Byron Duff-Guitar and vocals.
Idiot Culture-dadastic! sounds (2010)
The band that became known as Idiot Culture was the last project by reclusive Seattle guitarist Byron Duff. Byron began to make his mark in the 1980’s with the trio The Spectators. The Spectators were known for jaw-dropping, tight performances in the underground clubs that spawned the emergence of what would later be the 1990’s Seattle Scene. Bob Mould (Husker Du, Sugar) once called The Spectators “the best unreleased band in America”. Although the band lasted no more than a year they saw opening and touring spots with the Husker Du, The Dead Kennedys and The Stranglers among others. Although Mould’s comment was prescient, the band never landed a major record deal. They’re now one of the almost-lost treasures of early 80s Seattle rock.
In 1986 Byron Duff formed ’Dive’, the band that would later be called Idiot Culture, with bassist TJ West and drummer Steve Dodge. Duff had met TJ West in high school had played with him in the late 70s/early 80s band Klappenstompp, along with Randy Berry on drums, and Gary Bauder on lead vocals. Later Duff would play with The Envy which was comprised of Byron Duff on guitar and backing vocals, Rick Hill on bass, Gary Bauder on lead vocals and the late great Dave Drewry on drums.
Unfortunately Dive would be an unheralded band that helped define the new”grunge”sound and the more intense attitude coming out of the Northwest. Dive continued in the mid-80s, recorded an impressive set to be released as an album in 1986, but never got the attention they deserved. Eventually the three disbanded and spent several years out of the limelight due to Duff’s ongoing health problems. It was during these years that Duff first showed the signs of Multiple Sclerosis that would later end his career as a performer. It’s been noted that Byron Duff, at the height of his powers, was the best Seattle guitarist of his generation. It’s not hyperbole. Listening to Duff’s playing on their live-recorded debut it’s a difficult point to argue. Unfortunately his trying to shop his demo, Duff faced indifference. He even recalls approaching the local label Sub Pop (who would later popularize the kind of music Duff was playing) and being turned down.
Because Byron Duff had been missing from the Seattle music scene for a number of years, his reemergence and his last album was highly anticipated. Though … Read more›
Revolving membership including:
Dean Warrti-Vocals, Washboard, Accordion
George Hackett-Twelve String Guitar, Vocals, Waders
Ben McMillan-Vocals, Cowbell
Tamara Jones-Double bass, Vocals
Bob Maguire-Vocals, Guitar
Gary Heffern-Vocals, Stage Presence
Chris Cornell-Drums, Vocals, Grunts, Overalls
Orville Johnson-Fiddle, Mandolin
Artie Palm-Mouth Harp, Saxophone, and Guitar
Tim Bowman Accordion, Saw
Debra June Connor-Cowgirl
And a host of others.
The Brides of Frankenstein
The Center for Disease Control Boys was a loose-knit satirical Country, Western and Folk band formed in Seattle in 1986. Their performances included a mixture of original compositions and older songs written by such artists as Bob Wills, Asleep at the Wheel, and Woody Guthrie. Their stage show used an extensive array of props and costumes such as bales of hay, stuffed roosters, rubber trout, and wads of self printed ‘country currency’. Although the band was only in existence for six months, they are noteworthy for their ever changing lineup of musicians and performers which included Chris Cornell of Soundgarden Jonathan Poneman, co-founder of Sub Pop Records, and Ben McMillan, lead singer for Skin Yard and Gruntruck.
