How many Santas can be in one place before it gets weird? Four, four Santas in one place at one time is enough, but on Saturday around 6 PM, in downtown Seattle, I was confronted by hundreds and hundreds of Santas within a two block radius of Westlake Center. Why were they there? I don’t know. It would have been enough to give Gretchen Carlson of Fox News a heart attack, because these Santas were not the stereotypical Caucasian, fat, old men in red suits, these Santas had their own version of who had been naughty and who had been nice. I saw a Santa spreading Christmas cheer by giving a passing motorist the finger. (Better than a lump of coal I suppose, but who honks at Santa anyway?) I saw a tattooed Santa in tiny satin underwear (I assume the underpants were satin, I did not touch the underwear or ask if they were satin). There were drunken Santas, sober Santas (a few I think), lady Santas, a full horn section of Santas, and even a gang of Santarchists. Santas were everywhere and the families who had just exited the Pacific Place 6PM snow show had some explaining to do. “Yes, Billy, these are Santa’s helpers. Whoa, Santa, put on some pants.” (Yes, it snows inside at 6PM every evening, and then the Gretchen Carlson Santa shows up. The snow is not really snow; it is probably little bits of asbestos shot into the air that float down on the packed mall center.)
We were in Seattle for the Physic’s album release: Digital Wildlife. The show included DJ Beeba (DJ Gilligan), Shelton Harris and Tyler Dopps, Tangerine, Dave B, and The Physics. It figured to be a full evening of music at the Crocodile, and, to be perfectly honest, I was looking forward to seeing The Physics again.
We ended up at the Crocodile very early because my daughter insists that we never be in a line behind two or more people. We were so early that we walked around for a little bit and then I talked our crew into getting me another shot of coffee. So we went across the street to a shop that served coffee and toast. Yes, toast. Really? Yes, toast. They serve toast? That’s what I said. Who sits around and says, “You know what Seattle needs, a toast restaurant”? Well, the toast thing was not the strangest thing about this place because I believe the entire shop was decorated by furniture that someone threw out or put on a street corner with a “free” sign on it. I felt like I had been dropped into an episode of Portlandia set in Seattle, but the place had some redeeming qualities: David Bazan was playing on the stereo when we came into the shop and anyone who listens to David Bazan is a friend of mine, and there was an upstairs that was so weird and creepy that it had to be experienced. I didn’t even let the used Kleenex tucked into the seat cushion next to me bother me even though I am a huge germophobe.
We finally got into the Crocodile and I went upstairs with all the purses, jackets, and my daughter’s camera (the camera mention is foreshadowing). I like the upstairs at the Crocodile because it is not crowded and not as loud as downstairs, but it is very dark and so sitting by myself in a corner probably makes people think I am some kind of weirdo, but I like to think of myself as the James Dean type of solo cool, not the Boo Radley sitting in a dark house watching little kids creeper, but I am certain that by the end of the evening my actions could be questioned.
DJ Beeba kicked off the evening. I have seen DJ Beeba several times and even though I still have no clue what a DJ does, I have grown to understand that he is very talented. When I saw him at the first Physic’s show I made fun of his Gilligan hat, but by the end of the summer all the hip kids were wearing Gilligan hats. So, here is some fashion advice to those of you who wish to be hip: bolo ties. I still have three bolo ties that my grandpa gave me so who’s laughing now?
Was it hard to get the crowd fired up? Yes, why? Because the Crocodile had a small cattle chute sized area for the under 21 patrons that was packed and a large empty floor for the over 21 patrons who were still over at the toast restaurant getting a slice of marble rye done over medium.
Shelton Harris and Tyler Dopps took the stage and played a tight, short set. The final song was one I recognized and for a moment found myself forgetting that I was an old man who should not be rapping along with the lyrics younger than most of my clothing, but it happened.
While Tangerine set up, DJ Beeba came back out onstage and played that funky music. People were walking all around the stage getting stuff set up and there was DJ Beeba in the background dancing around really enjoying himself.
