Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pixies @ Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium

On Monday night, the Pixies closed out their "Lost Cities" tour, in which they played their classic album Doolittle in its entirety. Fortunately for me, their final date was a short drive away in Santa Cruz, CA. Even more fortunately for me, I bought a ticket before they sold out (which was pretty fast).

Opening was the Winnipeg band, Imaginary Cities. Decent.

The Pixies came out following a sped-up version of Un Chien Andalou, the classic short film by Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel.

I'm too young to have enjoyed the Pixies during their heyday, but I saw them in Washington state during their first reunion tour in 2005.

It was good seeing them much closer up than at the Sasquatch Festival.

Joey Santiago, pride of the Philippines.

The band had interesting visuals behind them - including videos of themselves.

Frank Black's voice was still sharp (I think that's the best adjective), and David Lovering's drumming was solid.

After the band played Doolittle in its entirety, they took leave of the crowd.

They also celebrated their road crew.

Is it possible that this is the last Pixies show ever? It certainly is for the time being.

Of course the band would come back for an encore... and they sent fog straight into the crowd just for the occasion.

The final song of the night was "Gigantic," sung by Kim Deal.

Great show - check out the setlist here.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Blind Pilot @ Great American Music Hall (photos)

Last night (Saturday) I went to see the "indie folk" band Blind Pilot at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. For the benefit of those who are going to the show today (Sunday), I thought I'd post some photos. I don't have their set list, sorry.

Portland-based band Port Juncture, WA opened the first of the two shows - I really enjoyed their style and arrangement of music. Sadly, the crowd decided to try and drown out their music with talking. Why people show up to a concert early just to talk is beyond me...

Blind Pilot isn't just lead singer Israel, but he's certainly the focal point of the band.

...as this photo seems to illustrate.

The band's set began just before 10:30pm...

...and didn't end until midnight (including encore).

The lighting was very good at points.

I was quite taken by it.

Did I mention that I liked the lighting? :-P

The end of the show was pretty cool = Blind Pilot came onto the floor and the audience sat down to listen to an entirely unplugged song. Some people can't stay quiet to save their lives, but the audience was mostly compliant with the band's wishes.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chez Panisse

This weekend my girlfriend had a milestone birthday, so I took her to world famous Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley.

The restaurant is a curious sight along Shattuck Avenue.

We were a tad early, so we relaxed upstairs in the cafe with a couple glasses of vino.

Hands off, she's mine.

Bread and almonds to whet the appetite.

The menu is different every night. First course = leek salad with farm egg, prosciutto, and mustard vinaigrette. Really fantastic.

Second course = local fish and shellfish soup with rouille and croutons. Decent, but my least favorite of the night (although the rouille tasted delicious).

Main course = grilled Wolfe Farm quail with grapes and Banyuls sauce, potato gnocchi, and greens. The largest quail I've ever had, and truly a delectable dish.

It's only every so often that we get all dolled up.

Kudos to our waiter, Gianni, who took us into the kitchen for my girl's big day.

Gianni points out the organized chalkboard (I was too busy taking photos to catch its importance).

The kitchen was closing for the night; before I forget, Alice Waters herself was in the house (as were a few other famous people, according to the cafe staff upstairs - never caught the names).

The pastry chef, about to serve us our dessert.

Meat locker.

They really let us take photos wherever we wanted.

"Isn't she lovely?"

Dessert = red and white wine poached pear galette with zabaglione.

Yes, I probably come off as a dork for taking photos of the meal - but I was just following orders. :-) Not every day you get a meal like this (or a price tag to match - oomph!).

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Willamette Valley

Most wineries in Oregon's Willamette Valley close around 4pm, and my stay at the Columbia River Gorge meant a late arrival. Fortunately I found two wineries in Newberg that were open.

Penner-Ash was open until 5pm.

I wasn't the only one interested in the hillside vineyard's fall colors.

I chose to go with the $10 option instead of the $15 all-pinot option. The Viognier was my favorite... although, to be honest, I wasn't crazy about Penner-Ash's wines.

But the view over the area was pretty.

Next stop = Utopia Vineyard, perhaps the only winery in Willamette Valley open past 5pm (they close at 6pm).

Special deal for the weekend = tastes of all the wines for $10.

The majority of the people visiting the winery (not me, since I'm not a local) were there on account of an Oregon magazine's list of the best pinots. One of Utopia's was listed at #2 (2008, $48 a bottle).

The owner / wine-maker Daniel Warnshuis was also the one pouring at the bar and telling stories. Fantastic wines, and a great end to a wonderfully long day. Recommended.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Columbia River Gorge

After spending time in Portland, I escaped for a brief spell to the Columbia River Gorge. I've seen the river itself on numerous occasions, but I had never properly done *the gorge.* Time to fix that...

First view of the splendor (Washington state on the left, Oregon on the right).

The Vista House is visible on the cliff to the right.

The fall colors were surprisingly vivid.

It made the drive extra worthwhile.

Yours truly in front of Latourell Falls, west of Multnomah Falls.

Wahkeena Falls, further east.

The grandaddy of them all, Multnomah Falls.

The Multnomah Falls Lodge, which is very handy for plugging in GPS coordinates, since waterfalls don't have addresses. :-)

Next stop = wine country. To be continued...