Sunday, September 10, 2017

Wide Awake in Washington - AL1CE Event Report! 9/1/17 and 9/3/17


Seattle, WA
Highline Bar

Everett, WA
Anchor Pub

As I sit here writing this review of my experience last weekend, I can't help but wonder about what else is out there.  Not in an "aliens stole my brain" sort of way.  I mean a year ago I had no idea that the band AL1CE existed nor did I know about their other bands Alice Underground, BASHROCK, or Mankind Is Obsolete.  A year from now, in September 2018, I wonder what other artist(s) I'll discover that will have a profound impact on my musical being.  These are the sorts of things I think about after an experience like last weekend.

Eclectic Arts started out as nothing.  Not even an idea.  It organically started from an email exchange with a band that I, Mark, was a fan of back in 2010.  That original exchange got the wheels spinning and about six months later the first issue of Eclectic Arts came back from the printer.  What's transpired between that first issue and now, in 2017, is mind boggling to me. 

I love music.  I love creative and artistic minded people.  I draw inspiration from those around me that choose to express themselves in an artistic manner.  It reminds me in the best way possible that I'm not the only one out there that feels like this.  It's comforting and inspiring. 

AL1CE impacted me more than they can possibly know. 

These gifts have been presented to me a few times over the course of Eclectic Arts existence. I remember riding a high for weeks on end after interviewing a certain Academy Award winning "dude" - ditto when I met him before a performance in 2014.  I must have watched every film he had ever been a part of after all of that, with a silly grin on my face every time he came on screen.

I remember standing downstairs after a performance by one of the biggest artists in the music industry - over one hundred million albums sold over her vast career.  She also had a film career to boot - "Grease" was a part of my childhood.  Eight close family and friends were there to catch up with her - and my mom and I.  It was so surreal, a little uncomfortable if I'm being honest, but highly impactful. 

Those are two examples of the larger than life types.  Let's not forget all the up and coming artists and every in between artist as well.  Inspiration comes from all sorts of places for me and I am eternally grateful for each and every opportunity this little media outlet Eclectic Arts has afforded me.

This brings me to my review of AL1CE.  I believe I saw something on social media about this band coming to the Northwest.  I clicked on the event page and was curious.  I then did what I normally do - do a little investigating.  I watched videos out of order (I now know after the fact).  I watched the "Superman" video by Alice Underground.  That was my first introduction to the world of AL1CE.  I then watched "Waking Hour" and then "Looking Glass".  And I'll be honest - I was confused.  Were these the same bands with different names?  Did they start as one and then morph into another band over time?  The music was totally different so that didn't make any sense.  I found more videos of Alice Underground online than I did AL1CE.  I came to the conclusion that Alice Underground must be the main band then and AL1CE was the offshoot.  Yes, that must be it.  Nope.

I recall going back to watch the music videos again and then I looked at the calendar of tour dates.  AL1CE was going to be here in Washington state over Labor Day weekend.  Uh oh.  I tend to view my holiday weekends as times to recharge my batteries.  I wrestled with taking advantage of the time off versus being productive during that time.  This hasn't changed in years.  Part of my mind says don't schedule anything; just enjoy your time off.  Another part of my mind says take advantage of the time to get more projects done, make the most of the time off, etc.

I decided that I should at least contact the band and see if it would be possible to cover one of their two shows, a compromise of my holiday time if you will.  I wasn't sure what the difference was between the Seattle gig and the Everett one (both were promoted differently).  After getting some information back from AL1CE through social media (I would later find out this was from singer Tash), I had gotten off the fence and decided that the Everett gig would be the one for me.

In between days I continued to re-watch their videos and grew more and more interested in their bands.  That’s when the idea popped into my head to not only do an interview with the band but to possibly capture some candid, on the road, footage.  This was a somewhat rare opportunity that a band would be in the same area more than one night.  Tash was open to the idea, which made me really happy.  I started to go into my photography background mode of how should I shoot this, what story am I trying to tell, all sorts of things started rambling through my head.

After much back and forth, I asked if I could cover both the Seattle and Everett shows - and then film some footage in Everett before our interview since that would leave one day where I wasn't bothering the band (which was Saturday the 2nd, their day off).  All was agreed to and I was stoked!

On Friday night, September 1st, I ventured down from my home of Edmonds to Seattle, to the Highline.  I had been there once before, almost exactly a year prior, so I wasn't overly familiar with the place but I did know it. 

I parked and walked a few blocks to the venue.  The curtain was drawn where the stage and floor area was.  A band was sound checking as I sat at a table, passing the time with a beer.  I recognized that it was AL1CE.  They went through a portion of their third single, "Land of Confusion" (Genesis cover).  I grabbed my phone and just recorded the audio since I couldn't see anything with the curtain in the way.  This footage may surface in the band behind the scenes video.  They sounded good and my anticipation grew for their set!

Eventually the curtain was opened around 9pm and the event was officially underway.   I took a look at the merch table - even though AL1CE was on first, their merch was the only one fully set up and on point. 