The CDC Boys was a design and musical collaboration between Dean Warrti and George Hackett. Warrti was manager and booking agent for the Ditto Tavern, which filled a void in the local music scene by providing a venue for folk, punk, art rock, and emerging grunge bands from the Northwest. Hackett was an accomplished guitarist who worked at Boeing and shared Wartti’s interest in cultural satire, diverse musical tastes, and leftist politics. Warrti had a background in theatrical performance and design. As they wrote the songs and assembled the props and graphics, the two realized that a diverse cast of band members could be found within the roster of Ditto performers. Rehearsals were held at the artists collective SCUD (Subterranean Co-operative of Urban Dreams). The building had previously been the very neglected Sound View Apartments, and before that an SRO hotel. SCUD became an incorporated collective and leased the building in Belltown where a plethora of bohemian artists that included Ashleigh Talbot, Art Chantry, Cam Garret, Arthur Aubrey,Steven Fisk and Willum Hopfrog Pugmire. All had at one time or another been residents. It’s been reported that Jack Kerouac stayed at The Sound View Hotel a short time during his stop in Seattle in September of 1956. He had spent the earlier summer at a fire watch look-out in the North Cascades. He later wrote about the underbelly of Seattle and it’s downtrodden waterfront in a short story called Alone On A Mountaintop.
The building was at one time referred to Seattle residents as The Jello Building since the entire north side of the building was decorated with a multitude of Jello molds. It was a natural place for the … Read more›
Mark H. Smith-Guitar, Synthesizer, Vocals
MacKenzie Smith-Synthesizer, Vocals
Colin McDonnell-Guitar, Synthesizer,
Jane Whistler- Background Vocals
American Technology, EP (Engram Records, 1982)
The Worker Works To Live, EP (Engram Records, 1982)
Bar 2000. Seattle Syndrome Volume 2 compilation (Engram Records, 1983)
The band that would become 3 Swimmers rose out of the ashes of The Beakers-probably the first Olympia WA band that made the town the musical gravitational force it has become today. Other contributors to the early Olympia scene-and later contributors to the overall NW music scene- included DJ/editor/musician John Foster and the alarmingly underappreciated producer Steve Fisk. Both were early champions of the local scene, and had been students at The Evergreen State College just outside Olympia. TESC, as it’s often known was at the time a free-wheeling liberal arts college that pushed students to express their social and artistic endeavors to the maximum.
As well as Fisk and Foster, the college produced well-known graduates like Bruce Pavitt (Sub Pop) Matt Groening (The Simpsons) artist/cartoonist Lynda Barry (Ernie Pook’s Comeek, the illustrated novel The Good Times are Killing Me as well as the iconic image “Poodle with a Mohawk“). Later alum include Bill Hagerty (aka Macklemore of Ryan Lewis and Macklemore) and the pro-Palestinian advocate and martyr Rachel Corrie. A cadre of musicians, filmmakers, early video artists, writers, activists, idealists and excessively talented and motivated individuals emerged from the college. Many of them collaborate off and on up til this day.
The Beakers had had some great underground success based on the strength of only one single, the Bill Reiflin produced Red Towel b/w Football Season Is In Full Swing. Bill was the drummer for the near-mythic Seattle band, The Blackouts, and later worked with Ministry, Revolting Cocks, KMFDM, REM, Minus 5 as well as a myriad of other projects. He would also become a couple with-and marry Frankie Sundsten during the late 1980s. As of August, 2017 Bill is a member of the reconstituted King Crimson.
The Beakers label, Mr. Brown Records was a project of the Lost Music Network headed by the aforementioned DJ, chronicaller of underground music and founder of the influential OP magazine, John Foster A couple of inclusions (Figure 21 and I’m Crawling (on The Floor) appeard on Foster’s 1980 “Life Elsewhere EP and in 1981 The Beakers song What’s Important was incluced Pavitt’s Sub Pop 5 cassette release. A rather dull (for The Beakers) rendition of Lipps Inc. Funky Town is out there in the internet ether, but ultimately it doesn’t represent the sound of the motif of … Read more›
Charles “Upchuck” Gerra-Vocals
Paul Solger- Guitar
Barbara Ireland-Bass, Vocals
10 Minute Warning
Sky Cries Mary
Upchuck: Gone But Not Forgiven, compilation (dadastic! sounds, 2008)
The Fags might be the most fun Seattle bands to play ‘six degrees of separation’ with…except you’d only have to play with one or two degrees. Direct ties lead everywhere from 70’s Omni-sexual performers Ze Whiz Kidz, to neo-hippies Sky Cries Mary; from The Lewd to showgirl Julie Miller and The Casino de Monte Carlo and from John Holbrook, Bearsville engineer/designer and the man who mastered classic albums like ‘Tommy’ and Hendrix’s ‘Axis: Bold as Love, to Gordon Raphael-producer of The Strokes and Regina Spektor among others. From the skillfully written and recorded duo Such to the grimy recording of ‘Raping Dead Nuns by the band Solger, Seattle’s first hard-core band…and those connections barely scratch the surface.
