Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Luau To Remember

Hello again! My last day in Hawaii started off with a massage at the spa at the Aqua Palms & Spa (where I've been staying). It was an incredibly relaxing way to start the day. It started with a foot bath and ended with a relaxing cup of tea. I was then ready to face the world.

Did some shopping at the Ala Moana Mall, just a few short blocks from the hotel. It is a huge shopping space, with high-end stores galore, as well as every other kind imaginable – from Neiman Marcus to Sears to Long’s (where I picked up some wonderfully silly souvenirs for my friends back in Seattle).

The day was topped off by attending the luau at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, an 80-year old landmark building, parts of which seem untouched by the years. An incredible structure, it has been dubbed the Pink Palace of the Pacific. It stands out brightly among the other buildings on the beach. The luau was attended by a few hundred of us tourists (and some natives, I found out). It started with a huge buffet dinner with traditional Hawaiian foods. Following this was The Royal Polynesian Extravaganza - a song and dance show complete with band, hula boys and hula girls. It had just the right blend of music and kitsch to delight me.

I am off to Seattle tomorrow - hoping that the sun is out there to greet me. For my recap of the Honolulu Rainbow Film Fest, check the next edition of the Seattle Gay News. Aloha!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Hot in Hawaii

Greetings, again, from paradise! Another clear, hot, sunny day here in Oahu. I had time to lie in the sun for a bit today, right near the pool at the Aqua Palms & Spa. A welcome change from our fair – but cloudy -- Emerald City.

Did some more exploring – beautiful Ala Moana Park, and went back to the International Market Place to get some souvenirs of Hawaii for my buddies back home. Wanted to get a flower for my hair, but – alas – I had it cut too short. So, I bought a beautiful lei and the friendly woman that made it took a photo of me with my camera. Very welcoming.

Headed back to the Rainbow Film Fest (on its last day) and saw two very different films: Saint of 9/11, about Father Mychal Judge, chaplain for the Fire Department of New York, who perished in the World Trade Center disaster – and Coffee Date, a farce about a straight man who finds himself dating a gay guy. Look for my wrap-up of the festival in the next issue of the Seattle Gay News.

Tomorrow is my last day in Oahu before heading back to Seattle – capped with a luau tomorrow night. Check this blog for all the delicious details.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

More Sun, Sand and Movies from Oahu!

Aloha again from Oahu! The past two days have been busy ones. Yesterday I was up at the crack of dawn to get a bus going north to Kualoa Ranch, a huge land reserve that offers multiple tours and breathtaking scenery. I took the movie/TV tour, which took me through some gorgeous landscapes, some marked with the names of the shows filmed there (including Lost). I also took the Jeep Tour, which put about 10 of us tourists in a large jeep, taking us deep into jungle-like terrain. It was a very bumpy ride (we were warned ahead of time) – but, again, very beautiful. A buffet lunch was served after our journeys – with some of the best ribs I’ve tasted in a long time.

Returned to my hotel, the Aqua Bamboo and Spa -- a very spiffy (and affordable) boutique hotel in the heart of Waikiki -- for a short breather, then headed back to the Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival – about a 15 minute cab ride (or 30 minute bus ride) to the Honolulu Academy of Arts. I saw A Four Letter Word, a romantic comedy about an improbable gay pair. The producer, director and some cast members (including Charlie David from the here! TV gothic gay soap opera, Dante’s Cove) answered questions from the audience after the screening. Also saw The Sex Movie, where two men and two women, gay and straight, confront each other about their sexuality.

Today a native Hawaiian buddy of mine took me to lunch at an undiscovered gem, the Gulick Deli, where you can get a huge plateful of Japanese food for less than $7. My favorite was the sweet and sour spare ribs. To walk off our big meal, we went to the aptly named Queen’s Surf, a very small strip of beach catering to our crowd. Then it was back to the film fest for more movies – and a benefit gala at the new (and very hi-tech) Honolulu Design Center. More delicious food and friendly faces. As you may have guessed, I’m having a great time here!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Aloha From Oahu and the Rainbow Film Fest

Aloha! This is Ron from the Seattle Gay News greeting you from Oahu, where the skies are clear, the breezes are blowing and the surfers are tanned and buff. Got here last night and am already seduced by the sun and the scent of flowers. This is my first trip to Hawaii – and so far it is as magical as everyone told me it would be.

