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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Today in Stranger Suggests

posted by on January 10 at 11:00 AM

Give $$$ to Vera!


(DO IT!) Remember when the Vera Project announced they were going to attempt to raise a million and a half smackaroos to remodel and open their new venue at Seattle Center? That’s a lot of dough—a lofty goal indeed. But the cash started flowing and Vera started construction on the new space last summer. Now there’s only about $600,000 left to go, and their new venue (read more about it here), is set to open February 23. This is the final push, Seattle. Don’t leave Vera hanging. (To donate, visit, or send a check to Viva Vera, 1122 E Pike St #849, Seattle, WA, 98122.) MEGAN SELING

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Someone explain to me again why kids need a million dollar palace so that adults can facilitate their rebellion. What ever happened to forming a co-op and renting a piece of crap space in a marginal area of town, throwing up some sheetrock and paint, and having bands play. Vera is a bunch of gatekeepers who want you to fill out paperwork to do a show. About as anti- rock and roll as it gets.

Sheesh. It's such an obvious subversion of punk. Might as well have Journey sponsor the whole project.

Posted by rtm | January 10, 2007 11:32 AM

Haha, that confused me at first, since the diminutive of my Russian name is Vera.

Posted by Veronika | January 10, 2007 11:46 AM

RTM, you've concisely said something that's been floating around in my head for a while now.

But such co-optation is inevitable, really. From skateparks to venues, if there's a demand amongst youth for certain kinds of recreation, businesses, governments, or well-meaning non-profits will step in to fill it on scales unimaginable to DIY types.

So VERA makes the punk rock safe, consumable, and recreational, but at least try to mitigate that watering down by offering DIY workshops to teach kids how shirts, shows, and bands used to get made. It's not radical anymore, it's just recreational. But it's a hell of a lot better than no all-ages at all.

Posted by eric Grandy | January 10, 2007 11:49 AM

Wow, RTM-- I don't know how one could get such an amazingly narrow perception of Vera. And I disagree with the fact the idea that youth don't need a venue or resource like Vera-- it's the kind of place where people get experience in DIY organizing and get the skills and resources to build their own venue out of sheet rock in a "marginal area of town."

Maybe you were born a fully formed, pure punk-as-fuck revolutionary, but most young people need peers, mentors, and inspiration to make the strides it takes to transform and change their community. The Vera Project is supplying those resources as well as actual experience in community organizing and impacting the local political process. And unlike many of your fly-by-night DIY venues, the Vera Project is a sustainably planned model for how a group of dedicated volunteers can really make something amazing out of nothing.

Considering the money that we, as a nation of consumers spend to keep ourselves passively entertained, apathetic, and altogether boring-- the Vera Project is a refreshing alternative to that culture, and I'd say it's a bargain at a million bucks.

Posted by christopher hong | January 10, 2007 12:01 PM

HEY Eric, and RTM-
The difference between Vera and the Co-Option of modern punk rock is that Vera is run by young people. This is what young people are building, young people have asked for this money to be raised and for the opportunities to be expanded.

There is a really intense difference between someone producing punk rock for young people and young people producing their own programming.

The Vera Project is also often misinterpreted as a place for teenage rebellion. It is not. It is a place where young people can go and be respected for their ideas, whatever they may be. Is that different from the status quo in their (our) lives? In many instances, yes. It is rebellious to hate school, but many young people hate school because school is an institution that doesn't respect their ideas and opinions. The Vera Project is a place for where they are respected, and respect is most certainly not punk rock.

(And for the record, we are currently building the most inexpensive club in the city. And we run on a shoestring budget for how much work we achieve. That is and will always be punk rock.)

Posted by Ari Spool | January 10, 2007 12:01 PM

RTM stands for "Resurrect Timmy (Yohannon)"

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | January 10, 2007 12:02 PM

Look, I have much love for the Vera and places like it. I know the impact they can have first hand, and I'm glad more kids will be able to experience the community and entertainment the Vera provides.

But it's not DIY. It's big and bureacratic. It's different in scale and quality from the mythical house show. And it's intimidating to some people.

The Vera's great, it just fills a different niche than DIY house shows. And no, it's not about rebellion, it's about community and entertainment. The rebellion will have to happen elsewhere.

Posted by eric Grandy | January 10, 2007 12:09 PM

you're right, they totally do -not- need this space because they could totally do it on their own in some illegitimate basement.

while we're at it, why dont we just stop funding education too? i mean, if kids really wanted to learn, they would just go to the library right? yeah! thats it! they could all just go to the library and teach themselves!

and fyi dude, if journey sponsored the vera project, that would only up the awesome level.

Posted by alithea | January 10, 2007 12:10 PM

Yeah, but...Punk rock shows aren't a neccesity in the same way that education is.

I think there's room for both the Vera and the basements, mind you. The idea that we must have one or the other is retarded, it keeps this discussion too narrowly framed, and makes seeming enemies out of people who all want more or less the same thing.

