Friday, December 28, 2007

The New York Rifles

Portland's New York Rifles are somewhat quietly making a name for themselves in the Northwest. It's not that they are a quiet band by any means, but they don't seem to push an image or work the larger club promoters and delve much into the biz side of things. Every time I've seen them it's been at Seattle punk bars like Funhouse and The Monkey Pub. The thing is, they aren't really a punk band, their the kind of band that I'm surprised The Stranger, KEXP and ThreeImaginaryGirls aren't all over... maybe they just aren't hipster enough (something I'd consider a good thing of course). But I digress, what you need to know is they fucking rock. They play attitude-free power pop with occasional '70s rock and synth punk influences. I even hear a little X in songs like "Tell Me." I know, they sound all over the place, but it totally works. Empty Records US, who put out their debut album "Faraway Faster", describes them as "The Stranglers of The Soft Boys, riding in The Cars, wearing X-Ray Spex, listening for The Undertones,and upsetting The Saints for touching The Buzzcocks, while high on X." Ha ha. All I know is when vocalists Scott and Kari are singing sweet harmonies together backed by catchy guitar hooks, this band shines.

Here's a sample of Wrong Tennis Shoes. You can hear more songs on The NY Rifle's MySpace page.

Band members: Scott Young on vocals and guitar, Kari Schafer on vocals, keyboards and guitar, Sean Moultrie on drums, and Brent Williams on bass.

The Hot Rollers

I found some more live photos of The Hot Rollers... these were too good not to post. The first one is fucking hot:

The Popular Shapes

The scene: Then Stranger music editor Jennifer Maerz' house, sometime around Xmas 2004. The Popular Shapes rock the packed basement, then the party moves upstairs. The old Spits keyboard player gets naked and humps the Christmas tree. The whole house turns into a drunken dance party. Outkast's "Hey Ya" is the hit song of the month, it gets played about 3 times in a row as everyone gets crazy. Jennifer falls off her coffee table we're dancing on, laughter ensues, although I think she actually gets injured. Happy fucking holidays.

The Popular Shapes played damaged art punk with time changes, hardcore bursts, discordant guitars, and angular riffs. For a brief moment in the mid-2000s, there were a handful of bands in Seattle on a similar wavelength, including The A-Frames, Intelligence and The Dipers.

Band members: Nick Brawley on guitar and vocals, Trent Coahran on guitar, Lee Reeder on bass, and Kevin Jones (AKA Kevin Flush) on drums

  • 2003 "Flattered You're Terrified" 7" (On/On Switch Records)
  • 2003 "Bikini Style" LP/CD (On/On Switch Records)
  • 2003 Split w/The Intelligence 7", songs "Xmas, Yeah" and "Symmetrical Girl" (Dirtnap Records)
  • 2003 Song "Here Come The Pancakes" on Dirtnap Across The Northwest comp CD (Dirtnap Records)
  • 2004 Split w/Kurt 7", songs "B Ball Music #1" and "B Ball Music #2" (On/On Switch/X-Mist Records)
  • 2005 "B-Ball Music Songs 2&4" 7" (Hate The 80s/White Denim Records)
  • 2006 Song "Symmetrical Girl" on We Hate The Underground CD comp (Holy Cobra Society)
Nicholas Brawley also played in The Intelligence. He moved to San Francisco to do design work, including a stint from 2004-2006 as art director of Bitch magazine. Trent played in The Holy Ghost Revival for a while.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Does Chop Suey need behavior monitors?

Hanna Levin is reporting over on The Seattle Weekly's Reverb blog that the Crocodile Cafe's old general manager Kevin Watson has been hired as head of security at Chop Suey on Capitol Hill. She thinks it's great. Levin, like many others, think Watson was quite level-headed and ran things well as head of security at the Croc. I can see that, he always seems mellow and nice when you arrive to a show there and is friendly to chat with. But if your the kind of uber-fan that likes to be up front at shows, the Croc really wasn't the ideal place to see bands. More than a few people in town have complaints about how aggressive the Crocodile's "Behavior Monitors" were towards fans. It's one of the reasons I avoided the venue. The security at the Croc were super pushy at punk and rock shows, often making it a pain in the ass to try to stand or dance up front. If you complained about the security to Kevin, you could get kicked out, which actually happened to me twice. Here's the story about the first time...

I was at a show at the Crocodile about 5 years ago when a "Behavior Monitor" pushed a fan so hard from the front of the stage that the dude literally flew into the crowd, where his head collided with a woman standing in front of me. It instantly knocked her out. I caught her limp body as she collapsed towards the ground, then tried to get security to help me carry her out of the show room. They refused. I told them they knocked her out and she really needed help. They laughed at me and said she was just drunk. I dragged her out and set her in a chair, where she finally woke up again. I complained to Kevin, which prompted the security guards I'd talked to to run over and yell at me for "whining like a bitch when the girl was just drunk." She was sober with a big knot on her forehead and obviously in pain. Kevin took their side without talking the girl and all three physically threw me out of the club. One threw a cigarette at me while I flew out the door and laughed. It was a classy move on their part and a fine example of how to treat a good Samaritan trying to help a woman they knocked unconscious. From that night on, I never understood why people said Kevin was such a nice guy.

The Triggers

The Triggers were one of the more fun punk bands to come out of Portland in the last decade. The have an LP/CD on Dirtnap and singles on a couple of different labels, including Johnny Cat. These photos are from a show at the Monkey Pub a few years ago. The band broke up I think in 2006. Candy and Justyn now play in Sleepwalkers RIP, whose first 7" came out in August on Austin record label DeadIdeas.

ps- The first photo of Candy from the Triggers was put up on the Stranger's Line Out blog as the photo of the week today!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Against Me!

