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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bumbershoot 2008: STP, The Blakes, Michaelson on deck for Sunday


Today is the middle day of the Bumbershoot Music and Arts Festival, and there's no shortage of cool tunes to soak up the remainder of Labor Day weekend.

Today's video is "Heaven Sent" by Grammy-nominated artist Keyshia Cole, filmed in a tropical locale (Hawaii, maybe?). The video is a beautiful compliment to a beautiful song, which should net Cole another Grammy nomination in December. Cole opens for rapper T.I. at Memorial Stadium, set to begin at 2pm.

Watch "Heaven Sent" here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vo0qynuXXOU&feature=related

Hip-hop and R&B fans will flock to the main stage in droves for this show. Cole reminds me of a gutsy, early Mary J. Blige, and T.I. quickly became a star on the music scene. From Cole, I can't wait to hear "Shoulda Let You Go". House doors for Memorial Stadium open at 12:30pm, with Cole on at 2pm and T.I. getting busy at 3:15pm.

One of the most exciting acts to emerge from the city of Seattle since Death Cab for Cutie is The Blakes (pictured on this page). This gifted trio is creating a lot of buzz, recently touring with the Brian Jonestown Massacre in Europe, recording an exclusive iTunes live session earlier this year, and performing at a SXSW kickoff party just this spring. Consisting of brothers Garnet and Snow Keim, and Bob Husak, the hard rock threesome also hit the road with The Kills and The Gossip in 08. Their single "Two Times" rekindles the fire and strength of "Smells Like Teen Spirit", though the latter was boosted by a major record label. The Blakes have been courted by a few label giants, but for now are choosing to stick with local indie favorite Light in the Attic Records (The Black Angels, Os Mutantes).

Don't miss The Blakes inside the Exhibition Hall Stage at 3:15pm, and experience why a sold out Chop Suey crowd went nuts for them back in February and why the country of France regards these guys as one of the best new American bands. Listen to "Two Times" and "Vampire" on the band's official MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/theblakes

Another great up and comer is the Scottish quartet Sons and Daughters, who've yet to peak stateside but will likely do so very soon. They've got catchy songs like "Gilt Complex", "The Gift", "Iodine", and my favorite, "Darling". They wear vintage cool threads, provide some shimmy during their live sets, and sound like a million bucks - give them a whirl on the Rockstage Stage at 7:45pm.

Two singer-songwriters close out today's lineup at the Starbucks Stage, Jakob Dylan and Ingrid Michaelson. The former is the son of you-know-who and lead singer of The Wallflowers, and now a solo act. The latter is a delightful, crafty Hotel Cafe Tour alum in the vein of Tori Amos or Regina Spektor. Michaelson has a terrific sense of humor and great energy, aside from being a standout live performer, so she's sure to draw a significant-sized audience to the Starbucks Stage when she headlines at 8:45pm. Dylan is slated for 7pm.

Elsewhere, local band These Arms Are Snakes play inside the Exhibition Hall Stage at 5pm, Tapes n' Tapes conclude the Rockstar Stage's roster at 9:30pm, and The Hands slide to EMP's Sky Church at 8pm.

Sunday's big show at Memorial Stadium is a performance by the reunited Stone Temple Pilots. Selling over 35 million copies of their albums worldwide, the Scott Weiland-led group remains one of 90s landmark rock bands. Hit singles, like the Grammy winner "Plush", "Wicked Garden", "Interstate Love Song" and "Vaseline", helped STP enjoy a successful career before calling it quits due to personal reasons, which eventually gave way for Weiland to inaugurate Velvet Revolver. I saw these boys on the University of Puget Sound campus many years ago, and I remember those sitting in the bleachers broke through the main floor barriers making for quite a memorable concert. Warming things up for Stone Temple Pilots tonight is The Black Keys, which I unfortunately know little about and never seen before.

House doors for Memorial Stadium's night portion open at 6:15pm. And don't forget to stop by locally-owned Easy Street Records and/or Silver Platters near Seattle Center to purchase CDs by Bumbershoot performing artists.

Bumbershoot 2008: Beck energizes and amazes on main festival stage


Going into yesterday's Beck show at Bumbershoot, I'd seen him four times already and had never been disappointed. I was also quite giddy because he's an artist that seems to bring out the kid in me, evidenced by my squeezing near the front of the Memorial Stadium stage with people half my age.