Posted by eric Grandy | January 10, 2007 12:19 PM

Grandy, I don't think this argument is about one or the other-- I think this argument to me, is about the fact that people don't believe that what Vera is doing is radical or rebellious.

If you consider that the organization, is as Ari pointed out-- driven by the ideas and opinions of the youth who are its core, and that the entire organizational structure is transparent to the people it serves-- I would consider that radical.

Yes, there are a lot of committees and meetings and all that, but would you dismiss 924 Gilman as big and bureaucratic? Technically, it fits that definition but certainly not in character. Being a cultural institution and institutionalizing or "co-opting" elements of a culture are not the same things. I would also say that house shows and the attendant insular punk community is far more intimidating than any workshop Vera offers.

Vera is more than just DIY, because it's trying to make that self-motivated, grass-roots ability to change the entire community a part of everyone's experience-- not just the kids in the basement. And I think it might actually be working. If that's not radical and rebellious, I don't know what the fuck you expect.

Posted by christopher hong | January 10, 2007 12:31 PM

"most young people need peers, mentors, and inspiration to make the strides it takes to transform and change their community."

Ya know, Chris...I like Vera, but this made me throw up in my mouth a little bit. You're talking a about a concert venue, not a boys' & girls' club. Get a grip.

"the Vera Project is a sustainably planned model for how a group of dedicated volunteers can really make something amazing out of nothing."

Except for, you know...the 1.5 million dollars.

Posted by A Nony Mouse | January 10, 2007 1:31 PM

Wow. Such vitriol. Look, we are on the same team, buddies. I like all-ages shows, you like all-ages shows. I like them in the basement, I like them at the Union Hall, I like them wherever (ok, I don't like them at Mars Hill).

Transparancy is a great thing for any institituion to have, kudos to the Vera for being transparent. And, yes, to have an organization of its size steered by youth is phenomenal. Internally, Vera is certainly radical. Going to a show there doesn't feel much different than going to a show at Neumos, though. A lot of what's great about punk rock is the subjective, individual experience of it—I just prefer a good house show, I'm not advocating a Vera teardown or "what the fuck."

Posted by eric Grandy | January 10, 2007 1:33 PM

I'm glad there is a conversation going on the issue.

I'm just curious. How in the world were Green River, the U-Man, etc. able to exist without those nurturing mentors?

Oh, I forgot, they learned how to do it from the people's prefab co-op, owned and operated by adults, but "driven" by the ideas of the kids.

The education analogy doesn't hold water. I think it's entirely possible that a lot more kids are learning a lot more about music, promotions, and goal setting, on a much smaller budget, in the few remaining high school jazz programs in this city.

Obviously, I am an old man. Oh well. I just don't remember the city of Portland helping Poison Idea and the Rats (and the Wipers and Sado Nation, etc etc) build a showcase for what they were doing. The scene just moved from Pacific Academy to Clockwork Joes and so forth.

Still, I'm enjoying the thread here, and I don't find much of this vitriolic. Just spirited.

Posted by rtm | January 10, 2007 2:17 PM

One other thing. It's entirely possible I don't completely understand how Vera works. Perhaps someone with more information could get ahold of the 14 year old with check writing authority, the 16 year old who is managing the construction project, and the twin 17 year olds who selected the architect and contractor and have them join the conversation.

Posted by rtm | January 10, 2007 2:20 PM

Vera is one of the best, most successful youth run organizations of it's type in the country. It's also one of the increasingly few all ages music venues not run by the crazy evangelical christians trying to co-opt underground youth culture (read Mars Hill). It's not a house party. But that's like saying Maximum Rock'n Roll isn't a self-published punk zine. While true, uh, duh. The main difference being this is a place run by it's youth members (unlike a house party which is usually run by whoever is renting the house), that will be around next year, and many years after. It's not going to be shut down by the city, or neighbors, etc. It also has facilities to teach young people how to run sound, it has gallery space, it has a silk-screen studio,

And sure, Vera needs to raise some money - but keep in mind this is Seattle - there are not many 6,000 square foot spaces in the city available with a long term lease available for anything DIY. Vera had a great space the kids fixed up themselves, it's now going to be condos. Fortunately Nickels, the City Council, County Council and Seattle Center have been incredibly supportive so Vera got a great space, but doing a build-out of a space on city property has it's downside to - lots of city regulations that don't allow for just anyone to do the work, and lots of expensive standards an old building on private property wouldn't have. End of the day though, Seattle will have a dedicated all ages venue that could be around for the next 100 years. This space is great, and the music community is more than lucky to have it.

Oh, and you don't have to fill out any paperwork to play at Vera, that's just complete bullshit coming from someone who has no idea that they are talking about.

Posted by Meinert | January 10, 2007 2:24 PM

Look, A-mouse-- it's not really worth responding to your bilious sarcasm but to clarify: The $1.5 million venue is the "something amazing," that was made from nothing. Not the other way around, snarky pants.

