by Jeff Moore - photo by Tara Lee
It's a Sunday night in August 2008. I'm sitting at the unused back bar in The Mercury, a private club on Capital Hill. It's easy to pigeonhole the Mercury as a goth/industrial club. It sprang from Machinewerks, a popular goth/industrial club that was on 5th and Denny and closed for good at the end of 1998. However, increasing diversity in the music and the growing popularity of counterculture and "darker" scenes (e.g. Emo or Black Metal.), coupled with the age of the club (going on ten years) has allowed the promoters and patrons a lot of freedom to move beyond the simple goth moniker.
When I asked Dj Hana Solo (the Dj for "Machineries of Joy" - a wildly popular Saturday night event) about her favorite kind of industrial music she said, "Genres are for pussies. If it makes you shake your ass, it's all good." According to Solo, the distinction between the ever increasing releases of dark dance music is blending and so to simplify things she calls the music she plays "Electronic Dance Music in Minor Key."
I sit there during a special set by Hana Solo on Sunday night's Stutter and I'm amazed that she opens her set with "Paper Planes" by M.I.A. Stutter is a mash up of genres and basically an excuse for the Djs to play their favorite music. According to Tucker, the promoter of the night, "Stutter is a bunch of burnt out club kids and industry people being jackasses and having fun." He says, " [They play] any kind of music, generally stuff that's not played on the more normal club nights. The idea is to play good music that we're not all tired of."
There is a bevy of nights at the Mercury that can't be classified as goth. The most popular is called "Lucifer's Lounge" and has been running on the first Monday of the month for almost six years. Instead of corsets and vinyl, you'll see Zoot Suits and Swing Dancers, instead of VNV Nation, you'll hear Sinatra, and Glen Miller.
The regulars of Lucifer's Lounge (usually just called Lounge Night) are a loyal bunch, so much so that at midnight when Brishan (the Dj and host) announces the "Coconut Monkey Toast", almost everyone already knows to get off their duffs and toast the tiki monkey that is the mascot of the night After that, Brishan puts on Harry Belefonte and everyone does the limbo. Think about that. A night club where people are getting down and doing the limbo. That's not a goth thing. Hell, that's not something you'd find at any other club in Seattle (I've looked).
I asked Tara, the Promotions Manager and concierge, why they host so many different nights. She said, "At Machinewerks you'd see drag queens, punks, club kids, rivet heads all hanging out together and dancing and drinking. When we moved to the hill it went more to goth/industrial. It stayed that way for a long time. Now we're getting a lot more different types of people, and we really like that, it's a sign of a healthy club. We get clientele from all different scenes. We want them to be comfortable and enjoy themselves... By having a good cross-section represented, not only are people exposed to things they wouldn't be exposed to, you're getting cross pollination ensuring that you're gonna be around for quite a while."
The Mercury is a private club, located at 1009 lower E union (below the Auto Battery Shop and a block from Neumos) in an otherwise unremarkable alley.
To become a member you must be signed-in by a member at least three times. That will give you a chance to get to know the rules of the club, and the staff to make sure that you're not going to cause trouble. After you've been there a few times you can have a member sponsor you. After you fill out the form, your membership card will arrive in the mail (sometimes it takes a while). After that you're free to party.
There are some perks to being a member of a private club: The drinks are stiff and cheap ($3.50 Wells, $5.50 Calls, and $7 Top Shelf, doubles are cheaper. Beer runs from $2.00 to $4.00), the DJs encourage requests. According to Dj Machwave "...When I do get a request for something that's in the genre of what I'm playing, I put it in. It helps me to get a feel for where the crowd is and you can tailor your set to please people."
Then you've got a free pool table, the balls and cues are less than a month old, and there is a rack for your cue. There's Free wifi and there are places to plug in your laptop all over the club. Coffee is a buck for a cup, or two for a pint.
The biggest perk, of course, is that since it's a private club with a voluntary staff, they can legally allow people to smoke inside the club. You hear that? You can smoke while you drink, but you gotta be a member. Do you know anyone who goes to the Merc?
On the web at www.myspace.com/the_merc, Facebook group: The Mercury@Machinewerks (Seattle) and Livejournal the_mercury