The band rose out of a loose-knit community of musician-friends and punks that came and left Seattle’s infamous Fag House during the 1980’s. Before that many had been friends living off a sugar-daddy Charles Upchuck Gerra while he performed in his first band, Clone. In 1980 former drummer for the glamorous Julie Miller wunderkid drummer Ben Ireland, his filmmaking, multi-talented sister, Barbara Ireland. legendary guitarist Paul Solger (taking the name of his band) joined with poet/painter Dahny Reed to work as a unit. The band would be dubbed “The Fags” by local promoter Steve Pritchard when the band went onstatge one night at the Lincoln Arts Center. Pritchard did not know the name the band had planned to perform under that night-and neither did the band, apparently. So in announcing them Pritchard simply walked onstage and yelled out “Ladies and Gentlemen-The FAGS! The name stuck and together they created some of the most outrageous stage performances ever seen in Seattle….and later in downtown New York where the band re-located in the mid 1980’s. During the time that Barb Ireland spent at NYU’s film school the band’s bass was held on by Jane Playtex-then the wife of Steve Hoffman of one of the most hardcore bands of the day, The Fartz.
Studio recordings of the band are rare, but The Fags were good at getting friends to catch video and audio of many of their performances. Most were done on the fly and not up to the standard we are used to in the digital age…but they are certainly well-loved documents made by devoted fans and co-conspirators. Of their recorded output the song Lock You Up (recorded … Read more›
And a cast of many more
The Complete Frantics on Dolton-The Frantics (Collector’s Choice Music, 2004)
Human Monkey b/w Someday- The Frantics , 7″ single (Action Records, 1966)
Moby Grape-Moby Grape (Columbia Records, 1967)
Moby Grape ’69-Moby Grape (Columbia Records, 1969)
More Oar: A Tribute to the Skip Spence Album-Compilation (Birdman Records 1999)
The Four Frantics
Luminous Marsh Gas
The Daily Flash
The story of The Frantics covers alot of NW music history. It’s also a tale of two bands…at least. The birth of what would become The Frantics goes back to 1955 when schoolmates Ron Petersen and Chuck Schoning formed a duo in 7th grade. They initially named themselves The Hi-Fi’s. Ron played guitar and Chuck playing accordian. Soon Chuck was loaned a keyboard and the band would expand with new recruits Joel Goodman (drums), Dean Tonkins (bass), and Gary Gerke (piano). After paring this line-up down to Ron Petersen, Joel Goodman, Chuck Schoning and Jim Manolides the band would become known as The Four Frantics. All members of The Four Frantics at this time were underage, so they hit the mighty teen dance circuit that was then at its height in the Northwest. Later Bob Hosko would sit in as sax player so the band shortened its name to The Frantics. By 1958 the band had gone through a few more personnel changes, heralding in the first classic line-up of the band. It was solidified with Ron Petersen (guitar), Joel Goodman (later, Don Fulton then, Jon Keliehor) on drums, Chuck Schoning (keyboards), Bob Hosko (saxophone), and Jim Manolides (bass). The band continued to play teen dances in the Puget Sound region, and by 1958 had become a local sensation. They’d also attracted the attention of local label Dolton Records.
The Frantics sound was simple. An incredibly tight rhythm section, highly proficient guitar playing and an up-front raunchy, R&B and Jazz influenced saxophone. The result was both fun, danceable and a bit dangerous. It was the sound of NW garage rock played with a little more finesse. The band was all-instrumental except for occassional appearances by locally in-demand vocalist Nancy Claire. Nancy made the rounds of the NW scene, both before and after her tenure with The Frantics, She played with the most iconic players of her era. Nancy Claire had such a high profile in the 60s that she will be covered in her own future post.