This is an interview I did with Against Me! back in August 2005, right before their third album "Searching for a Former Clarity" was released:

Against Me! has been on of the more exciting bands in punk rock in the past few years. Their songs have an anthem-like quality—catchy personal, political and social sing-a-longs, laced with emotion, humor, sarcasm and truth. The band has come along way from the fairly humble beginnings to headlining sold-out shows. Their albums “Reinventing Axl Rose” and “The Eternal Cowboy” were met with enormous praise far beyond the punk scene, drawing comparisons to the likes of Billy Bragg and the Clash. On the verge of the release of their third album, Against Me! will soon again enter our lives and hearts with their inspirational music. I recently talked with singer and guitarist Tom Gabel the night before the band was set to headline the legendary CBGB’s in a benefit show to help save the troubled club.

Gabel began the interview fairly humble and reserved, reluctant to talk much about politics and the band’s success. In the punk scene, when a band that’s toured so much and befriended so many people in the underground finds commercial success and a larger audience, things always get a bit tricky. Sadly, we try to cling to the way things used to be and bands that progress beyond a fairly insular community often become targets for frustration and anger. It’s really too bad, especially with such a great group of guys like Against Me!, who have such a positive attitude and genuine respect for all their fans and friends. Gabel admitted halfway through our discussion, “I fear certain questions and talking about political things because I fear so much judgment at this point... and it’s hard, because you don’t want to focus on it.”

The downside to success, he explained, can be fairly frustrating at times. “The majority of places you get it are reading Internet message boards or a letter from an irate fan. Sometimes it really perplexes me how people can casually be so mean. We are not doing anything to hurt anybody and we’re just making records and touring. We definitely get our share of shit for every choice we make, but I think for myself as a person, I don’t really want to focus on negative things or being around people that have negative attitudes. I don’t want to get caught up in shit talking or need to prove that I’m punk or whatever, I just want to play in a fucking band. And I’d like people to be able to take something from that, whether it’s a personal or political message. If they can take something from our music, then that’s amazing.”

Make no mistake about it, the band is enjoying its success. We discussed their upcoming shows opening for Green Day. Gabel said, “It will be in front of 50,000 people, which is insane! Yesterday when we were flying into New York we literally flew over Giant’s Stadium and we were like ‘Holy shit!’ Mentally, as a band, it’s great. It keeps you challenged, it keeps things fresh—you want to have new experiences. Playing bigger shows is great because it’s challenging, and that’s something you want to make sure you are doing for yourself all the time—throwing yourself into a different situation and seeing if you can hold water. I’ve never played in a stadium before and I don’t know if I’ll like it or I’ll hate it, but I want to do it so I will be able to make an informed opinion about it.”

I told Gabel how a friend of mine said Against Me! makes politics fun again and that we need more bands that can bring dance to the revolution. While he loves this response from fans, he downplayed the band’s anarchist politics and explained, “I wouldn’t say we have a certain political aim or are looking for a particular response from our audience. It’s not really thought out in that way. We are just playing the music that comes naturally to us as a band and we think its fun and have a good time. We hope that translates to people, but we’re not doing it for anyone’s approval.”

I wondered about the title of the new album, “Searching for a Former Clarity.” Tom said, “It’s meant to be open-ended, enough so that people might infer some sort meaning from the title, but that meaning isn’t necessarily the correct one. It’s up to the listener to decide what it means. It is the first time I’ve written an album under a working title. Usually we make the record, then when it’s time for us to name it we have to wonder, ‘Well, what do we name it?’ This is the first time I had the title and wrote the music under the title.” He laughed and continued, “But I didn’t tell anybody else in the band that I had the title already!” And how did it turn out? “If you are someone that thought between the first two albums there was some sort of evolution taking place, then this album would be where that evolution landed. Right now we feel very comfortable as a band.”

Shag at Seattle's Roq La Rue

I had a chance to make it down to the Roq La Rue gallery in Seattle's Belltown neighborhood for the opening party of the new Shag exhibit "Motorino". The show was awesome, Shag himself was there and debuted tons of new paintings and prints. The prices were way over this fan's budget, but it was fun getting to check out the work close up and personal. Plus there was live music, beer flowing and a lot of friendly faces in the crowd. The show runs for the next month and is definitely worth checking out if you're local and dig Shag's '60s beatnik/mod/tiki style of artwork. There are more details on the Roq La Rue website.

Spin's #1 album of 2007

I was fairly amazed that when I flipped through an issue of Spin, which I never do, to find that their top album of 2007 is "New Wave" by Against Me! I'm a fan of the band. How can a band I like be #1 in Spin? And how can Spin like Against Me! more than shit like Kanye West? The band must be getting a lot more mainstream attention than I realized.

I sat on the Bumbershoot advisory board for two years, something that's amazing in itself for happening. I was recommended by Dave Meinert, who up until that point had only argued with me about local clubs, music and politics. But I guess Dave likes people that aren't afraid to speak their minds. Anyway, when I was on the Bumberboard, my main goal, along with getting local punk bands I loved into the festival (The Spits, Briefs and Cripples, it was pretty awesome!) and to campaign for a few big bands I wanted to see (The Stooges and The Pixies!), was to get a few up-and-coming national punk bands on the bill. I fought hard for Against Me! They already had two albums out and could sell out the Vera Project, plus they kicked fucking ass. I succeeded in convincing the One Reel staff they were worthy and Against Me! played to a small but enthusiastic crowd of about 1500 people. They were really one of the highlights of that year's Bumbershoot festival and this was years before The Stranger would even acknowledge the band, much less book them at The Capitol Hill Block Party (they played the Block Party last Summer).

