Friday, July 29, 2022

THE REEF: STALKED Film Review July 29, 2022 Eclectic Arts


RLJE Films/Shudder
Reviewed: 7/29/2022
Rating: 3.5 / 5

In Theaters, VOD/Digital and Streaming on Shudder: July 29, 2022


The new film, “The Reef: Stalked” is a shark film. I have been a sucker for most shark films ever since I saw “Jaws” back in the 70’s. Much like the horror genre, any time a shark film opportunity comes my way I’m always game to take a look.

The film is set in Australia where a large number of real life great white shark sightings abound. The film starts off with a very flimsy set up that affects the main character’s psyche. I am in no way making light of the issue at hand in general, just the use of it in the storyline of the film.

She along with her sister and two friends are out in kayaks when one of them is attacked by a shark. That’s the end of the spoilers here.

Much like a monster movie, the shark is always the star of the show in these films. I’m happy to report that the filmmakers did a good job editing actual footage of sharks and what looked like CGI’d beasts. The editing is so quick as the attacks happen that one can’t really distinguish between what’s real and what isn’t.


My gripe is that since the shark footage worked so well, I wish they would have used more of it.

The characters are forgettable but the shark scenes make up for it. “The Reef: Stalked” delivers in some ways while it could have delivered much more in other ways.

An entertaining popcorn flick if you enjoy shark films.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here


Monday, July 25, 2022

MAMMA MIA Village Theater Everett July 23, 2022 Eclectic Arts


(Trina Mills* as Tanya, Varinique “V” Davis as Sophie Sheridan, Lisa Estridge* as Donna Sheridan, and Be Russell* as Rosie in Village Theatre’s Mamma Mia! Photo by Gabriel Corey.)

Directed by Faith Bennett Russell

Music and Lyrics by
Benny Andersson
Björn Ulvaeus
and some songs with Stig Anderson

Book by Catherine Johnson

Originally Conceived by Judy Craymer

Mamma Mia! was originally produced in London by Judy Craymer, Richard East and Björn Ulvaeus for Littlestar in Association with Universal.

Village Theatre
Everett, WA

Review: 8pm Performance on July 23, 2022

I have never seen any production of “Mamma Mia”, including the two popular films. I wanted to get that out of the way right from the top. I went into this show completely cold on Saturday night up in Everett, WA.

I’ve heard many wonderful things about this show over the years so I was definitely looking forward to seeing what all the fuss was about.

It’s not lost on me that the infectious ABBA songs are the foundation for this musical. Without them, you really don’t have much of a show. I’m sure some would argue the story can stand on its own but being a musician, the songs in this musical are paramount.

Which leads me to if you like the music, you’ll like the musical here. I know I did.

The reimagining of the show had zero impact on me as I had nothing to compare it to (see opening statement). However, the intentional use of BIPOC by director Faith Bennett Russell worked so very well here. I can only guess that there were subtle differences with the story or perhaps the impact thereof by changing a few things in this interpretation but it certainly still made for a grand time.

(Lisa Estridge* as Donna Sheridan with the cast in Village Theatre’s Mamma Mia! Photo by Gabriel Corey.)

I loved seeing Nathaniel Tenenbaum again in the role of Bill Austin, one of Sophie’s three potential dads. Lisa Estridge as Donna Sheridan was simply amazing, especially with the show stopping number, “The Winner Takes It All”.

The near capacity crowd spoke volumes about the popularity of this musical and rightfully so. It is a feel good, have fun with your friends and family kind of show. If you don’t like having fun, you may not like this show. You know those people, we all do. They’re the ones that sit when others stand up and clap along and/or dance at a show. They’re the ones that don’t even have the courtesy to applaud the performance at the curtain call. This show isn’t for those people.

But, it’s for all the others, the majority, that want to have a great time. And a great time was had by all (minus a few curmudgeons) on Saturday night.

“Mamma Mia” runs through August 7th. Limited tickets are available here:  TICKETS!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

AL1CE - "What Have They Done To Me?" Tour Report July 20, 2022 Eclectic Arts

AL1CE - “What Have They Done To Me?” (working title)
Written - July 19, 2022 (11 pages)
Written - July 20, 2022

Concert Dates:

July 1, 2022 - Seattle, WA
July 2, 2022 - Kelso, WA
July 7, 2022 - Yakima, WA

* * *

“Uh, Mark. Are you okay?”

I slowly gazed over at my co-worker who entered the kitchen where I was taking a break. “Yeah,” I said sleepily. “Why do you ask?”

“I don’t know. You looked lost or something,” she said.

I tried to laugh it off. “That’s my normal look,” I said with a small smile.

She laughed politely and left the kitchen.

* * *

This constant state of haziness, daydreameritis, or whatever you want to call it, has been an ongoing issue since the third (?!) concert I saw by AL1CE on July 7th. And trust me - it was an issue after each concert I saw by AL1CE on July 1st and July 2nd as well.

