Rockcrit and A-Mama Ann Powers thinks way too hard sometimes

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Blue House, shuttered

I've been talking to a few peeps about the Blue House murders, and what I'm gathering is that I'm not the only one with her head up her own ass these days. There's been good local media coverage, esp. the Stranger's special issue and a piece the Seattle Times did on the kids who rented the house. But unlike, say, Kurt Cobain's death -- which was JUST ONE death, we should remember -- or even the World Trade Center bombings -- which happened how many thousands of miles away -- this event has only dented the psyche of the city. Obviously it's profoundly affected a certain community, and maybe a certain age group (though I'm not even convinced of that!). But the lack of interest or even awareness among Seattleites in general is startling.

A couple reasons, as I see them:

-- Age-group/genre preference isolation in the Seattle scene. Old people (my age) hang out in Ballard to rock, twenties-to-midthirties do the Cap Hill hip hop scene (Common Market!), and the kids, the kids rave. There's some overlap between the pagan hippie scene and the rave scene but those old people tend to really keep within their own circle. I mean, it's just weird that a Portland band's fatal van flip (Exploding Hearts, three killed) in 2003 caused more visible distress in the "rock" scene than did this massacre. A few dance parties have been held to help people grieve, and there is a benefit for the families of the Blue House victims tonight at the Showbox, but it features a bunch of bands not exactly in the top tier of Seattle talent, at least attention-wise. So that's odd, but perhaps predictable in a city of neighborhoods and fierce generational loyalties.

-- Senselessness. Obviously the murders have great meaning to those directly involved, but as a crime, this one is hard to read. The perp, unlike, say, Dylan Klebold, doesn't read well as a symbol; Huff was just a lonely, wacked out gun-toting Montanan, and as Montanan Jeff Ament said to me the other day, many many Montanans are gun-toting, so that part doesn't distinguish him. It immediately became apparent that Huff's act had no relationship to the rave scene; the mayor even came forward shortly after the murders to say as much.

Maybe it's also the cultural moment that seems to be keeping folks from reading so much in, a la Columbine. We're not an analytical society right now. We're more interested in flash and narrative -- Paris Hilton and James Frey -- than the "big picture," which may just be too scary to confront. So the Blue House murder remain a great future novel or movie, but not an example of anything.

-- Finally, and this one's hopeful -- I think the health of our local music scenes has also lessened the impact of these crimes. In the decade-plus since Kurt Cobain's death, there's been a ton of processing about the place of music in Northwest kids' lives, resulting in everything from legislation (the replacement of the restrictive Teen Dance Ordinance with the much more humane All Ages Dance Ordinance) to the establishment of "safe spaces" like the Vera Project and, yes, CHAC, to the establishment of several rock schools for kids. All of this work has prepared those outside the candy rave scene, including parents, teachers, journalists (with one dumb exception) and city officials, to absorb this tragedy as an isolated event and not a sign of peril for youth in general.

As for my own feelings on the matter: obviously, I'm grief-stricken, and I had a couple of days where all I could do was read the Northwest Tekno boards on the subject. But as you all know I'm preoccupied right now. Hell, I even missed this. Bad citizen, I am!