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Best of Tacoma 2009: Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll

Readers pick The New Frontier Lounge, the Nightgowns, Lozen and more; plus our picks

Alegra Thornsburg, the lead bartender at The New Frontier Lounge, prepares for another busy night.Photo by J.M. Simpson

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Readers pick The New Frontier Lounge as best new venue

Perhaps Weekly Volcano scribe Mark Thomas Deming put it best:

“Remember that gaping hole in the Tacoma live music scene? The one in-between coffee shop Celtic and Death Pussy? It seems like ancient history now, thanks largely to The New Frontier Lounge.”

Yes it does, doesn’t it? Even if you never realized such a gapping hole existed prior to the opening of The New Frontier Lounge — which Weekly Volcano readers anointed Best Live Music Venue this year, in only the its first year of existence — The New Frontier has put things in perspective. Tacoma is a better place for having it. Our scene is growing and gaining strength — and a club like The New Frontier only proves it. From nods to the past, like the rejuvenated “New Frontier” sign that hangs inside the club, beckoning back to Tacoma’s bowling alley of yesterday, to the signature wood bead board that covers the walls, to the rustic bar that’s as welcoming as any in this town, The New Frontier Lounge has quickly established itself as a staple in Tacoma — and our readers took note. The vote wasn’t even close. When it came to choosing Tacoma’s Best Live Music Venue, it was The New Frontier by a landslide.

For years now, Hell’s Kitchen has always won this award. I love Hell’s Kitchen like a dysfunctional, head-banging, alcoholic brother, but it’s nice to see the torch passed this year. Does this mean The New Frontier is actually better than Hell’s Kitchen? Of course not. Both venues, run in a manner that respects the bands that take to the stage and respects the people that pay to get in with quality bookings, are as good as you’ll find. For the first time in a long time, music fans in Tacoma have options — real, legitimate options.

The New Frontier being voted Best Live Music Venue in Tacoma this year only means one thing — that we’re getting there, Tacoma.

We’re, slowly but surely, becoming that place we dream of being. — Matt Driscoll
[The New Frontier Lounge, 301 E. 25th St., Tacoma, 253.572.4020]

Readers’ pick the Nightgowns and Lozen best bands

This year I’d had enough of it.

For just about as long as we’ve been doing these Best of Tacoma issues, the task of choosing Tacoma’s best bands has fallen on me. Sure, we’ve done our readers’ poll, and we’ve always printed those results allowing readers to chime in, but it was always me that would choose which bands to actually write about. It was a decision typically wrought with fear and anxiety. I hated it.

You see, that’s a lot of pressure – and I’m a realist. What the fuck do I actually know, anyway? Nothing more than you, certainly.

So this year I said screw it. I thought instead of just featuring the readers’ poll separate of the editorial content, I’d let the readers’ poll dictate the editorial content.

The results of this brilliant move are twofold. Number one: I no longer have to worry about pissing anyone off by choosing Tacoma’s Best Indie Band and Best Metal Band anymore. You’ve done it for me – which means my family won’t need to be on the lookout for flaming bags of dog crap on our porch, which will be nice for a change.
Number two: It’s more fun this way.

According to you, esteemed readers, Tacoma’s Best Indie Band is the Nightgowns, and the Best Metal Band is Lozen.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet your champions:

“It’s fucking heartwarming. Seriously,” says Lozen’s Hozoji Matheson-Margullis, while noting with her bandmate Justine Valdez that classifying Lozen as “metal” may be slightly inaccurate. Sure, Lozen is aggressive, and no stranger to a scream or two – but, crap, this is Tacoma after all! 

I tell them there’s nothing that can be done. The readers picked. Those are the rules.
“Someone, a number of Tacomans I guess, love us.”

“We’re number one!” Valdez chants in the background.

On the indie front, after being crowned second best indie band in Tacoma last year by this hack journalist, the Nightgowns are basking in the glory of finally reaching the top – not to mention the much-deserved success, accolades and monetary love that has accompanied the band’s recently released gem, Sing Something.

I ask Cody Jones if this all means the band has made it.

“Yep. I’m eating a maple bar in celebration,” he tells me.

I ask him about last year, when I ranked his band – then the Elephants – number two. Total dick move, right?

