Rocket Queen: Love Is Laughter

Two local benefit shows take aim at leukemia.

On October 13, 2001, 31-year-old Up! Records founder Chris Takino passed away after a brief and valiant battle with acute lymphocytic leukemia. He had been diagnosed with the aggressive disease just two days after his 30th birthday.

"I actually met Chris before either of us lived in Seattle," recalls Sub Pop general manager Megan Jasper, Takino's close friend and former colleague."He was a receptionist at [Long Beach, Calif.–based] SST Records and I was on tour with Dinosaur Jr. in the spring of '89. We became fast friends and moved to Seattle within a couple of months of each other."

During its heyday in the mid-'90s, Up! Records had a stable of impressive Northwest artists, including Built to Spill,Modest Mouse, KARP, Caustic Resin, and Quasi. Takino started the label with financial assistance from Sub Pop, where he was initially employed as a receptionist and eventually as a part-time A&R rep.

"He had a wicked sense of humor and an incredible understanding of music and art," continues Jasper. "His contribution to Seattle and to our global music community cannot be measured. I miss him dearly...he was one of the good ones."

Though the label no longer signs new artists, Up! Records continues to reissue its back catalog, and Sub Pop acts as its distributor. "Many of the titles are still thriving," says Jasper.

In addition to maintaining Takino's creative legacy, Jasper has an ongoing commitment to raising funds for cancer research in his honor. This Thursday, Feb. 11 at the Moore Theatre, a colorful cross-section of comedians and musicians will band together to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Jasper and co-host Todd Barry, who lost his mother to the disease, have dubbed the event "Defriending Cancer." Barry, a widely revered veteran of the stand-up community who gained broader recognition via his role as a bongo-playing misanthrope on HBO's Flight of the Conchords, handpicked the lineup of edgy, independent-minded comics at Jasper's request.

"It made sense to combine both music and comedy, partly because of Todd's ties in the comedy world and my ties in the music world," explains Jasper. "But the greater truth is that we're both just big fans of many comics and many musicians, and we thought that if we combined an interesting group of artists, we could present a very special evening that would benefit an important cause."

That group will include Shins frontman James Mercer and Modest Mouse leader Isaac Brock, as well as dark-humored comedian Tim Heidecker (best known for the Cartoon Network's Tim and Eric Awesome Show), the droll and deadpan Neil Hamburger, Chelsea Lately roundtable regular Natasha Leggero, and Barry's good friend (and Sub Pop signee/fellow Flight of the Conchords cast member) Eugene Mirman.

"One of [Takino's] gifts was strengthening a community of artists and music lovers in a truly genuine way," says Jasper."My hope is that this event will honor that gift, even if only for a couple of hours.Having a large group of people laughing together and listening to music together will be a perfect reflection of Chris's spirit."

Jasper's philanthropic passion is shared by local music fan and leukemia survivor Jenny George. On Saturday, Feb. 13, George's fifth annual "Dancing on the Valentine" event will go down at the Crocodile with help from local musicians, including Lesli Wood, Hotels, Peter Parker, and Half Acre Day. George was diagnosed with leukemia at age 12, and despite being told she had 30 days to live, managed to beat the disease. She remains cancer-free today at age 33.

While past performances have focused on the Duran Duran back catalog that is the event's namesake, this year's show will consist entirely of David Bowie covers. "I've wanted to do a Bowie night forever," George says. "This year just seemed like the right time."

In addition, George has curated a visual-art show and auction that will hang through the month of February at Hazlewood in Ballard, with all proceeds from both going to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

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