Tuesday, May 24, 2022

SINCE I BEEN DOWN Film Review May 24, 2022 Eclectic Arts


Reviewed: 5/24/2022

Rating: 4.5 / 5

(Scene from "Since I Been Down")

The new documentary film, “Since I Been Down” takes a direct look at the gang and drug issues that overflowed in the streets of Tacoma, WA in the 1980’s and 1990’s (and one could argue are still present today in 2022). Having lived in WA state all of my life, this was not news to me. In a very strange way, it was like going down memory lane, a horrible memory lane, of what many young men and women got caught up in.

But the film is much more than that. It also takes a look at the three strikes law here in WA. It also takes a look at the prison system with direct interviews and footage with many of the young people that were locked up during the “Hilltop” years.

Many social questions are raised throughout the film. The generation of young people of color that were locked up, and the effects that had on their families. How some of the prisoners are trying to better themselves behind bars through education (educating themselves). How the system failed many of these young people in more ways than one. And perhaps most importantly - how there is no one right answer for any of this.

The drug issue is rampant everywhere. And I mean everywhere. From big cities to rural communities, the drug epidemic is just out of control. Society as a whole is getting further and further away from a moral center. The layers and complexity of the issues that “Since I Been Down” addresses run deep and the answers run even deeper.

I spent over ten years working with what society has deemed “at risk” youth. I am keenly aware of the issues some of our young people face, and the circumstances many are born into. However, the average viewer doesn’t have this background to fall back on. Give “Since I Been Down” a view and I guarantee you will have an opinion about the subject matter.


Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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THE NERD Taproot Theatre May 21, 2022 Eclectic Arts

The Nerd
Larry Shue

Taproot Theatre Company
Seattle, WA
Review: Saturday 5/21/22 8pm Performance

Performances run through June 18th, 2022

(Kate Jaeger, Conner Nedderson, Valerie Ryan Miller, and David Quicksall in The Nerd at Taproot Theatre Company.  Photo by Robert Wade)

“The Nerd” is the first non-holdover show for the Taproot Theatre’s 2022-2023 season. The earlier shows this season were a part of the programming for 2020 and beyond that were delayed for very known and understandable reasons.

With “The Nerd”, we get a comedy that has been around for decades now. A very quirky comedy at that. As always, I don’t like to go through much of the plot, preferring for the patron to see a performance for themselves.

The role of Rick - the guest who overstays his welcome - as played by Matthew Posner - was the highlight of the show. Matthew’s performance was a sight to behold as he sucked the audience right in with his character’s behavior, comedic delivery, and acting chops.

The rest of the cast were strong as well, something of a trademark of all of Taproot’s productions (save for one that I reviewed four years ago). I think as the cast gets more performances under their collective belts, the show will come together even better.

For all that it had going for it, I still found the show odd. Professionally delivered but it just didn’t resonate with me. There were laughs from some of the audience at my performance but overall as I looked around, there was more perplexity on peoples faces than anything so I don’t feel I was alone.

The show has its moments but overall I found it to be a specific type of humor. Unfortunately, it just didn’t match up with mine.

Perhaps you’ll feel differently after you’ve seen a performance.

“The Nerd” runs through June 18th. Tickets are available:  Here!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Thursday, April 28, 2022

FLINT Film Review April 28, 2022 Eclectic Arts


Cargo Film and Releasing
Reviewed: 4/28/2022
Rating: 5 / 5

In Theaters April 29th!


The new film, “Flint” is a shocking reminder of how the government will do what’s best for itself and not necessarily what’s best for the people.

I remember shooting the breeze with a friend about what’s something that would affect the world and I said if you tainted the water system. Imagine if you couldn’t drink it, wash with it, use it, etc. The world would become like the Road Warrior.

Cue the saying “life is stranger than fiction”.

I first became familiar with the city of Flint, MI in Michael Moore’s classic documentary about the auto industry there. What I didn’t know was this water issue they were/are having and it’s absolutely appalling.

Director Anthony Baxter has crafted a compelling documentary about the lead poisoned water in Flint, MI that was created by switching from Lake Huron as a water source to a local river that is contaminated.

