This weekend the club across the street from the Comet Tavern will be born again, this time under the name noiselab. (Yes, "noiselab," all lowercase.)
Noiselab is owned by Comeback L.L.C., which used to be called Mothership--and this is where things get really weird. Moe's, Capitol Hill's only rock club in the early '90s, was sold in 1996 to Mothership, which opened ARO.space. The people at Mothership were affiliated with Tasty Shows, the creators of the massively successful dance nights Electrolush at the Showbox and Spice at Moe's. Mothership ran ARO.space for four years, then sold it. That buyer held on to the club for a month, then sold it again. The next set of owners kept the name ARO.space for another year or so, then Mothership regained control. Mothership then leased the club out to a third party and soon the club seemed to change names and formats weekly. Eventually Mothership and the not-to-be-named third party wound up in court, and when the litigation finally ended (the third party was forced out), Mothership, reorganized and with Jon Rosson taking the helm, changed its name to Comeback L.L.C.
Confusing? You bet. But the long, sad history of 10th and Pike doesn't really matter. What's important is that Capitol Hill is about to get a new club, and there's a chance this one is going to stick around for a while.
The Devil's Details
Two weeks before the club's New Year's Eve opening, Jon Rosson is in a finish-line fury, his cell phone perpetually at his ear. Thirty-five years old and a lifelong Seattle resident, he has been involved with the Seattle club scene for years. "I'm in the entertainment business. I'm here to make people happy," he tells me as he leads me through the club. The devil is in the details, as they say, and right now noiselab is all about details. Checks need to be signed, and the liquor board needs to be stroked. For the past few months, every inch of the club--which is the second largest in Seattle, after the Showbox--has been meticulously remade. The decisions have been endless, from the choice of paint (black is too dark, white is too sterile) and the lighting design (red or orange are best--everyone looks attractive in red or orange), to the seating (booths for conversation, or open seating for eyeballing?) and the glassware (thick, sturdy glasses, or a more elegant design? Or fuck it, go with plastic?).
In the end, Rosson goes with dark blue paint, orange lighting, open booths for seats, and a sturdy-glass/plastic mix for beverages. Gone is the clinical, chilly white of ARO.space (the white-tiled restaurant in ARO.space was often compared to the inside of a large public toilet), which itself replaced the inspired clutter of Moe's. Noiselab is not only a fresh start but a fresh look.
"I took away the wall of boobs," Rosson laughs, referring to the nipple-like lamps ARO.space put behind the bar, "and I went with a grill pattern that reminds me of an old '50s heater. The idea is warmth."
All this bluster about design improvements is rendered moot, however, if nobody is there to appreciate them, and Rosson has grand plans for noiselab. He attempts to sell me on the club with some ready-made sound bites.
On visuals: "I want to work with multimedia--projectors, digital imagery, videos."
On entertainment: "There's going to be both music and DJs. We want to work with every promoter in the city, and we've made the house terms very reasonable. We'll have both 18+ and 21+ shows, as well as mixed."
On survival: "Anyone who thinks they can keep their finger on the pulse consistently is just kidding themselves."
On service: "We're going to bring back the old $3 Frontier Room-style cocktails. A lot of places have happy hours, but every hour will be happy hour at noiselab."
Listening to Rosson--whose every-hour-will-be-happy-hour rap would be laughable if he weren't so sincere--it's obvious he means it when he says he's in the entertainment business, he's in love with his new enterprise, and he has more ambitious plans than merely getting a new club off the ground. Currently under construction in the club's cavernous basement is a rehearsal/recording area for bands called Underground Sound, and there already exists a second element to noiselab, beyond the club itself: Playland.
Filling the void left by the demise of pinball-and-punk-rock Hi*Score Arcade, Rosson has taken the name of an ancient arcade that used to exist high up on Aurora and turned the club's former dining area into a video arcade. "The dining area's always been a money pit," Rosson says, "so I figured, why not turn it into something that will bring people in?" Playland, which will also eventually serve food, is already up and running, returning Pac-Man, Moon Patrol and, most importantly, pinball to Capitol Hill.
a noisy dream
Moe's was the first club I ever (legally) set foot in. Along with the Crocodile, Moe's was the best club in town for rock shows, and it was not unusual for me, and many people, to spend entire weekends there. The closing of Moe's created a massive vacancy on Capitol Hill, a vacancy only partially filled by the Breakroom (now Chop Suey).
Moe's closing party was a complete disaster--and by disaster, I mean it was fucking great--and months later, after Mothership had completely gutted the old space, giving it a scrub and a polish, ARO.space's opening party couldn't have been more opposite. Clean, pleasant, and reminiscent of drinking in an egg chair, ARO.space wiped from the corner of 10th and Pike whatever residue Moe's may have left behind.
Jon Rosson's dream of noiselab appears to be a convergence of the two clubs. He calls noiselab a "house of sound," and, whatever that means, much music--be it rock, dance, or what have you--is sure to be involved. Will he last on the cursed corner? I dunno, but what I do know is this: If noiselab, Playland, a rehearsal/recording space, and $3 cocktails can't lift the curse of 10th and Pike, well, then nothing can.
Noiselab opens its doors on New Year's Eve, beginning at 8 pm. DJs will spin from 8-2 am, followed by an after-party from 2-6 am. At 6 am, the bar will reopen. Free.