Throwaway Style is a monthly column dedicated to examining all aspects of the Northwest music scene. Whether it’s a new artist making waves, headlines affecting local talent, or reflecting on some of the music that’s been a foundation in our region; this space celebrates everything happening in the Northwest region, the first Thursday of every new month on KEXP.org.
In this month's edition, Douglas continues his semi-ficitonal series 'Purging the Treasure Chest,' inspired by songs penned by PNW artists.
The brown leather notebook in my pocket is filled to the last page with illegible writing in blue ink. Daryl jumps in the huge burlap sack sitting beside me and swims in the coins like Scrooge McDuck. Every time I dump another handful in the bag I’m afraid I’m going to hurt him, but he continues happily diving to the bottom and breast-stroking at proverbial sea level.
Daryl jumps out of the bag and onto my shoulder. I close the bag and hoist it over my shoulder like Santa Claus again and the room goes pitch black. My trusty sidekick opens his mouth and lights the way; a coin sits on his tongue as I lug sixty pounds of weight out of the room.
I’m at the party with my brown friends, and we’re all talking loudly over the loud music. I’m at the party with my brown friends, and we’re having fun in the corner of this house party while all the white kids ignore us. I’m at the party with my brown friends, and some of us are drinking beers and some of us are drinking Japanese whiskey and some of us are drinking Coca-Cola with ice. All of us are in the throes of a great time. I fiddle around with the edible wrapper in my pocket while a few of us make plans to go outside and “get some air” in a little while.
I’m at the party with my brown friends, and two of them are feeding Daryl original flavor Bugles and two others are in the corner making out. Their rainbow makeup was smeared all over each other when they rejoined the rest of us. Their faces looked like watercolor paintings.
I’m outside the party with some of my brown friends, and we’re sitting at the top of a steep driveway, watching the cars fly in straight lines above us about 200 feet in the air. There are driving laws in the air too, duh, so nobody’s flying over the house we’re partying in. The sky goes from pink to purple to black while we “get some air,” a gorgeous sunset playing itself out in fewer than five minutes.
Sometimes I feel like everywhere I go in Tacoma, I run into somebody I know. Usually it’s people from the supermarket where I work; some I chat with, some walk right past me. But lately in my dreams, I’ve been seeing people from high school, old friends whom I’d broken off with acrimoniously. Every other car is another acquaintance of high school, glaring at me from their fancy flying cars. A mountain range of Rainier cans stand five feet tall between us while smoke hovers around them and fans straight from the cooler almost turn our hands blue.
There are old friends who used to do shit that creeped me way out, like all going to someone’s house to watch Girls Gone Wild on their lunch break. There are old friends flying past who disavowed me when I made a flippant comment about us being boring while in the throes of suicidal depression, there are old friends whom I pulled the race card on. Daryl sips his beer and waves. It’s partly genuine and partly sarcastic. We get bored and go back inside.
I’m at the party with my brown friends and we’re huddled around in a daisy chain group hug, basking in our love for each other and loud music. The white kids are still unaware we’re here, but that’s more than fine with us. All we wanted was a space of our own, a space to be ourselves.
My friend from the Eastside of Tacoma is driving a Rolls Royce Phantom across the Eastside of King County. He’s adjusting stereo knobs, I’m eating cold Zeeks in the leather passenger seat. The buildings are all in shambles and we’re peering out at the debris in hushed tones. We’re usually loud and talkative around each other, daring with our eyes for the white people in the next lane to ask us to turn down the music. From what I can see, we’re in the only car for miles.
Daryl is smoking a blunt next to my friend’s daughter in her car seat. She’s trying to feed Daryl pizza. My friend is yelling at him to put that shit out while we’re listening to The Theology of Rhyme and riding past ash-colored rubble. There has been a natural disaster of some kind, but weirdly enough, it didn’t affect any of the roads.
After a short period of defiance, Daryl passes me the blunt. I take a quick puff and put it out. I roll the window down before I exhale.
Ever since I made a vow to myself to not allow people to sap my energy from me, my phone rings quite a bit less. My friend and I are talking about energy vampire, occult spiritual wisdom, the strained relationships which comes when family doesn’t care to understand your worldview, and whether I should get an Ableton pad or an SP-1200 sampler. It’s been almost a decade since the last time I made a beat.
Every now and again, we pass by what used to be a tall building reduced to a swept pile of smoke and smolder. The many corners glow a deep red under the dark grey, blackening sky. My friend keeps his eyes on the road. Daryl keeps his eyes on the slice of pizza under his nose. I catch a whiff of barbecue and immediately focus on a stack of charred bodies on the freeway’s shoulder. I burp up some stomach bile that tastes like pepperoni.
On the down low, I’m looking for zombies from the Rolls Royce window to prove me theory we’re driving through a post-apocalyptic landscape. But there are no beings lurching around Downtown Bellevue. From what I can see, the four of us are the only things still alive from the small clusters of trees scattered around.
My body feels fuzzy from the combination of cannabis and heat. “Are you ever going to tell me where we’re going?,” I ask my friend. He doesn’t smile at me this time, he just keeps his eyes on the road.
A group of close friends and I are breathing in the smoky, musky air of an armory as we watch “the Big Cat” Ernie Ladd stomp the shit out of Sylvester Ritter, better known as the Junkyard Dog. A flesh-colored rainbow of arms flail around as the people attached to them scream bloody murder and attempt to boo Ladd out of the building. Of course, he revels in it. He soaks in the jeers, winks at his detractors, pretends to drink from an empty beer can thrown at him.
In my waking life, people ask me all the time how someone as intelligent and articulate as myself could be so obsessed with a thing such as professional wrestling. How I can own so many books, pour over art at museums and galleries, and watch people in spandex stunt-fight each other. I understand what they’re implying. I’ve always said the line between “highbrow” and “lowbrow” is bullshit, and arbitrary social construct.
I enjoy and love heady, artsy noise music as much as I enjoy and love the snotty garage band that only writes songs about pizza. I think social experiments like Temptation Island are just as fascinating studies of humanity as French New Wave cinema. I sometimes wish we had music critics as trenchant as Beavis and Butthead. It surely takes a certified genius to create characters that dumb.
Wrestling is my favorite art form for a lot of reasons; high on that list is the fact that it simultaneously exists in a made-up world (the rules, the moves, much of its history) and actively engaged in the world we live in. Daryl is throwing gold coins at Ladd; Ladd picks them up and stuffs them in his trunks.
Ladd then hits a superplex on JYD, off the top rope. A thunder of boos lays down upon the Big Cat. I come to the realization that everyone in this armory is black. Me, my friends, the woman in the second row throwing popcorn at the massive heel. Thick gold chains and streetwear, tight black jeans and tattoo sleeves, crew-neck sweaters and tailored pants, dresses made of kente cloth. Skin like honey, skin like caramel, skin like chocolate, skin like Onyx.
A building packed to the gills with black people having fun without having to worry about the identity politics of black people having a good time in public.
Junkyard Dog hit Ladd with a powerslam, the reverberations of which we feel under our feet. People stand up like the ring collapsed under their weight. One, two, three. We all count along with the referee, we shouted and whooped and jumped up and down when the bell rang to signify the end of the match. People were crying and hugging each other. Our hero won and sent us into euphoria.
City of Seattle is on the Lookout for a New Bumbershoot Partner After AEG Pulls Out
Early last month, it was reported by Crosscut that AEG, the producer of Seattle's long-running music festival Bumbershoot, declined to renew its contract. Attributed to "financial and operational challenges," the promoter's mainstream-focused lineup in recent years (which works just fine for Coachella, an event which AEG also produces) failed to translate into consistency in revenue. Without editorializing too much, this is a nearly fatal blow to local music festivals, as most of the notable ones here in Seattle (Sasquatch, Upstream, Capitol Hill Block Party) have either shuttered or are on the ropes.
In a recent piece for The Stranger, it was relayed by Seattle Center spokesperson Deborah Daoust that the City of Seattle is dedicated to finding a new partner to ensure Bumbershoot – for many of our musicians, a rite of passage for local stardom – makes it to its 50th consecutive festival. Working with One Reel, the local non-profit which has run the festival for almost forty of those years, Daoust notes in an email, “There is urgency amongst all partners to make that determination and there is also universal desire among all stakeholders, including One Reel, for change and revitalization of Bumbershoot.” As Seattle continues to change, as new places to enjoy music shut down and pop up anew, Bumbershoot has remained a constant since August 1971. Here's to hoping that still remains true when we hit Labor Day weekend in 2020.
At the Party with My Brown Friends will be out August 30th via Saddle Creek.
For the installment of his growing and immersive Darth Sueder series, the Seattle transplant leans into the hermetic, spiritual, and compassionate sides of himself.