The Velvet Elvis and RKCNDY couldn't do it. Neither could the OK Hotel, without turning to booze to rake in more bucks. So how has Redmond's Old Fire House managed not only to stay open but remain exclusively all-ages for 10 years?

"Bullheadedness and sheer determination," says Kate Becker, the Fire House's co-founder. "I'm hard-headed and I believe in what I'm doing."

And what she's doing is amazing. The Fire House, besides being an all-ages venue that has remained a staple in the local music scene, plays the part of a teen center five days a week--giving local kids a place to skateboard, play basketball or pool, and have access to a darkroom or computers.

September marks the venue's 10-year anniversary, making it the longest-running all-ages venue in the Pacific Northwest (and the second-longest-running on the West Coast). Contrary to what many think, the Old Fire House hasn't just been a haven for young bands taking the stage for the first time. It's also brought some amazing touring bands through the region. Jawbreaker, CIV, Quicksand, even Fugazi have all played Fire House shows (well, Fugazi actually played in Bellevue, due to the size of the show, but it was Kate who brought 'em to town). And we can't forget all the Eastside favorites--Rikki Tikki Tavi, 10:07, the Green, the Blood Brothers, the Catheters... I could go on and on.

So could Wendy Colton. Wendy, who now lives in Portland, helped Kate start the Fire House in 1992, and worked with her for seven years following (she was even around when Kurt and Courtney made an appearance one evening).

"Sometimes it felt like we were midwives, attending the rebirth of punk and straightedge, rallying at an organic level for the love of music," says Wendy. "The grunge media frenzy was happening, so naturally the kids rejected all the hype, and what they created was the music scene at the OFH. It was electrifying."

All that energy has continued on strong, leaving Kate in awe of what her venue has achieved.

"I love my job," says Kate with a sincere smile. "There are always new kids and there are always kids coming back, some of whom aren't kids anymore. There's a whole community of people attached to this place."

Like Kate said, many of the kids in the community come back time and time again, while others never really leave. Do any of these names ring a bell? Jeremiah Green of Modest Mouse, Dann Gallucci of Murder City Devils, Andrea Zollo of Pretty Girls Make Graves, Jordan Blilie and Johnny Vade of the Blood Brothers, Shane Tutmarc of Dolour--all were once members of Band Pool, a program started by the Fire House to give young musicians a place to meet other musicians and share ideas. After getting their starts, a number of Band Pool alumni have returned to play shows. In fact, Dolour, the Blood Brothers, and Pretty Girls are all booked to play at the anniversary shows.

In celebration of its first decade, the Fire House is having a much-deserved weekend-long party, and everyone is invited. The Posies, Rocky Votolato, the Gossip, the Blood Brothers, Pretty Girls Make Graves, Sicko, Gas Huffer, Mudhoney, and many more special guests are slated to play. All shows are only six bucks, and along with the music you'll be able to see the historical photo collage, catch a rough cut of an in-the-works documentary (see Dann Gallucci before he had any tattoos!), and pick up a copy of the special CD compilation (which includes local superstars such as Juno, Botch, and Automaton).

Is there anything the Fire House hasn't done? Probably not, but that doesn't mean its founders aren't raring to go for another decade.

"The future looks brighter than ever for the OFH. Every year a new generation of kids joins the Old Fire House community and I feel very, very fortunate to have been a part of this amazing reality for a decade," said Kate. "In 10 more years the Fire House will be the hotbed of creativity for young people, chockful of memories for so many of us."

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by Megan Seling