Emerald City Subterranean DIY
When the Seattle music community gets all excited about how the City Noise Ordinance will destroy the local music scene, they are forgetting one thing. The Seattle music scene has a long historyÂ of being underground. One could argue that’s what gives the scene it’s passion – the fact that very few outside of its own ranks support, or even acknowledge it.
I’m not saying that club owners and musicians shouldn’t be up in arms about the city trying to regulate and arguably shut down selective night spots. My opinions on such mattersÂ are definitely the opposite. It angers me greatly that the state liquor board and city governmentÂ seem to coordinate to target specific venues. It’s very unfortunate that in a town known for it’s music scene, the city doesn’t support it, or even consider it worthy of the heaps of dollars it spends on supporting the symphony, art gallery, ballet and opera.
To put the icing on the cake, the City Counsel seems to be completely incapable of separating the local live music clubs, which rarely have incidents of violence,Â from the meat markets that often generate such events. Furthermore, the city regulators seem to be handing out building permits for condos in neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, Fremont and Ballard, where they obviously come in conflict with tax-paying venue owners who have been established in those neighborhoods for fifteen years or more. Can anyone say “gentrification”.
Regardless of all this, it is a false statement to say that these circumstances will kill the Seattle music scene, as many of scene’s advocates have. Seattle music has survived despite such threats for its entire existence. The most heinous of these efforts, the Teen Dance Ordinance, was put into effect with the music community saying that it would crush their ability to generate revenue. Yet today, twenty-three years after it was put into effect and six years after it was repealed, the local scene is still thriving. In fact the ordinance was in place during the grunge years, which many would consider the heyday of Seattle music.
I suggest that the DIY attitude that is predominant in Seattle’s music scene will remain in spite of these obstacles. It’s in our blood, at the core of the hearts of Sub Pop, Barsuk, Broken Time,Â Origin, Kill Rock Stars and many, many more. Musicians, promoters, record labels and scenesters will continue to make something from nothing, not just in Seattle but in Olympia, Bellingham and Portland as well.
Every night shows go down in the most unlikely of places… illegal after-hours clubs, coffeehouses, independent art galleries, farmers markets and loft parties. Clubs like the infamous Vogue, Comet Tavern, Blue Moon, Gibson’s and Speakeasy Cafe’ operated for many years without live music. Yet the supportive owners of the venues opened their doors to musicians and promoters in order to keep the scene alive, often making themselves targets for the city government in the process.
Every weekend in Seattle, hundreds of music artists perform in coffeehouses like Hotwire in Shoreline, C&P in West Seattle, ElÂ Diablo in QueenÂ AnneÂ and World Cup in the Ravenna neighborhood. Music is not an integral part of these businesses, yet they support the scene anyway. Promoters will continue rent out the stage at the Rendezvous, promote nights at Faire Gallery, Honey Hole, Mars Bar or Mr. Spot’s Chai House, and insert live music into gallery openings and pubs of all shapes and sizes.
We can’t help it. We will not be stifled. No amount of city ordinances, liquor board crack downs and neighborhood complaints will dissuade us. Just a few years ago a complete concert series was held in the cargo space of a dilapidated seventy year-old ferry moored in Lake Union. In fact, I’m sketching the outline for this blog postÂ after watching a friend’s band perform in a bowling alley in South Seattle. Tomorrow night I’m going to see a show in the storageÂ room of brewery. We will not be put down.