The Hands. My photos aren't uploading for some reason. So enjoy this one, taken by, as the Hands' MySpace states, Milan Chuckovich.

Who: Brent Amaker


The Admiral Theater Tries Its Hand At Venuedom


The Hands. My photos aren't uploading for some reason. So enjoy this one, taken by, as the Hands' MySpace states, Milan Chuckovich.

Who: Brent Amaker & the Rodeo, the Hands, the Animals at Night, Panda & Angel

Where: Admiral Theater

When: Saturday, October 11

Like everyone else who came to the Admiral Theater's debut show Saturday night, I had pretty much no idea what to expect from the venue. Sure, I knew it would be an altered theater space, but HOW altered, and for the better, or worse? I hoped for the best; after all, the Admiral Theater is four blocks from my house. Which means I really want it to be successful and continue hosting live shows that I can walk to without moving to a studio on Capitol Hill that would cost more than splitting a house (and garden!) with one other person in West Seattle does now. And so, though I will talk about the bands toward the end (who, in summation, were all wonderful and deserve your dollars and attendance at future shows) later on in this review, I first want to discuss the venue itself.

I was disappointed by the space the theater designated for music, which, in most respects, looked no different from any other movie theater. Nothing had been modified about the place except for the stage itself. Here's what I think could have been done, and could still be done, to make it better:

Take out the first few rows of seats. People wanted to dance, and they wanted to be close to the stage to do it, and there just wasn't a whole lot of room for that. The Admiral may still plan on showing films in that space, which is understandable from a financial standpoint. But even if that's the case, there's no reason not to at LEAST remove the first few front rows of chairs to give folks a place to dance. So far's movies are concerned, those are the neck-cramp seats, anyway, and the number of people who would miss them would be negligible. Personally, I think it'd be best if they just designated a space for live music...but in these woeful economic times, that might not be practical. Taking out the first few rows of seats is a good compromise.

Knock at least a couple bucks off the cover charge. Opening nights of any sort should be a can't-resist bargain for the attendees. I'm not a business owner or anything (Hannah, if you're reading this, please weigh in), but I feel that the goal on an opening night should not be to make as much money as you possibly can, but to convince people to come out to your spot, see how great it is and tell themselves, when they're stumbling home sotted and happy at the end of the night, that they'll be back again soon. But Saturday's cover, $15, was not only not cheap, it was expensive enough to dissuade most of my friends from coming out ($10 advance).

Fix the sound issues. Constant, loud microphone feedback was an issue throughout all three sets, as was balancing all the instruments' volume levels. The side mics were faint, if not ghostly; every single backing vocalist in all three bands were obviously struggling to be heard. I suspect that's why the Hands started gathering around the main mic toward the end of the set. I understand that this was the venue's first show and there's obviously some tweaking that needs to happen, but good sound is paramount if you expect to draw large crowds. Small dive bars can get away with having sound issues; large venues cannot.

Either move the bar into the theater, or make the place an all-ages venue. The show was 21+. While that's exciting for booze hounds like me, the alcohol situation was really not ideal, either for the consumer or the venue. It was not permitted to bring alcoholic drinks into the theater. Instead, we all had to leave the room where the show was happening and go upstairs to the theater's second floor, where there was one small beer and wine cart (no liquor license yet, though that's in the works), to drink. But that made no sense, as there was a guy at the door who was checking IDs before a person could even enter the building. And the bar looked like it was portable, which means it probably could've been moved into the venue itself. I am confident that people would buy more alcohol if the cart had been in the theater, instead of upstairs away from the music. I can't think of a good reason not to provide booze and music in one central location if the show is 21+. And if the cart was upstairs because of some liquor control board bullshit, it might as well have been an all-ages show. The set-up was such that, if someone had been checking ID at the bottom of the theater's stairs, all of the West Seattle teenagers might've come out as well (seeing's how teenagers have the most disposable income). I also feel that, had the proprietors enjoyed the turnout they were hoping for, that one drink cart would have been woefully inadequate at serving hundreds of showgoers.

As for the bands themselves? All were wonderful, and did their best to compensate for the sound problems. A few notes:

I could gush for a long time about Panda & Angel's beautiful, haunting folky rock songs, but I'll just say this: they absolutely deserve every last ounce of love they've received, locally and from establishments like the BBC and Entertainment Weekly. One of their members was ill, but the other five held it down beautifully, and they played songs they hadn't played live in quite a while, which I appreciated.

Every time I've seen the Animals At Night in their DJ incarnation, they've done a lovely job providing enjoyable tunes for the interim. I would have seen more of their music, had the beer 'n wine bar been closer to the stage. Ah, well.

The Hands rocked, which is nothing unusual. Not only do these guys know the meaning of showmanship, they're loud and fun as hell, and it was their set that broke the ice and got the front row out of their seats to dance. Contrary to the message of their opening song, rock and roll is not dead so long as the Hands are around.

Brent Amaker and the Rodeo, despite the odd surroundings, brought the house down. We did not, unfortunately, receive a whiskey baptism (no booze in the theater, etc), but those boys gave me the Spirit all by themselves, no spirits (ahem) required. It's nice, sometimes, to see a true country band after being inundated with all of these bands made up of suburban-bred kids who don pearl-button shirts and adopt a little twang and call themselves a country act. Hah! Brent Amaker will show YOU country-- with his boot heel. And maybe a bottle upside the head.

I should conclude with this: the general weirdness of watching music in a minimally-converted movie theater notwithstanding, even though there were a maximum of 100-150 people there when the owners expected three times that many, the people who did show looked like they were enjoying themselves. Let's hope the Admiral gets all its ducks in a row for next time. West Seattle needs this venue to work out. I need this venue to work out. Hook a sister up, please!

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