WHAT I'LL MISS ABOUT THE NORTHWEST

1. Being able to see THE CRABS, CADALLACA and DUB NARCOTIC SOUND SYSTEM any damn time I like. It's too easy to take for granted what's on your doorstep, to think less of musicians somehow because they're so accessible--but fuck, I'm gonna miss these three bands when I'm gone. For their humor, their humanity, their heavenly melodies. For Sarah Dougher's wiry, sensuous Farfisa organ which colors and fleshes out the more strident, bare-bone structures of Cadallaca and the Crabs. For our man Calvin's ever challenging, deeply licentious vocals and funked-down dance on stage with Dub Narcotic. For the tambourines, the torch-lit dances, the troubled times. And fuck, am I gonna miss Heather Dunn's drop-dead sexy drumming.

2. Being able to watch PETE KREBS perform live in my locality, both with his band GOSSAMER WINGS, and without. I never even liked his previous band Hazel; thought they were the grayest of the gray. Pete's troubled on-the-road songs, tinged with his world-weary yet still hopeful restlessness, have consoled me in my distant loneliness deeper than anyone else this time 'round.

3. Listening to QUASI and RUSTY WILLOUGHBY first light in the morning and through many a sleep-wracked night, caught up in the infectiousness of their melancholia-suffused, Beatles-esque harmonies. Some of their lyrics ran dangerously close to becoming mantras to live by: "We went through hell/Just to get to hell." Indeed. And man, will I miss those drinking sessions, singing Jam songs at the top of our voices.

4. Experiencing the pure thrill of loud rock 'n' roll music played without frills, without fuss, and with a maximum of enthusiasm and noise--usually at the Breakroom (Seattle's finest venue, no question). Take a bow, you drunken reprobates from THE PROMISE KEEPERS, FAMILY SEX JACKPOT, ZEKE... MURDER CITY DEVILS, even. (Sorry I never got the chance to tear you apart like I promised: for the record, I love Saturday morning cartoons as much as the next retarded rocker.) Seattle has long been a town of great rock bands (as shown by the continued presence of the evergreen, ever beer-splattered TAD and MUDHONEY). We say, "Don't let the Campaign for Real Rock die here!" as we dance like complete retards to sexy Olympian rockers TIGHT BROS FROM WAY BACK WHEN. "Embrace the rock! Don't let the rock stop rocking!"

5. The enthusiasm of the danceheads rockin' the floor against all odds--The Stranger's own DJs RIZ ROLLINS and MATT CORWINE, and the ever-inventive mixmaster DJ MASA included. Then there's Sub Pop's most exciting recent signing, EVIL TAMBOURINES (imagine Portishead all fucked-up and crazed, like butter has melted in their mouths), and ICU (the best analog drum 'n' bass act I've ever caught live--forget regional bias). Anyone who can wave a hand in the air and master a theremin just like that, while decks are spinning wildly in control and a stand-up bass is being given the slapping it deserves, is more than okay by me. And let's not forget HOVERCRAFT's early '80s throwback music: dance/rock crossover as it should always be played--loud, demonic, and with tons of imagination.

6. PIGEONHED, too. I'm sure as fuck gonna miss that cantankerous old bastard Steve Fisk and his inner soul visions.

7. Being able to race down to Olympia and catch a band like the primordial OLD TIME RELIJUN or D+'s ever-poignant early K-style lo-fi rock. (See also Note 1, about taking bands for granted.) I sure as hell am not gonna forget the night I balanced between watching BUILT TO SPILL (who, let's face it, possess a singular beauty and poise, extended guitar solos and everything) at the awesome all-ages venue the Capitol Theater, and racing over to the Midnight Sun to catch THE NEED perform a complete set of fairground Wurlitzer music.

And let's not forget D+ drummer Phil Elvrum's other band, Anacortes' THE MICROPHONES. If only all hiphop bands had grown up digging the cute, English sounds of Trixie's Big Red Motorbike and Lee "Scratch" Perry's demented rhythms....