By 1959 The Frantics were slated to record for Dolton Records with prominent engineer Joe Boles in the basement studio of his West Seattle home. Boles was working with Dolton Records at the time and had done recordings and demos with soon-to-be-famous acts like The Fleetwoods, The Ventures and The Wailers. It was Boles himself that recorded The Ventures … Read more›
On March 25, 1923 Bonnie Buckingham was born in Seattle WA. As a youn child she was raised in Redondo Beach, a small community about 30 miles south of Seattle. Her family were farmers who were able to weather the depression, unlike many of those in the Midwest who’s crops had been decimated by dustbowl storms and drought. It was a bit later that the Buckingham family moved a short distance to Auburn WA and continued farming. Growing up Bonnie had a fascination with the family guitar, and took every chance she could to take it from it’s hiding place to practice when her parents were away. Her mother had told her that “guitars were for boys”. But Bonnie persisted learning what she could. She recalls regularly climbing trees and pretending they were broadcast towers and she was sending out signals of her miusic to the entire world.
Apparently her parent’s disapproval of girl’s playing guitars did not last long. By the age of 13 she had inherited her two older brothers’ flat top guitar and was appearing at talent shows throughout the Puget Sound region while gaining wider reception. During this period she took on her first stage name-Bonnie Lane. She also began tutoring by local musicians. At the age 16 she was allowed to tour the NW with a country revue and for the next several years she developed her skill at the guitar as well as finding her voice.
Eventually she began travelling to Seattle to be tutored by some of the best players in the city, including Paul Tutmarc. Not only did Bonnie receive lessons, she began to make recordings with Tutmarc in his primitive studio on Pine Street. Tutmarc was 27 years older than Bonnie, but their work had brought them close together. In 1943 Tutmarc divorced his first wife and married Bonnie the following year. They juggled their married and professional lives, along with caring for their daughter Paula (born in 1950) for the next few years, doing Seattle gigs as a duo and finally joining a well-known NW country outfit called the K-6 Wranglers as with a local country outfit called but the couple divorced in 1955, before Bonnie’s wider success.
Around this time Bonnie took on the name she would always be known as- Bonnie Guitar. Bonnie recalls that one day a songwriter approached her with a few songs he wanted her … Read more›
Jim Coile-Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet
Tim McFarland-Trombone, Piano
Jim Walters-Trumpet, Vocals
Buzzard Luck-Columbia (1972)
Special Pride-Mercury (1973)
Live And In Color-Mercury (1974)
Ballin’ Jack was formed in Seattle by former childhood friends Luther Rabb and Ronnie Hammon. Both of them had gone to school with and been friends with Jimi Hendrix at the city’s Garfield High School. In the early 60s Luther Rabb played around the NW with several moderately successful outfits on the teen and R&B circuits. He had even played saxophonist alongside Jimi Hendrix’s in The Velvetones, the first band Hendrix had been involved in. Ronnie Hammon was a drummer who’d also backed a few Seattle bands-none of them particularly notable. In 1967 Rabb and Hammon decided to form their own band. Rabb, a multi-accomplished musician would leave the saxophone behind and switch to bass guitar. Hammon continued drumming, thus forming a strong rhythm section. Almost immeadiately they added Jim Coile on flute and Tim McFarland on trombone. A bit later Jim Walters would come onboard as their saxophonist and Glen Thomas providing the lead guitar. The name Ballin’ Jack has obscure origins. It could be based on “Ballin’ the Jack” a 1913 song written by Jim Burris and Chris Smith. It could refer to the and the ensuing dance that became popularized by the song. The expression “Ballin’ the Jack” also has ties to railroad workers who used the expression “to go full speed”. But the band’s use of the shortened expression probably was chosen for one of two other reasons. Sometimes the term “ballin’ the jack” implied having a great time. There’s certainly enough examples of the expression being used in film, on Broadway and popular music….but sometime the meaning was (literally) deep, full-on sex. Blues great Big Bill Broonzy sang in “Feel So Good”
My baby’s coming home
I hope that she won’t fail because I feel so good, I feel so good.
