Posts Tagged ‘Guided by Voices


The Seattle W Hotel

The W Hotel Seattle's "living room". Robyn Hanson photo

The W Hotel Seattle's "living room". Robyn Hanson photo

Dateline: Seattle. The last stop of the West Coast tour of the newly reformed indie-rock band Guided by Voices. Your dedicated and possibly insane correspondent has been following the band since its show in Las Vegas last Sunday (it’s now Saturday), the third of the “Hallway of Shatterproof Glass* Tour” dates.

Four shows, six days and countless (well, probably close to 2000) miles into this admittedly foolish, misbegotten quest, the decision’s been made to go out in style. After staying at Ramada (Los Angeles), a Super Eight (San Francisco), the Timbers Motel (Eugene) and the Jupiter Hotel (Portland), all of which came in at just over $100 after taxes, we are staying at the ultramodern, sleek W Hotel Seattle.

North-facing view of Seattle from the 22nd floor of the W Hotel.

I stayed here once before and it made its mark on me; it was one of my first great hotel experiences, thanks to a combination of the décor (I’m a sucker for anything “espresso”), modernity and sheer sexiness, not to mention celebrity sighting (in that case, Quentin Tarantino, in town for the Seattle Film Festival).

This time, we have a 22nd floor “king corner” suite – a hallway leads to the main room, which features a king-size bed, a desk (espresso-coloured, of course) and a fantastic view of Seattle, including the Space Needle (not coffee-hued, unfortunately). In the spirit of the trip, I have christened it “The Hallway of Shatterproof Glass Suite” (see pic):

As the digs on this trip go, the W is by far superior to anything else. Second place goes not to the Palms (which is nice in its own way but also gaudy and grotesque, and the airless suite we stayed in was purely functional) but actually to the Timbers Motel, which won’t get any marks for modernity or sexiness but had a certain rustic, Oregon-ish charm and is located right near downtown Eugene**. The L.A. Ramada (on Wilshire) was okay, and the Super Eight (booked through was just squalid.

We have one more night in the W, and believe me, we’re going to enjoy it, though we will eventually have to leave for the show (the band is at the Showbox Sodo) and possibly lunch.

The lounge at the W Hotel Seattle. Robyn Hanson photo

*Named after a line from a song, “Gold Heart Mountaintop Queen Directory”, off the band’s breakthrough 1994 album Bee Thousand.

**Word to the wise: there are several chain hotels when you first come off the highway, but if you have the time it’s worth the extra 10-minute drive west into downtown to stay at the $50/night Timbers.



So one of the things about figuring out if a person is right for me has always been musical taste. I hate to say it, and I’m a lot better than I was in my younger days, but I’m a bit of a music snob—once, finding a Barenaked Ladies disc in a prospective date’s CD collection would have been enough to send me running the other way. Now I’d like to think I’ve moved beyond that, although I wouldn’t like to put it to the test. 

Most of my girlfriends have had pretty good taste—or should I say, tastes compatible with mine. Although my last GF had a little too much Depeche Mode downloaded onto her computer for my tastes. J, was big into the hip hop, and turned me on to some underground stuff that I quite like–MF Doom, for example, although I may only be into him because he uses lots of samples from old Fantastic Four cartoons, which appeals to the geek in me. 

J. was also a fan of my all-time favourite band*, and I remember the note she left after our first night together: along with her name and number, she’d written “[band’s name]’s fan.” Not grammatically spectacular, but it did the trick—I took her to the see them when they came through town the next month, and things developed from there. 

Now with the Texas Twister–Trickster–it was this same band (now broken up) that somehow became part of her arsenal. See, she likes to use songs from her laptop playlist as wake-up calls. There was a whole week where we woke up to Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5”; lately it’s been Goldfrapp’s “Carnival Girl”. But not long after we started seeing each other, maybe a couple of weeks, the song we woke up to was, indeed, a song by my all-time favourite band. I looked at her and thought, “Ah, the one!” 

I would tell friends this and they’d say, “And she didn’t know how big a fan you were of the band?” To which I’d say, “No!”

Well, let’s just say, some people never learn. Yes, once again I underestimated the wiles of the fairer sex. Maybe I brought the band’s name up in conversation, or maybe she discovered a tell-tale sign around my pad–the autographed posters, extensive collection of memorabilia, the life-size cardboard cut-out of the members. Anyway, I learned tonight that she set the song  on purpose, because she knew I liked them! It was all part of her ploy!!

