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A wealth of rock clubs is one of Seattle's finest hallmarks--on any given night, in any neighborhood around town, there's guaranteed to be some live music going on. Limiting ourselves to clubs does leave out house parties, art spaces like Cairo, all ages venues like the Vera Project, and arenas like KeyArena. For this list, though, we've compiled our ten favorite rock clubs in the city, complete with the best place in each place to view the show. This list has been compiled from past writings of Reverb contributors, and the winners are in no particular order, except for the number one spot.
Funhouse quite accurately bills itself as "Seattle's Premiere Punk Club." Grungy and ramshackle, it sits in the shadow of the Seattle Center's sleek Space Needle and Experience Music Project. A typical night might feature a well-curated lineup of live punk, rock or metal--with local bands, touring favorites, and underrated classics alike--along with stiff drinks. It'll be a true shame to see the place shut down after losing their lease come October.
Best place to sit/stand: By the pinball machines, in case you want to multitask and sneak a game in during the show.
Rock highlights of 2012: Mean Jeans, Grave Babies, Jak's Team Absolute MusicFest, Girl Trouble
After opening as a screening room in 1924, the Rendezvous slowly morphed from speakeasy to porn theater to what one regular describes as a haven for "career drunks." A red-velvet-accented dining room turns out hearty hot plates and the tiny Jewel Box bustles weekly with entertainment from movies to live rock shows, cabaret, and performance art.
Best place to sit/stand: The tables on the upper part of the floor--you can lean on the barrier and be close to the door in case you need to make a break for another drink.
Rock highlights of 2012: Witch Gardens, Japanther, The Pharmacy, Screaming Females
In a previous life, the Columbia City Theater hosted Jimi Hendrix, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, and Fats Waller. Remodeled and reopened in 2010, the theater looks now like a slightly more ornate, miniature version of the Triple Door, with a total capacity of 350, a stage framed by ornamental gold scrolling, and a vaudevillian vibe that would make it a logical setting for a pre-Prohibition gangster flick. An auxiliary bar off the main entry with a second, smaller stage is ideal for acoustic acts and as a socializing hub outside the main showroom.
Best place to sit/stand: The lower level of the floor--it's more crowded, but it's also at an incline, so you'll have a good chance of seeing over the people in front of you.
Rock highlights of 2012: Pure Bathing Culture, Deep Sea Diver, Mountain Goats, Monogamy Party
The Sunset Tavern is a venue known for cherrypicking young, new and otherwise obscure bands likely to, in a few years' (and sometimes a few months') time, explode. Over the years, its bookings have slowly veered away from folk and country and proceeded ever pop-ward, but one thing hasn't changed: This is the place to catch promising, up-and-coming bands before they get big enough to pack out places like Neumos and the Showbox.
Best place to sit/stand: The wall by the bathrooms: Stand there, and not only do you not block anyone's view, nobody ever really stands in front of you.
Rock highlights of 2012: Reignwolf, The Grizzled Mighty, Detective Agency, Brokaw
Flanked by two curved, red-lit balcony bars, the Showbox's venue floor is usually packed; good luck getting to the bathroom if you're not willing to wiggle around the perimeter. During all-ages shows, be warned: Drinkers are corralled into the balconies like off-limits lushes. For some shows, having that direct sight line to the stage is quite nice; for others, like, say, Gossip or Balkan Beat Box, you'll want to get down and dirty on the dance floor with all the other undulating bodies.
Best place to sit/stand: Behind the barrier to one of the two side bars. You'll have to get there early or fight for one of these coveted spots, but it's the best view in the house.
Rock highlights of 2012: Destroyer, The xx, Desaparacidos, Lightning Bolt
The Crocodile is one of the few venues in the city that boasts a truly eclectic show schedule: performers who've graced the Croc's stage in 2012 run the gamut from Talib Kweli to Rhett Miller. In the Belltown desert of nasty meat market clubs populated by bros and girls who think ugly Coach bags, fake tans and over-waxed eyebrows are classy, the Crocodile is a welcome music lovers' oasis.
Best place to sit/stand: The upstairs side balcony--now all ages!
Rock highlights of 2012: Erik Blood, Divine Fits, Cloud Nothings, The Wedding Present
The Paramount Theatre is a Seattle institution: just one step down from, say, WaMu Theater in size, some of the world's most well-respected musicians and performers grace its stage on a regular basis. Its grandiose interior is reminiscent of a bygone era, but with a brand new sign and an ever-impressive show schedule, the Paramount will continue to be a Seattle institution for a long time to come.
Best place to sit/stand: The last seat in the center of the top balcony--it's the most optimal acoustic spot and should also be easy to procure.
Rock highlights of 2012: Sigur Ros, The Shins, Wilco, M83
Neumos is probably Seattle's hippest music venue, and they've got a talented booking staff with excellent, eclectic taste. If you listen to indie rock or hip hop, the place is just about impossible to avoid. Another bonus: the bartenders are guaranteed to pour a strong drink. And the room may be one giant rectangle, but the sound is usually very good.
Best place to sit/stand: The hump on the floor right in front of the sound booth. It's less crowded and sounds better back there.
Rock highlights of 2012: Japandroids, Father John Misty, DIIV, Liars, Frankie Rose
2. The Neptune
From the minute Seattle Theatre Group--the nonprofit behind the Paramount and the Moore--took control of a U District theater and turned it into a venue for music, comedy, and snobby book readings (we're looking at you, Duff McKagan), The Neptune became a critical, almost universally beloved part of the local arts community. It's big enough that it feels like an occasion when up-and-coming locals play there, and small enough to provide an intimate look at old favorites like The National. Oh, and there's this killer seat in the balcony with the world's best footrest that's always free.
Best place to sit/stand: Anywhere--this place sounds and looks beautiful from all angles.
Rock highlights of 2012: Ray Davies, Dr. Dog, Los Campesinos!, Lindsey Buckingham
1. The Mix
What do you mean you've never heard of The Mix?! As much as Seattleites profess to love dives, it's amazing how slick some of our local rock clubs have become. The Mix--tucked away in Georgetown--is a lived-in, comfortable, crowded, sweaty rock club. And its hit-and-miss bookings--from rock and funk to Led Zeppelin covers--span more ground than most other local rooms. It's not the prettiest club in town, but rock and roll wasn't meant to be pretty.
Best place to sit/stand: Down on the floor with a beer in hand.
Rock highlights of 2012: Crack Sabbath, The Badlands, PonyHomie