Even as I sit here on the evening of July 19th typing this, I’m still restless with memories, feelings and emotions, creative ideas, and just a plethora of things I can’t even possibly describe accurately right now.

I purposely stayed away from writing anything until I had more than a week between me and the last AL1CE concert. Part of that thinking was that I wasn’t even sure I wanted to write something about these past few weeks. Part of me thought I should just keep it to myself and leave it at that. But another part of me (clearly the part that won out since here I am writing this) wanted to do my best to capture this moment in time as it was a momentous time for me.

BTW - hi - my name is Mark. I run a freelance media outlet called Eclectic Arts from Seattle, WA (Eclectic Arts Media on Instagram).

For those new fans (“Mad Hatters”), I can’t possibly type out what the Inside Out Virtual Tour with AL1CE was like in 2020. I have journal links and such online that you can read if you want to see where my head was at at the time. All I can say is that in a nutshell - I was asked to open their virtual tour by conducting interviews with guests of my choosing (with a few friends of the band as guests as well). I thought I was in and out for Chapter 1 (the first leg of the tour) which ended on June 15th, 2020. I swear on my grandparents graves that I thought once we finished the show on the 15th, I was done. The band constantly evolves. They mentioned they had another leg or two coming up so the fans would have something to look forward to. I figured they were going to change the format, spread the artistic wealth (they have a huge circle of crazily artistic friends) to do something else to open the shows, etc. with these future Chapters and that my involvement was over.

This lasted less than 24 hours.

After thanking a few members on a thread of communication, I said something to the effect that if they ever needed me for anything else in the future, to let me know. If memory serves Sasha said, “well since you brought it up ….” And then folks my renewed involvement with the virtual tour continued with the Summer Interim Shows which bled right into Chapter 2. And then roughly a two month break before Chapter 3 would commence in October. And I was there for all of it.

What does this have to do with the present?


I believe it was Tash that messaged me once they were booked for the Mechanismus Festival: Stronghold here in Seattle, WA. I looked at the date, July 1st, and realized that was over the holiday weekend. My hasty response was that I would be there unless I was out of town - or something uncalled for like that. I mean, really, where am I going over the holiday weekend? At the time, nowhere. Well….I’ll get to that further into this report.

Once the month of June came, I knew damn well where I was going to be on July 1st. I honestly think my initial reply to Tash was coming from a place of overwhelming insecurity. Or perhaps unbelievability. “AL1CE in Seattle? In-person? Get outta here.” That sorta thing. But, yeah, I was getting more and more anxious to see them all in the flesh.

Please keep in mind that we hadn't seen each other in-person since 2017! So it had been nearly five long years.

There was a reunion of sorts beforehand - virtually - when they opened up the wayback machine and conducted a new livestream just like it was 2020 all over again - on June 18th, 2022. I opened up that show, too. But, instead of me interviewing a guest of my choosing, the old discussed idea of the band interviewing me came to fruition. This was initially discussed on the virtual tour in 2020 around Chapter 2 or definitely by Chapter 3.

Side note: I realized that for you hardcore fans - I never did schedule the 1:1 interviews with Sasha or Tash after Chapter 3. I interviewed Steve, Scott, and Gordon during Chapter 3. Carl I interviewed on my own in early 2021. Originally, they were all going to be done during Chapter 3 but a request was made to do one of them after the tour was over and then the other got moved to after the tour as well by me to accommodate other guests I had (over)booked.

Sasha. Tash. If you’re reading this - I would LOVE to do your 1:1 interviews. Ping me, please.

Still with me?

The virtual tour connected me with the band that quite frankly I never could have expected. I likened it to old war buddies. Sasha said it much, much better in Yakima in-person but I won’t repeat that here.

So, after the virtual reunion, the countdown was on for the in-person reunion which was just under two weeks away.

I contacted a good number of the local artists that were a part of the interviews I did on the 2020 virtual tour about AL1CE coming to town to perform. Honestly, which isn’t the band's fault at all, the festival price kept some from attending. A come hang out and see the band for $20 pitch is a far easier sell than $85 which was the festival one-day price tag. But two friends/guests wanted to be there, regardless, which I was super happy about.

Friday July 1st
Seattle, WA

I went straight from my Muggle job to Seattle. I grabbed something to eat and then looked for free parking downtown. I found a spot kind of far away, hoofed my way over to The Crocodile (the venue), and ventured inside. I had not been to the new Crocodile (it is a legendary venue that lost its lease in the original location and reopened in December 2021 in the new location) so I meandered around getting the lay of the land. I believe I entered around 6:30pm or so.

I don’t recall who was on the stage but I didn’t stay long. I also didn’t look around at the merch tables much, either. I ended up outside just so I could get some air and then I noticed the White Rabbit on the street (the trailer was attached so it was hard to mistake). I smiled to myself and then eventually went back inside.

This part is a little hazy to me but I don’t remember who I saw first on stage. I just remember walking to stage right and I believe the guys were getting their gear repositioned for their set at 7:30pm. I do remember Sasha also getting her mic stand height to her liking and going back and forth from the stage.

