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Masked Marauders

Guitar-slinging, Motorcycle-riding Masked Men Torment Ballard

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Alice Wheeler
WHO ARE THOSE MASKED MEN? Blasting Ballard.
An odd pair walked into the upscale Matador Lounge at Market Street and Ballard Avenue last Friday. The guys were wearing biker jackets and plastic Halloween masks. "They're here!" one woman squealed, grabbing her friend's arm. The bartenders had a different reaction, glaring from behind the taps. A bouncer darted toward the pair.

The men--Doug and Ed, thirtysomething Ballard residents--have become legendary around Ballard's main drag for their recent nighttime antics, which, depending on whom you ask, are either highly entertaining or incredibly irritating. "They're crazy," says a Market Street business owner who requested anonymity.

Nearly every weekend for the past six months, the pair dons electric guitars, portable amps, and, most importantly, the aforementioned masks. (They declined to divulge personal information, like their last names or their day jobs). Doug sports a Scream mask from the 1996 teen horror movie, and Ed wears a skeleton mask. Then, either while riding their growling motorcycles down cobblestone Ballard Ave or prowling the sidewalks on foot, the two spend hours playing loud feedbackjams as "the Insurgents," part rock 'n' roll performance-art and part social experiment. Or, as the owner of Conor Byrne's Irish pub, Kathleen Kinder, de-scribes it, "They would come in, they would walk around trying to pick up and harass women. We don't allow that here." She banned the two from her pub.

Doug and Ed's reputation preceded them at the Matador. The bouncer grabbed them by the collars and whisked them outside. The guys have been 86'd from at least half a dozen Ballard spots in the past few months--everywhere from Tully's to Hattie's Hat to the Sunset Tavern.

When the duo hit the streets--as they did Friday--people do quizzical double takes, or snap photos as Ed drops to his knees during guitar solos. "I can't figure out what their point is," says another bar owner who's banned the pair. "The annoyance factor is pretty high." In addition to getting bounced out of bars, the guys have had the cops called on them an estimated nine times in the past two weeks. Usually the officers just chat with them and leave. "It's not really against the law to be annoying," says police spokeswoman Debra Brown. But on March 26, officers filed a report. According to that SPD account, a club owner asked Doug to turn down the guitar. An hour later, the owner asked Doug, who was still playing, to leave. The club owner declined to comment, but a witness says Doug swung his guitar at the club owner's ribs. According to the report, Doug said the club owner had "grabbed him and tried to push him away." A hot-dog vendor broke up the brawl.

Ed and Doug--masks off, over coffee at Cupcake Royale (there are pink Cupcake Royale stickers on Doug's motorcycle helmet and Ed's guitar)--admit the main reason for serenading Ballard is "picking up girls."

"Women like the Scream mask," boasts the soft-spoken Doug, a lanky guy with a cleft chin. "The mask gives you confidence," adds Ed. One woman The Stranger spoke with says she threatened the guys with pepper spray when they blocked her on the sidewalk.

amy@thestranger.com

 

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