Friday, September 30, 2011

Seattle's Comet Tavern: Music and Shenanigans Abound

This iconic sign beckons drinkers and rockers to venture inside. (All Cat Rose photos)
By Andy

Seattle's Comet Tavern is the punk-rock version of "Cheers."

A friendly, rockin' spot on Pike Street on Capitol Hill, it oozes alcohol, banter and plenty of fond memories for those who either belly up to the bar, work the door or crank out their tunes to the sloshed crowd.

"This is my living room... it's a lot of people's living rooms," said Lynn (last name withheld), who's been frequenting the Comet since 1988 or so. "This bar is always open to whoever wants to come in. There's no dress code, no income level required. Old, young -- rich, poor."

Doorman Shane Browning first visited the place 13 years ago when he accompanied his friend during his move to Seattle from Houston, Texas. First thing on the agenda? Grab a beer at the Comet, of course.
"Drove in -- first place we came to and been coming here ever since... I fuckin' loved it immediately," said Browning, who used to play in a pop-punk band called Blueprint and moved to Seattle soon after. "It feels like home. I grew up in bars when I was young, and also playing old punk-rock music and stuff like that, and automatically, I just fell in love with the bar."

Stag guitarist Ben London
On a recent Saturday evening, Daniel G. Harmann and the Trouble Starts, Stag, Western Haunts and In Cahoots were on tap music-wise, but while the beer was flowing out of the tap and into Jeb Steel's pitcher, he was talking Black Sabbath.

Turns out that back in the '60s and '70s, his mom cut quite a rug to the sounds of Ozzy and the boys at the Comet.

"I was listening to a Black Sabbath tape, and she was like, 'Oh when that first came out, we'd go and listen to that and dance.' Literally dance around... like pre-slam dancing. It seems weird," he said with a laugh.
"I've always come here since I started drinking... It's the most old-school place I could think of. This is one place that has survived all the eras, since before I was alive," Steel added.

The Comet's actually been standing for quite some time, according to Lynn, the tavern's resident historian. During her studies, she found out that workers started putting the building together in 1910 and finished a year later. The place has been known as the Comet since either 1938 or 1948, but she can't put a finger on it -- perhaps the history documents are a bit soiled in booze and thus forgetfulness on the forefathers' behalf.

For awhile, the Comet's next-door neighbor sold boat and auto parts before the tavern acquired the entire building and sent those businessmen sailing. In the '70s, the place attracted hippies, was decked out in lava lamps and the windows were covered in black to protect the public from the wild goings-on inside, Lynn said with a wink, hinting at alleged wacky-weed usage.

One mainstay at the Comet are the dollar bills tacked to the ceiling with messages scrawled on them.
"A lot of travelers, they want to leave their mark," Lynn said, adding that it also gets personal and sentimental with the $1's. "There's lots of joy: birthdays, wedding anniversaries, babies being born....

"But a lot of them are for friends and family who have passed away. It's like they're looking over you every time you walk in the bar."

Christina Cramer of power-pop unit In Cahoots.
It was only in the last decade or so that live bands began gracing the Comet's corner floor, and now stage. However, Lynn says the tavern has always attracted a rock-n-roll crowd, like Jason Finn (Presidents of the United States of America), Kim Thayil (Soundgarden) and a host of others; Mia Zapata (RIP) of The Gits was also a frequent visitor.

Cat and myself first came to the Comet on vacation in the mid-'90s, and it was our kind of place. So, since we moved up here, we've spent countless hours playing pool, pinball and drinkin' within these walls. Some of the bands we've rocked out to: Magic Christian, Boss Martians, cousin Eric's Clay Wheels, Black Breath, Adam Franklin and the Bolts of Melody and even a raucous book reading by pal Eugene Robinson. (After most gigs, we treat ourselves to a delicious snack from the sausage guy outside -- you can't help it after you smell the aroma wafting through the joint.)

A dude checks out Harmann and crew from above.
Browning, who has worked the door for four years, said he's witnessed raging gigs by Vultures 2012, Black Breath and countless others. (On this night, Black Breath's bassist Elijah Nelson gave the Addams Family pinball game a whirl.)

