Here's the third and final installment of Slog's lucid trip down memory lane, celebrating the music/comedy venue the Showbox, which will likely meet with a wrecking ball at some point in the not-so-distant future. As The Stranger's Lester Black reported last week on Slog, saving this revered club will not be easy. Whatever the case, and as a poke in the eye to sour-guts Slog commenters grumbling "good riddance," let's have one last wallow in nostalgia about the performances that made the Showbox so crucial to Seattle's nightlife culture.
Darek Mazzone (KEXP; Wo' Pop): The place is amazing. Had a residency there as part of Electrolush. So vital to the city. Saw Daft Punk, Jamiriquai, Death Cab, Femi Kuti, Toots & Maytals, Gotan Project... and these are just some of the shows I opened for. Literally was just talking about how vital the scene is to the health of Seattle, both financially and existentially. Hope the city coalesces around this, saves it... and opens more venues.
Sean Curley (New Weather): Seeing the Flaming Lips (before they stank?) perform Soft Bulletin two nights in a row with a who's who of the PNW music scene. Fairly epic after having visiting the studio while they were recording the record. That record was a sonic gamechanger.
Adam Kutchman: I saw Ween on the White Pepper tour at the Showbox. I had just moved to Seattle from a tiny town in Illinois. That Ween show might still be the most fun I've ever had in my life. It convinced me that I was in the right place. The crowd shook the venue that night. I remember feeling the floor move under the weight of jumping people. It was that old stuff. It was as intense as an AC/DC show in 1988. It was magic.
More than ten years later, my wife and I are looking for a table seat for a show at what would become Prince's last tour. We saw a human phenomenon that night. I waited my whole life to see Prince. One of the first cassettes I ever owned was Prince. I saw a legend, he was legendary. When the crowd was clapping on the wrong beat he stopped and taught a quick music theory lesson. ("...on the 2 and 4, ya'll!") He breathed excellence and passion.
I've seen Medeski Martin and Wood at the Showbox. I saw Die Antwoord there. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. The Cold War Kids. Menomena. The first time I saw REAL DJs with huge video screens and bass for days was Basement Jaxx at the Showbox.
I may not own it, but my life is in there. If they destroy it, I won't ever be able to visit some my happiest memories again.
Lu Ying: Pin Down Girls! I had no idea women's wrestling was so awesome.
Ben Friedlander: The first show of Frank Ocean's only full US tour. The Channel Orange Tour on July 13, 2012 at Showbox Seattle. Was fortunate enough to hear Frank Ocean play "Pyramids" live for the first time ever with a full band. Since he was new to performing the song live, he accidentally repeated the lyrics of the second verse two verses in a row, so decided to start the entire 10min progressive R&B song over from the top. Heard almost a full 20min of that song. Was an amazing, unforgettable moment!
Jonathan Womack: Drinking with Ian McCulloch after an Echo & the Bunnymen show at the Showbox and talking about John Wayne movies for an hour. Doing visuals for Shabazz Palaces and Helio Sequence and meeting the Sub Pop guys afterward. The horrible novelty band I worked with hiring a glass-eater to open for them at the Showbox and discovering onstage that he had never eaten glass before and the ambulance coming. Talking to an ex for the first time in the green room. Seeing a different ex for almost the last time in the crowd while I was onstage. So many amazing Decibel shows over the years.
Meagan Angus (Thunder Grey Pilgrim): Initially, I thought it was Fantômas in 2004 ('05?) because it was blistering, fast, and just incredible to watch masters like Mike Patton and Dave Lombardo from such a close distance. But no, the very best show I saw at the Showbox was the last time Einstürzende Neubauten played there. Their set was over two hours, spanning tracks from over 25 years of music. The band recorded almost the entire show, then, during a very long encore, burned recordings of the show on the spot and sold them afterward. Blixa [Bargeld] took great pains to explain to us the legal hoops they had to jump through to do this, as Clear Channel, who owns thousands of venues across the country, won't allow it, as it tacitly falls under "bootlegging" laws. The band took them to court and won the rights to the concept of "recording your own music and live performance and then selling it." Clear Channel then canceled dozens of their dates across the country, and the band had to scramble to find other venues. Bargeld scolded the audience for being complacent in allowing corporations to dictate copyright law in America, to the benefit of big business and the detriment of artists.
