My “To Listen To” shelf is getting ridiculous. It currently has records from my last visit to Daybreak Records, at least one of my RSD pick-ups, stuff from our recent trip to South Korea and Japan, and this weekend I added a handful of comps I picked up while we were in Denver to see Devil Makes Three live at Red Rocks Amphitheater. It’s an embarrassment of vinyl riches, and frankly it stresses me out a bit to see so many things I haven’t gotten to yet. Because I’m neurotic that way.
I spun Bobbing For Pavement the other day and initially didn’t plan on writing about it. Not because I didn’t like it, but it’s another Seattle grunge comp, and it’s not like I haven’t written about a bunch of those in the past. But hearing those great tracks by The Gits got me thinking about Mia Zapata, which lead to a downward internet spiral of interconnected searches and links, and now I feel a bit compelled to share.
I felt like I knew all the late 1980s/early 90s Seattle comps, most of which came out on labels like Sub Pop and C/Z and Glitterhouse and Amphetamine Reptile. But I saw Bobbing For Pavement at Denver’s Twist & Shout Records, and I never heard of it nor the label, Rathouse Records. A little digging revealed that The Rathouse was the Capitol Hill (♠) residence of members of D.C. Beggars and The Gits and anyone else in their music circle who may have needed a place to crash. The location itself, 1900 E. Denny Way, is in many ways the poster-child of the gentrification and insane real estate prices afflicting Seattle. Back in 1992 this was a fairly rough neighborhood, at least by Seattle standards, and I was able to confirm that this is indeed the right place thanks to a period photo of members of the Beggars on the house’s front porch, which match the general appearance of the house as it appears online today. The earliest sale info I could find have the house selling for $216,500 back in 1997. Estimated value if today per Zillow? Just over $1.2 million. My, how times (and neighborhoods) change.
Was Mia Zapata of The Gits headed back to The Rathouse the night she was brutally raped and murdered in 1993? We’ll never know. I’m sure it’s a walk she did many times by herself – she knew the area and it wasn’t that far. She had a powerful personality and her loss affected many in the local scene deeply. I feel like I was vaguely aware of the murder at the time, but honestly I can’t be sure. I’d just graduated college and was trying to find my way in the regular world on the other side of Lake Washington from Seattle, fairly sheltered in my very middle class apartment in a safe neighborhood. I certainly can’t make a claim to having been part of the scene that was happening just a 20 minute drive away, other than through my collection of records and CDs.
The Rathouse crew are all over this comp, which includes multiple tracks by The Gits and D.C. Beggars as well as a pair by Big Brown House, a band that also included Beggars’ bassist Adrian Garver. There are some other recognizable Seattle-scene names here as well like Gas Huffer and Hammerbox. One of the things I love about Bobbing For Pavement is the number of women singers on it – three of the bands (The Gits, D.C. Beggars, and Hammerbox) were fronted by women and I enjoy the attitude they bring. Riot Grrrl was bubbling up at this point, bringing with it a much-needed (and unfortunately short-lived) wave of female empowerment, and that’s reflected in the punk-ish sound of these artists.
Bobbing For Pavement is one of the great Seattle comps, one that captures the feel without relying on any of the big names. It’s definitely worth a spot on your shelf and frequent spins on your turntable.
(♠) I’ve also seen it referred to as being in the Central District. It’s more or less on the border between the two Seattle neighborhoods, but given that it’s north of Madison I think that puts it more in Capitol Hill. Long-time Seattle residents may disagree, but whatever.