9:30pm came and I saw the band gather themselves to start their performance.  Hitting the stage as a five piece, Tash (vocals), Sasha (vocals), Scott (guitar/keys), Gordon (bass), and Steve (drums) played an opening set of songs that just amazed me.  They jumped off the page so to speak meaning their seasoned professionalism just hit me in the face and I knew I was in for an inspirational set. 

How does one describe AL1CE?  Live they are a different beast than in the studio.  You could argue that every band is like that but what I mean is that the energy (Tash and Sasha never stop moving) and the variety of influences in their music coupled with the sheer talent of each member just creates this art that is uniquely their own.

It was dark in the Highline (no surprise if you've ever been there) but I did take some photos as well as one video.  These have already been released online via social media and You Tube.

I know I'm painting some broad strokes here but let me just say that their Seattle performance was a deal sealer.  I was all in after watching them perform.  It made me even more excited for the second performance in Everett two days later.

After the Seattle show, I introduced myself to Sasha by the merch table and we spoke about many different things, so many different things that I can't even recount all of them here.  I do remember we talked about the show of course, backgrounds of some of the band came up, self-proclaimed nerds, the concept of egoless art, do now instead of do later, etc. 

With teased hair and the trademark eye makeup that the band wears for live performances, I found Sasha full of energy, ideas, with a healthy dose of genuine appreciation for the folks that support the band.  I have a bit of tinnitus in my right ear so I wear earplugs most of the time at gigs, even when bands aren't playing.  The PA, or in this case the DJ, may be spinning music that is fine for others but too loud for me.  So, trying to have a conversation over a DJ, with earplugs partially put in my ears, is always difficult for me.  No offense to the DJ but I wish they weren't playing that night so I could have had a more meaningful conversation with the band.

I then met Tash.  Smiling, she gave me a hug and thanked me for coming.  It was nice to finally meet her after the back and forth communication leading up to the gigs.  I learned more about the band; their backgrounds, the tour, and I expressed my love of their set that night.  Tash was well-spoken, very warm and accepting, and much like Sasha, very artistic and had a very positive energy. 

I briefly met Scott, Gordon, and Steve as they had come back to join the ladies.  I asked for a quick photo with Tash and Sasha - which we took in the hallway of the bathrooms there at the Highline (better light).  Side note - Scott has been posting entries about the various bathrooms on this tour while Sasha has been posting tour diaries.  Check them both out on  their respective Facebook pages!

I looked through the merch table - bought the AL1CE CD, the limited box of Alice Underground (which is freaking awesome), and an AL1CE tour shirt.  I figured I could always purchase more up in Everett if funds allowed. 

I slipped out after waving goodbye to Tash and headed north to my home of Edmonds.

This really isn't a review is it?  Oh well - show report I suppose is more accurate.  Onward!

I spent part of Saturday trying to figure out what I wanted to ask in the interview in Everett.  Trust me - I had typed up a ton of questions covering all of their bands.  I went back and forth and decided to focus this interview as much as possible on AL1CE otherwise we would of ended up with a 3-hour interview.  This turned out to be the best move.  I checked my gear - charged batteries, etc. for Sunday's work.

I have three different cameras but only one that I've done my other video interviews with.  Let me state that I am not a videographer.  My editing leaves a lot to be desired.  I've learned from previous interviews that lighting and noise level are two things I have to be more aware of.  One interview was terrible as another band was playing in the background so you couldn't hear the audio.  A few others were in rooms or tour buses that were very dark.  I've since fixed these things (doing interviews when bands aren't playing, I have an external mic and lights now).  However, my last interview had some audio issues due to the wind and lack of a windscreen.  Since there was no green room at the pub in Everett, the wind reared its head again.  The interview still came out ok but it bugs me that I forgot my windscreen to reduce the residual noise from the wind blowing off the water there in Everett.  Live and learn I suppose. 

Where was I?  Oh yes - Sunday meant interview time and gig number two!

Load in for the band was around 4pm that day as they were headlining (first in, last out).  I drove north and as I neared the Anchor Pub, I saw a white van outside with gear on the ground.  I parked and saw Tash and Sasha.  Quick non-sweaty hugs and they were off to get some much-needed caffeine for the band.  During their departure the guys were loading in.  This was when I stated filming a few short behind the scenes clips.  Check out the video on my You Tube channel for the results.

Once the band seemed settled in, I asked when was a good time to do the interview.  Tash said now would be good so she grabbed Sasha and we headed outside.  As mentioned, the video interview with Tash and Sasha was done outside of the pub since there was no green room.  You can also view this on my You Tube channel.

The interview went well at the time.  I'm always critical of my interviews after the fact.  There were other questions I had meant to ask but forgot to.  When I'm solo, I don't keep a note card (or my phone notes) out to see my topics.  When I have an assistant, then it's usually on my lap or out of camera view.  In any event, after the interview, I spoke to Steve and Gordon about many things as they were both sitting outside.  Steve was studying for his exam (he works as an ER doctor (?!) yes, you read that right) while Gordon was reading a book about ancient civilizations that he spoke to me at length about.  I wish I had gotten this on video but there was a car with their engine running behind me.  I didn't think the video would be good with that noise on the audio track so I never had my camera on.  Funny side note is the car was actually the bands van as the ladies were getting ready for the show.  I had spoken to Scott earlier inside the pub as well. 