A girl next to me wrote Beck a list of things she wanted to say to him, if given the opportunity. One of them was not to not enforce his Scientology views on others, even as passionate as he is about it. Another girl nearby decorated her leg with a temporary tattoo that read "Beck", and a guy on my right side had waited in line since 3:45 that afternoon just to be close to the front.

I had them all beat, as a diehard Beck fan I once took a day off from work when he was in town to hopefully bump into him. I didn't, but my writing career would later benefit me with a rare chance to meet him in person (three years ago). I was giddy and speechless then, and I was giddy and speechless last night when the pop genius strode onstage at 9:15 and opened with his classic "Loser".

This was the first time I'd ever heard "Loser" played as the opening number, and it set the tone for what would be a high energy and incredibly fun night. The following song was "Girl", and it was a jumpier version than the original found on 2005's Guero album. "Timebomb" was loud and sorta punk'ish, while "Gamma Ray" sounded groovy and vintage rock.

The marvelous thing about Beck in concert is that he's always creating new methods of playing old favorites, like an electronic and punchy rendition of "Nicotine & Gravy" or a hip-hoppy take on "Black Tambourine".

His very long hair and once-youthful face hidden underneath a large hat and all-black attire, Beck appears to be that middle-aged man and musical poetic figure we eventually knew he'd grow into - but we still wish for that apple-cheeked, sneaker-wearing, California surfer boy from to reappear at times.

"This is for all the gueros, the guerolitos", Beck said introducing "Que Onda Guero". The song kept its authentic Mexi-pop feel and got everyone singing along, some waving their arms during the chorus.

A highlight was a purely electronic version of "Hell Yes", as Beck strapped a head set on and stood in a line at the foot of the stage with his four-piece band. Another momentous occasion, and one of only a few that were mellow, was a moody-good performance of "Lost Cause" from the singer-songwriter's Sea Change disc.

"Devil's Haircut" was incredible, as a giant lit-up screen flashed cherry red images of a bullseye and 45-vinyl spindles.

This was an edgier, more digital, more electrifying, and dancier performance by Beck than his appearance at the Sasquatch Festival in 2006. He seemed to be in such good spirits and in the mood to tinker with, not just play, his songs in front of a huge crowd. His latest recording effort, Modern Guilt, seems to signal the reinvented experimental side of Beck that now extends to his live act.

Beck gave a two-song encore, and what an encore it was! "Where It's At" had the entire pit raising their hands in unison and shouting, "two turnables and a microphone!" and then a ripping version of "E-Pro" got everybody bouncing, similar to a hip hop show. It was a total blast, the first time I'd ever bounced at a Beck concert!

On my way out, I heard a college-aged guy say to a friend, "I'm freaking out, I just saw Beck live!". This was my fifth time seeing Beck in concert, and I was just as freaked out kiddo.

Bumbershoot 2008: Band of Horses livens up main stage


Ben Bridwell is a craaaazy guy. And I love him for that.

The lead singer of former Seattle-based trio Band of Horses got the party going on the main stage yesterday, warming up a near-capacity Memorial Stadium for Beck. When he wasn't cracking fake (or were they fake?) beer bottles on the top of band mates' heads, he was shouting "whoo!" after each song and quite frankly, any time he felt like it.

"I love you. I'm just going to go ahead and say it. I love you. Let's make babies together", was how Bridwell chose to greet the crowd after the first song.

Another thing about Ben Bridwell, who interviewed with me last year, is that he's kinda sexy in person. The full beard and headband I can do without, but he looks great in a pair of jeans and his edgy hillbilly appearance is pretty hot. Bridwell also wore boots, navy blue sweater with plaid shirt underneath, and sunglasses. He later removed the sweater, causing a woman behind me to yell, "take it all off!". That said, he's also entertaining to watch live. He loves to have a good time, and for those around me that had never seen Band of Horses in concert before and were anxiously awaiting Beck, he won them over with his wild charm.

Band of Horses played songs from both albums, Everything All the Time and Cease to Begin, and if memory serves me correctly they also dug out a new track from a yet to be announced recording. They gave "The Great Salt Lake" a big finish and sounded amazing during "Is There a Ghost", ditto for a late set entry "The Funeral". And, I really liked the intensity of "Island on the Coast".