"Are the bands gonna be good? You don't know, but there's always a good time here, and it's not just because I work here," Browning said. "There's never a dull moment, I'll say that. It's always like a full moon here, you never know what you're gonna get, man."

Up on stage, Stag singer Steve Mack lets out a "Yeah" in between songs and then goes into his own spiel about the Comet: "We love the Comet for its history. I remember putting a lot of dollars up there."

And then, the topper: "If you haven't thrown up yet at the Comet, you haven't lived. So get fuckin' busy."
Stitches be damned! Mack rocks despite mic-stand incident earlier in the week.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Another vintage Black Flag flier ... thanks Seattle

By Andy

My first Black Flag flier -- minus the iconic bars -- was by way of Seattle.

Back in the 1970s-through '80, my family packed up our brown-and-white Dodge van (and later, our striking lime-green VW van) during the summer and hit the road from Redondo Beach, Calif., to Port Gamble, Wash., to visit my dad's parents in this small logging town on the Kitsap Peninsula. It's where he grew up with Vern and Catherine and my aunt Carol, whose family we always visited in San Jose and Morgan Hill (Calif.) along the way to the Pacific Northwest.

We often made our way into the big city -- Seattle -- to see the sights, visit friends and attend Seattle Sounders and Seattle Mariners soccer and baseball contests.

One day in August 1980, my brother Ed and I spotted a Black Flag flier on a telephone pole near the Seattle waterfront. We also scored a few bucks while waiting for my parents to finish shopping when a couple asked us to watch their luggage while they milled about. Apparently, we looked trustworthy: me with long, surfer-meets-Joey Ramone hair and my brother with a shaggy hairdo and probably sporting an OP T-shirt.

We took the dough when the couple returned to retrieve their bags and then ripped the Black Flag flier off the pole (we had spotted Flag fliers glued to walls and poles near our home, but had never procured one). We then discussed how cool the gig would be a week or so later with Soldier (should have been spelled Solger), Shock Treatment and the Sex Pistols film. We didn't attend, but when we returned home to Redondo, we saw more of those classic fliers, grabbed the "Nervous Breakdown" and "Jealous Again" records and were soon regularly attending gigs by Flag, Circle Jerks, TSOL and many more.

Other Seattle punk trinkets that soon found their way into my collection were a Rejectors EP and an Accused demo tape, both sent to me by the bands. Included here is a letter from guitarist Tom Niemeyer and the Rejectors EP cover.

After moving to Seattle 14 years ago, Cat and I have attended many gigs at the Showbox, including X twice, the Knitters, Seaweed and more. The Damned are coming to the venue next month and we'll be there.

As for the green VW van, it caught on fire while my mom was driving it one day. This Black Flag flier, however, has stood the test of time.

*** (Here's a link to James Sinks' Web site -- Dementlieu Punk Archive -- featuring Solger and Black Flag's Seattle appearance:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sing Loud, Sing Proud: Sounders FC, Arsenal FC, (old) San Jose Clash

The sign says it all: Sounders FC's Emerald City Supporters. (Courtesy photo)
By Cat and Andy

"You dirty northern bastards!"

That was one of the memorable chants we heard on May 20, 1993 at Wembley Stadium in London during an Arsenal vs. Sheffield Wednesday FA Cup Final replay. And what a great chant it was: the Arsenal crowd, with fists raised, were yelling this at the Wednesday lot. Men, women, even one grandma and her grandchild participated. Just perfect.

Although we had been soccer fans forever, we became Arsenal FC supporters that evening during the Gunners' 2-1 overtime victory.

Ticket stub from 1993 FA Cup Final replay at Wembley: Arsenal won!

Our hearts are still with Arsenal (even though it's been a tough go in recent times). But when the MLS first started, we were in San Jose, CA, and The Clash was our team. How fitting that our team was named after an iconic punk band.

Back then, we had nothing on the singing and chanting that takes place in England, but there was a small section that we sat near that deemed themselves (suitably) "The Casbah," who did what they could to rally the crowd. Andy and I would also yell and cuss -- including one time I screamed at Eric Wynalda (who was on our team) "Come on and shoot you pretty boy!" As the crowds only averaged about 8,000 -10,000 or so back then, and we sat near the field, I'm pretty sure he heard me (and he did shoot right after that finally and scored). We remember some of the songs and chants of The Casbah included "It's A Small Field After All..." "We Are The Casbah" and "You're Not Keller!" (which we would shout at Tony Meola when he was on the field with the NY/NJ Metrostars at the time. We yelled that because Kasey Keller and Meola were both goalies of the US Soccer Team at the time and Keller was way better, of course!).

When we moved to Seattle in '97, we were going to miss our season tickets. Not long after that, The Clash moved to Houston and a new San Jose Earthquakes team started later. We were then twice removed. After all that, we had pretty much lost track of our team -- and we had a hole where our MLS team used to be...
Then, when they blew up the Kingdome and we heard promises of an MLS team here, we could not wait. And the Seattle Sounders FC did not disappoint -- especially when we found out Keller would be our goalie! The first Sounders match and preceding parade blew away all our expectations. This was as close to the action at Wembley that we had experienced in the US and it seems to get stronger every year -- we average a league-leading 36,000-plus fans each home match. We were finally at home to be able to scream and cuss and sing and chant at the top of our lungs with no one looking at us sideways (as they did in San Jose back then, as that small crowd just did not get it as we do here). We had no choice but to become Sounders fans through and through. (Actually, Andy was a Sounders fan back in the old NASL days, and at the end of this story is a ticket stub from our collection.)

Singing for the Sounders. (Courtesy photo)

And, in the spirit of this blog, we've got some punk-rock singing action going on at Sounders games that make things just right. Kudos to the throng of Emerald City Supporters for bringing bits of Cock Sparrer's "Take 'em All" and Sick of it All's "Us vs. Them" to life and getting thousands of fans rocking out to these tunes that many of them have probably never heard before.

The chorus to Condemned 84's "We're Gonna Win (Euro '96)" or a few Business soccer songs -- just change Maradona's name to MLS foes, for instance -- would do the trick, too. (Although opposing fans could have a field day with "Southgate (Euro '96)" and switch the "Dance now, whatever you will be, but he missed the fuckin' penalty" part on us because of our club's recent PK woes.)

Along with the above and a host of inspirational songs like "The Blue and the Green" and "Sounders 'til I Die," we can now yell "You dirty northern bastards" ourselves (especially at Vancouver), "you suck asshole" (at the visiting goalie) and "let him die!" (when the opposing team's player gets hurt) without trepidation.

Thank you Seattle for allowing us to proudly let our freak soccer flag fly!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

If the punk T-shirt still fits, proudly sport it!

By Andy

Ah, band T-shirts. Everyone's always got some interesting stories to tell about where and when they got them, how they ripped a sleeve while stage diving, met their significant other who happened to like the same band and gave them a wink, or the mysterious stain that either came from a food dropping or the remnants of a night of too much drinking -- stuff like that.

Here's a few of my T-shirt tales:

SSD (or Society System Decontrol)-- Guitarist Mr. Al "Lethal" Barile sold me this shirt at an Olympic Auditorium gig in Los Angeles in 1984, and it's probably the one that I've worn the most over the years. It's a bit tattered -- much like SSD's grinding, manic sound -- but I can still wear it. SSD went from blazing hardcore to metal over the short course of its career, but the music -- all of it -- is solid and stands the test of time, just like this iconic shirt.
Springa of SSD at an '85 Olympic gig, (William L. Tuck III photo)

Stiff Little Fingers-- This has to be the goofiest T-shirt ever created, but I had to buy one at the reunion gigs in Los Angeles in 1988. I proudly wore this one for many years (it still barely fits), but couldn't help feeling a bit like a comic-book nerd each time out. Once at a Social D gig at One Step Beyond in Santa Clara, Calif., not long after those SLF reunion gigs, some guy was stoked on the shirt I was wearing and we got into an SLF discussion, which was a rarity then because they had been a forgotten band since their '83 breakup.

