Chop Suey hosted a “soft opening” on Friday, March 6th, but last Friday the real celebration arrived: the grand reopening of Capitol Hill’s local club for dirty, fun punk shows. Tacoma garage rockers Girl Trouble opened Chop Suey’s new stage, cracking a joke about the “pretty lights” as the club’s new rig churned through five different colors at lightning speed. The backdrop was a black cloth with exposed points of light, mimicking the night sky and giving a new vibe to the stage. Everything was crisp and clear on the new sound system and the club’s new owners, Brianna Rettig, Brian Houck, and Erin Carnes, had improved visibility by removing the two cage-like structures on either side of the stage. The club’s bones were intact with a subtle makeover.
Despite the fresh dried paint and shiny pinball machines, there were two legendary and relatively local bands on the bill, a gesture which makes clear the venue’s upcoming intentions. Their decision to keep long-time talent buyer, Jodi Ecklund, and their plans to use the new “Den” for local bands, are encouraging to a community which has lost many key spaces in the last few years. But all is not lost, as the opening comes at the end of a happy week where news broke that Brian Foss’s beloved Funhouse will re-open in the El Corazon lounge in April. There was much to celebrate as Chop Suey re-opened their doors.
Midway through Girl Trouble’s set, as crowd and band members became increasingly sweaty, singer Kurt Kendall did a comedic strip tease and tore off his shirt. Kendall caressed his beer gut and said, “We’ve been doing this 31 years and I’m still wondering whose baby this is.” These and other cheeky comments made Girl Trouble raucously entertaining. Kendall danced around, rubbing his belly sensually and thrusting his hips back and forth. He approached his band mates to fondle their faces and poke their nipples while they kept playing with a practiced deadpan demeanor. He even licked guitarist Kahuna’s ear from behind while rubbing his belly against his back. Drummer Bon Von Wheelie was on point, keeping the beat with a smile. Kendall tried in vain to get bassist Dale Phillips to sing some lyrics by holding the mic out to him but he just smiled back silently. These shenanigans made for a fun live show, and put the already excited crowd in an even better mood to see the legendary Dead Moon.
Portland’s gritty 70’s punk rockers Dead Moon did not disappoint in their return to the stage. Their relentless whining guitar and slow cool bass were as fuzzy and intact as ever. Fred and Toody Cole and Andrew Loomis wore their adventures from their infamous days of beer and whiskey stained dingy clubs like a badge of honor. In the old days, they sold out clubs to kids who couldn’t get enough of their simple, haunting lyrics, and they sold out Chop Suey just as easily. Halfway through their set, the ultimate redeeming ballad of “It’s O.K.” rang out with the nostalgic perfection of a youth lived and lost, and crowd members rushed forward, moshing and screaming lyrics at the top of their lungs. Watching Toody and Fred continue to remind today’s listeners that “it’s okay” secures their timeless ballad as a cult punk necessity. Dead Moon are known for their full tilt performances, where the drums are hard and sparse, the guitar is a metal beast, the bass keeps you grounded, and the shrieking vocals make you want to spit your own call to arms.
The crowd cheered after the track “Kicked Out, Kicked In,” as Toody said breathlessly, “It feels good to be sweatin’ to the oldies.” During “Poor Born,” she raised her eyebrow playfully as her husband Fred sang, “I’ve got a woman who still makes me crazy.” Before “Johnny’s Got a Gun,” Loomis opened a beer with his drumstick and poured it on his floor tom. When the opening notes of the track rang out, he smashed on his drums and the beer went spraying across the front row. Dead Moon has always opened every set with a huddle, holding hands and smiling; their intimacy as a group translates to their compatibility as talented musicians.
Chop Suey’s crowd was ecstatic to see the band with their scraggly manes and toothy grins, and they fought their way to the front to shake hands with their punk heroes, showering compliments and sharing high fives over the drum set. Dead Moon’s passionate members are still making the blues seem like a rare cult only some can earn a place in while screaming out their painful track, “I Hate the Blues.” Like the signature candle they light for every set, burning on an upside down whiskey bottle, they continue to drip dirty poetics.
Scorpio 9 / I’ll Make You Sorry / Go MetropolitanMake It / Bloody KnucklesWhostelloGoing For ItGirls Girls GirlsPrison BettyDig It / The JokerBring on the Dancing Girls / She No Rattle My CageGranny’s Pad
Walking on my Grave13 Going on 21Fire in the Western World I Hate the Blues Diamonds in the Rough It’s O.K.Kicked Out, Kicked In These Times With You Poor BornClouds of DawnI’m WiseJohnny’s Got a Gun / SpectacleGoing SouthDagger Moon / D.O.A. Down the Road Running Out of Time Black SeptemberRoom 213Dead Moon Night
I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You (Elvis Cover)54/40 or Fight
It goes without saying that Elliott Smith cannot be replaced. He was a one of a kind talent, a songwriter whose gift for melody often served as the vessel for his often harrowing narratives and disclosures. In the wake of his tragic death at 34, his reputation for intimately capturing deathly sta...
We've been teasing tracks from the upcoming Courtney Barnett album on the air, and now UK listeners can hear the whole dang album. Listeners overseas can stream the Australian singer/songwriter's debut album Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit below, which hits stores on March 24...
Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on The After...
In the last few years, there’s been a slew of English, (mostly) London-based bands emerging from basement gigs with world-beating ambitions and the musical elements to make good on them: a heavy dose of pop melody, a balance of snarky storytelling and heartfelt appeal, and most of all, hooks that...