On Saturday July 2, Timbre Room—a new space above the Denny Triangle club Kremwerk and run by its owners Nicole and Austin Stone—held a soft opening, featuring DJ sets and live performances by local luminaries like Diogenes and Vox Mod. I arrived in time to see the latter bust out a high-energy set of smart, vibrant dance jams that got the crowd moving and the tinsel behind the stage shuddering.
Living up to its name, the 129-capacity Timbre Room features a lot of wood paneling, a bar, a stage, a potent sound system, and a magisterial DJ booth in the back. The crowd was a mix of queers, underground-electronic heads, and normcore folks, most likely from the nearby affluent South Lake Union neighborhood. The overall vibe was much brighter and the sounds more accessible than what the bunker-like Kremwerk—which I consider Seattle’s foremost incubator for forward-thinking electronic music—usually offers. And that’s intentional, according to the Stones, who also built out an adjoining pizzeria called Little Maria’s in order to feed hungry clubbers… till 3 am, if necessary.
The last couple of months have been extremely busy for Kremwerk’s owners, as well as for talent buyers Nick Carroll (electronic music bookings) and Jeanne-Marie Joubert (queer-centric bookings). They've been building out and readying the pizza restaurant and Timbre Room (pronounced “timber”), and making tweaks to the flagship space in the basement and the patio. They now have four bars in their establishments. It’s an ambitious growth spurt for the mother-son team, who started Kremwerk in 2014.
“We’re mixing it up,” Nicole Stone says. “Techno, house, and bands all on the same night. People should experience all kinds of different electronic music, dancing, and great food. The complex is set up to give people a sense of timelessness and ever-expanding possibilities.”
Austin extrapolates on the Timbre Room’s booking strategy. “What we're trying to do is a weekly programming base, something that is consistent, to contrast Kremwerk's more niche-driven, monthly and one-off bookings. Timbre Room will host stand-alone events congruently with the patio and Kremwerk’s bookings. We want everyone to enjoy ‘the Complex’ and have an accessible point of interest.”
Carroll says, “Each space is unique while also being complementary,” while Joubert notes, “We want to expose people to new experiences. Someone going to Kremwerk will be able to check out the patio for free, and they might discover new artists at Timbre Room and vice versa.”
Austin is justifiably proud of Timbre Room’s DJ booth, which is one of the most impressive I’ve seen in Seattle. “I'm stoked to have this DJ booth where artists can still be very intimate with the audience,” he says. Timbre Room's sound system differs from Kremwerk's, which they acquired from Electric Tea Garden’s Julian O’keefe. “Timbre has a completely different sound to it, with all the wood and treatment and stage presence,” Austin says. “The way it's set up now, the sound system hits the DJs, which is different to most other venues. I prefer having a large wall of sound that offers control for the DJ or performer to move the room and audience so they can feel and experience the energy together, instead of being separated from the crowd. The stage has front-of-house mixing, a dedicated off-stage entrance to a separate green room. It’s a game changer for our live-band and drag-show programming.
In conjunction with the solid, familiar fare of Little Maria’s (various pizzas, calzones, and salads; they’re “working on” vegan options), Timbre Room will offer what Nicole calls a more “widespread sensibility” that's accessible to out-of-towners and SLU’s influx of tech workers. Right next door to Kremwerk, the Kinect Tower highrise scheduled to be operational by next January could also house hundreds of potential patrons. They may not be hip to Kremwerk’s avant-garde slate of techno and noise from the MOTOR, Research, Elevator, Action Potential, and Squall crews, but they may dig the more accessible events planned at Timbre Room.
Timbre’s three main nights, which officially launch this week, are ReFresh on Thursdays (local hiphop), Foolish on Fridays (house), and Digital Love on Saturdays (indie electronic music). Sundays are devoted to patio parties. (I recommend hitting the patio on July 16, too, as the SpaceRock clique will bring their weird afterhours techno to the patio at the unlikely 6 pm-11pm slot.) “Our goal is to have bookings with more of a band presence and shows that start earlier or run concurrently,” Austin says. "We are booking live groups earlier in the night to set the tone for the dance party and have access to a patio with outside music every Saturday."
Carroll doesn’t see Kremwerk’s strategy changing much in the near future. He says that it will continue to “push a lot of interesting, progressive electronic music that’s affected people in positive ways.” Carroll, who co-heads the Research collective, cites Decibel Festival as inspirational to his own decision-making process, praising the wide net it cast. “At that festival, you’d go to see something like Lorde and on the other side you’d have artists like Kangding Ray. Maybe someone who goes to one thing doesn’t go to another, but I know for a fact because of the connections and the network that festival casts, it got people into all sorts of music. This place is going to be similar to a music festival, not only in the sense that you have all these rooms you can have fun in and see cool things, but also in terms of musical discovery. That’s going to be something that resonates with people and separates what we’re doing here [from other clubs].” All of these spaces also offer respite on weekends from Capitol Hill’s increasingly obnoxious atmosphere.
In the two years since it began, Kremwerk has transformed from a humble spot trying to lure 100 people to its modular concrete interior to one that draws 500 or 600 punters on the weekend. Whereas before Kremwerk largely relied on outside promoters and DJs to fill out its schedule, the owners count on Carroll and Joubert to fulfill that role. “That's been a huge source of inspiration to open up these other venues,” Austin says. “The biggest thing for us is to see our potential programming reaching a thousand people a day, with all these venues operational. That's our next goal: to see how we can make this mini festival happen and how we can book our own festivals.” The Stones mentioned plans for a two-day festival event in the fall, although details still need to be hashed out. But their track record for pushing adventurous programming in electronic-music and queer-oriented events hints of interesting things to come for these new components in the Stones’ burgeoning Denny Triangle empire.