Bubble Boys

A World's Fair attraction becomes an unlikely recording studio.

To anyone passing by, it was a surreal scene: a hard-rock band performing inside a 20-foot-tall acrylic-glass sphere in the front yard of a Des Moines residence. It was a sunny September afternoon when Trip Like Animals, a 6-year-old Seattle four-piece, recorded their latest EP inside Gene Achziger's one-of-a-kind greenhouse. "The neighbors came out to look," said guitarist/singer Mike Molner. "I don't even know if they're sure about what that thing is in general, and now there's some rock band in there."

"That thing" is the Bubbleator, Seattle's once-famous bubble-shaped elevator. Built for the 1962 World's Fair, for nearly two decades it transported riders between floors at the Washington State Coliseum (now KeyArena) and, later, the Center House. It was a piece of local history that Achziger, a former Seattle P-I employee, had long been fascinated with. When the Bubbleator went into storage in the late 1970s to make room for the soon-to-be-constructed Children's Museum, he set out to track it down, eventually purchasing the aging relic for $1,000—a fraction of its original $63,000 price tag, but a small amount to pay for what Achziger hoped would become the centerpiece of his new home.

Scott Schaefer loved the Bubbleator too—riding it as a kid when his father would take him to Jones' Fantastic Museum, a collection of oddities in the Center House basement. "The only way to get there," he said, "was to take the Bubbleator." Schaefer, formerly a Emmy-winning writer for Bill Nye the Science Guy, now publishes half a dozen hyper-local blogs focusing on South King County, including Des Moines' The Waterland Blog, where he met Achziger. And when Achziger asked him to help facilitate a recording session in the Bubbleator as part of the 50th anniversary of the World's Fair, Schaefer jumped at the opportunity.

Schaefer had just launched SKiR (SoKing Internet Radio), a station that highlights area bands. To break in the makeshift studio, he invited one of his favorite local acts, Trip Like Animals, led by Molner and his brother Joseph. Schaefer hopes the record, The Bubbleator Sessions, which will have a release party on Friday, will be the first in a series recorded inside the converted elevator—though a neighbor angry about the noise has temporarily put plans on hold.

"We want to release this one and see what the reaction is," Schaefer said. "If Eddie Vedder calls and says, 'Hey, I want to record in the Bubbleator,' I think [my neighbor] will change his mind."


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