“No, that wasn’t a dick move. That was the best thing that ever happened to us,” says Jones. “Winning is pretty important to us, so we knew we just had to try harder and reach within ourselves for that extra something.” — Matt Driscoll


BEST INDIE ROCK BAND: The Nightgowns (see article on page 15)
BEST METAL BAND: Lozen (see article on page 15)
BEST BLUES BAND: Randy Oxford Band
BEST HIP-HOP ARTIST/GROUP:  A tie between Can-U and EvergreenOne (Seriously, people – Blue Scholars are not from Tacoma)
BEST BAND NAME: The Fucking Eagles
BEST LIVE MUSIC VENUE: The New Frontier Lounge (see article above)
BEST CHEAP DATE: Walk along Ruston Way
BEST WEDDING SPOT: Point Defiance’s Rose Garden


Best Place To Confess To Your Lover That You Might’ve Given Them A STD
Let’s just run down the list of aesthetically appealing qualities The Beach Tavern has to offer for your honorable STD confession:  A fully stocked bar for initializing a happy, numbing buzz.  Hidden, comfy booths for the intimacy of what news you’re about to reveal.  Padded walls to cushion the shocking, and totally warranted, fist to your head.  And lastly, kick ass bartenders who will call you a cab when your eyes are too swollen to drive.  The only concern: A nearby beach makes body disposal an easy chore. — Steph DeRosa
[The Beach Tavern, 8612 Sixth Ave, Tacoma, 253.564.9984]

Best Place To Pee
I don’t know about you, but whenever I go out and have a few too many vodka sodas, my first thought is to stick it to the pigs. For this reason, I anoint the Tacoma Police Station the number one place to pee. Whether you knock on one of the windows at three in the morning and ask the front desk lady if you can use their facilities, or if you knock on the front window at three in the morning and ask the front lady if she can see your junk while you pee, you will be pleasantly satisfied by the end of your urination. — Chuck Dula

Best Photo Booth To Make Out In
As far as we know, The Mix’s infamous photo booth has been sexually violated on more than three occasions in the past year.  With as many turns as have been given in this booth, it’s like a doorknob in a Wal-Mart restroom.  Room is not an issue when you’re on the lap of a loved one and the sketchy blue curtain is drawn.  Better than joining the mile-high club, turbulence and in-flight toilet odors don’t factor into this equation.  And better yet, you can collect some memorable snapshots of your brief photo booth tryst all for under three bucks. — SD
[The Mix, 635 St. Helens Ave, Tacoma, 253.383.4327]‎

Best Place To Avoid People You Might Know
I am almost certain that Tacoma is the biggest small town in America. For a place that has over 200,000 people, I can’t stop running into the same 20. For this reason, I have spent the last four years going to the Home Plate Tavern whenever I don’t want to run into anyone I know. If you only like domestic beer and are able to ignore the toothless vermin that often frequent this establishment you can have a great time playing pool or throwing darts on one of the numerous dart boards that can be found within this brightly lit crack-house. — CD
[Home Plate Tavern, 1042 S Sprague Ave, Tacoma, 253.272.9713]‎

Best Place To Avoid A Hipster
A true hipster has a deep concern for how they are viewed by their constituents. For this reason, golf is out of the question. While showing off their new tattoo and talking loudly about who they slept with that week, you might notice that the black painted fingernails digging into the can of PBR are never covered by a golfing glove. Personally, I have yet to make the turn onto 10 and look back and see a couple of dude’s sashaying up to the 9th pin in uber-tight black jeans talking about how they’re not hipsters. — CD
[Allenmore Public Golf Course, 2125 S Cedar St, Tacoma, 253.627.7211]

Best Place To Get Quick, Possibly Deadly Cash
In the wake of my new unemployment, I’m thinking of returning to Northwest Kinetics: our friendly neighborhood clinical research center where you can get injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected and selected — all for cash. A couple years ago, I got injected with hamster blood and stayed in the onsite dorms for six days. I went through all of this just to get paid $3,500, and dammit was it worth it. Those six days, happily, are now just a big lukewarm-chicken-dinner-shaped blur. If you’re broke and lazy, you’d be crazy not to go. It’s the only place where you can literally sign your life away for money. — Adam McKinney
[Northwest Kinetics, 3615 Pacific Ave, Tacoma, 253.474.2392]

Best Place To Get Cheap Cigarettes
When I was young and lazy (instead of slightly older and lazy), I had no greater friend than the Lucky III. Being without job or motivation, I frequently found myself there, palming my change. This adorable little convenience store has the cheapest cigarettes you’re likely to find without going to the reservation. Going out of one’s way to save one or two dollars a pack must seem insane to non-smokers, and perhaps it is. All I know is that after you’ve scraped together just enough change from your couch, there’s no better feeling than that of victory — than that of the Lucky III. — AM
[Lucky III Food Store, 3601 S 12th St, Tacoma, 253.759.9868]‎

