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Kevin Murphy of the Moondoggies at the Treehouse Cafe, Bainbridge Island.

The Moondoggies

Treehouse Cafe , Bainbridge Island

Saturday, April 2

The main logistical concern

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Searching for the Moondoggies Saturday Night on Bainbridge Island: a Winding Road Worth the Trip

Murphy.JPG
Kevin Murphy of the Moondoggies at the Treehouse Cafe, Bainbridge Island.

The Moondoggies

Treehouse Cafe, Bainbridge Island

Saturday, April 2

The main logistical concern in catching one of Seattle's buzziest folk acts on neighboring Bainbridge Island is catching the ferry. If this were any other show in Seattle, an Orca card or cab fare would be all you'd need, but I was paranoid about missing the boat. During the height of tourist season, you can be stuck in a queue watching multiple ferries come and go without any regard for your own waiting vehicle, and I was determined to avoid such a scene. But last Saturday, tourism be damned, no one was fighting for a spot on the rain-soaked commuting vessel.

After barreling down Capitol Hill, we easily squeezed in at the tail-end loading of the 3 p.m. ferry. We breathed a sigh of relief over drinks in the galley during the short crossing, but with over four hours to kill before the 8 p.m. show, we were left with a question as we drove the few blocks into town: What now?

I've passed through Bainbridge Island many times before, but on most occasions it was simply a relay point between my house and some predetermined camping destination on the Olympic Peninsula. I'd never actually considered spending time there, but when faced with the idea, countless options appeared before me: shopping, coffee at a cafe, a casual stroll through town. Getting right down to it, though, none of them seemed a better use of our time than a good old wine tasting.

After a vegetarian plate lunch at Emmy's Vege House, we stopped into Eleven Winery and Eagle Harbor's tasting rooms. Suddenly we were on island time--and surrounded by locals who swear by it. "I've lived on Bainbridge for 17 years," said Kevin Schmidt as he poured us a taste of Eleven's Syrah Port. "It's the best of both worlds--quiet, relaxed island life, with one of the world's most cosmopolitan cities a ferry ride away."

We soon caught a mellow buzz, and, before losing all track of time, decided to make our way toward the venue, to snag a good spot for the show--and one of the cafe's pizzas. After several detours (the venue is located outside downtown Winslow via a few long and winding country roads) we finally reached the Treehouse Cafe, a compound of a restaurant set in a Bavarian-style retail complex. Inside, the cafe was bustling with the band's extra bump of Saturday-night business, and from the looks of the homey place --part family restaurant, bistro, venue, bar, and community center--I figured one of the Moondoggies must know someone working here. Frontman Kevin Murphy was milling around getting his gear together, and I stopped him briefly for a chat.

"It's funny--we actually don't know anyone here, but I just found out that I do. One of the people I went to high school actually works here." He seemed amused. I asked him why the Moondoggies chose a venue like this to play. "I think the Cave Singers have played here before," he thought out loud. "You know, we've played so much around Bellingham and Seattle, we wanted to play someplace different."

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"Moondoggies? Never heard of 'em. I like the Treehouse for its fine company and excellent reading."
And what a different place it was--a big jump from the clubs of Seattle, with free-ranging toddlers, a chipper, high-school-aged staff, and a family-friendly vibe. And a welcome change--the "Moondogs" (as one woman near our table called them) could have been playing on the moon, the feeling was so far removed from the Seattle scene.

That's not to say city fans didn't make it out--the show was sold out and our ferry crossing to and from was spotted with familiar faces, suggesting a simple formula: If you're a good band with a following, people will come to see you play. There are a world of venues in towns just beyond Seattle that would jump at the chance to host such an event, and the more bands play them, the more they open a window to some of the Puget Sound's many music-loving communities.

As for the show, imagine a scene from a teen TV show where the group all gets together with their families on a weekend night to watch the local band play at the local restaurant: casual, mixed in age, with somebody's sweet-looking grandpa actually nodding off by the stage. A friendly waitress occasionally stopped through the crowd taking drink orders--and didn't seem pissed about it. For a sold-out gig, there was even some breathing room--my messenger bag had its own spot on the dance floor and someone's pizza had its own stool.

The band arrived on the small stage nonchalantly through a door from the restaurant's dry storage, and proceeded to play every song from their two albums, despite some glaring sound issues that prompted Murphy to comment: "The drummer's talking and he's not getting any sound--which is nice sometimes."

But this was the Treehouse Cafe on Bainbridge Island--not the self-serious Seattle scene, and the band plugged through, while girls danced stageside and played tambourine and heads bobbed throughout the crowd. Perhaps the most glaring difference of the two scenes was Murphy, dressed simply in an Easy Street Records T-shirt and baggy jeans, looking completely in tune with his casual surroundings. After all, once out of Seattle, skinny jeans are not required.

The Scene: Casual, mixed, more Bainbridge than Seattle according to Murphy's impromptu stage poll, lots of people excitedly chatting through the show.

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