THERE'S SOMETHING about simply driving past the city-limit sign that's reinvigorating—an excitement that builds as urban density fades and clumps of brightly lit signs spring up on the side of the interstate between stretches of cow-speckled pasture and evergreen-covered hillsides. And while we live in a state that allows us to hop on any major thoroughfare and be taken to another gorgeous locale, many times the rural destination comes at the cost of everyday creature comforts—like table service, frosty microbrews, and, of course, rock shows. Let us give you the best of both worlds: a selection of road trips to out-of-town venues that won't leave you stuck singing "Kumbaya" around a campfire....
BELLINGHAM: NIGHTLIGHT LOUNGE
Warning: You may experience culture shock. Instead of a big, sticky-floored, graffiti-scrawled box, the Nightlight is more reminiscent of government-funded rock clubs in the Netherlands—cozy, comfortable, and clean, but not in a creepy, soulless way. Pool tables, couches, and armchairs abound, along with framed posters of artists who've taken the stage (Jesse Sykes hangs next to Blue Scholars), giving it a homey feel. It's a place to see Showbox-caliber artists like Dinosaur Jr., and smaller up-and-comers like the Heavenly States, in a more intimate-sized venue. Seeing a show here is reason enough to make the hour and 40-minute drive up, but there are a few more nuggets that send this dog-days destination over the top. (1) You can hop on Chuckanut Drive—also known as one of the most incredibly beautiful stretches of coastal road in the country—to get in or out of town. (2) There's quality food and drink nearby (Boundary Bay's heaping plate of fish tacos and eight schooner microbrew samplers and La Fiama's wood-fired pizza are just a stone's throw from the club). (3) With their outdoor-oriented, clean-living lifestyles, the locals are a little less harsh to look at in the early light, which makes morning-after brunch a bit easier on the eyes. 211 E. Chestnut St., Bellingham, 360-527-1531, www.nightlightlounge.com. AJA PECKNOLD
ROSLYN: THE BRICK TAVERN
Every now and then, we get a little tired of the local scene-ry. You know, that 40-year-old record geek in the tortoise-shell glasses and the Capitol Hillbillies in their beards and Western snap-button shirts? The same damn bartenders, door guys, and sound engineers. It's enough to make a person jaded.Thankfully, there are some great towns outside of Seattle that offer some new faces, natural beauty, and great music. Roslyn is one of them. It's a favored spot for Northern Exposure enthusiasts and folks on their way back from the Wenatchee National Forest looking for a taste of what this Northwest was like pre-software. Like any decent former logging town, it's home to a handful of watering holes, including the Brick (aka the oldest tavern in Washington state). While the Brick is a 108-year-old landmark, its owners still know how to throw a party inside its hallowed walls. Just head straight back to the bar and down a set of steps, and you'll find a stage and wide-open dance floor recalling the glory days of honky-tonk. Recently, the Brick has played host to two of our local bands—Flowmotion and the Souvenirs—and has a list of veterans that includes Mark Pickerel and Steve Turner of Mudhoney. The Brick keeps a steady stream of Roslyn Beer and Brookside Lager flowing from its taps, which keeps patrons happy. But what's in it for the bands that make the trek over the Pass? The Brick offers a room upstairs for an overnight stay. 1 Pennsylvania St., Roslyn, 509-649-2643. BRIAN J. BARR
PORTLAND: DOUG FIR LOUNGE
Summer beckons for a getaway. But what to do if you don't have enough money to get to San Francisco? Be like Isaac Brock and Britt Daniels, and head for a nearby town of budget-friendly hipster-dom. Portland boasts a seriously lax strip-club policy, Powell's (the world's largest independent book store), and probably a few of your recently relocated friends. It's also got oodles of great live venues, including one with the booking power of Neumo's and the intimacy of an itsy-bitsy Chop Suey. Doug Fir is key to understanding why Portlanders are so damn soft. In addition to the caliber of touring bands who play DF (your Peter Bjorn and Johns, your TV on the Radios), checking it out is also a perfect way to know which Portland-based bands are worth their salt. Booking agent Alicia Rose even programs the interlude music to fit each night's show, and the all-enveloping masterpiece of a sound system is simply peerless in Stumptown. (She's also a stickler for punctuality, meaning that newbies not in the know often miss the opening act.) For ambience, expect a modern twist on a log cabin that's been called The Flintstones–meets–The Jetsons more than once. Above the downstairs venue is a restaurant—ahi piccata, anyone?—whose late-night menu boasts some of the world's best salmon chowder. Attached is the forever swingin' Jupiter Hotel, whose rates go down as the night progresses. But the hipster factor? Always sky-high. 830 E. Burnside. St., Portland, 503-231-9663. www.dougfirlounge.com. KARLA STARR