There’s Always Music in the Air: The Story of Seattle’s Black Lodge
By Olivia Lee
Edited by Marian Mohamed
Attendees watching Suzzallo at the opening of The Black Lodge on Oct. 6, 2023. (Photo/Olivia Lee)
In episode 3 of Season 1 from David Lynch’s groundbreaking tv show "Twin Peaks", we find our protagonist, Agent Cooper, in the mysterious purgatory zone called the "Black Lodge". From the black and white zig-zag tiled floors to the heavy red curtains hanging from the walls; a sense of peculiarities oozes from this strange realm. As a warped voice repeatedly says, ‘Where we’re from the birds sing a pretty song and there’s always music in the air,’ we are left wondering what this strange eerie place is.
Sounds bizarre? Well, that is everything Black Lodge, one of Seattle’s most beloved all-ages DIY venues, is trying to achieve. Evoking core aspects from its namesake, the Black Lodge was known to be an intimate performance venue, celebrating punk, hardcore, and alternative music. After being shut down during the pandemic and countless renovations; the local venue is ready to carry on Seattle’ punk and DIY legacy in a safer and exciting manner. Black Lodge celebrated its return to the all-ages DIY punk scene on Oct. 6 with special performances by Suzzallo and opening speeches.
Like many DIY venues, Black Lodge comes from humble beginnings. Malia Alexander, who was involved with the venue’s formation for 15 years, discovered the space on Craigslist while looking for a place to live. Upon further inspection, she knew she had stumbled upon something truly special. Alexander immediately moved into the space with her partner with the intention to throw raves, host punk shows, and other events that catered to the DIY community. Eventually, the space became known as Black Lodge, a space where folks of all ages could come to hang out, watch live music, and connect with other people.
“One of the things that makes DIY spaces in general unique is that there is just more opportunity for experimentation,” said Alexander. “ Black Lodge has filled this very interesting space in that it’s not a tiny little garage where only 20 people can fit in but it’s also not needing to meet the same standards of capitalism that Neumos and Crocodile have to fight in order to stay in existence.”
Black Lodge’s all ages aspect made it stand out from other venues in the area. Zeke Bender and Miranda Hardy, members of Ok Bucko, were under 21 when they started making music together. However, clubs wouldn’t allow them to play any gigs due to their age.
“The Black Lodge was a place that would always have us. It was always welcoming and fun and sick that people weren’t turned away if they couldn’t pay at the door,” said Hardy.
Black Lodge wasn’t the only community space to sadly shut its doors in 2020. Similarly, The Victory Lounge and Lo-Fi, both located in the same building as The Black Lodge, ceased operations earlier this year as a result of rising rent costs and reduced attendance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the closure of all three venues, what was once the capital of the alternative music scene was just a faded memory.
However, The Vera Project announced in June 2022 with a video featuring none other than Kyle MacLachlan, who portrayed Agent Cooper in "Twin Peaks", that they would be overseeing the restoration of the Black Lodge. It now occupies the entire building; the Lo-Fi’s old stage is now the main stage and the old Black Lodge area is now used by Vera for their video production classes. Additionally, Hollow Earth Radio and Nellis Records inhabit the front half of the old Lo-Fi entrance, adding to the venue’s already prolific resume.
With performances showcasing local and out of state bands, The Black Lodge is truly a special place; providing punks, music lovers, and weirdos alike a safe space where they can be themselves. But there’s a bigger picture, the reopening of The Black Lodge signals the return of all-ages venues in a post pandemic world.
The Vera Project’s executive director Ricky Grabowski delivering an opening speech.(Photo/GZR Photography)
“All-ages music and arts spaces all over the country are closing. Particularly post pandemic, they’re all disappearing. And without that, we don’t have a music scene and we don’t have social movements,” said Ricky Graboski, The Vera Project’s executive director.
Keeping the Black Lodge and other all-ages venues open will take a community effort.
“This is still gonna take people showing up and dedicating their time and making it the cool space we want it to be.” adds Alexander. After witnessing strong support from the community during The Black Lodge’s opening, it’s assured that the venue will hopefully stay open and continue to allow opportunities for people to connect and learn.