Once in position, they started earlier than expected. Luckily, I had read the night before that the whole festival was running ahead of schedule so I made a mental note of that and got inside when I did - which I was grateful for.

As the light show started, and the opening strains of “End of Days” started up, I honestly couldn’t believe that they were finally here. I actually said that to myself a few times during their set.

Again, I may have this memory out of order but at some point, I do remember Sasha noticing me in the crowd. Our eyes locked, big hekkin smiles on both our faces, a wink from her, and then I recall something similar when Tash came toward stage right, too - big, big smiles. That acknowledgment of each other was a glorious feeling!

30 minutes and the set was over. It was a freaking blur. I remember I was going to try to film at least one song properly but that didn’t happen. I got a few quick things on my phone but at the same time - let’s be honest here - I was processing. A lot. It all didn’t hit me until later in the evening. I brought my pocket camera to take a few photos but I wanted to experience the show/the band first and foremost.

After their set, I bumped into my two friends from Paper Nova - Christiana and John. I hadn’t seen them since December of 2021 so we ended up in the front bar (away from the stage area) catching up. I knew there were a handful of other acts before System Syn (with Tash, and Scott and Steve) took the stage so there was time. Also, I have poor hearing. I will have my plugs in my ears most of the time if there is a band or DJ playing. And there were DJ’s inbetween every act so trying to have any sort of meaningful conversation was really difficult. For me at least. So going out to the bar instead of looking for AL1CE made sense at the time. And even so, I was still yelling over the noise to be heard by John and Christiana.

Eventually the three of us left the bar and entered the stage area one band before System Syn came on (I think). I ran into Scott in the crowd and we hugged. He was on his way to get ready for the System Syn set. Manning the merch table was Steve and Carl. Once Steve saw me, he immediately came from around the table and gave me a strong hug. We talked a bit and it was just surreal to be honest. Even as I type this, that moment almost felt like it didn’t happen. Carl came up as well and reached down to hug me. I knew Carl was tall from our interview we did but to meet him in person I got the full tall-ness of Carl which was great.

At some point Steve had to go get ready for the System Syn set and I think Carl was manning the table.

I don’t know when this happened exactly but Christiana nudged me and said, “there’s Sasha!” She was manning the merch table. I told her to go over and say hi which she and John did. I stayed back until they were done.

And then I went over.

All I can say is that we had a moment. An "over-the-table-because-she-couldn’t-leave-the-table" huge hug, long embrace, and then we held hands and stared at each other. I don’t even know what we said to each other but like I said - we had a moment.

And unbeknownst to me, Christiana took quick phone photos while this moment was happening - which in hindsight I’m really grateful for because it was as real as real gets.

Whew - I’m not going to lie. I teared up. Why I didn’t break down and full blown ugly cry I’ll never know because, trust me, the overwhelming emotion was there when we reunited. And folks let me tell you - as emotional as I knew this reunion would be with all the band members - I didn’t think it would be this emotional. But it sure was. Damn, it sure was.

At some point I think fans needed Sasha’s attention back at the table so we parted but I said I would be back after System Syn’s set.

Oh - something I forgot. Sasha asked me if I was going to be back tomorrow. I was a little confused by this. I think I asked for clarification like, “here - at the festival?” Or did she mean the next WA state gig on Saturday night. She said something about not wanting to put me on the spot (at least that’s what I think she said - again, loud music and my poor hearing equals difficult communication). And she wasn’t putting me on the spot. I said I was only here for tonight, Friday.

Famous last words, apparently.

My friends and I watched System Syn’s set (most of it) and then went outside to get some air. I think. Again, it’s all hazy.

I just know that after their set I eventually saw Tash behind the table with Sasha. Tash came around the table and gave me a long hug and we said something to each other (and I don’t really remember what - again squishy brain to quote someone we all know). Sasha came up and wanted to give me a proper hug sans table this time so we hugged tight and proper.

At some point I think I asked Tash where Gordon was and she went back to get him. We needed a group photo of this reunion. I saw Gordon and more hugs.

We got the group together for a photo when another fan (who’s a Mad Hatter in the FB group I later found out - hi there) was in the shot. I was confused (and had a few drinks in me as well so that added to my confusion) so I told Christiana not to take the photo yet. Eventually, I got out of the shot, the other photo was taken, and then I stepped back in and we got the shot of us all together.

For those around us - it was just a candid photo. But for me at least - and I think the band, too - it was a full circle moment of all we had been through together and here we finally were - together again in person.

Whew - typing all of this in one sitting is bringing back all of these feelings from that night (that have been percolating in my system for the last three weeks) to the forefront again.

My friends needed to leave and at some point so did I. I remember walking back to my car in a freaking daze. I mean you could have poked me with a hot iron rod and I wouldn’t have felt a damn thing.

What an evening! What a reunion! I was overwhelmed with every emotion you can think of and I eventually got home after 2am. I was way too wired to sleep so I took a look at the photos Christiana had sent me. I smiled like a kid on Christmas morning as I looked at them and re-lived what had just happened and then I looked at the AL1CE tour itinerary photo.

