A Seattle Adventure with Keb Mo

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A Seattle Adventure with Keb Mo
by Don and Peg Doman

It all began in September in a Spokane pawn shop. We were driving around, enjoying the city between the times Don had to give a presentation about safety videos at the Governor's Council on Safety.

We went east of the city, towards Coeur d Alene, but it was 5-ish so there was really no going anywhere. We turned back into the city on a side street and wandered down what looked like South Tacoma Way. Seeing this huge pawn shop, we pulled in. Ever since his childhood spent in Ponders at his parents' motel, Don has been fascinated with pawn shops. He bought my first rings at pawn shops, as well as tools, electronic equipment, even our latest lawn mower.

So, we pulled in. He went to look at electronic equipment. I looked at jewelry and then CDs. I picked out an Itzak Perlman and a Luciano Pavorotti for $4.50 each from the racks with some grimy covers. Then I turned around, and there in a low cardboard display were CDs without their original cases for $2.50. On top was a Keb' Mo', Just For You. "Keb' Mo!", I said.

We had recently seen him on a TV tribute to a blues musician on the cable TV channels Bravo or Jazz or something. He was interesting and had a good voice, good guitar skills and a nice stage presence. On Don's way to the electronic equipment he had spied the cheap CDs. He found the Keb Mo CD about 12 deep into the albums and said to himself, "Em! Keb Mo." Don knowing that I liked Keb Mo's style picked it up and placed it in front of the display for me to discover.

We bought the CD. The next day, after we had gone to Harrington to dispel one of my family's legends that the town had been founded by my grandfather's brother (it's actually named after a land company executive out of California, no relation), Don is driving and I am reading out loud. When it gets too dark to read, about the time we're coming down Snoqualmie Pass, we put the Keb' Mo' CD in. It was wonderful. We had a great time, growling to Dangerous Mood and appreciating his guitar licks. So, when we heard that Keb' Mo' was coming to the Paramount, we bought tickets. To make more of an event out of it, we decided go early and go to dinner, to stay at the Paramount Hotel after the concert, and have the breakfast buffet at Dragonfish the next morning.

We were also going to stop at Daniel Smith Art Supplies on 1st Avenue, one of my favorite Seattle destinations, so I could buy a particular brush and a few tubes of the Dan Smith quinacridone watercolors. Unfortunately, we had a later start than we wanted, so I'll stop another day. I know I can order from their website but I love to handle the colors and try out the brushes. Going to Dan Smith is a very sensual experience.

The Paramount Hotel.We got into Seattle, checked into our hotel, the Paramount Hotel and went looking for someplace to have dinner. We decided to go to Pacific Place, just the next block west of the Paramount Hotel. Going up to the information desk, we asked about restaurants. The woman informed us, as if we were hick simpletons, that, "Of course there are restaurants in Pacific Place. "Well, where are they and what kind are they?" She vouchsafed that there was an Italian one on the main floor and a few others on the fourth floor. As we zigzagged up escalators to the restaurants, I made note of the stores that I wanted to visit on the way down: Restoration Hardware; Museum Company, Store of Knowledge, Crane & Company. They even have Cartier's and Tiffany's there. Talk about priced-right-or-my-market elegance.

We decided on Desert Fire, A Southwestern Grill, and we were happy to do it. Looking over the menu we finally decided: an appetizer, the Coyote Sampler for us to share, fillet mignon for Don and Mahi Mahi special for me. The Coyote Sampler consisted of Grilled Turkey Skewers, four halves, four very large halves, of Sedona Spring Rolls and Portabella Mushrooms and Spinach Quesadills. The skewers were basted in BBQ sauce, were tangy and very good, served with papaya fruit salsa and cucumber-mint sauce. The spring rolls were the best, consisting of grilled chicken and vegetables wrapped in flour tortillas served over roasted BBQ sauce. The quesadillas were chewy with the mushrooms and the mixed cheeses, topped with tomatillo-avocado sauce, also wonderful. The portions on this appetizer were so large, it was as if we ate dinner before our dinner came! My mahi-mahi special was some good fish moist and tender with a tomato-fruit salsa. I love seafood and chicken, as you can no doubt tell. Don had his fillet rubbed with the chili seasoning, almost too hot for me but a great piece of beef. It was served with butternut squash (the best I've ever tasted) and roasted red potatoes. Even Don couldn't finish everything.

We didn't even have dessert! I've been known to have only an appetizer or salad and then a dessert because I appreciate a great dessert. Afterwards Don went back to the hotel to take a nap while I went to check out some of the stores I noted on the way up. We went to the Paramount Theatre to see Keb' Mo'. We were surprised to see only nine or ten black people in the audience. I wasn't aware that middle-aged, balding and girth-enhanced white people are the mainstay of contemporary Delta blues.

The lobby of the Paramount Theatre.The opening act at the wonderful Paramount Theatre was Willie Porter, a singer/songwriter with good guitar skills. He came on in a dark over-sized T-shirt and slacks and a black crocheted hat. He stood on the stage all by himself, singing, playing a very credible guitar and telling stories. He had one audience participation number when he wrote the song on the spot, coming up with rhymes for Margaret, and barbeque. His catch line was "The grill is gone" (sung of course to The Thrill is Gone), in all its pathos. His political sensibilities were evident in his selection of songs. His unusual rhythms sounded reminiscent of Paul Simon in his South African phase.

A half-hour after Willie Porter finished, Keb' Mo' came on. He was wearing all dark colors and a black hat. At one time he put his hat on the stage floor in front of him and commented afterwards on the stinginess of the audience that hadn't made even one donation. He was conversational, telling stories between the numbers. His main focus was his new album, "The Door" although he did sing selections from all of his others, most notably for me, "Dangerous Mood" from his For You album. (I am getting old, I still think of the compilations of songs as albums, not CDs. Fortunately, I skipped the 8-track phase.)

He sang one of Don's favorites "Stand Up (And Be Strong), "Gimme What You Got", and "Change." He sang for two hours, even when the band went off stage. His voice and pacing are so easy and comfortable, sweetly tender and yearning, sometimes raspy and jumping. I was sad that he didn't do, "Mommy Can I Come Home, a plaintive song about a 15-year old runaway who's disillusioned with street life.

It was a great day. After the concert we went back to the Dragonfish to have a drink before bed, but, the bar was full of smokers and I can't breathe that. When we went there after "Annie", the bar was uncrowded and we said later that we had had drinks with Jack Sikma; of course, he didn't know he had drinks with us.

The next morning we had a good breakfast in the Dragonfish, packed our bags and went back to work, a nice break from real life. We'll do it again.

An Adventure to Seattle, Washington with Keb Mo