If you were hanging out in Seattle's just-burgeoning club scene at the beginning of the '90s, you had to know about the Off Ramp - it ruled.
The Eastlake Avenue night spot survived competition from the legendary but now-defunct Squid Row on Capitol Hill and preceded the Crocodile Cafe in Belltown, and every band that mattered played the Ramp during its six-year run. Eventually it became run-down and the great bands moved on, but in its time, the Off Ramp was the place for live rock.
Well, now it's back, if not with the same name at least with a genuine attempt at the same spirit. Erik Knutson, a former bartender, recently bought the Off Ramp's space and is working on returning it to its old glory as the Sub Zero Cafe. Knutson has cleaned up the place, remodeled the bathrooms - always the scurviest part of the old Ramp - and will reintroduce live music Saturday with the New York art rock band Jonathan Fire # Eater.
"Yeah, I started with the bathrooms," Knutson said with a chuckle. "They were horrible. I ripped up five floors to get down to the trusses; they were all soaked or had dry rot. Then we redid the bar and the music room, dealt with the Liquor Board, all of that, but it's going real well. We're up and running."
Knutson is no stranger to the Off Ramp. "I was there during its heyday," he recalls. "It was pretty crazy. I had been wanting to open a place in the North (End) since like 1993, but there was nothing happening. Then a friend just kind of dropped this in my lap. I paid off my house, took out a new mortgage and here we are."
The Sub Zero Cafe, at 109 Eastlake Ave., is open 11 a.m to 2 a.m. daily, and more music nights are planned. Considering how many nightclubs have recently closed, it's good to have an old favorite spot reborn.
-- Charlie Macs North - formerly Parker's, which was formerly the Aquarius, which was formerly Parker's - has changed ownership and management and become, yep, Parker's, or more accurately Parker's Sports Bar. The new Parker's resumes live music tonight with the very popular dance band Hit Explosion, followed by the Retros tomorrow night. Saturdays will continue to feature dance music, hosted and spun by DJ Ed B. In case you've forgotten, Parker's is still at 17001 Aurora Ave. N.
-- The Gravity Bar at 113 Virginia St. kicks off live jazz tomorrow night with Justin Desmangles of the hip-hoppity band Royal Jazz, and Reggie Watts of the acid-jazz band Maktoub. The music goes from 8:30 to 11 p.m. It's an all-ages event and there's no cover charge.
-- Portland's decadent but delightful Dandy Warhols, whose new CD, " . . . The Dandy Warhols Come Down," arrived in stores Tuesday, are at the Crocodile tonight. The new recording is a tasty mix of '60s psychedelia and '90s nihilism. The Dandys always put on an entertaining show, even when they don't take off their clothes. Lusk opens.
The local pop trio Severna Park, winner of the Warped Tour Battle of the Bands last week, opens for Harvey Danger at the Crocodile on Wednesday.
-- The popular bar rockers Super Sonic Soul Pimps celebrate the release of their second CD, "Albino," tomorrow at the Showbox. Also on the bill are Citizen's Utilities and Micro Mini.
-- Rorschach Test, the sharp-dressed power rock band that played a splendid opening set for Queensryche last month at the Gorge, is at the Fenix tonight with Apocalypse Theatre. The forever funked-up Fishbone returns to the Fenix tomorrow.
-- Also: The Tractor Tavern continues its love for all things Celtic with the trad English folk band Waterson:Carthy tonight and Irish vocalist Niamh Parsons on Wednesday. Carrie Akre and Garth Reeves of Goodness do a freebie at the OK Hotel on Tuesday. Very funny woman Jan Barrett is at the Comedy Underground tonight through Saturday.