Heels & Picks: Scoping the Seattle scene

Oct. 22, 2013 | 0 Comments

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BY ERIN SMITH / Special to the Star-Advertiser

Seattle was on its best behavior last week. Fall colors soaked in sunshine, warmth through our leather jackets – the city’s rainy reputation seemed like just a rumor. Although my good friend Melissa Downey and I still rolled through the city wearing our toques pretty much the whole time (for those of you who don’t speak Canadian, a toque is a wool hat), we weren’t soaked to the bone, thank Gaga.

Haley Williams of Paramore performs in Seattle earlier this month. (Courtesy Erin Smith)

Haley Williams of Paramore performs in Seattle earlier this month. (Courtesy Erin Smith)

Speaking of Lady Gaga, though Melissa and I wanted to listen to Paramore on the way to Key Arena on Oct. 15, our gay-boy bestie Jesse Wenkoff insisted we rock the Gaga on the car stereo. We were on our way to see indie-rock/pop bands Paramore and Metric, two of our favorite bands on the same bill. Score.

Since all of the gays in my life have ridiculous sports cars that only fit two people and MAYBE your purse, we had to rent a car to get three people around Seattle. We had some kind of small Ford, with interior pink running lights that were super cool and made the car feel like a rolling dressing room. The downside was that it wouldn’t let the stereo play any music until we all had our seat belts on.

Melissa and I scored on the flights to Seattle since her dad works for an airline. This had us in stand-by hell on the way there, but we eventually made it and had a lot of wine and laughs on the way.

We went to Seattle to spend time with Jesse, who moved there from Maui last summer. He just bought a condo, and we had to go see if being a homeowner meant he would grow a mustache. We also went because all three of us love Paramore and Metric.

We met up with several of Jesse’s friends pre-concert at a dimly lit, massively stocked, wooden detailed bar in downtown Seattle. Melissa and I were on the phone a bit, me with a call from my management and her with calls about design work. We have the kinds of jobs that have you taking calls pretty much all of the time.

From left, the author, Melissa Downey and Jesse Wenkoff in Seattle. (Courtesy Erin Smith)

From left, the author, Melissa Downey and Jesse Wenkoff in Seattle. (Courtesy Erin Smith)

When we left the bar, the three of us took Uber to the concert venue. What is Uber? It’s a fancy private car service where they give you bottled water, are nice to you, take credit cards and are fast to pick you up. They are also not really much more expensive than traditional cabs. The service is available in Honolulu, too!

Indie-pop band Hello Goodbye kicked off the concert, but we missed their set because we were meeting friends of Jesse’s at the Key Arena Bar. This is the plight of the first band, and I have been that band several times. Train, Panic at the Disco, Matisyahu, The Fray, Steel Pulse – I was among the first opening bands at huge venues with those headlining acts, and your opportunity is to impress the earlybirds who get in the arena to snag their seats before the rush.

We made it to our seats in time to to catch Metric, as we are all so into that band and we didn’t want to miss even one song. Jesse, Melissa, my boyfriend and I all went to their Honolulu concert in April, and it was killer. At the Seattle concert, they played their trademark atmospheric, synth-heavy, catchy pop set, and managed to fill it with some of our favorite songs. “Gold, Guns, Girls” is a personal fave and highlight of the set. It’s possible we were singing along at the top of our lungs. I can neither confirm nor deny this.

Melissa Downey and Paramore. (Courtesy Erin Smith)

Melissa Downey and Paramore. (Courtesy Erin Smith)

After the grand, messy, sonically fantastic finale to Metric’s set, in which a synth was left ringing out on the stage, we set out to switch our seats to floor level for Paramore’s set, which brought us closer to the stage. Thanks mostly to Jesse’s powers of persuasion and charm, we managed to get to the floor. That man makes new friends in a heartbeat.

Paramore, as a band, has had an interesting and challenging couple of years. Two of the founding members of the band left in a very public, messy, mean-spirited way. That must have been hard, as the band started out when they were VERY young (they were already playing the Warped Tour at 15 years old). Personal issues, artistic vision issues, road-weariness from how hard you work, these are all in the mix when dealing with band breakdowns.

With the release of a new, self-titled album this year, Paramore hired session musicians to play alongside the three remaining members. That was the configuration on stage at the Key Arena. Haley Williams was in fine form vocally; it was the first night of the tour, so she was well rested. Voices are difficult to keep up on long tours where you travel constantly. She has a powerful voice and their new material ought to keep it in check, as it’s more pop than the heavy alternative of their previous albums. I think it’s working out for them as well, they have had a solid radio hit with their upbeat love song about long-term relationships, “Still Into You.”

We danced and sang and had a blast, heading off into the night after Paramore’s 90-minute set. Always the type to stay up too late, the three of us sat up on the floor of Jesse’s new condo catching up, talking about life’s current challenges, laughing hysterically and watching the leaves gently fall outside the window. We also melted an air mattress by putting it too close to a furnace grate, but that’s another story. It was night to remember, and we will.

Oh, and Jesse? He hasn’t grown a mustache. But in his Seattle life, he DOES rock a cardigan like a boss.
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Erin Smith is a singer and guitarist who performs as a solo artist and with Maui-based Na Hoku Hanohano Award-nominated band The Throwdowns. Born in Canada, she moved to Hawaii in 2004 and now resides in Kailua. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.

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