After wrapping up a national tour that will bring them to Austin's South by Southwest, New York City, Minneapolis, and Pontiac, Michigan, Seattle favorites the Moondoggies are going to play an intimate set at Bainbridge Island's Treehouse Cafe on April 2. At its most bloated, the Cafe can hold about 250 people, making it roughly one-fourth the size of the Showbox at the Market, the last room the Moondoggies played in Seattle. For Moondoggies fans, this rare local intimate gig is just a ferry ride away. For folks on Bainbridge and the Kitsap Peninsula, for once, the ferry will not come between them and bands in the Seattle scene.
If Gov. Chris Gregoire gets her way, and the late-night ferry runs to Bremerton dry up, this kind of show is going to be all the more critical for westside concert goers. The silver lining may be that more Seattle bands consider smaller rooms across the Sound when they're not touring but have exhausted their Seattle base. In fact, building up a fan base in smaller markets outside Seattle is exactly what the Moondoggies' booking agent, Ali Hedrick, is trying to do."Because you can only play Seattle so many times," says Hedrick, who also books the likes of Neko Case and The Swell Season at The Billions Corporation. "So I like to develop those secondary markets for them. For any band. It can become a good moneymaker for before you go on tour."
The band won't make as much money on the gig as they would playing larger Seattle clubs like Neumos or the Showbox. But Hedrick says the band stands to do better on Bainbridge than they would on a random tour date somewhere in middle America.
"You know people have heard of them on Bainbridge because they're from Seattle, which makes it a semi-local show," she says. "Yet it's not going to be like hundreds of people are going to drive or take the ferry to see them."
Seattle's up-and-coming bands have been slow to embrace opportunities in Kitsap County cites like Bainbridge Island and Bremerton, in part because the infrastructure has been uneven, at best. The Cave Singers played Bremerton's Hi-Fidelity Lounge last year, and Death Cab for Cutie played Bremerton's Admiral Theatre while on a warm-up tour for their 2008 album, Narrow Stairs. Both shows sold out almost as soon as they went on sale. But there have been few consistent venues booking such acts.
The Treehouse--essentially an updated pub and pizzeria with a large bar that doubles as a concert space--is one of the more promising installments in what could be a regional circuit. They've been booking bands regularly since they expanded their space in the Lynnwood Center neighborhood--adjoining the historic Lynnwood Theatre--early last year, and have hosted Seattle regulars like Star Anna and Zoe Muth. Other upcoming shows on the calendar include Massy Ferguson and Kristen Ward.
Owner Arnie Sturham says the shows draw primarily from people on Bainbridge and throughout the country, but that for bigger shows like Star Anna, a number of people made the trek from Seattle for the chance to catch a more intimate set. Sturham has even taken out some ads on KEXP to get the word out.
Hedrick says she hopes to book the Moondoggies a Vashon Island gig soon, and will be looking for alternative stops for her other buzzy Seattle act, The Head and the Heart, once they wrap up their national obligations. Hedrick says she's open to venues in other small-market clubs that can provide a decent PA system, a stage, and something of a guarantee for the band.
"(A guarantee) also helps get a show confirmed," she says. "If they sell this one out, hopefully the next time through we'll charge $15."
For Kitsap fans used to paying $7 just to ride the boat to get to a show in Seattle, even $15 would be one hell of deal.