The Next Seattle

The Next Seattle: Chapter 5

An interesting bar…

The term “nightclub” really is one of the most accurate word usages in the English language. The nightclub is a place where you come together with a bunch of other people and form, for a limited time anyway, a like-minded tribe of people—a club. And the “night” part, well, I have always believed that a nightclub can only really exist at night. Sure, the physical space which it inhabits exists during the daytime. Sure, a person can enter that space from the sunshine of the outside world just as I had done earlier today. But only at night can that space exist in that dimension known as a nightclub. During the daytime it is just a dingy, black-walled room. The magic trickles away to that faraway realm where magic goes when not in use. But once the daylight melts away, that little room becomes that sacred place: the nightclub. So into this splendidly transformed space stepped I, David Martinez, and looked around the room for the first time.

I must have arrived between sets. The music blaring from the speakers was Nirvana. And I’m sure that what with Kurt Cobain being dead and all they weren’t playing at this club tonight. On- stage, five young men criss-crossed the little area, pulling cables to the different microphones and instruments. These guys were setting up their equipment as simultaneously another group of young men removed their equipment. It was a sweet moment of chaos that I had seen a million times before. It was somewhat amazing that all of these people had been able to fit into that dinky stage area. But somehow they had. The transfer of equipment resembled a trail of ants passing crumbs down the line from one comrade to the next.

The stage area was only slightly raised, I would say maybe two feet above the rest of the floor. So it was quite easy for those transferring the equipment to step onto and off of the stage. Personally, I believe that the best height for a stage is about four feet. I have seen many clubs where the stage area wasn’t even elevated, it was just another section of the floor. I have also seen one stage in a

bar in L.A. which had to have been, I swear, twelve feet off the ground for a room that probably held, at max, 50 people—now that was a bizarre sight. But I think that four feet is the optimum stage height.

I had to admit that it was a pretty good crowd for a weeknight. I’ve been to clubs where only 4 or 5 people show up to see a band— which must be discouraging for the band even though it happens all the time. But here were, I would guess close to a hundred people scattered throughout this monstrous room. The place could obviously hold a lot more, but still for a weeknight in the middle of nowhere this was damned impressive. The majority of the crowd members appeared to most certainly be college kids, just as Samantha had said. Although a fair number of people I estimated to be in their mid- to late-twenties—that group which felt much more comfortable hanging out with the college crowd than with the ‘dinner-and-cards’ set from the office. The remaining handful consisted of straggling thirty and over types as well as one man in the corner who I would swear couldn’t have been a day younger than eighty.

In one corner near the stage I noticed a small cluster of kids who looked as if they had stepped out of London, circa 1975. They all had “punky” hair styles of every imaginable color and each one was dressed more wildly than the next. I had to wonder how that kind of look went down in a small city in Indiana.

I checked them out more closely. Now, being a journalist—or at least being perceived as such—does offer a person certain license that others do not have. The most important of which I think I’ve already mentioned: you feel completely well within your right to ask complete strangers the most unbelievably personal questions. Another is that you feel absolutely no guilt about staring at people. After all, you’re observing. So I observed the kids in the punk outfits. Each had the prerequisite strangely luminescent hair color—the entire rainbow was represented on the heads of those kids. Naturally an extreme hairstyle also requires an extreme wardrobe to match. From tattered leather jackets held together by safety pins to

phosphorescent green pants to who knows what else, these kids definitely stood out from the others in the club. And I found myself again wondering how these colorful young people were perceived in this Indiana town. Sure, you see these kinds of people in New York— you see pretty much every type that you can imagine in New York— but I would imagine that right at that moment I was looking at the entire punk population of Terre Haute, Indiana. I looked at them and found myself hoping that life wasn’t too hard for them.

But what the hell? If I was going to wish a relief from hardship for someone then why didn’t I wish it for myself? Certainly I deserved a break by now. Certainly I had been punished enough. Certainly it was time to pull my life out of the sludge into which it had fallen.

I stepped up to the bar and asked the bartender where I could find Samantha. He replied, “sound room” and pointed to a small booth in the back of the club. As I neared the sound room I could see that far from being a room, it was merely a partitioned space which housed the sound-mixing console. And sitting at the helm of the console was Samantha.

“Another of your duties?” I asked.

