Every time a venue stops hosting music, the world gets a little bit darker, even if that venue is 90 miles north of here.
Friday, I took a trip up to Bellingham to see one of The Rogue Hero's last shows. After traffic died down, I pointy my trusty steed northward and made the trek through the darkness and the rain to an unfamiliar college town near the Canadian border. After a wrong turn or two, my companion and I stood in front of a large wooden door guarded by a warmly dressed gentleman asking for $5 and our IDs. A simple transaction afforded us entry to the keep, and we were welcomed by the first couple notes of rock and roll for the evening.
A clear drumset and a couple small Fender amps powered the energizing set by the young Mount Vernon duo known as The Mission Orange. Their eclectic and technical songs warmed the hearts of a small group of locals. Heads were nodding under black longshoreman caps and many a music nerd marveled at the precision guitar work. Sporting a huge sound for a duo, the gentlemen of The Mission Orange wove wonderful melodies around powerful rhythms. Though under 21, they bring a swagger and a complexity to the stage that rivals their legally adult compatriots. I'm a big fan of their mix of garagey and technical sounds, particularly on "Hammer Fever" and I hope it's included on the record they mentioned they were recording. On Friday, they brought that just-right mix of excitement and rest for the end of a long drive and some hanging out in an unfamiliar town.
Yet, while the town was unfamiliar, the venue was beginning to grow on me. There was a pole covered with stickers just like at El Corazon. Groups of acoustic ceiling tiles were missing and replaced with black painted plywood. Fluorescent lights were missing their bulbs and stained with the familiar beige that comes with years of cigarette smoke or greasy food preparation. It might be the 12-year-old in me, but having one bathroom labeled "chicks" and the other labeled "dicks" was pretty hilarious. People were lounging about the two brightly lit pool tables and in the booths at the front near the inauspicious bar. It was starting to feel pretty welcoming.
These people were clearly different from my hometown folk, but somehow strangely similar. They wore a little bit more flannel, but in a non-ironic way. They were a little less afraid of enjoying themselves through ballroom dance or random yelling. Everyone seemed a little friendlier, as well. I've always considered Seattle to be the biggest small town ever, but it's good to visit smaller towns every once in a while to see how they really are supposed to be. The age range of the patrons was wide and the subcultures represented were varied. The lack of pretentiousness was palpable. People seemed a little more "real."
After a last minute slice of the local pizza, we were pumped and ready for Rooftops to celebrate their CD release. They augmented their sound Friday with a trumpet/flugel horn player and a violin. These additions were a bit buried in the small P.A., but their presence was appreciated nonetheless. Rooftops employs three guitarists/singers and a drummer in their normal mode. Each guitarist is well versed in the art of tapping. Taking a cue from bands like Minus the Bear, Rooftops create lovely melodies by constantly moving the notes around. With three guitars, countermelodies and counter-countermelodies are the modus operandi. Using pauses and some sparse singing, they provide enough break from the twiddly bits to keep you from being overwhelmed, however. They were also clearly enjoying themselves up there, making the live experience a wonderful end to a long week.
After a raucous celebration of melody and rhythm, I drove back south through the rain towards my bed for the night. Those Notherners aren't so different, they're just looking for something to entertain them for an evening. They're just trying to make the best of things, just like the rest of us. And I think they'll be a little sad when they have one less place to make both of those things happen. Hopefully, this will motivate them to come south and visit more often.