You know I feel so good, feel like balling the jack
As Bessie Smith sang in “Baby Doll” in 1926,
He can be ugly, he can be black
So long as he can eagle rock and ball the jack
There’s several ways to interpret the term, but “ballin the jack” was an expression often used in jazz and blues circles to mean deep, full and fast sex. It may be this veiled, slang reference is the meaning the band intended their name to represent.
Ballin’ Jack found themselves moving to Los Angeles, living in a large … Read more›
Bill Bagley- Bass, Keyboards, Guitar
Jerry Anderson- Bass
Bill Shaw- Drums, Vocals
John Olufs- Guitar, Vocals
Pete Pendras- Guitar, Vocals
Emily Bishton- Vocals
Don Kellman- Tenor Sax
Dave Conant-Guitar, RIP
Little Ship-Popllama (1985)
Bob Was A Robot b/w Pteradactyl Teenagers (7″single) Glassmouth Records (1980)
Money Dream b/w I Like To Eat My Mousies Raw (7″single) PopLLama (1984)
The Collection (Compilation) PopLLama (1994)
Little Trailer Ruby-Gary Minkler PopLLama (2013)
Any live-music lover who’s lived in Seattle long enough has seen Red Dress. In fact, it’s likely their parents-or grandparents have seen the band play. Red Dress might be the longest-running show in the Northwest. Throughout their career they’ve attracted punk rockers, hippies, drunks, blues aficionados, art-rockers, probably a few metal heads and everyone in between. Despite their long-running history, the band are still one of the most creative and relevant bands working the clubs, bars and festivals in and around Seattle. They do what they do better than anyone else; they always have. Red Dress infuse absurdity with the pure joy of funk, jazz and R&B. The result is far from what one would expect from looking at it on paper. This isn’t a retread of the typical whitebread tribute to a style long out of date. This isn’t a goofy pastiche of kitsch and nostalgia. This is as real and original as things get. Producer Conrad Uno Producer Conrad Uno (Love Battery, Young Fresh Fellows, The Presidents of the United States of America, etc.) hit the nail on the head when he described Red Dress as “Captain Beefheart meets James Brown.” Minkler himself confirms that when he heard Captain Beefheart’s seminal Trout Mask Replica everything changed
Red Dress has always been a band of solid, professional musicians. Orignally formed with Minkler’s high school friend Rich Riggins in 1976. The duo explored jazz, contemporary classical music, and of course the blossoming punk rock scene. Eventually Riggins left the band-taking with him the poet/singer/performance artist Cynthia Genser. Minkler would man the more and more funky and soulful Red Dress, while Riggins and Genser went on to found Chinas Comidas, a band that also found an important place within the city’s alternative music community. In fact, it wasn’t unusual to find Red Dress and Chinas Comidas on the same bills in the late 1970s and early 80s. The stylistic, musical and lyrical content of those on the punk/alternative scene meant little in those days. Seattle had a very tight-knit community that was too interested in innovation to face off in differing camps.
Over the years more than a few have wandered in and out of the band. But the songwriting has been consistently impeccable and the players pitch-perfect. But there’s no getting around it. This is a band dominated by the talent and presence of vocalist Gary Minkler, and … Read more›
Byron Duff-Guitar, vocals
Stanford Filarca-Bass, vocals
Jeff Farrand- Drums
“Idiot Culture” & “Call It Chaos” Pravda Volume One, compilation, cassette only, Pravda Records (1982)
“Call It Chaos” That’s Dadastic compilation, Dadastic Sounds (2011)
The Spectators played fewer than 20 gigs. They performed only 15 songs live. But their reputation as one of the most original and accomplished bands of the early Seattle alternative scene continues to grow into the 21st century. Their first gig was December 8th 1980, the same day John Lennon was gunned down in New York City. It was just like most other nights at Seattle’s legendary Gorilla Room on Second Avenue; a handful of people showed up, and more free beer was drunk up by the bar staff and their under-aged buddies than was ever sold. But that night one of the finest Seattle bands of the era played to the nearly empty club. Over the next few months the band would be regulars at the Gorilla Room and WREX and end up on the stage of Seattle’s Showbox Theater at least twice, as co-headliners, and as openers for The Stranglers. Later, Bob Mould, having played three dates with The Spectators while on the first national tour by Hüsker Dü , called them “the greatest unsigned band in America“. Less than a yearlater The Spectators were gone.