I had looked at it more than once prior to July 1st. For whatever reason I got my K cities mixed up. I thought they were playing Kennewick which is in the tri cities area (heading toward the SE corner of WA state - further than central WA but not quite eastern WA state). I knew I wasn’t driving all the way over there the first time I saw it. Or thought I saw it.

I was sitting in my chair and Google’d Kelso, WA - where Saturday’s show actually was. To my surprise it was due south of Seattle about 2 ½ hours away. That’s when the light bulb went off over my head. Oh no. Here we go. “Am I really going to drive to Kelso on Saturday afternoon,” I remember thinking to myself. Keep in mind AL1CE adrenalin was rushing through my veins so this was going to be a somewhat easy decision. I told myself to go to sleep, get your head straight, and then make a more reasonable decision on Saturday once I’m well rested.

I slept for two hours. No joke.

I woke up wired still. I decided to edit the pocket camera photos I took and do a few other things I needed to do. I also decided that if I was going to go, I needed to be on the road by 3pm just to be safe.

I also decided I needed more sleep otherwise I might be a hazard on the road waiting to happen. Luckily I fell asleep for an hour (so three hours total) and woke up at 2:30pm.

“Well, are you going?” I said to myself. I was thinking about quite a few things before I made my decision.

I changed into some “concert” clothes and headed out the door. After getting some money and gas, off I was going to freaking Kelso, WA.

Saturday July 2nd
Kelso, WA

Side note: I’ve always had what I consider a legitimate excuse for not driving long distances to shows or for anything, really. I had an old, unreliable car. Finances are wrapped up somewhere in there closely, too. But my car was the main reason. Well, I no longer have that car. Whether the new old car I drive now (it’s also old - a 1996) would hold up, only time would tell.

The drive down was fine. I was still wired. I was listening to the “As Above” CD all the way down to Kelso. But, luckily, getting to the town and the club wasn’t too hard, even for someone directionally challenged like me (yes, even with GPS I manage to only get near my destinations much of the time).

Kelso is a smaller town in WA. Not tiny but it has that smaller town feel to it. I’ve never been there. Hell, I hadn’t driven to a concert more than two hours away since 2001. Now, I have been to a concert more than two hours away more recently than that but I wasn’t driving - my friends were. Again, an untrustworthy car at the time.

I saw locals wandering into the club. I wandered in kinda early. A $5 cover charge the guy barked at me. I gave him the fiver and then wandered around. I saw Carl setting up the merch and the guys getting the instruments and gear ready to be put on the stage when it was their set time (they played second on a three band bill).

I went looking for a bathroom which was behind the merch table area. Carl spotted me and said incredulously, “Mark?!” I smiled and went back around to where he was and we hugged. “I’m so glad you’re here”. I told him I honestly had zero intentions of coming down here until after the Seattle reunion happened. This is one hundred percent true. That’s why I told Sasha I was only going to be there on Friday. I had no plans to drive to “Kennewick” (aka Kelso) WA.

But, some part of me decided to go against what I’ve done for over twenty years which is to do something spontaneous and more importantly to go support my band in a town that is off the beaten path (sorry Kelso folks but it’s true) - regardless of how far away it was. And it was the best decision I could have ever made.

Scott came up next and hugged me and was just as shocked as Carl was that I had made the drive down there. Gordon then came over and hugged me and said something really sweet to me. I actually told others at my Muggle job about what he said on Tuesday the 5th. But, I won’t repeat it here. Again, some moments are private.

I grabbed a drink at the bar, stood near the railing, and watched Steve set up his drums on the side of the floor. I thought since the other guys saw me and talked to me that Steve knew I was there. I must have watched him for a good 5/10 minutes before I realized he didn’t know I was there. So I casually said,”how’s it goin’ Steve?” He looked up and was like, “Mark???!!!” He came around the bar side and gave me a hug and we talked a bit.

Sasha and Tash were in the back getting ready. At some point someone in the band told me that they had texted them that I was there. Maybe Carl told me that? Not sure but in any event - they were there. I was there. And Kelso was in for a fucking treat!

Sasha came out and hugged me by the table I was standing by. She was getting ready to cook for the band (if memory serves) but was so happy to see me there. I didn’t see Tash until it was stage time.

The band had played this club before they told me. It’s a metal horror themed bar. Ever watch the show “Bar Rescue” with Jon Taffer? It reminded me of a bar that would be on that show. But I love metal and I love horror so it worked for me. And the vibe was fine - locals were cool - just looking to check out some live music on a Saturday night on a holiday weekend, really.

Due to the nature of the club, and the other bands being metal bands on the bill, AL1CE “heavied” up the set-list, rightfully so. What was cool for me was that I got a longer set with a few songs I didn’t hear the night before in Seattle. I was hoping for “Love Is Forever” but I knew it wouldn’t be in this set once I saw what kind of bar it was.

