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S d t i w
How a backyard in Ellensburg became home to the largest ramp in Washington
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Social distancing doesn’t disrupt the creative flow in Sam Albright’s world pg
Despite setbacks, Cobrahawk set to release sophomore album pg
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LETTER FROM the
hortly before the stay-athome order in March, I rounded up a bunch of plywood and 2-by-4s and made one of my teenage dreams come true: my very own backyard halfpipe. For the first time in 15 years, I was skateboarding regularly again. Though, at 31, it involved quite a bit more stretching and warming up. At the same time I had started to hear rumblings of a ramp that used to reside in Ellensburg. While mine is only three feet tall, legends said this one was 12-feet tall, and at the time was the largest ramp of its kind in Washington state. Thanks to some help from Facebook, I was finally able to track down some pictures and talk to the owners of that ramp, a few college kids in the mid-’90s
with a really cool landlord. One of the more fun stories I’ve stumbled upon for KV Living. Rodney Harwood did the real heavy lifting this issue, catching up with Ellensburg artist Sam Albright, who has his fingers in a little bit of everything, including painting, music, instrument crafting, farming and more. Harwood also previews the new upcoming album from local band Cobrahawk, “Excuses Excuses.” Full disclosure: Last time Cobrahawk was featured in KV Living, I wrote the story, and in typical small-town fashion, I’m now in the band. As bad as I wanted to splash my face across the cover, I somehow resisted the urge. Happy reading!
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Creative juices Social distancing cannot disrupt the creative flow in Sam Albrightâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s world
By Rodney Harwood staff writer
f you do a quick Google search on longtime Kittitas Valley resident Sam Albright, youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll find a guy with his fingers in a little bit of everything. Continued on page 8 K V LI V ING
Sam Albright plays a mandolin he made in his studio at his home in Ellensburg.
Anything from record production with his studio down on West Third Avenue. He’s an accomplished musician, pretty much plays anything with strings. He was the 2017 Laughing Horse Arts Foundation’s prestigious McGiffen Award for a lifetime of dedication to the arts. He’s a member of the Ellensburg Community Radio board of 8
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directors. He’s an accomplished painter, currently redefining his craft of oil painting. Albright owns Lark Meadows Farm which has a beautiful view of Manastash Ridge. His family raises goats, dairy sheep, pigs, chickens and a jersey cow. The farm also cultivates herbs, vegetables and fruit, even has a solar-powered shop that he is quite proud of.
Yeah, there’s a little bit of everything in the Albright playbook these days. His digital release by good friend and fellow artist Billy Maguire, whom he did a Gallery One Visual Arts Center exhibit back in January, has been out for a while. Albright flushes out Maguire’s country/ folk presentation with overdubs of various string instruments,
Sam Albright’s paintings in his studio at his home in Ellensburg.
bringing to life the sounds of country life, much like they do through their paintings. “I played with Billy for quite a few years with our band Better Day. Billy is a great song writer and we did an album of his personal material,” Albright said. “It was a great project with songs about life. “Billy and I played the basic parts and then I added guitar, dobro,
mandolin and extra vocal parts. We produced the project, but it still has that guitar, singer/song writer vibe to it.” He is also working on a project with the Killdeer String Band, but the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the progress, he said. “I’m working on a new album for the Killdeer String Band, which is an acoustic group out of Ellensburg. We’re getting
really close to the end of that project,” he said. “We’ve had to social distance a little bit to do some of the recording. “One thing I find that is interesting, whether it’s music or painting or whatever, a lot of people are figuring out how to do it through the internet. Having to do it separate and do our best to communicate. It still doesn’t replace the physical presence
of being there. It’s just not the same as being in the same room and playing with the other musicians.” The Killdeer String Band has numerous songs on YouTube and fans can look for its latest project in the near future. Albright remains on the board of directors for the Ellensburg Public Radio. Continued on page 10 K V LI V ING
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Sam Albright outside his studio at his home in Ellensburg.
He has backed off some of his participation, but still cherishes the project, having been involved in the local arts and music at different points in his life. “I helped out a little bit along the way,” he said. “I’m still totally supportive. I’m on the board and we continue to support our local community radio. It’s an amazing organization and has lots of different shows that are generated right here in Ellensburg. “There are different stories that people read and kids programs. There’s a variety of music. A lot of people put together different shows. It’s still a very ongoing project and I’m happy to help out when I can.” On his artistic side, Albright
ABOVE: Sam Albright in his studio at his home in Ellensburg. BELOW: Sam Albright plays a mandolin he made in his studio at his home in Ellensburg.