There are twists and turns as the issue unfolds and of course the victims are not only the residents of Flint, but their future generations; the children.

Anyone with any sense of right and wrong will be upset watching this film for many different reasons. No spoilers here but this film will have you shaking your head in disbelief.

“Flint” is a tremendous film shining a light on a horrible issue.


Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Thursday, April 21, 2022

MARVELOUS AND THE BLACK HOLE Film Review April 21, 2022 Eclectic Arts


Reviewed: 4/21/2022
Rating: 4 / 5

In theaters April 22nd!

The new film, “Marvelous and The Black Hole” is a unique coming of age story written and directed by Kate Tsang.

Fourteen year old Sammy (played by Miya Cech) is full of angst and rebellion but for understandable reasons as her mother recently passed. She runs into Margo, a magician (played by Rhea Perlman), and is slowly drawn into the world of magic for school reasons, initially. Eventually, they become friends as Sammy deals with her family dynamics as they shift and change moving forward.

I found this film to be more of a drama than a comedy. Yes, there are scenes of levity but for the most part it is really dealing with the grieving process and how the loss of someone can put people of any age in a tailspin that they feel they can’t get out of.

Miya Cech does a solid job of playing Sammy. Once she processes the loss of her mother, her character becomes more palatable. Having worked with “at-risk” youth for many years, watching a teenager act up through the beginning of the film, while it sets up the necessary character and her flaws, can become a bit grating on the viewer.

Rhea Perlman’s Margo helps offset the negativity of Sammy’s character and it is much needed. Again, as a story, it makes perfect sense. There is a natural chemistry between Sammy and Margo and it translates on the screen.

It’s great seeing an Asian American family as the center of a film. The changes the industry is going through are long overdue and every film like “Marvelous and The Black Hole” helps tell the stories from the actual people themselves.

Overall, I really enjoyed the film. It has a freshness to it and the subject matter is handled with care and compassion and truth.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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SARAH DARLING High Dive Seattle, WA April 19, 2022


High Dive
Seattle, WA
April 19, 2022

(All photos - Mark Sugiyama for Eclectic Arts (c) 2022)

With all of the film festival work going on this week, it was hard to take an intentional “break” from the festival and go and check out some live music. But, once I heard Sarah Darling’s work, I knew I wanted to be at the High Dive in Seattle on Tuesday evening.

I am the first to admit that I am new to Sarah’s work. She has been making and recording music for more than ten years. She has appeared on reality television competitions and initially she had been walking the line between pop and country music with her sound more in the country camp these days. Seattle was the first stop on the “Cruisin’” tour and the fans were ready to kick things off right.

Joined by Julie Lavery on acoustic guitar and vocals, Sarah took to the stage with a big smile on her face. Both ladies decked out in retro-cool outfits, they spent the evening performing songs together, in addition with two songs solo by Julie and the encore solo by Sarah. With a lava lamp that subscribed more to the tortoise than the hare, the set began.

If you’re a musician, then it’s fairly easy to recognize talent, regardless of genre. Both Sarah and Julie are incredibly talented musicians and songwriters. When you strip anyone down to two vocals and one or two guitars, there is nothing to hide behind. No backing tracks. No distortion or other instrumentation to “hide” the negatives. Nope. The artists are out there for all to see and hear and in this case, it was beautiful.

Sarah has a positive energy that at times masks her depth of artistry. What I mean by that is she has layers of emotion to her songs. It may come across as something upbeat but there’s so much more going on than surface hooks and melodies. And when she decides to intentionally write or perform a serious song, the end results are just incredibly moving.

One such song, “Silver Linings” from her upcoming new EP, is one perfect example. A song written about the ups and down of the music business, this song was perhaps Sarah at her most vulnerable. And man did it resonate with me in the best of ways.

Sarah performed the recently released, “Hungover”, “Waves” and, “Pretender” which sounded amazing in a duo format. If all of these songs are on the upcoming EP, that release is going to be one badass showcase of amazing songwriting and performance.

Sarah pulled out “Dreams” (Fleetwood Mac cover) from her Campfire Sessions she did during the pandemic times. She and Julie did an amazing job on this classic tune. The vocal harmonizing and the almost torch song quality to their version was spot on. Being a musician myself, trust me when I say these ladies have all the talent in the world.