Having just seen them on a large stage (the largest I’ve ever seen them on) the night before, this show was much more intimate. They blew the locals away. When a professional band comes to town, and is sandwiched between two local acts, and they bring their own show with them (such as lights and sound), you’re going to see the difference. No offense to the local bands. I was glad that some of the locals got way into their set, especially the ladies, dancing up a storm. I watched the whole thing from stage-right again - a habit of mine, apparently.

After their set, the guys were loading out as they do, and the gals were at the merch table. I swear I must have stood there on the side for a good 30 minutes just observing how the night went. Well, the locals bought merch. It was really heartwarming to see. Kudos to Kelso for standing up and showing your appreciation with money! It could have been one of those “can I get a selfie” crowds that only want something for social media but, nope, money was spent that night by the folks in Kelso. A buzzed local talked to me about how he “didn’t expect that” when AL1CE took the stage. He loved them and started telling me about how they reminded him of this vast array of other bands. I told them they are uniquely themselves with a wide range of influences. He nodded in agreement and ventured over to make a purchase from the table.

Once the crowd died down, I got a chance to talk with both Sasha and Tash separately. Not long conversations but conversations nonetheless. Either the next band was sound checking or they were blasting something over the PA, I don’t remember which. But, my pet peeve of yelling over the noise made for a less than ideal situation for conversation. I was also actually getting a little tired by this time - even though I was still wired - a very weird combination.  I do remember Sasha saying something to me that I thought I heard correctly but I wasn't sure so I didn't say something back.  But, if you're reading this, I feel the same way, Sasha.

I said my goodbyes to both of them and then went to find the guys to do the same, who were out back breaking the gear down.

We talked a bit out there - all four of them - before Carl got called back to the merch table. I talked with Scott, Gordon, and Steve a little longer. It was nice to be able to hear them. A spark of another future idea happened during that conversation as well. What exactly I won’t divulge here. I hugged all of them and then said my goodbyes.

I walked back to my car, kind of a slow walk. Thank you Kelso. Thank you AL1CE. I was letting the past two nights sink in before I started the drive back to Seattle - knowing these memories would need to last me until most likely next year.

Or so I thought.

A lot went through my mind as I drove back to Seattle from Kelso. A lot went through my mind on Sunday the 3rd and Monday the 4th of July as well. You would think that I would have crashed and burned and slept for 12 hours or something but that didn’t happen.

Instead, I found myself replaying many of the moments over in my head, but also the longer journey back to 2017 where it all started. I tend to think too much so my brain was in overdrive and it really never let up that entire weekend.

I was eyeing a show on Sunday night to go see but once my friend bailed, I decided to bail too. And honestly my attention would have been divided - having AL1CE on the brain while other bands performed. It was the right call.

Once I returned to my Muggle job on Tuesday, the obligatory “how was your fourth or how was your weekend” questions came up. I told people about Friday and Saturday and I’m not exaggerating - more than a handful of people said, “you drove all the way to Kelso to see a band?” I actually felt a little better about my “non long distance driving habits for shows” after hearing that. Most of the people thought I was crazy but they also know how passionate I am about artistic things, my media work, etc. so it wasn’t necessarily a surprise. It certainly was a surprise to me as I recounted the story a handful of times.

I forgot to mention that I had a photoshoot to do on Sunday the 3rd. The model knows me well and I was gushing about the AL1CE experiences when a lightbulb went off over my head. Needless to say, I have some work to do. Sasha knows the rough idea of what I’ll be creating with the model but I’m looking forward to making this challenge a reality soon. But I digress.

Thursday July 7th
Yakima, WA

I saw that the band was playing Yakima, WA on Thursday the 7th and Portland, OR on Friday the 8th. There was a part of me that was toying with the idea of going to both shows. But that meant missing work - something I couldn’t really afford to do as I had missed a lot due to COVID a few months prior. But I’m not going to lie - the thought of just calling in “sick” crossed my mind more than a few times (the old angel on one shoulder, devil on the other).

So, I decided I would do what I did on Saturday - let it become another game time decision. I honestly felt that by the time Thursday rolled around, I would have been dead tired, gotten this whole notion of traveling out of my system, and just let the two shows I did see be enough for me.

And in full transparency - if I was going to travel to one of the two shows/cities - I felt supporting them in Yakima would be a better fit than Portland (as they would be playing there with people that follow their music, the goth/alt scene, etc). Yakima would be similar to Kelso, really. Locals would show up and that’s probably about it.

So, on Wednesday night, I packed up some stuff to take to my Muggle job with me on Thursday (change of clothes, etc) so if I did decide to drive to freaking Yakima, WA I could do so straight after work was over.

Well, you already know the answer to this. 

I left my Muggle job and went straight to the freeway where I sat for a while. Once I got to I-90 things opened up and I was on my way to Yakima - a town I hadn’t been to since college. It’s about less than a three hour drive to get there, depending on traffic.

