A Preview for the Seattle Noise Vol. 1 Compilation Release & the Funhouse Documentary “Razing the Bar”, May 20th
Perhaps it’s a little difficult, post-Quadstock, to remind yourself you have responsibilities and junk and should really be getting on with your week. If such scruples aren’t your style, Seattle can thankfully provide you with some Tuesday night diversions. What’s extra cool is that both events I have in mind give you a good – nah, GREAT – look at what makes Seattle music so special.
Just over a year ago, the “heavy/noisy/weird” Portland label Eolian Empire released its Keep Our Heads compilation, with 26 PDX bands contributing 26 original tracks, a frothy mix of sludge, thrash, hardcore, and noise. Only a scant few detractors, tragically uncoupled from their heads in violation of the comp’s very clear imperative, would try to convince you it’s NOT the perfect Portland heavy music mixtape (literally, a bright orange cassette tape). Needless to say it topped my 2013 Best Of list, which I’ll probably post at some point. Next year.
But now we have the Emerald City’s answer in Seattle Noise – same basic formula, all new/unreleased tracks from fourteen of Seattle’s best heavy bands.
If you somehow don’t see the pattern, I’ll elucidate: Sandrider, Monogamy Party, Deadkill, and Constant Lovers all put out kickass records within the last year – each with a distinct style of kicking you in the ass – and they all did it through Good To Die Records. If Eolian Empire is my favorite Portland label, GTD’s probably the same for Seattle (Fun fact, for all you fact-lovers looking for a little fun: Eolian is largely a product of Portland band RABBITS, who released their record “Bites Rites” through GTD; it’s all one big family, man).
To be fair though, Good To Die DID put out a wonderful comp a year before Keep Our Heads, featuring many of the same bands you’ll find on this year’s Seattle Noise, plus Portland outfits RABBITS and Gaytheist and a few late & great GTD alumni from around Seattle like Brokaw, Absolute Monarchs, and Dog Shredder (now called Wild Throne and shredding fewer dogs, more guitars down there with Brutal Panda Records). But the new mix seems to have Seattle itself specifically in mind, a clear effort to provide a cross-section of this town’s heavy music legions currently making the rounds at good places like Chop Suey, the Black Lodge and the Highline Bar.
It’s not just a clear effort, it’s a highly successful one. In addition to the four GTD bands previously mentioned we have new tunes from Theories, Murmurs on loan from Aborted Society (another fantastic Seattle label), Tacos! and Glose, all of whom I’ve seen live and are worthy of individual blog-oriented praise pieces; they mix vital strains of Seattle-stained hardcore, post-hardcore and grind into this terrible symphony, with The Great Goddamn, Trash Fire, Blood Drugs and Childbirth furnishing further breadth and balance to the composition.
Part of why it works so well might be the circumstances of recording, each band coming to Vault Studio in the space of ten days and recording using the same backline, with only minute changes in gear from band to band – giving us a remarkable degree of organic tonal unity. It’s not pieced together from disparate sources, but grown as an animal, muscle, gristle and bone.
If Keep Our Heads is a mammoth of a comp, stomping around, grasping you in its trunk and sinking you into the sludge with a crushing stride, then Seattle Noise is a hunting cat; maybe you’re its prey, or maybe you have the nerve to think you’re hunting it, while it outstrips you at a brisk, effortless pace. The compilation moves at such a speed, from Sandrider to Theories, that you’ll be going back at the close of each track, again and again, trying to catch a hold of it. And between the electronic goth punk of Crypts and the deceptively softer heavy gaze of Dust Moth, you’ll never know quite what to expect. This is a dangerous animal, and it is not to be underestimated.
Now, the release party at the Cha Cha Lounge (9pm, May 20th) isn’t actually a show, with live bands and all that. It’s more of a listening party, with the comp on constant repeat. But you will be able to pick up your own copy via the instantly classic “THIS T-SHIRT IS A RECORD” t-shirt (they really weren’t kidding, that is the record). And keep your ears peeled for Volume 2, because it will come like a sucker punch.
Now for that other thing going on at exactly the same time: the first showing of the documentary “Razing the Bar” at the Seattle International Film Festival. It details the rise and fall of one of Seattle’s most infamous venues – the Funhouse, a punk rock bar formerly located just across the street from the Seattle Center. If you’ve never seen the place, just think about this thing staring at you while you marvel at that wonderful Space Needle:
Yeah man, that’s just the start.
It closed down late 2012 – with a raucous final show on All Hallow’s Eve – but up until that point it was the breeding ground for incomprehensibly many up-and-coming Seattle bands. Thousands of artists have graced its scuzzed up stage since opening its doors in 2003, under the care and management of KEXP‘s Brian Foss, and thousands more would have continued the tradition had the place not been demolished to make way for necessary yuppy apartment villages.
You’ll find local punk names like The Spits and Wimps featured in the documentary, just as they were featured frequently in realsy life, and the one and only time I actually managed to go to the Funhouse was for Whiskey Wednesday, watching an Italian metal band whose name I’d have to plumb the depths of my facebook timeline to remember. Despite its punk roots and face, however, it wasn’t simply about heavy, noisy music; there was always a wide variety of musical stylings and performance pieces and truly whatever anyone could think to do in front of a crowd on offer, open to pretty much anyone, be you a touring band or a kid looking for your first gig – and a little (or a lot) of eccentricity and abandon never went amiss either, like at the venue’s gay pride festivities one year (the precursor to ‘Mo-Wave Queer Music & Arts Festival) when Hunx, of Punx fame, French-kissed everyone in the audience. It was a place where it was safe to be different, and it remained just that way for all its nine years of life.
Essentially, the Funhouse is synonymous with independent music in Seattle, and whether you’re a long-time devotee or just looking to dip your toes into the musical goings-on around here, this film is for you. Know your history.
If you’re unable to make it to SIFF Cinema Uptown because you, I dunno, have other plans that night, consult the schedule for future showings – including next week, the 27th, at the same time and place.
So you have this town’s musical legacy, a rich environment for independent artists doing what they want for all the right reasons and none of the dumb ones, and you can see it as it flourished in the admittedly very recent past, and as it continues to dominate right before your eyes, several times a week.
Whichever choice you make for your Tuesday night entertainment, “then” or “now”, it will be noisy, and it will definitely be, definitively, Seattle.
Geoff Vincent / Jaywalking Punk Anarchist / KSUB Heavy Music Director