The Give and Take of Los Angeles

Back to Black.

Even if you don't know him personally, if you're a Seattle-based music fan you probably know the work of local visual artist Rick Klu. The list of bands, venues, and rock-related endeavors he's been involved with is undeniably impressive and his aesthetic is ubiquitous. Klu's distinctive, retro-pulp, vice-embracing style showed up in artwork that hung in the original Moe's (before its current incarnation as Neumo's), and on the coasters and drumheads he used as canvases for the paintings adorning the Crocodile's walls. Most recently, he spent countless hours creating the mural that graces the wall behind the stage at Slim's Last Chance Chili in Georgetown. He's designed flyers and rock posters for venues as big as the Gorge and as tiny as former punk mecca the Lake Union Pub. And if you've bought the T-shirt of a local band in the last decade, you probably have one of Klu's designs in your closet—he's designed more than 60.His entry into Seattle's music community in 1991 was more by accident than ambition. "When I first moved here [from Arizona], I lived with Tommy Niemeyer from the Accused in a warehouse at 14th and Jackson," recalls Klu. "Barrett Martin from Skin Yard lived there as well, and eventually the Screaming Trees [moved in] too. I ended up hearing most of Sweet Oblivion being written and practiced before they recorded it."Over the years, Klu became friends with a long string of what he describes as "random artistic and musical geniuses." Connections to the Alice in Chains camp led to some of his first poster design work, as well as to a show at the now-defunct Sharp Wit Gallery in Pioneer Square. From there, Klu cobbled together a living via commissioned artwork and sporadic blue-collar gigs, including several years of cab-driving. He also developed an interest in guerrilla comedy, showing up at rock and variety shows throughout town disguised as his character Richard Swimming Eagle, a disturbing and hilarious caricature that satirized and skewered stereotypes associated with his Native American background.It was in this guise that Klu showed up recently at an old-school roast held in his honor in Rendezvous' JewelBox Theater. The roast was coordinated by the former Crocodile manager (and current Rendezvous bar manager) known as Babe of Belltown, and stocked with an insult-wielding selection of Klu's peers, including Sunset owner Max Genereaux and myself. The night was appropriately offensive and mirthful, but definitely bittersweet: After nearly 20 years of living and working in Seattle's music community, Klu is leaving for the sunnier environs and performance opportunities in Los Angeles. He's moving in with former Seattleite and famed producer Scotty Crane (the man behind Kimya Dawson's songs on the Juno soundtrack, the Saturday Knights' "45" single, and countless other Northwest artists), and plans to put more energy into his comedic aspirations."I will be going to the Groundlings School [to study comedy]," explains Klu. "It is legendary, and has been a dream of mine for years. I'd like to apply to the Upright Citizens Brigade as well. I am really excited about the move...but if you see me around, it's because I love Seattle and will be back here often."Klu's going-away party is this Thursday, August 28, at Slim's Last Chance.Klu's departure is a big loss for Seattle, and Los Angeles seems to be stealing too many of our strongest artists these days. But luckily the City of Angels is also giving back. Our fair city retains its seductive pull on young musicians; for example, the move from L.A. to Seattle has helped up-and-coming trio Blood Red Dancers hit their creative stride, even when that means going against the current creative tide. When I met bassist and vocalist Aaron Poppick and drummer Kevin Lord at the Funhouse recently, they were both drinking Jameson's on the rocks. Lord was looking particularly dapper in suspenders and a tailored shirt, but the young men somehow fit in with the club's scruffy surroundings, thanks to their fearless attitude and fresh perspective. "It seems like there's been this big garage-rock explosion lately, and we really don't sound anything like that," says Poppick, swirling the ice in his glass. "Booking agents don't really seem to know who to stick us with," he continues, citing their inexplicable tendency to end up on bills with sprightly indie-pop bands. Despite not fitting in a neat pigeonhole, BRD is steadily gaining a following that appreciates their Birthday Party–meets–Smog brand of meticulously constructed, funereal punk. Their debut, Let Him Fight, I'll Be in the Breadline, hasn't found a label home yet, but is characterized by promising, un-cliched songwriting that should prick the ears of a savvy local label. Blood Red Dancers will play a benefit for Portland band the Prids (who were in a devastating van accident at the start of their most recent tour) this Friday, August 29, at the Funhouse.rocketqueen@seattleweekly.com

 
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