I toodled along, going up and over the mountain pass, and then could feel the warmth as the other side of the pass is always warmer. I pulled into Yakima and decided to get gas for the trip back. I went to college not far from Yakima so I was familiar with the town even though it had been years since I set foot in it.

I eventually found the club in an industrial part of Yakima (not far from the jail). To me it was hot outside. It really wasn’t that bad but when I came from 70 degree weather to mid/upper 80’s, it was noticeably warmer.

I didn’t know where the front of this club was but I saw the sign and an open sign on the door so I figured this must be the entrance. I could hear the band soundchecking (and I saw White Rabbit so I knew I was in the right place).

I fully expected to be walking in the front of this club and that I would see the band in the back of it soundchecking. Nope. I walked in and a few steps in I was behind Steve’s drum kit. They had just finished soundchecking when they saw me.

“Mark!!!” Sasha screamed as she came running around the stage area/bathrooms and hugged me. Tash immediately behind her. Then everyone else.

At some point I told them when I think of Yakima, I think of this memory from college that I won’t repeat here. Why I told that story is kinda gross but it is what I think about when I think of Yakima - guess that’s why I said it.

This gig proved to be really special for a few reasons.

One - I got to talk to each member more as people than as the members of AL1CE. Before the show and after the show. This was something that never really happened at the other two shows. I mean we talked, don’t get me wrong. And we had some moments that I will never forget. But, the Yakima show there was just a more laid back feel to it or perhaps us - when it came to being able to connect with the band.

Two - the club was called Punks Bar so I figured the setlist would be similar to Saturday’s in Kelso. Heavier material. I figured well no, “Love Is Forever” at this show, either. Much to my friggin delight when I looked at the setlist before they played and I saw the songs listed. I clapped like a little kid. I was so happy. Sasha noticed that and I told her why. I also noticed that the unreleased song was in the set that Steve had just talked to me about earlier that same night. I was getting excited for their set needless to say.

The locals were way into the band. The setup of that club is really weird for the bands. They are basically playing to stage right where the fans can stand instead of left, center, and right. There is another lower story of empty storage space so you can’t have fans directly in front of the bands other than a single layer of people (where I was standing). In other words, the band was facing directly at me, but when they looked at or engaged the fans, it was mainly to stage right.

No fog allowed at this show either due to the sprinkler system or something so I got to see the band clearer than the previous two shows. There was also no stage to speak of so the band was eye level - like a house show or an old school basement punk show.

This show had a different vibe from Kelso which had a different vibe from Seattle. It was really interesting to get to experience all three. Gordon asked me which one I liked the best and I think I said Yakima. Partially because of the setlist, partially because the locals were having fun, and partially because I knew this was my “last” AL1CE gig on their summer tour. If I could have mixed the best things from all three shows of course that would have been the ultimate experience.

I have to add that when they played “Love Is Forever” to end the set, I was tearing up while the locals were dancing next to me. Such a dichotomy. A clip of this performance is on my YouTube channel. I was right next to one of the PA speakers so there is some distortion on the video clip.

After their set, I didn’t really stand by the merch to see how the sales were. I ended up watching from afar, letting the new fans talk with the band, get photos, etc.

Eventually, I talked with some of the guys as they were breaking down the gear. I got some photos with everyone including a better lit group photo compared to the Seattle one. The ones with the guys (sans Scott - I think he was at the merch table or something - next time Scott) came out cool - they look like video outtakes or something due to the lighting. The group one and the ones with Tash and Sasha were taken later when the house lights were up.

Once the bar was closed, I then talked with Sasha at length (compared to the other two shows) and Tash as well. Again, I won’t go into the details of what was said but just know that it felt so good to finally connect with them on a personal level.

I said my goodbyes to everyone one last time and then I made the long drive back to Seattle, wired as I thought I would be, with a million thoughts and emotions running through my being.

After two hours of sleep I went into my Muggle job on Friday the 8th, in a daze, but I did my job. A co-worker asked me what I had coming up for the weekend (knowing I run the media outlet) and I told him about last night instead. His reaction?

“Wait. You drove to Yakima last night and you’re here now?! Mark, that's like a 3 hour drive one way. What time did you get home?”

“Like 3:30am” I said.

“And what time did you get up?”

“I got up at 6am but I didn’t fall asleep until after 4am or so.”

He looked at me and said, “you must really love that band to do all that”.

“Yes, I do love that band. With all of my heart. I really do.” I smiled softly and he smiled back as he walked away.

* * * 

Epilogue (or whatever this is)

I had this experience in 2017 as I drove home from the Everett, WA gig and I had the exact same experience these last three weeks, but much more intensified.

AL1CE appears to be my drug of choice because I have no other way of describing what kind of effect they have on me. It makes me restless, it makes me ponder my life, it makes me inspired with new ideas, it makes me content and happy, and it makes me a tad melancholy if I’m speaking the truth.

And I don’t mean just in terms of the band and my love of the arts, etc. No. My experiences with them impact every aspect of my life. It is such a fascinating phenomenon that I can’t quite explain.