An acknowledgment to Julie’s father who had flown in all the way from Boston was made which was really awesome to see that level of support.

As Sarah and Julie mentioned during their set, they’re looking for good vibes on this tour. Judging by their performance on Tuesday evening, they’re already spreading good vibes themselves. I hope all the fans that turn out return the good vibes in turn. Sarah and Julie definitely deserve every success they have coming their way.

Needless to say I was blown away by the performance Tuesday evening. Do yourself a favor - go support these talented musicians when they hit your town on the “Cruisin” tour.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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"HUNGOVER" Official Music Video

(All photos - Mark Sugiyama for Eclectic Arts (c) 2022)

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Kent Stowell's SWAN LAKE Pacific Northwest Ballet 4/16/2022 Eclectic Arts

Kent Stowell’s Swan Lake
Pacific Northwest Ballet
McCaw Hall
Seattle, WA

Review: Saturday 4/16/22 7:30 pm Performance

Performances run through Sunday April 24th.  Purchase tickets:  HERE!

(Pacific Northwest Ballet)

The classical full length ballet productions at the Pacific Northwest Ballet have each been uniquely satisfying. For someone like myself that hasn’t seen earlier “repeat” productions (yet) of the full lengths, each of them are new and exciting to me.

“Kent Stowell’s Swan Lake” was high on my list of ballet productions to see as it’s one that I had heard about, even before I started reviewing the PNB events.

The ever popular story of true love, broken trust, and eventual sorrow has been captivating audiences for decades.

With the show divided into four acts with two intermissions, the audience on Saturday evening was more than ready for the performance to begin.

In the lead roles of Odette/Odile was Elizabeth Murphy and Prince Sigfried was portrayed by Lucien Postlewaite.

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Elizabeth Murphy and Lucien Postlewaite with company dancers in Kent Stowell’s Swan Lake, on stage April 15 – 24, and streaming digitally May 12 – 16, 2022. Photo © Angela Sterling.

The production is one where all the stops are pulled out. From the sheer number of dancers that are utilized at any given point to the grandness of the costumes and set design, the show was engaging from the opening sequence to the last.

Having watched snippets online from older productions, I was happy to recognize some of the movements as soon as they started. Of course being there in-person added so much more to the experience but it was a bit like putting together a half finished puzzle as each act unfolded.

I actually crossed Mercer Street before the performance - and walked behind Ezra Thomson and his wife Sarah Pasch, who were talking to another PNB dancer. It was a little surreal seeing Ezra on stage an hour or so later in the role of Wolfgang, having just seen him in street clothes earlier.

I mention this as my journey with the Pacific Northwest Ballet started in November of 2018. Now having seen my fair share of both full lengths and mixed bills, it’s interesting to see how my taste for one over the other really hasn’t changed in that time.

Performances like “Kent Stowell’s Swan Lake” emphasize the long history and tradition of ballet. I believe that’s why I gravitate to them more than the mixed bills. Having said that, the more I learn about the art form, the more I’m coming to appreciate the mixed bills, too.

“Kent Stowell’s Swan Lake” really is a wonderful experience, one that I wish more once a year PNB ticket buyers would partake in. I’m always looking at the performances from the eye of the non subscriber. What show would be that transition show to get the holiday PNB patron to become a two time a year patron (or more, of course)?

Outside of its runtime, “Ken Stowell’s Swan Lake” could be that missing link show. I believe “A Midsummer Night’s Dream (which is back as a part of the upcoming 2022-2023 season) is another solid candidate.

Do yourself a favor and check out one of the performances of “Kent Stowell’s Swan Lake”. It is a beautiful example of everything the Pacific Northwest Ballet does for the ballet community, the local community, and the arts community in the greater Seattle area.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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THUNDERPUSSY April 15, 2022 The Showbox Eclectic Arts

Smokey Brights

The Showbox at The Market
Seattle, WA
April 15, 2022

(All Photos - Mark Sugiyama for Eclectic Arts (c) 2022)

The original New Year’s Eve celebration for Thunderpussy was postponed due to you know what. The New Year’s Eve gig has become a tradition at this point with the band pulling out all the stops to make for an extra special event each year.

