A Musical Trip To The Top Of The Smith Tower

There's an apartment up there, and it's magical.

February 22, 2016

I don’t get freaked out easily by heights or speed - usually just snakes and spiders and huge ships. Last night I found myself in a situation I wasn’t prepared to face - squeezing myself through a tunnel chiseled through stone just wider than my hips and shoulders atop the wonderful Smith Tower.

My friend, local musician Kris Orlowski, sent me an email invitation for something awesome that I had only previously heard tale of - a concert in the apartment in the tip-top pointy part of the Smith Tower - Tower Sessions. At one time, this very building was the tallest of any west of the Mississippi River. Now, it’s dwarfed by things like the Columbia Tower.

Riding up in the elevator with a proper, uniformed elevator operator set this night off on the right foot. You step out onto the 35th-floor observation deck, the Chinese Room, to a stunning view looking down at the Seahawks and Sounders, the great wheel, downtown - incredible. Then, ascend a winding flight of stairs that end at a front door - it’s the entrance to an apartment - a functioning apartment. There I was greeted by Kris and his friend/resident Petra Franklin (with mustaches).

Kris gets local musicians together once a month to perform in this wonderful space. He led this session with Danielle Henry (Henry at War) who told a lovely story of Kris coming to her school to invite her to the show before picking up a guitar and warming us up with a beautiful song.

The room’s walls lean inward due to the nature of the tower’s pointiness - which makes hanging paintings impossible! Henry's voice, and the music of all the artists, rise to a top point before refracting back down to our ears. It's a glorious situation of musical warmth.

I’m not familiar with Erik Walters (Silver Torches), but this dude’s voice in this setting could have pacified a zombie gnawing on Erik’s own brains (has anyone ever tried that in a zombie movie?). I'll certainly be familiarizing myself with his work immediately.

Finally, our host(s) took to the living room stage - and by stage, everyone just sits on rugs and they play along one wall, under the a stairway leading to a catwalk (didn’t see any cats) and finally to the tip top of the tower.

Kris Orlowski and his band played for us their entire new album, “Often in the Pause” (4/22, pre-order) weaving in stories, laughs, and a spirited round of comedy from Petra’s daughter. Playing with his band plugged in and lightly amplified, Orlowski demonstrated his understanding of the intimacy of the space, snuggling up to the microphone when the room needed just that little extra tickle and backing away when his voice could just fill that pyramid up. All the while, a giant piece of blue tentacled Chihuly glass hung above and friends in the rafters looked down.

Bites, cocktails, wine and water all made the feeling even nicer - like you were really in someone’s living room… because it really happens in someone’s living room.

I can't suggest enough that you attend one of these shows in the future. Who knows how long Kris will keep curating them, but it's a chance to test fears (I failed) while experiencing a healthy dose of magic in a special space.

Here's a photo of Peanut and Shaggy on laundry day: