2003: the year of the happening club scene

You people, with your appetite for music — it's insatiable! Don't you read, Seattle? Don't you watch television? Don't you watch movies or shop or join chess clubs or surf the Internet for hours on end? Don't you eat, for goodness' sake?

No, you're all too busy going out to see music. It's all you do, Jet City, it's all you ever do.

Perhaps you detect a whiff of facetiousness ... well, maybe you're right. Yet there is some truth in this exaggerating. Just look around and see all the new nightclubs we have, gamely attempting to supply your wild demand.

While 2003 was another horrific year for the local economy, the local nightclub economy continued to flourish. Night after night, live music clubs like the Showbox, the Crocodile and Graceland drew hearty rock crowds. Pioneer Square has had something of a rebound, while Belltown has become nothing more than a weekend playground for 23-year-olds. True, music is mere background for the Pioneer Squares and Belltowners, but the hard-core music-heads continued to drive the club scene, greeting new venues with consistent enthusiasm.

The biggest and most important club opening of 2003 was the Triple Door, which Rick Yoder opened underneath (literally) his wildly successful Wild Ginger restaurant. The Triple Door managed to be sophisticated without being slick, popular without being lowest-common-denominator.

Booking the likes of touring acts Barbarito Torres, Shelby Lynne and some of the best Earshot Jazz Fest shows as well as Children of the Revolution and other top locals, it has become a destination for the 35-and-over crowd — and, flying in the face of cynics, proven that a downtown nightclub can flourish.

The reopened Fenix brought a sleek, upscale club for a younger crowd, mixing live music and DJs just like the old Fenix (which closed after the Nisqually quake, back in early 2001).

While the Fenix follows its own established pattern, Lo-Fi is an entirely new deal. This lively little fellow on Eastlake Avenue East has a vaguely Bohemian feel to it, part art gallery, part groove joint.

Suite G and Norm's opened a short walk from each other in Fremont (the next Belltown?), and both smallish venues are doing well, with Suite G hosting jam bands and Norm's spotlighting jazz.

Mr. Lucky (which technically opened at the end of 2002) became a hot dance/lounge spot in Queen Anne, and Studio Seven, a converted warehouse in SODO/Georgetown, opened as a hard-rock live venue.

On the down side, the all-ages Paradox closed, as did Noiselab, the latest unsuccessful attempt in the former ARO.space. Noiselab, which closed last month after losing its lease, does plan to reopen at another Capitol Hill site in the summer.

Look for a new club to open at the former ARO.space on New Year's Eve.

Just a few weeks ago, Habana closed and was replaced on the outskirts of Pioneer Square by Mantra Lounge, offering similar house/drum-and-bass DJ music, but in a vastly improved sound/visual environment.

Yes, it's true, a couple of our cherished clubs did go down for the count in '03. The punkhouse Zak's unplugged and laundromat-rock venue Sit & Spin folded (sorry) ... yet you people are so devilishly famished for music that new owners quickly took over, with the Funhouse opening in the Space Needle's shadow, where Zak's long stood, and the Hideaway taking over the rock spin cycle at Belltown's Sit & Spin.

You were all terribly disturbed when the Chop Suey owners sold their place early this year, but new ownership — and a strong booking team — has made the Capitol Hill spot perhaps even better than it ever was.

The only real loss to the night scene in '03 was I-Spy, which closed in January. It, too, reopened: as a combination comedy and "gentlemen's" club. Insert joke here.

• Christmas parties are the theme of the week. The Halloween-time "Ghoulbooty" crew of Reggie Watts (the Maktub singer), sax man Skerik, Hell's Belles belter Om Johari, extraordinary percussionist Elizabeth Pupo-Walker and other local stars is performing as "Yulebooty" at the Crocodile on Saturday.

Long Winters singer John Roderick, the Divorce, the Amazombies and other local bands go Christmas caroling at the Croc on Sunday (9 p.m., $8).

Tom Scanlon: tscanlon@seattletimes.com