Yes, the Gnome's had some unpleasant words for our turtlelike mayor and his reactionary police squadron in the past, but this ARO.space debacle presents a quandary. The club was shut down last Friday due to fire code violations, though owner Robert Davis is telling any media outlet who asks that the city's hassling him because of the club's weekend hip-hop night; he lashed out in the Times on Saturday, then popped up on Fox's Sunday night news to whine about lost revenues and discrimination. So who's the bad guy here? Since founders Jared Harler and Alex Calderwood sold ARO.space late last year, the place has been shadier than a dark alley. The club's calendar no longer gets sent to publications such as the Weekly, with promotions instead operating by word of mouth and flyers. Visits to ARO.space have found the once-elegant venue stripped of its design aesthetic and replaced with a rough-hewn atmosphere with overpriced drinks. Davis had kept a low profile until recently, when gunshots near the club came under scrutiny in the wake of the shootings in Pioneer Square. Now Davis appears to be leaning on the hip-hop community, which has worked hard to convince the narrow-minded politicians that it doesn't encourage violence. He also plays into city officials' stereotype of the untrustworthy club owner, something that JAMPAC and folks like Rick Wyatt (of the Fenix and, more recently, the Showbox) have tried to educate the polyester set about. The Gnome advises Davis to get his club up to code, stop trying to incite where others have tried to unite, and then zip it!
On to happier subjects, like musicians helping musicians. Ballard was one of THE places to be on Friday night, as the Tractor lineup featured Velour 100, Joel Phelps, and Pedro the Lion, while the nearby Sunset offered Shuggie and 44 Long. The pedigrees of all these acts became quite blurry by night's end, however, and it wasn't only because the Gnome was hittin' the sauce. The dream-pop ensemble from Michigan Velour 100 now includes members from Seattle and on this night had Pedro's David Bazan doing double-duty on bass. Later, Pedro would enlist Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard to pluck out the rhythms. Meanwhile at the Sunset, Shuggie blasted through their '70s rock like the pros they are—we're talkin' Andrew McKeag, Mike Musburger (a new dad, to twin boys no less), and Phil Hurley. New slogan for Shuggie: If you smoke pot and you haven't seen this band, you shouldn't be allowed to smoke pot! The boys also backed Portland's Brian Berg of 44 Long in a rip-roaring nightcap.
The Gnome's runnin' out of room, so Saturday's rundown will be abbreviated. Chris Whitley and 16 Horsepower at the Showbox? Boring blues and weird-ass country revue. Ma'Chell Duma's birthday bash at Sit & Spin featuring upstart band the Turn Ons? Glamorific! You betcha!
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