Writing the history of a band or a venue can be a daunting task; especially when the author knows far less on the subject than many of his or her readers. It’s with this trepidation that I approach writing about The Bird. In most cases the music histories I write rely on research, articles, written or oral histories and scholarly reports.. One-on-one interviews and original documentation also helps; but in the case of The Bird, there is not much documentation or written histories. Online blogs and books that mention The Bird often repeat the same exact entries word-for-word. This, in my view is a very poor practice and plagiarism. However this is the internet age where people recycle all kinds of information they don’t need to be accountable for.
There are at least two authors I know that have done independent research on The Bird There are also others who have kept the memory of The Bird alive in their own individual ways. I did not arrive in Seattle until 1979; almost a year after The Bird had ceased to exist. Many of the musicians who had played at The Bird had left Seattle for greener pastures even before the advent of The Bird including The Mentors, The Lewd, The Screamers, Penelope Houston who would front The Avengers. All were no longer on the scene by the time I’d arrived. Still, many of the fantastic friends I would make in Seattle had been involved or regulars of The Bird.
Many of us have foggy memories of our past, and very little ephemera to document The Bird exists, so I have had to rely on incomplete information and small bits I have learned from friends about The Bird over the years. It is in this spirit that I ask you read this story, keeping in mind that what I am trying is to build a history of The Bird…a history that has been seriously overlooked. I hope what I write here is accurate, but I know I cannot live up to that hope throughout this story. This is meant to be the basic outline of a realistic, accurate and detailed portrait of one of Seattle’s most important cultural touchstones. I welcome corrections, additions, suggestions, photos, posters and most of all, memories. As I’ve said, the history of The Bird has never been properly recorded.. What I have to write is incomplete without as much input form those who were there. If you have anything to add, please leave comments in the space provided below. This will help me build a more accurate and complete history.
There’s plenty of points of departure that we could begin the story of The Bird. It came along after punk had established itself in many other cities in the U.S, Canada, Britain and Australia. We could discuss the dissatisfaction of young people with their future prospects, the D.I.Y. ethic, or what had led up to the need for an all-ages punk club in Seattle or youth culture in general, But that would take an entire dissertation…which this already nearly is. Let’s leave it at the well-known impetus that the gay troupe Ze Whiz Kidz who had broken down the door for punk to make headway in Seattle. Let’s also point to the T.M.T. show, (The Telepaths, The Meyce and The Tupperwares) which wasn’t exactly “punk” but also opened the gateway of the new, alternative and music and a kick-start for the local scene. There are the early practitioners and promoters of punk rock or new wave; consider that in the late ‘70s the terms were interchangeable. These would include Jim Basnight, Neil Hubbard, Lee Lumsden, Mike Vraney and dozens of others including Sheli Story, Eldon Hoke,Upchuck, Ralph and Judy Becker who’s store Kitchy Koo catered to the hoards of Roosevelt High School students that would dominate the early Seattle punk scene. As far as helping to outfit the new “look” it would only be proper to mention the influence (and gear) of Danny Eskinazi’s store, Dreamland, then located in the University District.
But let’s start with two individuals; Damon Titus and George Gleason, Although they went to separate high schools and lived in different parts of the city they were thrown together as members of the Unitarian Church’s Liberal Religious Youth (LRY), around 1969 or 1970. According to George Gleason, within a short time after meeting Damon he joined his band Fuzzy Peach. At the time they were a folk-rock trio trio with two sisters from George’s high school, Lisa and Chrissie MacPhaden. Once they became a quartet they spent a year or two on the coffee house and all-ages circuit.