Anyway, in recent years they've definitely become more pop... and with that came popularity. They still write great sing-a-long anthems, they still have biting often satirical political and social commentary wrapped in lyrics that don't exactly rhyme (reminiscent of The Dead Kennedys actually), but they just now are radio-friendly, on a major, and feature guest vocalists like Tegan (from Tegan and Sara). I'm personally OK with a more mainstream-acceptable sound and the same type of lyrics, it's like they are sneaking a subversive message into commercial audiences, something '70s punk bands like The Clash and Sex Pistols were good at. And I still think they sound great, but I've always liked punk bands with pop sensibilities, from Stiff Little Fingers and The Buzzcocks, to Screeching Weasel and Sicko. Or maybe I'm just getting old by not joining the teen punk masses pointing the sell-out finger at Against Me! I actually think it's kind of cool that they may succeed at pushing their message and vision towards a much larger audience.

Here's a cut from "New Wave" entitled "White People for Peace":

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Cute Lepers

The Cute Lepers seem like half a minor supergroup of members of Seattle punk bands and half a Briefs side-project. While this is probably an unfair characterization, it works for me since I like all the bands the members have played in and love The Briefs. Along with two Briefs members, the Cute Lepers feature current or ex-members of The Girls, The Stuck-Ups, The Snot Rockets, The Amazombies, The Valentine Killers and more. The band plays, not surprisingly, catchy head bobbing sing-along punk. These photos are from a show at Funhouse July 20th, 2007. To hear a few songs, check out their MySpace profile.

Band Members: Steve E. Nix on guitar and vocals, Stevie Kicks on bass, Zache Out on guitar, Josh Blisters on drums, and back up vocals, handclaps and tamboring by Bent Rewd, Analisa, and Meredith.

In Other Seattle Club News: The Comet is sold!

The Comet Tavern was advertised on Craigslist earlier this week as for sale for $400,000. The Seattle Times is reporting today someone bought it.

The Comet is a long-time Capitol Hill bar located at 922 E. Pike St. It's been frequented by a ton of band members over the years, probably most famously by Mia Zapata of The Gits, who tragically was murdered one night walking home from the place. Every time I listen to the old Gits' line about "at least I still got my friends at the bar," I always still picture Mia, clinking pints of beer with people at The Comet. It puts a smile on my face. I probably did half of the interviews for 10 Things and Tablet with local bands at the Comet and have spend hundreds of quarters on their pinball machines. It has always been a great host for small live shows, although a slightly weird room, with bands playing on the floor. For years and years when the bar didn't have liquor, Stu from the Valentine Killers and another guy (I wanna say his name was DP, I'm currently spacing on it) booked a lot of local and touring garage and punk bands.

It was only last Summer that Christopher Dasef sold Chop Suey and bought the Comet. In came a face lift, liquor, and Mamma Casserole booking live music a lot more regularly. Props to the team that made it happen, they kept the same feel the place always had, yet improved it. While I'm surprised the bar has been sold just a year and half after it was sold last, I guess nothing should be that surprising now (with AEG moving in on the Showbox locations and the Croc closing). The new owner will be announced shortly. Thankfully, it sounds like they aren't planning on channing the live music booking or booker, which is great.

Nothing Says Christmas More Than Girls in Scout Uniforms!

One of the best things about seeing garage girl group The Hot Rollers live was every show they'd play in costume with a new theme... and they usually had dancers to boot! These photos are from a show in October 2004 at Funhouse.

ps- Welcome back to town Erin

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My Last Croc Show: Riverboat Gamblers & The Bronx

I'm glad the last Crocodile Cafe show I went to, back July 6, 2007, was a doozie! I've already posted my photos of The Bronx from the gig. They were one of my most anticipated bands to see live in a long time and they didn't disappoint (although their sound was bad, which was odd, Croc soundman Jim Anderson was known for getting the best sound out of bands for the space). Also on the bill was the Riverboat Gamblers, it was the second time I saw them and boy did they put on a show. The lead singer was everywhere, in the audience, hanging and climbing off stuff, culminating with him climbing onto the fake tiki hut style roof over the little band room of to the left of the stage. Needless to say it rules to see a lead singer with a cast still on from his last performance injury hanging on to a lamp's chord 15 feet above the audience while singing. That's some fucking rock and roll right there. Check this action out:

Monday, December 17, 2007

Crocodile Cafe: A Countdown to Implosion

With the announcement of Seattle's Crocodile Cafe closing on Monday December 17th, I have to say I wasn't surprised at all. On the Seattle Weekly and Stranger's blogs, fans of the club seemed surprised, but anyone that was following the news of what has been going on with the club should have seen Monday's announcement coming. Over the past year information emerged out about an old lawsuit, owner Stephanie Dorgan's divorce and possible ill-management, and last month the kitchen closed, then the booker quit. Below is a timeline of the Crocodile Cafe, documenting it's rise, the personal life of the owner taking precedence over the club, and it's eventual downfall. If you follow the timeline of events, you can clearly see the writing was on the wall many months ago that the club may close... and maybe it was more a matter of when it would happen, rather if it would happen.

1991- Lawyer and music fan Stephanie Dorgan and partners open The Crocodile Cafe as a rock club and cafe on 2nd and Blanchard (2200 2nd Ave) in Belltown, a fairly rundown neighborhood in downtown Seattle. Grunge is already starting to explode and the club is in the right place at the right time.

1992- Nirvana, Mudhoney, Tad, The Fluid, The Dwarves, The Supersuckers and many other popular Sub Pop and touring bands play The Croc, helping catapult the club into being the venue of choice in Seattle for the growing grunge and local rock scene.

1992- Croc owner Dorgan meets her husband-to-be, Peter Buck from REM, although at the time she's still married to her first husband, a fellow lawyer.

1992- In August, Dorgan's business partners, Gerold Everard and Erickson Shirley, sue her for failing to maintain proper accounting records. A settlement is reached and the details of the case are sealed, quieting the press coverage.

1993- Dorgan divorces first husband. Her attention becomes split between the club and spending time with Buck, who's often on the road touring with REM.

1994- Dorgan and Buck have twin daughters, Zelda and Zoe. The rock goes on at the Croc, but with a lot less attention from it's owner.

