Exit133 is about Tacoma
Daniel Blue: A long overdue letter to Tacoma … and an invitation
Those of you that have been around Exit133 for a long time will remember the name Daniel Blue. Daniel wrote a regular column for Exit133 back in the late aughts - back when he and Sassy McButterpants would vie for online attention in a rapidly expanding universe of Tacoma's Internet presence. Well, he'll be in town later this month and he has a little something he wants to say ...
I moved to Tacoma around 2003 and I stayed until I moved to Seattle in 2010. I really had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was into the idea of being a poet and I was making ends meet by sewing old sweaters together into hoodies and calling it a fashion label. But, at the bottom of my heart, I knew I was an artist. And an artist needs space. An artist needs room to grow, experiment, fail, and borrow money from older more established artists that take pity on a path unpaved.
Tacoma was like a dream to me. I would stand over the gutter drains and claim I could "feel the creative energy” coming up from underground. I would imagine the city being built beneath me and pushing me up into the top level penthouse life I imagined sexy New York artists lived. But, alas, the dreams of youth are a burden I am not sorry I carried longer than most, cusping my way between the different shades of jade held by gen x and the millennials. Somehow, Tacoma loved me and hated me equally enough for the dreamer I was, so I suppose there should be some explanation as to why I never came back.
I haven’t played a legit show in Tacoma since Motopony played Jazzbones in 2010, right before we were whisked away by label-men in black coats to NYC to learn all about the fake rich bastards that live on the ceiling of the post poverty scrubbed and reconditioned cityscapes. That night we opened for SHIM, a Seattle band whose guitarist and bassist I fell in love with and somehow convinced to join Motopony. Jazzbones was pretty much the only venue in town that was not a dive bar. It has a mezzanine and a sushi bar. Once, I was forced to fork over $6 for two bottles of water because of this thing I had never heard of called a “two drink minimum on Thursday nights”. Classy!
Why didn’t I come back to Tacoma? Well I did once, but only for a living room solo show for 25 people. Motopony has since been to the other side of the world and back. After that night at Jazzbones I made any fans I had come to me. Before I left town, Motopony (the band on the album that got signed) only played a handful of Tacoma gigs. I make the distinction because Motopony, the-whoever-will-play-with-Daniel-while-he-figures-out-how-to-be-a-musician, probably played 50 to 75 shows in Tacoma. After that, I guess, booking really wasn’t up to us. You get a manager. They hire an agent. The label sets an agenda. I suppose I could have pushed for it, but the few times Tacoma shows were on the table the guys in the band would say, “Tacoma makes you weird.” I was outvoted.
What the hell is that supposed to mean? How does it “make me weird?” Like how? I never got an answer.
Growing up in the suburbs outside of Tacoma, tucked up into the mountains a bit, we knew Seattle people were “different”. Our friends would go there for work or school and come back all cool and different. “Big city bullshit.” After extended trips to Mumbai (24 million) and London (16 Million), not to mention LA, NYC, SF, Delhi, Athens, etc … one must take note that Seattle at just over 500k people doesn’t really qualify as a “big city” . And as for the bullshit: it dawns on me that perhaps my childhood friends being confronted with their backwater homophobia and religious prejudice were required to adapt or stay ignorant. Later, however, living in Tacoma as a full fledged artist, I wasn’t homophobic, racist, or zealous and I could spot a city slicker instantly if they came in the coffee shop. So, Tacoma was different too.
We called Tacoma a city and, for all I know it’s grown into the title since I’ve been gone, but the older generation of musicians would laugh at our “arts renaissance” and “creative revolution”. I remember several conversations about how it’s all come and gone over and over in Tacoma. “It swells up and it dies down, you’ll see.” It felt like there were a quiet majority of folk that wanted to keep Tacoma a sleepy blue collar practical town with cheap rents and secret warehouses of creative orgy. Having my sights set on big time stardom, letting the world know all about my ideas, and becoming a big deal … In the long run, I guess, I just kinda stopped fitting in.