“Hi,” said Samantha, “Yeah. There’s not anyone else to do the job, so I’m it. Beside, I’m in debt up to my ears for this equipment — this stuff was the main cost of setting this place up — and I’m not about to let somebody who doesn’t know what he’s doing touch the damn thing.”

“How did you learn to do it?” I asked.

“It was either learn to do it or go bankrupt real quick. I’m sure that if nothing was coming out of the speakers, the club would lose some of its appeal.”

“I’d think so. So you’re self-taught then?”

“Well, the guys who sold it to me — they were these Christian metal guys who had been touring with this board for years — they installed it and gave me a crash course. And a Bible. The rest I figured out as I went. “

I glanced over at the band setting up its equipment on the stage. The band was a group of spiky-haired kids with large metal racks of old synthesizers and drum machines. They pretty much looked like The Cars. And for these kids, this was most certainly a retro-fashion statement.

“This next band up, ‘The PDQs’, this is only their second gig, so they’re still trying to find out what they’re all about.”

I left Samantha there in the sound room and made my way back through the crowd toward the bar. Several more people had come in during the time that I had been talking to Samantha and again I was impressed by the size of the weeknight crowd.

The bartender looked up at me and said, “Hey, you’re that journalist, aren’t you?”

“Yes. And you’re the bartender aren’t you?”
“Steve,” said the bartender with a laugh.
“David,” I answered back. “Jesus I feel like I must be on a

wanted poster or something. Everybody seems to know who I am.” “Well, the boss has been talking about this for a long time.” “She’s persistent?”
“You could say that,” replied Steve, “What can I get you?” “Scotch,” I said.

“Well… no scotch.”
“No Scotch?” I asked.
“No Scotch.”
Well, all right,” I mumbled, “I guess I’ll just have a beer.”
I was at a bit of a loss to decipher the expression that came over

Steve’s face just then. It seemed as though he was worried about something. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what might worry a bartender about being asked for a beer. It wasn’t as though I had just asked for some obscure drink that he wouldn’t know how to mix. Maybe he just hadn’t heard me and for some reason he was embarrassed to ask me to repeat myself. So I repeated myself.

“A beer,” I said.

Still Steve appeared to be worried. “Um, okay,” he stammered, “um, I guess she didn’t explain that to you. We don’t have any alcohol here.”

“What do you mean?”
“I mean we don’t have any alcohol.”
Now I felt as though I must be the one who hadn’t heard. “No

alcohol?” I asked, “I don’t think I understand. Did you lose your liquor license?”

“We don’t have a liquor license.”
“Yet? Is that what you mean? That you don’t have one yet?” “I mean that we don’t have one, period.”
“But,” I mumbled, lost, “but this is a bar. You can’t have a bar

without alcohol.”
“It’s not a bar, it’s a club.”
“You can’t have a club without alcohol either. I’ve been doing

this since you were in diapers and I’m here to tell you that clubs serve alcohol. It’s an association that goes all the way back to the beginning of time: People listen to music; they drink.”

“That’s not what we’re about.”

“Not what you’re about?” I fairly shrieked, “Not what you’re about?”

“Um. No.”

I really could not believe what I was hearing here. A nightclub without alcohol was an oxymoron. Now if they had told me that they were running a coffee house I would have said “fine.” But Seattle had always been referred to as a club. And clubs have alcohol dammit.

“Look,” I shouted to Steve above the noise of the blasting music, “I don’t mean to sound rude, but I need some booze, man!”

And in one of those moments of coincidence which seem to be so perfect as to have been divinely planned, Samantha had chosen that exact moment to cut out the music from the CD and open up her mic to introduce the band which was about to perform. She didn’t fade out the music, rather she just abruptly cut it off, which meant that

the overall volume of the club dropped significantly just at the precise moment that I was shouting, “ I need some booze, man!”

This, of course, was followed by that inevitable moment in which I felt that everyone in the club, hell everyone in the entire world turned to look at me. Without turning to acknowledge their stares, I merely raised my hand as if to admit that, yes, I was the guilty party.

Samantha missed only a beat, then she introduced the PDQs and life went back to the way it had been meant to be in this place at this time. The band came on-stage and I sat staring at the bar, afraid to turn around lest somebody was still looking my way.

