Sea Change

Why the Bremerton ferry should keep on rockin', even at night.

Editor's Note: Gov. Chris Gregoire's budget proposal, announced last week, would eliminate all ferry runs from Seattle to Bremerton after 9:05 p.m. Here, Ben Gibbard, frontman of the platinum-selling rock band Death Cab for Cutie and a graduate of Bremerton's Olympic High School, explains why those cuts would have an adverse effect on both the lives of young rock fans on the Kitsap Peninsula and the Seattle music community. As a kid, Seattle was my lifeline to culture in a time before the Internet and before you could feel connected to music and culture just through your computer screen. I lived for those days when we would get up early on a Saturday morning with the intention of going to a show that night. We'd get up and catch a 9 a.m. ferry, and literally be waiting outside the record stores for them to open up so we could make our way through zines and 7-inches and records and stuff that just wasn't available to us over in Bremerton. While music is a lot more readily accessible over the Internet now, live shows are still really important as well. Nobody played in Bremerton when I was a kid. I had to go to Seattle to see bands. I've told Mac McCaughan from Superchunk this a number of times, probably, but I have this painful memory of hearing them playing "Package Thief" and running out of the OK Hotel to barely catch the 11 p.m. ferry back to Bremerton. The governor's proposal to eliminate late-night ferry runs to Bremerton would have a huge impact on kids growing up where I did who need that access to Seattle's all-ages shows—to have a physical connection to the community they want to be a part of. It's one thing to kind of talk to people over a computer. It's another thing to be in a sweaty room full of kids your age experiencing live music together. If these changes are made, that's going to be more difficult for kids who can't get to Bainbridge Island to catch the Bainbridge Island ferry or don't have cars and can't drive around [across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge]. That's a huge bummer. Some people say "Oh, can't we just drive around?" Yes, you could drive around. But it's going to involve an hour to an hour and a half of driving each way. If it's 11 p.m. and you're 17 years old, there's a short list of parents who are going to let kids drive an hour and a half each way to see a rock show. And certainly a shorter list accepting of the fact that the kid is going to be exhausted trying to drive themselves home, or a group of their friends home, leaving Seattle at 11 and getting back to the west side at 12:30 at the very earliest. If I was a parent, I certainly wouldn't let my kids drive around at that hour of night, given who's on the road. They're not experienced drivers. I sound like my parents now. I don't blame my parents for not letting me drive around. I wouldn't do it either. And I wouldn't admit that to myself then. But I certainly understand it now. There's this moment when you're going from Bremerton to Seattle: The ferry kind of takes a left turn, and there's Seattle. And it's this beautiful view of the city. It still really affects me even now. I remember being a kid and once the boat would turn that corner, I would think "That's where I want to be. That's my city. I want to be in a place like that." Seattle was just this beacon of culture. And they had all the things that we didn't have in Bremerton. You had to physically go over there to get any of the things you wanted, or to experience any of the things you wanted to experience. I would just be so happy when I'd see the boat turn that corner and I'd know we were going to be there in a half hour. I'm sure kids still feel that way on the west side. In the grand scheme of things, kids will find ways to get over to shows, even if these proposals are enacted. There's no doubt about that. But it's just unfortunate that it will be so much more difficult. It's already difficult enough. I would imagine most kids who are going to shows already know that they have very limited options as to what time they have to leave to get back to Bremerton, if their parents are any way like my parents were. You can't even catch the opening band if you have to be on a 9 p.m. ferry back.

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