Artists priced out of Seattle have fled to plenty of parts unknown—Tacoma, Olympia, Los Angeles, Everett—but a pirate ship sailing to Southeast Asia might just set a new standard. The artist in question is Grey Filastine, who plays one last U.S. show tonight at Beacon Hill’s new Clock-Out Lounge before clocking out himself by selling his house in the neighborhood to finance the next step of a wild and adventurous career.
If all goes well, the house proceeds will fund the purchase of a pinisi ship, a traditional sailing vessel of the Bugis people that he will have built in Sulawesi, Indonesia. The Bugis were infamous pirates whose barbaric reputation on the high seas is the origin of the term “boogey man.”
Grey’s vision is that the the ship will function as a floating performance platform; he'll use the deck as a stage, the sails as projection screens, and the masts for an aerialist. He anticipates a crew of 10—the ideal candidates are accomplished as both sailors and performers—touring for a year across the Southeast Asian archipelago, then heading to wherever bookings take them: Australia, other parts of Asia, eventually the Middle East and Mediterranean.
Why Indonesia? Because since 2016, the once-solo performer under the nom d’artiste Filastine has become a duo: Grey plays percussion and live electronics alongside vocalist Nova, an Indonesian musician who grew up singing pentecostal spirituals, Koranic recitations, and Javanese gamelan music before becoming one-half of the Indonesian rap sensation Twin Sista.
The politically-charged performance for their new album, Drapetomania, is by far the most potent live show in electronic music. It manages to address climate change, xenophobia, and late capitalism without sounding preachy. If you didn’t catch them last summer in a SoDo warehouse show, then Friday is your last chance to see them in a proper venue—at least until they sail into Elliott Bay one day in the distant future.
In truth, Grey hasn’t actually lived in Seattle for a decade—he mostly calls Barcelona home these days—but he bought the house 22 years ago while he was working on the fringes of the city’s artistic scene and making ends meet as a taxi driver (the house may have gone up in value, but he lost his shirt on the taxi medallion thanks to Uber). The place was a home base for groups he helped found like Infernal Noise Brigade, which soundtracked the 1999 WTO protests, and the radical percussion ensemble, ¡TchKung!.
With the foresight to have bought a house when Seattle was cheap, Grey is one of the few artists who is benefiting financially from the current boom. What that boom means for Seattle’s creative scene is clearly a mixed bag.
“The presence of big money fosters a different kind of creativity, highbrow arts like opera and museums are thriving, and those are good paying gigs for dancers,” he told The Stranger. “But what I do was always a strange fit here, and even more so now that Seattle is such a rich person’s city. If I were to arrive in the region now, I’d base in a more raw and unpretentious city like Tacoma.”
Grey is bittersweet about his time in Seattle, which afforded plenty of underground artistic possibilities but frustratingly few grants or residencies as compared to life in the European Union. Though cutting ties has its own way of changing one’s perception of a city.
“I look forward to returning to Seattle, and the United States, for short personal visits,” he said. “It will be easier to love this place without any stake in its future.”