Tyler Morrison: I went there to see Carl Cox around 2002. I had just discovered raving as well as everything that went with it. Having had great times on ecstasy and mushrooms separately, I was really curious about trying them together. So, on the night of the party, I decided to eat an entire 8th of mushrooms before I left my house. I arrive and realize that I'm one of the very first people. Like the noob that I was at this point, I think that I should probably take all my drugs before the music starts so I experience the full effect for the duration of the show. So, I go into the bathroom, lock myself in a stall, have a seat, and dig the bag containing 2 whole crushed ecstasy tabs out of my pocket. I unfurl the crumpled bag, stick a rolled up bill into it, and insufflate the entire thing. In that next moment as I feel it stinging the back of my skull, a flashlight and voice appear in my stall out of nowhere.
“How was it?” the disembodied voice asked.
“How was what?”
“Nice try, man, you got your pants on.”
And then I was escorted out of the club before the music started. Not even the opener had come on yet. I couldn’t tell you how the show was, but their security is on point. I should know, as I got hired as security there a few years later. I don’t think the dude who threw me out remembered me.
Gwen Stubbs (Blood Drugs): Sneaking into Showbox with a fake ID when I was 18 to see Joe Strummer! I used my sisters ID—she’s 5’1”. The door guy immediately called me out on it (I’m a solid 5’9”) and I said without blinking an eye, “Yeah, I had a late growth spurt." He just looked at me and let me in! Probably knew I was totally lying! One of the best shows I’ve ever seen! Honorable mention: Devendra Banhart show a few years back. I found a backstage pass on the ground and snuck backstage to thank him for covering a Johnny Thunders song. Other memorables: Liars when the singer had that major accident! Melvins / Big Business with my Cara Joy , the Shins a few times I’m sure, Hives when they broke big in the States, Murder City Devils the first time they got back together. I wore a sailor costume - it may have been Halloween?
Tri Le: Watching the movie Showgirls with David Schmader's live commentary. HIGH-larious. Also, watching incredibly drunk people fall down the steps to the dance floor during Fatboy Slim (early '00s). Electrolush made me think it was always a dance club on Saturdays.
Ned Raggett: Only one I ever saw, being from out of town: Terrastock 4 festival, 2000. The foreshortened but mindblowing Ghost set alone made it legendary.
Brian MacDonald (DJ; In the Raw): Pinback with Neil Hamburger opening (2004?). Pinback fans HATED Neil, and eventually started spitting at him, while he coughed louder & louder into the mic. Mountain Goats in 2012, when they had the full Transcendental Youth band. The Mountain Goats play the Showbox practically every tour, but that show was the best.
Anders Covert (Quantum Eraser): Fantômas, the Locust, and the Melvins. Then at the end all three bands combined into one for a few crazy songs. It was amazing!
Skyler Locatelli (Freakout Records; Freakout Festival): Black Angels + Black Mountain in 2010. Also Caribou and the many years of Flight to Mars benefit shows.
Jason Justice (DJ): Roni Size/Reprazent. The whole place was a trampoline.
Mark Schlipper (Luna Moth; Perish the Island): Califone. I was waiting in line to get in, when someone walked by saying my name like a question. It was my friend and former class and band mate from North Carolina, Danni. I asked what she was doing way out here and it turned out she was playing drums with the band that night. The show was great for all the reasons it should've been, but had an extra layer to it knowing that someone I knew and had played with was up on one of the more esteemed stages in the city.