253 is the area code for any Tacoma phone number. I still see the time 2:53 AT LEAST 5-6 TIMES A WEEK. I’ll be in the subway car in Brooklyn that happens to be #253, I was in London and the address of the pub was 253 Porstham St. It’s been happening for years. Ive always wondered if it wasn’t an omen that meant someday I would come back to my first love, come back to the city that let me first raise my freak flag without anyone telling me I wasn’t a good boy.
Tacoma didn’t want me to behave, it was pretty excited that I wanted to get weird. I wrote a poem, passionate about how people could change things for the better. I stood on a sculpture downtown and let Exit133 film me reading it in my 253 heart t-shirt I designed. Watching it now makes my skin crawl. Its … so… precious. lol. I still owe people money in Tacoma - or people from Tacoma that have moved to other places. Perhaps when I pay my debts the curse of the area code will leave me alone.
Coming back and playing Jazzbones is a big deal. I might not have done it If Sporty Lee wasn’t on the bill. Jason, Sporty Lee’s frontman and I grew up down the street from each other in the foothills of Mt Rainier. When I was 26 he bought a house in Old Town and he, his wife, my fiance and I went through a book called The Artist’s Way. It shocked me into realizing I wanted to be a singer. I stopped everything (eventually and disastrously even breaking off the engagement) and started whacking away at a broken guitar with an old library card as a pick because I couldn’t seem to keep hold of the small ones. I was an idiot at music when I started. These were humble HUMBLE beginnings. No one believed in me and I wouldn’t have been able to get over that first hump in any other city than Tacoma. But Tacoma was a place where you could get up on a stage in front of your peers and do your weird things. No one had to like it, they were sure to talk openly their opinions about it, and everyone watched it. It was a place where they would let you try. It was like, who cares? This is the basement, underground and not the penthouse. There's no one here that can judge you dude. Haters gonna hate.
As It became clear that I needed to leave town I ended up writing a breakup song and putting a video on the internet of me and my friend Grace singing it. It was all about how I was justified in leaving (which I clearly felt very guilty about) because Tacoma had lied and never delivered to me what it had promised. Like where’s my god damned penthouse? I still live in a basement apartment with my wife in Seattle. It’s too small and it doesn’t get enough light, but we must love it here because we say no every time there's an opportunity to move.
When I held my first CD release party in the basement of the Baptist church in Tacoma in 2009, some kids threw an anti-Daniel Blue party (free beer?!?). I know what your thinking, “Yeah, right dude. You got a big head to think that they would intentionally single you out just because someone threw a party the night of your big show?” But I saw the flyer. It actually said “anti Daniel Blue party, free beer.” Maybe these were the same kids that made a t-shirt of my clothing company mascot dead, and a letter changed in my logo claiming it was a “zero to my one” or some metaphysical justification that “someday you’ll thank us for resisting you, we are making you stronger”. LOL. OK. Thanks, man. You were right.
That same year, when the Weekly Volcano, Tacoma’s Local paper, put my face on the cover, there was an explosion online and the comments ended up in the hundreds. I had to stop reading it (editors note: never read the comments - dy). It was a crazy argument about my character and if I deserved this or that accolade. It didn’t seem to have much to do with the music. It may have had a lot to do with my less than admirable dating/engaging habits. People were either violently attacking or defending me. Everyone seemed genuinely upset. The A&R guy at the first label that signed us told me that it was that debate that got their attention. “Controversy is good, guys like me are out looking for guys like you.” That label spent so much money. They spent more money that I had earned in my whole life combined up to that day. All over an argument online … and an honest to goodness homemade record.
I just got back from finishing a record I made at Abbey Road Studios in London. Despite how dreamy and “real musician” that may sound, I’m no more of a penthouse person than I’ve ever been. So, I’ll be at Jazzbones with old friends John Purkey and Jason Heminger on Aug 20th. Come watch me take out all my pent up whatever this feeling is on you. I don’t know how much you’ve changed Tacoma, but I intend to let my hair down and put my flag up.
Pre-sale tickets are available now!
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