Every year, Seattle's cultural scene changes incrementally. Favorite old bookstores close; promising new galleries open. Bands disband, change members, and reform. People move. People die.
The big events are duly noted, celebrated, and mourned. Seattle playwright August Wilson, who died in October, will be remembered on Broadway with a theater bearing his name. Local newspapers, including Seattle Weekly, devoted hundreds of column inches to other changes: the death of art maven Linda Farris; the exit of Seattle International Film Festival executive director Helen Loveridge; the closure of David Ishii Bookseller; the retirements of Pacific Northwest Ballet co-directors Kent Stowell and Francia Russell, and ArtsFund's Peter Donnelly.
But as we look back at 2005, we notice that certain departures that received only passing notice have had a profound effect on what we view, hear, read, and ponder. Other new ventures have sprung up in their places that will alter our experience of the city for years to come. With this too-short list, we mark some of these changes:
Big Business—bassist Jared Warren and drummer Coady Wills—released their first album, Head for the Shallow, this year on Hydra Head, and its storming, gonzoid crunch made more than a few heads turn. Among them were influential post-metal ex-Seattleites the Melvins, who were such big fans of Warren and Wills that they've invited the duo to join them—literally. Following their Neumo's gig last Friday, Dec. 23, the pair headed down to L.A., where they'll be doing double duty on their own and bulking the Melvins up to a quartet. Big business, indeed. MICHAELANGELO MATOS
Seattleites who grew up with Pacific Northwest Ballet's Maurice Sendak– designed Nutcracker, which has been in the repertory for over 20 years, also grew up with Flemming Halby—though they may not know it. For many, many seasons, Halby played Herr Drosselmeier, the vaguely menacing party guest who brings Clara the eponymous doll. Halby, who once danced with the Royal Danish Ballet, retired from the stage Dec. 21. But his lordly presence will remain in the studio for six more months, when he will also retire as principal of PNB's Seattle school. LYNN JACOBSON AND SANDRA KURTZ
Downtown galleries played a year-long game of musical chairs in 2005. Woodside/Braseth, one of the city's oldest art dealers, moved to Ninth and Lenora, while the well-regarded Bryan Ohno Gallery retreated to cyberspace (www.bryanohnogallery.com). Patricia Cameron moved from a second-floor space in Pioneer Square to South Lake Union, a new art hot spot. And speaking of hot: The Tashiro Kaplan building on Prefontaine Place and Third Avenue South continued to attract interesting tenants, including Davidson Gallery's new contemporary arm and King County's 4Culture. The center of gravity of the Pioneer Square scene seems to be moving generally eastward—especially with the addition on Third Avenue South of Catherine Person Gallery, one of the city's most vibrant new exhibit spaces. LYNN JACOBSON AND SUE PETERS
July 31 marked the end for Beyond the Closet, Seattle's last exclusively queer bookstore. Ron Whiteaker opened the shop in 1988; it had scads of books and was a community center and an outlet for rainbow stickers shaped like Washington state and more gay "hard-core erotica" than you could shake a stick at. I wish I had thanked Whiteaker: His store is the one place I saw my book about long-term lesbian relationships for sale. JOANNE GARRETT
Even after his 1983 retirement as associate conductor and chorusmaster for Seattle Opera, Hans Wolf worked right up until his death at age 92 on Aug. 5; his last project was a production of Offenbach's La Perichole, part of his "Neglected Masterpieces of Operetta" series. He had hoped to conduct the November performances, but asked longtime colleague Roupen Shakarian to understudy him. Shakarian testifies, "He truly was honest in his interest not only to me, but to many many musicians. He has given many young musicians the care and support for their growth and maturity." Born in Hamburg, Wolf came to America with the wave of musicians fleeing Nazism, returning often to Europe to conduct opera there as well as in California and as co-founder of Tacoma Opera. GAVIN BORCHERT
The medium is the message at the War Room, which opened last March. Eschewing overt statements in favor of an atmosphere that inspires awareness, action, and a good time, noted local clublanders Marcus Lalario and Brian Rauschenbach commissioned Shepard Fairey to create large-scale obliquely political graphic art. Lounge areas seem custom-made for Dr. Strangelove and stages seem capable of hosting summit meetings—when graced by mindful hip-hop and indie/electronic artists, even more so. Dance dance revolution, indeed. LAURA CASSIDY
The bad news was, the Seattle Fire Department closed down a production of Blasted, a play produced by A Theatre Under the Influence at its Capitol Hill performing space, the Union Garage. The good news was, ATUTI's sister company, Theatre Babylon, which had called Union Garage home since 1995, got a $10,000 Seattle Foundation grant to renovate the place and bring it up to fire codes. The bad news was, the job would cost $400,000. So after spending 2005 on "indefinite hiatus," Union Garage is defunct as a playing space and ATUTI and Theatre Babylon are no more (unless some enterprising type revives them with new funding some fine day, whereupon their still-intact corporate structure will erupt with new life). The latter's erstwhile honcho (and onetime SW drama critic) John Longenbaugh notes that his show goes on under a new company rubric, Ursa Major. TIM APPELO