Ahead of the Game

Stuck under the needle with Marcus Lalario.

"I hate it when motherfuckers just get up there and yell at people." It's Thursday night on Capitol Hill, and MARCUS LALARIO is watching an opening act and thinking out loud about what works and what doesn't when it comes to a good hip-hop show.

"You've got to do a lot more than that," he concludes.

We're at the back of the club, and getting to the front won't be easy. The stage is at least 50 handshakes and hugs away, because Lalario, along with Zac Johnson, is co-owner of Stuck Records, Under the Needle Recordings, and a production company called Stuck Under the Needle that encompasses everything else their crew does; as such, Lalario knows, employs, manages, or advises just about everyone who's anyone here. We won't have to move around too much, though, since his people gravitate to him. Lalario can work a room while standing still.

But the stage will become important very soon, because Greyskull, Under the Needle's newest project, are performing their first show. The opening act was all boasting and call-and-response, but Greyskull are deep, aggressive, and introverted all at once. And the crowd loves them, which is funny because it wasn't like this a few years ago. The younger, smaller hip-hop scene of those days wasn't so much into the weird stuff, and that's when Lalario started putting on his own shows.

The man has a knack for jumping into promising scenes before they blow uphe was one of the first promoters to throw drum and bass events in Seattle, back when even the hard-core ravers looked down their noses at the now commonplace dance-floor subgenre. Likewise, the now-thriving weekly hip-hop throw-down, Yo, Son!, at Chop Suey (1325 E. Madison St., 206-324-8000) was one of Lalario's bright ideasback before Seattle had anything like it, of course. With emerging and established artists like Old Dominion and Boom Bap Project, both of his labels' rosters show plenty of promise, as well. The drum and bass nights are still going strong, and the hip-hop happenings are steadily gainingthe newest of which is Sample at the Baltic Room (1207 Pine St., 206-625-4444), where local DJs cue classic hip-hop a cappella over the band Skerik's Syncopated Taint Septet.

And now, as if all of that isn't enough, Lalario's getting into the bar business, too, which is why we finish on the Hill and head to Belltown's Viceroy (2332 Second Ave., 206-956-8423). Along with clubland doyenne Linda Derschang and some other partners, Lalario owns a stake in the new upscale, old-school ski-lodge-style lounge, and he's learning the game quickly.

The place is packed with a mix of hipsters and Belltown types. Over a few Old Crows, we talk about the details, and at Viceroy every detail is coveredfrom the textured gray brick wall behind the bar to the gratis Brylcreem in the bathrooms. Lalario goes out six or seven nights a week, but it's almost always business. Sure, he has an inebriated great time from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., but the next morning he's up at 9 to work out and head to the office, then back out later to check on the crowds and keep track of the bottom line. It can be a punishing routine, but he's been doing it for most of his life. As a teenage record-store clerk, he'd finish work in Kirkland and drive to Vancouver, B.C., where he helped promote and manage some industrial bands, then he'd rush to make it home in time for his first class.

By now the Old Crow is starting to kick init's Lalario's drink of choice, and if he's involved in a bar, he demands that it be served. He works Viceroy for one last round, and then we stumble down the street to the Bada Lounge (2230 First Ave., 206-374-8717), where he's thinking about instigating another party night. No Old Crow herea bad signso we switch to "Hennebu," a mix of Hennessey and Malibu that sounds disgusting but isn't. After a shot of something that tastes like Dimetapp, our conversation slides from sound systems to promotion strategy to Vietnam's taxation scheme for houses before coming back to Lalario's beloved hip-hop. And then, before we know it, it's closing time. The lights come on, and all over the city they're pushing people into the streets, putting chairs on tables, and mopping the floors.

For Lalario, it's the end of a long day's work. There might be some after-hours action somewhere, but he's got to be up early to walk his dog, and then face another long day's journey into night.

Find out about upcoming Stuck Under the Needle events and artists at www.stuckunder theneedle.com.

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