1995- Dorgan and Buck officially tie the knot.

1995-2000- The Crocodile Cafe hosts hundreds and hundreds of rock shows, often filled to capacity. Dorgan called an "absentee owner" by ex-staff during this period. Regardless, the club is profitable and has a string of great shows.

2000- Estimated year the Crocodile Cafe stops making a profit (see the February 2006 entry for details, that's when the information came out).

Local music fans complain about Crocodile club staff making shows at the club less fun than at other venues. Bar staff are often called rude and complaints arise about the club's security. At the same time greater competition arises for the Crocodile with larger clubs like The Showbox, Nuemo's, El Corazon, Vera Project and Chop Suey all proving to be successful. Crowd friendly neighborhood clubs like The Sunset and Tractor Tavern in Ballard, Jules Maes in Georgetown, and the High Dive in Fremont also compete for crowds and shows, as do smaller bars like Funhouse and Mars Bar. The grunge movement, which catapulted the club into popularity and brought in the crowds, is long gone. The Croc has a bit of an identity crisis and booking seems all over the map, from indie rock to Sub Pop bands to alt country to punk to metal. The Croc is no longer a go-to destination, except with tourists looking for their Seattle grunge experience. For Seattle music fans and local bands, the club has become just one of many options for live music around town.

2006- In February, Stephanie Dorgan and husband Peter Buck divorce, having split up the previous year. At the time Dorgan declares in court documents: "All of the time away from the Crocodile Cafe adversely affected its moneymaking ability. Since 2000, the Crocodile Cafe has not been able to pay me any salary at all." According to Dorgan's testimony, it's quite probablye the club hadn't been making money since 2000, and now it's owner was going through major personal turmoil going through her second divorce and trying to raise two daughters.

2007- In August, The Seattle Times succeeds in getting the details of the 1992 lawsuit against Dorgan by her partners unsealed. A number of articles follow in the Seattle press about Dorgan's business practices and the Crocodile Cafe's financial stability. The string of bad press for the club begins.

2007- In September, The Seattle Weekly publishes and article entitled "
Confronted With a Perfect Storm of Challenges, Belltown's Legendary Crocodile Cafe Fights for Its Life." The article delves into the financial, legal, and personal problems of Stephanie Dorgan and the club, read it here.

2007- In early November, the Crocodile Cafe halts food service, closing its restaurant, presumably in an attempt to save money. More articles hit Seattle newspapers about the Croc's financial stability. The club website is never updated to say the kitchen is closed, it continues to advertise "breakfast 6 days a week."

2007- November 28, the club's primary booker Peter Greenberg quits. The final straw for Greenberg occurs during a staff meeting that devolves into an argument between Dorgan and Greenberg about catering food for a party, now that the kitchen is closed. Ex-employees talk to press about past paychecks bouncing, a leaky roof, financial problems and Dorgan treating the club like a vanity project. Current employees defend the club, saying it will go on and to ignore the rumors. Greenberg gets hired by rival club Chop Suey the following week.

2007- December 7th, corporate media giant AEG announces it's bought the two Showbox theaters in downtown Seattle, one just 6 or 7 blocks from the Croc. Already owner of the WAMU Theater and partnering with One Reel for the Bumbershoot Festival, AEG clearly is taking big steps into asserting dominance in Seattle's live music scene and creating a large powerful new competitor for the Crocodile Cafe and other locally owned clubs. (Sadly, AEG has an extremely conservative owner that sinks the profits from his music clubs and other investments into scary right wing political causes like denying gays rights and fighting the science of evolution, see previous entry).

2007- December 16th, new Crocodile booker Eli Anderson receives a phone message out of the blue from Dorgan, informing him the club is now closed, while he's out Christmas shopping. Dorgan's message to Anderson cites "financial reasons" for the club's startling and immediate closure. Anderson is shocked, he's spent the last three weeks working non-stop booking the club and saw no signs of the club's impending closure at show the night before.

2007- December 17th, news of the closure begins to hit the media from "an unnamed, yet reliable source" who's most likely Anderson. Seattle Weekly staff are first to publish the news via their Reverb blog. They share it with radio station KEXP, which in turn announces the closure on air. A few hours later The Stranger, Seattle Times, Seattle P-I and various music blogs like this one spread the story and their feelings about the Crocodile Cafe now being closed. Fans of the club flood online blogs (particularly The Stranger's Line Out music blog) and forums with messages of complete surprise and dismay.

The reality is, the club hasn't made money for years, possibly since 2000. Stephanie Dorgan recently went through a divorce and has two 13 year old daughters to raise. The club and Dorgan have had a string of bad press since August. Competition has stepped up from an alliance between Nuemos and Chop Suey on Capitol Hill, as well as AEG buying the two Showbox venues and talking about sinking money into both venues. The economy is having problems, people are spending less money on shows and drinks. Belltown has become increasingly yuppie and less rock crowd friendly. A number of music clubs the size of the Croc have opened in neighborhoods closer to where music fans live, such as Ballard, Freemont, Capitol Hill, Georgetown and West Seattle. And to top it off, Dorgan just got in a spat with her booker of four years, who quit and was hired by a competing club.

The future was looking pretty dismal for the Crocodile Cafe. Nothing seemed to be going Dorgan or the club's way (although that may be in large part to how Dorgan ran the business over the years if you listen to her ex-partners and ex-employees). I don't think anyone should really find the club's closing as a surprise once given all this information. What's sad is it came out of the blue for Crocodile staff, right before Christmas, leaving all the employees jobless with no warning. Many would see that as unethical.