By 1972 Damon moved to Olympia WA to study at The Evergreen State College (TESC). George also moved to Olympia with an eye to starting a more rock-oriented band. Don Harper, a friend of George’s from high school, would became their road manager. Roger Husbands, an older guy Damon and George knew through the LRY was hired as manager. The two thought Roger seemed to know his way around business and theater, but in truth, he had little experience in management. Fellow Evergreeners Suzanne Grant, who’d been a jazz singer was recruited as vocalist and Alan Mundial came in on drums. Mundial would later be replaced by Peter Barnes when the band decided to move to Seattle and Alan chose to continue his studies at TESC. John Adams was the original bassist and later replaced by Sal Paradise. (Walter Szalwinski) Along with Damon and George they became The Fruitland Famine Band who deserve their own entry here at a later date, The band was successful doing gigs in and around Olympia and Seattle and eventually moved to a large, old Mansion on the corner of Union and Minor on Seattle’s First Hill. The band had a fair amount of success playing cover songs in bars around the Olympia and Seattle area. Later they moved further afield to play the greater Northwest and Western Canada. The band did a few originals, but were mostly playing bar patrons’ favorites…slightly FMish music, some popular covers, and venturing into country and boogie classics They were not the “average” Top 40 band, but they were a cover band nonetheless.
The Mansion at Minor and Union was across the street from the The Summit Alternative High School. It was through these students, who used the Minor Mansion’s garage as their unofficial smoking lounge that the the members of the Fruitland Famine Band started to become familiar with the stirrings of punk rock. George claims that everything changed when the band heard the albums The Runaways, The Ramones and the bootlegged Ramones Live at CBGB’s. “Finally we were hearing new music that was song-based, and infused with manic humor” says George.
Their act began to reflect those influences, and it was not entirely welcome by the bar crowd they playing to. The band told manager Roger Husbands they were fed up with being a cover band and fed up with playing bars. So The Fruitland Famine Band joined the now near-forgotten, and always underrated Uncle Cookie (featuring Ernie Sapiro, Mark Sargent, Conrad Uno and Brock “The Rock” Wheaton as their soundman) for a concert at Capitol Hill’s Oddfellows Hall at 915 East Pine. The Oddfellows Hall would be the location of future punk shows, and was crucial to Seattle’s nascent punk rock movement. It had also been the venue for Seattle’s first “punk” concert known forever as “The T.M.T. Show” on May 1, 1976.
George Gleason remembers:
“As a goof, we started our set dressed in slick lounge outfits,playing disco and changed into leather and jeans, playing punk in the middle of the set”. George also reports that “This evidently made quite an impression on the delicate mind of Patrick MacDonald, music writer for The Seattle Times”
“MacDonald” according to George Gleason “has never since missed an opportunity to describe us as a band that once “stripped naked” on stage. This would, of course, be only one of MacDonald’s misinterpretations of the rock music he generally covered. Not only did MacDonald misinterpret and misreport concerts, for years it was rumored that he commonly sent proxies to events, and he’d write his reviews based on their notes…but we’ll never know for sure, and it certainly wouldn’t have been the first time a critic cribbed others’ notes. MacDonald retired as a local music critic years ago, but he’s still an object of derision among Seattle musicians and the fans who once read his reviews.
On Oct 30th 1977, The Fruitland Famine Band threw an all-night “Come As You Were or Will Be “ party at the Minor Mansion. The death of the FFB was declared and the birth of The Enemy, one of the west coast’s first punk bands. At this time Sal Paradiso was let go and Paul Hood (onetime member of The Meyce and future member of The Toiling Midgets and briefly with Student Nurse) was given bass duties. The Enemy rented space in a vacant building in downtown Seattle and began writing and practicing all-original music,
Damon Titus says
“People forget that at the time downtown Seattle was boarded up buildings. The building at First and Spring was vacant, We were in a nine story building that was vacant. We were next to the store Warshall’s-a sporting goods store. The only ones we ever had to worry about disturbing was Warshall’s”
However there was one problem that made the rehearsal space sub-par
“We determined that the only problem was that there were these flyng iron fire doors between the two units that made the place sound terrible. One day we took the station wagon and went up to Capitol Hill-somewhere around St. Jo’s parish with all these nice big mansions around. We went up there as scraggly looking punk rockers going door-to-door asking for newspapers….and they gave us all these old copies of The Seattle Times-enough to fill the station wagon. Then we opened our side of those iron doors and filled the gap with all these old newspapers. The incredible thing is that later when we ended up getting closed down by the Seattle Fire Department the Fire Department were completely unaware of the newspapers. Come to think of it it probably was really dangerous!”