is redefining his oil work. Using modern technology to assist in an age-old form with multiple layers of imagery and subtle colors to bring out a 3-D presentation. “The work is really classical and gets back into the real craft of oil painting,” said Albright, who along will Maguire, had an exhibit at Gallery One from Jan. 18 to Feb. 29 featuring country living. “It’s about color theory and representational painting on how you can get the very realistic illusion of three dimension on a two-
dimension surface. “A painting is a twodimensional surface with a representational painting where there’s objects in it. I’m dealing with color that is very subtle, there’s many techniques for layering. You can use computers with some of the layout, but you still have to paint it. A painting is a real object that lives in the world.” Art and music brings his world full circle and social distancing cannot disrupt the creative flow in Sam Albright’s world. n K V LI V ING
Reaching new heights 12
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How a backyard in Ellensburg became home to the largest ramp in Washington state
By MATT CARSTENS staff writer
ometimes when you want to do something right, you have to build it yourself. Ever since the dawn of skateboarding, the sport has seen its popularity wax and wane in each new decade. By the early 1990s skateboarding’s popularity had once again plummeted, but those who never stopped loving it continued to progress and find ways
to keep it alive. This passion for skateboarding made its way to Ellensburg in the mid-’90s, when college student Tim Leavitt’s plan to build a greenhouse in his rental backyard suddenly shifted gears after a conversation with his landlord. Continued on page 15
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A skater performs a backside air on the 12-foot vert ramp that lived on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Chestnut Street in Ellensburg in the mid-1990s.
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“Our landlord was really cool, he was down with pretty much anything we did,” Leavitt said. “He said ‘As long as you’re not growing anything illegal, you can build anything you want to build back there.’ I can build anything I want back there? … Oh, OK.” An eight-foot-tall halfpipe Leavitt and his friend Adam Bennett had built back home in Issaquah was soon transported over to their residence on Fifth Avenue. Unfortunately, the build quality left something to be desired, so after raising enough money parking cars for the rodeo, construction began on a true, professional-height vert ramp. The structure stood 12-feet tall, with a 10-foot transition radius (the curve of the ramp) and two feet of vert, meaning the ramp went straight up and down at the top, similar to those professionals skated at large events. “It was the only really big ramp in Washington state at that time,” Leavitt said. Later, a four-foot over-vert extension was added, making that section 16-feet tall and turning upside-down. Soon, that ramp was slowly attracting attention from the local skating community, but Leavitt said few people actually had the guts to use the massive ramp. There was even an unwritten rule at the house — if you wanted to live there, you had to drop in, even the stray cat that ended up living with them.
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“We put him up on the deck and he did drop in,” Leavitt said with a laugh. “He went on the coping and he slid right down. We said that doesn’t count, so we put him back up and he did it again, then we said ‘Alright, you can stay.’” Another one of those new courageous roommates was Danny Woodall. “I moved to Ellensburg in ‘96 and ran into those guys at the old skate park,” Woodall said. “They told me they had a ramp… I rode around on it and asked if they were looking for any roommates. At the time I was in the dorms, and so by the next year I moved into that house.” Injuries and upset neighbors Woodall said despite the ramp’s
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size, it wasn’t visible from the street, but that didn’t stop those perched up on Craig’s Hill from looking down and hearing what was going on below. “There was a lady that lived back there, her name was Linda,” Woodall said. “She had cats and dogs, and lived by herself and she just absolutely hated us. My roommate used to get in arguments with her. She would tell us we were being too loud and he would swear at her and be rude — I would always end up going over there and talk to her and calm her down. “It was challenging. She was not really going to be happy with it one way or the other. We tried not to crank music up too loud certain
times of day, especially Sunday mornings — we were college students in a college town, so we probably didn’t’ respect people as much as we should.” As any skater knows, injuries are part of the game, but during the ramp’s life in Ellensburg, participants usually left relatively unscathed — with a few exceptions. “One guy broke his arm,” Woodall said. “I believe Tim one time knee slid out and caught a screw head on his knee pad, tore his knee pad down and gauged him up and he had to get stitches. We got hurt all the time but nothing hospital-worthy. Continued on page 18
LEFT: A still frame from old VHS footage shows a skater performing a backside air on the ramp. ABOVE: A skater performs a backside kick-turn on the 16-foot high oververt wall. K V LI V ING
“I fell hard once one a backside air, hung up and slammed my shoulder to the flat bottom pretty much. Still to this day you can tell I have a little bump that shouldn’t be there. Not many people skated it because it was intimidating. It was kind of invite only, you couldn’t just show up and skate, you had to know someone that lived there.” Hitting the small screen When word got out about the ramp, JC Penney approached the tenents about shooting a Levis backto-school commercial at the house. A camera crew showed up with a motor-home, Seattle skater Tom Pia and a budget for beer. “They parked in front of our house for like three days I believe,” Woodall said. “They bought us kegs to have parties and had a band played on the (bottom of the ramp). There was so many people at the house.” The crew also paid the neighbors $300 to put lights up on their roof, and Woodall recalled he was Pia’s understudy in case the pro didn’t perform well. “I never actually saw A skater performs a backside air on the ramp in Ellensburg. 18
