Scrappy Seattle punk club the Funhouse may be gone. But its spirit lives on, as evidenced by last night’s screening of “Razing the Bar,” a documentary about the rise and fall of the club, at the Columbia City Theater, followed by a live show featuring bands that used to play the much-missed venue.
“Razing the Bar” had its world premiere last month at the Seattle International Film Festival (with two sold-out screenings), and is scheduled for a one-week run at the Grand Illusion theater in the University District in July. But last night’s screening was about having a party. First-time director Ryan Worsley hugged supporters and well-wishers who packed the sold-out house, the celebratory mood enhanced by the bar conveniently located inside the theater (Rainier proving to be the tipple of choice, judging by the empty cans littering the floor). As the film played, cheers of recognition broke out whenever a familiar face was seen on the screen, followed by boos and hisses at the sight of encroaching urban development (the Funhouse, located by the Seattle Center, was demolished in 2012 to make way for a seven-story apartment building).
Post-screening, chairs were whisked to the sidelines as the first of the evening’s live acts, the Fabulous Downey Brothers, took the stage. The seven-piece group is reminiscent of late ’70s/early ’80s new wave in their musical approach (think Devo), also making use of elaborate costumes and some choreographed moves (though singer Sean Downey became so infused with excitement, he leapt off the stage at one point to writhe on the floor). A slight equipment disruption did nothing to curtail the band’s momentum; once properly re-plugged in, they rocked on with vigor as if nothing had happened.
Hounds of the Wild Hunt aren’t actually featured in “Razing the Bar”; instead, you hear the music of their former incarnation as the Whore Moans. But it was the Hounds on stage at Columbia City, bassist Ryan Devlin introducing the band with the pronouncement, “We’re going to make some rock ‘n’ roll music,” before tearing into their first number with gusto; “That was ‘Kumbaya,’” he deadpanned afterwards. During another break in the band’s folk-punk set, Devlin sadly remarked on the closing of the Funhouse, “There are definitely fewer places to be an idiot in Seattle now.”
The Hands reunited especially for this show, and brought the night to a rocking close, as the audience members sang along and Worsley was seen dancing down front. Asked afterwards what he missed most about the Funhouse, Dan Halligan, a Funhouse regular and editor of the punk zine “10 Things Jesus Wants You to Know,” said “The energy and the love.” And certainly, there was plenty of both at Columbia City Theater last night.