Damon admits that part of The Enemy’s agenda was to open punk rock to as many venues as possible. Roger and Damon had gone to San Francisco for the last Sex Pistols show on Jan. 14, 1978. Their old friend and ex-Seattleite Penelope Houston had formed her own band in San Francisco, The Avengers, and they had been on the Sex Pistols bill at Winterland. During their trip it occurred to that Damon and Roger that they should open their own rehearsal space as a club and showcase West Coast punk bands. They also knew that there was enough local talent to fill out bills,
Since bands like The Lewd, The Mentors, The Screamers and The Avenger’s lead singer Penelope Houston all hailed from Seattle they knew they could create a network of like-minded bands to play at the new club they planned.
Video by Jo David, March 3, 1978
I’ve never talked to her about this” says Damon, but I’ve heard Penelope talk about feeling she was part of a West Coast team…playing all up and down the west coast. There were people from L.A like The Screamers and the Dils who wanted to bring The Mabuhay (San Francisco’s premier punk club) up here. That’s kind of what we were doing We had a real cool rehearsal space to work with”
So the die was cast. Seattle was about to witness the opening of its first official all-ages all-punk club.
Peter Barnes has said that starting the Bird was possible because of what he calls infrastructure. The band had financial resources (mostly contributed by a single member) good sound and lights systems and a knowledgeable sound technician, They had a space that could hold about the right size of crowd they’d expected-even though the club was often crowded beyond it’s legal limit. They had west coast band connections and bands themselves that were eager to play Seattle.
Despite the credit to Roger Husbands as being the impetus for opening The Bird, it was actually run as a labor of love for The Enemy and their friends. In actuality Husbands was simply a hired-hand to manage The Enemy’s affairs….at times better than others. But he became the “official” face of the business/management side of the venture. He was a bit older, looked more mature and didn’t wear punk rock clothing, He looked responsible. It was his appearance and business-like approach that got the straggly looking Fruitland Famine Band and The Enemy taken seriously among the press, booking agents and licensing officials. He had helped secure the lease for The Enemy’s rehearsal space at 107 First Avenue.
“So” says Peter Barnes: “we got a pop machine and somebody to watch the door, and then it was a club”
Despite Peter’s tongue-in-cheek remark, it took more than a coke machine and a doorman to keep the club a going concern. Fortunately The Bird was run primarily by Husbands and The Enemy’s one-time soundman Don Harper. Various friends and volunteers took up the slack.
According to George Gleason;
“‘I can’t remember them all, but Neil Hubbard, Shelli Story and Gregor Gayden helped Roger & Don (who would eventually marry the band’s singer Suzanne Grant). Rob Morgan was another one involved in working at the club; often manning the door and generally spreading laughter and mayhem. Rob would later go on to found The Pudz and later The Squirrels…both bands that lay among the all-time most original bands-even though they chose, ironically, covers as departures for unexplored territory.
Neil Hubbard’s involvement cannot be overestimated. He had been with this project from its inception and spent a good deal of time getting the message out. Some of the only bits of ephemera left over from The Bird are the press releases he’d written and released during The Bird’s short existence. Hubbard was a natural for working at the club.. He had pulled off a major coup in 1977 getting a gig for The Ramones at an all-ages venue in Seattle.
Originally The Ramones were booked to play a bar in Seattle. Neil knew that bar patrons over the age of 21 were not the core following of The Ramones and that the 21+ crowd would be less interested in seeing a punk band in a bar than their natural fans in an all-ages venue; one that would accomodate the teens and young adults who were actually fans of The Ramones.
On the first of March Neil began trying to make contact with The Ramones, their tour manager, their label, or the band themselves….anyone who would listen to him. Eventually he found a contact with The Ramones tour agent and desperately tried to sway him into re-bookimg The Ramones outside a barm and in an all-ages venue. After he made his argument the tour manager said “OK, if you can find a place the show’s yours”
Hubbard and his friend Robert Bennett then made a series of frustrating calls to venues that could have staged the event and found that none of them were available on The Ramones’ Seattle date. By chance they heard that The Olympic Hotel Ballroom was available the next Sunday night when the Ramones were scheduled to play Seattle At the time The Olympic Hotel was the grande dame of Seattle hotels. It had been built in 1924 and retained it’s luxurious architecture and interior. It was known as the most prestigious hotel in the entire northwest. The Olympic catered to a well-heeled clientele and had probably never hosted a rock show within it’s confines…-let alone a punk rock show. In booking the ballroom Bennett simply told the management that he intended to hold a dance that would include live music.
