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Originally published Friday, January 11, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Night Watch

Encouraging signs of life in Seattle's club scene

Stephanie Dorgan closed the Crocodile Cafe. Rick Wyatt sold his interests and closed the Fenix. Jeff Steichen bought the Fenix space from...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Stephanie Dorgan closed the Crocodile Cafe.

Rick Wyatt sold his interests and closed the Fenix.

Jeff Steichen bought the Fenix space from Wyatt, then turned around and sold that and the Showbox to A.E.G. Live.

So you can understand why Jerry Everard looks around and wonders where all of Seattle's old-timers have gone — and who will remain to fight city politicians who seem less than friendly toward music venues.

The man who cofounded the Crocodile (with Dorgan), then went on to launch the legendary Moe's and its successful successor, Neumo's, is starting to feel as lonely as Will Smith in "I Am Legend." Like Smith's character, Everard is not ready to give up the fight.

Over a beer at his Moe bar (formerly the Bad Juju, attached to Neumo's), this father of two young children explained what keeps him going as a club owner. "Art, especially music, is really important in our schools and in our city. I wouldn't live here and raise my kids here if Seattle didn't have a vibrant arts community.

"Someone needs to try to stop the current attempts to drive art and music from our city's core. I guess I just can't sit on the sidelines and do nothing."

Though Steichen is to remain the general manager of the Showbox, the departure of Dorgan and Wyatt could weaken the position of Seattle nightclubs, which are in a fight with the mayor against restrictions like noise ordinances and special licenses.

"Sure, it's no fun losing that many strong members of the nightclub community in one year like that," said Everard, who is also co-owner of Belltown's Rendezvous and Spitfire (a sports bar in the space of the old Sit & Spin), "but at the same time we have a whole new generation of venue owners, record labels, artists and promoters that care about the community. We have some fresh legs that are ready to run."

Neumo's also has some fresh legs: relatively new co-owners Jason Lajeunesse, Steven Severin and Mike Meckling. Everard credits them with the success of the Capitol Hill club. "Neumo's has done well because my partners really care about music and about the musical experience at the venue."

The scene on Pike Street between Broadway and 12th is buzzing. The Comet Tavern, right across the street from Neumo's, has a new owner who says he will continue the bar's busy live-music schedule. Next door to it, the former Sugar nightclub (which closed after a multiple shooting) will soon be King Cobra, another place for Seattle rock bands. Add in the recently relocated Cha Cha, relative newcomer Havana and old standby Wild Rose, and you have quite a brewing scene.

"Our little corner of the city seems to have gotten more popular as other parts of the city have been gentrified," Everard commented. "This area has always been occupied by artists and creative types. Because of that long history, we have lots of unique places with local owners. That connection to the area creates an energy and a quality that is getting harder to find in Seattle."

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The all-female, Seattle-born AC/DC cover band Hell's Belles takes the highway to hell at Neumo's (8 tonight, $12). Local metal men Zero Down open for the ladies.

San Francisco-based DJ/producer Mark Farina — named by Urb magazine "Best Dance DJ" — cranks up a party at Neumo's (9 p.m. Saturday, $15).

Here's what's happening in club land beyond Pike Street this weekend and through the week:

• Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmister brings his side band the Headcat — with Slim Jim Phantom of the Stray Cats — to El Corazon (9 tonight, $25). Local alt-country band Mark Pickerel & His Praying Hands is on the bill.

• The Beatles tribute band Apple Jam plays two shows at the Triple Door (7:30 tonight — sold out — and 10:30, $29). This band — featuring members of the Beatniks and Herding Cats — is so into the Beatles, they even cover unreleased songs.

Jason Webley, rambling somewhere between the quirky and the bizarre, plays a hometown show at the Tractor Tavern (9 p.m. Saturday, $12). He is joining forces with Indiana roots-blues-gospel act the Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band. After solo sets, Webley and the Peyton gang — the Rev. on guitar, his wife Breezy on washboard, brother Jayme on drums — will perform together.

• "Live music with no cover charge" — is that a great club slogan, or what? At West Seattle's Skylark Cafe, some of the area's best up-and-coming bands hit the stage. The Whore Moans rock it like Murder City Devils Version 2008 at the Skylark (9 p.m. Saturday), with Spanish For 100 opening the night.

Thomas Mapfumo, "The Lion of Zimbabwe," brings his mixture of Afropop sounds and protest songs to the Triple Door (7:30 p.m. Sunday, $20).

Jeremy Enigk, the bombastic singer from Sunny Day Real Estate and the Fire Theft, continues his solo career at Chop Suey (9 p.m. Wednesday, $15). It's a smaller setting for the former Seattle boy wonder, who previously has done solo shows at Neumo's. (Neumo's in recent months took over the booking of Chop Suey.)

Tom Scanlon: tscanlon@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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