Tuesday, December 18, 2007

R.I.P., Crocodile Cafe

Warning: In this post, I will be strolling down memory lane. If you are over 45 or under 30, or don't listen to music or don't live in Seattle, you may find no relevance here. Unless you are a younger parent still wondering how not to become culturally pointless. Then you might relate.

Last night I met my friends Sara, Maria and Sharon for drinks at a new restaurant on Pike Street called Quinn. The surrounding blocks have changed considerably over the past few years. In fact, the place that Quinn now occupies used to be a crappy Mexican restaurant, which has always been rumoured to be so bad that I never felt the urge to eat there, no matter how young, drunk or hungry I was. Quinn is a huge improvement. In fact, most of the changes in that area are an improvement.

Sharon and I continued our quest for more whiskey at the Moe Bar down the block. Moe is part of the music club Neumo's, which first opened in 1994 as Moe. (Between now and then it had a run as an electronic-focused gay boy bar, outside of which I met a sweet cross-dresser named Greg who took me to a drag show at another place that no longer exists.) Sharon and I sat in the bar and recounted the shows we had seen in the club when it was Moe: Pavement. Tricky. Mercury Rev. Modest Mouse. Spiritualized. Superchunk. Will Oldham. Silkworm. The Folk Implosion. 5ive Style. Blues Explosion. Mike Watt.

"I must have seen fifty shows here," Sharon said. Or maybe I said. As I mentioned, there was whiskey.

So it was apropos to open the newspaper today and read that the Crocodile Cafe, Seattle music scene institution for fifteen years, abruptly shut down on Monday. No warning, no reasons given, just shut.

As if I didn't already feel a hundred years old. Now the Crocodile is gone. Like the old Moe, it'll be a memory in the minds of oldsters like me.

Here are some memories I have from the Crocodile: The owners of a coffee house where I worked in 1994 had started their business out of the Crocodile when it first opened, with an espresso cart in the little tiki hut by the front entrance. They were insane. I worked under them for a year in their crappy Queen Anne coffee house with commercial carpeting and lawn furniture and some friend's stuffed animal collection as decoration. They had a newborn and while he was cute and all, I did not have the slightest sympathy for the mother and nothing but disdain for the father. (He slept in a van outside the shop. One of my duties was to rap on the van door at 6:30 after I opened the shop up for the day. Then he would climb out, come in, sit at the bar, and wait for me to make his doppio macchiato.)

I also remember taking my dad, step mom, and cousin to the Crocodile. My cousin was in town and wanted to check out the music scene. Where else would I take him? We saw Mavis Piggot and Modest Mouse. Modest Mouse were just starting to get good shows around town then. They were fresh as daisies, cute as buttons. They rocked us hard. At one point I looked over at my dad, who was leaning sideways from the waist, head cocked, beer bottle aloft, trying to stay upright. My boyfriend and I put him and my step mom into a taxi and said goodbye. We stayed for the rest of the show.

One of my first dates with my husband was at the Crocodile. We saw Lois, an old favorite of mine from Olympia, and Beth Orton. We waited for an hour between sets but it was worth it. Beth Orton and her band squeezed themselves and their instruments onto the smallish stage and blew us away with their beauty.

I saw: Low, G Love and Special Sauce, Unrest, The Band that Made Milwaukee Famous, Joel RL Phelps, Laika, Juno, Smog, Sleater-Kinney, Stereolab. I saw terrible shows that I had to wait too long for, standing in a stuffy, smoky room holding a plastic beer cup. Once, I was hit on, in a very nice way, by two men visiting from Scotland. I was introduced to the writer Rebecca Brown there. I talked to the drummer from Juno there. I saw magic happen onstage there.

I never actually liked being there, though. Something about the feng shui, or the vibe, or the confusing Habitrail-like layout, put me off. If I wanted to drink or eat, I'd go somewhere else.

So I don't actually despair at the closing of the Crocodile. Especially now the the Showbox is hosting such great bands, and Moe is reopened as Neumo's. My life is full of other things now besides hanging out and watching bands, but I am glad there are still good places to see non-mainstream music that aren't total dumps. (Anyone remember The Off Ramp? RCKNDY? Enough said.)

My last memory of the Crocodile: Driving my son's hipster babysitter down there one night after she finished her shift at my house.

"Do you know where it is?" she asked. I shot her a look. "OK," she said as we approached Blanchard on Third. "You can just drop me here."

"It's ok, I don't mind taking you all the way there," I chirped. It was late. She was alone. It was Belltown.

"No, really," she said. "Here is fine."

You embarrassing old person with baby seats in the back of your Saab.


Anonymous said...

Bummer! I have seen so many shows there too! In 1993 I moved to Seattle and lived on third and blanchard and dreamed of the days i would be able to go to the crock...I was 18 at the time, I would go there for brakfast sometimes tho. I saw Willis, Pete Yorn, red velvet relief, calobo, sweetwater, etc...The thought of going there now just makes me soooo tired but it was a good time!

Robin said...

Clay and I had our first date at Moe and many dates at the Crocodile. In fact, my engagement ring was purchased at "The Croc"- when they hosted some Saturday night craft show with music.
Sadly I hadn't been there since Goldie was born. Oddly enough we had planned on attending the Three Imaginary Girls Christmas party there tomorrow night.