Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Craft Beer Did You Say? BELGIAN FEST Review! 1/27/18

The 9th Annual Belgian Fest

Fisher Pavilion - Seattle Center

Seattle, WA



The 9th Annual Belgian Fest took place this past Saturday at the Fisher Pavilion at the Seattle Center. Split into two sessions the event was the Washington Beer kick off festival for 2018.

I attended the first session (which was sold out). As I arrived at the Fisher Pavilion, the normal lines out the door and the white noise from inside the venue welcomed me to another Washington beer festival.

I've been to many beer festivals but this was my first time attending Belgian Fest. I know initially when the festival first started I was hesitant, as I didn't believe many brewers could brew what I would consider true Belgian beers. The ones I had had at different breweries and festivals, while not bad, weren't necessarily hitting the mark for Belgian beers.

Much time has passed - well nine years - and I was very excited to see what the Washington brewers had to show me on Saturday.

Instead of going for the beers from the booklet that stood out to me, I decided to try and sample beers from a few of the breweries that I had not been to before or only once.

I knew Farmstrong was putting out good beer up north so I decided to give them my first token. It was a smart decision. The Goldenshine barrel-aged Golden Ale was a very complex yet refreshing beer. I actually enjoyed it enough that I was considering going back for another round but decided to use my tokens at other breweries. Great beer guys!

I tried a few tripels from Illuminati and Optimism. Both were really well done beers, too. Now some people can drink Belgians all day - well, maybe not all day, but close to it. I like to drink Belgians with food or as a beer at night to finish the day. Both of the tripels I had would have served either purpose if I were at home. Good stuff.

Oh how I love a good Belgian quadruple. I had a great beer from Flying Lion two years ago at the Washington Brewers Fest (I believe it was the yam or sweet potato porter) so I decided to go quad with them on Saturday. Whoa - it was a big beer like it should be. Rich and complex, with flavors of dark fruits throughout, I would love to see that beer bottled and aged for a bit.

I also stopped by old friend Dirty Bucket to try their Dirty Confessions quad. Another beer that I would like to try aged. I know Steve and Amy are bottling it so I may have to grab one at some point and cellar that sucker.

I stayed away from the sours on Saturday. I love a good sour but I wasn't feeling the sours for whatever reason. Next year.

I had a dubbel from Rooftop Brewing that was a nice introduction to their brewery.

It is rare that I can go to a beer festival and not hit a dud or even a partial dud from at least one brewery. Not this go around. All the samples I had were either good or great. That's saying something. Belgian Fest proved that we have some skilled brewers in Washington that know how to handle a Belgian beer correctly.

I would love to see someone locally tackle the Rochefort lineup (6, 8, 10). Maybe call it the 206, 208, 210 or something similar. Who has the skill out there?

Miscellaneous notes from the festival: Fisher Pavilion gets cramped in there. They also blocked off the staircases on either end so folks couldn't sit down on the steps like I'm used to doing (maybe it was a safety issue).

I think the Exhibition Center is bigger than Fisher Pavilion, or at least seems like it. If it is, and the money makes sense, I would love to see the Belgian Fest move there next year to give everyone more space.

Oh - and ditch the glasses please. I said this in my Winter Brew Festival review and I'll say it again here. The "ohhhhhh's" when a hipster (or anyone) drops their glass is beyond played out - not to mention messy. Beer snobs like myself can get our beer in glass at home and at our favorite breweries and bottle shops. At a festival, I used to like the glass idea as it fit the craft beer geek mentality. All these years later I'm more than fine with plastic tasters. Sue me.

Overall - another fine time showcasing why Washington breweries are some of the best in the world. A great time was had by all!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Special Thanks: Matt for the credentials - I really appreciate it!

Friday, January 26, 2018

MESHUGGAH Tears Up The West Coast! Seattle Gig Review - 1/24/18


Code Orange


Showbox at The Market
Seattle, WA


The show Wednesday on Meshuggah's short run of west coast dates before departing for the ocean views aboard the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise was epically fucking brutal.

Normally I don't like to use that word as it's been so over used to describe death metal shows or heavy bands in general but that's the word that comes to mind when I think about last night's show.

The beauty of the lineup was that they were all unique in their own way yet equally - yeah - brutal.

