“I dunno,” muses a wide-eyed Ami Shalev, methodically twirling his long, tightly curled hair. “I think maybe it was good publicity?” The Monotonix front man is sitting in my living room assessing the aftermath of his band’s aborted set at Bumbershoot on Labor Day. After just four songs, the fire marshal deemed the Tel Aviv–based band too dangerous, and had Exhibition Hall staff cut their power. To be fair, authorities had been clear with the performers that crowd-surfing would be grounds for a sonic blackout. But once the audience dove in, so did the irrepressible Shalev. “There were a lot of kids there who had never gotten to see us, so that’s good, even if it was just four songs,” adds guitarist Yonatan Gat diplomatically.
Indeed, there’s no doubt that their brief set will be etched on many a young kid’s memory. News of their expulsion spread quickly via the media grapevine (“Monotonix are too dangerous for Bumbershoot!” screamed one Seattle Times blog post), giving them even more notorious status than they had enjoyed for their sold-out performances at the Comet earlier this year. (The band will play the Comet again on Sat., Sept. 27.) Still, it’s a shame that over-exuberant performers and their audiences get in so much trouble when they play high-profile venues. It seems that the bigger the venue, the fewer creative risks an artist is allowed to take. “I think if we ever get big enough to draw [more than a few hundred] people on our own, [we] will just have to play two shows and keep the crowd small,” theorizes Gat.
The Showbox is certainly the most comfortable and visually pleasing room in town for crowds close to the 1,000 mark, and you can’t knock the underground spirit that Mamma Casserole brings to her bookings at the Comet. But my personal musical tastes and geographical proclivities dictate that I spend more time at the Sunset and the Funhouse than at any other venues in the city. Both spaces are unpretentious, rustically homey, and inclined to give up-and-coming bands a shot. That open-minded attitude counts for a lot in my book, and if it comes with just a postage-stamp-sized stage, so be it.
Of course, adventurous spirit is one thing, but maintaining a reputation good enough to become a destination for higher-profile acts who appreciate the hat trick of unslick surroundings, respectful treatment, and reliably receptive crowds has to be the ultimate goal for any unconventional venue that intends to stay afloat. The Bit Saloon in Ballard is off the main drag and rough enough around the edges to scare away the condo-dwelling, King’s Hardware–frequenting, New Ballard crowd, so it probably has to work much harder to make the rent. However, thanks to their growing calendar of under-the-radar punk, hard rock, and metal shows, it’s well on its way to earning a spot in my heart and a space in the aforementioned scruffy-stalwart category of venues. (The Bit will also serve as one of the 10 stages in SW‘s own upcoming REVERBfest on October 4.)
“We love playing the Bit,” enthused Lozen guitarist Hozoji Matheson-Margullis from the stage last Friday night as the two-piece Tacoma band launched into a cathartic set of punishing post-punk. When I remarked to my equally impressed companion that they sounded like the shortest route between Slint and Babes in Toyland, he argued that he was thinking more along the lines of “Bikini Kill meets godheadSilo.” But our lazy compound comparisons ultimately fell short of what makes Lozen so enigmatic and inspiring. Bassless and brazen, the two women issue a call-and-response vocal style similar to Sleater-Kinney’s approach of yore, but with a metallic edge and a doom-driven undercurrent that is definitely going to appeal as much to fans of metal as of punk. You can check them out for yourself this Friday at another excellent small venue to the south, Bob’s Java Jive in Tacoma. I’ll be there with earplugs and a smile on.