Nicole Stone, the owner of the Seattle nightclub Kremwerk, has learned a thing or two in the half-decade she has run the Denny Triangle nightlife emporium.
“What I do know about Seattle and all the house and techno heads that are here—they like to feel their bass music,” she says. “If your body’s not shaking, there’s something wrong.”
Kremwerk celebrates its five-year anniversary starting tonight with a long weekender of down-the-rabbit-hole techno, thumping house, drag extravaganzas, and queer-friendly raves. All of the festivities these next three days will put the club’s sound system, one which has been steadily boosted over the years, to the limit.
Nowadays Kremwerk has to pump sound for a capacity crowd that frequently sees lines down Minor Avenue on weekend nights. The scene is a far cry from the club’s inaugural year.
“The first year definitely had some trials and tribulations,” Stone says. “We would get excited if we had 30 people show up to the venue.”
With no disrespect to Re-bar or Monkey Loft, which continue to push serious sounds, and with complete disrespect to Q Nightclub ever since it stopped booking good music, Kremwerk has been Seattle’s flagship for underground electronic music.
“We try to stay true to what our roots are: techno and house is what we thrive on,” Stone says. “We do like to have the obscure and give a home to the artists Seattle might not have been exposed to in the past.”
From the outset, Kremwerk fired a salvo across the bow of the city’s nightlife when it booked L-Vis 1990, a future bass star from London’s cutting-edge Night Slugs label, for its first show. As the EDM gravy train has risen and fallen, Kremwerk has forged a successful path that has turned the club into a bona fide destination in a neighborhood that sees minimal weekend foot traffic unlike other nightlife hubs Capitol Hill, Belltown, and Pioneer Square. The club even operates an upstairs Airbnb that is booked solid this weekend and every Pride, with last year drawing guests from as far as Bangladesh.
“Our audience has expanded as more people have moved into the neighborhood,” Stone says. “Kremwerk has become more of a destination place.”
The neighborhood has changed dramatically in these last five years, however, with empty lots on two sides of the club sprouting neck-craning high-rises. Unsurprisingly, Kremwerk’s cheek-by-jowl location to these shiny new behemoths has led to an uptick in noise complaints from clueless residents who seem unaware that the nightclub predates their fancy new digs.
Not that Kremwerk expects to be grandfathered from any noise regulations.
“We’re always running around with decibel meters to stay on top of it,” Stone says. “We’ve brought technology into the club to mitigate any kind of noise issues.”
Kremwerk’s underground bunker helps with noise bleed but an errant propped door at Timbre Room, the ground-floor venue inside the Kremwerk complex, can spell trouble. It’s one reason that Stone wishes Seattle would adopt an “agent of change” policy that holds a neighborhood’s newest arrivals responsible for noise mitigation. So if the club was there first, it’s the real estate developer’s job to warn prospective tenants and take appropriate measures.
Stone would also like to see alcohol service hours pushed beyond 2 a.m. Kremwerk regularly goes into the wee hours and even the next day, emulating the Berlin nightclubs that inspired the venue, but the taps get turned off at last call. Allowing later service hours would stagger the times at which intoxicated people head into the street and provide an outlet for those looking for a later night out.
“Nightlife is the heartbeat of the city,” she says. “As high rises go up and more people move into the city with disposable income, they need a place to go.”
Kremwerk has been that place for five years with countless marquee performances. Among Stone’s favorites: genre-bending fashionista Honey Dijon, house legend Felix da Housecat, '80s club icon Lady Miss Kier, drag superstar Nina Bo’nina Brown, and experimental savant Silent Servant. She is enthused for this weekend’s headliners Machinedrum and Patrick Russell, and already looking forward to a March appearance by London collective Horsemeat Disco.
While Kremwerk is first and foremost a business, one that has to turn a profit in order to pay its performers and employees, keep the sound system juiced, and navigate the byzantine bureaucracy of running a nightlife operation, Stone’s enthusiasm is palpable. She says she has turned down multiple offers for her valuable building that could certainly be redeveloped into a high-rise something or other.
“I’m here to stay,” she says. “This is my passion and what I love to do.”