The Ramones management agreed to play, and the Olympic’s staff were left in the dark about the details until the night of the show when hoards of punk rockers in full regalia began to descend on the hotel. According to contemporaneous accounts between 400 and 500 Ramones fans showed up to see the band with The Meyce opening,
This was a coup that came about by circumstances, but it was also a coup in the sense that for at least one night punks had infiltrated a society that despised them. They had won…and although it was really a case of “necessity being the mother of invention” it was an incredibly punk rock thing to do.
With this under his belt Hubbard was looked upon by the punk rock community as somewhat of a hero and a mastermind. It was only natural he would also make his mark by helping to manage The Bird. It also lent a certain amount of credibility to the project. At the time Seattle punks were suspicious of The Enemy and their past as a quasi-country cover band. The early days of punk required (a) that you make no money, and (b) did not achieve any kind of commercial success. Ironically the bands punks had been influenced by-The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned and other bands, were signed to major labels and were enjoying a modest amount of financial success.
An artist and their fans would expect a band to seek widespread fame nowadays, but at the time The Enemy were looked down upon…all this despite they had opened The Bird in their own space, had provided most of the financial backing, were bringing fantastic west coast bands playing on the high quality PA in their club and providing the punk community something they’d never had before…a “real” all ages club. Perhaps the suspicion had to do with what Barnes had called their “infrastructure”. The fact that they were becoming adept at songwriting was either ignored or seen as just another form of crass commercialism’
In her 2016 book DesperateTimes Maire Masco explains the self-imposed dilemna the average punk rocker faced. Maire was just a few years behind the first generation of Seattle punks, but her observation of punk life in the late 70s and early ‘80s sums it up perfectly;
“Although we fashionably hated big business, we secretly desired to be rich, to have freedom from money and the constant worry of paying the rent or purchasing food.” (Sounds perfectly bourgeoisie to me — how did those three syllables wax syphilitic anyhow?)”
Later Damon Titus would say
“When we started the Bird I was very aware that we were bringing what I used to call….I had all sorts of names for it…”a three band format” or a “concert band format” ..We were bringing three bands a night, and nobody in Seattle was doing that at the time…It just didn’t exist. We needed a club like The Bird. That was always part of our mission and we opened a few clubs around town. (to punk music). We would be the first ones to open clubs around town to that format”.
Despite their mission and their actual contributions to the community, a vaguely negative vibe would follow them throughout their career. It was a vibe that was unwarranted.
Now there was a club, but no name for it. According to ‘The Strangest Tribe’, Stephen Tow’s excellent 2011 book on Seattle music history he repeats a story Neil Hubbard had told him:
“Initially Hubbard and the members of The Enemy struggled to come up with the name for the club. Hubbard then ventured outside and noticed an old sign on the building. “I went out and looked at it” he recalls “and went ‘Well it says John L. Bird Office Supplies’ Let’s just call it ‘The Bird’. You know [as in] ‘Fuck You!’ Perfect!”
Now with a name a date was set for the grand opening of The Bird; March 4, 1978. A pre-gala event the night before took place as an introduction for a new band called Clone. The band was fronted by local maverick and unapologetically gay, Upchuck. The pre-opening was by invitation-only and gathered up “anyone who was anyone” that had been associated with Seattle punk, the press as well as the gay punk and glam community who had once revolved around Ze Whiz Kidz. It’s either fortunate (or unfortunate depending on how one looks at it) that a video record of The Bird was created that night. Local photographer, videographer, and all-around artist Jo David set up a back-drop and invited everyone attending to pose, jump around or otherwise mug to his video camera. Although the video wasn’t shot as a spectacle it certainly is spectacularly full of those who populated the punk community of the day. It leaves the viewer wanting more; to see the young fresh faces and probably much more innocent people they remember from the past-and in many cases those that still remain friends. Ralph Becker (then of Kitchy Koo) recalls;
“Photos were taken due to the presence of Friends of the Rag, the clothing art and performance group. We were invited to show up dressed as punks. Some of the members didn’t quite get it, but most of us were interested, and friends of many of those in attendance. I remember someone (Gregor Gayden?) putting a fist through the door window. Lots of slamming. Photos by Don Leber (which I believe are lost to time, but which I would love to see). Jo making movies of what many thought punk was like. It was an amazing event that brought the punk movement to Seattle consciousness, but in some ways it was an event where folks could act like New Yorkers”.