While at the time everyone understood the need to postpone the show, the good news is not only was it rescheduled for April 15th, 2022 but it actually happened! I remember thinking to myself back at the end of December "I wonder where we’ll be with all of this shit by April?" Well, I, along with hundreds of others, were at The Showbox, celebrating, properly this time, like it was 12/31/21.

I’ve learned about a lot of awesome local (and not local) bands at the various Thunderpussy shows. The Black Tones, Wild Powwers, and Kolars just to name a few. Friday night the band had two local bands on the bill that I had heard about but had never seen live so I was excited.

Actionesse started things off for the evening. A fucking bundle of energy, the band hit the stage like it was their encore. I was blown away by their energy and their unique sound. They are a band that is hard to categorize but that just makes them that much more special. They made the most of their 30 minute set. By the time they were done, they wore me out. And I mean that as a high compliment. Great way to kick off the show!

Smokey Brights were up next. Their sound was much more polished but it was also a different kind of music. At times it went from funky retro dance to more folk inspired songs which mostly worked. They, like Actionesse, have been playing around town doing their own shows for quite some time now. And it showed. They were very professional sounding with the harmonies and instrumentation. The keyboard/synth in the middle of the stage is always a tough one to figure out for any band. For mellow singer songwriters, it kinda works. For bands that have more energy like Smokey Brights, it’s kind of distracting. I almost wanted the vocalist and keys/synth player Kim to kick that thing into the photo pit and start stalking the stage with a mic in her hand. Another great set by another quality Seattle based band.

This was my fifth New Year’s Eve gig in a row covering Thunderpussy (I’m counting 2016 but I was there on 12/30 instead of the second 12/31 show at Neumos that year). I always love the intention behind these special events. From the amazing wardrobe custom designed by Pakio Galore to the visuals (dancers, light design) to how the band is going to start the shows - they never repeat themselves. It’s always something different. And in recent years there have been special guests - sometimes many special guests.

Thunderpussy came on stage (Molly - vocals, Whitney - guitar, Leah - bass, and Michelle - drums) and blasted straight into, “Never Know”. If you’ve never experienced the band live, you’re in for a rock n roll spectacle.

The band is a rock band but they are uniquely their own. I’ve said it a ton of times but Molly is such a fantastic leader of the band. Her dance and movement background is always on high display at any Thunderpussy show. And Friday night was no different. Back bends, dropping to the stage, kicks, and just a constant ball of rhythmic energy, she is the perfect front person for the band.

Whitney is stage right with her trusty Les Paul and she dishes out the 70’s inspired guitar work. Her energy is always one of a fun, bad-ass guitarist. She speaks her mind in between songs as well on the mic.

Leah is stage left and she carries the bottom end with upper fret melodies at times, too, which sometimes go overlooked. She moves to the music as well, whipping her four string bass around the stage.

Michelle was new to me on the drums. She clearly knew the set as she fit in great with the band. I don’t know if she was filling in for the gig or what but, again, she did a great job on the songs.

Old favorite, “Speed Queen” brought out two dancers for the first time while “Velvet Noose” brought out special guests to the stage. “Fever” brought out pole dancers on each side of the stage which added to the visual presentation I mentioned earlier.

Dancers and special guests rotated in and out depending on the songs toward the end of the night. “Barracuda” by Heart got the Thunderpussy treatment as did set-ender “The Show Must Go On” by Queen, complete with basically everyone from the entire night on stage all at once.

It was fucking amazing to be back after not seeing the Thunderpussy live for over two years. With things going the way they are out in society, here’s to seeing the band live again at least one more time before we do it all over again on 12/31/22.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Special thanks: Whitney for putting me on the list and for saying hello before the show. Great sharing the photo-pit with Christine Mitchell again after two plus years. And thanks to my friends that made it out to the show as well. I was so glad you guys could all make it. Thank you for supporting Thunderpussy and the local music scene here in Seattle!

(All Photos - Mark Sugiyama for Eclectic Arts (c) 2022)

Smokey Brights


More photos coming soon!