Yesterday on Slog, we ran a post relating the most memorable Showbox experiences from many local musicians, DJs, and music fanatics. Why? The beloved, venerable venue is slated for demolition after the land on which it dwells was bought by Vancouver's Onni Group. The outpouring of reminiscences was too massive for one post, so we're going to run more—to help with the grieving process and to revel in how much joy the Showbox brought to Seattle over the decades.
The news looks bleak, however, as the city decided in 2007 that the Showbox does not qualify for historic landmark status. And as my Stranger colleague Lester Black wrote today: "If the Showbox wins landmark status, and even getting that appears to be a difficult fight to win, it might not keep the building as a working theater." So now you can read the anecdotes below with an even deeper sense of poignancy.
Jordan Rundle (Newaxeyes): The best show I saw at Showbox Market, and indeed probably the best show I've ever seen, was D'Angelo on his Black Messiah tour. We stumbled serendipitously into a fancy box seat, and that show remains the only time I've ever been anonymously purchased a drink by a mysterious suitor. Such was the sexual atmosphere in there as conjured by Mr. D'Angelo. I recall a devastatingly beautiful rendition of "Really Love," plus absolutely sublime bass work from the master Pino Palladino. And the show ended with a 20-minute rendition of "Untitled (How Does It Feel)," during which each of the 11-plus performers gradually left the stage, leaving only D on the keys, lulling us into the night. That show really set a new benchmark for me.
Celene Ramadan (Prom Queen): Oh mannn, I got to open for Echo & the Bunnymen there in 2014, and it was like the greatest night of my life! I also love seeing shows at Showbox because I’m short and there’s levels there so I can always see. My biggest regret was not trying harder to get tickets to that Prince show that happened there a few years back. What the hell is my problem?
Lars Finberg (the Intelligence): Remembering a Min Yee story of back when peon bands would play the smaller front bar stage and him going up to the sound guy to ask him to pull the vocal fader up from zero while a friend's band was playing and [the sound guy] just did the human shrug emoji with his ankles crossed feet up on the mixing desk.
Skerik (DRKWAV, LORBO, Sound Cipher, etc.): First time I went was 1980, DEVO, and was hanging out with my friend's older sister who was helping sell merch. A crew member traveling with the band came back with a big bag of blow or something. I was just watching everything happen before me like a dream—the band, the crew, crazy, and I remember my neighbor Steve Turner (Mudhoney) was going to the show; I wish I had been hanging out with him instead of my moron friends. Critters Buggin played New Year’s Eve 1999, and we hung banners that said 1899 and Maurice Caldwell’s character was "Ape Lincoln." Another time, Critters Buggin played there with Master Musicians of Jajouka, and Maurice Caldwell was lowered from the ceiling wearing some costume...
Matthew Anderson: Begging Sean Horton to be let backstage to meet Richie Hawtin. He sweetly lent me his all access pass and I promptly got busted in the bathroom for shenanigans, was mistaken as the promoter and paraded past literally every friend, peer, and acquaintance in the techno scene in the NW. Favorite moment? Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers looking out over the crowd and saying, "My, what a youthful audience we have."
Alex Hupp (Wizdumb): Buena Vista Social Club’s only US tour and they made a stop at Showbox in 2005. Blew my fucking mind. Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Tara Thomas (artist): Beth Ditto and Connie and the Precious Moments. And the Cramps. I got kicked out of the Showbox that evening and threw up all the next day from alcohol poisoning—free alcohol from Lucky Strike cigarettes, if I recall. I’ve never been kicked out of a bar before. Ha.
Anomie Belle: One of my very first shows in Seattle, I opened for Tricky there, and it’s been one of my favorite locals venues ever since.
Dennis R. White: A toss up: Captain Beefheart or the Specials opening for the Police. I left after the Specials, because there was no way on God's green earth the Police could come within a mile of their genius performance.
Wesley Davis: Post WTO riots, curfew in effect, ALL-star Anti-WTO show with Jello Biafra, Krist Novaselic, many more, to a packed house! Negativland with lab jackets and film, amazing! Meat Beat Manifesto with a full band, including a drummer and tabla player. Pansonic filled the room with such thick bass that it literally made my body freeze and move with the sound.
Paul Pearson: I interviewed Dave Wakeling of the English Beat in the Showbox green room about 10 years ago, and it was one of the greatest conversations I've ever had with a musician. I also attended the after-party for the premiere of HBO's Vinyl series, where I did a shockingly decent version of "Born to Run" with a live karaoke band. It was a much better statement about rock 'n' roll than Vinyl was.
Holly Thornton: Best show was probably Femi Kuti, although Prince was a close second. Undoubtedly, I’m forever grateful for the opportunity to have seen him perform in such an intimate venue. I had the best time at Balkan Beat Box and hung out and danced and kicked it with them all night long at the W post show. Made lifelong friends that night. Also, to echo [Phil Neff's] “fell asleep” Built to Spill post, I spent the entire show making out in the photo booth. Peaches, tho... That night led to a series of adventures and stories...
Eric Padgett: I was playing for an album release with a band I tracked horn with at Jupiter. Coffee and donuts before check. Great! Nobody in the green room wanted to smoke ganja. Weird! Get out on stage for the second half of the set, notice there are women laying on the stage speaking in tongues and rolling around. Oh! I'm playing in a big commercial Christian worship band and nobody told me. Thanks, friends!
Carlos Ruiz: One of my faves was Tricky in 2009. To make it extra exciting, I just found out my roommate's mom was singing in place of Martina Topley-Bird for that tour. So here I was, on the whole other side of the Earth, sitting across from a woman I had seen perform with Tricky nearly a decade prior.
Joel Bergstrom (VibraGun, Black Nite Crash): There are quite a few, but one distinct memory is of a piece of the ceiling falling on my head when I saw Mogwai play about 10 years ago, because it was so loud.
Christian Petersen (DJ, artist): Bo Fuckin' Diddley! Also documenting SS Emerald's performance/protest outside a Prince show there over the outrageous ticket prices... which actually led (if i remember correctly) to him lowering the prices for future dates on the tour.
Jessica Tracey: Hanson in 2004. No shame. My high school friend Jane was so overwhelmed with the reemergence of adolescent feeling that she literally passed out after making it to the front row.
Erica C. Barnett (former Stranger news editor): Belle and Sebastian, September 12 (was scheduled for September 11, but they got stuck in Canada), 2001.
Siobahn Macdona: I went to see Santana at the Gorge and after he played all the classics I hopped back in the car and drove back to Seattle and got there around midnight just in time to hear Daft Punk—ultimately one of the best shows to memory. It was the Stardust era...
Irvine Hunter: Iggy Pop, standing there naked, throwing out salad to the crowd while the drum kit burned behind him. I forget if the show was '79 or '80. Someone had thrown a burning towel into the drum kit. It was smoldering and still smoking when he came out.