The Spectators combination of surf, metal, jazz and punk predates most alt bands with similar influences by a full decade. They were a power-trio, but one that dealt their deadly blows with intricate and subtle precision rather than blind swings. This was a band that had brains as well as brawn. By using a limited amount ofeffects, guitarist Byron Duff and bass player Stanford “Stan” Filarca created a sound so tightly woven that it was hard totell who was playing lead, where the rhythm was coming from and how they could possibly sound so big and layered at the same time. Add to the mix the powerful, inventive and perfect tempo of drummer Jeff Farrand and it’s hard to think of any finer trio in rock, signed or unsigned, even today.
During their short life The Spectators recorded very little of their output in the studio-about six studio tracks still exist. Unfortunately most of it has been lost or the tapes have degraded so badly they’re practically unlistenable. Fortunately there still are some fairly high quality mono recording caught on a cassette player using a condenser mike! Some of these cassettes and board mixes have been discovered, including this recording of Call It Chaos. One-time Seattle promoter and indie label … Read more›
Mike Refuzor-Vocals, Bass, Guitar (1978-1989)
Roach Refuzor-Drums (1978-1989
Danny Refuzor-Guitar (1978-1989
Mike Refuzor-Guitar, Vocals (1993)
John Carey-Bass (1993)
Dan Bradshaw-Guitar (1993)
Al Cannibal-Guitar (1993
Alex Maggot Brains-Bass (1993
Aldo Dams-Drums (1993)
White Power-Seattle Syndrome Compilation Engram Records (1981)
Q.Why Do It, You’ll Never Get Rich A.Cuz I’m A Refuser-Cassette Only- Rizz Records (1987)
Think I Lost My Faith b/w Jim Jones 7″-Bag of Hammers Records (1993)
Flashback-Idol Records (1997)
During the early to mid 1980s The Refuzors were A-list Seattle punk rockers. They were one of the best live bands around. Uncompromising, edgy and raw. They could have been lumped in with alot of hardcore bands from that era but for one thing. The songwriting, mostly by guitarist and vocalist Mike Refuzor set them far ahead of other great hardcore Seattle bands. And they were always unexpectedly fun. The Refuzors started out as a trio, and it’s probably their original line-up or Mike Refuzor (Mike Lambert) Bass and Vocals, Danny Refuzor (Danny Barton) on guitar and Roach Refuzor Dan Bradshaw) on drums that is most memorable. Other incarnations included Ward Refuzor (Ward Nelson) on guitar, Al Dams, Mike Purdon on bass and Renee Refuzor (Renee Vazquez) doing some of the vocals.
The Refuzors were good at creating controversy-but some of it was also the cause of the press. In a revew of the band local rock critic (at the time) printed her views of The Refuzors (and Mike specifically) of being neo-Nazi, white supremecists and fascists. The comments were made in the widely read but now defunct Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Her pronouncement wasn’t based on the lyrics or outward signs of Nazism. The Refuzors never associated themselves with the neo-Nazi or white supremacist movements. Hackett based her opinon on their dress; the all black, all leather uniform that many punks adhered to in the early 1980s. The result of the public accusation led Mike to write one of his best songs, “White Power”. And of course, once more the media went wild. How could any major band write such a song?
The fact is the song’s lyrics make clear that they did NOT support white supremacy. The lyrics start:
People may say things about me.
