You're Not the Only One Who Wants Earlier Shows

And the Sunset understands that.

When esteemed journalist Ann Powers first moved to Seattle from New York for her stint as a curator at EMP (she's since left for a post as pop culture critic for the L.A. Times), she asked me why weeknight rock shows started so late in Seattle. Being used to the standard 10-11-12 set time structure that most clubs followed, I had previously thought nothing of it. I was surprised when she told me that rock shows in most other major cities—including New York and Los Angeles—started earlier. Since Powers' observation, many other journalists, fans, and musicians have complained to me about the strange tendency of Seattle clubs to push headliner set times as late as midnight on weeknights. It would be easy to chalk this kvetching up to an aging demographic saddled by parenthood and careers, but even as someone who is blissfully free of both children and any obligation to rise before 10 a.m., I can still understand the desire for more reasonable start times. "I have been complaining about this for years," says photographer and freelance journalist Dagmar Patterson. "When I was younger, I still wanted earlier start times. I would see practically anything if it started at 8." She also makes a good point about the way this impacts touring bands. "It's not always fair to the musicians, who travel long distances to play sometimes nearly empty venues around 12:30 at night." "This is an issue long overdue," agrees Downpilot frontman Paul Hiraga. "If we can stop smoking in bars, then surely we can edge set times a bit earlier. The Tractor keeps things on the early side, and I think it benefits everyone there." Steven Severin, Neumo's owner/agent and co-booker for Chop Suey, says that tailoring set times to the crowd and genre is key. "It's gonna vary depending on the show, promoter, and the artist," he explains. "Indie rock is earlier, but electronica and hip-hop crowds come out later. Agents want it to be earlier, because they know people are only going to stick it out for so long." For evidence that there's a big draw for earlier rock shows, look no further than the enduring success of the Sunset's 4 O'Clock Rock series, which celebrates its three-year anniversary this Sunday with Neutralboy, Neon Knights, Artimus Maximus, and 9 LB Beaver. Originally founded under the moniker 4 O'Clock Punk Rock by the Funhouse's Brian Foss in 2002 (with help from local musician and impassioned early-show advocate Jimmy Flame), the matinee series had been dormant for more than a year before it was resurrected with great success by multitalented music industry veteran Jenny Bendel in 2005. Inspired by the matinee shows that CBGB's had in its heyday, Bendel's shows feature local and touring punk, metal, and hard-rock acts bashing it out from 4ish until 8ish, with Bendel both booking the shows and pouring red beers during them. "4 O'Clock Rock is kind of like my guilty pleasure—every week I get to be a 15-year-old again," enthuses Bendel, a Seattle native who did hard time in the early-'80s L.A. music scene, writing for RIP magazine and doing publicity for a huge cross section of big names, including Radiohead, New Bomb Turks, Ice T's Body Count, and Pantera, before returning to the Northwest in the late '90s. Bendel also views her afternoon "living-room shows"—which have featured the likes of Honky, the Golden Gods, Mos Generator, DragStrip Riot, and the Dwarves' Blag Dahlia—as an opportunity to fill an overall void in Seattle's swiftly changing scene. "It's fantastic that now Seattle is the kind of town where you can go see a great band on almost any given night," she says. "But with so many venues and so many options, I worry that there isn't the kind of support that made this town's vibrant music scene in the first place. I'd like to see a return to that sense of community, and I hope that 4 O'Clock Rock does a little something to help that."

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