Creighton Barrett on drums and Rob Hampton on bass round out the actual Band of Horses lineup but touring musicians sit in for most, if not all, songs. Barrett's black and white-striped tank top was a good choice for the bulky dude. Hampton looked adorable, as is usually the case.


Three numbers really did it for me at last night's show. The first, a totally rocking version of "Wicked Gil" - exactly what I wanted to hear. I've listened to a slower rendition of this track, and was exceptionally glad they jazzed it up for Bumbershoot. It sounded incredible up front, as I was two rows away from the stage.

Another standout was a superb, gripping performance of "No One's Gonna Love You". I literally got goosebumps hearing it live, that's how good it was.

The third, and the most awesome moment during Band of Horses' set, was when a guy proposed to his girlfriend on the spot, and she said yes thankfully, and Bridwell dedicated "Marry Song" to them. Everyone clapped and cheered for the now-engaged couple.

By the way, Bridwell played guitar, keyboards, some wacky handheld percussion instrument, and a flutar (yes, a flutar!!!) throughout the evening. You gotta love this guy!

Band of Horses closed out their show with "Am I a Good Man", and they really won this large audience over - especially those seeing them for their first time ever. The girl next to me said, "I'm going to buy their CD tomorrow". And if I didn't already have it loaded on my iPod, I'd do the same thing.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Bumbershoot 2008: Band of Horses, Beck reviews coming late tonight


It's Albert from Seattle Gay News, at Seattle Center where the sunshine has brought throngs of festivalgoers to the start of Bumbershoot.

Everyone looks excited to be here, and mostly everyone is very anxious to see Beck tonight. I've no idea if he's actually in the building, as we say, but I was tipped from his record label earlier this week that the celebrated pop-rocker might be stopping by a radio station before coming to the festival.

I'm actually going to stand by the press gate on the backside of Memorial Stadium just before 6, and then run down to secure a front row spot for Band of Horses (pictured on this page) and Beck. Unfortunately, this means I won't blog until late tonight when I review both artists from home.

I believe the line has already started to form for tonight's big show with main stage gates opening at 6pm. Band of Horses go on at 7:30pm, followed by Beck at 9:15pm. Beck is scheduled to play at 90-minute set.

Lots of people, lots of independent performers throughtout the Seattle Center grounds playing their instruments, a portable skate park, carnival-type food, and great tunes all around. It's all happening at Bumbershoot.
I'm off to watch a bit of Fall of Troy before changing into my Beck tee-shirt and heading to Memorial Stadium for you-know-who. Look for a review late, late tonight or very early morning.

Bumbershoot 2008: Neko Case oh so heavenly at Memorial Stadium


Neko Case kicked things off in a magnificent way this afternoon at Bumbershoot, performing to a large crowd at Memorial Stadium that saw the sun finally peak through the clouds a few songs into her set.

The alt country maverick was all smiles and all business playing old and new favorites, which included several great renditions from 2006's Fox Confessor Brings the Flood.

"That Teenage Feeling", "Maybe Sparrow" and "Margaret vs. Pauline" were performed effortless and lovely with Case's vocals wrapping sweetly around each of them. A highlight was a gorgeous version of "Dirty Knife", which she introduced as a scary tale told to her by her grandmother. Fine banjo plucking and a dramatic bass drum complimented the number.

"It feels so churchy and formal", joked Case referring to a 1pm start on the main stage. "I didn't have time to prepare and get wasted".

A new song from a forthcoming disc tentatively titled "Middle Cyclone" had all ingredients of a Neko Case standard, as did a cover of Harry Nilsson's "Don't Forget About Me" that is also slated to appear on the upcoming record, set for a March release.

"It's so far away", kidded Case about the new album. "Seems dumb to even bring it up, but hey".

Case looked beautiful as ever, dressed in tight black jeans and matching tank top - her red, long and wavy hair resting on both her shoulders. She never appeared sexier than when she strapped on an electric guitar and rocked out to "Hold On, Hold On".

An almost bluegrassy rendition of "John Saw That Number" was played towards the end of her hour-plus set, followed by a swell redo of Bob Dylan's "Buckets of Rain". Another high point was a stunning performance of "Favorite" from The Tigers Have Spoken, which received a loud roar from the audience immediately afterwards. It really demonstrated the depth of vocal talent this Northwest native has.

Before she did "Look for Me (I'll Be Around)", Case told the crowd "This song is about stalking people, which Washingtonians are famous for". The song is from her Blacklisted release and had a fascinating, mysterious and creepy effect, even on a bright and sunny day.

