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Back Buzz - February 28, 1997

pumping heart Espresso Vivace, 901 East Denny Way, Capitol Hill

Espresso Vivace, a coffeehouse with roaster on-site, is the type of place that pays attention to detail. The coffee beans used to make the drinks are dated, so you always know exactly how fresh your cup is. The lattes and cappuccinos are topped with rosetta designs, those brown leaflike images carved delicately into the top of the foam by classy baristas. In fact, not only does Vivace feature a rosetta-design gallery, with photos of various baristas' masterpieces displayed on the wall, but they even sell an instructional video on milk texturing. On another wall is a framed Etch-A-Sketch showing an amazingly realistic rendition of Espresso Vivace. It makes me wonder what would happen if there were an earthquake causing the Etch-A-Sketch to fall to the ground, landing on its face and erasing Espresso Vivace forever...

The two double cappuccinos I've had here were both quite pleasant. The drinks are beautifully made, aromatic, and satisfying. The only problem I have with Vivace is the fact that their coffee's a bit too smooth for my taste. I prefer more robust and commanding flavors in my drinks: full-bodied, assertive bitters as opposed to smooth pale ales, complicated and daring merlots as opposed to wimpy WASPish chardonnays, thick, strong, and outspoken English teas as opposed to their understated Japanese equivalents. So I'm not saying Vivace's espresso is bad; just not as exciting to me as, say, Caffé Vita or Caffé D'Arte. But if you prefer a smoother coffee, you'll probably love it.

The cafe itself is nice and roomy yet cozy and inviting. You can isolate yourself at a counter or be a bit more sociable at one of the cool '50s tables. The coffee-roasting room, which you can observe as you sip your espresso, is vented directly into the cafe, lending an exquisite aroma to the place. As you enter from Denny Way you pass some lovely vines -- roasteria vines, perhaps?

While you're in the neighborhood, you need to walk south down Broadway a couple of blocks toward East Pine Street. This is where the AEI Music building is located. AEI, a competitor of Muzak (also Seattle-based), has some interesting bronze sculptures displayed in their windows. From Pine Street you can see Elvis Presley and, if you look carefully into the lobby, John Lennon. These have been joined by a new lifesized bronze sculpture of Jimi Hendrix, who stands -- or rather crouches -- unguarded on the Broadway sidewalk, in plain view of traffic, pedestrians, and Seattle Central College students. There are two fascinating features of this latest addition to Seattle's public art scene. First of all, Jimi's posture is very strange, almost pathetic: he's playing his guitar as he leans backward with his legs bent in what looks like a terribly painful and awkward position. I mean, sure, maybe for a moment or two, as he reaches for those intensely expressive notes; but frozen in eternity, as stationary art is, he looks like he's in sheer agony. How sad.

The other strange aspect of this sculpture is the fact that the electric guitar and Jimi's clothes look like the actual items which have been bronzed like baby shoes. If this is the case, then just what lies underneath the bronzing where Jimi himself is supposed to be? Surely, as with all major dead rock stars, there are rumors of Jimi still being alive. For fans who have visited his grave in Greenwood Memorial Park in Renton, it's conceivable they might hope he's still alive rather than buried in such a flat, boring spot. I'm not trying to start any wild rumors here or anything, but it's not unreasonable to think that Jimi himself might actually be somewhere under all that bronzing. I mean, stranger things have happened. Think about it.

Speaking of currently-living dead rock stars, following is a related phenomenon which my Bay Area friend e-mailed to me.

During intermission at the UC Theater Wednesday night, I read the poster of upcoming attractions. Most interesting was this: a midnight show called, simply, Jimi Hendrix, which features "Jimi's Most Impassioned Performances of 1973." The ad does not elaborate. Is my memory scrambled to that extent? I remember being in high school in 1970 when Hendrix died. Or am I out of touch with developments in rock history? Are the films of Hendrix' early posthumous concerts so widely known (Hendrix at the Fillmore Underground!) that they are now relegated to midnight showings and short notes on the margins?

According to my files, Jim Morrison was found dead in his bathtub in Paris on July 3, 1971; John Lennon was shot in New York on December 8, 1980; Kurt Cobain blew his brains out in Seattle somewhere around April 8, 1994. Even though these three musicians were probably as dead as the average dead person, new recordings of theirs continued to be released after their deaths (i.e. Jim Morrison's poetry, Kurt Cobain singing with Hole, and the Beatles' two recent singles). Therefore it's possible that Jimi Hendrix, who died on September 18, 1970, could have still been performing in 1973. I mean, if one rock star can figure out how to keep going after his or her death, why can't they all? Not only is Elvis Presley still working, but he figured out how to clone himself and perform marriages in Las Vegas, too.

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