Eventually I did turn around in order that I might check out the PDQs. I could see what Samantha had meant when she had said that they were still trying to find out who they were. The keyboard player seemed to be a fairly talented fellow, but the rest of the band didn’t seem to quite be with him. They didn’t have that “tight” thing that every good band has to have. Plus the lead singer didn’t seem to know what to do with his hands as he sang. He couldn’t seem to make up his mind whether to hold the microphone or put his hands to the side or wave them in the air or what. So, as had been foretold to me, the PDQs still needed some work. Or maybe I was being unfairly critical due to my frustration at the lack of alcohol. Looking back on it now, I’m not really sure which it was.

As I sat playing a game with myself of trying to guess the next moves of the lead singer’s hands, the unmistakable flash of a camera bathed the room in instant light. I looked to my left in order to ascertain the identity of the photographer, and who else should I see wielding the camera but Samantha. I looked back toward the sound room and saw that nobody was manning the console. Now, I’ll admit that during the perhaps 20 or 30 seconds that Samantha was away it would be highly unlikely for some incredible audio catastrophe to occur, but you never know. At any rate, she snapped a few photos using a rather impressive-looking 35 mm camera then dashed back to her station at the sound board.

A few songs into the PDQs set I again motioned for Steve. “Are you sure,” I began, “that you don’t have anything alcoholic in this place? Maybe a bottle that you keep stashed behind the counter just for really special guests? In case the President drops by or something?”

“I’m sorry,” Steve replied.
“You’re sure? You’re absolutely sure?”
He nodded his head and walked away.
“Damn,” I mumbled. Had I known that this place was going to

be dry I would have stopped at the hotel bar before walking out the door.

I called Steve over yet again. “Steve, is there anywhere around here where I could get a drink?”

“Well,” he said, “Yeah.”
“Anyplace within walking distance?”
“Well, not really. I guess that you could walk but the nearest bar

would be a pretty good walk.
“All right,” I said forlornly, “Forget I asked.”
I turned around and watched the rest of the PDQs set without a

The moment that the lead singer said “Thanks and goodnight.” I

got up from my barstool—which didn’t deserve the title of barstool because this place wasn’t really a bar—and made my way back to the sound room.

“Okay,” I said as I approached Samantha, “this is quite some practical joke you’ve got going here but let’s end it.”

Samantha didn’t even look up at me. She just continued plugging and unplugging cables in preparation for the next band. “Practical joke?” she asked.

“Yeah, this thing with the no alcohol. Steve over there tells me he makes a mean cappuccino but that he doesn’t have any liquor. You’re really not telling me that is seriously the case are you?”

“This is not a bar,” she replied, “it’s a club.”

“Yes, it’s a nightclub and nightclubs have booze. If you don’t have booze you’re a coffeehouse.”

“It can still be a nightclub.”
“No. It can’t.”
“What is that word?” she began as she finally looked up at me,

“That word for when you argue about the exact meaning of a word instead of just taking it as it was meant?”

“Do you mean ‘semantics?’”

“‘Semantics,’ yeah that’s the word I was looking for. Gina would have known that right off the bat by the way.”

“I don’t care what Gina would have known,” I said, “and I don’t care about semantics either. My question is ‘how in the world do you expect to keep a nightclub going without selling alcohol? You can’t do it.”

“Wait a minute,” she said. She looked up at me and smiled. “Are you really mad or are you just pretending to be mad? ‘Cause I don’t know you well enough to know.”

“Well, I’m. . . annoyed,” I said. And then I began to smile as well, “Since we’re talking semantically, I’m probably not literally ‘mad,’ but still, I don’t understand how you expect to keep this going without selling alcohol. It’s a combination that goes back to the beginning of time: people listen to music; they drink.”

“That’s not true.”
“It is true.”
“No,” she said, “What about in your car? You listen to music in

your car. Are you slamming down a sixer at the same time?” “But that’s in a car.”
“But you’re listening to music.”
“Okay fine. But it’s not live music. When you go to hear live

music, when you actually see musicians standing before you, making music with their own hands and voiceboxes, you want to be drinking. You want to listen to the band and cradle a nice bottle in your hand.”

“What about the symphony?”
“Live rock music.”
“What about in an arena?” she countered. “Well,” I stammered, “that’s. . . that’s different.”


“‘Why?’ Because you’ve got a large percentage of minors in the audience.”

“Exactly!” she shouted, “Exactly!”
“‘Exactly!’ what?” I asked.
“People get into music when they’re teenagers, then stop being

into it when they grow up. I’ve got an uncle who has this huge record collection. Unbelievable. It takes up an entire wall of one room. And he bought most of it while he was a teenager. The newest record he’s got is from 1982. He told me that was the last one he ever bought and he bought it when he was 26 years old.”

