Perhaps you’ve seen her DJing around town, spinning sets of country 45s, her jet-black braided pigtails swinging over the decks. Maybe you’ve attended one of her house parties, replete with live music, a vintage flea market, and a steady supply of pizza. You might even have a permanent party favor tattooed somewhere on your body: the name of her internet variety series, Hangin Tuff, a show that takes place in a hot tub boat on South Lake Union.
As DJ, producer, and entrepreneur, 32-year-old Bobbi Rich has been an irrepressible figure on the Seattle arts scene—a role certain to leave a void when she leaves town this month, seeking new opportunities along the east coast.
“We all live in a foggy cloud out here sometimes and for me, that New York minute, I’m all about it,” she said recently over a salad lunch downtown.
Rich’s many projects are best counted in New York minutes; she’s a fast-talking, idea generating, wheeler-and-dealer as any you’re likely to meet, and it’s in the Big Apple where she’ll try her luck at finding bigger partnerships to expand Hangin Tuff’s online reach. There’s a lot of buzz around her show, but she says it’s been hard to keep the momentum strong in Seattle.
“I need sponsorships to carry on the things that I’m doing on a bigger level,” she said. “In order for me to be able to sell [Hangin Tuff], people automatically go and see how many YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram followers you have. I don’t have that many. For Seattle, having a couple thousand people who like your Facebook page and a few thousand hits on all your videos is good. But not for somebody [from a national entity] to give you money to film the show, or even locally. In order to do that, I have to go to New York or L.A. The feeling is just bigger.”
Certainly, bigger cities have larger markets and wider cultural tastes, but since moving here from Colorado five years ago, Rich says there’s also a kind of disconnect that’s motivating her departure. “There’s a lot of killer music history here and [Seattle] has this whole grunge vibe that’s very in right now. There’s this whole aura around it, but I came here totally disappointed. When people want to tap into that Northwest vibe, I’m always like ‘No, go to Portland. That’s what you’re looking for. It doesn’t exist in Seattle anymore.’ Portland won. We’re done. That’s just a bummer. It doesn’t feel like a creative city to me anymore.”
Whether or not that’s true, there’s no denying Rich’s immense creative aesthetic, which often riffs on ‘80s and ‘90s pop culture (like her all-female art collective Easy Bake Coven, an all-female Wu-Tang cover band, Puntang, and a clam-bake-meets-live-music event called the Clam Jam). She says she doesn’t know where the ideas come from, but that growing up in a low-income family that moved around a lot helped her learn how to be inventive as a kid.
“She’s one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met,” says fellow DJ Meghann Sommer, who forms a duo with Rich known as the Mother Truckers. “I don’t understand how her brain works. She’s so creative and determined, and it’s 100 percent her. That’s not uncommon in Seattle, but she definitely has a drive most people don’t.”
As the Mother Truckers, Rich and Sommer will throw one last party this coming week before hitting the road on a DJ tour that will stop off at South by Southwest before eventually ending up in New York. True to the name, they’ll be traveling in a vintage camper van, complete with a CB.
“I’ll be interviewing folks along the way,” Rich says, “like truckers I chat with on my CB, bands, and tourist trap owners. It’s like a road trip Hangin Tuff.”
After that, Rich will host a screening of a new episode of Hangin Tuff next Monday at the Cha Cha, and then start blazing trails. She says maybe someday that road will bring her back to Seattle, but she’s not sure when.
“There’s so many things I fucking love, obviously. I still want to be able to come back here. As much I’m sour grapes over everything right now, like, ‘I gotta get out of here, this place is strangling me,’ there’s still this essence of Seattle that I hope comes back.”
The Mother Truckers spin at the Speckled & Drake tomorrow, Friday, March 6. Catch a new episode of Hangin Tuff the following Monday, March 9, at the Cha Cha.