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Ryan Worsley's documentary, which premiered at SIFF in May, is a celebration of the Funhouse, which closed two years ago, but it's also a celebration of the punk spirit. That can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. In first-time filmmaker Worsley's hands, it's about pursuing the career of your dreams, no matter how many naysayers try to talk you out of it. For former co-owner Brian Foss, that meant running a punk club on lower Queen Anne.

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In retrospect, it's amazing it lasted as long as it did. I walk past the old site twice a day to and from work, and three new housing developments are in various stages of completion all within the same two-block radius—one right across the street. It's hard to believe the Funhouse was ever located on the same 5th Avenue that houses the EMP Museum and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (that said, The 5-Point Café, only a few blocks away, is still going strong).

So, Razing the Bar is also a lamentation for the accelerating pace of gentrification in downtown Seattle, an issue with which I've long been concerned—even more so now that my own apartment building, in which I've lived for 20 years, is slated for demolition. (The city plans to build a 44-story luxury hotel, Seattle's highest, where my five-story building has stood since the 1920s.)

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  • K.C. Fennessy
  • The beginning of the end
As for the Funhouse, it started out as Tex's Tavern before becoming Zak's Saloon. From what bartenders and patrons have to say about latter, I'm glad I never set foot in there, since I might've also gotten popped in the back of the head for no reason. Fun!

Foss came to Zak's by way of Gibson's Bar and Grill, where he served as booker. Some time after it became the Funhouse, he and his wife, Cyndi Foss, became co-owners with Bobby Kuckelberg.

As several speakers attest, the Funhouse provided a welcoming space for new and hard-to-describe bands to get their start and to "work out the kinks." Says Kurt Bloch (the Fastbacks, Thee Sgt. Major III), "It was sort of a breeding ground of creativity." Foss didn't just book punk and garage outfits, but also cabaret acts, belly dancers, pencil fights, and benefit shows for the Rat City Rollergirls.

Razed to the ground
  • K.C. Fennessy
  • Razed to the ground

The documentary includes several Seattle performers, like Rachel Ratner (the Wimps) and Bill Cerise-Bullock (Misfits tribute act Glenn or Glennda). Foss also booked non-local outfits that would break out bigger later, like Davila 666, King Khan, Psychic Ills, Thee Oh Sees, and Tyvek, as well as veteran performers like the Avengers, Clarence "Blowfly" Reid, the Evaporators, and Hugh Cornwell of the Stranglers, but because only regional musicians appear in the film, Razing the Bar may not hold as much interest for non-locals (the soundtrack features tracks from the Spits, the Pharmacy, the Intelligence, and others). Then again, I'm not sure it was intended for them. As a local, a club goer, and a downtown veteran, I found it of great interest.

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Worsley ends by looking at the final days of the Funhouse, which closed its doors in 2012. Some former employees still work in the club/booking circuit, some have moved on, but I'm sure music will always be part of Foss's life. You can hear him most every Saturday night on KEXP hosting the punk show Sonic Reducer.

Razing the Bar opens at The Grand Illusion Cinema on Fri, July 11, and plays for one week. Director Ryan Worsley is scheduled to attend the screenings.