I know, many of you are shaking your heads, going, “Shawnster, Shawnster, Shawnster–how naive can you be?” And you’re absolutely right. And now I’m wondering: should I also believe that she was also a virgin?

*Guided by Voices. In fact, upon reading this, she said she should tell her friend Jeff about this blog entry. When I asked why, the Twister said she’d once told Jeff about me: “I finally got him to like me.” “How did you do that?” asked Jeff. “Oh, it was simple,” she said. “All it took was a Guided by Voices song.”


Wingmen reunited

Sat. June 14, Toronto, North by Northeast Music Festival: Two days into the four-day music marathon known as NxNE. A northern cousin to the South by Southwest similar event in Austin. For this one, Wing-y and I have put aside our differences long enough to room together at the Holiday Inn on King, centre of the conference. All you have to do is walk out into the hotel and you could be schmoozing with a SxSW organizer or a famous British radio DJ. I just got back from the fitness centre, where Bob Harris was on a stationary bike. Apparently, he’s a big deal British DJ.

But you want to know about girls, not 60-year-old British radio DJs working up a sweat. Well, there are lots of them around the conference, from the volunteers to the managers to the label execs to the musicians. At the kickoff party Wednesday night, Wingy and I met three girls from some short film distribution company called Ouat; Brady, Sophia, and Doreese. Brady is a husky-voice rocker chick, Sophia a tall blond, Doreese [sp.?] dark-haired and a little zaftig. We were all on the bus heading towards the kick-off party at the Palais Royale. There, Wingy rubbed shoulders with comedian Dave Foley (Newsradio, Kids in the Hall).

Thursday, our first full day here, we had lunch with the illustrious Carling, who once worked with Wingy and is now living with her boyfriend, some dude with Vice Magazine. She took us to an excellent Italian restaurant and we sat on the patio, a relief from the incessant rain of Vancouver, and then showed us the beer store. Thursday night was the usual music conference mad rush to see everything, beginning with the famous EMI rooftop party. As I was on the list and Wingy was not, I was truly hoping this was the moment where the infamous Wingy luck would fail. He was frantic at the prospect of being turned away and having to pass all the music industry types lined up behind us. But, true to form, the yellow-shirted security guards let him in.

A foxy brunette in a red polka-dotted dress caught my attention. She was with some goateed dude but that didn’t stop me from turning to her in the burger lineup. Turned out she’s Sky Sweetnam, a singer who had a minor hit a couple years ago. She sang a few bars–something about “Billy Shakespeare.” There were probably some other minor celebrities there but none that I recognized, though I did run to an old friend, Tatiana, now a yoga instructor in Ottawa. Oddly enough, her name had come up earlier in the day for the first time in a long time because she’d added Wingy as a friend on Facebook. Wingy, who spends most of his free time on his iPhone, email, or Facebook, suddenly rent the air with the question, “Do you know Tatiana N*****?” And I did.

Our first music stop of the night was the Rivoli on Queen Street W. for Smothered in Hugs, a PEI band named after a Guided by Voices song, Small Sins at the Horseshoe with their hit “Stay” (a pop song about fidelity, of all things), and then back to the Rivoli for Mardeen from Halifax and finally Two Hours Traffic, a fine power-pop unit also from the East Coast. At some point in all this we got to talking to a couple of ladies sitting at the bar away from the music. One was an Aeroplan employee and just as I was trying to figure out a way to extricate us from a boring conversation Wingy came over with a couple of chairs for he and I. Good timing.

I know this is rambling but I’m on vacation so you’re just going to have to deal with it. Later I’ll put up some pictures and cut the more extraneous stuff which will probably make this post one of the shortest ever. Also I just have to say I am halfway through Then We Came to the End by Joshua Farris and it’s one of the funniest novels I’ve ever read.

Anyway, back to NxNE. Yesterday was Friday, and we decided to try and see Fred, an Irish band which was playing outside behind Eaton Centre. We’d met their managers, Sheena (Ireland) and Jen (Memphis), who had insisted we come out. We gave it the old college try, even taking a cab, but I brought us to the wrong stage so we missed the set. However, Wingy did emerge from the nearby H & M with two hats, two bathing suits, and six pairs of socks.

