About Brett Hamil

Brett Hamil is a writer, comedian, cartoonist and host of two political comedy spectacles: The Seattle Process and The Shadow Council, both at Northwest Film Forum. You can follow him on Twitter @BrettHamil.

Celebrating ten years of Vermillion with owner Diana Adams

When Diana Adams opened Vermillion she wanted it to feel like an art opening every night. People always have fun at openings, she reasoned, but the rest of the time they don’t necessarily feel comfortable in galleries. She formulated a simple philosophy: “If you give people freedom to express themselves and treat them with respect, they will come up with the most amazing shit,” she says.

This month, Vermillion celebrates ten years as an insurgent hive of creativity and booze on Capitol Hill. The front space is devoted to visual art exhibits and a random assortment of arcade games. In the back, on any given night you’ll find a wide range of cultural happenings, from poetry readings to socialist slide talks to musical performances. It’s a hub for local hiphop emcees, DJs, and jazz musicians, a haven for visual artists operating outside the “cool kids” clique, and a last bastion of stubborn independence in a sea of velvet-roped meat markets catering to the bridge-and-tunnel crowd.

Vermillion’s continued survival on a shoestring budget seems miraculous in the face of the market forces bearing down on one of the city’s densest and most rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. Adams has a surprising explanation.

“My place has been subsidized by customers who come over on the weekends from the Eastside to get way drunk and crazy,” she says, “The art is subsidized by bros, basically. It’s my favorite ironic twist to this whole situation.” Continue reading

Premiering at SIFF, The Most Dangerous Year documents frontline struggle for trans rights in Washington

Images from The Most Dangerous Year, a documentary that follows a group of Washington State families with transgender kids who joined the fight against the wave of discriminatory anti-transgender legislation

In December of 2015, Vlada Knowlton and her family were adapting to the realities of their five-year-old daughter Annabelle’s transgender identity, and after a difficult period of adjustment things were going great. Then she got a phone call. It was Aidan Key, founder of Gender Diversity, a support group for parents of trans kids that had helped the Knowlton family navigate the often-frightening process of affirming a child’s gender identity. Key had bad news. A new wave of anti-trans legislation was about to hit Washington, and he had a difficult request for Knowlton: Would she be willing to apply her skills as a filmmaker to document the coming struggle?

“I never intended to make a film about transgender people, because for me it was such a personal thing,” Knowlton says, “I’d already gone through that trauma and thought things were gonna get good in our lives again. But it became clear to me after this conversation that I had to use whatever skills I had to start fighting, not only for my own child but for all people like her.”

(Official) Trailer for “The Most Dangerous Year” from Marymoor Productions on Vimeo.

The result is a full-length documentary, The Most Dangerous Year, which chronicles the struggle of people like Knowlton and her family as they fought multiple legislative efforts to deny civil rights to trans people. The film makes its world premiere on Capitol Hill at The Egyptian Theater as part of the Seattle International Film Festival.

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Espresso Vivace: 30 years of artisanal coffee on Capitol Hill

This week, Capitol Hill’s Espresso Vivace celebrates thirty years in business with a reinvention of its mission — and free shots. From its genesis as a Broadway coffee cart to its current incarnation comprising two storefronts, a sidewalk stand, and a 5,000-square-foot roasting plant, Vivace has established a reputation for technical excellence in coffee preparation. They were on the vanguard of the artisan espresso revolution, educating both industry and customers and defining expectations for high-end coffee from flavor to equipment to the foam art in your latte. At this three-decade milestone, Vivace now shifts course to emphasize their roasting capabilities.

“We’d really like to reach out to people to let them know how phenomenal this roast is,” says David Schomer, who founded Vivace in 1988 with his then-wife/still-partner Geneva Sullivan, “The precision with which you can brew coffee leads to your ability to detect where the caramelized sugars in the original flavors are at their maximum development for each bean.”

Schomer has a way of launching into deep-dive digressions about the exacting science of espresso with little provocation. He’s a student of coffee who also wrote the book on it, literally; his 1995 guide Espresso Coffee: Tools, Techniques and Theory is now in its third printing and has been translated into Korean, Japanese, and Russian. He also makes tutorial videos and teaches classes for professional and home baristas. Continue reading

Crybaby musician’s grant carves out space for artists on Capitol Hill

Since 1999, Leigh Stone has witnessed the transformation of Capitol Hill as owner of Crybaby Studios, a subterranean warren of rehearsal spaces below 11th Ave between Pike and Pine. She has had a front row seat — or, more accurately, a view from the orchestra pit — to the accelerating gentrification of the surrounding neighborhood. Now she is carving out space for working class artists with the Crybaby Musician’s Grant, a program that will award three months’ access to a private studio and recording equipment for musicians who could not otherwise afford it.

“It’s important that spaces like this are centrally located and available to every demographic, not just people who have extra money.” Stone said. “We want to be known for having a music scene, but it’s gotten increasingly more difficult. Seattle is called ‘the City of Music’ — it’s been trademarked — and I’m fighting tooth and nail to keep facilities in the actual city.”

