Secret Student Handbook 2006
You may not know this, as a recent arrival, but Seattle is growing increasingly inhospitable toward nightclubs in general and live-music venues in particular. (For the Cliffs Notes summary, just log on to www.thestranger.com and do a search for "anti-nightlife mayor" and you'll be caught up with the rest of the class.) Despite that unfortunate reality, there's still plenty of quality live rock music to be discovered and digested, so don't let our current Footloose ambiance dissuade you.
From a practical standpoint, it's easiest to break down the Seattle live-music experience by neighborhood and venue. With each club and neighborhood, there are general cultural guidelines you can count on being in place. However, scenes change and evolve, so the only way you're going to stay current is by keeping an eye on Stranger music coverage, reading Line Out (www.thestranger.com/lineout), and going out on a regular basis. Before we get to the specifics, the Ten Commandments of Club Life:
1) Save yourself some heartache and always check show start times, either in The Stranger or on the club's website. Set times vary and there's nothing worse than walking into a club to see a band you're excited about and hearing the lead singer shout, "Thank you, good night!"
2) Don't act surprised or offended when you're carded, even if you've "been there sooooo many times." You're not that memorable. Also, if you use a fake ID and it gets confiscated, don't throw a tantrum. You're busted; accept defeat and walk away.
3) Don't complain to the doorperson about the ticket price or cover charge. They didn't decide what to charge you (a booking agent, club owner, or outside promoter did). Bitching about it only paints you as an amateur asshole.
4) Don't bring a flask into the club and don't consume drugs in the club. By all means, augment your evening with supplementary whiskey or the mind-altering substance of your choice, but either leave it in your car or keep it very carefully concealed on your person. Use bathroom stalls for their intended purpose—to make out with strangers—not to do lines off the toilet seat or smoke pot. With very few exceptions, you will get caught and tossed.
5) Observe basic bar manners: Don't order complicated drinks at busy, crowded shows (the bartender and the people behind you in line will hate you), know what you want to order before you approach the bar, and move your ass out of the way once you've paid for your drink.
6) Share cabs or take public transportation whenever possible; you'll save yourself money and a potential trip to jail for a DWI.
7) Be aware of your surroundings and have some manners. If you're tall, stand in the back. If you're on your way to the bar from the showroom, keep moving—don't be the source of a bottleneck. If a band is trying to load their gear in or out of the club, get the hell out of the way—that bass cabinet is heavy.
8) There's nothing wrong with socializing at a show, but have some respect for the poor guy busting his ass onstage and the people in the audience who are focused on the music. If you're at a quiet acoustic show, talk to your casual-sex prospect at the back of the room, not in front of the stage.
9) If you've enjoyed the band and you can spare the cash, buy their CD or T-shirt at their merch stand. The band pockets a greater share of the profits than they do when you shop at a record store and touring bands count on merch sales to fill their gas tanks.
10) Don't loiter while security staff is trying to close the club at the end of the night; they're tired and want to go home.
Where to go: the Crocodile, the Showbox
What bands to see: Siberian, the Minus 5, Blue Scholars
What to wear: Almost anything goes—trendy to urban practical
What to drink: Red Bull and anything, Fat Tire Amber Ale
How to fit in: Get yourself on the guest list
How to earn leper status: Loiter at the bar instead of watching the band
Where to go: the War Room, Neumo's, the Comet, Chop Suey
What bands to see: the Lights, DJ Curtis, Skullbot
What to wear: Reconstructed vintage, custom T-shirts from B-Bam
What to drink: Miller High Life, Jack and ginger ale
How to fit in: Make fun of the Pike/Pine corridor, but don't really mean it
How to earn leper status: Describe your growing fondness for Ballard
The University District
Alas, there aren't many consistently good live-music venues near UW and consequently, few good bands will ever play within stumbling distance of your dorm (two notable exceptions, the Blue Moon and the Monkey Pub, occasionally have something decent going on). The UW campus periodically books high-profile indie-rock acts at the HUB, but chances are the best live music you're going to catch is going to be at a house party.
Where to go: Sureshot Espresso, the HUB, the Blue Moon, house parties
What bands to see: Local punk bands that are still under the radar, the Beatniks and other straightforward cover bands
What to wear: Abercrombie & Fitch, American Apparel
What to drink: Washington apple shots, Captain and Coke
How to fit in: Go wild, girl
How to earn leper status: Express interest in leaving before last call
Where to go: the Sunset, the Tractor Tavern
What bands to see: the Cops, Sgt. Major, the Suffering Fuckheads
What to wear: Denim, Dickies, casual vintage
What to drink: PBR, Makers on the rocks
How to fit in: Complain about the gentrification of Seattle
How to earn leper status: Order a cosmo
Where to go: High Dive, Nectar
What band to see: Iceage Cobra, Sugarfarm, the Heavy Hearts
What to wear: Whatever suits you—trendy to neohippie to urban practical
What to drink: Budweiser and Jäger
How to fit in: Ride your bike to the show
How to earn leper status: Wear your baseball cap backward
Where to go: El Corazón, the Lobo, the Funhouse
What band to see: the Spits, the Briefs, A Frames
What to drink: Rainier
How to fit in: Talk about how much Seattle sucks now, but used to rule
How to earn leper status: Shower excessively or admit listening to KNDD