It’s July 20th as I type this - nearly two weeks since the Yakima gig, almost three weeks since the Seattle reunion show. And yet I am still processing everything that happened over the course of those three shows.

I think part of it is that they brought out another change in my behavior, something that had been the same for over twenty years. When I step back and think about it, that’s truly amazing. And, again, the same thing happened five years ago albeit on a smaller scale.

I’m a fan of music. There are other bands that I’ve either grown up with, became a diehard fan of in later years, or am an admirer of.

AL1CE are in their own category.

No other band has impacted my life as much as these wonderful artists. That’s the truth. It’s one thing for a band to give me hope, inspiration, and a lifetime of memories. But it’s a whole other thing when a band actually impacts all areas of my life.

And to think this almost never happened had social media not connected us back in 2017. I think about that often. The chance encounter on the world wide web that brought us together back then, kept us connected during the other years (they played here in 2018 and 2019 and I couldn't make either show - which still bothers me to this day), and of course launched us into the virtual world in 2020. There is just so much to process with AL1CE.

I think I said this to someone in the band recently that no matter what happens in the future with AL1CE and Eclectic Arts/Mark Sugiyama, we will be forever connected because of the Inside Out Virtual Tour. That period of time, in those conditions, man, we went through some heavy shit together - the band and I. And they as a band went through some shit that I will never know about at the same time down in LA - same for what I was going through on my own up here in Seattle in 2020 (although I’ve mentioned a few things here and there over my livestreams).

And yet here we are in 2022. Life can be so strange sometimes. Here I was all set to see and reunite with the band in Seattle. The only AL1CE show I had on my radar. Truly.  Then, my plan was to continue to work over the holiday weekend as I had a film festival to finish up and a few other things to do (like the photoshoot Sunday morning).

Next thing I know I’m in Kelso, WA on Saturday night and then Yakima, WA on Thursday night. What the Hell? AL1CE was in my bloodstream and when that happens, my life changes, apparently.

I said this on the livestream interview in June 2022 but my life changed for the better once I met these people. It really has. I can’t say enough good things about them. I can’t type enough good things about them, either.

Whenever this AL1CE daze eventually wears off, I will be looking at things through a different lens. Heck, I already am now. My life lens has changed because of AL1CE.

There is no other band in this world that I feel as connected to or as honored to know as AL1CE. Period. Fact. End of story.

I love who they are as a band, as people, what they represent, and what they’ve done collectively for my life.

Thank you so very much Tash, Sasha, Scott, Gordon, Steve, and Carl.

From my heart of hearts.

Thank you.  I love you!

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

BLACK COFFEE Taproot Theatre July 16, 2022 Eclectic Arts

Black Coffee
Agatha Christie

Seattle, WA
Review: Saturday 7/16/22 8pm Performance

Performances through August 13th, 2022

(The cast of "Black Coffee" at Taproot Theatre.  Photo by Robert Wade)

Once live performances returned to (one of) my favorite local theatre, it has been a concern of mine that nearly half of the productions have not resonated with me. Outside of, “See How They Run” - which I absolutely loved - and perhaps the musical, “The Spitfire Grill”, the other shows have been the same top shelf quality I expect from Taproot Theatre in Greenwood, but for whatever reason, the shows have not made me want to come back and see them again (a simple litmus test I use for any live event).

So with this in mind, I went into the latest production, “Black Coffee” really wanting to like this show. I wanted to leave the theatre being able to wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone that would listen to me talk about it. Shout it from the rooftops as it were.

On Saturday evening of opening weekend, I sat with my plus one, anxiously awaiting the performance. Quick side note - the coffee bar area is slowly coming back to its former glory - with a range of non alcoholic and alcoholic drinks once again being served. Kudos to Taproot for taking their time to do this right (sippy cups were used that you can bring back for a $2 discount for a future drink). But I digress.

Agatha Christie needs no mention in the world of literary arts. Even someone like myself that doesn’t read nearly the amount of books that I should, has read and/or seen an Agatha Christie novel/film adaptation. She is one of the legends of the literary world.

“Black Coffee” sets itself up well as a “who done it” in Act I. The audience is introduced to a cast of characters, one of whom ends up dead, and then the fun begins. Or supposedly.

The cast throughout the production was top notch. I recognized many veterans of the Taproot Theatre stage - including the lead character of Hercule Poirot played by Richard Nguyen Sloniker. Richard Nguyen Sloniker was brilliant in the role as the fan favorite character of Hercule Poirot. Having seen Richard in a handful of other Taproot (and non Taproot) productions, he always elevates his characters and Hercule Poirot was no exception. The sheer amount of dialogue he had to go through during the show was astounding, let alone his acting chops which, again, were brilliant.

There honestly wasn’t a weak link in the cast. There really wasn't.  They all held their own which should make for a home run of a performance. Director Marianne Savell is no stranger to directing at Taproot as she has directed and co-directed a few favorites of mine in the past.

So where does all of this leave me?

I liked “Black Coffee” but I didn’t love it. Act II saved it for me as the story (of course) showed the reveals for many of the characters which led to the well produced finale.

It must have been difficult to figure out how much dialogue the company runs with to set the foundation of the play without cutting out too much of which would then leave the audience confused. I wasn’t confused but I did find Act I to be way too dialogue heavy. It just seemed to be line after line after line and I was aching for something to kick the scenes into another gear (action, humor, a surprise reveal). There was the occasional light humor but it was for the most part played straight and it reminded me of reading a book to be honest. Again, I understand the dilemma the creatives must have wrestled with to figure out the balance between dialogue and too much dialogue. Unfortunately for me it was just too much dialogue in Act I.

The acting, the sets, the lighting design, etc. - all of it was of the standard I know Taproot Theatre to hold themselves to. I can always count on that aspect when I walk into the Jewell Mainstage (or the Isaac Studio).

However, “Black Coffee” gets a reserved recommendation from me.

“Black Coffee” runs through August 13th. Tickets are available here:  TICKETS!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here

SEATTLE SYMPHONY - "Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire" IN CONCERT! July 15, 2022 Eclectic Arts

Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire

July 15, 2022
Benaroya Hall

The Seattle Symphony is consistently looking for new ways to broaden their audience as well as introduce new patrons to the world of live classical music. Pre-pandemic the Seattle Symphony was producing a selection of events that partnered film with a live concert of the actual score. I raved about the concept back then and I am happy to say I can still rave about it in 2022.

For the uninitiated, the chosen film will screen above the symphony with closed captioning playing as well (in case you can’t quite hear what a character says) while the Seattle Symphony recreates the original score note for note along with the film. It is a breathtaking way to view a film. I wish every film could be seen in this format.

"Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire" was the film of choice and of course it brought out many a Harry Potter fan - both young and old.

Other than one intermission, the film was played just as you would see it in the theater or at home - with, again, the addition of the world class Seattle Symphony playing the score.

Another fun aspect is that with these screening events, it’s perfectly okay to cheer and boo the characters as they appear on screen. The event is supposed to be fun so be sure to bring your fun side to Benaroya Hall any time you come to one of these events.

Sarah Hicks conducted the Seattle Symphony with ease that only a true maestro can. She brought the original score to life without venturing off course which was appreciated by the audience.

If you’ve never been to an event like this, I implore you to take a chance on basically any film that they do this treatment to (unless you hate the film then even this treatment probably won’t change your mind). If you like the film, think the film is only okay, or are unfamiliar with the film - go see a performance. Trust me on this one.

You’ll be glad you did!

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

HADESTOWN July 12, 2022 BROADWAY AT THE PARAMOUNT Seattle, WA Eclectic Arts

Anais Mitchell
Rachel Chavkin

Premera Blue Cross Broadway At The Paramount
Seattle, WA

Opening Night Review: July 12, 2022

(HADESTOWN North American Tour - Photo by: Kevin Berne)

The winner of eight Tony Awards in 2019, “Hadestown” came to the Paramount Theatre on Tuesday evening with much buzz and expectation surrounding it. The Greek mythological story of young love between Orpheus and Eurydice, this reviewer went into the night knowing next to nothing about the show.

The story is a bit of a mess if I’m being honest. Is it a mess because I don’t know the details regarding Orpheus and Eurydice? Possibly a fair statement. Or is it a mess because the story is written that way? Hard to say. All I know is that the ideas presented within the musical were hard to suspend disbelief for.

The music itself had some hits with an equal amount of misses. Please keep in mind I’m not talking about the performances but the actual material. I can see why some of the songs are beloved already and deservedly so. But, there were plenty of other songs that weren’t on the same level as the “hits” and it showed.

The staging was great to start with but if you’ve been to any of the Broadway At The Paramount shows since the return to in-person performances, you know what can be done with a touring musical these days. This is an area where “Hadestown” fell noticeably short. Other than a change with the building at one point during Act I, the set didn’t really change much. Yes, the lighting design was effective and the circular part of the stage was cleverly used as well but overall I really wished there would have been more state of the art scene transitions, backdrops, effects, and the like.

The performances on stage were noteworthy, though. This is the area where “Hadestown” scored some points for sure. As an ensemble piece, the performers worked well together and each got their moments to shine on stage. The use of falsetto so often was a bit annoying to me at times but that’s a minor quibble. I’m sure many in the audience were the opposite and loved hearing the high notes.

Overall, “Hadestown” had its moments but with the accolades it received, I thought I was going to like it more than I actually did. There were clearly patrons in the audience that would vehemently disagree with me and that’s okay. What resonates with one may not resonate with another.

I will add that seeing a cast made up of many BIPOC was and always will be a grand sight to behold in any artistic space. But, again, from a pure enjoyment perspective, “Hadestown” left me wanting more but not in the way great shows do. Perhaps you’ll feel differently after you’ve seen it in-person.

“Hadestown” runs through Sunday July 17th. Tickets are available here:  TICKETS!