When bidding farewell, Case told everyone "Thanks for coming to our show, where we played our bummer songs for you in the middle of the afternoon."

Neko Case, who spent much of her childhood in nearby Tacoma, attended Bumbershoot as a teenager. Today, she performed in front of thousands at Memorial Stadium as an opening act for multi-Grammy winner Lucinda Williams.




Friday, August 29, 2008

Bumbershoot 2008: Festival ready to roll with Beck, BOH, Case


Hey, it's Albert. I'm at home watching US Open tennis and resting up for three days of great music and swell times at the 2008 Bumbershoot Music and Arts Festival.

I was at Seattle Center earlier today to grab my press credentials and saw trucks unloading food supplies, banners getting hung, and last-minute details being taken care of in preparation for the big Labor Day weekend festival.

Today is a travel day for several artists performing at Bumbershoot, so flights are being caught and tour vans are being driven as you read this message.

Gates open tomorrow at 11am, and access to Memorial Stadium for Neko Case/Lucinda Williams begins at 11:30am. Case is scheduled to start playing at 1pm, followed by Williams at 2:45pm. This is a dynamite way to kick things off tomorrow, two female mavericks giving back to back performances on a deserving large stage. Case is from the Northwest area, so a big local audience will be on hand to support her.

Local artists Ian Moore and Vicki Martinez will perform separately tomorrow on the Starbucks Stage. Martinez begins at 1:15pm, immediately proceeded by Moore at 3pm.

On the Fisher Green Stage, Saul Williams and !!! will jam at 7:30pm and 9:15pm. A pair of hard rocking bands, Unearth and Anti-Flag, are set to grind at the Exhibition Hall Stage at 6:30pm and 8:15pm. The line to get into the Exhibition Hall Stage, near Mercer Street, is usually long and winding, so arrive early if you want in - unlike other venues at Seattle Center, this space has limited room. In previous years, everyone is asked to be seated inside this venue until just before the band goes onstage to maintain some order because things can get wild.

The Walkmen is one of those bands a lot of folks wanna see tomorrow, and they are slated to go on the Rockstar Stage at 5:45pm. The alt rock quartet debuted on Billboard's album chart this week at #71 with their newest album You and Me, their highest debut in history. And they've just released a music video for the first single, "In the New Year". Nada Surf, another closely followed live act, is also playing on the Rockstar Stage at 8:45pm.

If you're a Crowded House fan, run don't walk to the Wells Fargo Stage for Tim Finn. He's a founding member of 70s-80s pop-wave group Split Enz and later joined his brother Neil in the band Crowded House. Finn, traveling from New Zealand, included Seattle on a short string of West Coast dates. He's scheduled to start at 8:30pm.

Finally, a huge crowd is expected at Memorial Stadium for Beck. Opening for him is Band of Horses, a once Seattle-based trio now relocated to the Carolinas. Ben Bridwell, who interviewed with me in June 2007, has a terrific raw voice that is so effective on moody songs like "No One's Gonna Love You", "The Funeral", and "The Great Salt Lake". My favorite is a faster track called "Wicked Gil". Band of Horses go onstage at 7:30pm with house doors opening at 6pm. You definitely want to arrive early if you want a space on the main floor or a good bleacher spot.

Beck, one of my all-time favorites, returns to Seattle since his 2005 appearance at the Paramount Theatre - a night in which I went backstage right before he played. I'll never forget that evening. He's small, skinny, adorable, and really friendly. The SoCal artist recently put out a new CD, Modern Guilt, a collaboration with noted producer Danger Mouse. Expect to hear selections from it, like "Chemtrails" and "Gamma Ray", tomorrow night. Older stuff from the pop maestro should be on his set list too, such as "Loser", "Devil's Haircut", "Black Tambourine", and "Where It's At". I actually named our music preview column at Seattle Gay News after the song "Where It's At".

Just today, I received a press release directly from Beck's publicist announcing that his upcoming sold out show at the Hollywood Bowl on September 20 will be a collaboration with arranger-composer and his very own father David Campbell. This is the first time both dad and son will perform together on the same stage, and it should be a remarkable, unique night of music.

I've been privileged to see Beck four times in concert and I've never been disappointed. He's so creative, so cool, so incredibly talented, and he's simply a brilliant live performer. We're in for a treat, that's for sure.

