Best weekend ever…

In case you didn’t know, I just got back from the West Coast a couple days ago.  Saw Sleep in concert at the Roseland Theater in Portland, then caught the Seattle Seahawks’ season opener at Qwest Field.  These were the best two days in recent memory.

But my weekend was almost ruined by Air Canada.  I had planned on landing in Portland in the afternoon, allowing me time to do some shopping and some drinking before the gig.  However, my flight outta TO was delayed three hours, so I missed my connection in Vancouver and ended up on a later flight to PDX.  The worst thing was that I had set my alarm for 7 am to get to the airport, and I coulda used those extra three hours of sleep.  The next worst thing?  They don’t serve booze at Pearson at nine in the morning…

Instead of landing at 2:30, I didn’t touch down until 6, which meant I had to skip the shopping and head straight to the drinking.  I took the MAX down to Barbati’s Pan, which is kinda what Sneaky Dee’s would be if it served Greek food.  Their chicken souvlaki and roast potatoes were pretty decent, but their Greek salad was drowning in dressing.  On the plus side, I discovered a solid local brew, Fat Tire, that tasted a lot like Steamwhistle.

SLEEP/SCOTT KELLY/YOB @ ROSELAND THEATER

I had a “Welcome to America” moment when I got to the the Roseland, and had to go through a metal detector.  Even in friendly Oregon, there are people who live by the “God, Guns and Ol’ Glory” mantra, I suppose…

YOB: The evening was opened by YOB, Portland’s friendly neighbourhood doom band.  They played what I imagine was a typical set: four songs, 45 minutes of Mike Scheidt unleashing his unholy high howls on the audience.  Some of the locals had seen better performances, apparently, but they sounded pretty heavy to me.

SCOTT KELLY: For the record, I have a lotta respect for Scott Kelly, and I dig a lotta his work.  That being said, I’m not sure what convinced him that playing a solo acoustic set in between YOB and Sleep was a good idea.  His slow, dreary, three-chord songs put some of the people on the balcony to sleep, as a restless crowd watched uneasily for almost an hour.

SLEEP: Fans in the band’s San Fran stomping grounds would surely be disappointed in the lack of available merchandise since the Portland crowd purchased most of what was left by the third-last gig of the tour.  As the techies tuned their axes, a larger-than-life photo of Tony Iommi was projected onto a screen behind the stage, and a mixtape of his solos played on the PA.  (One of their tour shirts had that same photo on the front, with The Deity written underneath it…)

Matt Pike opened the proceedings with a drawn-out, effects-laden solo, while Al Cisneros stood, eyes closed, in a meditative state.  Finally, the rest of the band joined in, with drummer Jason Roeder doing his best Chris Hakius.  After a short break to re-tune, they blasted into “Dragonaut,” and the place went nuts, myself included.  Pike had changed up the intro a tad, but otherwise, it sounded just like the record–played at eardrum-bleeding levels!  The band ran though most of Holy Mountain, saving the best for last in “From Beyond,” which segued perfectly into the middle section of “Jerusalem/Dopesmoker.”  PROCEED WEEDIAN NAZARETH!!!

Although they had exhausted their repertoire (let’s face it, they weren’t gonna play anything from Vol 1), we called ’em back for an encore, and they were kind enough to oblige.  A moment of silliness ensued when Scott Kelly came out with a mic, leading the troops in a half-assed version of “The Mob Rules” that ended abruptly when Pike threw in the towel after the first chorus.  Everyone cept Al left the stage, but soon returned without Scott Kelly for what sounded like an OM tune (“At Giza?”) followed by what coulda been a brand new song (or was it “Sonic Titan?”), playing till they turned the lites on at 1 am.  If my mind was a little fuzzy on the encore, it’s cuz I had surrendered my senses to the power of the riff long beforehand.

