"Hannah, you're totally lost," says my friend Don Yates, laughing into my cell phone when I tell him I'm about to drive into Larrabee State Park. "You gotta go back down the hill." Yates is trying to guide me to the Old Edison Inn, an aptly named bar that's been standing since 1900 in the tiny north Washington town of Edison. Yates is my colleague at KEXP, where he hosts an alt-country specialty show called "Swinging Doors" and is best known to listeners as Don Slack. It is at his urging that I'm navigating my way back down Chuckanut Drive to meet up with him, check out the Inn's weekly Sunday honky-tonk, eat some local oysters, and generally see what one does for musical entertainment outside Seattle's mainstream club scene.
Unsurprisingly, the bar exudes the homey charm and welcoming vibe that you'd expect from a small-town institution. The demographic of the boisterous crowd is all over the place, from a Mohawk-sporting guy and his rockabilly gal, to the swirl of flush-faced women of all ages tearing up the dance floor, to the elderly fellow holding court on the back patio, celebrating his 80th birthday with help from a friend who merrily juggles knives and flaming batons for a crowd of appreciative onlookers. Believe it or not, Yates isn't kidding when he describes this scene as "sort of a slow night."
It's often standing room only on Sundays here, thanks to the tireless band fronted by famed fiddler Jon Parry, who played with everyone from '70s country-rockers Goose Creek Symphony to Hank Williams Jr. before resurrecting the swinging Sabbath tradition three years ago (the Edison Inn's honky-tonk originated in the '70s, but died out in the '80s). Operating with a core of regular players and a rotating cast of special guests that often includes notable touring musicians (Canadian mischief-makers Hot Hot Heat turned up on a recent evening), Parry and company rip through plenty of classic country numbers, tossing the random rock cover into the mix occasionally. Tonight, Bob Dylan's "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" (chorus: "Everybody must get stoned") is going over particularly well.
Despite our remote locale, I'm already running into more folks I know, including Tin Hat DJ Country Mike, who seems right at home downing bottles of Rainier and engaging in a little friendly sparring with rival Yates. Also soaking up the sun on the patio is former Resonance editor and Tractor Tavern employee Nathan Walker. He and girlfriend Kat Gardner relocated to the area a few months ago to open the Backporch Café in Anacortes. The café and coffee shop is located in the spot formerly occupied by indie label Knw-Yr-Own Records, home to the Blow, Laura Veirs, Microphones, and Mt. Eerie, and is quietly becoming a great space for bands to play all-ages shows. In fact, anyone deterred by the fact that passes for this week's What the Heck Fest in Anacortes are sold out shouldn't be dissuaded from attending anyway, since the Backporch will be hosting four days of free all-ages shows, starting with the Pharmacy on Thursday at 5 p.m. On Friday you can catch Smile Brigade, while Saturday is all about the Intelligence and the Pyramids (a new side project from the Lights frontman Craig Chambers), and Sunday will close things out with an appearance by Coconut Coolouts. The Backporch is located at 1717 Commercial Ave. in Anacortes; call 360-299-8234 for more info.
There are many more road trips in my future this summer, though the next one is actually a plane flight to Los Angeles, where I plan to find out what's up with the unusually high number of Seattle musicians who have relocated there, check out the L.A. branch of the Cha Cha, and hopefully watch some rock shows. Sadly, thanks to some highly unfortunate timing, what I won't be doing is watching Slint play their post-punk masterpiece Spiderland in its entirety. Even casual fans of the influential Kentucky band should be sure to catch them doing just that at the Showbox this Saturday, July 21. Judging by the satisfying nature of their reunion show at that same venue a couple years ago, and the rave reviews of their triumphant show last weekend at Chicago's Pitchfork Festival, missing this would be a bad move. I would change my plane ticket if I could!
Also, very happy news to report from the Cops camp. Drummer Dave Weeks and girlfriend Erin Carpenter recently welcomed their first child. Daughter Isabel Leon Weeks entered the world on Wednesday, July 11. Congrats to Dave and Erin and a warm welcome to little Isabel.