If the weather is anything like tonight, unusually chilly for late August, take a sweater or a hoodie to keep warm. Starbucks routinely has a stand on the East side of Memorial Stadium, so grab a cup of coffee or some green tea and see world class acts like Beck and openers Band of Horses play under a Seattle moon.

Bumbershoot 2008: Helpful tips on the eve of the big festival


We're a day away from the start of the 2008 Bumbershoot Music and Arts Festival at Seattle Center. I'm Albert from Seattle Gay News, and I'll do my best to provide you with updates, highlights, mini reviews and guest interviews from the much-anticipated event. My video pick for today is "No One's Gonna Love You" by Band of Horses, one of the top ten tracks/singles of 2007 picked by Seattle Gay News in our year-end best of music issue. The link for the video is below. Pictured is Neko Case. Both Band of Horses and Neko Case are scheduled to perform at Memorial Stadium tomorrow at the festival.

Watch "No One's Gonna Love You": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfX6WTOmt5E

Here are 10 useful tips as you prepare for Bumbershoot this weekend.

1 Transportation

Relieve yourself of traffic congestion and parking headaches, instead take a Metro bus ($1.50 one-way) from downtown Seattle. The best spot to catch a Seattle Center-bound bus is on Third Avenue, between Pike and Pine streets, and look for Seattle Center signage. You can also ride the monorail to-from Seattle Center ($2 one-way) from a platform located on the top level of Westlake Center (Fourth and Pine).

2 Entry

Tickets, priced at $40 (adult), will be available during each day of the festival at Mercer and Thomas street gates. However, I strongly recommend buying them at your nearest Starbucks location to save time. Once inside, you can see whatever you want to see. Look below for information on main stage performances.

3 Re-entering

Festivalgoers are allowed to leave and re-enter the event, but you must receive a hand stamp from one of the gate attendants in order to do so.

4 Food

Food is available for purchase inside the festival grounds, however if you're on a budget you may want to stop at nearby Safeway, QFC, or Metropolitan Market stores on the way in. Lines tend to be long and menu items are pricey at many of the on-premise food vendors, so I recommend going to the grocery store or stopping at nearby Pagliaci, Dicks, or Kid Valley before or after attending the festival. Another money-saving suggestion is to purchase meals at the "Food Court", located inside the Pavillion at Seattle Center. There, you'll find Subway, Pizza Haven, Orange Julius, and other known food retailers with better and less expensive options.

5 ATM

There will be ATMs available on the festival grounds, but the lines are usually long and the transaction fees will be close to $5 aside from what your own bank will charge you. Most major banks have locations in lower Queen Anne, so use an ATM before entering Bumbershoot to save you time and money.

6 Alcohol

No outside alcoholic beverages are allowed into the festival, though you may purchase beer and other types of liquor inside.

7 Wristbands

While your ticket allows you access to all Bumbershoot performances, you must have a wristband to enter Memorial Stadium for main stage shows (Beck, Stone Temple Pilots, Death Cab for Cutie, etc.). Visit this link to see where you can get a free wristband, available on a first come-first served basis: http://bumbershoot.org/festival-faq.htm#inmain

8 Clothes

It may be sunny and warm during the day, but temperatures tend to drop dramatically at night. If spending the entire day at Bumbershoot, bring a long-sleeve shirt or light sweater that can be wrapped around your waist and a pair of long pants to change into later. Also, a light pair of shoes or sneakers with comfortable support are great to have or change into. I'm planning on taking a pair of flip-flops and sneakers for different portions of the day.

9 Backpacks

Backpacks are allowed into Seattle Center, but they can't exceed 17" x 12" x 10". Remember, the more you bring in the more you have to carry - so pack light. My recommendation is a tote bag vs. a backpack.

10 Smoking

Smoking is not allowed inside any of the concert venues at Bumbershoot or inside any of the beer gardens. You may smoke in any of the outdoor areas at Seattle Center, but please dispose of your cigarettes in appropriate receptacles.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bumbershoot coverage begins August 29


Seattle Gay News will cover all three days of the 2008 Bumbershoot Music and Arts Festival during Labor Day weekend. The three-day event runs Saturday through Monday, August 30 through September, 1 at Seattle Center.

For a list of must-see acts to check out this year, including Beck and hometown favorites Death Cab for Cutie (pictured), grab a copy of this week's Seattle Gay News or visit www.sgn.org and click on the Arts & Entertainment section from the main page.

