for the day I must say.  I have never been to the convention center and I was surprised at how large the space was.  The auto show is advertised as being on three levels and let me tell you, I walked all over that place trying to find them all.  It took a while but I found all three levels however I have a feeling I probably missed some exhibits just because of the shear size of the space.  The 2nd floor was mostly domestics and that was nice seeing the new offerings that are coming out.  The first floor was mostly imports and here they had some really exotic new cars.  The craziest was a gullwing Escalade which in my opinion was just way over the top.  I am hoping this is more of a concept car and never sees the light of day as a production vehicle.  The third floor took forever to find but this had the truly exotic cars.  This was really just a small auto show of very expensive car.  It was nice but nothing to rave home about.  The first two floors were much better over all.

Lemons into lemon aid is what this day reminded me off.  First the debacle with Metro and then half the Hirshhorn closed, it was pretty rough going.  What I did see of the Hirshhorn was cool and the new exhibit on the second floor (Infinity Mirrors by Yayoi Kusama) looks really cool so I will certainly have to go back for that.  As a first timer to the auto show that was really cool as well.  To me it was just a giant car lot that the public is invited to checkout.  If I was in the market I would certainly spend some time checking out the models but I honestly got more just by mingling with the crowds and people watching.  Once thing I noticed, lots and lots of families visit the auto show.  Another good day in the city exploring the world around me.

Art is in the Eye of the Beholder

When I was in Denver a few weeks ago one of the recommendations I got for an activity was to visit the Denver Art Museum.  Unfortunately we didn’t have time to see it this time but I had a desire to see some art since that trip.  Thankfully there is the National Gallery of Art in DC with a really good collection of both old and modern art and the best part, free admission.  I forget all the time that other museums generally charge an entrance fee.  Having the Smithsonian right in the heart of DC is awesome.  Natural History, American History, Air and Space, numerous other art museums and so much more all with free admission.

Like always I took Metro into the city and when I got off at the Smithsonian stop I was surprised to see a buzz of activity going on.  The following week is the inauguration of Trump and they had already started to put up barriers, erect tents for the press and put a cover over top the grass to protect it from everyone walking across it.  In fact there where more people on The Mall then I expected but it was good seeing everyone outside enjoying The Mall.

I planned to start at the NGA to see the classic art they have and then later walk over to the East Building to see the modern section.  I have been to the NGA before so I branched out and saw a few of the newer collections and some of those that I didn’t see on my last trip.  When I arrived it was still pretty quite with only a few people walking around but let me tell you by the time i left the place was packed.  All those people I saw walking around on the Mall before had finally made their way into the museums.

I came in on Madison Dr. and I love the water fountain at the center of the rotunda.  They always have it beautifully decorated with seasonal flowers, it looks amazing.  From here I turned left and explored some of the collections.  Just look at the map for a better idea of what types of art the gallery offers.  I eventually found a nice spot to sit and relax for a while in front of a picture of the Pantheon in Rome.  I choose this spot because I remember seeing this in real life and I loved looking at the painting of tourist at the Pantheon from several hundred years ago.

After a long time of looking at old art I made my way to the East Building and the modern art collection.  The walk is pretty awesome because there is an underground walkway from one to the other building which was nice.  One section has a really cool light synchronized light show.  Even managed to get some food from the cafe which was decent but overpriced.

I saw most of the exhibits in the East Building.  The building architecture is setup with a huge open space in the middle with the galleries in the corners.  This allows for large art installations which was really cool.  One thing I noticed while walking around was I am not a big fan of modern art.  I get what the artists are trying to do and I can appreciate it, its just not my favorite style of art.  There was one whole section dedicated to minimalism and the brief description I read on the style even said this movement is all about one, maybe two colors at most.  One pieces of art that was an octagonal linen cloth just nailed to the wall.  This exact pieces is exactly what another plaque I saw talked about.  To paraphrase that plaque: because it is in this building, it is art.  I get why they call all it art and some people really like this kinda stuff, it’s just not me.  I can look at some of the older paintings and just get lost in them.  Looking at all the detail, looking at the brush strokes the artists used.  The thought that went into each stroke so it would perfectly represent what the artist had in their minds eye.  Art is in the eye of the beholder.

Before heading out of town I stopped at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial along the Potomac.  Its been open a few years but I have never been, it was about time I made a trip.  Monday was also MLK Day so I thought it appropriate to stop and pay my respects to one of the many leaders of the civil rights movement.  While I think we have come a long way since the 60’s there is still work to be done.