“There you go. 26.”

“But that was the last one. Here this guy was an absolute fanatic, he bought more records than anybody else he ever knew, but he stopped completely at 26,” she said. “Look, I’ve gotta get ready for the next band here. So, real quick: remember how I told you that we were geared toward the college kids? Well, college kids are between the ages of 18 and 22. The drinking age is 21. If I sold alcohol, then I’d be turning away three fourths of my audience. So I don’t do that. I want to reach people with music. I want kids to be able to go someplace and see a band doing original music, to see a band that just might someday end up being famous. That’s the whole point here. That’s what we’re about. Didn’t you see the sign?” she asked.

Following her finger to the far wall, I noticed a large hand lettered sign. I wondered how in the world I had missed it before. It took up a huge portion of the wall, and screamed out in big, bold orange letters:


I looked at the sign. I shook my head. Two words came out of my mouth: “Oh, Jesus…”

The Next Seattle

The Next Seattle: Chapter 4


Though it had been years since I had engaged in the quasi- acceptable form of vandalism known as postering, I found that the smell of glue hadn’t changed. And the disgusting feeling of having the fingers of one’s hand webbed together with the sticky stuff. But there was that main difference: when we had done this in our youth we had struck in the night—on the lookout for cops, as if we had been thieves—whereas this young woman felt perfectly at ease performing this deed in broad daylight.

Perhaps she was a fixture in the community. Or perhaps she just had balls of steel.

I glanced up at the poster which I had just plastered, crookedly, to the side of the building. The posters were in the typical “underground” style I had seen so much of in the past. Photocopied photos, splashed over with intentionally blotchy writing. This particular blotchy writing announced something called “Hautean Night.”

“What’s ‘Hautean Night?’” I asked, pointing toward the mysterious announcement.

Hautean,” she replied, correcting my pronunciation, “It sounds like ‘ocean’ only with an ‘h’ in front. Like Haute sounds like ‘oat’ with an ‘h’ in front.”

“My apologies. Hautean, then. And what exactly is Hautean Night?”

“Petty vengeance. That’s all. Petty vengeance.” She unrolled another poster and slapped it up expertly with a splash of glue. “You see, the college kids just love to call us Hauteans—those of us who happen to be sub-human enough to live in this town that they’re just passing through. Now that I’m older it doesn’t really bother me, but when I was a teenager and I heard a college kid say the word Hautean, it royally pissed me off. I mean, just who did these people think they were? I imagine it’s the same with any other college town —but of course, that didn’t make it any easier to take.”

“And ‘Hautean Night’ is your vengeance for that label?’”

“Yup. Growing up in a college town not only do you have the college kids thinking that they’re a lot better than you, you’ve also got all of your own businesses sucking up to them. Of course it’s understandable, because the college kids’ bucks keep a lot of the businesses around here afloat. Hell, I’ll admit it: the club is one of those businesses; it wouldn’t be possible without that college within walking distance. But still, when you’re growing up around it, it gets really annoying when you go into, say, a pizza joint, and you see a big sign offering ‘student discounts with ID.’ It makes you kind of feel like scum. So that’s why I created Hautean Night at Seattle. If you’ve got a Terre Haute address on your driver’s license, well look, it says right here on the poster ‘Show a driver’s license with a Terre Haute address, get in for $1 every Wednesday.”

“That sounds fair to me,” I said.

“Actually, it’s pretty childish. But I still think it’s funny. Plus a lot of people show up.”

“So,” she continued, “what famous people do you know?” “Famous people? Oh, I’ve met a few. No big deal.”
“No big deal? How many famous people have you

“I really couldn’t say.”
“That many, huh? That sounds like a bunch to me.”
“Yeah, I guess that ‘a bunch’ would be a fair approximation.” “You make it sound boring. I mean, with all the people that

you’ve interviewed, no one has ever impressed you?… Jesus, and I thought I was bad…You mean not one person has impressed you?”

I glanced down at my shoes and smiled sheepishly. “O.K.,” I admitted, “there was one person.”


“James Brown,” I said admiringly, “Jesus, I could have sat and listened to that man talk for weeks. Nothing like what you would expect. And one hell of an interesting guy.”

I set my glue-covered brush down by the side of the road. I was sure that it would pick up loads of dirt which would then be

transferred to whatever surface I slopped with glue, but I wasn’t particularly concerned about it. After all, what were a few little pebbles on a poster advertising Hautean Night? I reached into my breast pocket with careful fingers in an attempt to minimize the amount of glue adhering to my shirt, and pulled out my cigarettes.

As I pulled the sticky cigarette up to my mouth, Samantha laughed at me. “Don’t you think that’s pretty desperate? I mean, look at what you’re going through there for that thing.”

“Addiction is a powerful thing my dear,” I said as I rolled the flint of my now equally sticky lighter. Somehow, despite the layer of goop caked upon it, the lighter managed to fire up.

“You know,” said Samantha, “this glue’s fairly flammable stuff, and you’re covered in it. You could be making yourself into a pretty good bonfire there.”

“Them’s the risks you’ve gotta take,” I replied as I drew a deep drag from the cigarette. “If I were covered in gasoline I would probably still feel inclined to light that sucker up. It’s the old question of ‘are you riding the horse, or is the horse riding you?’ Well, I can tell you that horsey’s got the definite upper hand with me.”

As I stood smoking, she picked up her can of glue and stack of posters and moved down to the next telephone pole.

“Are you doing this for my benefit?” I asked as I dipped my brush into a thick glob of glue.

“Doing what for your benefit?”
“‘This’ what?”
“This. The whole poster thing. Do you usually go out and do this

thrilling work yourself? Or are you doing it for my benefit? I mean, you are the owner of the club aren’t you?”


“Well common wisdom would have it that club owners don’t usually go out and get themselves covered in glue promoting their clubs.”

She smiled. It was a smile of patience. A smile that said “I will take the time to explain to you that which should be perfectly obvious.” As she slapped up another poster with that smooth, expert motion she said, “Well, in case you hadn’t noticed, this isn’t LA or New York. This is Terre Haute. Things are a little different here.” She stepped back from the wall in order to check her handiwork, “Besides, I enjoy doing all my own dirty work.”

“Like making phone calls to the editors of music magazines?”

There was that flash again. That look upon her face that told me that she was smart enough to know that she had won the important early rounds but that the fight was far from over. For a moment she made no reply. Just looked at me. She seemed to be sizing me up, trying to decide what sort of person I was, what I was “made of” as they say. After a moment she smirked and pointed a gluey brush at me, “They told you about the phone calls huh?”

“Yeah. I think that everybody in the industry has heard about your phone calls. You’ve become a bit of well-circulated gossip. How many times did you call?”

“Four hundred thirty seven,” she replied, “I counted. Four hundred thirty seven times. It’s my new lucky number. 4 – 3 -7…I should go buy a lottery ticket today and say gimme 4 – 3 – 7.”

“Yeah, well rumor also has it that they got a little tired of you calling.”

“Yeah, they mentioned that a few times. They also mentioned lawyers…But hey, you’re here aren’t you?”

“Yes, I suppose that I am.”

“You industry people need to realize what’s going on here. Every day we get new bands being formed. You’ve got people who’ve played in cover bands trying to write their own stuff. You’ve got people whose parents made them learn an instrument now deciding that they really do want to play that instrument. You’ve got people who’ve never picked up an instrument in their lives picking up instruments. It’s amazing. And I know that at some point this whole town is just gonna explode in music. That Terre Haute’s gonna be the next Seattle.”

I smiled and laughed. “Well,” I said, “that was even sooner than your dad predicted.”


“He said that if I stuck around for a few days, I’d hear you say that Terre Haute will be the next Seattle. That took less than an hour.”

The Next Seattle

The Next Seattle: Chapter 3

Black cinder blocks…

Loud music echoed through the air as Mr. Ketchum and I stepped into the club Seattle on Third Street in downtown Terre Haute. The club was pretty much the same as the thousands of other clubs that I had seen during my “illustrious” career. Set in an older brick building, the inside of the club carried the familiar motif: cinder block painted black. Ah, the black cinder block—a welcome sight indeed. That was my element. I had spent most of my life in places like this. Spent countless after-midnight hours bouncing from one set of black cinder blocks to another, refreshing my buzz with a new round of drinks at each stop. So to see that such a place existed in Terre Haute, Indiana meant that they had gotten at least one thing right. I had my doubts about the legitimacy of the other facets of this alleged music scene, but at least they had gotten the black cinder block right.

