I always knew choosing a band name was a difficult task for musicians, but after weeks of trying to come up with a fitting title for this column, I have a firsthand appreciation for how maddening it can be to conjure a concise way to declare a musical mission statement. My first choice was "Lost in the Supermarket," after one of my favorite Clash songs and in recognition of my defective internal compass, a frustrating flaw that causes me to get lost with inordinate frequency. That was too long to fit the art department's layout parameters, so I proposed "Counting Backwards," a hypnotic Throwing Muses song that also referenced my interest in pulling more music history into a column that's primary focus is general indie-rock-related news and noteworthy developments in the Northwest music community. Lovely sentiment, but also too damn long. Managing art director Kelly O laid down the law and told me to keep it to 13 characters or fewer.

Frustrated, I brainstormed with some of the smarter, more music-savvy folks I know, including the effortlessly witty David Schmader, dance-party facilitator Curtis Hall (AKA DJ Curtis), and amateur comedian/Cops drummer David Weeks. Despite the intellectual potency of those consultants, most of the suggestions were also way too long ("On Through the Night"), too easy to misinterpret ("Dirty Pillows"), or cute, yet retarded ("Do Bunnies Talk?"). Thankfully, I was moving at that time, so hauling around crates of unalphabetized vinyl caused me to revisit some archived favorites, including Judas Priest's 1974 debut, Rocka Rolla. While it's probably not the best of their early works, the album does feature a harmonic guitar lead on the title track that absolutely entranced me as a teenager, and for the better part of one summer, I had to listen to that song at least a few times a week.

Music still takes me to that obsessive and spellbound state on a regular basis—a reality that has kept me working in the music business for the last 10 years. I've been a band manager, booking agent, publicist, promoter, and even did my share of ticket selling and grunt work at the Showbox. Other than a recurring fascination with the xylophone, I've never harbored any musical ambitions of my own, but I never tire of discovering the new work this community has to offer. If you think rock is dead or the Seattle/Northwest scene is over, you're just not paying attention.

Case in point: the preponderance of impressive bands with "fang" in their name. Apparently "fang" is the new "wolf," because I can't get enough of the forthcoming debut from New Fangs or the rough mixes of new material from Portland's Red Fang. Both outfits threaten to rupture eardrums with unyielding, angular guitars, with New Fangs leaning more toward the tightly punctuated tones of the Hot Snakes, and Red Fang wielding the multi-ton low end that seduced fans of Big Business.

I still find it hard to believe, but the booking agents at the High Dive have managed to turn their Fremont venue into a viable rock club. They're regularly packing in crowds on the weekends to see promising young bands like the Emergency (who recently sold the place out) and have made their Thursday nights an excellent time to catch up-and-coming outfits like the dirty disco punks in Tacoma's Paris Spleen. KEXP's John Richards is so enamored of the High Dive that he'll begin broadcasting Audioasis from the club once a month, starting March 4.

It's always heartening to see long-toiling local artists get their due, and the universe has finally been kind to Seattle's favorite freak show Pleaseeasaur. Frontman J. P. Hasson has recently finalized a deal with Comedy Central to release his next four records on their new label, along with a series of animated DVDs, with a televised live performance to follow. Similar congrats must go out to Visqueen leader Rachel Flotard, who loaned the sweeter side of her gravel-and-honey vocals to a couple of tracks on Neko Case's gorgeous and sinister new record, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. The two salty sirens hit it off so well that Case is taking her on her European tour and to her March 9 appearance on the Tonight Show.

In much sadder news, talented musician and visual artist Joaquin Tavares, who played keyboards in Faith and Disease from 1992–1998, was killed in a random shooting incident in a south Seattle warehouse and recording studio. Faith and Disease frontman Eric Cooley's memorial to Tavares can be viewed at www.faithanddisease.com.recommended

hlevin@thestranger.com