Toothgrinder hit the stage first for a 30-minute set of high-energy music. If you want to get the crowd going, especially as the opening act, dive into the audience like Toothgrinder did before the first song is played. I've never seen that at a show. It was a great way to make people pay attention to you - I know I did.

The five piece played their instruments well. They've been grinding it out on the road and it shows. Their brand of music - I'm not going to try to genre-base it - got the energy way up and that just set the stage for the next act.

Code Orange obliterated the Showbox. Hardcore as a foundation with other elements of metal and industrial mixed in, Code Orange let loose on stage like it was their last performance ever. Hardcore kicks, thrashing about, and playing with pin-drop precision, the pit really got going during their set with many a mosher carried over the barricade up front. Their 40-minute set was pure fire. How do you top that performance?

You send the headliner Meshuggah up to seal the deal.

The Swedes walked onto a familiar stage, complete with a high tech light show that just enhanced their performance (maybe not for the photographers in the pit but that's not who the light show is for). Back lit with streams of light piercing the audience, Meshuggah left no doubt who was the top dog at this concert.

Many more surfers ended up over the barricade while the band played a wide variety of tunes from their vast catalog. By the end of the show, everyone in the crowd was deliriously happy and sweaty as all get out.

Like I said, it was one Hell of a brutal concert. No weak links among any of the three touring bands. The show was sold out in advance - deservedly so. Everyone got what they paid for. If you didn't, you fucked up.


Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Special Thanks: Kristin for the credentials as well as Katy for the credentials - I really appreciate it!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

G3 Kicks Off In Seattle! Gig Review! 1/11/18


Joe Satriani
John Petrucci
Phil Collen

Moore Theater
Seattle, WA


The old saying is that time flies. When you're my age, it really does. I last saw Phil Collen (of Def Leppard fame) in 1983! I saw Joe Satriani on the G3 tour but it was in 2003 - fifteen years ago! John Petrucci (Dream Theater) I've definitely known about but have never witnessed live.

The 2018 version of G3 kicked off in Seattle, WA on Thursday night at the Moore Theater. A packed house of musician types, older musician types, and folks that just love to hear guitar, we got an amazing set of guitarists to enjoy this year.

Phil Collen started the evening at 7pm. Sporting his signature Jackson guitar model and Blackstar amps, Phil played a set of rock instrumentals and blues based songs complete with guest vocals. He kept things "solo" as it were - no Def Leppard covers Thursday night. Phil did the right thing by being himself and playing guitar his way, in his style. Mr. Collen went over extremely well with the Seattle crowd.

Up next - John Petrucci had an intro tape play as a video of images played in the background. John came out and his trio blasted into a set that had me mesmerized. Starting with the theme from the Wonder Woman film and then, "Jaws Of Life", John wailed away on his signature Music Man model guitar.  As I mentioned before, I've always known about John and his work with Dream Theater but I had never seen him or the band live. Watching him effortlessly play some insane guitar licks, I was just blown away by his playing. Looking like he belongs in the northwest with a long beard and decked out in all black, John went from dark and progressive, to uplifting and melodic, with everything in between. An incredible set from John - who is a G3 veteran by the way.

Lastly, the one and only Joe Satriani came out to massive applause. Having started the G3 concept in 1996, the amount of years that have passed really didn't make a difference. Joe and his band ripped into new and old songs. With his new album, "What Happens Next" having just come out on Friday the 12th, Joe aired a few tunes from it as well as old favorites - mainly pulling from, "Surfing With the Alien" (four tunes).

Much like Phil and John before him, Joe played effortlessly and with great joy. The ever present Ibanez signature models being rotated throughout the set.  He's always been a songwriting guitarist in my book. His melodies are basically vocal lines over song structures. You don't have to love guitar shredding to love Joe's music. You could not tell this was the first night of the tour as Joe played like he'd been on tour for months.

As customary, at the end of the show all three shredders came out to jam three tunes. "Highway Star", "Superstition", and "I'm Going Down" were the three this tour. Everyone in the Moore Theater stood on their feet and went nuts as each guitarist took turns soloing during all three songs.

At the end of the evening, I personally felt great - having just witnessed three amazing musicians doing what they do best. As I mentioned before, Seattle was the kick off so when the G3 tour hits your town, do not pass it up. It is a fantastic time!


Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Special Thanks: Melissa for the credentials - I really appreciate it!