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the commercial, but I know it exists,” Leavitt said. Moving on The only condition of the ramp from the landlord was when they left, they had to take it with them. It was torn down and moved to Snoqualmie Pass for a few years, then eventually was moved again to North Bend, where it was taken down to eight-feet tall, but 36-feet wide. “It was truly epic,” Leavitt said. “But that was kind of where it ended. We kept adding and adding to it.” n
ABOVE: A still frame from old VHS footage shows a skater performing a backside rock and roll on the vert ramp. LEFT: A skater performs a nose grab on the ramp. K V LI V ING
‘excuses’ Despite setbacks, Ellensburg rock group
Cobrahawk set to release sophomore album By RODNEY HARWOOD staff writer
ithout a question, the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the touring businesses and forced musicians to look for new ways to reach audiences forced to stay at home. By this time a year ago, The Gorge Amphitheater would be in full swing with its summer lineup. Locally, the pandemic shelved the 23rd Jazz in the Valley. Posters promoting internationally acclaimed Billy McGuire and America’s Got Talent placer Mandy Harvey still linger in store fronts around town for the show that was scheduled to take place in April. While tours and festivals are being canceled around the country, one local band is taking these turbulent times to a new level in the band’s history. Continued on page 22 K V LI V ING
obrahawk won the Yakima AppleJam Battle of the Bands in 2017 and later opened for Smash Mouth at the Central Washington State Fair. Now the band is ready to take the next step, staring straight into the face of the pandemic, ready to release its second album titled “Excuses Excuses.” One of Central Washington’s most acclaimed bands released a music video for the first single off the new album, “Get on Your Knees” on July 1, along with launching a Kickstarter campaign allowing fans to pre-order a CD and merchandise. “Excuses Excuses” is scheduled to be released in the fall. “Some of it’s really high energy, with a hard rock sound,” guitarist Devin Duncan said. “There’s a bangyour-head energy that’s part of it. But melody is really important to what we do.” There is an alternative base to the band’s approach, but you don’t cut your teeth in the Pacific Northwest without a bit of influence from Nirvana, Heart and even Jimi Hendrix drummer Nat Nickel said. Throw in musical influence from Weezer, Green Day, and the Foo Fighters and you come up with an alternative sound and the
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unique music of Cobrahawk. Guitarist Kyle Bain calls it “Post9/11 Rock.” Any way you look at it, the band is incredibly happy with the latest effort. “This album is a huge step forward for the band,” Nickel said. “We really set out to improve in every way from (Vindictive, 2017). With the first album, we were just really eager to get something out there to legitimize ourselves. “This new album is really built on that. The songs are a lot more technically advanced. There’s a lot more substance to all the songs. We’ve been through the process of recording enough to learn from our mistakes.” Cobrahawk has been broadcasting various live performances on social media platforms to help promote the Kickstarter campaign and generate hype for the upcoming release throughout July, along with “Get On Your Knees” being featured on the local airways on 94.5
FM KATS. The new music video was filmed at Bearded Monkey Music in Yakima by Aaron Siebol, who filmed the video, and Mark Pickerel, who provided some retro outfits from his local shop “Roadtrip Records.” Despite playing events like Chinook Fest, and opening for Smash Mouth, the band sees “Excuses Excuses” as a major step forward with the new lineup, which includes Matt Cartsens on bass and Bain on guitar. “I think we really come into our own with this one,” vocalist Lakyn Bury said. “The first album sounds like a first album, a little rougher around the edges. But this one we improved. It’s a little bit harder and rockier, which I personally think is better. “With the two new guys (Bain and Carstens), we’ve completed our sound and everything fits together.” Duncan agreed. “Overall, this album is a lot more energetic,” he said. “It has rock sound to it and I think it has a little more experimental bits to it with instrument parts and vocal harmonies. Kyle and Matt came in with an outside perspective from people who weren’t around when these songs were being written. “They were able to help us expand
Clockwise from left: Lakyn Bury, Devin Duncan, Matt Carstens, Kyle Bain and Nat Nickel warm up during a rehearsal.
with vocal harmonies that we didn’t have before. They were able to help us add extra layers.” Creative process The song writing in Cobrahawk is a collaborative process. Where national acts put out a recording, then tour behind it. Cobrahawk tends to develop a song live on stage and get it down before going into the studio to capture the live sound. “Each iteration of this band gets stronger. We now have a line-up where each member contributes valuable skills to all areas of the band,” Nickel said. “A year ago, we had a very different idea about what launching our second album would look like. We feel fortunate to be able to continue releasing music during these uncertain times.” Carstens has been involved in the Ellensburg music scene for a number of years. Now he’s an important part of the rhythm section along with Nickel on drums. “It’s been fun contribute. I was a fan before I joined the band,” Carstens said. Bain has been active in the Kittitas
Valley scene as well. He’s been involved anywhere from Centaur Midwife, to Nicky Notes on the popular children’s web series Blippy. He’s also a guitarist and songwriter in the local band Chuck Boom. “I’ve been with these guys a year and a couple of months, so most of the music was already written,” Bain said. “It’s a little harder sound, but it’s nice to try something different with these songs. I’m happy to add a few things that I know. I like to play different genres.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the world to do things differently in the new normal as Ellensburg moves deeper into Phase 3 of the governor’s reopen plan. Live music has been essentially shut down, but the beat goes on through the efforts of live streaming and digital recording. Look for Cobrahawk’s work on social medial and outlets like YouTube, Facebook and Spotify, or at www.cobrahawkband.com. n K V LI V ING
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