8. All the quieter voices. Artists like the tremulous GROCERIES and robot-led OCTANT, English power pop wannabe THE KG and poetic NIKKI McCLURE, whose fragile, often gorgeous melodies are in danger of being submerged under the clamor of noise and drinking from the great churning, unwashed masses. These artists are the ones closest to my heart, the ones I feel most protective of. If I've listened to the Groceries flurriedly sing, "Never going to waste my time again" once, I've listened to it 100 times. If I've watched spellbound the multicolored lights and other-worldly sounds emanating from Octant's drum kit, I've watched them 100 times--in my dreams. Likewise, MOCKET (Matt Steinke's other, weirder, pop electronic band).

9. The straightforward rush of great, great pop bands like Seattle's eternal FASTBACKS and Olympia's young pretenders THE BANGS. Bands who understand the thrill to be had from playing rampant '60s harmonies melded into hard rock. Bands who couldn't play a bad (that is, boring) show if their lives depended on it.

10. The poets. MARK LANEGAN, MIKE JOHNSON, ELLIOTT SMITH (contrary to whatever I might have written in the past). I kinda dig it when people are willing to lay their souls so bare. Lanegan, of course, has the distinct advantage of having a nicotine-choked voice to die for... but I love the rasp of Johnson's guitar strings live, and the way girls swoon at Elliott's shows. Hey, at least it means he's connecting!

11. '70s throwback bands. Yeah, man! Never mind the melodies, feel the rock! C-AVERAGE and TOT FINDER, being from round here, take it to extremes--stripping the metal right back to just guitar and drums, two-pieces whose drummers pound up a veritable storm. C-Average sing about goblins, and they're not ashamed of it! Cool. MARS ACCELERATOR, too, manage to make a virtue out of taking all the uncoolest elements of the '70s--beards, banks of wah-wah pedals, extended virtuoso guitar breaks--and turning them into something refreshing. Neat.

12. Early '80s power pop throwback bands (sadly a diminishing breed). Yes, I'm looking at the cut of your jeans, Joe Jackson/Jags-loving MAXX AVERAGE AND THE CORPORATION. Who can resist a band who has such a thin guitar sound and sweet dress sense?

13. The swing revivalists: DJ LESLIE $ and all her cats. I'm a sucker for a great show-time tune.

14. SLEATER-KINNEY, of course. Who could resist the call-to-arms, righteous rock and rhythms of the Northwest's own S-K? Forget the lyrics: can't you just take inspiration from the smile on Carrie Brownstein's face and the way her right leg kicks back just so? See also THE SUB DEBS (who are so young, one member had to be segregated from the "adult" clientele at their recent Seattle show). I like old school Riot Grrrl, okay?

15. MODEST MOUSE. The first night I saw them, they sounded like a disturbed child screaming edge-city outrage over gorgeous bass lines plucked straight from the Galaxie 500/New Order songbook. The second time I saw them, I was shaken by the intensity. Five gigs in, I was in love.

16. The rappers: Tacoma's BLACK ANGER and my very own homeboys TURNTABLE BAY. Who says Seattle is built on rock? These men are... tricky.

17. Going back to the first point again: what about PARINI? You think it's the norm, to see such a vital two-piece (female on soft/loud vocals and inventive guitar-play, male on mellow, authoritative drums)? You think it's the norm to witness such singularity? You must have a fucking sweet life, then.

18. DEAD MOON, even though they confused the fuck out of me when I got to see them live. Like, aren't they the single greatest undiscovered garage band of the '90s? If so, why are they so damn disturbing?

19. Speaking of which, UNWOUND. Dissonance, beauty, strange star-signs and a '70s soul sensibility which is quite unsettling in its juxtaposed surrealness. When they played the Velvet Elvis, it was like walking into David Lynch's own private cocktail party, chaperoned by a trio of avant-noise terrorists. With melodies.

Fuck, I'm gonna miss the Northwest.

See ya.

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