Local director Ryan Worsley’s worthwhile documentary chronicles the people, culture, and eventual demise of the legendary punk venue the Funhouse, which operated near Seattle Center from 2003–12. When she heard it was shutting down, Worsley—a Funhouse patron—began gathering interviews with Funhouse staff, bartenders, clubgoers, and bands. Incorporating old photos and concert footage, plus a rocking soundtrack (including local music from The Pharmacy and The Lights), Razing the Bar is a poignant commentary on the power of music and the resilience of community.
We hear about various bands—including one whose guitar player “peed in a cup, put it in his mouth, and then spit it on the audience”— and learn about the rise of Joetta Velasquez, a former homeless runaway who booked talent for Funhouse co-owner Brian Foss; today she’s a senior producer at Austin City Limits.
Foss, host of Sonic Reducer Saturdays on KEXP and longtime Seattle talent booker, figures prominently in the film. His candid observations about the venue reflect how his golden-rule business ethic kept The Funhouse—a crusty old dive of a venue—together for nine years.
The doc relates the bar’s history as a gritty arts incubator, exploring not only the tightknit community that revolved around the club, but also gentrification, always a charged topic in booming Seattle. Many local musicians share their memories, from Kurt Bloch (Fastbacks, Young Fresh Fellows) to indie rockers Rachel Ratner (Wimps) and Anthony Fantozzi (Poop Attack, Rats in the Grass). Razing the Bar’s energy—and that of the many fans, punks, and musicians who frequented The Funhouse—gives it a certain kinship to the 1996 grunge doc Hype!, which Worsley cites as a strong influence.
Runs Fri., July 11–Thurs., July 17 at Grand Illusion. Not rated. 80 minutes.