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Grinding it out at Capitol Hill’s 35th North Skateshop

Tony Croghan

Tony Croghan has run 35th North at the corner of Pike and 11th since 2003. It’s a Capitol Hill institution and one of the only such shops in the city, hub for a generation-spanning pursuit that’s both sport and art. As the world of skateboarding prepares for its international debut in the Olympics in 2020, Croghan stays focused on the art and community it inspires.

“I think about a kid right now in middle school, an individual who might be artistic, who’s into music, but also likes to do activities and might be coordinated and athletic; that’s the skateboarder,” Croghan said. “If that kid is ever turned off by skating—‘That looks like a sport to me, I don’t wanna do it’—that would be a bad spot to be in.” Continue reading

The Shopaholic’s Closet brings high-end consignment to E Pike

With her new boutique The Shopaholic’s Closet at 1205 E Pike, Audrey Clark hopes to introduce a pop of color to the local femme fashion palette. “I learned a long time ago that greys, blacks, and browns are the basis for Seattle,” she says, “I try to ease ‘em in a little bit—it’s spring!”

Clark’s new store specializes in fashion-forward and high-end apparel on consignment. She’s worked in the fashion industry for years in various capacities from wholesale rep to buyer, and she keeps close tabs on the industry, regularly shopping sample sales in New York and LA with an eye to what will fly in Seattle with our drab regional inclinations. Continue reading

With 5,000 to feed every week, Cherry Street Food Bank seeks new home

After 35 years operating out of their space on 8th Ave and Cherry, the Cherry Street Food Bank is being displaced to make room for a new 30-story condominium tower. They’ve got until March 1, 2019 to vacate, and Northwest Harvest is scrambling to find a new home for their flagship operation which serves an average of 5,000 people a week.

Northwest Harvest CEO Thomas Reynolds considers the Cherry Street Food Bank the “beating heart” of their operations.

“We deliver to others who provide food but Cherry Street is a direct line to our most important stakeholder group: people with lived experience of hunger.” The food bank provides bags of groceries as well as sandwiches and other ready-to-eat meals for people who have no kitchen in which to prepare meals. Continue reading

Citizen-budgeters ponder Capitol Hill improvements at ‘Your Voice, Your Choice’ project meeting

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On Thursday night, a small group of Capitol Hill denizens gathered in a fourth floor classroom at Seattle Central College to mull over project ideas submitted to the city’s Your Voice, Your Choice neighborhood grant process. The 20 or so participants split up into two groups, representing north and south, to rate the 42 publicly solicited proposals for District 3, narrowed down from 134-plus.

The projects were assessed by two criteria: need and community benefit.

It was an informal exercise in face-to-face, block-to-block, small-bore civic engagement. The groups briskly discussed each proposal, jotting down their scores. In attendance were Seattle Central professors and students, local apartment dwellers, and planning-savvy wonks like Ryan Packer, senior editor of The Urbanist, whose name tag sticker read, appropriately, “Ryan The Urbanist.” Continue reading

Absolute Tea to bring the wonders of cheese tea to Capitol Hill

Vince Shi sees cheese teas in Capitol Hill’s future. Along with his wife, Kathy, Shi is the future proprietor of Absolute Tea, a shop slated to open in new construction at 1715 12th Ave in late summer.

Shi will serve cheese tea—or zhī shì chá in Mandarin—a drink originating in Taiwan that quickly became all the rage in China and throughout East Asia over the past few years. It consists of a green or black tea topped with a slightly salty froth made of a mixture of cream cheese, milk, and whipped cream. It will be served along with a selection of bubble and traditional teas, matcha, and light snacks.


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Shi’s passion for teas was stirred when he first tried matcha at Cha Cha Matcha in West Seattle. “I fell in love with matcha. It really gives you energy but it’s not so strong compared to coffee. It’s energy throughout the day, not just a short burst.”

Vince and Cathy (their English names—“Easier to remember” says Shi) initially looked into franchising a bubble tea shop, but they were put off by all the prefab powdered ingredients that go into many of their drinks. “We want to provide real stuff—real purees, real teas,” he says.

Shi estimates that they’ll probably open by September after completing the city’s arduous permitting process. The shop will be located on 12th Ave across from Bergman Lock & Key and Scratch Deli, a block from Cal Anderson Park.

More 12th Ave food+drink
Here’s a quick note about a new restaurant coming to a 12th Ave space a few of you have asked us about. Mr. Saigon is the new joint being readied to take over the space formerly home to the University Market and Deli at 12th and Columbia.

Hot Mama’s — the funniest pizza joint on Capitol Hill

There is a preponderance of funny people working behind the counter at Hot Mama’s Pizza. Currently three standup comics sling pie at this Capitol Hill institution. If you stop in at any time day or night, chances are you’ll encounter a local comic tossing dough or dashing out the door on a delivery run.

Robbie Schroeder is patient zero for the Hot Mama’s comic infestation. He’s been working here for twelve years and doing standup for five. A few years ago he brought in fellow joketeller Mike Masilotti (recently moved to California) and it snowballed from there. “They finally said, ‘No more comedians—it’s not funny anymore,’” Schroeder said. Continue reading