Happy Shoplifter-- (Not a band T-shirt, but so what?)

Carrie and I snagged this one at a music festival/fair in Hackney (London borough), during our spring '93 trip. Fucking funniest shirt ever, and I still get weird looks whenever I wear it today (especially in stores!). There's a chain of stores there called Happy Shopper, hence the spoof T-shirt. And the punk guy? Classic.

Husker Du-- "Metal Circus," a scorching album, and this once-tie-dyed T-shirt complemented that record perfectly. I wore out the grooves on that platter much like this shirt went through the wringer back in the day. This and my "Candy Apple Grey" T were my calling cards for a long time... wore 'em till they almost fell apart. (Insert Husker album reference here.)

76% Uncertain/CIA-- "So does that mean you're 24% certain?" Yep, heard that one a few times when wearing this one from these Bridgeport, Conn., punkers. The CIA shirt raised some eyebrows, as well... once from a cop. Some great shirts, some killer tunes from both bands.

Battalion of Saints-- High-school yearbook picture time for my journalism class? Why, of course, wear this BAT's shirt under my button-up shirt and unbutton just in time for the flash to go off. A classic shot, an unbeatable band. Received this shirt from the band in 1983 when they were hanging out at KXLU radio at Loyola Marymount University (Westchester, Calif.) for an interview/drinking session. Always cool guys... great musicians. This shirt has been reissued, but it can't tell the stories that mine can.

Corrosion of Conformity-- This is a rarity, for sure, given to me by the band during my Raleigh, NC, trip in '86. Found this one while scouring the attic of drummer Reed's dad's office one day for COC stuff. Not long after, I was on board with the crew for gigs in Albany, NY; NYC; Boston; and New Haven, Conn. Honor Role and Alter-Natives ... some pretty cool bands, too.

**And, yes, the other COC bit with the spiky skull are some old boxer shorts!

(Misfits-- I've got an "Evilive" shirt somewhere, and a funny story to tell about one kid -- not me -- who got that same shirt plus a few others at one gig. After he entered the door to some hall in a sketchy area of Los Angeles to see the Misfits in 1983, he bought 5-6 shirts and put them all on at once. That guy must have been sweating it up big time when the Misfits finally hit the stage and tore through their set, after three opening bands. But he had more shirts than anyone that night, so that's something to brag about, I guess.)

Other shirts in the picture: Honor Role, Kraut, Dischord, Califfornia World Music Festival (Ted Nugent, Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, Van Halen).

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Archers of Loaf at Neumos in Seattle 9/9/11: Like a pin in your backbone: they stick with you

Matt Gentling- not so gentle on the bass (all Cat Rose photos)
By Cat Rose

"Nostalgia" is exactly what this was...

From the last time we saw Archers of Loaf about 14 years ago to now...except for some minor graying and possibly some wrinkles (on behalf of the band and us), it did not seem that much more than a few weeks has passed. The energy and the experience of seeing them this past Friday night at Neumo's in Seattle was the same that I remember from back then. As I attempted to take the photos whilst singing and pogoing along with the crowd, I remembered why we would see them whenever we could when we lived in Northern California. We had never gotten to see them since we moved to Seattle as they broke up not long after that. Praise the skies for reunions!

Singer & guitarist Eric Bachmann
The actual date we last saw them was 2/27/97 at Bimbo's 365 Club at the last Noise Pop Festival we attended (before we moved to Washington) in San Francisco. When we saw that they were playing together again and they were to play a gig here, we jumped on those tickets. Good thing, too, not sure if it was sold out-- but by the time they played, the place was packed all the way to the back walls.

Eric Johnson plays to the crowd
We first heard of Archers of Loaf while we were on an Irish bar crawl with a group of friends on Geary Street in San Francisco. We were looking through the SF Weekly and saw the name and started cracking up. Little did I know that they would turn out to be one of my many favorite bands, and especially one of my top bands to see live.

