Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard: Proposed Bremerton Ferry Cuts Are a "Slap In the Face"

Laura Musselman
Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard at Bremerton's Admiral Theater on April 18, 2008.
As we reported last week, Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposal to eliminate ferry runs from Seattle to Bremerton after 9 p.m. has the potential to seriously limit West Side concert patrons from hitting shows in Seattle. It would be especially problematic for the youth on the other side, for whom the ferry is their lifeline to the music and culture of Seattle.

Seattle has certainly been the beneficiary of the Bremerton ferry run, too. The town has acted as a feeder to Seattle's local music scene, and introduced kids on the other side of the water to the wonders live music. Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard is one of those kids. Gibbard grew up in Bremerton, and remembers well the anticipation and excitement of taking the ferry to Seattle to spend the day record shopping before a show.

Now an established rocker in his own right, Gibbard call the Governor's proposal, "another slap in the face to connecting Bremerton and the less affluent part of the West Side to Seattle. And that's a huge bummer," Gibbard said in a phone interview this morning.

"As a native Bremertonian, it's really unfortunate to me that Bremerton continues to get the short end of the stick," Gibbard says. "We grew up always having the busted ferry. Whenever Bainbridge Island got a new ferry, we got the hand-me-downs. (This proposal is) a further kind of indication of how much political influence the affluent West Side suburbs have, that they are relatively immune to this part of the budget cuts, and Bremerton as usual has to take Bainbridge Island's leftovers."

Here, Gibbard talks about what it was like to grow up as a music geek in a ferry-dependent community, and how kids in Kitsap County and the Seattle scene would be adversely affected by cuts to the ferry run that would leave many concertgoers without a ride home.

By Ben Gibbard, as told to Chris Kornelis:

As a kid, Seattle was my lifeline to culture in a time before the internet and before you could feel connected to music and culture just through your computer screen. I lived for those days when we (would) get up on a Saturday morning early with the intention of going to a show that Saturday night. We'd get up and catch a 9 a.m. ferry, and be literally waiting outside the record stores waiting for them to open up and make our way through zines and 7-inches and records and stuff that just wasn't available to us over in Bremerton.

While music is a lot more readily accessible over the internet now, there's still the element of live shows that was really important as well. Nobody played in Bremerton when I was a kid. I had to go to Seattle to see bands. I've told Mac (McCaughan) from Superchunk this a number of times, probably. I have this painful memory of hearing them playing "Package Thief" and running out of the OK Hotel to like, barely catch the 11 p.m. back to Bremerton.

It's obviously going to have a huge impact for kids who grow up where I did who need that access to Seattle's all-ages shows, to have a physical connection to the community they want to be a part of. It's one thing to kind of talk to people over a computer. It's another thing to be in a sweaty room full of kids your age sort of experiencing live music together.

And that's going to be more difficult for kids who can't get to Bainbridge Island to catch the Bainbridge Island ferry or don't have cars and can't drive around (across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge). That's a huge bummer.

Laura Musselman

When somebody's like, "Oh can't we just drive around." It's like well, yeah, we could drive around. It's going to involve an hour to an hour-and-a-half of driving each way. If it's 11 p.m. and you're 17 years old, there's a short list of parents who are going to let kids drive an hour and a half each way to see a rock show. And certainly a shorter list who are cognizant of the fact that the kid is going to be exhausted trying to drive themselves home, or a group of their friends home, leaving Seattle at 11 and getting back to the west side at 12:30 at the very earliest.

If I was a parent, I certainly wouldn't let my kids drive around at that hour of night given whose on the road. They're not experienced drivers. I sound like my parents now. I don't blame my parents for not letting me drive around. I wouldn't do it either. And I wouldn't admit that to myself then. But I certainly understand it now.

There's this moment when you're going from Bremerton to Seattle; the ferry kind of takes a left turn, and there's Seattle. And it's this beautiful view of Seattle. It still is very really affects me even now. I remember being a kid and, like, once the boat would turn that corner, I would think, "That's where I want to be. That's my city. I want to be in a place like that. At the time I said, "I want to be there."

It's just this beacon of culture. And they had all the things that we didn't have in Bremerton. You had to physically go over there to get any of the things you wanted, or to experience any of the things you wanted to experience. I would just be so happy when I'd see the boat turn that corner and I'd know we were going to be there in like a half hour. I'm sure kids still feel that way on the west side.

In the grand scheme of things, kids will find ways to get over to shows. There's no doubt about that. But it's just unfortunate that it will be so much more difficult. It's already difficult enough. I would imagine most kids who are going to shows already know that they have very limited options as to what time they have to leave to get back to Bremerton, if their parents were any way like my parents were.

You can't even catch the opening band if you have to be on a 9 p.m. ferry back.

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