This weekend the Vera Project will celebrate its fifth successful year of all-ages action in Seattle. With its first show happening at the Local 46 in January 2001 (a sold-out occasion featuring the Blood Brothers, Botch, and the Murder City Devils), the Vera Project has seen venue changes, staff changes, the demolition of the Teen Dance Ordinance, and the rise and fall of a number of all-ages clubs. It has not only survived through it all, but managed to grow even stronger, expanding its programming to include an art gallery, workshops and classes, and nonmusic events such as rummage sales and yoga.

To mark the special date, Vera has planned a couple of great parties, the first being a free show (featuring secret guests, DJs, and cake) on Friday, January 27, at the Fourth Avenue venue. The second show is the following night at the Showbox. The Blood Brothers headline the sold-out concert that also features Minus the Bear, These Arms Are Snakes, and Crystal Skulls.

And because over these past five years I've said more than enough about Vera in this column, I decided to let members of the aforementioned bands explain what they appreciate about this wonderful organization:

BRIAN COOK, THESE ARMS ARE SNAKES: In the age of MTV2, glossy "underground" magazines, and package tours, it can sometimes feel like the punk and indie community is slowly turning into a smaller model of the big-money music industry. Sure, there are still a few people doing shows around town in basements and community centers, but the sporadic and exclusive nature of these events can make it difficult for fans to actively participate in this music subculture. Thank heavens for places like Seattle's Vera Project. After five years of doing shows in downtown Seattle, the nonprofit organization is still running strong and consistently providing great shows and workshops for local youth. Other venues might make you feel like a spectator or a barely tolerated patron, but Vera feels more like hanging out at a friend's house. It's managed to avoid the trappings of big clubs while attaining (and in many cases surpassing) the quality of the "for-profit" concert experience. Next time you're looking for something to do on a Friday night, ask yourself: Would I rather go see the latest band on Vice Records play the big clubs across town only to forget about the experience six months down the road, or would I rather watch a band like Shoplifting or Mikaela's Fiend make history rocking the shit out of a couple hundred people at Vera? I don't know about you, but I'm opting for the latter.

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CODY VOTOLATO, THE BLOOD BROTHERS: There have been plenty of great moments at the Vera Project. My favorite part about Vera is that it exists. It's a great place for young kids to get into music the same way that we did when we were starting out. Without all-ages venues such as Vera, music in Seattle would have never been what it is. It's a breeding ground and creative outlet amongst young people. Being able to go and see shows of bands that you look up to without the "rock club" environment is very special and important. My favorite Vera show that I went to was Against Me a few years back. Every time I have ever played there has been great as well. All of the staff are wonderful and I have nothing but love for the Vera Project.