Our blog coverage of Bumbershoot, referred to in previous years as Bumber-blog (pickpocketed by a local daily newspaper - and we don't want trouble), starts Friday night with a glance at Saturday's action.

Throughout the weekend, we expect to catch up with a few of the performing artists and provide snippets of the festival to you right here in this blog. Plus, we're invited to select VIP performances by various artists, so we'll have mini wrap-ups of those right here as well. For a complete list of acts and daily schedules, visit www.bumbershoot.org.

Three-day passes are sold out, but single day tickets priced at $40 (adult) can be purchased at most Starbucks locations and at the main gate.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Vancouver Pride 2008: Parade, festival, go-go cruise a success


Sunday's finale of Vancovuer Pride 2008 was dandy, the parade drew a huge crowd - about the same size as Seattle's Pride, come to think of it.

The parade was a bit long and the floats pretty much all looked the same (glittery stuff, dancing shirtless boys, loud club music, etc.), but it was still a lot of fun. The post-parade festival was a tad lackluster, though it gave everyone something to do under the bright sun.

My friends and I boarded the Cruisy T Go-Go Cruise and had a blast with about 200-300 other gay boys, most of them with no shirts and ready to misbehave (um, I saw something in the men's bathroom that I shouldn''t have, and we'll leave it like that). It was a four hour-long cruise through the Georgia Strait and around the city of Vancouver - quite beautiful.

I'm going to Absolut Spa (at Century Plaza) this afternoon for a post-Pride pampering and then headed back to Seattle. It's been real, it's been fun, it's been real fun here at Vancouver Pride 2008!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Vancouver Pride 2008: Sunday's post-parade festivities


Vancouver Pride 2008 comes to a close today, but not without a bang. The parade is less than an hour away from starting, and I can see throngs of people headed up to Davie Street and the West End from my hotel window.

Immediately following the parade is the Pride Festival at Sunset Beach. The event is free of charge with local entertainers performing on different stages. Of course, the gay bars will be busy - so expect to see huge lines of partiers headed back up to Davie Street after the parade (or even before it finishes).

The Cruisy T Go-Go Cruise sets sail at Harbour Cruises at 4pm, cost is $55. I believe my friends and I are going on this particular cruise - come join us, should be a blast!

Women have the traditional Hershe Bar bash at Fabric (66 Water Street), though it won't start until 9pm with a $20 admission. And of course, the Global Pride dance party at Telus World of Science is the big daddy of them all, with a scheduled set by DJ Abel and an appearance by porn star Zeb Atlas. That party will start at 9pm and hop until 3am tomorrow morning.

I have a fantastic restaurant to have breakfast at tomorrow morning before you head back to Seattle or elsewhere. It's called Beyond (at Century Plaza). And, it's really affordable ($8 for French toast with fresh raspberries and blueberries. I'll blog about that later today or this evening. Beyond is located on Burrard Street, across from the Sheraton Wall Centre. You'll need a good breakfast tomorrow to soak up today's cocktails and all day festivities, for sure.

Now, it's time to corral my friends to our hotel lobby and begin our walk to the Vancouver Pride 2008 parade. Can't wait!

Vancouver Pride 2008: Sunny start for parade day, see it at The Calling


I haven't stepped outside yet, so I'm not sure how warm it is. But, the sun is definitely out and looks to stay out most of the day. I'd definitely wrap a long sleeve shirt around your waist in case the weather takes a slight turn.

Outside our hotel, cars are honking and floats are making their way to Robson and Thurlow, where the Vancouver Pride 2008 parade will begin at noon. My friends and I will be watching it from The Boathouse, which is at the end of the parade route - so we're not leaving our hotel until 11:30.

I ate at a pub recently here in Vancouver named The Calling, previously the Denman Free House on Davie and Burrard. It isn't a gay hangout, per se, but it does attract a mixed crowd of locals and some tourists, as it features an impeccable view at the mouth of the English Bay.

Surprisingly inexpensive, The Calling serves up delicious pub food in a comfortable setting and lookout points to the water and passersby. I ordered a bacon and gorgonzola burger with soup for just $10, and it was a big juicy burger. My lunch companion had the BLT with fries for only $9. I was completely blown away by the quality of food and affordable prices, because restaurants that can attract tourists with these kinds of views are capable of charging much more - you sometimes find cafes that charge $7 for a lame sandwich.