In it's hey day, the Crocodile Cafe was a great club. I have many fond memories of shows and experiences there (and heck, it's the only Seattle club I've been thrown out of... twice!). In the past few years the shows haven't been the same, everyone knows it. My guess is it was less a problem with the booking and more the tougher competition the club faced from larger capacity venues that could pay bands more (the Croc maxes out at around 350 people). The Crocodile Cafe had a great run, the longest of any Seattle rock club I can think of. There's talk now of a bunch of different groups of people trying to buy it, but it may just be gossip. It will be interesting to see if anyone steps up to the plate. Can it be made a financially successful club again? Can it be made a go to destination for music fans again? I wish anyone that tries the best of luck.

Bill Collectors

Mix a little '70s glam rock and punk with garage rock'n'roll and you've got Seattle band the Bill Collectors. Featuring Owen from the Trots up front, you can almost hear some the New York Doll's "Personality Crisis" in the band's theme song "Pay Your Bills." And I consider that a great thing. For more info check out their MySpace profile. These photos are from when the band played The Lobo back on March 3, 2007.

Band members: Owen on guitar, Matt on bass, and Ken on drums.

More on the Crocodile Cafe closing

From Crocodile booker Eli Sanders:

"I also want to reiterate that the Croc's closure came as a TOTAL SURPRISE to everyone who worked there, myself included. I spent the last three weeks on my life work there 60+hours per week, frantically convincing agents/bands/promoters that it was okay to book shows there because I believed it was. Obviously if I knew we were going to close I wouldn't have been putting so much work into securing the Croc a solid spring schedule. I'd like to apologize to any band or agent or promoter who I inadvertently lied to in the past few weeks.

I feel really betrayed by the club's sudden closure. It was no mystery to anyone who cared that the Crocodile was losing money. But I really do feel that we had the right people in there, with the right attitude and that we were going to turn things around. I was very much looking forward to throwing myself into the job and doing everything in my power to assure that the Crocodile Cafe became the club that it deserved to be. I cared deeply about the place and everything it stood for. So to have the wool pulled over my eyes and the rug pulled out from under my feet is just insulting.

I'd also like to say that I got the VOICE MAIL about the Croc closing while I was Christmas shopping if only because it adds a delicious Dickensian twist to the story. Here's to hoping that the local music community shows up at my apartment tonight with a fat Christmas goose.

Oh! And if anyone has a lead on a job...I kinda need one..."

Crocodile Cafe closed?

From the Stranger's music blog this morning:

"A reliable source just informed me that she received a phone call from the Crocodile’s Eli Anderson this afternoon. Eli told her he had received a phone call from Crocodile owner Stephanie Dorgan earlier today to inform him that the Crocodile is closed for business. Emails have been sent and phonecalls have been made to confirm. We’ll let you know as soon as we find out more, but I’m trusting this tip is true."

KEXP apparently announced it on air this morning as well. Granted the club doesn't seem to have been doing as well in recent years. I can't remember the last time I went there... maybe two years ago? And the owner just had a spat with the booker, who quit and got hired at Chop Suey. But still, closing seems a bit drastic and exactly the opposite of what all the staff was saying just a week or two ago:

"The rumors are just rumors," says general manager Kevin Watson about the public speculation of the club's imminent demise. "I've been working here for 12 years and I've been hearing rumors the whole time. I've heard that about every club in the city." -The Stranger 12/04

Friday, December 14, 2007

Old Sicko videos = pop punk goodness

Josh from Sicko has been adding a bunch of the Seattle pop punk legend's live and tour footage to YouTube. The sound ain't always great, but the videos capture the band's essence of sappy poppy punk at breakneck speeds with great harmonies. Here's a taste:

To check out the rest of the videos, go here.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Right Wing Politics of Bumbershoot's Co-Producer (and new Showbox owners)

I know, you came here for rock info and I should shut up about this already... but, this kind of shit really bugs me and the more I dig into the Showbox's new owner, the scarier it gets.

The guy is one of the big funders of the Seattle think tank Discovery Institute, which in recent years has gotten a lot of headlines arguing against evolution and promoting the idea of intelligent design. He's also put a lot of money into supporting George Bush, the Republican party and anti-gay legislation. Essentially he's a big rich powerful bible thumper pushing and agenda through his media companies that's very in-line with the rightwing Christian agenda. I really have to question why One Reel went into business with AEG to co-produce Bumbershoot. I sat on the Bumbershoot advisory board for two years and met most of the One Reel staff and it's founder, they all seemed like liberal/progressive types of people. I have to wonder if the bottom line drove their decision (which seems odd, since Bumbershoot actually turned at $200,000 profit for the first time last year) and did they fail to do the research on who they were going into business with. has some great information on Phil Anschutz, one full article is here, but I wanted to share a few highlights:

"Between 1995 and 2000, according to, the website of the Center for Responsive Politics, the Anschutz Corporation, and assorted members of the Anschutz family, donated nearly $700,000 to the Republican party and its candidates. Over the years, Anschutz-related entities have helped bankroll a number of ultraconservative political organizations, including:
  • Colorado for Family Values- The organization behind Amendment 2, Colorado's notorious anti-gay constitutional amendment approved by the voters in 1992 and later overturned by the US Supreme Court.
  • Institute for American Values- Campaigns for marriage and against single parenting;
  • Enough is Enough- President and Chair of its Board of Directors is Donna Rice Hughes (the major figure in the sex scandal that ended the 1987 campaign of Gary Hart, in the Democratic presidential primary). Enough is Enough claims that it is "Lighting the way to protect children and families from the dangers of illegal Internet pornography and sexual predators."
  • Morality in the Media-- Established in 1962 "to combat obscenity and uphold decency standards in the media."
Anschutz's name also came up last spring when the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy gave a report to House staff that called for legislation barring people under investigation for, or accused or convicted of, corporate crimes from serving on boards of private foundations."

