Farewell, Crocodile

December 18, 2007

It’s official: Seattle rock mainstay the Crocodile was closed suddenly on Sunday, and the owner has put the club up for sale.

I didn’t live in Seattle during the Croc’s grunge heyday, but I played there several times with Half Light, and I liked it better than the only other mid-sized club I’ve played in Seattle, The Tractor. The soundguy, Jim, is justifiably famous for his exceptional competence and decency, and the stage is big, comfortable, and well-grounded.

But I can see why it’s closing. Half Light never played to more than 50 people, and I’ve been to plenty of other friends’ shows there with the room 3/4ths empty.  It’s great that the Croc supported local music by giving little bands a chance to play on a big stage, but if you’re not selling enough drinks to cover salaries and utilities for the night,  eventually it adds up. There are plenty of smaller venues–The Rendezvous down the street, for one–where smaller bands can feel big by packing the room.

As a fan, I used to go to the Croc every so often to see Local Heroes and College Radio DarlingsKinski sticks out as a highlight–but now I tend to find myself at Neumo’s or the Tractor (which are usually packed) for those kinds of shows. I guess there are only so many mid-size music venues that Seattle can support, and we’ve already got Neumo’s, the Triple Door (too corporate), Chop Suey (horrible sound), Nectar (horrible scene), the High Dive (meh), and the Tractor.

Too bad. If only I had a spare million or two lying around, here’s what I’d do with the place.

1. Get rid of the kitchen. It breaks the flow, and there’s no margin in food, even fast food–the only reason to serve food is to get people to drink more, and that’s not necessary when most people are there to see music and buying their drinks from one of the bars.

2. Expand the bar. (See 1.) Or have multiple bars. In one of them, fill a jukebox with nostalgic and insider-y selections that will appeal to the indie rock crowd. In the other, have a small stage and book jazz or blues or DJs. Use the rooms for special events. Like the Green Room at the Showbox, or the Turntable at EMP, or the bar upstairs at the Triple Door.

3. Cut the main showroom in 2/3ds, get rid of the 80s-SF-metalclub black-on-black decor, and don’t book a show unless you’ve got a headliner that you know will draw. The rest of the time, keep the big room closed and let the bar be the draw.

Nothing particularly innovative, but most people want to hang out with music in the background a lot more often than they want to focus on the music for a night.