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January 3, 2014 at 9:56 AM

For two decades, the capital of Capitol Hill nightlife

Principal owner of Neumos Jerry Everard, foreground , (with MOE shirt on) with his partners at Neumos Bar. From left, Steven Severin, Everard, Jason Lajeunesse and Mike Meckling. (Greg Gilbert)

Above: Neumos’ principal owner Jerry Everard, foreground, with partners Steven Severin, Jason Lajeunesse and Mike Meckling. (Photo by Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)

For eight nights beginning Thursday, the storied Capitol Hill nightclub that opened in 1994 as Moe’s Mo’roc’n Café and reopened in 2004 as Neumos Crystal Ball Reading Room will host more than a dozen bands that have helped make the building one of the city’s top live-music venues for a generation of concertgoers.

The two clubs are marking their 20th and 10th anniversaries, respectively. The lineup includesthe Posies, Goodness, Truly, Telekinesis, Hey Marseilles, The Thermals, Brent Amaker and the Rodeo, Fox and the Law and others. Tickets are $15 for most shows; two-day passes are $20.

“It’s going to be like a crazy class reunion,” singer-songwriter Carrie Akre of Goodness (and formerly Hammerbox) said by phone from Minneapolis, where she moved after many years on the Seattle music scene. “It’s such a significant place where so many of us spent a large part of our youth.”

Indeed, the boxy-looking building at 925 E. Pike St. in the heart of Seattle’s Capitol Hill nightclub district holds vivid memories for the musicians who have played there in the last two decades.

Drummer Jason Finn was bartending at the Comet Tavern and assisting Moe’s talent booker Jason Fitzgerald when his band, The Presidents of the United States of America, performed its first show at Moe’s after it opened in the mid-90s.

“We packed the place out with about 50 of our buddies from the Comet,” said Finn, who spent so much time on the block that he was christened “the Pope of Pike Street.”

When it opened, the club was “in the middle of nowhere,” said Jerry Everard, who owns the building with a partner, as well as 50 percent of the club business. “Now it’s at the epicenter of that district. But only because it played a significant role in creating an epicenter.”

In 1994, Everard and his partners transformed a former thrift store into a hip, artist-focused club with a quasi-Moroccan theme and high-quality sound. It became a destination during the grunge era depicted in the 1996 documentary “Hype!”

Neil Young celebrated his collaboration with Pearl Jam with a debut of the album “Mirror Ball” at Moe’s in 1996. Goo Goo Dolls, Garbage, Bush, No Doubt and other bands used the club as a launchpad.

But in 1997, Moe’s closed and turned the booking over to Tasty Shows, which offered electronic-music, hip-hop, acid-jazz and world-music shows.

“Grunge was dying and Soundgarden was breaking up and electronic music was what was relevant,” Everard said.

Neumos, whose ownership team also includes Mike Meckling, Jason Lajeunesse and Steve Severin, currently offers an eclectic mix of acts: indie rock, punk, hip-hop, hard rock, alternative country and folk-rock.

“Over time, I’ve allowed the clubs’ ownership to evolve so that I have vested partners committed to a vibrant, active, relevant club,” Everard explained.

“I would never be able to keep the club relevant the way I did in the ’90s. But my partners today definitely are. They’re younger and they’re connected and they’re living that life.”

Through the years, Neumos has grown with changes in state liquor laws, as well as the opening of Barboza on the lower level in 2012 and a burgeoning club scene that spawned the Capitol Hill Block Party in the heart of the district that Neumos anchors.

“Interestingly, capacity has increased every time there’s been a significant change in the liquor laws,” Everard said. “When we first opened Moe’s, we weren’t allowed to have a showroom, only a banquet room — and it could only be 40 percent of our space. The other 60 percent had to be a restaurant.

“Later, the liquor board really loosened up, so we were able to devote an entire side of the building for the showroom.”

Current capacity for the showroom is 750, while Barboza and Moe Bar are 210 and 120, respectively.

Everard described the opening of Barboza, featuring an edgy mix of hip-hop, DJs and alternative acts, as “a no-brainer.”

“Basically, we had unused space down there,” he said. “We had been doing what we call ‘curtain’ shows, where we would curtain off a part of the main showroom for smaller shows. That really wasn’t working so well, but clearly there was a market for smaller shows.

“It also provided us with a platform for developing a history with up-and-coming bands that couldn’t fill the showroom. It was the next logical step to growing the business and providing a wider variety of show experiences.”

Over the years, Everard has resisted offers to sell the building. And business has been strong in a year when Billboard magazine reports that the concert industry is the hottest it has been in years.

“Our focus is to keep it functioning as a relevant club that contributes to the community,” Everard said.

Gene Stout:

Moe 20 Neumos 10 anniversary lineup:

Thursday: Telekinesis, Wild Ones

Jan. 10: The Posies (original lineup, including Jon Auer, Dave Fox, Mike Musburger and Ken Stringfellow), Alcohol Funnycar, Pop Sickle and Rusty Willoughby (performing Flop and Pure Joy songs)

Jan. 11: Goodness, “These Streets” with guests Selene Vigil (7 Year Bitch), Faster Tiger, Gerald Collier, Lucky Me

Jan. 12: Truly, Sage, Hyperlung, Bali Girls (special early $5 show)

Jan. 13: Hey Marseilles, Cataldo

Jan. 14: Invitation-only anniversary party

Jan. 15: The Thermals

Jan. 16: Brent Amaker and the Rodeo, Fox and The Law

Comments | More in General news, Rock/Pop | Topics: capitol hill, Goodness, Hey Marseailles


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