And this is from Wikipedia:

Anschutz, a Republican donor and avid supporter of George W. Bush's administration, has been an active patron of a number of religious and conservative causes:
  • Helped fund Amendment 2, a ballot initiative designed to overturn a Colorado state law giving equal rights to homosexuals.
  • Helped fund the Discovery Institute, a think tank based in Seattle, Washington that promotes intelligent design and critiques some theories of evolution.
  • Supported the Media Research Council, a group responsible for nearly all indecency complaints to the FCC in 2003.
  • Financed and distributed Christian-themed films, such as Amazing Grace and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, for mass audiences through his two film production companies and ownership of much of the Regal, Edwards and United Artists theater chains. In addition, as a producer Anschutz reportedly required the removal of certain material related to drug use and womanizing in the 2004 film Ray because he found it objectionable.
  • Anschutz has also funded advertisements for television, billboards, and Regal Cinemas for his Foundation For a Better Life. The ads, while not explicitly religious, promotes positive concepts such as "faith" and "integrity", using characters such as Shrek and Kermit the Frog. The ads were produced by Bonneville Communications, a Salt Lake City agency which produces ads for the Mormon Church.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

New Fangs

The New Fangs was a Seattle band fronted by Dave of The Blow Up/Gimmicks that were in some ways like a punked up Joy Division. They released one CD, entitle Bayonets, and you can hear a few songs on their MySpace profile. This photo is from a show The New Fangs played at the Monkey Pub January 7, 2006.

AEG: WAMU, Bumbershoot, the Showbox... what Seattle venue will fall next?

AEG is definitely making moves to control the Seattle live music scene market. They are already the exclusive booker of the WAMU theater (with it's $8 beer prices!) and in February signed a 5 year contract to co-produce (and profit from) Bumbershoot, which had been run since 1980 by the non-profit local arts group One Reel (that's huge!). Philip Anschutz is the conservative multibillionaire who owns AEG and it's parent business The Anschutz Company. Anschutz made his money off of oil, founded Qwest, owns a bunch of professional sports teams, sports arenas, major venues, some newspapers, and is currently buying up indie music venues in major cities in direct competition with the Clear Channel/Live Nation/House of Blues conglomerate. WAMU, the two Showbox theaters and Bumbershoot... it makes one wonder, what's next?

AEG Live is the nation's second largest concert promotion and touring company and definitely seems to have it's eyes on being number one. A quick Lexis-Nexis and Proquest check shows over the past year they've been buying up venues or signing exclusive contracts to run them in many major US cities. Does this matter? It does to me and it should to you. I do think people in Seattle care about outside multi-billion dollar corporations coming into our city and trying to take over our music and arts scene. Here's why:
  • All profits from these venues that were previously made and spent locally now will go out of state instead of into the local economy, the Mayor's office estimates Seattle's music community directly contributes $1.3 billion to our economy annually. As the biggest festival and venues become run by AEG, the local economic impact could be huge.
  • In LA, Denver, NYC, Kansas City and other cities where AEG has taken over venues, they've seen both ticket and drink prices jump, sometimes dramatically.
  • Local music acts will be kept out of these venues in increasing numbers to make room for artists that have signed deals to play AEG venues on their national tours. AEG often becomes the exclusive promoter for large touring acts.
  • The relationship between bands and music fans and Seattle's venues becomes less about fostering a healthy and exciting music community and more about making a profit.
For more information, here's Anschutz' business profile:
Denver multibillionaire Philip Anschutz has all his eggs in The Anschutz Company basket. Founded in 1958, the holding company's interests include a majority share of Regal Entertainment Group, which in turn controls former independent theater chains United Artists Theatre Company, Regal Cinemas, and Edwards Theatres. Publishing interests include The San Francisco Examiner and The Washington Examiner. Other holdings include Los Angeles' Staples Center and four professional soccer teams. Anschutz made his first fortune from oil on his Utah/Wyoming ranch; oil holdings include Forest Oil and Anschutz Exploration. He also founded Qwest Communications. All told, Anschutz has interests in about 100 businesses.

The conservative billionaire has agreed to sell 43 million shares of Qwest, part of a plan to liquidate more than 90% of his stake in the country's fourth-largest phone company. Through a series of forward-sale contracts, Anschutz stands to gain more than $1.3 billion in upfront cash while maintaining control of most of his Qwest shares until 2010. Anschutz is now Qwest's second-largest shareholder behind Fidelity Investments.

Anschutz also owns film and TV production companies Bristol Bay Productions (formerly Crusader Entertainment), which produces and distributes films with G or PG ratings and Walden Media. Walden Media also co-funded (with Walt Disney) religious allegory fantasy movie The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, based on C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia books.

Subsidiary Anschutz Entertainment is one of the producers of Celine Dion's Las Vegas show and is redeveloping London's beleaguered Millennium Dome. Anschutz funding is also behind the seemingly anonymous "Pass It On" billboards and commercials produced by The Foundation for a Better Life, a charity backed by his Anschutz Foundation.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Four Easy Pieces

Band website:

Band members: Collin on vocals and guitar, Ray on guitar, Oni on bass and Tommy on drums.

The Showbox has been sold to corporate America!

Seattle's Showbox theaters were just sold to AEG, a subsidiary of the Anschutz Company, one, if not the, largest sports and entertainment presenter corporations in the world. The Showbox, the same place the Dead Kennedys once played and host to hundreds of punk shows throughout the '80s and '90s (as well as the first date with my wife) is now part of a giant umbrella entertainment corporation. Lame!

The Anschutz Company owns a controlling stake in a big pile of sports arenas, centers, and mammoth theaters, including: STAPLES Center, WaMu Theatre, Colosseum at Caesars Palace, Anaheim Convention Center Arena, Target Center, NOKIA Theatre Times Square. They also own a controlling interest in sports franchises including the Los Angeles Kings (NHL), Los Angeles Riptide (MLL), Manchester Monarchs (AHL), Reading Royals (ECHL), Chicago Fire, Houston Dynamo and Los Angeles Galaxy (MLS), two hockey franchises operated in Europe, the Hammarby (Sweden) Futbol Club and management of privately held shares of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Essentially, goodbye any fragments left of a homegrown local establishment, and hello overpriced beers, security pat downs, and jacked up ticket prices.

