Rocket Queen: Bloody While Right

Mad Rad’s troublemaker rep only seems to increase its following, and the Croc isn’t the only Belltown club that’s soon to reopen.

Procuring notoriety as bratty troublemakers is a time-honored tradition for musicians, and one that is arguably more clichéd than convincing when it comes to measuring youthful promise. In regard to local hipster-hop outfit Mad Rad, the case truly could be argued either way at this point. After a late-night scuffle with security last month outside Neumo's, some of the band's members not only earned themselves court dates for assault but a collective performance ban from a broad network of high-profile venues, including Neumo's, the Showbox, and Chop Suey. "This experience has made us grow closer and stronger as a band," says Mad Rad rapper Terry Radjaw, reached shortly after the band's initial Feb. 2 court date (the judge issued a continuance and a trial is still pending; their next scheduled hearing is Feb. 23). "It is helping us start to realize who in this city supports us and who cares about what we are doing as artists. We admit mistakes were made, and are sorry for our actions. We have given private apologies to the security and [Neumo's owner] Steven Severin, and the rumor mill has blown it way out of proportion. We love Seattle; it is our home. Our goal has never been to play the biggest venues in this city, but the biggest venues in the world." Indeed, Mad Rad's following only appears to be growing. Their first show at Lo Fi after the Neumo's incident was packed to the rafters, precisely what happened this past weekend when they played Josephine, a semi-secret new venue in Ballard. Ill-tempered cretins they may be, but when a new band's following grows at such an exponential rate, it's clear their 15 minutes aren't soon to expire. Mad Rad next plays Nectar on Feb. 9. Much historical significance is given to Andy Warhol's declaration about the universal inevitability of that quarter-hour of fame. I've often thought that the premise of his short film series, Screen Tests, said much more interesting things about the true potential for an artist's appeal and endurance than the speculative notion that anyone can be famous. Warhol's theory was that turning a stationary camera's gaze on someone for several minutes would eventually draw out and (sometimes harshly) illuminate his or her true creative personality. In this context, we see Bob Dylan fight vainly to retain his iconic aloofness, while budding avant-garde filmmaker Barbara Rubin seems both tortured and charmed as the subject of her chosen medium. And premiere "Superstar" Ultra Violet reveals a dastardly glower that unexpectedly melts away to heartbreaking sadness. If he were still with us, Warhol probably would be instantly compelled to turn his camera on Violet Strychnine, the transfixing transgender drummer for up-and-coming local punk outfit Mobile Slaughter Unit. Watching them rattle the ceiling tiles at the Funhouse this past weekend was a refreshing reminder that aggressive, angular punk can still have killer curves, both literally and metaphorically. Cobbled from key remnants of underappreciated acts Snitches Get Stitches and Fort Hell, and citing bizarrely contrasting influences like the entrancing lilt of Edith Piaf and the crushing grind of Jesus Lizard, Violet and guitarist Roddy Chops deliver an unrefined but engrossing blend of hardcore brutality and downright pretty punk prowess. "We both ended up auditioning for a band neither of us liked," recalls Chops of their initial meeting. "I was giving Violet a ride home afterwards, and we basically said to each other, 'Those guys kind of sucked, but maybe we should play together?'" The resulting platonic union is as much a creative marriage as it is a fruitful game of truth or dare. "If I wrote a song without Violet's input, it would probably be totally wimpy," Chops adds. "And if Violet wrote the song [without me], it would be super-fast and hard. We have a really good collaborative thing going on. We try and challenge each other. If someone says a time change is too crazy, that's when we do it." Mobile Slaughter Unit is currently working on songs for its debut, which it hopes to finish recording this spring. Finally, the Crocodile's isn't the only club resurrection on the docket in Belltown for 2009. Veteran venue proprietor Steve Freeborn and his wife Tia (OK Hotel, the Rendezvous) are partnering with original McLeod Residence founder Buster McLeod to reopen the Second Avenue building that once housed the freethinking gallery and performance space, which in its two-year existence garnered a loyal following for hosting progressive visual-art exhibits and musical events. Freeborn has no interest in messing with the original McLeod vision. "[Buster is] still totally involved. I wouldn't do it without [him]," says Freeborn. Pending construction negotiations with the landlord, Freeborn hopes to reopen McLeod by May.

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