A wonderful afternoon at the art museum, makes me want to visit some of the others along The Mall.  I like traveling to the city and it was just plan fun looking at all the art on the wall.  I just loved the relaxing stroll through the museum taking in the culture.


NYE 2016 in Denver

Things have been a different this year around the holidays.  Lots of changes are happening so while I was driving to the beach for a 5 day mini vacation, stuck in traffic, I got a crazy idea in my head.  I have wanted to go to Denver for a while now, I had the time, and my bonus was burning a hole in my pocket.  It took me just over 5 hours but I finally made it to Rehoboth Beach and started doing research.  I knew it would take me two solid days of driving to get there and another two getting back.  I could arrive late on Friday and spend all Saturday in Denver.  A quick check of local NYE shows and I found that The String Cheese Incident was playing the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield.  String Cheese doesn’t tour much so this would be a good opportunity to see them and besides this is a hometown show for them.

Thursday morning I started this adventure by watching the sunrise on the beach.  It was overcast with a lite drizzle but I managed to see parts of the sun as it broke the horizon.  From here it was nothing but driving across the country.  The weather on the east coast wasn’t to great.  I drove through snow, rain and fog for about half the day.  I made a reservation for a hotel in St. Louis and didn’t make it there till around midnight.  One day done and my old bones where already starting to feel it.

Just get on the road and drive.

The next morning started early, I was out the door around 7am.  I knew this last part of the trip would take me a solid 12 hours and I wanted to spend at least some time that night having some fun.  On the outskirts of St. Louis another idea started to take shape.  I would have been perfectly happy going to Denver on my own but instead I brought Nancy and Jeremy with me.  It was a busy morning making a lot of phone calls and booking travel but totally worth it.  This was shaping up to be a pretty awesome last minute adventure for New Year Eve.

I drove all day and watched the sun set across Kansas which was really nice.  Finally I made it to Denver and when you come in on 70W you round this slight hill and then the city just appears in front of you.  It is this massive city with suburbs that go for miles.  Honestly I was shocked at how big Denver is.  On Saturday as we drove around I got a better idea just how big it is.  By the time I got into town Nancy had already landed and made her way to the hotel to check in.  I didn’t arrive till almost nine but it felt good to finally be in Denver.  Jeremy was on a later flight so Nancy and I head to True Food Kitchen just down the street for dinner.  After crap food for two days I wanted something super health and True Food Kitchen delivered.  They also had beer so it was my first sample of beer from Colorado.  Eventually Nancy and I retired to the hotel bar for another drink and this is when Jeremy arrived.  He worked a full day and then hopped on a plain so didn’t get in till almost 11.

Saturday, New Years Eve.  We all had tickets to SCI but we had a ton of time to kill before the show started.  We started with breakfast on the top floor which over looked the front range.  When I came into town it was already dark so this was my first sight of the mountains.  Denver is already a mile high and I knew the mountains where much taller still.  The mountains stretched for as far as the eye could see.  Denver is still a good distance away but they still looked impressive.  At breakfast we strategized what our plan would be for the day.  It really came down to what brewery we could find that was open at 10am.

All day we traveled across the city visiting as many breweries as we could.  By the end of the day we hit four in all and one restaurant that served some really good food and had a ton of local craft beer on draft.  First up was CO Brew which we thought we got wrong when we pulled up.  It is a home brew retail store and not a brewery per say.  We found they do in fact brew beer on premise, they teach glasses on home brewing so make a tone of beer.  Very interesting place to have our first beer of the morning.  As cool as everything was it didn’t inspire me to start home brewing.

On the recommendation of the bartender we went to Black Sky Brewing next.  This spot is certainly geared toward metal and hard rock.  My first impression was that this place would be an interesting stop on our trail, just a minor speed bump.  Of all the places this was the one I liked best.  The beer was good but it was the people that made it so enjoyable.  Not only was the staff very friendly but the other patrons really made it a fun time doing a little day drinking.

Black Sky sent us to Strange Craft down by the river.  This is a small hole in the wall but it had character.  Here the beer was very good with a wide variety to choose from.  We got to talking and the guys from Black Sky actually got their start at Strange Craft doing a home brew startup thing.  Small world when you think about it.  By this time we all where pretty hungry and headed over to Sloan’s Lake Tap and Burger for some food.  The burgers where all really good and the selection of local craft was amazing.  Very nice decor on the inside with huge ceilings and plenty of space for guests.  The building is brand new but the neighborhood could still use some work.