I tried to stay out of the way as I didn't want to be intrusive.  I really enjoyed my time listening to all of the band members, what they had to say, their unique takes on many different topics, not just music.  This is where the impact of the band as a whole started to seriously take shape for me. 

In the six years of Eclectic Arts, I haven't really spent what I would consider actual time with a band, getting to know them and what they're about.  There's always what's presented to the fans but then there's those other aspects of the band off stage, when they're amongst each other, what they talk about, and personalities that surface, etc.

AL1CE showed that they are not only great artists, but amazing people!  A band that is doing what they love, with people they love and respect.  I was very fortunate to catch a glimpse of this beautiful energy.  It's such a rare thing to find.  I think in some ways the bands generosity made me question many things in my own life.  How powerful is that, folks?  Very.

The Everett show itself was even better than the Seattle show.  AL1CE themselves were stellar - that's a given.  This time the audience, whether fans, friends, or strangers with a bit of alcohol in them, helped raise the energy that was missing from Friday's show. 

The set was also longer (one hour on Sunday compared to 30 minutes or so on Friday) so I got to hear additional songs like "She" and "Looking Glass".  A friend of mine made it out for their set too so I was very glad and thankful he could witness AL1CE with me.

Dancing throughout their set, Tash and Sasha sang their hearts out.  There is such a uniquely positive vibe from them (the whole band, really) when they're on stage - it's amazing to watch. 

Let me not forget Scott, Gordon, and Steve.  I'm a guitar player so I'm always keenly interested in what the guitarist in any band is doing.  Not in a "let me watch them screw up" sort of way - more like "dang look at that" sort of way. 

Scott split duties between playing his PRS electric and keys during the set with background vocals as well.  I loved hearing him when there were solos - it gave him an opportunity to shine.  And shine he did.

Gordon - bassist - alternated between pick and fingers, along with other electro bass enhancements at his feet.  Always playing what's right for the song - from simple eighth notes - to chords - to melodies high on the fretboard, Gordon added the "oomph" to the bands sound in all the right places.

Steve - drummer/percussion - the backbeat was not kept at a simple 4/4.  I enjoy watching drummers add in creative ways to be the foundation of a song while keeping things different.  The groove is definitely there but Steve at times goes for the road less traveled approach to playing on his DW kit.  It adds an element to AL1CE that brings a richness to their sound.  Great stuff!

After their set, much like déjà vu, I spoke to Sasha again.  I knew I needed, no scratch that, I wanted to support this band more so I sprung for two more CD's to complete music from all four bands, an older AL1CE shirt, and a signed drumhead (that Sasha personalized for me at my request). 

My phone was on its last bit of charge, so I got another photo with Sasha and Tash.  I then went in search of the guys - and there was always one of them missing.  Eventually all three were together so we joined the ladies for a full group photo. 

The band thanked me, Sasha hugged me (and apologized if her leather coat smelled - it didn't Sasha - you were fine), Steve thanked me from the stage and came down and gave me a hug, and Gordon asked for my opinion on some new BASHROCK tracks he's getting ready (I'm getting to those next Gordon, I promise).  I thanked the promoter as he was outside and walked away from the Anchor Pub. 

This concluded my two-event night with AL1CE.

I already wrote about on social media how my experience with AL1CE stayed with me that night after the Everett gig and subsequent days as well.  I wasn't expecting that at all.  I know that during parts of the evening in Everett my energy was starting to wane.  Looking back now I can point to the bands energy and this unique vibe that I was around that really seeped deep into my psyche and caused me to think about my own art, my own creativity, and my own life.  That's damn powerful stuff.  Artistic journey or not, AL1CE took me in and welcomed me into their world.  While it was only a matter of hours each day, it felt like much longer. 

It's a beautiful thing when art and artists can inspire, provoke, and encourage another artist's purpose and vision.  It's even more remarkable when the same artists can be as impactful as human beings.

My life has been changed because of the band known as Al1CE.  I don't know how many times I can say thank you but I'll say it again - thank you.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Please continue to create and inspire.  The world needs more people like you.  And, I, for one, will always be in your corner - at the ready - to join you in all of your future projects and endeavors. 

With love, respect, and admiration,

Mark Sugiyama

Eclectic Arts

Set Lists:


End of Times
Waiting for You
Wide Awake
Locked Within
Land of Confusion (Genesis Cover)


End of Times
Waiting for You
Major Tom
Wide Awake
Looking Glass
Locked Within
Land of Confusion (Genesis Cover)

INTERVIEW with Tash and Sasha!

 Behind the Scenes with AL1CE!

 "Land of Confusion" LIVE in Everett!

"Looking Glass" LIVE in Everett!

"Land of Confusion" LIVE in Seattle!

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