Jeff Anderson (Tea Cozies): I played with the closing act for a tribute show presented by Mayor Nickels to honor the Fleet Foxes and KEXP and the, uh, Seattle music scene. It was a star-studded night for sure, including a pre-taped video of Quincy Jones doing a shout out to Seattle music (in shades, in his living room I think?). As soon as we went on, the room had cleared out to almost empty and we rocked it pretty hard, as we did in the Tea Cozies. I just remember my bass came unplugged in the last 10 seconds of the last song somehow. I don't think anyone noticed. Felt amazing. Also: John Cale live was amazing. As well as Femi Kuti and the Stereolab show there circa 2004.
Alex Markey (Archivist): The Orb at Decibel Festival.
Jason Holstrom (sunstrom sound, ex-U.S.E): Sir Mix-A-Lot with U.S.E, Flaming Lips' Soft Bulletin Stereo Headphones Tour!
Ian Christe: Around 1999, LTJ Bukem brought too much bass, and his records kept skipping all over the place. The speakers were rattling, the stage was vibrating, and his tonearms were flailing all over the place like Olive Oyl’s arms, it was a skippy scratchy mess. So the solution was to somehow try to hang the turntables from long ropes suspended from the rafters. While he’s playing, there are lost-looking guys with tall ladders trying to rig a way to help him get through a song.
RL Heyer (Flowmotion): I think seeing Tortoise there in 2004 was up there with my favorites. I also remember playing a guitar solo with Flowmotion rocking the front of the stage when Justin Garcia threw the devil horns and for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to lick his finger. And my other favorite time playing there was the True Spokes’ album release with the Mother Hips and Star Anna.
Yoona Lee (artist): After 27 years, I finally saw the English Beat play, and it was a sold-out show in 2014. Though my rudegirl days are long gone, my heart stopped as they launched into "Save It for Later" and the ceiling became a spinning, galactic array of dazzling blue lights. (For real, not from pharmaceuticals.) It was magical, and I think everyone was transfixed for a moment, possibly even Dave Wakeling himself.
Stuart Dahlquist (Asva; Burning Witch): Devo, on treadmills... 1979?
Michael Schorr (ex-Death Cab for Cutie): In addition to being one of the best rooms to play in the world, the Meshuggah, Slint, and Drive Like Jehu shows at the Showbox were personal highlights among hundreds of great experiences there.
Roy Culver: I’ve been to a lot of venues all over the US, and the Showbox Market is one of my favorite. Some of my highlights are Prince (couple years before he died), Gossip, Slayer (right after 9/11 and Tom [Araya] suggesting the audience arm themselves; it was the ramping up of paranoid times that still haven’t dissipated), Sunny Day Real Estate, Blackalicious, Mars Volta, Skinny Puppy, Botch final show, millions of Murder City Devils shows…
Waylon Dungan (WD4D): Janelle Monae’s Archandroid Tour was on some James Brown+ level of showmanship. (Was actually previous tour w/ Jamie Lidell in 2008, before Archandroid.)
Dean Sven Carlson: Seeing the Specials open for the Police. Devo, XTC, Split Enz... Showbox Market was indispensable in the late '70s/early '80s.
Chris Estey (freelance writer): 1.) Joe Strummer with the Mescaleros in '99. David Lasky and I drew a comic about it for Hotwire #1 from Fantagraphics. I got to actually dance to "Rock the Casbah" with my wife just a short time before Joe died. He was gracious and generous with the crowd, and didn't jump down and beat the shit out of the "rockers" next to us who yelled at him about his "bitch tits" (though he appeared hurt). I promptly doused the "Chads" with my beverage though. 2.) Backstage during the first time the Black Angels played there, and I was still working Passover for Light in the Attic. We were really celebrating their victories, especially in Seattle. It was obvious the crowd didn't understand the druggy tempos and wanted to party like frat-boys to what is not considered a very uptempo sound, but the Black Angels adapted to the occasion viciously. (Also, thanks to the woman from Issaquah on mushrooms who partied with us and bought me an entire bottle of Scotch from the bar and said, "You're just Bukowski with a thyroid problem." Fair enough?)