The official press release for those that care:

AEG Marketing, a sponsorship, sales and consulting company; AEG Merchandising, a multi-faceted merchandising company; and AEG Creative, a full-service marketing and advertising agency.

Alex Kochan, Vice President of AEG Live’s regional operations in the Northwest, announced today that AEG Live is purchasing the Showbox concert clubs and hiring longtime venue operators Jeff Steichen and Chad Queirolo as General Manager and Talent Buyer/Manager, respectively. The Showbox at the Market and Showbox SoDo are among Seattle’s leading destinations for live music, comedy and game day hospitality.

“We are thrilled to welcome The Showbox and their staff to the AEG Live family,” said Alex Kochan, Vice President, AEG Live Northwest. “Jeff, Chad and the team they have assembled bring a wealth of experience and energy to the Seattle music scene, and together we can help enhance the concert experience for the city’s fans even further.”

“We are starting a new chapter in the history of Seattle’s live music scene,” said Jeff Steichen, Showbox General Manager for both venues. “AEG Live shares our vision and is as committed to the fans as we are.”

Under Mr. Steichen’s leadership, Showbox at the Market has consistently ranked among the top concert clubs in the world, according to Pollstar magazine. The second Showbox brand venue, located just south of downtown Seattle and adjacent to the city’s sports stadiums, joined the ranks in October. It has since thrilled fans with sold-out concerts featuring artists such as Kid Rock, Heart, The Hives, M.I.A. and The Pogues.

AEG Live’s other collaborations in Seattle include exclusive booking for the WaMu Theater at the Qwest Field Event Center and the Grandstand concerts at the Puyallup Fair, as well as participation in the Bumbershoot Arts and Music Festival. The company also produces the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Southern California, and promotes national tours for artists such as Justin Timberlake, Bon Jovi, Prince, Christina Aguilera, Kenny Chesney and Paul McCartney.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Zero Down

This is what happens when you team veterans of punk bands like Dumt, the Jesters of Chaos, My Name and No Direction together with a pile of '80s metal records and a few cases of cheap beer - old school punks gone rock. Crunchy punk guitars with metal licks, sometimes '80s metal vocals, funny lyrics and at least two band members making ridiculous faces in every photo. Fast and fun, that's the way Zero Down plays. They definitely land more in the metal camp these days, but go over well enough with a punk crowd that their bills seem split between playing metal and punk shows. Zero Down has been around since 2002 and released one album entitled "Old Time Revival" a few years ago. Currently they are recording their second album. This photo was taken March 30, 2007 at The Sunset Tavern. For more info, check out

Mark Hawkinson on vocals, Lenny Burnett on guitar, Ronnie Banner on bass, Fred Speakman on guitar, and Tyler Lindsley on drums.

Sgt. Major

Kurt Bloch is most famous for his long running punk band The Fastbacks. For the last few years he's been playing in Sgt. Major, which actually don't sound drastically different then his previous band. Sgt. Major play a blend of catchy punk and indie pop music with female vocals. This photo is from a show the band played at the Sunset Tavern in Ballard, March 2, 2007. Check out the band's MySpace profile for a few songs and more info.

Band members: Carmella on vocals, Kurt Bloch on guitar, Jimmy Sangster on bass and Mike Musburger on drums.

More Whore Moans photos

The Whore Moans, live at the Comet Tavern, from February 24, 2007.

Friday, December 7, 2007

My Posse's on Broadway

Seattle's Capitol scene circa 1985:

In the mid-'80s Seattle's Capitol Hill and Broadway were a bit different than they are today. Actually some people would probably say it was similar to today--a little run down, seedy, and with violent tendencies, but it was worse when I was a teenager. During the late-'80s Broadway was made over. The sidwalks were widened and redone, a lot of fancier businesses moved in, the Broadway Market was built, and all the spots where homeless and youth used to hang out were made not so friendly to loitering. Broadway became a lot more yuppie and gay, and not so much the hip neighborhood to hang out in. Of course over a decade later it's become a bit more run down, and areas like the Pike-Pine corridor that once housed crack apartments and junkies are now full of hipsters with white belts and Rod Stewart hair.

When I first went to Capital Hill in 1984, through probably around 1987, the place to hang out was "The Wall." The Wall was a brick and cement wall in front of Baskin and Robbins (AKA 31 Flavors) about 4 foot tall that usually had about 100 punk, goth and new wave kids hanging around it and the surrounding benches and corners. They later put metal spikes along the top of The Wall and statues on the benches so no one could sit on them. But in the hey day of Broadway being a teenage hangout spot, that area was hopping every Friday and Saturday night. We'd go there to hang out,meet girls, find out about shows or parties, buy or sell drugs or just get into a little trouble. These photos are from Fall or Winter of 1985.

Sir Mix-A-Lot's classic video for "My Posse's on Broadway" was filmed right around the same time and has some great shots of old Broadway and Dick's. I remember for a year after the song came out everyone driving down Broadway cranking the song, it was pretty hilarious.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Scream Club

Cindy Wonderful and Sarah Adorable are known together as the Olympia band Scream Club. They describe themselves as a "Queer Electro Sex Hop Hip Pop Punk Rock Glam Rap Duo" and that pretty much covers all the basics. They mix their beats and tunes in studio and live mostly play of CD while they sing, dance, rap and get the party started.