The Calling's menu includes standard pub items, such as fish n' chips, burgers, salads, sandwiches, chicken wings, nachos, and a variety of domestic and import beers, and wines. Today for Pride, they're charging $20 for admission into the pub (only because so many people want to be in there for the view). For more on The Calling, visit http://www.denmanfreehouse.ca/.

This has turned out to be a perfect day for the 30th annual Vancouver Pride parade. It's just over an hour from starting!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Vancouver Pride 2008: The skies have cleared, perfect for fireworks


It's Saturday evening, and my friends and I have just walked from the Davie Street Village to our hotel, and the great news is that the skies have finally cleared and it is sunny in Vancouver. As evening turns into night, the temperature is dropping - so bring that lightweight sweater out tonight.

With Vancouver Pride 2008 festivities all around, it's easy to forget that the Celebration of Lights is also taking place this weekend on English Bay. Three to four countries compete each year, and tonight is the finale and when everyone finds out which country wins the dazzling fireworks competition. Thousands and thousands of people are expected on Beach Street and near English Bay to watch the fireworks, beginning at 10pm.


Vancouver Pride 2008: Gloomy weather not breaking Pride spirit


It's another overcast day in Vancouver, about 24 hours before the big Pride parade. And even though the past few days have been gray and bleak, it hasn't dampened the spirits of this weekend's festivities.

There's a lot to do here in Vancouver, from renting a bike and exploring Stanley Park to a sea safari along the outskirts of the city to binging on great food. Late this afternoon, I'll blog on two places to eat at this weekend: The Calling and Beyond (at Century Plaza). Both dining spots surprised me in how affordable they are, so if you want to save money and still get a mouthwatering bang for your buck, check back later today for mini reviews on these two eateries.

If you're headed into Vancouver today, bring a warm sweater or light water-resistant jacket. The weather could change tomorrow, but be prepared in case it doesn't. Don't forget socks and a pair of jeans.

Today at noon is the Dyke March, taking place at McSpadden Park (Victoria Drive & 4th), that runs until 4pm. Tonight's big party is POWER featuring hot DJ Brett Henrichsen at the Biltmore Cabaret, cost is $25-$35. This will be a whopper of a dance party, and I'm anticipating one of my roommates will drive up to Vancouver this evening just for this one party. And, he'll probably stay for the Global Pride party at the Telus World of Science with a performance by DJ Abel and an appearance by porn star Zeb Atlas. Cost is $55-$95, and it will be b-u-s-y!

Besides the big parties, Davie Street is bustling with packed-to-capacity bars and sexy passersby. You won't have a problem meeting new friends if you come alone (wink).

Travel safe to Vancouver Pride 2008, and for any specific details on all Pride festivities visit http://www.vancouverpride.ca/.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Vancouver Pride 2008: Davie Street party, full bars, cool weather


The Davie Street Party, also billed as Koodos Big Night Out, is in full swing until 12am, along Davie Street between Burrard and Bute. Admission is free, but if you want to leave and re-enter the event it will cost you $5 for a re-entry bracelet.

All the bars are starting to fill, including Pumpjack, Score, The Majestic, and Fountainhead Pub. Dance clubs like Celebrities and Odyssey will get going around 11pm or midnight. I'm on the guest list for the Celebrities bash tonight featuring Kristine W, however I'm leaving my options open as there are lots of things to do and see here this w'end.

The weather is a bit chilly right now, an oddity for the first weekend of August. I'm told that it may clear up on Sunday for the Pride Parade, but pack a sweater or a coat just in case it doesn't. The parade starts at noon, on the corner of Robson and Thurlow.

A great place to watch the parade is at a pub club named The Calling, right on the corner of Davie and Denman. For $20, you get a prime spot inside a cool pub and not have to stand out on the street. I'll blog more on The Calling tomorrow.

If you're headed to Vancouver tomorrow, travel safely. My list of suggested hotels are Opus, Metropolitan, Pacific Palisades, Moda, Blue Horizon, Sandman Suites, Marriott Pinnacle, Sheraton Wall Centre, and Westin Grand.

