A Report from a Press Conference

As far as I'm concerned, the less rock 'n' roll has to do with press conferences, the better. But last Wednesday, the Mayor's Office of Film + Music held an event at the Paramount to announce its new 12-year plan to "grow" Seattle as a city of music, called, sensibly enough, though with a troubling lack of punctuation: Seattle City of Music.

The plan is three-pronged, aiming to foster Seattle as a city of musicians, music businesses, and live music venues. The presentation was long on lofty, admirable goals as well as civic boasting and short on specifics (James Keblas of the Mayor's Office of Film + Music e-mailed some specifics following the event, including plans to offer a musician's health-care program through Country Doctor, to work with the Office of Housing to find low-cost housing for musicians, to pass an exemption for some music venues from the city's 5 percent admissions tax, and, most importantly, to form a Seattle Music Commission to oversee and further develop the City of Music plan). Some notes from the press conference:

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• Mayor Greg Nickels said Seattle is a "great place to make music" and he wants to make it a "great place to make a living making music." He then rattled off a list of non-music-related Seattle-based business and told the story about his mom dropping him off for a date at a Rolling Stones concert. He claimed, dubiously, that "Austin has nothing on Seattle."

• Keblas argued that Seattle's strength was precisely that it's "not L.A. or NYC" (to say nothing of Austin).

• Growing the music business in Seattle seemed to hinge on growing the wider economy, a rising tide and ships and all that, which is bad news given how the actual economy is going.

• A guy from the Seattle Chamber of Commerce talked about "specialty beverages." He was also one of three guys in suits that night, including Nickels, to invoke the word "soul" (not one of them accompanied the invocation with a black-power fist, sadly).

• Tom Mara from KEXP told us that the station's CD collection could more than fill two accordion-style Metro buses and that he hopes to see it fill three someday.

• Megan Jasper from Sub Pop, which has launched a $13,000 music scholarship program as part of the City of Music initiative, and Josh Rosenfeld from Barsuk were the first people to acknowledge that times are actually kind of grim for the music business right now. Returning to the theme of Seattle's exceptionalism, Rosenfeld said that there isn't another city where everything comes together as it does in Seattle.

• It really is bizarre to hear that voice come out of Vince Mira's body.

The New Faces look like the Jonas Brothers and sound like Interpol. They'll probably be huge.

• Somewhat depressingly, the goal for music education is primarily just to restore all the programs and funding to historic levels (although Keblas says this part of the initiative is already fully funded). One speaker called music education a "race and social justice issue." The Rotary Club of Seattle wants you to donate musical instruments to them to give to schools.

• The Vera Project's Dustin Fujikawa was the most engaging and animated speaker of the night, and he brought up some serious issues—gentrification, health care, a living wage—that I'm not entirely sure this plan can really address.

Things were dragging and none of the speeches so far had offered any specifics, so I split before the round of addresses about music venues; the plan's website lists the following goal in that area: "Seattle will be rich with well-managed concert venues of various sizes, supporting a wide variety of musical performances."

That's all well and good, but the city and state's track record with live music venues—onerous new noise ordinances, SPD nightclub stings, the WSLCB's puritanical regulations (in Austin, L.A., and NYC, I'm pretty sure you can drink a beer onstage)—isn't exactly encouraging. Still, some good people, like Keblas and Kate Becker (and organizations like Sub Pop and KEXP) are behind this plan, and these are people who get big, improbable things done.

Starfucker at Vera Project

Big, improbable things like, for instance, the Vera Project, where on Saturday night hot-shit trio Starfucker handily lived up to their growing hype. Obviously, I'm a sucker for the foul-mouthed bands—Fuck, the Fucking Champs, Fuck Buttons, Holy Fuck, I love you all—but Starfucker are much more than an eye-grabbing moniker. The band began their set with two members making looped ambient noise for several minutes (here they resembled Holy Fuck in more than just profanity) before their third member joined them at an electric piano, the noise ebbed, and they launched into one of their filtered, off-kilter, feedback-riddled pop songs.

They played several songs off of their self-titled debut album, including highlights "Florida," "German Love," "Laadeedaa," and "Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second," enlivening them with dual drumming, live loops, and vocals so filtered and processed that their between-song banter was almost incomprehensible.

A lot of bands try really hard, too hard, to be "fun"—they wear silly costumes, write willfully stupid songs, beam big stage smiles—but Starfucker are just genuinely fun (though not without silly outfits), burying funky drum breaks under catchy melodies and playing with an infectious overabundance of energy (the bassist/drummer, when playing a drum beat that didn't require all his limbs, would stomp the floor with his extra foot or beat inaudibly on a practice pad with his spare drumstick; the guitarist ditched his instrument to bust some goofy dance moves that look like they were honed by battling with Panther and YACHT). They elicited more inspired dancing than I've seen at the Vera for a while.

Starfucker, it should be noted, are from Portland. recommended