by Anthony Stassi and Luke Baumgarten & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & I & lt;/span & f the Spokane music scene had anatomical features, Belt of Vapor would undoubtedly be the balls. And lucky for us, they get a lot of play. When they aren't gigging in Portland, Seattle, or Missoula, Spokane's family jewels -- Aaron Powell, Justin Walters and Bob Homburg -- occasionally host bands passing through Spokane. The formula is usually pretty standard for these shows: The venue is almost exclusively Mootsy's, and the people that attend rarely care about any other band on the bill.
Their show at Mootsy's on Sept. 28, though, wasn't typical. First, the out-of-towners were a jaw-dropping duo from Tacoma. Having played with them at a music festival in Missoula, Belt of Vapor knew what to expect. The rest of us didn't. The shock was palpable when two dainty girls took the stage and produced a racket I didn't think was possible for people that size. Their avant-garde breed of raw, aggressive, in-your-face rock bore the (surprisingly subtle) influences of everything from Black Sabbath and the Melvins to Fugazi and C Average. But it wasn't until halfway through the set, when lead singer and guitarist Hozoji was growling into the mic through a veil of her unkempt, black hair, that I noticed a striking resemblance to our own Belt of Vapor. I've never known any band to replicate their sound, let alone two lesbian twin sisters. (Kids and their shticks.) The other atypical thing --indeed the more pressing thing -- was that Sept. 28 marked the swan song for the old Mootsy's crowd.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & I & lt;/span & n case you hadn't heard, Spokane's most iconic and clique-y stomping grounds got bought out. Ownership hasn't changed hands quite yet -- a squabble with the liquor board is causing a delay -- but once it does, all bets are off. The current bar and pizzeria staff are taking the standard Spokane mindset when it comes to venue change, meaning they're treating it like the apocalypse. "Everyone's looking for other work 'cause no one knows what to expect," says Belt of Vapor frontman and Mootsy's Pizza dough-tosser, Aaron Powell.
One gets the feeling that they'll be just fine wherever they disperse to, but a more important question still stands: Can the new Mootsy's uphold the responsibilities of being a bedrock venue for the Spokane scene? It's a great venue and a successful one for a reason not a lot of venues can boast: regulars. And the 30-some-odd familiar faces that filter in and out of Mootsy's are more like a family than a crew of regulars.
"The family" emanates a nonchalant confidence (apathy) and coolness (ennui) that comes from years of interacting with the music scene. They seem to believe they understand the scene's future better than anyone. At the very least, they know it well enough to accept the reality of change. They worry now, though, about what will happen if a Mootsy's "modernization" takes place. They worry that without the family's guidance, Mootsy's might very well become a sports bar and Pita Pit.
"Mootsy's is kinda gone in my mind now," explains Powell, (though Belt's Bob Homburg had a hand in bringing Volumen to the bar this Saturday) and that gets him thinking big-picture. "[The scene] is always on the ups and downs," he says. "One day there will be three great venues and the next day there will be none at all." It's unclear whether he's implying things are getting better or worse, but comments like, "The new Rock Coffee is the last hope," suggest the latter. One thing is for sure, though: Belt of Vapor, generally accepted as a house band of sorts for the joint, will not be frequenting Mootsy's from here on out.
So who's really killing Mootsy's? A new ownership team that hasn't even taken over yet, or the community of regulars that's so scared of the prospect of change that they're jumping ship before the transition even happens? This wasn't a hostile takeover. Former owner Rick Turner sold a fiscally solvent business because he wanted out, which means Mootsy's isn't like the B-Side or the other bars that went belly-up. Mootsy's doesn't need the kind of retooling that those places needed to be successful. Indeed, messing with Mootsy's would be messing with decades of success.
One thing none of the regulars have done, seemingly, is chat with the new owners about their plans (we didn't either, to be fair -- they're tough to get hold of), but if all the regulars jump ship like they suggest, then they'll have let their fear of a worst case -- the wholesale destruction of their beloved atmosphere -- become a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Volumen with Lights and Lines Collide at Mootsy's on Saturday,