CLONE featuring Upchuck March 3, 1978
The now well-known producer Gordon Raphael described that night with these observations;
“We started his band which I named “Clone”-with Jeff Gossard (cousin of Stone Gossard) who was already playing guitar with Chuck. Mike Davidson (later of The Blackouts and X-15) played bass and Dave Drury on drums. Davidson and Drury were fresh from J. Sats Beret’s, confrontational Cool band The Lewd…Chuck had just recently recorded an amazing single called ‘Jacuzzi Floozie b/w Afterthought’ with Gossard and a super-talented Seattle drummer named Drake Eubanks, whom I never heard anything about after that. We worked up a few original songs and threw in David Bowie’s ‘Station to Station’ as an opener and a cool song by The Runaways called ‘Hollywood’ which Chuckie delivered with a startlingly sleazy and passionate vocal performance. He had a very full deep trembling voice and could really project in a powerful, emotional way.
The first gig was the “press only” party that Chuck threw before our first show at The Bird” continues Raphael, “How very irate and pissed off were the rest of the punk rockers from the scene when our unknown band had a well publicized party that most were not invited to! Clone’s first show at The Bird was a night to remember! First off, Chuckie made me put my unfashionable long hair up into a little boat captain’s hat and then wrapped my bare chest in clear cellophane, over which I wore a white plastic boy’s jacket from Goodwill which was way too small
Aside from the music there are great examples of what went on at The Bird during the day. Sheli Story worked at The Bird and is still an important part of Seattle’s alternative movement recalls a story about her and the late Gregor Gayden. Gregor was a much-loved member of the scene at the time. He’d been the vocalist for The Telepaths and later fronted the band The Look. Sadly Gregor passed away in January of 2008. Nonetheless he’s still remembered as an important, funny, kind and generous man who made a mark on Seattle’s 70s music scene..
Sheli recounts this story about hum-drum life around The Bird;
“By the time The Bird had been open for a few weeks the walls were proudly covered in graffiti; most of it musically and politically based. It was an all ages punk club, it was 1978; we were fierce and edgy and full of ourselves . .. With ‘the powers that be’ constantly trying to find a way to shut us down, yet another directive was made by the landlord of the space (which was already pretty much a shithole to begin) to “CLEAN UP THE PROFANITY OR ELSE!!”
“Well fuck that!!” Says Sheli “Roger Husbands decreed that Gregor and I were going to do just that: clean up the graffiti. Our solution was to paint the entire place black.
“The Bird by night was full of the sizzle of attitude, music, lights and personalities galore. By day The Bird was damp, dark and filthy. Gregor and I arrived at the club and got to work. We had gallons of black paint, two rollers each – double down painting style, and our paint clothes. Gregor had snagged a pair of jeans from one of his little brothers and of course they were way too small. It was hilarious from the start. The music was blasting – I’m thinking it was The Damned but it could of been anybody . We were slinging paint everywhere. Being soooo smart, we had taped paper bags on our heads to avoid splatter and Gregor was wearing the tiny jeans and a pair of shoes with wedges and gummy soles. As if it mattered that we would get black paint on our black clothes!!
“When Gregor threw down his rollers and went into dance mode I followed suit but not for long; Gregor was doing the pogo. Yes, the pogo. He was a big, tall man and with every leap he hit the ground with his bouncy wedgies and those little jeans inched down and down until they were bunched at his ankles. He was in tidy whities with his paper bag hat and his face a huge grin. I laughed so fucking hard my stomach hurt and Gregor was unstoppable.
