When we wrote about the best dive bars in the city last fall, I included the Blue Moon Tavern because of its hallowed history and its famed patrons (including Jack Kerouac and other Beat poets), but I had no idea the watering hole near the University of Washington was 83 years old! 60? Sure. 70? OK. But 83–wow! And the creaky old tavern is throwing a birthday party, because once you hit 80, every year is a milestone. The month-long celebration will include some of the city’s–and the bar’s–most beloved acts.
“I started making a list of my favorite bands who’ve played the Moon and some dream choices I’ve never been able to land before,” says 13-year veteran music booker Jason Josephes. “I also knew we had to do another Opera on Tap and a Science Night, where local musician Isaac Vicknair gets to channel his inner Bill Nye.”
Josephes, who moved to Seattle in 1998 and immediately became a Blue Moon patron, says he appreciates the bar’s position in the career trajectory of many local musicians who have come and gone—the beautifully musty stage and the carved-on wood tables offer a home to acts just getting their sea legs. “Many play their first shows here, or they come in for open-mic night on Wednesday to test the waters,” says Josephes. “We’re also not located in Ballard or Capitol Hill, and there aren’t a ton of other watering holes around us.”
Some of the bands slated for the celebration include a jokey TV-theme-song cover band, Stay Tuned (April 1); a crooning Americana group, Chris King and the Gutterballs (April 8); a funk band, the Staxx Brothers (April 22); rockers Kinski (April 28); and neo-jazz group Industrial Revelation (April 29), whose members remain fond of the Moon even after earning international recognition. “The Blue Moon is essential Seattle,” muses bassist Evan Flory-Barnes. “Weird, funky, full of quality, uniqueness, and depth. Some of I.R.’s best shows have been there. I think we all feel moved and excited by that.”
Chris King, who moved to Seattle from California a few years ago with “a few songs, no money, and no following,” echoes Flory- Barnes’ sentiments. “The Blue Moon gave us our first shot playing Sunday nights,” says King. “That led to some momentum musically and an opportunity to break into this freezing scene. Without them giving us a chance, who knows? We might have moved back to California.”
And the bar, which serves a wide array of Washington beer—from Georgetown’s Rogers Pilsner to a rotating selection of locally brewed IPA’s—will hold strong another year and offer their patrons what they always have: a place to gather, drink, and listen.
“We’re an 83-year-old dive with a rich history,” smiles Josephes. “And we’re sticking around.”