I actually felt a little better.

Like in many a small club, the furniture consisted of a bunch of mismatched tables and chairs that looked as though they had been purchased at garage sales. Above the bar, I noticed the logo for the club. I liked it. The logo looked as though it had been created by a psychopath and depicted a scene of an exploding Space Needle with shards of shrapnel coming together to form the word ‘Seattle.’ I glanced about the rest of the room. There was no real theme to the club. No neon lights. Only a few photos on the wall. No fake Tiki statues. Just the black cinder block walls and a bunch of mismatched furniture. Your basic no-frills club which, incidentally, is exactly the way that I like it.

At the far end of the club was a small raised stage which contained barely enough room for a band to squeeze together upon (I thought to myself that it was fortunate the nobody played piano in bands anymore, because a piano wouldn’t have fit in that area which passed for a stage). Along the side wall was the most important element of any nightclub: the bar. This was the key to any club’s

operation. It was a time-honored formula: people come to see bands; they drink. A club-owner judges a band’s success strictly by the take at the bar. If a band brings in big crowds, then that adds up to a lot of alcohol-purchasing bodies. If a band doesn’t bring in a lot of drinkers, then that band will not get the prime weekend gigs. It’s as simple as that. So in a roundabout way, every successful band started out as liquor salesmen. The best liquor salesmen get the best gigs. The best gigs are the ones which attract the Suits from the record labels who, impressed by the large crowd of slobbering drunks, give the band a label deal. All this attention by the record company catches the attention of radio stations who play the liquor salesmen’s record which catches the public’s attention and millions of dollars are made for everybody. The good liquor salesman is now a household name.

A few rows of tables were positioned close to the stage, and at one of these tables a young woman sat listening to the auditioning band. I could immediately tell that this was my subject, Samantha. She was just one of those people who you automatically know is the one in charge. The young woman had the same sturdy look as the man who had picked me up at the airport. She appeared to be somewhere in her mid-twenties, a little on the heavy side, though not terribly so, with mid-length auburn hair and dressed like a musician. She didn’t seem to notice that we had entered, although this was not surprising, as the sound of the music effectively crushed any sounds we may have made upon entering. I doubt that anything short of a firing squad or an airplane crashing into the building could have penetrated the wall of noise generated by those four young men on stage at that moment.

I decided that I would hold off on lighting up my next cigarette until after I had been introduced to this woman.

When the song ended, Mr. Ketchum called out, “Hey Sam” to his daughter. Samantha turned, got up from the chair and walked toward us.

She casually looked me over. “You’re older than I imagined,” she said dryly. And that was all she said. She threw out that nice little

tidbit, then let the air just hang there, waiting, I suppose, for me to fill it in.

So I filled it in.

“Yeah, I’m a lot older than I imagine too,” I said. “In my imagination I’m a lithe 20-year-old running through a field of daisies without a care in the world. I’m also 6’2”, rippling with muscles and hung like a rhinoceros.”

She smiled.
Then in the pause that followed I noticed for the first time that

the members of the auditioning band were merely standing on the stage looking at us. As I looked up at the stage, the lead singer said, “Yo, do we get the gig or not?”

“Well,” said Samantha, “that depends. I’m hoping that comment about bringing homemade pyrotechnics was a joke?”

“What? Oh, yeah. Of course.”

“Because if you bring so much as a match to that stage, not one of you will ever play here again. Understand me Mike?”

“Swear. It was a joke.”

Samantha turned back toward the stage and said, “Then yeah, I guess so.” The band jumped in excitement and Samantha had to raise her voice above their happy howls, “we’ll try you out on next Tuesday’s opening slot. It’s the worst time to be playing. Bring enough friends to see you and maybe we’ll move you to a better slot.”

“No problem,” said the lead singer.

Samantha turned her attention back to me. She extended her hand. “I guess I should introduce myself. I’m Samantha,” she said.

“Nice to meet you David.”
“Same here,” I said, noticing her surprisingly firm handshake “Well,” she said, “here you are.”
“Yeah,” I sighed, “Here I am.”
We stood there for a moment in the strange silence of two people

who are basically sizing one another up. I have no idea what she was thinking when confronted with the sight of an emaciated-looking,

long-haired, nose-pierced, older-than-she-had-imagined music journalist.