Grandy, it's I'm not personally angry at you-- I just have a hard time dealing with abstract criticisms, when the concrete reality is that Vera is making credible change.

And while I also disagree that going to Vera is like going to Neumo's from an audience members' perspective-- I don't think Neumo's has ever had a van full of touring Haitian youth artists come to a show and start a random dance party in their space-- I can easily say that working and being involved in the two venues could not be more different, which I think is a very important and substantive difference.

Posted by christopher hong | January 10, 2007 2:28 PM

RTM - RTM - you're living in your glory days dude. Get over it and realize there are young people out there that want their own venue and have their own ideas. Chris Hong is far more in touch with that than old crusties like us. I loved the Wipers and U-Men (and Cat Butt, Pure Joy, The Fags, etc for that matter), but if there would have been some support around that scene those bands might have flourished beyond the history of the NW. They didn't. Nor did the venues that popped up for moments around them. Sure, a little later we ended up with Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Candlebox, but remember, they ain't the same thing. The kids who bought Ten weren't the kids going to see bands like Mr. Epp, The Fags and the U-Men in the mid 80's. And frankly, I think it's a positive that people involved in the underground scene will now be able to go see shows in venues that don't burn down like The Church. Spaces like The Oddfellows Hall, Community World Theater, and the rental halls that used to house shows are gone or unavailable for diy shows. It sucks. Seattle isn't the grimy, blue collar town with tons of old spaces available for rent it was before the grunge years and the tech boom, and it's never going to be. But what we have seen replace it in underground music are venues like the Old Firehouse in Redmond that has fostered a ton of great bands now touring and making good records. Vera is doing the same. And it's good. Even better is that young people get to be involved and make the decisions at every level of the organization unlike we did for venues we went to. We need to support it, go to and find out how you can donate to the project.

Posted by meinert | January 10, 2007 2:49 PM

Look, it just bums me out that Vera has become such a sacred cow in this town that it's above criticism.

Maybe I don't like punk rock by comitte, maybe I want to drink at a show, maybe I find the institutionalisation of punk boring, maybe Vera doesn't fulfill all my punk rock needs. And that's fine, it doesn't have to. I'll just stay out of the way now.

Posted by eric Grandy | January 10, 2007 2:49 PM

Eric, to be punk is to make punk. Writing about punk for the corporate owned Stranger isn't punk. Jeesh. House parties are great, Vera is great, Neumo's is great (as is the Stranger). A great scene has it all. Stop the hating and go publish your own zine and put on your own punk house shows and then come back and bitch about how other people are creating shit for themselves isn't punk enough for you.

Posted by Meinert | January 10, 2007 3:04 PM

Seriously, staying out of the way now. Vera is great. House shows are great. Mixed use shows at bars are great. Seattle has several all-ages options (for now), which is great. I'm not hating, I'm being critical. None of my posts here have been hateful or even mean, really.

Posted by eric Grandy | January 10, 2007 3:15 PM

Um, Meinert, Grandy, was something cut out of the comments? When did you guys make conflicting points?

Grandy: "Vera is great, but not technically DIY, but whatever, Vera is great!"

Meinert: "Vera is great! Grandy, go out and make some punk!"

I suggest Dave and Eric form a punk band and play at Vera.

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | January 10, 2007 3:33 PM

I'm psyched to see this debate take place. Thought I feel some feathers ruffling and defenses kicking in (as one of the founders), the critical points made here are well taken. I think it's mandatory for public and community organizations to be crystal clear on their identity and purpose and not misrepresent. The questioning process generally brings that clarity. I sincerely hope that Vera is never a sacred cow in Seattle because there could be 8 Veras, and 100 punk houses and there still wouldn't be enough or diverse enough venues to serve all the young folks and artists in town.

But in the spirit of sticking up for something I worked my ass off for:

1) I think the notion of punk is impermanent. What's punk is when someone(s) has the idea to make something happen with the resources they have. It's the initiation of something that didn't exist before and response to all the "established" things that one thinks are unsatisfactory. . . so here's to Vera keeping punk alive in some of the youth in Seattle by growing and succeeding and making room for them to start up their punk efforts in response to their dissatisfaction with Vera.

2) A lot of people started Vera. DIY for 60 people from a lot of different places in the community looks a lot different than DIY between 4 folks that live together in a house. I guess I always imagined VERA more like D-I-T anyway (do it together, in the words of anna oxygen).

3) A house with a basement big enough to do shows in central Seattle costs almost a million dollars, so why not take that money (or work your ass off raising that money) and use it to also build a community silkscreen studio, a recording studio for more musicians to be able to make affordable recordings, and a homeless youth run cafe? Bring on the palace, por favor.

Here's another million dollar punk palace that I'm really glad exists and personally I hope there are more and more of them across the US.

Posted by shannon s | January 18, 2007 5:56 PM

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