After the gig, I wandered around downtown, trying to hail a cab (they don’t pull over for ya in Portland, so you gotta run out onto the road) before turning myself in for some much needed, though not as satisfying sleep at a hotel across the river.  I only got four-hours’ worth, or twice the length of their set, for I was up at seven and off to Seattle for the second part of my West Coast Experience…

SUNDAY IN SEATTLE

You may not care about football, but me, I care.  I care a lot.  Been a fan of the Seahawks ever since Mike Holmgren took over the team before the ’99 season.  (Just don’t mention Super Bowl XL to me, alright?)  Upon realizing that the Sleep tour coincided with the opening weekend of NFL football, my first thought was “Where do I watch the game on Sunday?”  I started looking up Portland sports bars, then it hit me: Seattle’s only a 45 minute flight from the Rose City…

Both Portland and Seattle have an LRT system that goes all the way out to their respective airports.  In Seattle, it also takes you straight to the stadiums, both Safeco and Qwest Fields, which are right next to each other.  I got on the train right before it took off, and was quickly filled with blue-clad Hawks fans after a couple stops.  I landed an hour and a half before kickoff, and I thought I’d have tons of time, but when you’re herding 67,000 people into a confined space, things move pretty slow.  (I had a similar experience at the ’08 Grey Cup in Montreal–feel free to ask me how that one went.)

As it turns out, I had enough time to get some merch and some grub, but I hadn’t half-finished my nachos by the opening kickoff.  I’d be able to sit and slowly savour my chips and cheese were this an Argos game, but spectating in Seattle takes a lot of effort.  The only time I made use of my front-row seat was at halftime.  The rest of the game, I was up on my feet, screaming for the defense, encouraging the offense, lambasting the officials–and checking out the cheerleaders, who were right in front of me.

Things started off badly for the Hawks, when Matt “We want the ball, and we’re gonna score!” Hasselbeck threw an interception on the first play from scrimmage.  But the defense kept San Fran outta the end zone, while the offense capitalized on turnovers and made the most of its red zone opportunities.  All four Seattle touchdowns were scored in my end zone, and three of them came on my side of the field.  (I was in the front row, on the goal line.  Best seat in the house!)  The Hawks won handily, 31-6.

Sure, it cost me a few dollars (though not as much as the mid-200s at the Grey Cup, from what I recall), but for me, it was worth every penny.  As I joined the parade of fans out of the stadium and up First Street, I was overcome with a sense of euphoria.  I’ve been watching the Hawks on TV for 12 seasons, but even in Calgary, I wasn’t surrounded by Seattle supporters–to say nothing of Toronto, where I usually watch the games by myself.  On this day, I was surrounded by thousands and thousands of people who eat, sleep and binge-drink Seahawk football.  The feeling was awesome.

MONDAY FLIGHT MADNESS

I got my afternoon in Portland back as I was leaving, thanks to another airline fuckup on Monday.  My 6 am flight outta Seattle was cancelled, which put me on the 7:19, and I landed in Portland a good fifteen minutes after the lone direct flight to Toronto had left.  The next Air Canada flight outta PDX was the 2:15 to Calgary, which meant I had a lotta time to kill.  Hopped on the MAX, went to the Rose District, where I got some cheap punk CDs at Everyday Music (they were marked down for being scuffed–but hey, if a punk CD isn’t scuffed, it hasn’t been played…) and some return-flight literature at the massive Powell’s World of Books, a store that took up an entire block, with multiple floors and rooms of titles.  Ate lunch at Kenny and Zuke’s Delicatessen, where the 12-dollar pastrami on rye is worth every penny, and had another local brew called Bold Dead Guy, or something like that.  Got back to the airport in plenty of time to dive into my newly-bought first edition of Bret Easton Ellis’ Lunar Park.  Didn’t get home till 1 am, but in the end, I was kinda glad for the detour.

Air Canada, that voucher better be in the mail…

Peace,

Greg

P.S.: I’ll be playing a buncha YOB on Smokin’ Green tonite, and maybe some Scott Kelly–albeit none of his solo stuff.  Be sure to tune in from 1 till 3 am at 88.1 fm on yer radio, channel 947 on yer TV or www.ckln.fm on yer computer!

Gruesome Greg

Seahawks/Stamps/Flames/Zags/Jays/Raptors fan and lifelong metal head with a beer gut and a self-deprecating sense of humour. Reviewer/blogger (Yon Senior Doomsayer) for Hellbound.ca.