(From L-R): Business partners Dana Sims, Bobby Kuckelburg and Brian Foss celebrate their new Funhouse/El Corazon power coupling.
When I sit down with booker and KEXP DJ Brian Foss at the Victory Lounge to chat about some exciting news, he’s sporting an enormous beard.
“About a year and a half ago, I made a drunken pledge to my friends and my wife that I was going to grow this beard out until I found a new place for The Funhouse,” Foss says. “I pledged that on reopening night, I’d shave it off onstage. I’m happy to say that there will soon be a beard shaving party at The Funhouse.”
Thanks to a new three way partnership between Foss, his longtime Funhouse business partner Bobby Kuckelburg (also owner of Victory Lounge), and ten-year El Corazon owner Dana Sims, The Funhouse will be reopening April 1st in El Corazon’s side lounge room, which will also begin opening early every day as a bar for happy hour. Foss will book both all-ages and 21+ shows in the new Funhouse, continuing on its legacy as a refuge for fringe musical freaks.
“We’d been using the smaller room for shows more and more, and it seemed like all the shows that would’ve been at the Funhouse were coming to our lounge anyway,” Sims says. “I asked for a meeting with these guys [Foss and Kuckelburg] about a year and a half ago, and I said ‘hey, we can turn The Funhouse into the lounge and bring it back and work together and we can also do bigger shows at Corazon.’ And Bobby said ‘Hey that’s a great idea! But, uh… we just signed papers on a place where we are putting the new Funhouse!’ Literally, as we were talking, someone was delivering papers to him to sign, not even kidding. So I wished them luck and I went on my way again.”
As fate would have it, those papers ended up becoming null and void. Kuckelburg and Foss were a hair away from closing the deal on Bogart’s on Airport Way, the bar Foss had been booking post-Funhouse shows at for a spell, when suddenly the rug got pulled out from underneath them. “We basically had to reset because another buyer swooped in and the owner had to sell immediately, so we lost the deal,” Foss says.
One day, Sims read an article in Seattle Weekly on Seattle’s changing music scene, and noticed a quote from Foss that got the gears going again. “I saw Brian saying something like ‘oh I’ve been booking shows around town but I really wish The Funhouse was around again,’ and I suddenly went, ‘oh wait! I guess the deal didn’t happen!’” Sims immediately called the duo and they’ve been meeting regularly ever since to concoct their plan, which the trio promises will offer a much needed break for Seattle’s development-weary music scene.
As the trio are very clear to point out, not only will The Funhouse ride again in El Corazon, Foss and Kuckelburg will be joining Sims in co-management and ownership of the entire El Corazon building as well—they’ll effectively be their own landlords. That latter point was key in Foss and Kuckelburg’s decision to rebirth The Funhouse in El Corazon, having had front row seats to one of the city’s sorest, most emblematic cases of gentrification.
As told in the 2014 documentary Razing the Bar (trailer above), The Funhouse developed a storied legacy as a weirdo downtown punk refuge for freaky touring and local bands that stretched back to 2003. In 2012, the bar was suddenly forced to close by developers to build none other than that blightiest of blights on urban-kind: condos.
“We had to close a very successful club, and we poured a lot of blood sweat and tears into it,” Foss says. “To have it ground into dust in front of me was… nothing you want to live through again. It’s very nice to know this new arrangement will promise some longevity for us to do this thing we love.”
“Every day I drive into work in this neighborhood and there’s more and more cranes, more than you can count on your hand,” Sims adds, “it’s just like, it’s nice to know the boogeyman isn’t coming for this building.”
No, the new Funhouse won’t be exactly the same. There will be no basketball hoops. But the emphasis on booking outsiders, oddballs, and providing a space for developing local bands will remain the core philosophy behind it. “You can’t replicate a thing like [The Funhouse],” Kuckelburg says, “but we aren’t trying to do the same thing again, this is a new thing.”
“One of the new things that’s exciting,” Foss explains, “is that bands I’ve worked with in the past that got too big for The Funhouse, like Black Lips or Thee Oh Sees, bands that have since gone on to play much bigger local rooms, I can book them now in El Corazon’s main room while still taking gambles on shows at The Funhouse in the smaller room.”
The April 1st date, which the owners assure isn't a joke, will mark the official metamorphosis from the El Corazon lounge into The Funhouse. But the physical/spiritual transition won’t be immediate.
“It will be a gradual evolution from the lounge into what will become Funhouse land,” Sims says, “just keep an eye out.” While the date for the first official Funhouse reopening show/Brian Foss beard shaving party is still undetermined as of yet, one thing is for sure—The Funhouse’s infamous Spike the Clown mascot will show his top-hatted, toothy skeleton face once again.
“He’s been living in my yard this whole time,” Kuckelburg says, “ask my neighbors if they’ll miss him. I’ll give you a hint: they aren’t going to miss him.”
“We don’t know exactly where we’re putting him yet,” Foss adds. “I definitely want to scare people on the freeway though.”
Bands interested in playing the new Funhouse can contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.