Saturday, August 11, 2012

Tacoma Epidemic [a Reverse Manifesto]

So, Backstage Bar & Grill is starting to suffer. Which is sad, they've only been open for maybe two years, max. They are having a benefit show, which is instant bad news. Also from their facebook: support live music. Tacoma just lost Hell's Kitchen and is on the verge of losing another [venue]. 
 Currently they are the only real live music venue in the area. Okay, Louie G's is sticking in there, but they are the newest on the scene, fresh-faced and hopeful, so they're still on the upward climb... soon they will follow the same fate as every other bar in town. They will peak, and they will fall. Over the past few years, I have seen almost every decent venue rise, peak, fall, attempt to bounce back, and ultimately fail.

I think the saddest and most recent was afore-mentioned Hell's Kitchen. They weren't able to pass code at the old location, on 6th Ave, so they moved to Pacific. Where they still couldn't pass code. Now they are closed for good, and Tacoma is the one getting screwed. Hell's Kitchen was a 253 staple for many years, a cultural mecca for us, if you will. Before that, we lost the Cedarwood Dome--probably one of the coolest bars around, since you could smoke inside and Levi would usually run a hookah bar on the third floor. Before that, we lost the all ages venues. When Hell's Kitchen moved, they stopped doing all ages shows. The Viaduct tried to pick up the slack, but ultimately lost their fight with the economy. There's no money in all ages shows, since there's no liquor sales. Before that, we lost Station 56, which had great sound and lights, and was almost always packed. Still not sure why they even closed.
It's happier here, trust me...
The first bar I can recall to go down the tubes was epic Maggie O'Toole's in Lakewood. We actually played there for their farewell show, when half the crowd and the ex-owner got taken to jail by a "surprise" raid. We almost lost our gear to the cops. However, I did buy a pretty sweet beer sign that night, as well as an Alaskan Amber tap pull for my dad.

Come to think of it, we even lost our best [in my opinion] rock radio station a couple years ago, KFNK. They're trying to bounce back with "The Brew," but we'll see how long that lasts. We had the Bye-Bye Monkey party for DJ Justin at Hell's Kitchen, ironically.

When I think back over all the clubs and bars I have played in the past three or four years... I can count the ones that are still open in the South Sound on one hand: Uncle Sam's and Jazzbones. Uncle Sam's is a tiny, generally awful biker bar; Jazzbones seems to be changing its audience and moving away from rock shows.

In fact, I'm not entirely sure I understand why every single rock club is struggling. Is it bad bands? Is it a lack of promotion? Ticket sales? Liquor sales? Is it just this god-awful economy? I don't understand why this is happening, but I can tell you it means the local music community will be taking a big hit. We'll be forced to play further and further away, which will make shows harder to come by. The competition for those shows will become tougher, with more bands competing for fewer gigs. Most bands will be driven underground and forced back into playing house parties, or fighting tooth and nail to see who can kiss the top Pay-to-Play jerk's ass.

Either way, the next few years aren't looking so good for musicians. It's already a rarity to get paid for a show... you're lucky if you get drink tickets... Now it's going to be musicians reaching into their own pockets in order to put on their own shows. That's what some of my friends are doing. Granted, I also have some acquaintances currently on tour, doing fairly well with their record label backing... but neither of them came from the Northwest. So what the hell are we doing here? Is Tacoma really going to just roll over and die musically, after having such a strong heartbeat for so long? Or am I just completely off my rocker?, no pun intended. The only people showing up at shows any more are other bands... in case you didn't know better, this is wrong! So, I guess, get out there and support your friends. Because in the near future, you're going to lose your chance to.

okay, maybe the joke is a little out-dated,
but the sentiment remains the same.

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