None of which he was wearing (well, maybe the socks) when we met up w/ my Lavalife editor Kim (yep, believe it or not, someone edits this stuff) for the Manitoba party at the Drake Hotel. Being from that province myself I wasn’t going to miss out on this one, which featured perogies, cabbage rolls, and other fine Winnipeg-type Ukrainian food (I’m half Ukrainian, you know). Much hobnobbing went on, and though Kim had entered with a lowly wristband she emerged with a priority pass and a super pass. Wingy thinks 20-year-old Hill (short for Hillary, who plays in a band called Drowning Girl) is going to get us into the MuchMusic Video Awards party tonight. We’ll see about that.

Oh yeah, also ran into Vancouver singers Adaline (Shawna) and Nat Jay yesterday at one of the panels in the hotel. The race was on after 5 minutes of chatter from the panelists to see who could leave the room first, them or us, due to pressing, more important appointments.

God, this is long-winded. I’m gonna jump ahead here to the Dakota Tavern where, around 11, we saw Priya Thomas, whose last album I really liked but tonight was doing a more low-key thing with just a bassist, guitar player and a bass drum, which she played along with guitar and vocals. There, we met a couple of Brits from a band called Koogaphone, Julie and the manager, and they ended up sharing a cab with us to the Horseshoe. I thought Julie and I were hitting it off but once at the venue she gave me the cold shoulder so nuts to her. I had bigger fish to fry anyway, although I lost track of one of those fish, Liz, a Liv Tyler-esque brunette I’d met earlier at the Horseshoe, and a member of the Edmonton band the Summerlad. Too bad but that’s the way these things go. Well I did end up seeing Swervedriver, a reunited British guitar-rock band from the ’90s, at Lee’s Palace, which had been the evening’s ultimate goal. However, the venue was a sweatbox and I was tried from the day’s drinking and schmoozing, so it was hard to enjoy. Who knows what today will bring… probably another trip to H&M.


Project Wingman Pt. 2

Date: Thursday, May 15

Name: Roseanna

Age: n/a

Occupation: Magician’s assisant

Assignment: the second night of the annual New Music West music festival in Vancouver, including a schmooze and several bands at various venues, including a jazzy hangout and blues bar

Assessment: Roseanna was thrown into the whole wingman thing last minute, that very afternoon in fact, and carried it off with much aplomb. At the schmooze, she mingled easily. When we first arrived I suggested we each pick one person in the room for the other to talk to. She didn’t hesitate when I pointed to a bearded dude, who turned out to be a musician in a visiting Utah band called Good Morning Maxfield. As a result, we went to see them play at the Yale, a downtown blues bar, where we ran into Lillian, whom I know from seeing around at music shows all the time. The three of us set out for the Libra Room on Commercial Drive, the city’s organic foods/drum circle neighbourhood. There we saw an amazing Icelandic pop band, Sprengjuhollin. The keyboardist was hysterically funny explaining song lyrics between numbers: “This one’s about hockey and maple syrup,” he pretended, baldly pandering to us Canadians. After their blistering, Icelandic version of “Heatwave” I told Roseanna to go up onstage and talk to them so I could get a shot for my blog. She did so without hesitation. Bonus points for keeping up drink-wise, talking about flashing her friends at her birthday party last week, and admitting, a propos of nothing, “Weed makes me horny.” 9/10

Date: Saturday May 17

Name: Jessica H.

Age: n/a

Occupation: student (feminist studies)

Assignment: a strip club; a local music hub

Assessment: For someone who was recruited stealthily, and in fact probably doesn’t even know she was recruited, Jessica acquited herself rather well. I met her at a show by British indie-rock act Clinic and invited her out to join in the New Music West festivities with Lillian and I. Following an abortive attempt–it was absolutely dead at 10:30 p.m.–to check out the Penthouse, a local strip club given over to NMW bands for the weekend, we lost Lillian. Nevertheless, Jessica was up for continuing the adventure, despite my obvious lack of a plan. At the Railway Club, a local music hub, she seemed comfortable being left on her own to watch the bands while I talked to semi-important music industry folk I knew. Also, the idea of feminist studies never fails to intrigue me, so conversation between bands was interesting. Bonus points for having songs by my all-time favourite band on her iPod, for offering me gas money for the ride home, and for bopping her head, very un-Vancouver-like, to the music for each band. 8/10

August 2020

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