Culture Wars

The Gnome's sportin' a fresh title, and if you must ask why, well, here's the deal: though they're single-handedly trying to keep irony amusing, our friends at The Stranger failed to notice the wink on the face of this li'l local music column. Maybe they were too busy scrambling to come up with a column of their own. That's all right, 'cause the Gnome was getting kinda lonely out there in the clubs all by his porcelain self. Anyways, whattaya think of "Culture Wars"? It's wacky, but it captures Seattle's zeitgeist, don't ya think?

So . . . I had a pleasant mid-week outing last Wednesday, lurking at the opening of Capitol Hill's latest addition to the dance club scene, the Mercury, and its new jungle weekly, PrimeNumeric. The guest for the launch, one half of Source Direct, spun plenty of good, if crusty, records (oh, how the Gnome prefers shiny dub plates!). But the real joy of the evening came from being in a virgin space, surrounded by unfamiliar pretty faces. Oh, yeah, and the crafty folks behind the Mercury circumvented the usual Liquor Board rules that require any bar that serves hard liquor to offer a full menu. How? Seems that a not-for-profit club where liquor isn't the sole reason for its existence can charge a membership fee and squeeze through the regulatory loopholes. In this case, Mercury backers Machine Works' purported purpose is to provide a refuge for Goths. Pretty cool maneuvering, but if the Mercury wants full Gnome approval, take note: ax the strobe lights and fix the blue-paint-on-the-floor messiness—it ruined my clogs!

Another dance club means more pressure on the rock foundation of this here town, and the signs were mixed at Ye Olde Crocodile last week. Portland's Sunset Valley debuted another lineup, hinting at the obstacles to keeping rock bands together in a climate where fewer and fewer folks seem passionate about the cause. When the spacy ensemble graced the Croc stage last month, it was with a new drummer replacing departed Tony Lash. This time 'round, the quintet was whittled down to a quartet; seems the keyboardist jumped ship prior to the trip north. Fortunately, Seattle's newest band saved the day for rock 'n' roll. Two members of Death Cab for Cutie's lineup made the final move here from Bellingham early in the day, then joined their mates—including new drummer Jason Telzdorf—for a headlining set packed with youthful exuberance. The next morning, both bands were off to celebrate rock with Sonic Youth, Sleater-Kinney, and others at a July 4 fest in LA. Final thought: Summer's here and the time is right . . . for singin' in the rain! You betcha!*

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