Just got back from opening night at the 18th Annual Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival – a major event in Hawaiian queer culture. The Honolulu Academy of Art was filled with high anticipation for the showing of No Regret, the first gay film to come out of South Korea. After the showing, most audience members -- and some of the filmmakers -- showed up at Hula’s, Oahu’s premier gay bar. It is a very friendly place that put me at ease right away. The fest continues through Sunday, and I will be filling you in on the latest buzz.

Spent the afternoon wandering through Waikiki (where my hotel is) checking out the markets, stores and boutiques. Had lunch at the Rainbow Drive-In, a legendary local eatery whose specialty is the plate lunch, which will satisfy even the heartiest appetite.

Tomorrow morning I am off to Kualoa Ranch, where many Hollywood and TV blockbusters (Jurassic Park, Lost) are filmed. Since I have to be up at the crack of dawn, I will sign off now and will check back with you all tomorrow.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Virgin Festival 2007: The Killers wrap up two-day fest with hot performance

Brandon Flowers is so delicious, I could literally ice him with frosting and serve him for dessert.

Flowers and company, aka The Killers, delighted thousands of fans tonight when they appeared at the Virgin Festival shortly after 9pm. The seven-time Grammy nominees were rumored to possibly cancel their performance, since Flowers had been ill for a few days - forcing them to reschedule Seattle's concert to May 27. But, early in the afternoon the band confirmed with festival organizers that they were okay to play. And that they did.

The Killers (pictured) opened with the title track from their sophomore disc, Sam's Town, under a sparkly banner with those exact two words (album title) emblazened on it. Flowers, dressed in form-fitting charcoal slacks and matching vest, with a red ribbon tie, had me at hello. He looked so hot, and you honestly couldn't tell he'd been ill before this show.

"When You Were Young" and "Somebody Told Me", which had everyone jumping in the oversized pit, were performed in the first half of the set. "Bones" and my personal favorite, "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine", were also tossed into the top portion of The Killers' show. This marks the second time I've seen them, and they've impressed me both times.

Earlier on the main stage, Hot Hot Heat dazzled V-Fest attendees with an exuberating, whopping performance that included a terrific version of "Dirty Mouth". Lead singer Steve Bays stood out in a nice pair of dress pants, white button-down shirt, and a curly mop of hair.

I missed AFI's set because I was hanging out with Canadian band The Reason, specifically group members Jeremy Widerman and Cam Bordignon. They are two of the sweetest, cutest rock dudes I've ever met, seriously. And I've met several, including Brandon "of The Killers" Flowers, who by the way still sports a mean moustache. The Reason are in the process of hopefully being signed to a US record label, and they should because their music is heavenly. Great, bouncy pop-rock. I'll detail the conversation I had with Widerman and Bordignon in an upcoming print issue of the Seattle Gay News. I will say, however, that The Reason recently joined forces with Sara, of Tegan and Sara fame, for a song on their album called Things Couldn't Be Better. They'd also have no problem playing at a gay wedding reception, and would play free of charge if it was a friend of theirs tying the knot.

Take a listen to The Reason's cool single, "All I Ever Wanted", at www.myspace.com/thereasonrock and help spread the word about this exciting new band. More on The Reason in the coming weeks.

Well, I'm wiped out from two days of festival gazing. It's time to retreat to my room here at the Opus Hotel, Vancouver's hippest spot, and fall asleep watching TV.

I've had an awesome time covering the Virgin Festival for you, and now it's time to pass the blog torch to Ron Anders, who flies out to Oahu this week to bring you special coverage of the Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival.

Ciao from Vancouver!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Virgin Festival 2007: Muddy good fun on first day

It's Albert from the Seattle Gay News, in Vancouver for the big Virgin Festival at Thunderbird Stadium.

The first day of V-Fest was awesome, despite the buckets of rain that poured down on us. Yet, that didn't stop the large crowd from trekking out to the University of British Columbia campus, about a ten to fifteen-minute drive from downtown Vancouver.

I arrived just in time to catch Stars of Track and Field, from Portland, on the main stage. A fan requested that one member "drop trou" - and he did. He unsnapped his jeans and let em' fall. Hmmm...and they say Northwesterners aren't hospitable.

Next was a band called The Bled, from Arizona, that I'd never heard of until today. Lead singer James Munoz had a floppy mop of hair that looked adorable on him and his belt buckle could've doubled as a tea tray. At the end of the band's performance, Munoz jumped out into the pit and surfed the crowd.

