This post is the first in a three-part series about some of the impressive things going on in Tacoma. The city has elected a socialist, Jamika Scott, just as Seattle lost one, and now has a city council that's more and more about the "benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker," as Adam Smith famously described the commercial community the Wealth of Nations. Tacoma also passed a measure that will increase protections for renters, Initiative Measure 1 (or Tacoma for All).  If fully implemented, the measure will not only reduce homelessness but make its successful Tacoma Creates tax meaningful. Arts funding is pointless if there are no checks on rent inflation.

Considering these and other developments, is it surprising that the most remarkable band to recently emerge from our part of the Pacific Northwest comes from Tacoma? This band is called Enumclaw.


Get the first thought out of your mind right now. It's not at all about that Enumclaw; but, according to the band's lead singer Aramis Johnson, this one: While a wrestler at Lakes High School, "all of the best teams came from Enumclaw." But the name, which has its origin in the Sahaptin word for "he who makes noise," is not what made the band "buzz-worthy" soon after it formed in 2019. It's the music itself, which is defined as a branch of indie rock that has its roots in the 1990s.

Now, a proper understanding of the condition of popular music in our times will not be grasped if it's not seen as similar to the nightmare we find at the end of Baudelaire's poem "La Cloche fêlée" ("The Broken Bell"): "[It] Resembles the death rattle of a wounded man / Forgotten beneath a heap of dead, by a lake of blood / Who dies without moving, striving desperately."

Hip-hop avoided this cultural burial by employing a new technology, sampling, that transformed the heaviness of the past's dead into the digitized lightness of ghosts. This, however, only turned out to be a reprieve from the Baudelairian nightmare. Hip-hop is now celebrating its 50th birthday. The number of its own dead keeps growing and growing. And this is where we find the present situation of popular music in all of its forms. It lives under thousands upon thousands of bands, millions of albums, an infinity of tracks. The best you can hope for under these heavy and suffocating conditions? Make a good tune. This is Enumclaw.  

The band's best tune is "2002," which is the second track on the debut album Save the Baby. Its bleak lyrics, blunt drumming, raw but distantly melodic guitars sound exactly like what indie rock is supposed to sound like. Indeed, one would think every band in this genre would, like Enumclaw, just get it right most or every time. But such is not the case. We are as amazed by a track that captures the essence of an established form as one that creates a new one. And the way things are looking these days, technology, even AI, will not, as it did in the 1980s, lift from us the "heap of dead, by a lake of blood."

And I think this is why Enumclaw turned from hip-hop to indie rock (the drummer Ladaniel Gipson first made his mark as a Tacoma-area hip-hop DJ). The former still believes in its newness; the latter does not. The latter knows it's now all about execution. This is "2002."

Enumclaw play Neumos Wednesday, November 22 at 7 pm.