Best Place To Go When Your Soul Is Beaten To A Pulp
Sometimes it’s easy to wonder if the creator has some sort of vendetta against you. Maybe you lost your job. Maybe your spouse left you to follow Phish around the country. Maybe you’re just overburdened by work, the lame people in your life, or the daily struggles that seem to be jumping everyone from behind, no kiss, no reach around, no forgiveness. Well, brothers and sisters, there’s a place in Tacoma that is rooted in defiance of ephemeral enemies — Point Defiance. Head out by Fort Nisqually, walk in the woods, look out over the Tacoma Narrows. Breathe. Be at peace. — PS
[Point Defiance Park, 5400 N Pearl St, Ruston]

Best Guitar Shop
Rick King and his crew are all working musicians in Tacoma (hence the need for day jobs), so logic predicates they probably know a little more about the needs of local players than some corporation from the East Coast. Sure, Guitar Maniacs doesn’t have 45 replicas of the same black Stratocaster cluttering the walls, but it does have cool gear of both new and used varieties, as well as a line-up of accessories and vintage equipment that smokes the chains. — Michael Swan
[Guitar Maniacs, 737 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma, 253.272.4741]

Best Tacoma Music Institution
We’ve been doing these Best of Tacoma issues for a while now, and over the years I’ve come to expect certain things. One of those things is to write about Hell’s Kitchen as Tacoma’s Best Live Music Venue. However, in a sign that can only be viewed as a good thing for Tacoma, everyone here and all of our musical venues, The New Frontier Lounge carried that category in this year’s readers’ poll. And good on it for doing so. But, even as Tacoma’s music scene grows and diversifies for the better, and clubs like The New Frontier pop up and bring a smile to all of our faces — let us not forget the important path Hell’s Kitchen has paved for this town. Since 2002, Hell’s Kitchen has been a rock and a foundation — something legitimate Tacoma can build off of.  And build we have. Viva Hell’s Kitchen. — Matt Driscoll
[Hell’s Kitchen, 3829 6th Ave, Tacoma, 253.759.6003]

Most Persistent Band
Originally, we didn’t have a category for Most Persistent Band. That was before we met the Dignitaries. With only a few months and a few shows under their belt, Tony Daniels, The Fernandez brothers, Lino and Reylan, Elliot Kay and Ken Smith are kicking ass and taking names. Tacoma is meeting the Dignitaries face to face, and it smells like a paper mill and sounds like a million bucks tucked in the back of an old smoky amp in a reclaimed meth house. Good shit. But what takes the cake is this band’s persistence. It requires real drive and fortitude to sit through all 100 plus questions of the Weekly Volcano’s 2009 Best of Tacoma Readers’ Poll, let alone answering each and every question with “the Dignitaries.”  Oh, but they did it. Best coffee: the Dignitaries. Best place to buy sex toys: the Dignitaries. Best place to pee: the Dignitaries. Very impressive, gentlemen. Well done. — MD

Best New Band
Can someone help me out here? Did Tacoma exist before Daniel Blue, or did he create us at some point after turning water into wine­ and doodling the 253 heart? I can’t really recall. I suppose it’s not really important, since here we are now anyway, but it makes it hard for me to say for sure whether this pick is accurate. I want to say Motopony is this year’s Best New Band — but I can’t remember for sure when Motopony actually came into existence. I know it wasn’t long ago, but somehow Blue’s sonic stead feels like it has always been a part of us — maybe we just now got in tune enough to discover it? With a new record expected later this year, and perhaps the purest vision of any band in this town — not to mention Blue’s jaw dropping, out of nowhere voice and soul bearing honesty — Motopony is poised to do big things. — MD 

Best Head Shop
We all know Tacoma is full of glass artists – but we may not fully realize just how full of glass artists Tacoma is until we delve into the world of hand blown pipes – for tobacco, of course. Tacoma may be relatively small, but the selection of smoking accessories we produce is staggering. If you’re looking for the best, reasonably priced selection of said glass smoking accessories, or vaporizers or double bubble bongs the size of Muggsy Bogues – for tobacco, of course – check out the Green Room on Sixth Avenue. There’s a reason we’ve named it Best Head Shop two years running – and it’s not just because the store has become like my own personal Cheers. That’s only part of the reason. – MD
[The Green Room, 6413 6th Ave # 1, Tacoma, 253.566.6436]

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