Mute Math (pictured) went onstage next. Admittedly, I haven't given this New Orleans-based unit very much attention when they've come through Seattle. And I really should. While I don't entirely dig their experimental-rock sound, they are very talented musicians and put on a terrific show. Lead singer Paul Meany, after the band wrapped up its forty-minute appearance with the song "Reset", jumped off the stage and then climbed and wiggled himself back onstage, then jumped atop a large speaker or instrument of some kind. They were very exciting!

Rise Against, not to be confused with Rage Against the Machine, were up next. They had the crowd bouncing furiously. I LOVED frontman Tim McIlrath's semi-hawk hairdo and I also loved his onstage personae. He really knows how to command an audience, and they were so loud and so contagious!

Canadian rockers Billy Talent have made a huge name for themselves here in this beautiful Maple Leaf country, but they've yet to make a big splash in the US. Their sound is booming, and they certainly validated their national popularity. But I still say Arcade Fire is Canada's coolest rock export. Billy Talent could impact US music fans when they record (in Vancouver) their upcoming third album. By the way, lead vocalist Benjamin Kowalewicz looks a bit like actor Jeremy Piven.

Unfortunately, I didn't stay for today's headliner My Chemical Romance. Although I did see them in December at Seattle's Key Arena. I was cold, wet, hungry, and exhausted - so I bus'd it back to my hotel (best hotel in Vancouver, Opus) and grabbed some food, and jumped into a long hot shower.

Tomorrow, it's The Killers! And let's hope lead Killer and rock hottie Brandon Flowers feels better. They were forced to cancel tonight's show in Seattle, per doctor's orders.

From the Virgin Festival, I'm signing off.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Virgin Festival 2007: The night before

Hey, it's Albert from the Seattle Gay News. I'm in Vancouver covering the inaugural Virgin Festival, featuring The Killers (pictured), AFI, My Chemical Romance, Hot Hot Heat, Metric, and over 40 bands and performers in the course of two days.

The festival takes place on the University of British Columbia campus. I'm catching up with Adam White, lead singer of the Canadian band The Reason on Sunday, and I'm also on the list for a VIP after-party that night. Hopefully, some of the bands from the festival will show up for cocktails.

On an un-related music note, I'm told Sting is in Vancouver practicing for the upcoming Police reunion tour. Although, I can't verify it at this time.

If you're headed to Vancouver anytime soon, bring a warm coat. It was cold today.

I'll wrap-up the first day of the festival, tomorrow late night. I'm off to my hotel to catch some zzz's.

Friday, May 4, 2007

SOAP, LGBT Center reach agreement

Representatives of Seattle Out and Proud and the Seattle LGBT Community Center met Friday, May 4, with Seattle City Councilmembers Tom Rasmussen and Sally Clark during a morning meeting in a City Hall conference room. The two sides hammered out an agreement in the spirit of cooperation.

The two groups will hold separate events on Pride weekend. On Saturday, June 23, the Seattle LGBT Center will sponsor a march/parade down Broadway to Volunteer Park, where a festival will be held. SOAP will hold a parade downtown along Fourth Avenue on Sunday, June 24.

The terms of agreement also include, among other things:

*The two groups will hire a spokesperson to speak for both groups.

*The two groups will work cooperatively to collect sponsorships. Cindy Baccetti, who has been consulting with SOAP on sponsorships for their event, will lead the effort.

SOAP Vice President Weston Sprigg and board members Gabriel Ferguson and Troy Campbell represented the downtown parade. Seattle LGBT Community Center Executive Director Shannon Thomas and media consultant Brad Davis represented the Capitol Hill events. Michael Wells of the Broadway Improvement Association and Baccetti were also present.

Both sides said a joint statement would be released to the public shortly.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Angelique Kidjo in "The Music Lounge" this Friday

Four-time Grammy nominee and much-praised world music artist Angelique Kidjo slides into "The Music Lounge" this week, in the May 4 issue of the Seattle Gay News.

The short and sweet interview precedes Kidjo's three-night run at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley (May 4-6), and we recommend highly that you consider seeing this vibrant performer in concert. For reservations, call (206) 441-9729 or visit www.jazzalley.com.

Grab a copy of the Seattle Gay News on Friday and get the lowdown on Angelique Kidjo.