Saturday, June 24, 2017 This Week's Paper

Tacoma loses two live music venues

Tacoma’s music scene has suffered two setbacks with news that the heavy-metal/punk rock venue Hell’s Kitchen shuddered its doors with a final concert on June 30 and the Mandolin Café is facing closure as well as its building might change hands.

News of both rocked their audiences.

Hell’s Kitchen announced on June 26 that it would close its Pacific Avenue rock spot, some two and a half years after it moved into the former Mexican restaurant from its former 6th Avenue location that had become the Metro Gruv Lounge, which also closed after just a few months of operation.

Costly renovations and the lagging economy prompted the closures. Hell’s Kitchen had operated for 10 years with mixes of local and national rock acts that included appearances by Dick Dale and the Melvins as well as a mix of local up-and-coming head bangers.

The Mandolin Café has been solidly filling its calendar with trivia nights, open mics and local acts. Its future, however, was first put in doubt after the building’s owner reached a tentative deal to sell the building on South 12th Street. A final purchase-and-sale agreement is set for signatures in mid-July. The café is now set to close July 15. But it is not going down without a fight from local musicians.

Ryan Ramsdell, a standup bass player with the Cottonwood Cutups, is organizing the effort. The Mandolin’s stage was the first venue the group played about a year ago. The group was known as the Murdocks back then.

“I believe we played three covers and subsequently returned to play a full show there a couple months later,” he said. “The Mandolin Café and Steilacoom Pub were where (and still do from time to time) the Cottonwood Cutups test out new material and engage fellow artists in supportive environments. The café is particularly important for being all ages and very ‘friendly’ to acoustic and folk-geared musicians.”

A rally turned concert to benefit the Mandolin is set for July 13.

“This is where I and many others got their start in performance and have found it to be a center of great freedom and artistic expression,” Ramsdell stated in a web posting. “Maybe too late, but at least we will try.”

Local musicians, including Jeff Ross and K.C. Brakes, are set to attend. And as fate would have it, the Cottonwood Cutups played at the last Hell’s Kitchen show on June 30 and played a set at the Mandolin Café show the night before. Both shows were booked before the closures were announced.