December 7, 2014
Last night my Usually Lovely Husband and I tossed aside our normal agenda of collapsing on the couch and going to sleep in front of poor television programming in lieu of pretending to be “hip” and plunging into the live music scene in downtown Seattle. A friend had called Thursday telling us he had two extra tickets to see a band at the Crocodile Café on Saturday and kindly invited us to join up with them and another couple. Glancing at the permanent indentations on the family room couch, I gave this about .04 milliseconds of consideration and promptly texted my U.L.H. and told him I was accepting the invite unless he had to accept the next Nobel Peace Prize or something equally important. Suffice it to say, it has been a long time since we went to a live music venue together that did not feature the words “High School” in the band name, so I was pretty stoked!
Side note – This is in no way meant to disparage the prodigal sons’ high school band concerts. I have heard some amazing music played in the High School Performing Arts Center over the years and both offspring possess considerable talent in the musical department – especially in their highly accomplished Jazz Bands. (Obviously this musical prowess comes from my side of the family by the way – my Mom practically owned her own bench seat in the high school gym for band, choir and theatre performances; and no one could blow the Baritone Tuba like my brother Paul. There will be an argument at my house after my U.L.H. reads this; after all, he always tells me, he did work in a Record Library while in college. Mmm hmmm. But I digress…)
The band we were going to see is called My Brightest Diamond, featuring singer songwriter Shara Worden. Not being familiar with her work I googled a couple of YouTube videos and found her voice masterfully intriguing. Good sign. They were going to be performing at The Crocodile Café, one of the oldest armpit clubs in Seattle where big names such as Soundgarten and the Foo Fighters got their start. Dave Matthews and Dave Grohl drop by the club regularly and jam on stage. It is a total local hipster scene and I had never ventured inside.
We were to meet our four friends for dinner beforehand at The Green Leaf. Concerned this might be one of the Medical Pot Dispensary’s that dot the Seattle landscape lately, I googled it beforehand. They served Spring Rolls and Udon Noodles. Another good sign.
When Saturday night arrived the first problem arose. What does a cool middle-aged gal wear out “clubbing” these days? I posed the problem to a friend I ran into earlier in the day. She had been to The Crocodile Cafe with her daughter the week prior during an all age concert. Her immediate response was “nothing you can’t wash or sanitize promptly afterwards.” At least most of my closet fits that category.
Clad in jeans and boots we headed out to meet our friends. After seventeen hours fighting the usual Seattle traffic, we arrived at the non marijuana dispensary Vietnamese Restaurant. Located in a properly derelict basement setting – we caught up over icy cocktails and delectable vegetarian spring rolls; laughing and nearly forgetting that we actually had a “part two” to our evening out. When our host suddenly realized it was 9:00 and that the opening band was starting at 8:00 we settled our tab and trudged up the hill to “The Croc” knowing that regardless of whether or not we liked the upcoming music we were having a great evening out.
None of us had ever been to “The Croc” before so there was a bit of anticipation as we handed over our ticket stubs, had our right inside wrist stamped and tramped inside the joint. Hmmm. One would definitely not assume that righteous music had been created here, but we joined the throngs on the cement floors and moved in. We settled in a back corner, got a round of drinks and began the people watching parade. I realized instantly that I need not have worried about dressing to fit in. Firstly – there was definitely not a uniform look here – from the Charlie Chaplin look-alike to (and I am not kidding) the leprechaun to the couple who looked like they just came from their engagement party at the rotunda – every “style” was represented. Secondly, we appeared to be invisible to the majority of the patrons in the room – this was particularly noticeable as the band appeared to play and at least 90 people walked directly in front of us and stood. Being an appreciable height of 5’2” in my boots – this was somewhat disconcerting. My view:
One of my girlfriends suggested crowd surfing for a better vantage point but I demurred based on the fact that I would be horrified if someone hoisting me inadvertently grabbed my muffin top.
A man and woman on stage began to play. She had a violin and he was on keyboards. Craning my neck I caught a glimpse of a gamine like face and dark pixie haircut. Not being familiar with the singer from My Brightest Diamond except for a brief view during my YouTube snooping, I figured she must have had a complete makeover since filming her last video. They launched into their first song. The woman had an amazing voice and sang in a furious opera range while simultaneously playing the violin like an enraged dramatist. It was very bohemian and I felt like I should be wearing a black turtleneck and a beanie. The beat, tone and rhythm were purposefully discordant and we were all somewhat wide-eyed watching. We were standing near the door and the constant flow of traffic, most of whom stopped directly in front of us to watch for a song before moving on to a better vantage point, was quite a cross-section of humanity. Not being able to see the stage and being slightly preoccupied with not getting trampled by one of the cast members from Duck Dynasty, I was enjoying myself but pretty sure I would not be purchasing the group’s cd any time soon.
The set ended fairly rapidly and we blinked at each other. Our host who had discovered the group said, “Well, that was interesting – although not really what I was expecting.” One of our group excused herself to the restroom (a fairly risky move in that place) before we headed back to our cars. It was around 10:30 p.m. and we were jovial after an evening out. As we were donning our coats our girlfriend rejoined us. She was laughing hysterically. While in the restroom she had encountered the lead singer and got to chatting. We had just watched the warm up band Rabbit Rabbit. What could we say? Bunch of old fogies thought the evening was over at 10:30…
We hastily discarded our jackets and decided the opposite side of the room would be more advantageous for viewing since it was farther from the entrance. We settled into our new standing area with a new group of intersting people to ogle. My view of the stage was even slightly better.
Equipment was being jostled around on stage and a much more familiar looking female vocalist settled in. Aha – the woman from YouTube! The lights dimmed and she lit into song. Magical. Trained in opera and classical composition, Shara Worden and My Brightest Diamond captured us with the first note. Her stage presence and energy combined with crisp bright lyrics and a wild rock beat were unlike anything I had ever seen. Not only did she have a dazzling vocal range – she could play that guitar like a female Eddie Vedder.
The only distraction from her performance was the continuous drops of moisture that were dripping from the ceiling. The incessant surprise showers also explained why there were so many gortex clad dancers in the audience. They were obviously “Croc” regulars and knew to wear protective outer wear to stay dry on the dance floor. I had actually been laughing to myself earlier about the amount of Seattleites who wore gortex as club wear and now I knew why. We were sincerely hoping it was condensation and not plumbing issues – especially after one of our beers became a direct target.
By the time the performance had ended all six of us were all completely hooked on My Brightest Diamond. We stumbled out into the crisp air at 12:30 star struck and exhilarated. “We old farts” had been standing for nearly three and a half hours and my bad foot was killing me and my knees and back were aching – but that two-hour performance was all completely worth the Advil waiting at home.
While my exceptional evening out may not be all that stimulating to you my dear readers – what I do hope to convey is that sometimes you just need to give up your squishy place on the couch cushions and go experience life. Quit worrying about what to wear, how old you are, the drips from the ceiling or the risk of trampled toes. Grab your friends, your spouse, your kids, your neighbors and find an adventure outside your regular comfort zone. Just go, just do, just enjoy – your Brightest Diamond is waiting for you.
Links to My Brightest Diamond. I encourage you to listen. She’s brilliant. And how can you not love someone who records on a label called “Asthmatic Kitty”?