“Eventually we were able to cover enough of the “profanity” and The Bird prevailed!! For another few weeks.
“This is one of those “you had to be there” stories. Says Sheli, “It is my most precious memory of my friendship with Gregor; a man with huge love in his heart and a vital part of the birth of the music and art scene that was punk in Seattle. On a side note: Gregor and I used to poster the town like madmen at night!! One night on Capitol Hill the police followed us and stopped us; let us off with a “warning” and made us take down our posters while slowly driving their cruiser beside us. We were back the next night. Because we were determined punks. And we hardly ever got caught”
The “official” opening night saw The Enemy headline with The Mentors and The Telepaths also on the bill. It was a format (three bands at least) that had fulfilled Damon Titus’s mission. Every Friday and Sunday night included Seattle bands, touring headliners and usually a capacity crowd…or more.
From the beginning the City, The Seattle Police Department and the Seattle Fire Department were no friends of the club or its clientele. They were eager to see the club closed just for the sake of it. Punk rock meant mayhem in the streets, the breakdown of society and the end of family values; the same accusations that have always been levelled against outsiders. In spite of their hostility The Bird managed to stay open at the 107 First Ave. location until the building’s landlord notified Husbands that The Enemy and The Bird were to vacate the premises by June 1, 1978. When it finally closed The Bird had lasted only seven weeks. But those seven weeks were crucial to Seattle’s alternative music scene and resonates even to this day,
Leslie Meyer, a regular at The Bird who seemed to take on a few duties herself sums up The Bird experience in particular, and the punk rock scene in general with these memories;
“When The Bird opened, it was only natural that I would do my best to spend every weekend during its short tenure at the club. In 1978, I was 19 years old and was already adept at sneaking into bars but here was the place I could go to without being thrown out. Seattle’s punk rock scene was small but intense. At best, there were a few hundred kids and young adults but we were passionate.
Going to The Bird on a Friday or Saturday night meant getting dressed up in your finest which usually meant pair of pegged jeans, white dress shirt and a black suit coat, lots of makeup, spiky hair and equally spiky high heels. Then it meant getting on a bus from the conservative north end of Seattle and going downtown which in the 70s was blue color and gritty. The Bird was located on extremely steep hill between First and Second Avenue. Because of the elaborate makeup and spiky hair, it was not uncommon to be harassed on the bus by teenagers for whom punk rock (and its predecessor, glam rock) were anathema. If you did manage to get downtown without being harassed too much on the bus, then it was an easy walk (unless you were wearing 4 inch spike heels) down the hill to the club.
Scraping up the two or three dollar cover charge in those days was always a challenge so quite often I ended up sweeping up after a show in exchange for cover. Gregor Gayden and Sheli Story worked the door and Neil Hubbard was quite often the MC for the shows. Although there were no real rules about conduct, everyone kept an eye on everyone else to the best of their abilities and trying to keep the really young kids out of harm’s way.
“We were lucky to have two excellent photographers who captured so many wonderful images. Bob Kondrak went to nearly every show with his son and photographed bands and people in the crowd. His photos showed up in rock magazines around the country. He also made several audio recordings, including the infamous recording of the plainclothes police raid on the club’s closing night. I had recently found out I was pregnant so I ended up leaving moments before the raid.
“Randy Hall was also a photographer whose work captured more intimately members of bands, people in the crowd and even yours truly. I love the pictures Randy took of me with the late Eldon Hoke (El Duce of The Mentors) at the first Bird and with Gregor Gayden at the second location.
‘The bands we saw during those brief seven weeks downtown and subsequent shows at other locations (including a brief period on Capitol Hill) were in the avant-garde of the punk movement. The music was loud and strident and impassioned. It was filled with frustration over the ongoing political machinations of our government, social injustices and a certain “fuck everything let’s dance” attitude that quite often carried the day. 40 years later, it’s easy to see how the music helped create something new and electric in the world”.
