Saturday, September 20, 2008

Of Meat and Music

This post is a little later than I was expecting, but that's life with a baby--free computer time is hard to come by.

Last month, Amber and I took our second excursion without the child. The first time was just a quick jaunt to the coast, almost a test run more than anything. This time we had a mission. Well, two missions really--Salumi and Radiohead.

For anyone who's been hiding under a musical rock, Radiohead released a new album, In Rainbows, a while back. I've been a big fan ever since my stint in England during college, and when we heard they were coming to Seattle (well, Auburn really, but who's counting?) we decided to shell out for tickets.

We've also wanted for quite a while to get to a restaurant in Seattle called Salumi. We saw it on No Reservations (the only TV program I regularly follow these days), and have been dying to get there ever since. Downside has always been that it's only open on weekdays until 4pm. So the game-plan was to 1) have my mom up to take care of Cora, 2) drive to Seattle for lunch at Salumi, and 3) Radiohead!

Salumi was everything we expected. The line was out the door at 2pm when we arrived. It's exactly the type of little hole in the wall you'd expect. It's narrow the whole length of it, and with people lining up to get to the counter it got even more cramped. A couple long tables at the back, a couple seats that were tight for two, the counter and that was it.

By this time of day they were already out of a number of things, particularly the delicious sounding specials. We settled on their basic salami sandwiches, of which there were nearly a dozen varieties of meat to choose from. They make them on thick, dense olive oil bread, with a bit of garlicy sauce and loads of salami, onions, and peppers. They're apparently the only place on the west coast that does the whole dry curing process themselves, and man you can taste it. I had the coppa and hot sopressata (one for there, one for dinner later). Although I managed to eat my whole sandwich, I was FULL by the end of it--no side dishes, no chips, just meat, bread and a drink. If you're a fan of cured meats, my friend, this is a must visit when in Seattle.

And then to the concert. Now I'm not a huge concert-goer. I've only been to a handful, mostly because of the expense. This one was at the Whiteriver Ampitheater. We didn't think though the "ampitheater" part of that all the way, and it rained that day (first time in weeks) and we didn't bring extra jackets. Luckily, our seats were under cover enough that it didn't make much difference.

We showed up early, due to my punctual nature and lack of familiarity with how concerts go. The opening act was a bust, and Radiohead didn't take the stage until almost 9pm. Still, I was glad to be there in plenty of time.

Before the show opened, they started pulling out lines of these long, vertical tubes over the stage (see http://www.flickr.com/photos/areminder/2786640194/in/photostream/ for a picture of it in action.) I had no idea what those were, but they turned out to be lights that they used to do some pretty amazing effects. The tubes could light up at any point along the way, so sometimes there were just dots of light, lines or whole synchronized patterns playing across the whole stage. On the closing song ("Everything in its Right Place"), they actually spelled out part of the lyrics scrolling across those vertical tubes.

On that note, the visuals exceeded anything I was expecting. In addition to the lighting on-stage, there were video screens to the right, left, and back of the stage. These cycled through various angles of what was happening, but with every song the effects changed. Video was distorted, or hazy, or oddly colored, and you never knew what was coming next. The shots had weird angles too, so it wasn't just a straight-foward "here's Thom, just like you see him"--it felt like crouching away in some corner of the stage watching the action.

The setlist (see this review for a full listing, although I personally thought they were a bit harsh on the venue) was just what I was hoping for. They obviously did a lot from the latest album, but they also plumbed back in time as well. The only disc they didn't play something off of was Pablo Honey, and given how much their style has changed since then, I wasn't surprised. OK Computer got a solid three or four songs, and since that's one of my absolute favorite albums, I was in heaven. They also played "Street Spirit" off The Bends, which is another of my favorite tracks.

Beyond the music, seeing the live show was a cool experience. One thing I wasn't expecting was the prevalence of cameras in the audience. When the show started up, the whole slope of the ampitheater down to the stage was dotted with glowing screen after glowing screen. It was like every third person had a digital camera or cell phone held up to snap a picture of the action.

Another fun bit was during the song "Faust Arp"--Thom lost his place after a couple of lines (to his credit, the lyrics are really packed together, and a single misstep completely screws the rythm). He stopped, flustered, and started singing another song (apparently Neil Young's "Tell Me Why", though I didn't recognize it), until another band member came out and dropped a dollar for him to stop. So he picks back up and flubs it at exactly the same spot! The crowd roared as he said "f*** it", before finally starting several lines later and finishing the song. Now there's something you never get listening to a CD.

Thom also dedicated one song to anyone involved in the WTO riots in Seattle. Um, yeah, all right then. Still enjoyed the song, though--just him at a piano, with a camera looking up over the keys right into his gaunt, stubbly face.

The weather turned drizzly by the end, and we were up far enough that although we were covered we still got a good bit of drifting mist. I feel for the folks on the lawn behind us--they were totally drenched by the end, but the whole area was packed front to back anyway.

I guess I've waxed on long enough. Suffice to say, it was a fantastic experience. Not something that we'll do often, but I'm so glad we grabbed hold of the chance when it presented itself.