By now it was getting pretty late in the afternoon so we headed back to the hotel to rally for String Cheese.  I really wanted to take a nap because day drinking really wears me out but there was no time for that.  We got an Uber and headed to one last brewery before the show.  The last place we went to was 4 Noses Brewing just a couple blocks from the venue.  It was a nice place so close but honestly I didn’t care for the place.  The brewery is brand new and modern but it lacked character.  I also thought the beer all tasted pretty much the same.  It didn’t matter what style you got, they all had this underlying orange citrus taste to them.  They even all looked similar.  As much as I wanted to like the place I just couldn’t bring myself to find anything good about it.

Doors for the show were at 7 with the performance starting at 8.  It was all general admission so we didn’t feel a need to arrive early and grab a spot.  I was just happy to be there. I unfortunately could only manage the first set before I had enough.  The long day of drinking and two days of straight driving was catching up with me.  Nancy and I decided to head back to the hotel and Jeremy stayed for the remainder of the show.  The report the next morning from Jeremy was good and I have listened to the show several times at this point.

As soon as my head hit the pillow it felt like it was time to get up and get going.  I dropped Jeremy and Nancy off at the airport and started back home to Virginia.  Getting back was just as interesting crossing the country but not much inclement weather this time.  Just like going out to Denver I stopped in St. Louise for the night.  I got home before midnight on Monday which was my goal and got to work the next morning right on time.

Not sure if I will drive that far again anytime soon but it was a great trip further west then I had ever been before.  Seeing String Cheese Incident, even if it was just for one set during a three set night was still worth it.  I was able to cross several more breweries off my list.  Honestly there wasn’t a bad part about the trip.  Already thinking about seeing Medeski, Martina and Wood at Red Rocks in late April just so I can spend more time in Denver.

Winter Hike in D.C.

It was a clear day but very cold and windy.

While technically not yet winter it certainly felt like it the other day.  I believe the high was in the upper 30’s but when you throw in the wind chill that quick dropped to the lower 30’s.  Only good thing about the weather was it was a clear day with zero percent change of rain. Besides going to the city I didn’t have much of a plan and decided to just wing it.

Because I hate driving I took Metro to the Smithsonian to start my adventure.  From here I walked down towards the Washington Monument and the WWII Memorial before looping back up Constitution Ave., walking past all the museums.  Walking past all the monuments and symbols or freedom in the country really got me thinking.  I have lived here my entire life so I do feel I take it for granted sometimes, the center of power for our nation is in my backyard.  I would also argue that this is the center of power on the world stage as well.  I got particularly choked up walking past the Newseum and reading their larger then life copy of the first amendment.  With all the crap that has been going on with the national election I think we sometimes forget how it all started.  We have become to divisive now and can’t seem to agree on the basics that make this country great and the envy of the world.  Immigration is a big issue now but I fear the day when people stop risking their lives to come to this country.  When that day comes, it’s over for the United States.

Eventually I ended up at my favorite smoking spot Shelly’s for a beer and food.  It was just to damn cold to spend all my time walking around outside.  Shelly’s afforded me the time to warm my hands and get some food in my belly.  Despite the holiday’s the place was pretty empty even with a few high profile college games on like Army vs. Navy being televised.

With a belly full of food and warm bones, it was time to continue my hike around the city.  As the sun set I wanted to see the capitol bathed in the perfect light of the setting sun and I wasn’t disappointed.  With it being Christmas I then walked to the White House to see the national tree.  I remember doing that several times when I was a kid so it was nice to go back and see it all again.  The tree was nice but honestly it looks liked it just has a shit ton of lights thrown on to cover all the green spots.  No person would cover their tree in that many lights in there house.  The grounds the tree sits on where pretty busy in the early evening with hundreds of not thousands of tourists clamoring to get a view of the national tree and all the state trees.  I even got a glimpse of the White House all decked out for the holiday affair.

While cold as crap outside it was good getting out and walking around.  Winter is coming so opportunities like this will be few and far between for the next few months.  With Christmas fast approaching I love this time of year.  Getting out and mingling with the people and seeing everything decked out in holiday affair is really nice.  This walk also reminds me of where I live and how lucky I am.  I wouldn’t trade my US citizenship for anything.  While I might not like everything about this country, it is still the best place on Earth.