Recently Damon Titus noted:
“It always surprises people when they find out, for all it’s impact, The Bird only lasted seven weeks. Probably about twenty bands in those seven weeks played; bands from San Francisco, Los Angeles and Vancouver BC. The lasting impact it made over such a short period IS impressive! We wanted to open up sort of a new market”
The Bird, in spite of its short life did exactly what it was meant to do; not only provide an all-ages retreat for fans of punk, but also to kickstart musicians and non-musicians alike to form even more bands and to become an important part of Seattle’s-and the rest of the world’s-clarion that a new ethic and a new music had arrived. This was the kind of “market” Damon seems to have been referring to.
According to Stephen Tow, the writer of The Strangest Tribe Rob Morgan told him;
“If The Enemy hadn’t talked their manager into steppin’ up and trying to milk this new scene, “God knows if anything would have happened on the level it did.
On April 14, 1978 The Dils were set to play The Bird.
“Nothing seemed unusual about the mood of the crowd. No one had predicted the outcome of that night A new band, The Dimes were playing-throwing dimes around. Then word came like a searing hot chunk of metal. The Seattle Fire Department were across the street They’re inspecting, Quick everybody, put your cigarettes out! Don’t take any chances. Don’t light that. Keep that one out,…not one person in the place lit up. The Marshalls made a quick inspection, pointed at something under the stage and left. Someone said They’re coming back back in fifteen minutes to close us down-and they did”
Only The Dimes had played. The Mentors were almost ready to go on when the announcement was made;
“Hey! You keep all those guys in here”.
It was the Fire Marshalls. They said we would have to stop the show NOW! Everyone would have to leave. The Marshall’s excuse for closing the club was vague. Their report for closing was simply “Too many code violations to list”. There was no doubt that the move by the city and the Fire Department was a political one; a punk rock club simply could not be tolerated in Seattle. And why was the Fire Department carrying billy clubs?
There were refunds at the door on the way out. $2 out of $3 were handed out. “The Dils had to get some gas money’ Neil Hubbard has said It was rumoured that the Seattle City Council had discussed The Bird a day earlier regarding the mass scale poster plastering of posters around the city. (Good job Sheli and Gregor!) The same day the Fire Department closed the club an envelope had arrived at The Bird addressed to the Telepaths. The University of Washington, informed them they were to pay $15 for removal of their posters from a campus building.
The club was now was closed by the Fire Department but at 11 PM that night a “private rehearsal party” took place “The Mentors finally took to the stage around midnight, although it took some convincing to get them on before the first keg of beer arrived. Says Neil. “Beer after beer was thrown, cocaine was blown, as the masked villains of “rape rock shat out lovable numbers like Secretary Hump, Nuthang, Macho Package”, and “Total Crap”. After about half an hour of that abusive sort of nonsense ended Steve Clark, another Bird regular, got onstage, with some help, and .unmasked The Mentors. The band ended their set abruptly”.
The unmasking was a bit of a joke, since almost everyone in the club already knew who The Mentors were. Many were friends of the band members. They had originally formed in Seattle.
According to Neil “The Dils got set up for their shotgun show, during which yet another keg of stuff to soak people with was brought in…I was too far gone to even rememberwhere I was. Heaven?”
The night was supposed to be over after that, but everyone wanted more. So there was jam featuring Eldon Hoke and Eric Carlson of The Mentors, Bill Rieflin & Donald of The Telepaths, Jimmie from The Avengers (he ran away from the group while they were on their way to Vancouver B.C.), various Dils, Greg Regan of The Feelings. Rob Morgan (later the genius behind The Pudz and The Squirrels took part along with Rick Smith (ex-Ratt and future leader of The Girls), Lee Lumsden and Neil.
People were still not ready to leave, so a group of the party-goers (including some members of The Enemy made their way to the roof. In 2011 Enemy drummer Peter Barnes told Stephen Tow
“The after-show party was lame until some people started throwing things off the roof.
“Somehow the cops were called and they showed up and they sent the vice squad after us. I mean these were heavy-duty cops”.
The incident escalated when the police began to shove badges in people’s faces, called them “faggots” and became physically abusive. A policeman grabbed The Enemy’s singer, Suzanne Grant, pulling one of her arms behind her back and ended up breaking it. It’s reported that Damon Titus tried to come to Suzanne’s defense, but had his face smashed on the ground in the process.