Some of them things are true, some are lies
With the power of the press you labeled me a Nazi
I bet you can’t even look me in the eyes
Later in the chorus Mike sings;
I never said White Power
I never said White Power to you
I’m sayin’ it now
You put those words in my mouth…
A studio version of the song was included on the near-legendary “Seattle Syndrome” compilation, but it seems as of this writing there are only very poorly recorded live versions of the song available on the internet. Aside from the inclusion on The Seattle Syndrome … Read more›
Laura Keane-Vocals & Percussion
The Visible Targets-Park Avenue Records (1982)
Autistic Savant-Park Avenue Records (1983)
Pamela Golden, Rebecca Hanilton, Ron Simmons, Laura Keane
The Visible Targets, with the frontline of sisters Pamela Golden, Laura Keane and Rebecca Hamilton could have dressed up as babes. They could have played covers for frat parties. They could have been a “novelty band”. Instead they chose to work within Seattle’s alternative scene, playing alongside art bands, punks and “loser” bands as well as the innovators. It’s no wonder that the band was often scoffed at by the supposedly hip, more cynical and “serious bands. The irony is those “hipper” more cynical audiences always showed-up at their shows. The truth is The Visible Targets were original, musically talented and…fun. They were secure in their musical talent and determination. It’s fair to say they were the forerunners of the riot grrl movement that wouldn’t flourish for another decade. The sisters, originally from Yakima WA had paid their dues in cover bands and had even spent time in England trying to jump-start their career. But it wasn’t until they returned to the US and recruited Ron Simmons as drummer. Ron was an old friend of theirs from school, and he fit in perfectly. With the sisters in front and Simmons in the back providing an excellent behind them the band (then known as Wreckless) set out to conquer Seattle-and further. With their name change to The Visible Targets, and their musical and lyrical dexterity popularity was to come quickly with a dedicated fan base who loved their approach, their look, and most of all their musical and lyrical talent.
The Visible Targets first came to light via Bruce Pavitt’s 1980 ‘cassettezine’ Sub Pop 5. The band then caught the attention of Bob Jenniker, a successful record store owner in Portland and Seattle that had begun the Park Avenue Records label. Bob had released the The Wipers’ Alien Boy, Youth of America and Is This Real, all of them seminal recordings from the American underground. Jenniker was scouting for new talent for his label, and when he found The Visible Targets. He was so impressed he not only signed them; he became the band’s manager and dedicated friend.
The band reflected everything good about the ‘power pop” and new wave” music of the 1980’s. They had an incredible pop sensibility, a talented line-up with enough edge to satisfy serious musicians while appealing to fans that were more interested in being entertained than … Read more›
WREX was established in Belltown, Seattle by Michael Clay, Wes Bradley, and Aaron McKiernan in the early Fall of 1979. The venue, at 2018 First Avenue, was formerly a leather gay bar called Johnny’s Handlebar, located on the ground floor of a former brothel. Johnny’s Handlebar, at the time it closed was said to be the oldest, continuously open gay bar on the West Coast. For the first few months of it’s life WREX remained a typical 70s/80s gay bar, catering to local gay men. The unique décor inside WREX included old car seats in the back, old airplane seats in the side area, and Seattle’s first music video system curated by Ted Ladd. A DJ spun the popular music found in thousands of gay discos around the nation (and in Seattle) which also included a handful of the poppier “new wave” hits that most gay bars also included among their playlists. As the novelty of the new gay bar wore off the gay clientele retreated to many of their previous haunts around town. The Brass Door, Neighbors, The Park Avenue, and a plethora of other LGBT venues that were popping up with regularity. WREX was still viable as a business, but they needed something more to bring in customers. One of the targets WREX had not yet tapped into was the growing popularity of punk in the LGBT community Many who came of age during the punk era rejected the “clone” culture that pervaded the gay scene at the time. Not only that, alot of younger straight adults interested in punk barely regarded a difference between themselves and their queer friends. They all gravitated toward punk as an alternative, so they were all one tribe. It’s not surprising that gays bars were regularly part of the punk scene of the late 70’s and early 80’s. They were always ready to allow punk rock in their midst because it represented the same kind of outsidership, and it’s no wonder so many gay youth were willing to embrace more outré artists that had emerged from gay disco-artists like Sylvester and the iconic Grace Jones.
Seattle’s punk and gay communities have often mingled together, and the subcultural mise-en-scène at WREX was no exception to that general rule. Occasionally, former Johnny’s Handlebar clientele would drop in after WREX’s opening, not yet knowing about the change in management … Read more›