But I can tell you what I saw when I looked at her. I saw determination. There are just some people who, when you look at them, you see that they have it. And I am convinced that this quality, above all else, is what makes the “successful” people successful. An unusual facet of my profession is that I tend to meet a lot of people who have come from nowhere and made it to the top of their professions. Unlike other occupations which you can be born into or educated into or fraternitied into, every successful band starts out as a bunch of dirt-poor nobodies. All of them. They are not born into this business, they fight their way into it. And one difference that I have seen between the million-sellers and the thousands of bands that go nowhere is that the top people radiate determination.

That’s not to say that they are necessarily good people, or intelligent people, or talented people, or even sane people (although neither are they necessarily not any of those things), but the one thing that most “successful” people I’ve met have in common is determination. That’s what makes them persevere through all of the bad things that would make others, like me and like most of the world, give up. That is what makes them not take “no” for an answer. That’s what allows them to shrug off rejection after rejection until they get a “yes.” That, above all else is why they succeed. And this young woman had it.

Around us the band was packing its equipment away and I noticed that the guy Samantha had been talking to was staring at me. He bounded up to us and asked Samantha, “Is this the guy?”

I looked at him, “The guy?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said, “this is the guy. Leave him alone Mike.” “Dude,” said Mike, “you gotta come by and see us on… what

night was it?”
“I believe she said next Tuesday.”
“Right! Tuesday. Dude, you have to come!” Samantha looked at him: “Goodbye Mike.” “Oh right. Bye.”

And as Mike walked back to his bandmates Samantha turned and walked toward the bar. She reached behind the bar and pulled out a stack of posters. Then she looked down at my feet.

“Good,” she said, “you’ve got tennis shoes on. Wanna come help me put up posters?”

“Well, I haven’t even checked into my hotel yet…”

“Oh come on.” She smiled as she pulled out a can of glue and a few stiff brushes, “I’ve got a big, gluey paint brush with your name on it.”

“Well,” I said, “how could I possibly refuse an offer like that?”

I looked at the big stiff paintbrush and the stack of club posters and the sight brought the memories flooding back to me. There were those nights, eons ago it now seemed, when I had helped my friend Paul and the other members of Paul’s band plaster the streets of Los Angeles. As was the custom among bands, we would slap a poster upon anything that didn’t move.

My God, how long ago had that been? Thirty years? More? My God.

The Next Seattle

The Next Seattle: Chapter 2

June 17, 1997… Sunny

The Next Seattle

So, crashing the rental car… that was not my fault.
Not my goddamned fault.
I blame the crash of the rental car on New York. I’ve lived in the

city for so long that I haven’t driven in more than 20 years. But here I had found myself out in this dinky place in the Midwest and I assume that they don’t have taxis out here. Do they? I really doubt it.

At any rate, I assumed that they didn’t, so I booked myself a rental car. Although I hadn’t driven in a few decades I assumed that driving was one of those skills that you really don’t forget.

I was wrong. Oh so wrong.

I didn’t even make it out of the rental lot. I backed right into the driver’s side door of a parked rental car. And that was that. The pimply-faced kid at the rental counter actually physically took the car keys from my hand. The little prick.

So, long story short, I ended up getting a ride from the father of the young woman I was in Terre Haute to interview.

Yeah, it was kind of embarrassing.

Plus, it was sunny that June day in 1997. It was sunny and I had left my sunglasses in New York. The only positive thing to happen thus far on this assignment was that when my “chauffeur” pulled up he was smoking a cigarette. So as soon as my butt hit the passenger’s seat, I fired up a smoke myself.

“So you’re from the Big Apple, huh?” asked Mr. Ketchum as I squinted to see him in the horribly bright daylight.

“Yeah,” I said, “but I’m originally from Los Angeles.“

“Ah, ‘The Land of Fruits and Nuts,’” said Mr. Ketchum good- naturedly.

“Yeah, I’ve heard that said,” I replied, “ but now I live in New York.”

I didn’t add that I lived alone in New York. Pathetically alone. Not the kind of alone of a person who wants to be alone, but the alone of a person who has screwed up every relationship with every

good woman he has ever known; has alienated every person, of either sex, who it would be worthwhile to call a friend; has fallen to a pathetic level of existence on this planet. That was the type of alone that we’re talking about here. But, as I said, I didn’t mention that.

“Which edge of the country do you like the best?” he asked.

“Well, except for the fact that the weather is quite often a bitch, I much prefer the East Coast to the West.”