Tangerine finally got all of their stuff set up (drum set, keyboard, bass guitar, and lead guitar) and began their set. I don’t want to overstate how much I loved Tangerine, but let me just say that I loved them. They have an early 1990s indie rock sound that I could not put my finger on, but kind of like Souixsie and the Banshees with a mix of steel guitar from West Africa, or maybe a little like Cowboy Junkies but less cowboy and more junkie. Whatever it is, it is dreamy, lovely, and Tangerine earned an AARP aged fan.
Dave B was next on the set list and after seeing him open for Sol recently, I was interested to see him again. To be diplomatic, I would say that the DJ at the Sol show hindered Dave B’s performance, but there were no such problems at the Crocodile as DJ Beeba stood in behind the wires and vinyl. Dave B also added a guitar player, drummer, and keyboardist. It would be a cheap shot to say that the guitarist looked like a Math major from UDub, and for once I will refrain from making fun of the musicians. (Yes, I realize I did take a cheap shot while saying that I wouldn’t.)
The stacked synthesizers dwarfed the guy manning the keyboards. I don’t mean to say the guy was small, but if Shaq were playing that thing he would look like Gary Coleman. The thing was the size of a WWI tank and could probably hide ten Santas inside if you removed the guts of the keyboard.
Anyway, Dave B was great. I don’t know how all the bits and pieces worked together with the DJ, drummer, guitar, and keyboard, but the group played together flawlessly. Dave B had tons of energy and the crowd filled in the gaps in the over 21 area and the entire place was packed, which soon became a problem for me because my prime location was no longer a secret and people were beginning to crowd the upstairs area and the space I set aside for jackets, purses and a camera soon became a contested area. I know that it is uncool to put stuff on a seat when riding a bus or subway, but I think those rules should not apply to me when I am at a concert.
The good news was that once the Physics took the stage most of the crowd upstairs decided that being downstairs was better. Maybe it was the grumpy old man vibes I was setting off upstairs, but whatever it was worked out for about 30 minutes. The Physics started their set and were joined by Owuor Arunga who added an interesting jazz quality to their songs.
This is where I made what would turn into a big mistake; I stood up to enjoy the Physics’ set. I was not going to start dancing around like an aged Grateful Dead follower; I just thought that I could now do a little swaying (this is as close to dancing as rhythmically challenged people such as myself should do). For a good ten minutes I was really having a good time as Thig and Monk took turns rapping and getting the crowd be-bopping along. Then something bad happened, a couple moved up to the upstairs area and became engaged in “amorous” activities near where I was standing. Who cares, right? Sure, I don’t care if you want to do some heavy breathing in a corner, but if you are looking for privacy let me just suggest that darkness is not privacy. I did my best not to look too creepy, but that was an impossibility, I’m standing right there by myself and the couple was getting pretty serious about two feet from me. How serious? They moved to the bench seats serious. At least they were not blocking my view anymore, but now I was worried that my daughter’s camera was going to get crushed while the couple made the beast with two backs.
I know that I am an older person and that times change, but let’s agree that some things are best reserved for “alone time.” Ladies, if your date cannot find a better place than a dark corner, then it might be time to find a classier guy, a guy who will wait in the bathroom line for a private stall.
Eventually, I stepped in and moved my stuff and completely ruined the mood for the couple, my bad. The good news was that after I said, “You’re about to crush my camera,” and I moved the pile of stuff, the couple decided to find a better place to go, I hope it wasn’t raining too hard in the alleyway.
After Romeo and Juliet left, I was able to get back to swaying and enjoying the show, but the incident did remind me that I am really a visitor to these concerts and not at all James Dean cool.
How was the music? It was great. The show was sold out, the artists were talented, and the Seattle Hip-Hop scene is always entertaining. I don’t know a better value for the dollar than four hours of good live music.