Mark Price
From the first song to the last, people did not stop jumping and singing along. From "Wrong", "Lowest Part is Free" , "The Greatest of All Time" , "Web in Front", "Audiowhore" and of course "Nostalgia" , etc. I can't remember the exact order of the songs, all I know is that I did not want them to stop. The crowd did not want them to quit, either, and were just as enthusiastic as the band --especially the amazin' bassist Matt Gentling, who got a complete cardio workout on stage just as he did back in the day. As the crowd surfing commenced, all I could say was "there's a chance that things'll get weird. Yeah, that's a possibility"--and bring it on baby, bring it on!

Gentling joked that he was going to "play some shitty bass guitar"...yeah right
"They caught and drowned the front man
Of the world's worst rock & roll band.
He was out of luck, because nobody gave a fuck.
The jury gathered all around the aqueduct.
Drinking and laughing and lighting up.
Reminiscing just how bad he sucked, singing

Throw him in the river.
Throw him in the river.
Throw him in the river.
Throw the bastard in the river."...

A classic from our collection

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Scream: Still rocking out, making new music, delivering insightful lyrics

Pete Stahl -- still screaming -- at Seattle's Funhouse. (All Andy photos)
By Andy

Brothers will be brothers.

At last Friday night's Scream gig at the Funhouse in Seattle, singer Pete Stahl grinned at his brother, Franz, and then joked with the crowd that it was OK for him to tell the guitarist to move his box of pedals off to one side so he could freely -- and maniacally -- bounce around the stage. After all, they're family, and that's part of the deal.

Drummer Kent Stax smiled from behind his kit. Earlier in the evening while relaxing outside on the Funhouse patio, he noted that the Stahl brothers have a crucial bond that gives the band a boost alongside the solid rhythm section of Stax and bassist Skeeter Thompson.

Drummer Kent Stax.

The foursome, which formed the equal-parts-punk-and-rock-band about 30 years ago in Washington, DC, is still hammering it out today and recently released the seven-song "Complete Control Recording Sessions" on Side One Dummy Records.

Although the Stahls live in Los Angeles and Stax and Thompson still reside in DC, they save time in their lives to make the bi-coastal Scream Team thing work with occasional trips across the US for recording sessions and gigs.

"It's always gonna be good to see them-- I enjoy the shit out of it," Stax said. "We'll always be friends. We all get along ... it works -- the chemistry."

Franz Stahl.

Franz says that he and Pete grew up in a music-oriented family -- their dad managed a DC rock band in the '60s -- and have always played music together, whether it be in Scream, Wool or wherever else the tunes take them.

"I don't think about it too much, it seems like it's always there," he said of the brothers-in-rock dynamic. "It can be really heady sometimes with my brother. Our relationship is a lot different than with the other guys. The other guys are your wives -- your brother is your brother."

Today, the band is clicking, good times abound and it makes sense that they're still doing Scream together, Franz added with a smile while taking a drag off his cigarette as punks shot baskets on the outdoor Funhouse hoop.

"There's no pressure -- we get up there and rock out. It's great. It's like it's 1985 all over again... but with a gut! But not me," he noted about having the trimmest waistline in Scream.

Skeeter Thompson.

As Pete set up the band's merch table and Thompson cruised around the venue striking up conversations with folks, Franz and Stax were Scream spokesmen for the evening and discussed everything from the new songs, recording in old drummer Dave Grohl's studio in LA and how the band's early lyrics from the "Still Screaming" album still strike a chord in today's world.

On songs like "Your Wars/Killer," "Bedlam," "Fight/American Justice" and "U Suck A/We're Fed Up," the band "railed" against the Reagan administration, Franz said.

"Back in the day, we were writing about the destruction of the Republican Party, but the lyrics apply even more so now," he added. "And I told Pete that we've seen the consequences of this and that and to say something about it."

Pete included a political reference in the new song "Stopwatch," while the remainder of the song goes the personal route, a place where Scream has visited countless times in its songbook over the years.

"I'm the riff master, the songwriter," Franz said. "(Pete) writes about what's going on around him." (Franz contributes lyrics, too, and Pete has been known to wield a mean guitar, so it's a family affair all across the board.)