Restaurants you gotta try are Cactus Club Cafe (Burrard and Dunmuir location), The Italian Kitchen, The Elbow Room (gay-owned), The Calling, Beyond at Century Plaza, Davie Village Cafe (gay-owned, part of the Davie Village Central), Ho-Ho's, and Raincity Grill. If on a tight budget, there are plenty of fast food choices available, including many great felafel and donnair counters, burger stands, crepe shops, and cafes.

Lastly, I'm staying at the Metropolitan Hotel in downtown Vancouver. As my friend (a fellow journalist from Austin) and I returned from dinner we saw a gay couple checking in at the front counter, and I noticed a very hot gay couple in the 3rd level pool earlier. This hotel has a lap pool, Jacuzzi-hot tub, squash court, fitness room, business center, complimentary morning newspaper, in-room tea and coffee service, and evening turn-down service. The best thing about the Metropolitan Hotel is that the main floor restaurant-lounge is called Diva. Plus, if available you can to be driven to your dinner or entertainment appointment in the hotel's own navy blue Jaguar. It's a wonderful hotel, and close to everything.

More on Vancouver Pride 2008 on the way.

Vancouver Pride 2008: Opus Hotel, a cool place to stay in Vancouver


Should you at the last minute decide to attend Vancouver Pride 2008 and need accommodations, and are looking for a place catered for a hipster, I strongly recommend Opus Hotel (http://www.opushotel.com/) in the Yaletown district.

It isn't uncommon that you'll bump into A-list celebs here, in fact years ago I met Sandra Bernhard at the reception desk as she was awaiting a taxi. The long list of artists and actors that have chosen Opus Hotel to stay at in Vancouver includes Jennifer Garner, R.E.M. Christina Aguilera, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Cher, and J-Lo.

Not only is it a fashion-forward boutique property, but it's also tucked away on the east end of Davie Street. You'll still find weekend cocktailers and savvy diners walking around the area, but it's nothing like the expected huge crowds on Granville or Davie Village the next three days.

Opus Hotel is one of the very few hotels that created its clientele scheme based on characters that represent part of our very own society, including a trendy and quite social gay boy who visits the city of Vancouver regularly and is always in the mood for fun. Needless to say, but I'll say it anyway, Opus Hotel is not just gay-friendly it's gay-considerate. It knows gay men enjoy an upscale, hip experience when they travel for business or pleasure, and they provide it for them when they're here in Vancouver.

Complimentary business center with two computer stations (even for late night work assignments or Craigslist scroll-throughs), a fitness room, L'Occitaine bath products, colorful rooms, cordial staff, in-room coffee service, and a restarant-lounge called Elixir with good cocktails makes Opus Hotel a hit with locals and out of towners. My favorite part of the Opus Hotel experience is being greeted to and attended to by name, not by the number outside my door.

Call 1-866-642-6787 to inquire about a Pride special this weekend, specifically for Vancouver Pride 2008-bound travelers.

Vancouver Pride 2008: Pride officially kicking off at noon, prepare for rain and border crossings


Vancouver Pride 2008 is less than 15 minutes from officially kicking off with a planned launch at the Vancouver Art Gallery (750 Hornby Street).

Members of the Vancouver City Council and Vancouver Pride Society President John Boychuk are scheduled to give brief speeches to mark the beginning of this year's festivities. Gilbert Baker and Sahran Abeysundara, two of the parade grand marshalls, are also expected to appear at the Pride launch.

If you are headed to Vancouver this afternoon or evening, bring warm clothes and a rain jacket because it's been off and on rain since yesterday and the weather is a tad chilly.

Here are some tips for getting you across the border with less hassles:

* Have passport in-hand as you approach the customs agent.
* Be honest in your reason for visiting Canada. I told the agent that I was visiting for "Gay Pride", and he asked "oh, is that this weekend?" then immediately let me through.
* Know the hotel and/or area where you'll be staying at because you may be asked.
* The more you bring in, the more it gives Customs agents to consider going through. So pack light and leave unnecessary items at home.
* Be courteous to Customs agents, even if they're not, because at any time they can pull you aside for further questioning.
* Two people on my shuttle yesterday were not admitted through because of expired documents, so please make sure your documents are up to date.

In other Pride-related news, there are so many parties happening this w'end but one of THE hottest is at Club 816 (aka The World) located at 816 Granville. New York DJ Billy Carroll is set to spin, beginning at 2am tomorrow (technically Sunday morning). The first 100 people through the door get in for free!

More from Vancouver Pride 2008 coming soon,