Luckily one of the people caught up in this mayhem had a tape recorder (remember; this was the day before cell phones) and the entire incident was recorded. The band used the recorded evidence in a suit they brought against the Police. The band won and received a monetary settlement. Portions of the same tape was also used for the intro of their next single, Trendy Violence.
With The Bird officially gone Roger Husbands and The Enemy looked for a space to re-open a regularly running club. However, their attempts were in vain. Even though they weren’t able to find a permanent space and create the magic of The Bird they booked several all-ages concerts around town, primarily at the venerable Oddfellows Hall mentioned at the beginning of this story, but also at Fourth & Wall, and at The Carpenters Hall. The concerts were dubbed The Bird In Exile and followed the same format the club had been so successful at. The magic of The Bird may have been gone, but it was clear there was no turning back. Punk had arrived in Seattle for good. It became frequently featured as dance music in gay clubs like Tugs Belltown, and later live and recorded punk and new wave became the raison d’etre for bars like WREX and The Gorilla Room (who had also been “opened up” by The Enemy. It wasn’t long before band that had previously featured cover band began to book edgier bands doing original. Still the underage crowd were left to organize their own shows around town. That too would eventually end when The Metropolis, an all-ages club near Pioneer Square began booking national touring acts like Bad Brains, Hüsker Dü, Black Flag, The Butthole Surfers, Flipper. The Replacements, The Meat Puppets and dozens more. Almost every show was supported by local bands that included TAD, Mudhoney, Green River, Soundgardem, Mr. Epp, Skinyard, The U-Men, Malfukshun and others who would be the precursors of “grunge”and find wild success later. But even here we see a direct line from the first punks in Seattle to take a stab at creating their own club..
Around the time The Bird closed, Neil Hubbard wrote;
“The Bird was a complete breakthrough for Seattle. It created sensation in a city that thought the next big thing was the late King Tut exhibit arriving in town. Never before, outside of the wretched taverns, had there been a regular place for local bands to play for the public–and make money doing it. Everyone had worked together to make it happen; Roger Husbands, for having the wits to open the place. Don Harper for having the guts to spend over 60 hours a week keeping the place in working order, Gregor and Sheli for working the door and taking any kind of shit from all kinds of assholes and myself, for just being one. The audience dedication had increased each weekend, with a strong core people that showed up each night It was those people who were at the parties held at The Bird both the night it was closed and the next might. They deserve all the credit. And our city.
Tomata du Plenty
Case B. Armour
If you remember anyone else you’d like to add, leave their name in the “comments” section below
-Dennis R. White. Sources: Jo David “Seattle Punk Club Opening Video” (March 3, 1978): George Gleason “Story of The Enemy” ; Peter Barnes “Interview with the author ( January 1, 2018); Damon Titus “Interview with the author (January 1, 2018) Sheli Storey (Letter of March 1, 2018 and various conversations 1979-2018); Leslie Meyers (Letter of March 1, 2018 and various conversations 1979-2018) George Arthur “Punk Rock Takes Flight At The Bird” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 21, 1978); Dave Birkland “Arrest of 15 at Punk-Rock Club Bring Complaints, Police Probe” (The Seattle Times, June 8, 1978); Unknown Author “Police Arrest 15 Downtown Party-Goers” (The Seattle Times, June 3, 1978); Jeff Stevens “March 4, 1978: The Bird Was The Word” (The Seattle Star, March 4, 2013); “The 40th Anniversary of The Bird – Seattle’s First Punk Rock Club @ The Back Bar, Crocodile Club” (Ticketfly, retrieved February 21, 2018); Derek Erdmen “Seattle Punk Club: The Bird” (The Stranger [Seattle] October 28, 2012); Stephen Tow “The Strangest Tribe: How a Group of Seattle Rock Bands Invented Grunge” (Sasquatch Books, 2011); Gordon Raphael “Upchuck in Seattle” Gordotronic.com retrieved January 26, 2018)
A very special thanks to Neil Hubbard for his guidance, “Why The Bird Died” and “The Bird Weekly Press Releases” as well as photos and posters of The Bird (February, 2018)