Stax especially likes the message going on in the new song "Elevate": "Just the idea of a more positive elevation in your mind. It's a very truthful song, as well. But I'm just as happy playing all of them."

The Stahls sing it together.

This latest round of Scream activity began with a reunion gig on Dec. 20, 2009 at the Black Cat in DC; the band previously existed from 1981-'90 and later toured with Grohl for a bit in 1996.

Franz -- who joined Grohl in the Foo Fighters for two years in the late '90s -- said that playing and recording with his Scream family is hard to beat. He added that "Complete Control" sold out its initial pre-sale run of 800 on 10-inch red vinyl (with an insert featuring a download code) , has been repressed and is getting positive reviews.

"Getting on stage is something that I've been doing my whole life. It's like second nature," he said. "We're not trying to re-do Scream from like 20 years ago. We wanted to play again, but we didn't want to go out without some new music.

"We're not under any illusions that we're gonna put out a record and be this 'thing,'" he added about shaking up the pop charts. "It's just great to have the music out there."

(Cat and Andy: This was our first time seeing Scream -- we missed them by one day in May at the Black Cat, where we enjoyed a beer at the club during our DC trip. We would have stayed, but we had already committed to attending the Death Fest in Baltimore to see friends Corrosion of Conformity. Pete's other band, Goatsnake, was originally scheduled to play the fest, but canceled.

Over the years, we've seen Wool and Goatsnake several times, so it was great to finally see the Scream Team in action.)

Pete Stahl, one happy man.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

No. 1 Picks for Fantasy Band Draft: Mia Zapata, Jake Burns and more

Mia Zapata (courtesy photo)
By Cat and Andy

In honor of the fantasy football drafts upon us, we have decided to do our own fantasy band draft....we encourage anyone else to submit their own fantasy picks in the comments section -- they can be from past or present.

Cat's picks:


Mia Zapata (RIP)- The Gits
She is a no-brainer for me, the voice of an old-time blues singer screaming punk-rock songs --what else do you need? Actually, the photo we are attaching here is my avatar for my fantasy football team.


Steve Turner- Mudhoney
Probably my favorite guitar riffer kicks out the jams whenever he is on stage.

Steve Turner (Cat Rose photo)

Joe Lally- Fugazi
Heavy-handed yet somewhat funky bass will always get me goin'.


Clem Burke- Magic Christian (or Blondie, of course)
When I got to see him play at The Comet in Seattle with Magic Christian, he blew any other drummers I have ever seen out of the water...amazin'.

Jake Burns (Andy photo)

Andy's picks:


Jake Burns- Stiff Little Fingers
He can spout the band's poignant lyrics harsh and melodic, high and low ... whatever it takes to get SLF's point across.


Chris Smith (RIP)- Battalion of Saints
One of the key progenitors of the punk/metal mash-up has been gone for many years now, but I can still vividly remember him tearing it up back in the day.
Chris Smith (courtesy photo)


Bruce Foxton- Jam, Stiff Little Fingers
Got to see this guy jump n' pump his bass a handful of times with SLF and once with From the Jam. His sound comes through solid and clear on record and live.


Chuck Biscuits- DOA, Danzig, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, etc.
A true rager on the skins, whether he's keeping it basic or hammering all over the kit. Head bobbing, keeping it real.

Cat and Andy's alternates:

Mike Ness (Social D), Phil Mogg (UFO), Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy), Kim Shattuck (The Muffs), Jason Beebout (Samiam), Mark Arm (Mudhoney)

Dave Sharp (Alarm), Terry "Hollywood" Howe, RIP (Zero Boys), Pen Rollings (Honor Role)
Kurt Bloch (Thee Sgt Major III, Fastbacks, etc)

Mike Watt (Minutemen, Firehose, etc), Chuck Dukowski (Black Flag, etc), Steve Youth (7 Seconds), Keith Brammer (Die Kreuzen), Lemmy Kilmister (Motorhead)

Reed Mullin (Corrosion of Conformity), Lucky Lehrer (Circle Jerks), Don Bolles (Germs, 45 Grave, etc), Bill Ward (Black Sabbath), DJ Bonebrake (X)