March 4-5, 2023
The Crocodile, Seattle
By Andy Bookwalter
Editor’s note: The yearly Freakout Festival takes place November 2-5, 2023 at various venues in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. To help nudge you to attend, here’s Andy’s glowing account of their two day weekend festival at the Crocodile earlier this year.
The last time I was in the new location for legendary Seattle venue the Crocodile, it was still El Gaucho, and our car got stolen. Before El Gaucho, it was the Sailor’s Union Hall of the Pacific and there was a genuine Merchant Marine bar downstairs called My Suzie’s (later known as Trade Winds). None of this has anything to do with the Freakout Records’ Freakout Weekender, it’s just that I’m old and things change. And this was my first visit to the new Crocodile.
The new Crocodile is a very nice space, but I do miss that column right in front of the stage in the old club that I was always standing behind. I think they missed a fun opportunity to bring the pole when they moved. I’ll bet codgers from the 90’s like me would have enjoyed the joke.
I mooched my Freakout press pass so that I could see Viagra Boys and FIDLAR, two bands that my sons introduced me to. If you’ve yet to reproduce, let me tell you that it’s the greatest feeling in the world when your kids start discovering cool music on their own. I rambled on and on for years about seeing Nirvana in Olympia and Fugazi in the vegan cafe in the dorms at Evergreen. My boys either listened to my many, many stories or rolled their eyes and ignored me, but now they’re out discovering new bands, many of which are just terrible, but Viagra Boys and FIDLAR stand out as delightful selections.
To be honest, I wrongly thought that both bands were playing on Saturday night, which would have been a hell of a lineup and also would have sucked the air out of the rest of the festival. So, I put on pants and left the house TWO nights in a row. Anything for the story.
I arrived on Saturday just in time to see Monsterwatch, who always deliver a tight set of post punk/hard rock. (Off topic, they were one of only two keyboard-free bands I saw all weekend.)
I was looking forward to Mala Suerte (translation: Bad Luck), because they are made up of members of Acid Tongue, The Grizzled Mighty, and Carrion Kids (more about them later), all of whom are fantastic bands from Mexico City and Seattle. I would love to see a huge punk rock sister city exchange program between Seattle and Mexico City, because Mala Suerte and Carrion Kids are amazing and punk rock just sounds better in Spanish ( a language I do not speak or understand). Garage punk in Spanish, with keyboards? I loved them and hope they come back soon.
A side note: I’m usually on the elderly end of the age curve, without being the oldest guy in the room, but on Saturday night I kept standing next to serious geezers who I suppose might have been some guitarist’s grandpa. They seemed to be enjoying themselves regardless. I didn’t fight them for seniority or anything, I’m just making the observation.
Instead of an introduction, local country guy Brent Amaker did some magic tricks right before the Viagra Boys set, which brought about 100 percent of the crowd to the main stage. I felt bad for the bands playing the two other stages.
Google calls Viagra Boys “post punk, garage rock, cowpunk, dance punk, and art punk.” That pretty much covers it, depending on which song you’re listening to. Like a suspicious number of great garage and punk bands, they are Swedish. I’m not sure how that always happens, but it works. For a bunch of guys from Stockholm they sure wore a lot of cowboy hats.
Sunday started with Carrion Kids, who tore up the smaller Madame Lou’s stage. I discovered them at the bigger Freakout Fest in Ballard last fall, which is when I came up with my “punk in Spanish is better” theory. They supplied gloriously sloppy chaotic punk, with keyboards, and did a lot of crowd work and stage jumping. (No diving, too shallow.)
Normally I don’t use “jam band” as a compliment. White Denim is not a jam band, but on a few songs they aren’t not a jam band either. They spared us hours of tedious noodling, but they did do a little “exploring” a few times mid-song. Fortunately, front guy James Petralli is a great guitar player with a hell of a voice. And even if they have jamming tendencies and are “noodle adjacent,” they tore it up live.
FIDLAR is definitely not a jam band. (Did you know that FIDLAR is an acronym for “Fuck It Dog, Life’s A Risk”? I did not until my son told me.) FIDLAR plays simple three-chord punk, producing loud, straightforward songs about drinking and getting high. The L.A. band has held its appeal for 10 years, maturing without becoming tiresome — a challenge many punk bands face as they age. (Listened to any recent Dead Milkmen tracks lately? Of course you haven’t.)
FIDLAR delivered a slew of loud, energetic tracks. However, I must admit I forgot my earplugs and was hit with a severe headache, so I didn’t stay for the entire performance. They were fantastic, but as we older folks often say, “too loud!” My tinnitus and I decided it was best to head home and reach for some Advil.
For the record, my car remained unstolen all weekend long.