I first saw Scream Club live three or four years ago and instantly became a fan. They were fucking hilarious. Soon after they released the album "Don't Bite Your Sister," which is a fun and funny intro to what they do. They were cool enough to come play a Queer Punk show Tablet organized for Pride a few years ago and I've seen them play a few Rat Cit Rollergirl events. The duo has a cut on the new "Action Disco" 12" compilation, which also features Nuclear Family (Denmark), Making Friends (NYC), Mz Sunday Luv (Montreal), The Gay Deceivers (Portland), Christofski Kabui (London), Double Helix (Scotland), Nolan (Toronto), Hug Party (Manchester) and The Post Modern Pants (Berlin). For more info and tunes, check out Scream Club's Myspace profile. This photo is from when the band performed at El Corazon on January 14, 2006.

The Primate 5

5 Reasons Seattle's Primate 5 are a great live band:
1. They wear gorilla costumes
2. They light things on fire
3. They play catchy and fun garage and surf music
4. Their live shows are always like a party
5. Ooooh ooh ah, ooooh ooooh ooh ah... it's Gorilla Time!


These photos are of Tacoma band Infect rocking a rollergirl party back last Summer!

The Bronx

For me, one of the more exciting bands in the past few years has been The Bronx. While the halfway point between hardcore and rock has been eternally blemished by bands like Lincoln Park and Korn, there are a few bands that do it right. At the top of the pile I put The Bronx, who manage to harness both the energy of hardcore bands like Black Flag and rock appeal of AC/DC without the cheesy metal riffs, mosh breakdowns or growled lyrics that plague alt metal bands today. The Bronx play straight up heavy hitting music that's catchy, yet hard, and they aren't afraid to mix it up with a few slower songs.

Click here to listen to Heart Attack American, their opening song to their debut LP that came out in 2003. It blows away almost any other band from this decade. In 2006 they released their second album, their major label debut on Island/Def Jam, which oddly enough was self-titled, just like their first self-released album. The second album doesn't pack quite as much of a punch, but it's still damn good. I shot these photos when the band played live at the Crocodile Cafe July 6, 2006.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Dreadful Children

I missed the Dreadful Children's set this past weekend at the Naked Raygun show (they played at like 8pm!), but as usual, I loved catching up with singer/guitarist Lonnie at the show. This photo is from when the band played back in May at Funhouse. The Dreadful Children I've always thought of as Lonnie from Bristle's "other band," but in recent years they play a lot more shows than Bristle and seem to have become more his main band. Steve from the Briefs has been playing with them lately as well. The Dreadful Children play catchy punk with a great '80s UK feel to it and pub rock/street punk sing along choruses. I love that while most of their songs are fairly serious, they also do the "Pink Elephants on Parade" song from the Disney movie Dumbo! The band has a full-length CD out on Street Anthem Records called "Dot to Dot" and you can hear a few their songs here.

The Punk Group

Portland band The Punk Group are a fucking crack up. They are kind of a lo-fi, stripped down version of Devo or the Epoxies, playing '80s new wave mixed with punk. Only the band is just two guys, so the music is all keyboards and drum machine, so it leans more on the new wave side of things. Throw in silly and hilarious lyrics and a bunch of costume changes live and you've got one entertaining concept band. The band has put out oodles of music and appeared in The Expoxies' "Synthesized" video, check out The Punk Group website to hear them. This photo I took at El Corazon on January 14, 2006 when the band played a Rat City Rollergirls party.

The Charming Snakes

Seattle's Charming Snakes live at the Experience Music Project from December 10, 2005. I'm not sure the band is still playing live, Rueben and Lacey seem to be focused more on their other band The Coconut Coolouts now. But the Charming Snakes played catchy p-rock and were always fun at bar shows, check 'em out on their MySpace page.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Misfats are fatter and Misfitier than you!

Only one band can claim the title of "The world's fattest Misfits cover band" and it's Portland band The Misfats. Not only do they cover The Misfits, but they change the lyrics to be about food! Like most cover bands, you can probably only see them once or twice before it gets old, but the band is damn funny live. This photo is from a show they did earlier this year at the Monkey Pub. For more info about the band, check out

The Valley

Valleys are often large, big, crevices surrounded on all sides by walls of rock. If this is the kind of imagery a band hopes you envision when they name themselves The Valley, then these Seattle noise behemoth's were right on mark. Here's a review I wrote of the band for my column in Tablet back in 2005:

"The first time I saw Seattle band the Valley they took over a small stage in a fairly empty club and simply laid down the rock so loud and heavy I was floored. Their music hit on some crazy sonic level like Godheadsilo used to, where you not only hear it, but you feel it vibrating from the stage, across the floor and through your body. I think I actually felt queasy at first. If you mention the Valley to anyone who’s seen them, they usually say “The Valley are fucking loud!” Now, I’m not sure that being known as a loud band is usually a good thing; you don’t want to be known for driving people out of the room. But somehow it works for the Valley both live and on their debut album, released in January on Swingline Records. The band’s heavy distortion, heavy guitars and heavy drums are balanced by melodic songs and catchy vocals. With equal parts grunge and pop punk, the Valley blend two styles I love, but rarely find together."

Two and a half years later the band is still going strong. This photo is from a show they played earlier this year at The Comet. They've been getting airplay on KEXP, had a song featured on NPR as the song of the day, and just released a six-song EP - which locals can pick up at Sonic Boom or when the band plays live. Live you say, Dan? Upcoming Valley shows include:

December 8th @ the Showbox for the KEXP Yule Benefit
December 20th @ The Sunset in Ballard
December 21st @ Hell's Kitchen in Tacoma with Seaweed (reunited!)
January 11th @ The Croc in Belltown


Stoner rock much? Seattle's Bacchus play heavy, pounding, loud, thick punk rock. The kind of music that would be the perfect soundtrack to cars getting crushed in a wrecking yard or beating a sledge hammer against an anvil. They are a lot less metal than High on Fire, more in the vein of The Melvins or even mid-career Helmet, and they are fun live. But don't listen to me, check them out for yourself.

More Fitz of Depression photos

Olympia's Fitz of Depression are back together with a new line-up and have been playing shows more often over the past year. These are photos from their February 2, 2007 show at the Comet Tavern: