Seattle's Crocodile Cafe unceremoniously closed down this weekend, the latest in a slew of old school Seattle venues going the way of Fallout Records & Comix and the old Rendezvous. The Croc was the best rock club in Seattle in the 1990s - just off the top of my head I can recall seeing a slew of pretty huge bands in its not-so-huge confines: Guided By Voices, Nirvana, Built To Spill, Cheap Trick, Yo La Tengo, Mudhoney, Pearl Jam (opening for Cheap Trick), Sebadoh, Dead Moon, The Shins, The Go-Betweens, Mike Watt, Jonathan Richman, Iron & Wine, Low, etc.
The club was always good to Fantagraphics - we put on several events there over the years, including a Comic Book Legal Defense Fund benefit with Neil Gaiman in 1997 or so that was one of the most successful regional fundraisers the Fund had ever done at the time and even garnered a Seattle city award for "Best Fundraiser (Under $200,000 category)" of the year, which I accepted from the Mayor in a gigantic gala ball. In 2000, the Croc lent us its space to put on a special Built To Spill concert to raise money for a serious debt we were in when our then-distributor went out of business owing us $80,000 - the event raised almost $10,000 and literally may have been the difference in keeping us in business at that moment. We helped organize a series of "ATM art shows" at the Croc in the 1990s (named so because every piece was an ATM-friendly $40, with pieces from Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, Peter Bagge -- you name it) with then art school student Kirsten Anderson, an experience which she parlayed into opening Roq La Rue, one of the most vital galleries in Seattle for going on a decade now. The club's booker at that time, Peter English, was also my next door neighbor for a few years and became one of my best pals, so there was a personal connection, as well. We took care of each others' cats when the other traveled.
Personally, I have a slew of good memories of the place and am sorry to see it go. I've even played there a couple of times with former past and present Fanta employees and/or artists, including Jeremy Eaton, Peter Bagge, Andy Schmidt, Adam Grano, Kaela Graham, Demian Johnston and my wife Rhea Patton. Their sound guy, Jim, is the best sound guy in Seattle. I didn't go there so much anymore (the last time was to see Midlake a month or two ago), but I don't know if that was me getting older or them getting less relevant. Mostly the former, probably a little of both. But I spent a large portion of my 20s there, and they did some good things for Fantagraphics over the years. R.I.P.
Here's a couple of pics from 1997, of the "40 Buck Rock Opera", performed at one of the Croc's ATM art shows. The band was a mostly-Fanta staff: Jeremy Eaton on vocals/umbrella, Demian Johnston on guitar, Andy Schmidt on bass, and me on the skins. As you can see from the signs on the monitors, the largely improvised 'rock opera', fueled by the inspired theatrics of Eaton, was for sale for $40. No one bid.
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