LIVE MUSIC CLUBS HAVE NEVER HAD IT EASY IN Seattle, but they've probably never had it worse than they do now. And in these depressing times, when vital all-ages venues such as RKCNDY and the Velvet Elvis, and even Pioneer Square mainstay the Colourbox, have announced definite closing dates (Velvet Elvis and the Colourbox in early summer; RKCNDY in December), it's surprising to see a relatively new venue such as the Breakroom thrive and prosper.

Only about a year and a half into its existence, the Breakroom has become a clear favorite among Seattle's embattled live music clubs, giving more established venues like the Crocodile a run for their money. What sets the club apart is its unyielding dedication to presenting great bills that serve two purposes: providing bands with a comfortable, supportive place to play, and providing audiences with shows that do not offend their sensibilities. The woman behind this concise ethic is music scene fixture Diane Perini, who will leave the Breakroom early this summer to further her career in New York City.

As to the club's success, Perini cites Breakroom owner Trish Timmers' hands-off approach to booking--Timmers left the entire process to Perini. Having been with the venue since its inception, Perini saw a niche in the local scene which she felt the Breakroom would nestle into nicely. Aside from the dire need for a rock club on Capitol Hill, Perini also saw a need for a club that keeps its eye on the future--specifically, tomorrow's headliners. "Aside from smaller clubs like Uncle Rocky's," says Perini, "the local music scene wasn't being supported in a way that ensured its growth. A couple of bands broke out--Modest Mouse and Murder City Devils--while the opening bands weren't being paid much attention. No one was consistently building local bills by placing smaller bands with established locals, and letting the smaller bands headline." This unorthodox method of booking pays off quickly not only for the scene, but for the club as well, says Perini. "If you build up your middle-level bands, they'll be there to headline when the big bands are recording or on the road, or when they pick up and move away."

Financial hardship has driven some local clubs to take shows that are sure to make money--sometimes sacrificing their regular crowd for the throngs a big national act can draw in--but Perini is wholeheartedly against that formula. "The Breakroom is strictly an underground club. If you're not punk or indie rock or underground, you're not going to play here. I believe I established a standard that sets the Breakroom apart from other clubs--that we take care of the music scene."

As for the audience, they too are kept in mind. "Being that this is a neighborhood club, I certainly would never want to offend our crowd. I wanted to make the Breakroom a place that alienates no one, be they band or audience. I'm not going to bring in some national act whose crowd will trample over our regulars. The record-buying, music-loving public deserves a little respect."

Under Perini's tenure the Breakroom also managed to crack the tough, strictly all-ages Olympia nut. Several bands that formerly played only at the Velvet Elvis now play at the Breakroom, too--Tight Bros From Way Back When and the Bangs, to name only two. "Karp played their final show here, " Perini says proudly. It's also important to note what kinds of bands are conspicuously missing from Breakroom bills. Mainly, Seattle's Old School. You're not likely to see Mudhoney or Goodness playing dates at the Breakroom; it's hard to imagine either of those acts letting a smaller, newer band vault into the headlining spot. Supersuckers played there once, but at their own request. Sucking up just doesn't fit into the Breakroom philosophy--and the club should be commended for that.

Now that Perini is moving to New York, many folks are worried that things are going to change, that another booker, with less vision, will take over. Perini is determined to choose a booker who won't let this happen. "I'm going to be as picky as I am with bands when it comes to finding someone to take over," she promises. "It's important to pick someone who has his or her heart in it. All I ever wanted was to make this place comfortable for the bands and the audience. We succeeded in that, and now we're waiting for someone to come in with the same punk rock ethic." She sees the city's shortage of music industry jobs as a plus for finding the right booker. "One good thing about Seattle is that there aren't that many jobs in the music industry, and once you've worked in it for six or seven years, you begin to think you can't do anything else. This ensures that people will constantly be brainstorming, coming up with new ways to work in music, and that regeneration is what keeps the whole scene going." Perini herself is following that path by quitting the booking business--she's hoping to get into music promotion in the Big Apple--but she'll keep a close watch on the club she helped to make a success. "I certainly don't want someone to come in here and mess things up," she says. "If that happens, I'll come back from New York and kick their ass."

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