“Hmm,” murmured Mr. Ketchum, “Never been to either coast myself. We go up to Canada for a fishing trip every few years, but that’s about the extent of my traveling. Maybe one of these days.”

Soon, we were passing through signs of civilization—a small shopping center, then on through mainly residential areas. I could see a few taller buildings sprouting above the treetops and guessed that we must be nearing this alleged city. Now, coming as I had from New York, I had the New Yorker’s tendency to view any city that didn’t have gigantic buildings stacked one against the other as being, shall we say, nowhere. But I had to keep in mind that even in these days of exploding populations and paving over forests to build condos, America is still a nation of small towns. Take a cross-country drive sometime and this becomes readily apparent. America is mostly gaps, huge expanses of land punctuated by tiny clusters of people.

“So who’s your daughter auditioning?” I asked.

“Hell if I know. Probably called The Skinsuckers, or something like that. They all sound the same to me,” said Mr. Ketchum, “But she’s convinced she’s gonna find the next big band, and that Terre Haute’s gonna be the next Seattle. Stick around very long and you’ll hear her say that damned phrase at least once or twice. ‘Terre Haute’s gonna be the next Seattle.’”

“‘The next Seattle, huh?’ What do you think about that?” I asked.

“I don’t know that much about it myself. It’s all a little over my head.”

I can tell you one thing. The “next Seattle” claim was one that I had heard laid on more than one musical city over the last few years, but I have yet to see a phenomenon like that work itself out again.

And to tell you the truth, I’m not sure that it ever will. The whole Seattle scene was quite a unique little period in music history. A place and a time that a bunch of scruffy non-conformists made the industry come to them. I couldn’t see something like that being repeated again, much less out here in a small city in the middle of the country.

As Mr. Ketchum drove, he glanced over at me and said good- naturedly, “Damn. You sure are a skinny one aren’t ya? We’ll see if we can put some pounds on ya while you’re here,” he said with a laugh. “You’re not one of those vegetarians, are you?”

“No sir.” “Good.”

The Next Seattle

The Next Seattle: Chapter 1


I’m not French. I’ve never been to France or even to any French- speaking country. For that reason I really couldn’t tell you whether it’s true that the name Terre Haute is French for “high ground.” That’s just what some musician told me. I talk to a lot of musicians. That’s what I do for a living. And this musician said that Terre Haute was French for “high ground.” At the time I was ordered to fly to Terre Haute to report on their supposed burgeoning music scene I was in such a God-awful pathetic state that I never got over to the Research Department to find out even the most basic details about the place to which I had been sentenced.


But if there’s one thing I can tell you it’s this: if Terre Haute does mean “high ground” then somebody screwed up. Durango, Colorado: That’s high ground. Not this place. Not only that, but I haven’t seen a single Frenchman the entire time I’ve been here.

I suppose that I could do my journalistic duty and actually do some research. But truth be told, I’m not really much of a journalist. Although I’ve managed to make a living writing for rock music publications since I was 25, it has really all been just one incredibly successful scam. I always liked music, I seem to be able to keep tons of music trivia in my head (do you know the date of The Doors’ first gig? I do.) and I read enough music magazines when I was a kid to be able to mimic what a big-time rock journalist is supposed to sound like.

I could mimic the writing style, but to tell the truth I’ve never really understood the reason for that style, this pompous style in which music journalists are expected to write. Basically the goal is to come off sounding like an intellectual who happens to curse like a sailor. Scribble brainy sounding, but basically meaningless phrases

such as “socio-cultural milieu,” toss in a few instances of the F-word and you’re set.

Well, screw that. I’ve been faking it that way for more than 20 years and I’m done.

I’m not sure that I even like music anymore. I’m pushing 50. And the one glimmer of hope for something worthwhile in music put a shotgun to his head 3 years ago.

At any rate, supposedly there was a burgeoning music scene in Terre Haute, Indiana and supposedly that was why I came here. It should be noted that I did not volunteer for this assignment nor did I want it. It was punishment for a stupid thing that happened with a stupid, spoiled brat at the White House.

Though in my own defense, on the long plane ride out I had convinced myself to try to approach this assignment, as pointless as it was, the way that I had approached assignments when I actually used to give a shit. I was really going to try. But you need to know that through no fault of Terre Haute’s, I was disliking the place even before I knew where it was on a map.

God, I need a cigarette.